Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Return of the Frantic Flash

In 2010 I will be re-introducing the Frantic Flash Competitions, run every weekend.

The idea is simple. Sign up for the weekend (and your first story) and you will receive a set of prompts at set times over the weekend and have up to 75 minutes to write a flash and submit it.

There will be six time slots per weekend and you can enter 1-2-3-4-5 or six times (each entry for a fee).

At least 50% of entry fees will be paid out in prizes and all entrants will be able to view all the (author-anonymous) flashes in a closed area of Boot Camp, comment and rate.

Winning entries (and selected finalists) will enter a second competition for a second, larger prize.

Copyright will remain with authors.

Winning stories will be published on this blog (author-anonymously) BUT ONLY IF the author grants permission.

If you are interested in Frantic Flash please comment here or email alex.keegan

at btinternet.com

Interview and a Couple of Stories

A few weeks ago I did an interview for Express FM in Portsmouth and read a couple of unpublished flashes.

Click on "Interview" above

Imagine this:

Imagine this:

A group of twenty young men decide they want to be soldiers. They vary in age and life-experience but the one thing they have in common is that none has ever fired a gun or faced an enemy.

But these are keen young men. They find each other on the internet and form a self-help group, promising each other to understand their dreams and to be kind in pointing at each other’s faults.

Of course, since none of the participants actually knows how to strip a rifle, or how to fire a gun from cover, they make rather bad soldiers. In their first engagement they all die.

A group of twenty or so men and women decide they want to be writers. They vary in age and life-experience but the one thing they have in common is that none has ever been seriously taught creative writing, or written extensively or submitted, or been published.

But these are keen young aspiring writers. They find each other on the internet and form a self-help group, promising each other to understand their respective dreams and to be kind in pointing at each other’s faults.

Of course, since none of the participants actually knows how to strip down a story, or how to write well, how to edit, they make rather bad writers. In their first engagement with reality they fail miserably.

Another twenty aspiring soldiers enlist and find themselves drilling, going on runs, doing callisthenics. “Why?” they cry out. They just want to have guns and go shoot the bad guys. Their hard-bitten Sergeant tells them they are not ready. They are not fit. They are not tough. They are not trained in self-defence or military craft. They need months, probably years to become ordinary soldiers, and then, if they work and work at their craft as green new members of their units, one day they might actually be good soldiers. They might survive long enough to be tough old soldiers like their sergeant. One day they might teach a new batch of kids.

But why should we believe you, they wonder? What makes you special, Sergeant?

Well, I was like you once. I was naïve, stupid, green and untrained. An old war-horse of a sergeant taught me first how to stay alive, second how to protect my comrades, third how to get better and maximise my chances in combat.

And he points to his medals (if his presence isn’t enough) and the recruits read of his exploits. They know he has been under fire and survived. He shows them that he can strip a rifle in fifteen seconds, put it together in another fifteen. He shows them he can knock down the biggest man in the group without breaking sweat.

If beginning writers work solely with other beginning writers, they have no mentors, no experience to call on. If a more forceful or more outspoken beginner makes a statement of “fact” in error the less forceful and more easily-led might well accept that fact and cement the error. Since one of the stronger voices says this, and others in the group concur, bad habits become routine and widespread.

Beginning writers seeking out other beginning writers is at best naïve, at worse, stupidity.

Why, then, does it happen?

It happens because few of these wannabee writers are prepared to face the simple truths about any craft. It takes a sustained effort over an extended period of time, hours and hours of practice, practice, practice for weeks, months, even years to even start to become a writer.

Why not, instead, “hang” with a load of people who will say nice things about me and my work (in return for me saying nice things about them and their work.) Not only that but the more active among us can set up little magazines with editorial standards that almost match our abilities. We can all “be published”.

Our internet groups can grow and we will, of course, be the founder-members, the old-guard, the inner-circle. We will be the leaders of this, in principle, same-old self-help group, just bigger and more glossy (and probably with its own in-house internet magazine publishing the older hands.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prompts Thursday 22nd October

And then by drowning


The three car crash

Wounded bird, tree

We only remember their names

Red Slippers

We ride into battle, our horses do not volunteer

A House with green wallpaper


Rock and Bloody Roll

The Arbortionist's Lunch

I will not come out until someone apologises

I made a sculpture of my father, without a heart

You Have Mail!

How many Eggs for Breakfast, Caesar? (Ate Two, Brute)

The nature of bad jokes

A black cat at midnight, in an unlit coal mine

Grandmother, blood

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

28 Days: Wednesday 21st Prompts

Women in neon passing the window

Career Path

Plain-Clothes detectives are operating in this store


What I was about to say

In my attic

She leaves the nursery and begins to walk

There is a pause in the music

Another Toy

I will choose a child not my colour

All the ships have left, the last plane

A Silver Bracelet

So I opened the parcel


I stood once, at a window in a storm

Tomorrow or Not

Eating Electricity


Friday, October 16, 2009

28 Days: Prompts Friday 16th

And for another twenty-five pounds, a neat leather wallet

Frozen Shoulder

I Have My Lover's Heart (in the fridge)

Come Live With Me and be my fuck-buddy

Shall I compare thee to a 0-0 draw in Crewe on a wet Monday?

Here, have an onion

Bloody Men!


Catch a Falling Star and Put Him in Hello

Drink to Me, Leona

Gather a few roses and that

You waste your time and mine

When I consider how my life has whistled past

Had we but world enough, and time

There is no one like Sally

Listen, the Curfew Bell

I had a goldfish

I will have a cat named Beatrice

And when a lovely woman

The harbour is still, the sea is low and swollen

Thursday, October 15, 2009

28 Days Prompts. Thursday 15th October

The Dogs are Gone

In Eastbourne, or Lewes. Well Brighton Way

The Rain it was that killed us

Two Bites

Forgive me. I am about to break wind

He hit him in the head

Three lonely guys and a sad old dog

Mary Ellen at the Pawn Shop door, baby in her hand and the bundle on the floor

Polishing the threshhold


The wind off the sea whipping our faces

Bugs live in spotless houses

Soaping, scrubbing, swilling off

He moved from Salop to Splott

Coal Dust signature

This is Tom. This is Jane. Tom Loves Jane. Jane loves Frank.

A soiled mattress, bugs, probably


In about 1900, here or hereabouts

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

28 Days. Prompts on Wednesday 14th

I want to somewhere, on a long dark train, whistling

Be that as it may

Please choose music, photos

I think my sight is not what it was

Everyday, Every Way

One day I will be a skinny boy, ribs showing

The floor is full, may I have another room?

Maybe We Will Recover

The Thing About Birthdays

Kitchen Sync

I have decided to be slovenly

Crumple Me

Strong Plunge I Have

Pull Yourself Apart, Man!

A Plain Wood Table, A Simple Chair


Apart from the obvious, there is little to say


A Man on a Bridge

I Doubt it Very Much, Mrs Havisham

The House is Sad, the furniture weary

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

28 Days. Prompts on Tuesday 13th

Who remembers to leave the bottles out


And crazy, fearless children

Picture a glassy sea

Stone, Fish

I am going, I just don't know where it is


The hinges are rusted


If you want, you can overlook this


Riddle me this, Batman


A Short History of a Few Odds & Sods

I am in the garden

A few wept, a few laughed. Most were silent

I am the guilty bystander

My wife will stop you

People in Grass Houses

I'm not sure, but have you got younger?

Monday, October 12, 2009

28 Days: Prompts on Monday 12th

My mother has sold my books

Sheds, Pigeons

A little bit of luck would have seen us through


From the backs of pick-up trucks

If you love me, build

Read to me by candle-light, your soft voice

Wearing an old coat

At least the roof doesn't leak


Are you happy to be in this picture?


And BEFORE the big bang?

Drifting, Salt

The walls are high enough, for we are small and feeble

It's not easy to admit

There are small heroes, just as heroic

Van & Wheelchair

A pebble in her shoe

Sunday, October 11, 2009

28 Days. Prompts on Sunday

Around the bottom of the tree, but not the tree

About your credit score

The Waste Land

Going Back to Miami

Various Methods of Appeal

There appears to be no ridge, no way for it to hold


Of course elephants can jump

Fighting Towards Italy

The Vaguely-Happy Barrista

How to Be Alone

52 Ways of Looking at Love

Lady Sings the Blues

The Smell of Cooking Meat, High on the Night

Leaving Soon for Lancaster

Boring Letters Home

T S Eliot on His iPod, Dante in His Bag

One Or Two Batteries May Work

Monday, October 05, 2009

28 Days. Prompts 03 Monday 5th

I dreamt of the perfect story

Tell me about the future, I want to know

For five days we waited

A crisp, fresh page

Remember me when you are gone

I am too well to be a poet

It is like, after too far in the rain, you see a light

There is a cold field somewhere, and gold

After, we laid in the sun and wept

Where is the boy now, what is he?

