Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to one and all, and may it bring you everything you are working for or hoping for. New years mean new projects, and that’s the way it is for me. Since my partner Anthony was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease in October last year, I’ve been thinking about ways of hitting back at HD generally.

Being too creaky and arthritic for the more energetic forms of fund-raising, my thoughts turned to my writing. My fiction and poetry has been published in a variety of print magazines, e-zines and competition anthologies, but I think the main reason why I haven’t been more concerned about getting my own books into print is that I haven’t needed to make any money out of writing. I didn’t start creative writing at all until retirement, with the aim of keeping the little grey cells ticking over; flogging books was never the point. I don’t decry  making money out of writing when people can; it’s just that enduring pubishers etc. requires a greater motive than just making myself more comfy than I already am.

For those who don’t know much about HD, let me say that it isn’t brought on by bad habits or  indulgences, it comes about as a result of inheriting a faulty gene from a parent, which neither parent nor offspring can do anything about. Patients suffer physical and cognitive problems of varying degrees of severity and their lives are likely to be shortened as a consequence of it.

So my two HD fund-raising 2017 projects will be:

ODDS AGAINST –  a collection of fifteen stories which have all won prizes, commendations or listings in U.K. short fiction competitions and which share a general theme of people doing what they can, both seriously and humorously, to deal with the difficult situations they face. Five of them have female central characters, five have male and five are couples or multi-person scenarios. The length of the book is just over 40,000 words, which will mean, depending on size of print of course, some 90-140 pages. I will meet all the production costs if I have to, but help from sponsors or publishers would be welcome and would mean all the money the book makes in sales will go to Huntington’s Disease charities and research organisations.  And when I say all, I do mean all; no percentage deals, no admin costs, no expenses. All. Sales figures and revenue contributed can be monitored by more than one individual or organisation, and will be reported on HARRIS CENTRAL – my second project, a combination of my present site, www.bruceharris.org with the contents of last year’s Writing Short Fiction site which were my own work.  The ‘teaching’ and resources parts of the WSF site, including advice on writing short fiction, resources and questionnaires, will be available free, in the hope that visitors will contribute to named organisations.

Whoever can help is invited to do so. Both projects will be up and running as soon as possible after preparation and production. If you are an editor who has published me in the past who would be willing to read the manuscript and review it favourably (if you think it’s alright, of course, otherwise obviously you can’t), a publisher interested in looking at the book or helping in some other way, a sponsor willing to help (though the book will only include acknowledgments, not adverts) or anyone willing to buy at least one copy of the book when it comes out, please do get in touch.

I am not, repeat not, asking anyone to send me money. Some people reading this will know our address, but the time for that kind of support will only come when the bills arrive.

Many thanks, and once again, hope your 2017 shapes up as well as it possibly can.

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Anthony

As both of our immediate families now know, my partner of thirty years, Anthony Astbury, has been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, having inherited the faulty gene involved. He is to be referred to the specialist HD Clinic at Exeter Hospital, which has an excellent reputation both nationally and internationally, so he will be getting the best help available, and we have reason to believe that the relatively late life onset of the illness might mean he will not suffer it at its worst. There are also advanced techniques being developed in the realm of ‘gene silencing’, which might yet give us a chance to turn it around.

However scrupulous we try to be in passing information on, I think it is almost inevitable that there will be people reading this who know Anthony who have yet to be aware of this and our apologies if it comes as a shock, but we do need people to know what’s happening in case they’re planning to come and see us or are sending messages to his e-mail address, which he is not using for the foreseeable future.

I see my main business in life now as taking care of him and doing what I can to preserve our quality of life, but I do intend to continue, if in a more occasional and spasmodic way, with short fiction and poetry efforts, and will register such successes as I may have on my own site and on Facebook. Thanks for everyone who has already offered us sympathy and support, and we are happy to keep in touch as best we can.

Starting Over

So the writing world clunks back into action as the dog days of August recede and we all gird up our loins (what does that actually mean?) and head for Christmas with due trepidation. Not such a bad send off for my scribbles, having managed to get not one but two pieces in a printed competition anthology. ‘Journeys Beyond’ is a book consisting of the poems and stories which have been successful in the annual competition of the admirable Early Works Press – http://www.earlyworkspress.co.uk    I’m not saying Early Works is only admirable because I’m in their anthology; I think they’re pretty admirable anyway, with an enlightened attitude to helping writers in applied and intelligent ways. But the two pieces of mine in there, ‘Roxanne Riding Hood’ and ‘Home Movies’, are both favourite babies and, as any parent will tell you, try as you might to remain unbiased between your offspring, natural inclinations will out, as the actress said to the bishop.