Owl, white as light

We could build a bridge, or a castle

You will wake soon, I will go

This will need to be checked out, then we'll see

At your ear, something breathless, rising

Where dead feet walked

I walked with sorrow, listening to her silence and understanding

Sunday, October 04, 2009

28 Days. Prompts 02 Sunday 4th

I want to sleep and take my time waking


I would love her, but how do I do that?

Richard Bow

Four beauties in a lift

Something worries me about us

His Little Red Bicycle, Brown Shoes

Tie up and rest

Something is broken, small but terribly important


Living is merely death deferred

Pineapple, Brick, Chocolate, Chair

Tell me you are not afraid

Six policeman, one van, one drunken, stupid man

I can smell antiseptic

Death is not the punch line, even if life's a joke

Rain folding in the streets

Hope Flies

When I am old I shall wear Lycra

We could slow down, hold each other

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Last Month's Blast was pathetic when compared to even an "ordinary" month.

As I'm late this month let's have 28 Days, 28 Pieces, 28 Subs.

Please don't joinn this and then be a spectator.

Join and do, or don't join


To Join 28 Days, you MUST write a piece a day, every day, for the rest of
October. If you are going to miss a day, then do TWO pieces the day before

To Join 28 Days, you MUST write a piece a day, every day, for the rest of
October. If you are going to miss a day, then do TWO pieces the day before

To Join 28 Days, you MUST write a piece a day, every day, for the rest of
October. If you are going to miss a day, then do TWO pieces the day before


A swell, modest time


In a catholic country


What are we waiting for, assembled in the halls?


The burnt-out ends of a ragged month


A newspaper tumbles in the wind


Blinds are pulled down at dirty, yellow windows


And she was built in pride and made for death


To see them flourish, fall


We lived in trees, or waded in the shallows of the lake


Fish are rotting in choked channels


Things will get raw and bleed


Everywhere stinks


It is a small sacrifice, just my son


Like old men double up and coughing


Death is beautiful slowed down

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ocotober 02 Prompts

01 Red Light

02 One Mint Left

03 Trailer Park Boys

04 Memories of My Father

05 Memories TV

06 Black Rain

07 An Awfully Big Adventure

08 As for the hall, they've done the best they can

09 I feel almost smothered when I start to write

10 Ted is going to buy a cheap radio this week

11 My little enamel table

12 I have been having a pleasant day in bed, resting and reading

13 I am going to start seeing a woman doctor

14 My new hairdo and clothes have cheered me up

15 Madness by Text

16 The Vacuum Run

17 The Simple Truth

18 You Can Look But You Better Not Touch

19 Blue Avenue

20 Say it's all right Joe

21 Clean Sheets and a River View

22 Telephone Call From Istanbul

23 Way Down in the Hole

24 All the Way to the Middle

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October 01 Prompts


The Black Girl in Search of God

The Red Tsar

The Christmas Hip-Hop


Watching my father watching TV

Never Again

A line from the right poem might help

Mad Men

Better in High-Definition

When Poverty Flies in Through the Window, Love Flies Out the Door

Ghurkas in the Dark

Fishy in the Water, Fishy in the Sea

The Fire

Forgotten Voices

Lies My Teacher Told Me

A way of skimming things until daylight

He puts down the glass.

It's not out yet

A blanket across his lap

Yellow Squares

A train was coming, and for a second...

He'd been almost famous, had a wife, two children

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prompts 29 September

Pigeons gathering on wet slate

Love broke out

The train is empty. It doesn't want to leave


I am trying to remember, trying to believe it

After the Coma

Unrelationshiply making love

He asked them, "Play the Birdie Song"

It's like a wound that opens and then opens

From Thursday to Friday

Wondering about small American towns, dusty roads


Long, slow railway stations, the darknesses

He wakes crying

It will be something to talk about at least

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Prompts, Sunday

The simplicity of it

There is a sign of night, clouds

Your body is too sharp

The sea sings because it is moving

A tin-roofed shack, no phone

We smoke a silent cigarette, look at the rain

The grass needs cutting

Pickard woke me


Waiting for morning, for breakfast

Don’t give it a thought

The A-Z of useless platitudes

Madame Curie

If, dear

He left her photographs of sad caravans

The Angry Priest

The road to your place, they are digging it up


A glass door flashing

Let’s face it. Or not

When I was a child, I imagined.

One brick, then a second, then three, four

Dog in a bath

Back to my high, empty place

My father was claustrophobic

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prompts Thursday 24 September

The Last Thing You Read


Lost Without His Brother


Something About a Leopard


I have something not to say


In The Court of the Red Queen


Blessings, Effendi


Flanagan Starts Running


Which of the Gods Made Them Quarrel?


It was in a poem, or an advert

He didn't have a belly-button


But then, who does?

It's square, but more round than that

I believe I could believe

More Prompts

As an exercise, consider combining prompts, try using all or most.

From the very first coming down


Only the caravan was real and that wasn't there

Never Again

Happy, but no closer, even now


My father, the way he sits


We have drawn up a list


Sometimes the scars fade temporarily


On the wet road, past the know of pines


Never Stronger

We have made all the possible preparations

It's more a case of

I am not sure that little boys imagine; I mean they all imagine the same things

There is a gap between attention and awareness

My ambition would be to love


I am Transient


Watch how he hesitates before saying, "I love you..."


Turn a deaf eye


We will begin today. We start and it is an ending


It was Easter. I found myself alone


On the phone she whispers that her husband is mad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Prompts 22 September

A Small Blue Plaque

Hanging Baskets

How the woman pauses

While he waits for her to buy two coffees

Paper Hats

Orange tiles, white spikes

His car, his moustache


How the women congregate, talking about swimming

Her Black Wedding

A café, a shop, three or four houses

The trainee barista

Stooped, white hair, but almost free

Behold the duck!

What catches me, what catches my eye


How beautiful, in profile

Four Feet Under

What is the H in W H Smith?


Old Men in Cardigans

The Differences of Aquamarine

At the Lake

If we had world enough and time

Low fat sex

For a suitcase full of cash


Children love wheels

Words, in type, streaming across a photograph

The Olive man smiles, with a twinkle, and holds out a single olive on a spoon for the lady to taste

Shall we do some kind of lunch?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Prompts Monday 21 September

Joe Cocker, three a.m.
When the improbable doesn’t surprise
Black Swan, Owls by Day
Places to Go
Turning of Bluetooth
Women, meeting for coffee
Vente Latte
How the Cancer Bites First
The Wisdom of Drivers
Nobody Knows What’s Going On
Nine Pounds Later
History Does Not Know it is History
Give or Take
The Problem is How You See
What’s Not to Like?
The Bible i-Pod, the i-Pod Bible
Until the rain gets in
Where I Belong
The Poetry in a Football Programme
I am not proud of this
Let us try to be civil, try to be rational
The Light is Wrong
Approximately five hours: 4:58
Picnic in Bierut
The Light Music of Children

Friday, September 18, 2009

Prompts Friday-Saturday

The happenstance of airwaves
Strangers in Borders
Seeds, poison
What copies, what doesn’t, what should
A woman, pointing
Why this is difficult, difficult
I am reading old poems, asking if they are mine
The art of invisibility, with ache
I am trying to remember my mother
Close to Black
We could go to Japan or Peru
Waiting for it to come together
I’m just looking at your face
On the other hand
Blossom, meet Dearie; Dearie, Blossom
Privet School
One kind of itch, two kinds of scratching

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Prompts September 9th 01

A story, “The Seven Ages of Skin”

When I am an old women and have purple skin

Had we but world enough and time

There is a spot just here, in the hollow of my pelvis

Nobody saw him, the tattoo’d man

Sunday, my father working in the frost, the skin of his hands red and cracking

And of a baby, so smooth, ready for scars

The midwife was small, beautiful, with olive skin and hands that were light

It is the softness in her face

If I should die, think only this of me: dying, my friend, is not all it’s cracked up to be

I will be illustrated at the very least

Smooth skin, but not a shaved cat

If skin was an instrument and we played it

Move him so the sun catches his child-dying face

The fingertip, the ear, the neck

Perhaps red-raw, perhaps soft and talcumed

The machine sucked it from the bed, your skin, mine, inseparable

Your scars, one like an arrow, one a heart

Sometimes the person, sometimes the skin

You reach across and touch me. My heart leaps up

But you wear gloves and dark glasses

Eventually, we are all naked

But it is the Caesar scar I love

Trace me, slowly

There is something electric

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

September 08:01 Prompts


The grey sea and thew long black land

Trying to lose the pick-up

Every day is a fresh ending

Bloody men are like bloody tractors

I have no name, call me Thing

The winter evening slides quietly into sleep

Slippery as a slippery thing

My Dear, where now?

We were doing fine, until the bed...

Lay your head on my chest, let's pretend we're OK

I've been brought back, not sure why

How you call to me, aching on the night

Darling, don't take it literally AND personally

My life has ended a few times

First they came for

Turning and turning and turning. Turning

Like Ice. Like Fire. Like ice upon a fire

I am not me even when it looks that way

Time doesn't mend this

White. Soft. Sweet.

The milk-buckets are frozen

I would like a cigarette now

Mercy. Pity. Peace. Love.

Somewhere in the clouds, falling.

Monday, September 07, 2009

September 07:01 Prompts

The French Ballerina & the Builder


The clunk and roll of a dozen ball-bearings

Buck House

Refill Pad, Pencils, sharpener


Social Psychology, the Alternative


Stories From the Spare Bedroom

Getting Into Brock'


The sound grass makes


How sometimes the wind aches for people


Guatemala, the View Above the Trees

I remember when I thought the world was solid


And so I drift, waiting to be touched


A soft, muddy river in Portugal.


Where they are all from

Saturday, September 05, 2009

SUNDAY's Prompts September 06:01

I'm out running and then partying tomorrow so here are Sunday's prompts a little early

Learn Brain-Surgery in a Weekend


Once Upon a Time


For once, an early night

OK, tomorrow or the day after

Fresh Apples

Young Miss Tavistock's Dilemma

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling!!

Who's Afraid of Jane Austen?

The Various Differences and Similarities

The Ball.

Bomber Harris at Play


Music and Love begin as delicate flames

James! James!

What we have adored and what we have abhorred

Tea's Ready!

I doubt we live forever

I have not been to Jerusalem

Fast now.

Prompts September 05:01

A Room for Romeo Smith


He never goes up West


It's complicated, but basically, Lycra underpants


I have been cold, but never this cold


Purple Icebergs


A Week in December


Why I have to love you

From what I remember, he had big ears


The myths are swept away by an avalanche of truth

... and the waters will rise

It doesn't hurt much

It doesn't translate very well

Standing with the fat boy, waiting to be picked


Pink Vaseline

I have never been ill


Swollen hands, plump, wormy fingers

Two thousand men

OK, OK...

For entertainment we talk about our lovers


A Cafe called "Writers"

After you left I couldn't wash the sheets

Prompts September 05:01

A Room for Romeo Smith


He never goes up West


It's complicated, but basically, Lycra underpants


I have been cold, but never this cold


Purple Icebergs


A Week in December


Why I have to love you

From what I remember, he had big ears


The myths are swept away by an avalanche of truth

... and the waters will rise

It doesn't hurt much

It doesn't translate very well

Standing with the fat boy, waiting to be picked


Pink Vaseline

I have never been ill


Swollen hands, plump, wormy fingers

Two thousand men

OK, OK...

For entertainment we talk about our lovers


A Cafe called "Writers"

After you left I couldn't wash the sheets

Friday, September 04, 2009

Prompts September 04:01

A story beginning: "The trouble with stories is..."

Listening to the Other Sam Browne


Some nights you can hear them

This is England

What we call the beginning

He looked sweet, he did look sweet

Coventry, Milton-Keynes, Welwyn Garden City

Absolve them!

Somebody's Thinking of You Tonight

It's not that easy when your soul is torn in two

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Don't look so eager to leave


I'm on a Diet of Love

Forgive me, I was trying to say something nice


Pennies From Heaven


I'd like to say we could be friends, Jack


Are you glad she lost the love of her life?

White Paper, Pen

I met my ten-year old self; a curious boy. He was frightened by me

On a rope over the water

A story ending: "But it could have been, it could have been."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Prompts September 03:02

When men die far away it is like sand settling, dust

In the room the women come, and usually go


Through certain streets, dusty, deserted

Do not ask what it is

The corners of evening


A far sound, something falls, something breaks


It was a soft September night, almost October

There is always time

It’s a freaking waste-land

To murder and create

Do I Dare? Do I Dare?

I decide to revise

I pin you, you squirm

Old men collecting fag-ends

Full Moon

Basically, I was afraid

My mind creaks, like melting ice

The universe in a grain of sand

Mr Spock I presume?

After the cups, the marmalade, a little toast


Reading Annie

They think they’re all grown up now

Prompts September 03:01

Unfortunately, this is likely to be necessary

Where Art Thou?

The fickle, the unsure, the hypocritical

Being a Soldier

The basic necessities: laptop, mints, CHARGER

A Spotless Mind

Oh would the gift the giftie gie us!

Reading TS Eliot

Watching World Film

Above the water, under the cliff, far from a house

Boys & Caravans

Sometimes the names move, they slip, they slide

More or less low-calorie

Sleeping in another room, he tries to remember things

The Queen waves a gloved hand


I am in possession of Possession


I am waiting in the wings for an empty stage


The smell of steak in alley-ways


A little lady, sweet, who worried about Penguins


She picks the blackberries, cooks them for me. I try not to cry

Vanilla, I think

I am trying to remember a goal I scored

Sausage & Mash

New Govt Regs: Item 1 LOVE

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September 02:01 Prompts

"It has been a nice summer," said Diana, twisting the new ring on her left hand with a smile.

“Harvest is ended and summer is gone," quoted Anne Shirley,

A fox will track a vixen for a week

a little undercurrent of vague pain and dissatisfaction running through it

A piano made from ice

There was quite a bewildering succession of drives, dances, picnics and boating parties

almost as beautiful as the angel on my string

Anne of the Island

Coordinates is an anagram of Decorations

For a little while I had a dog.

gazing across the shorn fields dreamily.

He was the first to escape

I had one white pill and one yellow pill in the morning, and in the afternoon I had a pink pill and in the evening white.

I went into the trees and built a shelter.
I will give you the horse, a cart, a leather coat, a plate and some gasoline

LoveFinder General

Murder Club, the Vicarage 19:15 Mondays

the fields were bare and sere, scarfed with golden rod,

The fortnight Anne spent in Bolingbroke

The house bleeds

The Promise Tree

The woman was fat and her face was pink.

There is a woman I love who could not kill a wasp

There was not, however, much time to think about him.

They were both nice, manly fellows, but Anne would not be drawn into any opinion as to which was the nicer.

We are studying love

When he was eight he was stolen by gypsies

When he was ninety he swam across the bay.

whenever she thought about Gilbert.

Whispers of a life without borders

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Prompts September 01:02

I taste salt


You see the little things, the quietly beautiful that I miss

Death may or may not be permanent

I am bleeding slightly; from various places

The simple things, like you reaching for me

We will hurry home

It is not here that your mother meets your father

The wind rises; you laugh

We will kiss the earth


The buzz of a needle, the tatooist's hand

Once this was sea. Sea-birds still nest here, dark with disappointment.

An old woman who smells a little

Oyster-Catcher, night road

Duke of Earl

Various ice-creams, more than one kind of cheese


The flowers echoing the dead church-bells

September Blast

Just back from Wales (and September started a few hours late but we're having another "BLAST"

Write every day, EVERY day, to a strict minimum and a tough total, and write at least a third of your total word-count "pre-log", that is BEFORE any email-reading or internet browsing.

Post your minimum targets and exceed them, no excuses.

Stories may be posted in a free area of Boot Camp for feedback, but in order to see these stories we will need to have a Yuku ID (go to Yuku.com) to grant access.

A dozen already on board, we want twice that number

For further info contact AK at alex.keegan (AT) btinternet.com

Prompts September 01:01

The National Anthem, The Archers, A Man Lost in Space

Related Travel Advice

A room smelling of shame

3-in-1 for the treatment of love creaks

Collecting postcards from the lonely

A story beginning, "This is the point..."

We have a problematic interface

He is wearing a raincoat from a film


These are small things, human things

When there was water

I try to remember us, but see clouds

An old, decrepit caravan, broken glass

Behind night stones, beneath dark

I have waited too long to be born

A shingle beach, rain, they separate, come together


Everything here is just the right size

Of course, as long as you are here

I dream of bloody waterfalls, of screaming grass

I tend to flop about when anger leaves

Friday, July 31, 2009

Prompts 31 July

There was an old woman who

She woke too soon

There is little grass, dust rises off the playing fields

How wide this bed has become

I am dreaming of simple things, china teacups

There is a pale blue light

I was wondering about Moscow. What do you think?

We could keep chickens

Should I scream or just sigh?

They are cancelling trains everywhere

What about Formica?