‘Roxanne Riding Hood’ registered my second success in yer actual Bridport Prize, one of the largest and most prestigious short fiction competitions in the world (yes, really, check it out). Getting to the last 100 doesn’t sound like any big deal until you register that the Bridport usually gets well over 5000 entries from all over the world. Unfortunately, only the last 20 actually get published, which meant that Roxanne has been waiting patiently to appear in print, and now she’s made it, as all bandit-hunting drag queens deserve to do.

‘Home Movies’, on the other hand, ain’t won nothing nowhere, he says ungrammatically, but it’s still a sweet little piece which centres on a lad preparing for his A level year in the August heat, which once, some moons or so ago now, I was. I didn’t, at the time, have a movie-making mobile phone available to me to record for posterity the demented summer goings-on all around, but young Mark does, and his decision to eventually confide only in Duke the labrador can be seen, in the context of his situation, as entirely reasonable.

Bearing in mind that I’ve also recently made it into the Summer 2016 issue of Graham Rippon’s excellent ‘Carillon’ magazine – http://www.carillonmag.co.uk –  with ‘Jason’s Window’, about a disappearing teenager, of whom there are many too many, and registered three poems (yes, poems, one is nothing if not versatile, isn’t one?), ‘Vivaldi and the Metro’, ‘Admission Times Five’ and ‘Waterloo Bound’ in the established and well-produced Indigo Dreams magazine ‘Sarasvati’ – http://www.indigodreams.co.uk – , my new publishing year is well up and running.  If you’re a writer, I hope yours is too; if you’re a reader, the above may be worthy of your attention, should the return to work need a little recreational distraction or two slightly more intellectually demanding than Strictly whatever it’s called, where millions of people are trying to watch people who can’t dance dance, for reasons best known to themselves. Whatever. Have a laid-back September.

 

 

Back to Business

A long silence from this quarter, which I’ve been dealing with real life issues which will keep coming along, recently in the form of MRI scans on my back and my neck. I would like to thank all the family and friends who’ve been supportive during this period, which has been anxious, inevitably, until the problem was identified.
However, arthritic old geezer I may be, but I’ve just added to the lengthening list of competition successes with one of my two entries winning a commendation in the Cinnamon Press 2016 Competition, though I’m not saying which one it is as yet in the interests of possible future publications. This is my first success in this particular competition, and all the more gratifying for that, as it consistently attracts large numbers of entries.
Now that I’m back in circulation a bit more, I’d like to say thank you both to my Facebook friends and to the 611 people so far who’ve ‘liked’ First Flame, my collection of 25 award-winning short stories, and thank you for taking the trouble to register your liking. I should also say that, despite my rift with the publisher of the written version, First Flame is still available as an e-book at a modest cost, and if I say so myself and shouldn’t, it’s a rattling good read and a useful guide to anyone who fancies having a go at short fiction competitions.
The link is : http://www.lulu.com/shop/bruce-harris/first-flame/ebook/product-21688450.html
And, since I’m a fairly good ‘all rounder’ and not afraid to say that either, there is also a collection of published and award-winning poems at an equally modest cost available at
http://www.lulu.com/shop/bruce-harris/raised-voices/ebook/product-21736518.html
Not that I’m saying that because I’ve been having MRI scans, you should go out and buy my books, you understand; having a dodgy spinal cord doesn’t actually quality in itself for being a good writer, though most of us have a least one or two peculiarities, I suppose. But when you write something which does O.K. in a competition, you do know that someone has read it and thought it O.K., which makes you think, well the chance are it is O.K., then, or maybe even good. So stiffen my backbone with a little fiction investment, good people, and make an old guy feel flexible again. Have a nice July.

Competition Winner

ARTIFICIUM

The Journal of New Writing & Poetry

I’m delighted to have won first prize in the Artificium ‘In Brief’ Competition, see www.artificium.co.uk  with a piece which takes a new and original look at the story of Julius Caesar and the Ides of March, using the language and observations of a person nobly of East London vintage. Artificium may be a relatively new magazine, but its willingness to award prizes to an item of comic verse shows a respect for the long and honourable tradition of the genre which other more po-faced magazines and competitions might do well to imitate. Artificium is also a very well produced and presented magazine, the kind that all writers would choose for showcasing their work.

Should you wish to take a trip to the august days of Roman antiquity, keep an eye out for the next edition of Artificium and try a trip to the site – you will find it rewarding. Et tu, Bruce?