Old, bitter, her face at a wet window


I hear the torturer loves his little cat

Cut me a hole

Summer Soup

I like it on my allotment. Spuds, Carrots, Beans

Gonna go to town

I would like to be in a book, page 28, the suicide


The occasional festival

Something about paper but I didn't really understand

The thirteenth hour

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Prompts 30 July

Where he thought he was dying, he suddenly grows

I have lost the ability to articulate


I will be so very alone

What I mean is, what I am trying to say is, light

They do nothing but sit together in a car, in the rain. How beautiful is that?

A uniformed man is opening and closing gates


Its all the same as I left it, including my body

The ground beneath them turns to water

His daughter is different, toast is different

The dog is limping

Every day, he doesn't know how, he is a little taller


Was a Chapel, now a Church

The placement of a judicious comma

A list of wonderful books

I have been bleeding

I am happy to sign the warrants, just get rid

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Prompts 28 July

The sun in scorpio

First there is a forest, naturally trees, but the thing is forest

Maybe my sight is getting worse

Let me put it this way, there weren't six foot posters of him on student walls

Shivering, but it is internal, hands steady as a rock

I will lie down

This is one possible way, raise our heads, walk

If candle-flame took the light

Perhaps there is a way we can recover

What do you think of the hat?

They're only bombs, Mrs Tavistock, bombs don't decide

All this is is a table, these are people

Listen, beneath our breaths, listen

There were many of us, now there are few

It's hard to imagine love in Thatcham

Quietly, it must have been a weekend, they took us from the map

What kind of effigy?

All I am is at the window, all you are is not

My grey suit, my grey suit, my grey suit, my pink.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Prompts 27 July

A cupboard full of dead man's clothes


What was in his tin

The Top Nine

The sky today, these cars, it all looks dirty

Brown Paper

The Book that Came From the Sky

Robert Jones, Higgler

How the fields so neat are shaven

I do not begin to explain, but death has dropped away

House on Stilts, Girls Exploding

Only in one way am I exhausted

And then I realised I hadn't heard

I could be a minor diplomat but I'd be kidnapped and die with a dirty beard

Magnificent men smelling of oil

There are always warnings in newspapers

Finding Ronnie

Nothing will grow in here, nothing outside

From the back, my neighbour, broader than I thought

I dreamt an old lover moved in next door

Weather, a rumour, but not necessarily untrue

A few of us wept, but we didn't know why

Friday, July 17, 2009

Prompts 17 July 01

A wooden spoon
Dancing in the light between trees
Look at me, Ma!
The house is bleeding
I dream of sun and feel the rain
Uncle Arthur’s Slice
I am walking on a path beside a river
This is about who hears
Why not be a surgeon?
In the cobwebbed hut, four shiny bikes
There are noises in the kitchen
The chapel waits and will rest later
The ping of a microwave
Anagrams of Poets’ Names
I intend to rise earlier
Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday
The thing is, Mam…
In the moment after the bang
Mad Men
The view from here is different, silent
A Penny for the Black Babies
They bottle water in a factory in Wales
Exactly as we left it

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prompts 16 July 01


The things I fear
Domestos and other occasional drinks
Green Glass
How clouds coagulate and darken
Lack of Moral Fibre
We could go to Derbyshire
This hole in my head is unfortunate
Fingerless mitts
My cat refuses to talk
All the lost eyes, the empty nights
Not About Her Father
Which side is behind the wall?
I have taken out my heart to let it cool a little
Oral Examination
My girlfriend whispering in the mortuary.
Playing Arlies.
Consider these things

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Capel Bethel

Some of our readers may know that 5/6 writers have been using the chapel in Wales (Capel Bethel) as a retreat this week. Here is a message from them.

A message from the team at the half way point of the retreat:

We are now six, having met Pauline (from Co Kerry via London) off the tiny train at the tiny station. We are currently (5.00 pm) all writing in the huge living area. Three on the farmhouse table, three sprawled on the deep leather settees.

Every day we have worked quietly, systematically, stopping for lunch in the cafe across the road, or for a cuppa, a walk. Then work again in the afternoons. We haven't counted the new stories and flashes that have been born here in the chapel. And add to that the flashes, stories, novel and poems that are being made better - it feels good.

The chapel is a fabulous space for writers. It is geared, and very inspirational. The rooms are not just comfortable, they are very comfortable, and we are sleeping the sleep of long distance writers. Martin has been a real gent and has given up his room for Pauline, and is sleeping in the living room tonight, on a bed settee.

This week is going too fast.

J, P, M, C, V and V

Prompts 15 July 01


This is the third time, the fourth, the fifth

When you love, words appear on skin

If you like we can talk. Or we can BE

There are angels in Borders

Make of this what you will. It will still be true.

I would like not to want

You could volunteer. Dying isn't necessarily bad.

Opening a difficult jar

Listen to a river. I mean LISTEN to a river.

All the women, all the men, hands, silent.

We are creeping, the dampness kisses feet

Sailing, tin-trays, yellow grass, incredible, inhuman

By noon something will be dead

I once shot a crow, filled it with pellets. It fell like a sin.

Mud is easier to eat than straw

For example, music doesn't exist

Dogs think about religion. Cats KNOW.

Look, and I mean LOOK, at your feet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14 Prompts 01

Two old horses

The house shines, picked out by early light

I am trying to remember, your hair

How I might die while gardening, bending for peas

He only said fuck off the once

She wants to find a man who dances, straight, and tall

We are what we abandon

Allegedly, we are mammals, our brains are split

What else is there to say? We tried

Projectile vomiting Newcastle Brown

A mother digs a hole in a garden

I turn my collar up, shrug on

Mere ugliness is no excuse. It needs more

When does a mother stop to become pretty?

Money on wires, buzzing

We are building a fence, but is it strong enough?

A grandfather, a quiet kitchen, an open razor

They put the dead baby on a newspaper

We could hang

Monday, July 13, 2009

Prompts 13 July 01

I have been wondering
There is a certain light that moves, swells, before rain
In the morning my child was cooler and slept
I would love ice
Peas, beans, various kinds of potatoes
I'm trying to get this right and left thing
I used to wait on the low church roof
Old shops with wood and whirring canisters
From the hill I saw a snaking tenement
It's something not in her eyes
Kitchen of Sand
Do they make statues of the living
There is a grey building full of bad men, or misunderstood
On the piss with Judas
What do we watch if the space is not empty?
I knew a man who had a hole in his head
Mittens on string, push-pull, incredible
I find it strange, me, never was
He loved a fat woman, she loved a little man
A cold door

Friday, July 10, 2009

Prompts 10 July (01)

When the freeze started it was just cold

They work side by side, opposite, strangers

I ride the wind

My bed is far too large now


He punches in numbers, listens for the buzz

I’ve heard about your hair issues, the SAS

We will take the children


These are not clouds, this is something wrapping

Purrs, coughs, stumbles

A nest of snakes, how it rolls, slides

It’s late but still people come

You know it, you can feel it, rising through you

We were black raincoats and black shoes

This is a story you should not hear

Picnic on a bomb site

I am writing to the council

I need to say something but it takes more than words

With luck, whatever that is

Call me Simple Simon, the others do

I could be out in a year

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Prompts 07 July (1)

A mockery of insects
There is a love which checks the alarm is on
The enemy fries bacon and it smells like ours
I ask you to picture waves as an army
If possible I would like to be born
We build walls but never higher than they need be
It’s unlikely but crying is not impossible
I’m focussing on the quaint idea of love
This Helen, is she a looker?
Slut is fine
When policeman look younger, old people differentiate
Like sheep upon the fold
Nothing more than a wooden table, slightly bloody
Certain lights are angry
We need more ways to waste our time
The last time I counted, there was just me
Listen to a white van grumbling
Today we have the naming of ports, beginning Le Havre
I think of the word “Honfleur”
Age ten, today we choose parents
As she leaves in soft darkness
The difference between perfume and Eau de Toilette
I don’t even make “minor”

Sunday, July 05, 2009

More Course Feedback

• Lovely accommodation that offers both comfort and functionality
• Hard work but great fun!
• Variety of different tasks to enable exploration of mood, tone and character
• Variety of tasks to stimulate and manipulate ideas
• Plethora of books and magazines to inspire and provoke discussion
• Entertaining anecdotes and honest appraisals
• Numerous handouts that offer clear explanations and examples of what not to do
• Plenty of time to write and attempt implementation of the skills explored through texts and handouts
• Well researched theories on the craft of writing
• Different teaching methods employed and an ability to be flexible with the tasks set
• Intense and enthusiastic approach to writing
• Value for money.
• Lovely accommodation, full days of work and tasks (but the opportunity to opt out if it’s too much), convenient café for brunch and dinner just ten metres from the front door, lots of resources, handouts to take away afterwards, debates and humorous anecdotes, numerous computers available to work on and time to write and relax with other like-minded people.