The Publishing News

cropped-bruce-portrait-0061.jpg

www.bruceharris.org

Publications and competitions successes

 

As I’m working on a novel at the moment, as well as continuing with competition entries, I’ve decided to restrict the blogs only to those directly connected to my writing, rather than commenting on the world in general, fascinating as my readers may find my observations to be!

A New Year’s competition successes normally have to wait until at least February, with even those closing at the end of November needing time to sort their results out. Given the numbers of entries most of them get, this isn’t unreasonable. However, my first bell ringer of the year has arrived this week, and I’m delighted with it.

Earlyworks Press   

www.earlyworkspress.co.uk

It always is gratifying to record a result in a well run competition which attracts a lot of support, and this is my first success with Earlyworks. Two successes in fact, with the stories ‘Roxanne Riding Hood’, about a drag artiste who helps the police catch a man who’s been attacking women, and ‘Home Movies’, about a bored lad in the middle of his A levels recording pictures of various members of his family, both finishing up in the last twenty of the competition and also, happily, in the forthcoming printed anthology. It’s always a little frustrating when a piece gets near the prizes and finishes up unpublished, meaning you’ve got a result without seeing it in print. Earlyworks is one of those independent publishers who are a force for good in more ways than one, with their writers’ community helping people to improve their work, and it’s great to have got a result with them.

Sarasvati picture                    www.indigodreams.co.uk

And, just to show I’m still something of an ‘all rounder’, three of my poems are appearing in the latest issue, number 40, of the Indigo Dreams magazine Sarasvati. Two of them have also had some competition success – ‘Vivaldi and the Metro’ finished up in the final ten of the 2014 Fylde Writers’ Competition, and ‘Admission Times Five’.

www.carillonmag.org.uk

And just to show how nicely February is now running along, two stories will be appearing in issues of Carillon in 2016. ‘Losing Lyn’ was shortlisted in the Wrekin Writers’ 2014 Doris Gooderson competition in aid of Severn Hospice; ‘Jason’s Window’ was written specifically for Carillon. Both will be appearing in print for the first time, and once again I’m grateful to editor Graham Rippon for being prepared to support my work, as he has done almost right back to when this creative writing experience of mine started.

Back soon, hopefully with further publication to report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Devon

Beer 2

Beer 1

The recent BBC series, The Fisherman’s Apprentice, sent a marine biologist and professional diver, Monty Halls, to a Cornish fishing village to see for himself what being a fisherman entailed, both in the little, sometimes one-man, boats which fish near the shore to the much bigger trawlers, where men risk life and limb, quite literally, to come out sometimes with not much in the way of profit to show for the risk taken and the work done. Halls featured some of the difficulties involved with the work – the kind of quota system which caused one boat to have to throw fish back into the sea, only to discover when they got back into the shore that the quota had just been increased. The problems of marketing fish also featured, including the curious fact that there are some fish, like langoustine, which only be sold abroad because the English won’t eat them. And, of course, there’s always the weather, and the fact that there are lengthy periods of time when the boats can’t get out at all.

The nearby coastal village of Beer (yes, really – see www.beer-devon.co.uk ) still has a number of real fishing boats and still brings in fresh fish which can be enjoyed at various pubs and restaurants around the centre. I know, because only last week I enjoyed a particularly nice lunch there. It’s something people can forget about Devon. No-one in Beer would deny that tourism means a great deal to them, as it does right across Devon, but other occupations survive, for the time being anyway, though the continuing influx of second homers into the south west poses a growing threat to the community’s survival as anything other than a tourist ‘honeypot’.

As Monty Halls so ably demonstrated, communities lose out if the activities and ways of making a living they’ve employed for centuries die out, and there are some places in Devon now where so many of the properties are second homes that only half of them are inhabited all year round. Holidaying in viable, working communities has to have more spark and interest in it than visiting places which have become like coastal theme parks celebrating a vanished past.

A Beer toast to the Beer people, and long may their fisherman thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

Ziggy Played Guitar

Rainbow flag

Goodbye to the Thin White Duke, iconoclast, liberator and artist of unique perception and originality, who grew up, like so many of us, in the days of black and white TV, caning in schools and almost every form of sexual act illegal except the up and down missionary position. Bowie broke all the rules and made up his own, Bowie the Gay Lib banner man, Bowie the Gender Bender, Bowie the idol of Major Tim, floating in a tin can, high above the world.  Jean Genius, reincarnating every few years like Doctor Who, the sound track of the seventies and beyond, you will not be forgotten.

Here we go again!