Course Feedback

I recently returned, exhausted but happy, from one of Alex Keegan's face-to-face writing courses. For three days we wrote, and discussed craft and all sorts of other things, into the early hours. There is nothing nine to five about these courses. Alex is ready to work until the last person says enough. Generous with his energy and writing expertise, he never instructs then sits back. He writes alongside the group, usually with enviable ease but sometimes, reassuringly, he struggles like anyone else.

I was apprehensive beforehand, thought I wouldn't be good enough, but needn't have worried. The ethos is one of respect for anyone who's serious about improving, whatever their current level. I got lucky when Alex used one of my stories to illustrate the editing process. His blue pen slashed through words, sentences, paragraphs - highlighting my particular weaknesses, and showing us all how we can strengthen our writing.

There's flexibility in what's looked at (Openings, Dialogue, etc) but also in how much writing is done. One evening I was too tired, my mind a blank, so while the others wrote I sat on a sofa in the corner, browsing through books of photographs.

The spaces within the Chapel have been created to allow withdrawal from the group whilst still being able to listen in to any interesting chat. There's the large table, great for laptop users or anyone who prefers sitting upright to lounging, and then there are several comfy seating areas with low coffee tables. The Chapel is well-supplied with all mod-cons, beds, computers and showers, a great place for any writing course, retreat or holiday. Just across the road is the very reasonably-priced café in which we ate most of our meals. Down the road is the sea and behind the village are hills and mountains, including Cader Idris.

I left on Sunday afternoon having learned a huge amount about writing, and sorry to have to say goodbye to new friends. I will definitely be back, just as soon as I've done enough writing to deserve another great weekend away.

Margot Taylor, Somerset

July 05 Prompts (01)

Unshoed, I was travelling, but steadily

Yes, I was hungry

We are in little houses

The way blood flows in the bath, whatever else it’s beautiful


I am dancing. Not for money, for the music

Where clocks stop

Boxers once practised on me

Swimming to America

I have my toothbrush, one or two condoms

Out of the blue, could they owe me five hundred?

How cluttered an office gets

We’re all going swimming, apart from the kids and me

I was tricked into living and I regret it

An awful lot of jellyfish

The puff of a flash gun, no other sound like it

The signals come. Only the mad are tuned in

Most of us smile at the machine-gunners; it’s so personal.

Sobbing like a widow over spilt milk

Imagine yourself as my Kryptonite

You haven’t heard the first of this, what you have is impure

Friday, July 03, 2009

July 03 Prompts 1

When the day comes, and it will


Balancing his work, his lover, his writing

We woke up face to face like lovers

A small dark dot, someone is waving

We are waiting for the drowned man

Stand still a moment, listen carefully

The endless emptiness when they are gone

Something has come to our attention

Facing backwards on the escalator

Full of professors and so-o-o-o American

An Orang-Utan, his dog

A stitch of want below the throat


In a filthy alley just below

It’s small things, the unreturned email, the pauses

Belching out the Devil

When I am blind I will feel sunsets

I am glass; you shimmer, you are light

The history in a single grain

I am not much looking forward

I look at this scar, long, incredible. I was wide open once.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

July 02 Prompts (2)

I place my hope on the water


Put in mind of my father and moved to tears


What knots my belly now is hope


I am an old, beaten dog


I am a woman, middle-aged invisible


Touch my lips with your spirit


They have found a way to crack the sky


So perfect it's ugly


A girl with her back to me, a girl on fire


This is one way to remember


When all this is over, I will try to write


Second hand, second-class, grey


He wears boots, a dress, drives a shopping trolley, eats in the caff.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

July 02 Prompts (1)

The way she walks, The way she talks

She showed me a picture of a man in a hat

Twenty-Five Airmail Envelopes

Vauxhall Victor 101

Why do dark stories illuminate?

Remembering Tom

I looked up the meaning of your name. It means shit-head

I am a fish, desperately coming up for water

When I think of you, I see flickers

I'm in bed and you're in bed

A bowl can't but a tin can.

It's an interesting ward

I have never been happy

Wild Horses, muddy water

The Devil's Blog

A secret full of houses

It's set in Miami. And Nantwich

Let me know if you want to continue

I need a better name, something Polish or Romanian

I could try joining it up?

PROMPTS 2 (11:36 Wednesday 1st July)

In another room
When Daddy came home
And it’s too, darn, hot.
Like Wolves Upon the Fold
Among the Dead Cities
I am trying not to be here
The light of an almost morning
All the fun is in how you say a thing
What I think about when I’m making love
Red Brick
An end to running
Perhaps, if I don’t try so hard
Smoke in the valley
The Girl of My Best Friend
A small airfield in North Africa
How we pretend
You were here before me

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


SOME OF US had a very successful June "Blasting" but nevertheless probably wasted too much time on Facebook and other places.

So here is the deal for JULY

Join my Facebook group (JULY COLD TURKEY WRITERS) to write every day, BUT (here is the rub) other than getting your prompts, you must not look at emails or the web AT ALL until you have completed your daily minimum word-count.

SO if your minimum daily WC is 500 words, no internet access until you've written the 500

Trust me, your productivity will ROCKET

Join my group but only if you seriously intend to try this.

July 01 Prompts

Prompts for July 1st

The Complete Book of Knots

The mortal lady of our tale

Distantly related to the more famous Stan

Blackpool in December, Jesus Christ!

I am in my workroom

Tail-End Charlie

52 Ways of Looking

What We Believe But Cannot Prove

Spectacles, Testicles, Fags & Matches

I fell in love with an enigma

and the prompts below

A Nightingale Sang
Seven Uses for a Hedgehog
Hello Vera
The Bodyshop
As You Like It
Glow in the Dark
Eating out of my Hand
Paint Stripping
Twins, Bodies
Do You Want Chips with That?
Silver Water
Chocolate Purple
Indian Summer Days
The Beach Hut
The Rattle of Stones
Not About my Father
Up to My Ears
The Tutor

Monday, June 29, 2009


I am not religious, not even sure I believe in God, but I AM getting more and more "spiritual" as I age.

Things seem to happen to me in too many mysterious, amazing ways that they do not feel like accidents.

One partial example. My Dad is dead now but years ago, when I was still a dreamer, I asked him, "What did you REALLY want to do with your life, Dad?" and his answer, without any historical context was mind-bogglingly odd.

"I always wanted a little small-holding in Ipswich."


This was a steelworker from South Wales! Why a small-holding in Ipswich?

Part II

A few months ago I had a phone call from a woman asking if my Dad was "Ron Jones, RAF, born approx 1918"

He was all three.

"Well," said the lady, "My mother was born-out-of-wedlock from a liaison between HER mother and this RAF chappie..."

Gran was a WRAF. Are we getting warm here?

So I do my research. Gran served in East Anglia, but nobody knows where. BUT my research (I got my father's war records) suggested he never went NEAR Ipswich.

Then, while teaching a creative writing course in Wales,I got an email from a chap who served in my father's unit in WWII. This chap was actually on the same Landing Craft as my Dad going in to North Africa.

Interesting, spiritual, warm, life-filling (but no Ipswich)

Then accidentally I deleted the email and emptied my trash.

Took a week to find the guy again and we chat on the phone and he says, "When we were posted FROM IPSWICH to Loch Fyne"

I get an out of print book on the 3202 Servicing Commando from Alibris and there, sure enough, they trained at Ipswich before their commando training in Scotland.

Oh WOW, I may have a half-sister somewhere.

I once won a story comp (£300 thank-you) and the story title was, "Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Watch"

The name of the book I bought?

"Spectacles, Testicles, Fags & Matches."




Digging up Old Stories

I was talking about various things and remembered a story...

This was PUBLISHED 12 years and two months ago (first in the Southern Ocean Review) so I may have written it 13 or more years ago.

The Mistress

Tom is watching a movie with his mistress when something in the story-line touches him, and breaks through his well-constructed façade. His defences breached, he thinks of his son and his small daughter. He begins to cry soundlessly. When his mistress realises her lover is upset, she tries to be kind, but her kindness makes the guilt worse and Tom snaps at her. She doesn't understand.

They see out the film, leave, go to a restaurant. The waiter is an old friend, and Tom nods to him, orders garlic bread, then fresh Turbot. He also orders a litre of red wine, and a malt which he will drink while he waits for the bread. His mistress is tentative. She takes one glass of the wine and nibbles at it. When Tom has drunk his whisky and a glass of wine he reaches out a hand to her and she takes it. Tom squeezes her hand and he mouths, "I love you." He means it absolutely.

When they leave the restaurant Tom and his mistress walk a short distance arm in arm; to a little and expensive Victorian town-house. Inside, the door barely closed, they kiss and things progress. They fuck royally on the lowest stair but only when he has virtually eaten her, and she has mewed her delight, and he has felt so proud.

But then, when they go up to bed, Tom's mistress says nothing. She knows that every gesture of affection and any word of love can remind him. Sex is their shield. Tom's mistress walks a razor's edge but where it is sharp their life is still tremendous. They still lust after each other, like neither has ever lusted before, and when they reach their bedroom, still silent, she strips naked, stands above him, then drops down. She swallows him whole and tastes herself, then she climbs aboard him, controlling, to rock him to sleep. Afterwards, he slides into a special darkness which does not quite satisfy. He will not remember his dreams.

Tom's mistress would like to cook for him, but Tom doesn't like to stay in. Instead, they eat in good restaurants and joke with waiters. Once Tom loved the meals his mistress prepared, their quiet nights, the candle-lit nights, but now he doesn't want her to cook, he doesn't want to soften. And when his mistress dresses or undresses, though Tom is aroused and desperate, he prefers her simple, the lights dim. And when they play music, let it be the CDs they bought together, nothing older, HMV, Virgin, their times away in London, Paris, Amsterdam.

They never watch television now. Occasionally he will read and his mistress will curl up with the telephone, whisper to a friend, sometimes laugh. He pours her wine, himself a whisky.

He had realised long before it finally happened, but he loved his children almost as much as he hated his wife and he had thought himself capable of control, of strength. But then one day he was walking with his mistress, who was not then his mistress, towards Margaritas, for yet another lunch-time pizza. Innocent of course. They were walking behind a friend called Mike and some lady called Pauline down the crisp off-white pavement by the park.

He spoke quietly. His hand was inside her elbow, gently slowing her. He watched the back of the other two. Mike was happy, his arms everywhere, telling another outrageous joke.

Tom felt mature. He said, "Claire, I've got a problem;" then he hesitated and for some reason changed sides, moving outside her, nearer the road, "Claire, about lunches, about spending all this time with you. It's not just lunches now. I don't think of you as just a friend any more."

She had taken his hand. She had squeezed it, lifted it to waist height with a second firmness, then gently released him.
"If you want to stop going..." he said weakly.
"I don't," she whispered, "let's just carry on."

The lunch was a dream and when Tom spoke he heard himself. He had sat the same side of the table as his mistress, now his mistress, the inches closer that couples sit, sensuously, in each other's private space, their arms brushing, their thighs achingly close, shared moist air between their separate bodies.

By dessert he was turned towards her. He had a foot on the rung of her chair, his knee up as he talked lightly and sipped a liqueur. Occasionally, as she talked to the others, she would rest an arm or a hand on the muscle above his knee.

Later, when they had returned to work, he made mugs of coffee and scattered them round the office with precision. Claire got hers last. She was typing like a machine gun and breathing deeply, sensing him, waiting for him to come near.

He had rehearsed casualness. "Coffee, no sugar," he said close to her ear, but it sounded more like, "I love you!" His mistress took the mug and clasped it two-handed in front of her face, steam rising from it to lick around her glasses. Tom left and went to his office but his voice fluttered when he phoned and spoke to clients.

He fought for a fair time, aware he had fortitude but neither real courage nor strength. He knew he could no more avoid being with his mistress than he could give up loving his children, but he could, for a hopeful, self-deluding while, avoid fucking her, as if this act of non-action somehow excused him from the everyday crime of loving her and hating the mother of his children.

But oh, how he dreamt of his mistress, avoided her! How in the pinewet dripping forest he ran too hard, so long, so punishingly that his feet bled! And how he painted things, built things up, took things down, and read and argued and drank and sang, anything, anything, but spare himself the dark imagination, the scent of her, the eventual deep heat of her, the suicide, the giving up.

And he knew he would know the look, that look in her eyes, the timid power blurred by tears, that massive victory, that, he would remember. The late explosion, when it eventually would come, would be a comma not an exclamation, and he would remember only falling.

It was winter when Tom and his mistress finally got together. One night, she had cried, and he had simply not gone home. The next day, by phone from work, he told his wife. He was ashamed, and on the following Saturday his wife met him with his children in MacDonalds. He couldn't speak without shaking. His wife explained in front of him, that Daddy would be away this week, then she said they had to get back to the car and to hurry and kiss their father goodbye.

She left him an alarm clock, clean underwear, shirts, and a photograph of him with the kids. When the children hugged him, behind their backs he saw his wife's face, the cruellest victory barely masked, a whirling, bursting joy at his terrible mistake, so filling her up he thought she would explode into laughter.

That night, that first night, when he and his mistress had made love, if you could call it that, on a borrowed blanket on a borrowed floor, by a dying fire, in the cottage of her friend who suffered their mistakes and didn’t like him, it was love, at least love was there, but her partner had hovered, his wife had hovered, and the friend’s bedroom had creaked. The love act, it was something that had needed to be done, so had been done, some rubber-stamp, some symbol, an act to parade, a red flag to make something elsewhere absolute. He knew he had wanted to make himself leave.

Of course there were times, sober, quieter times, when Tom tried to explain to his mistress why they no longer laughed. At first he thought to blame the business, how, raging with success like a rampant cock he didn't have the time. And the money, the power, the two of them, drunk with the blackness of it all, driving through the ruins of the half-lives of others, ignoring amber lights, the warning signs, getting things done, all that, he said, didn't leave room for the petty, mere laughter.

"But," he said, "I love you and I could not love you more."


And they settled, they found a one-bedroomed place and he found whisky. Then one night, her face dark red, she screamed that he disgusted her and that he was fat, and he stopped drinking whisky and went jogging. The next night, when they made love he was cruel and hurt her and she told him she loved him and nothing, nothing was as good as this. And they took another holiday. When they came back they found the Victorian cottage, bought it quickly, then bought a good stereo system, talked about another holiday.

That weekend, Tom's children visited the new house. They were polite and they shook his mistress's hand. Then she went shopping and Tom's son played with the new stereo. When Tom's mistress returned the children had gone. Tom said he was thinking of taking them to Disney World. His mistress nodded. She cooked him creamed chicken and rice but didn't eat hers. Afterwards, they drank two bottles of ice-cold white wine and sat in the dark, listening to Elton John. They went to bed. In the morning she told him the holiday was all right with her, but one week, not two and he said a week was lousy value for money, but OK.

Orlando was hot, Disneyland crazy, and he was ardently foolish, dressed down to be like his kids, trying every ride, eating lunches at The Hard Rock Café, pizzas at night. His mistress swallowed her pride, fought the tears and laughed, went brown in the sun, went swimming with his boy, took photographs of the three of them, made love silently in the night. But when Tom was alone with his daughter, his daughter would shake her head, pull up her knees and ask, "How Dad? Why? She is so ugly!"

And Tom would shake his head too, and then smile sadly at his daughter and explain yet again that his mistress did not cause him to leave their mother. He just fell out of love, that was all.
But his daughter knew different.

After Orlando, Miami, even hotter - they had compromised on ten days - and in the islanded Keys he was wilder, even more child-like trying jet-skis, deep-sea fishing, even a barn-storming red biplane that sprayed him and his son with a faint film of hot oil. And for the first time she mentioned the money that poured through his fingers and his voice was raised in anger, not sadness and he said, "I love my kids, is that so hard to understand?"
And she looked at him differently, paused, then said, "Yes."

At the airports she walked fractionally behind the three of them, and she flinched when she heard Tom say they had to do it again. For the first time she wondered about David and how once upon a time, her life had been so simple. She had to remind herself that it had been unhappy too. She looked at Tom. Vaguely, she considered what having his child would be like, but as she looked at the back of his head she knew it would never happen.

Then one night Tom explained. He loved her absolutely. It was not them. He had never loved anyone so completely, so deeply. It was not them, it was the shadows, the others, the shadows of the things he had once created, the echoes, the ripples, the whispers; his wife's parents, her friends, his friends who liked her as much or more than him, the prickled skin of his children, the politeness that burned and left the air tainted with civility. He wanted to relax. He wanted to relax, that was all; he said. He hadn't known that love could be so painful or so wearing.

And he thought, "This is because you are my mistress, this is what they see. They don't see you, not the woman. You are a thing, a thing set apart, the cause of others' pain."

Then he spoke aloud, "But you're not, Claire. It's not fair. We fell in love, that was all. It was nobody's fault."
"Not what?" she said.
"It doesn't matter," he said.

And slowly she began to bend under the weight of his family, her bright, proud head lower, her eyes faintly dimmer. And though they still fucked well, and though they still fucked often, it was all of a sad darkness now and the explosions were painted red, and she began to wonder, could she walk away, even now, even after this third anniversary, could she walk away? And she thought, only if I can make him angry, only if I can make him say it, and she started to ask it, "Are your children more important than me?"