I’ve been incommunicado for a while, partly because of the festive season, of course, but also because of x-rays, scans etc. concerning my back. It’s now been established that the problem is essentially about arthritis, but I’ve yet to receive the results of the most recent scan, on my neck. This not only took place on January 3rd, while the festive season was still technically going on , but on a Sunday, so all those who moan on about the NHS being a Monday to Friday outfit are a bit off beam, or they are with Taunton Hospital anyway.

For anyone who hasn’t had an MRI scan and might have to, I think I can be reassuring. It’s noisy, yes, but you’re given ear plugs, you can talk to the person doing this test via a microphone thing while you’re in there, and you have a bulb shaped thing to squeeze if you run into trouble. Keeping absolutely still isn’t necessarily all that easy with conditions which cause muscle movements, but the muted noise can have a kind of hypnotic effect and the whole business is far from being an ordeal.  It also effectively mean the doctors have chapter and verse on whatever the problem might be, so proper methods of containment or cure can be put together.

I have also, for my sins, started on a novel. It’s actually my third, and like the previous two, it will turn out to be masterpiece, though whether I’ll persuade agents or publishers of that remains problematic. But it seems, in my maturity (the euphemistic way of putting it!), I can handle it without that unpleasant sensation of being permanently locked in a cage with a wild beast. Beyond the bald statement that it’s a historical novel, I don’t intend to bang on re. ‘what it’s about’, not yet anyway, but so far, so good.

My site is still there at http://www.bruceharris.org and if anyone feels up to paying it a visit, please go right ahead; I haven’t exactly been inundated with interest recently, but there are still two books, one of prize-winning stories and one of published and prize-winning poems, to look at and some downloadable stuff on site. Happy New Year one and all, and don’t worry yourself too much about resolutions; I made one about twenty odd years ago, when my New Year’s resolution was not to make any New Year’s resolutions, and I think I can safely say it’s the only one I’ve ever kept!

Thanks to all

Since I sent messages to all the existing Writing Short Fiction contributors to say that ill health is forcing me to give up working on the site, a growing number of them have now replied in the kindest and most considerate terms, praising what the site has done and wishing me well for the future.  A crusty old sod like moi is not always easily touched, but touched I am, and since most of you are amongst my Facebook friends, I hope you will accept my heartfelt thanks, both for your support for the site and your good wishes for me.

I’m also pleased to be able to say that there looks to be a chance that a well-qualified and motivated successor might be in the offing. I cannot go into details at this stage, because there’s still quite a lot of sorting out to do on it, but things are looking hopeful. However, I can assure everyone that no-one’s work is ever going to be used without their specific permission being given, as I’ve made clear to my potential successor.

The WSF site was set up partly as a result of my own early creative writing experiences. I came to fiction and poetry relatively late in life, and I think that has a lot to be said for it, partly because you’ve been around long enough to have stuff to write about and partly because you have enough wrinkles on your bum not to be too easily taken in by the sharks who feed in the waters where aspiring writers are splashing bravely about, and there are plenty of them, believe me. Dodgy self-publishing deals, dodgy courses, dodgy competitions. Am I going to name names and get sued for it? Am I hell as like. But don’t ever doubt they’re around. O.K., the worse that’s likely to happen is being ripped off for more quids than you can afford and the perpetrators are unlikely to find themselves banged up; it seems to be an area where monitoring and legislation is pretty thin on the ground. But it is a brutal and immoral act to prey on people’s aspirations, in this or any other walk of life, and buyer beware is very much the motto to follow. You will also have to deal with magazines with great screeds of breathtakingly arrogant ‘submission guidelines’ which seem to breathe their contempt for the people who are, when all’s said and done, sending them material for use in their magazines free of charge, as they almost invariably expect to get it all for free.  You will have to deal with agents with little god complexes, who may or may not even bother to reply to your best efforts, and you will have to deal with rejections of all kinds – curt, indecipherable, pretentious or simply two liners expressing in only slightly longer form a well known Anglo Saxon term meaning ‘go away’.

So the more writers manage to work together and work for each other, the easier they are likely to make life for themselves. WSF was founded on the principle of exactly that, mutual co-operation, the successful and experienced lending a genuine and unexploitative hand to the new or aspirational writers, without site memberships, subscriptions, sales charges, whatever.  For as long as I have a say in it, and I very much still do, that’s how WSF will stay.

In the meantime, my energies will be concentrated on my own writing, which I now cannot and hopefully will never have to abandon. I’m not a great user of social media, partly because, when you spend a lot of your time writing, you don’t necessarily look to spend your time out – erm – writing, but I will carry on blogging, both to blow my own trumpet, which seems to be what everyone does now, or sound off on stuff I care about in the way I just have. As for WSF, watch this space. Reports of its death may prove to have been greatly exaggerated.