And every time he would say no, and they would drink and hold each other, and she would dream dark dreams and he would think I must suffer being in love still, and though he contemplated his own death he knew he could not accomplish it, not until the children were sixteen, and instead, he would whisper her name and slip his hands between her legs, and on the lower stair they would fuck again and he would sleep a while.

2,277 words

Not Enough Hints for Mrs Golightly

Thinking of Bridport (deadline tomorrow) I recall this article of mine from a while back and published in the Internet Writers Journal.

Please note the article is not sour grapes.

Not Enough Hints for Mrs Golightly

I recently picked up a second prize in a magazine competition, then in the issue announcing the winners I read from a subscriber: "Dee, A Dancer stood head and shoulders above the other competition entries. It's the only time I have ever been moved to give nine out of ten for a story."

PS, this is neither about "my writing" or "my story"...

Another reviewer wrote: "Dee, A Dancer gets under our moral body-armour and imparts an unacceptable feeling which robs our black- and-white judgment of absolute certainty...sensitive writing. A third reviewer wrote "I like the neutral tone to convey powerful stuff," another thought Dee was the most enjoyable story, but awarded marks to another for originality. Then a fifth reader said, despite awarding top marks: "the husband doesn't know what's wrong, fair enough, but I was frustrated that he, the writer, couldn't have dropped more hints that the reader could make sense of".

Yet, to others "Dee, A Dancer was insubstantial." "Depressing and self-conscious" and another "didn't understand the end. Was it only this reader or did others think that the last paragraph had slipped in from another story?" And third critic said "Dee, A Dancer tried confusedly and unconvincingly to relate."

If I ever actually understand that last sentence, I promise to let you know, but ignoring that, the whole experience leads me to wonder and to worry about the state of much of the short-story market. I have talked in the past about the "disease of competence" and at least three editors have confided in me that they daren't "push it too far", that they often dare not print material which taxes the reader at all. They tell me wanting quality is all very fine, but not at the expense of a readership. Though I might pretend to understand this, what this eventually means is that the safer (and often lack-luster) "decent" stories, find their way into the magazines, competitions are often won by these safe and easy (but smoother than the others) stories, and the readers think this is the norm, the top end of the mid-quality literary canon. Beginners imagine these are the story types to aspire too. The result? More blandness, and yet more authors dropping in hints that the character wouldn't know (terrible art, but we must keep Mrs Freda Golightly of Chiswick happy. She votes!)

Alice Munro would struggle, Borges would be laughed out of the room, Carver would be dismissed probably because he was "too thin".

My question is, where, below the top five-six American magazines, and the few dozen magazines based on American University campuses does a writer go if she wants to push beyond the easy-to-swallow general fiction that is often seen in many of the small British magazines?

I can take three of my stories, one near my best quality, rich and literary, a second, lighter, less ambitious, and a third a lightweight, relative failure. If I enter these three in a competition I can predict the outcome. The best flops, the mid-range is short-listed and the make-weight gets a prize! This hasn't happened just once, it's happened maybe five, six a dozen times. Why?

One why is "readers". Many volunteer readers for competitions, those who narrow down four thousand entries to a more manageable couple of hundred stories, have been raised on the mid-range "easy-to-swallow" magazines I've already mentioned. Many are writers or aspiring themselves. Often, I think, they choose, not the best work, not the most enjoyable, but the best works that they could imagine themselves writing. That is, if it's tough, if it's something currently that bit of an extra reach for them, it's dismissed as "arti-farty" or "intellectual junk" or perhaps "self-conscious" or "MFA stuff".

The result? Even if the final judge is Saul Bellow, what he gets to see are those stories where we've put in the crude make-it-easy-for-Freda bits, removed a few allusions, kept it under the glass ceiling. The poor judge gets two-hundred plain vanilla me-too stories, stories that (ask any judge) he can't remember a month later.

But does Ray Carver's "A Few Good Things" get forgotten? Do people forget the baby in "The Shawl" or the abortion scene in "Differently," the fisherman's boots in "The Ledge"?

I know the owners of magazines have a terrible dilemma, but doesn't something need to be done? Reader, ask yourself. Think of the copies of little magazines you have on your shelf, or the ezines you've read. Now close your eyes. What stories do you remember? Which ones got under your moral radar, which ones subverted you, changed you, even if only for a while. Can you remember ANY of the stories?

Someone once said, "Be one per-cent different and they call you a genius, be two-percent different they call you mad; five per-cent different and they kill you." The problem with much of the short-story market, particularly the competition-driven market is "different" never means "tougher", different never means asking the reader to think, to move through emotional application, into a greater realization, change. Different means, the same plus a one-liner, what I can do, with a twist.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feedback on Capel Bethel Course

I have learnt more in one weekend of Alex Keegan's Bootcamp then I have in all my writing practice to date. Bootcamp equals action. From morning to night, there are endless discussions on writing and life. These are filled with intensity, laughter, the dawn of understanding and plenty of writing. Bootcamp is focused and directed, unfocused and indirected - the two complementing each other to give writers the perfect approach to the craft. Alex is a wonder and I'm booking my place on the next course. I've also connected with other writers and found new friends.

The chapel which is right in the centre of Llwyngwril is a beautifully converted space. Upstairs, you'll find a large open plan living-kitchen space where writers hunker down around the 12-seater table or sprawl about on the many sofas. Distractions include: Wifi, Bar billiards, a massive TV, books, DVDs and music. If you want to preach then the pulpit is yours for the taking. Downstairs there are bedrooms with comfy memory foam mattresses, bathrooms with power showers and an enormous roll top bath. There are books and pictures everywhere.

A hill stream rushes down through the village of Llwyngwril to the sea. The takes ten minutes to walk from the chapel to the beach - there are also other fantastic walks all around. There's a village shop (with cash back and booze!), post office, cafe and pub. The village also has its own train station and you can get a return, if you pre-book with Virgin trains, to London and back for about £25.00.

Runners Who Write; Writers Who Run

Morning Folks.

I am on Facebook as AlexBootCampKeegan (all one word) and I have just started a group called

Runners Who Write; Writers Who Run

The following is a note I've posted on FaceBook about it. If you write ad run (should be BOTH, that's the point) then why not join me?

I have only run three hours in the last 4-5-6 months but I was a serious veteran club runner AND I WILL BE RUNNING TODAY.

Imagine going on a writers retreat where you ran first thing in the morning and everyone was so ALIVE!

I have just finished a weekend of teaching creative writing in a very intense atmosphere, up around 0600, going to bed around 0100. That intensity was on the back of almost thirty days of non-stop, heavy-duty writing and too many late nights. I went INTO the course dog-tired.

Once upon a time, as an athlete, I would have been overjoyed at the surroundings of the chapel. All those fantastic runs, with great views. This time I went, only just recovered from an injury having done no exercise whatsoever for six weeks and abusing my body with too-long days, too much time at the computer and too much (I drink when I write a lot) wine.

But one of the ladies on the course was out first morning, out there running with the sea air in her face. Day Two I HAD to go out.

I was three stones and more (as much as fifty pounds) over my racing weight, unfit, slightly upset tummy, hungover, mentally running on empty AND WE WALKED-RAN FOR TWO HOURS.

We didn't exactly hammer things. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that our mile-running pace was nearer ten minutes than nine, but we walked up those hills, ran along the cliffs, saw an amazing blue lagoon, came back sweaty (and I was sore) but the day FLEW by and I was twice as good a teacher, full of energy again.

This is what I remember when I was running a lot (up to seventy miles a week at my peak).

The physical, mental, philosophical side-effects of running are fantastic. When I'm fit, especially through running (and carrying a lot less weight) I feel younger, sharper, cleverer and insights come so fast I can't catch them all. I used to say running "empties my head of fat".

So, I want to form a group of people who firstly consider themselves writers (whether professionals or serious non-professionals) people who wake up and 19 days out of 20 are immediately thinking, "When and where today will I get my writing space?"

Ability and publications is NOT the point, desire an seriousness, and how you define yourself is the mark of "writer". I was unpublished when my son Alex was born. On the birth certificate my wife, unprompted, put my profession down as writer. That must mean I was, even if the 350-400 publications I now have hadn't started.

And running?

Well, the definition of writer is above. My definition of runner is similar. Do you get up evry day WANTING to run? Is it your main way of being fit? You may or may not be super-slim or fast, but at some time in your past you ran seriously (say 4-5 or more days a week) and raced a bit (even if you finished way down the field.

You own running shoes, shorts, vests etc and you get somewhere and you want to run, want to run, want to run.

You might be like I am right this minute (but watch this space) grossly overweight and maybe a bit ashamed, with short-term and long-term injuries. Running might now make you breathless. You aren't supple, you may not be quite so young. There's no way you are going to enter the next County Cross-Country, and the idea of The National, try to stop laughing.

BUT, like with me last weekend, someone was going running and you HAD TO try, because that's what you are, even if you're a fat old fat, you define yourself as a runner, you want to be fit again, want to feel that sharpness in body, brain and soul.

You quite like the idea, a year down the line, of a half-marathon where every person in the field is a writer. Wouldn't that be glorious?



If you write and don't run, START.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oxford Street!

I will be signing copies of Ballistics from 12 Noon until 4PM at

BORDERS, Oxford Street, London

Saturday July 18th

Please come along if you are in London that day and say hello.

Ballitics 3rd Amazon Review

5.0 out of 5 stars

A magician with words, 14 Jun 2009

By DJM King "david61751" (Australia)

Alex Keegan writes some of the finest short fiction around and this collection contains some of the best examples of his art.

`Ballistics', a chilling but poignant account of human anger that gives rise to disastrous consequences, was an excellent choice as the title story. Personal favourites are however those written in Keegan's inimitable Welsh voice: 'Meredith Toop Evans and his Butty Ernest Jones'; 'The Last Love Letter of Berwyn Price'; and 'The Bastard William Williams'.

Like the pauses between musical notes, the stories in this book will ring true long after the last sentence has been read. Keegan's magic lies in what is being said without the saying. His stories are never short in the real term.

David and Myra King

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Amazon Review of Ballistics

4.0 out of 5 stars

Perfect Nuggets of Truth,

June 14, 2009
Diana Forrester "reader" (Grove City, OH)

Alex Keegan's Ballistics is a stunning collection of stories filled with grit, blood and truth. In the title story a toddler is blinded by his father's love _and_ anger. His life resonates with a need for understanding. In The Smell of Almond Polish(my favorite) Bridie Collins' life is filled with choices before it turns full circle taking her back to its beginning. In Post Cards from Balloonland, a man leaves a legacy for his children as he prepares to die. Each story contains its own nugget of truth, told perfectly, ready for you to read and ponder. You will not regret buying this book and while you are at it you should buy one for a friend

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spotted This!

Geri is by no means the only one...

Hi, All - I'm a former BCer, started with the group when it was formed back on CServe a decade or so ago (Hi, Alex, John R., Diana F., & Merc!). I have both fond memories and godawful nightmares about those days. Since then, I've written and published 7 novels - of which, book 7 made me proud by earning a good review in Publisher's Weekly and 3 out of 4 stars from People Magazine. Currently, I'm working on book number 8.

Geri Buckley Borcz

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prompts 23:30 June 11th

No sunrise, no noon, no city

When I am gone away

The night I lost you

I just need a little space

It is hard for us to get inside

We all have monsters

You could call me, if there was a point

I will lead the black horse

When I am dead, say what the fuck you like

I loved her, my dear stranger

I have walked a long way in the rain

We put his heavy body in

I keep thinking you’re still here

The deal is just for you, on the table

They are waiting somewhere near the big rock

What is, is, what goes, goes

Inside the tent, you were still breathing

I am trying to break in to the asylum

I am not just visiting

Nothing is lost, well not everything

There are no strawberries

I’ve brought some money

I woke and could hear the harbour shifting

It’s not THAT big a tornado

All night I have held your hand

It was Tennessee

I am trying to repair

Like wolves on the fold

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

9th June Evening Prompts

“Love usually does,” he said.
A red flash of something
Allowing for wind
He clapped his hands.
His heart beat so loudly he could not hear her speak
In the back of a garbage truck
My gray brother
No problems down here
Now he was smiling, “Well, piss off, then!”
Now it is far away

She danced on to his mouth
She felt as if she’d been out a month.
She knew she could do without this.
Among the dead cities
She told him she’d live with her loss.
She turned her collar up and ducked back into the day
Six blind men taking in the evening
The barman steered them to a whispy-haired old codger in the corner
The guy in the suit is a clerk
The masks didn’t protect them.
The night collapses at 2 AM
The time when the rat-people emerge
Them’s dusky types: South Americans and ayrabs
This is how the night takes us

This is the safety-catch
This should not be rushed.
This was going to be a bad weekend
You will have heard this before, often

Tuesday 9 June Prompts at 07:20

They have taken the sofa away
Slowly they are dragging themselves home, their ghosts dancing
Exposed beams
Settle for Half
He had it with him at the time of the accident

Working together for your future
I find it hard to believe
We will move him into the sun
My head aches and my body aches
I do not believe in the sum of the parts
Death like a small pink flower
At the sink and hopelessly in love with her master

A delicious softness
If our love had been in a book
Everything they said glittered
Under here, a town where people walked
I was much further out than they thought
Eat after I am dead
There’s dance tonight at the YM

The money in his name is mounting up
He disappeared in December
In the United States a policeman is shot every 53 Hours
Married to Marilyn
The blessed will not care how we look at them
Above the shops the old facades whisper of ancient sex

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Prompts Before Midnight

I confess that I was completely bewildered
Some two months ago, on an August afternoon
I met him on the square
After that I seemed to see him all the time
I remember, with painful clarity

They blamed the nurse
The doctor had soft hands and a disarming smile
We decided to live
It was a warm, still evening
He would not look at her

I am related to Herr general
Dark smoke, screaming
It can all be summed up simply
Southern Comfort
The room was dull with dull pictures and dull drapes
I recall very little of my childhood
Another official came towards us

It was nearly dark
I was on my way to Dresden
Tell me a story with not too many lies
And that was when she kissed me
The candles burned lower
I loved a soldier
He sat and played a little, then someone began singing

It was a heavy, brutal blow
A boy on a bicycle came towards us
The city rose, then softly sighed
My joy was to look in those windows

Ballistcs Gigs

JUNE 27th

I'll be signing at BORDERS, Newbury 11:30 onwards

JULY 11th

I'll be signing in Waterstones Winchester Saturday, July 11th, coinciding with The Music and Literary Festival there.



I'll be giving a reading/talk at BORDERS, Newbury after closing, in Starbucks upstairs

Prompts on Sunday Morning

Pardon the lateness of these, but just flipping through books and getting "tweaked" I managed two short poems. Well that's me complete for the day

I seem to have always known I was a carpenter
Some call this a city
I have never sat beside a river with someone beautiful and just looked
One spring a few years later
Here I am, a man of good sense
There is a certain way the light comes in

We drink it in the morning, we drink it at night
The touch of something carved
I have walked down side-streets under trees
I want to sing. I would like to play
Walking through the supermarket at night, the cans…
Nothing came from out the gloom
For you it’s no big deal, but this is my ambition
And he loved boiled sweets and sex

I would like to increase life
Why not salad for breakfast?
After swimming, down Stow Hill, extraordinarily fresh
Oxo and Bread, twopence
I miss the joy of body
If I fill my house with poems, must they all be good?
Men who take to railways or to tugs

I sat once on a lonely road, waiting for a vet’s needle
You must have had your hand up a lot of skirts
My son had not heard of Thalidomide
A word but not used up, is filled with light
We must die, or love one another.
The mere word freedom can kill
They sing such jolly songs, but they are dying, ignorant.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Writing Course June, Wales

I'm running a writing course at Capel Bethel Fri-Sat-Sun 19th-20th-21st June


The Chapel can cater for 24 people during the day, sleeps 12 in bedrooms, can sleep more.

There is a B&B next door. If the course is fully subscribed and people choose to stay there the costs of the course would be slightly reduced.

The Course

The intention to produce to near-finished stories from scratch and
to help with improving any existent ones.

Very useful for entering Bridport

Post course there will be another 9 days to tidy if necessary (if entering Bridport)
but the aim is that two stories will be finished structurally and blue-pencilled, so virtually done

The courses normally tend to be very "full-on" and for those who can hack the
pace there will be writing-talk from 7AM through to the early hours

For this course there would be writing breaks, for "relief"

If you haven't been on one of these courses and experienced just how much can change
ask around. Maybe some of the people receiving this could respond with comments?

The Chapel is fantastic. There are two double beds, six beds as bunks, two twins
and 3-4 double sofa beds... The French Oak table seats 12...

There FIVE stereos, one has an iPod Dock

There's 42" Flat (HD) screen, DVD and Blu-Ray Player (I use video occasionally to illustrate a point)

Bar Billiards Table, thousands of quality books, hundreds on writing prose and poetry

If you think that a full blue-pencil feedback on a 5K story would cost you £50-£90 the course is very cheap

£120 for the two days £150 for the three, but you are FAR better off arriving Thursday night and doing all three days

I promise you that you will be able to start 2-3-4 stories, will learn a load, can fix those stories that haven't quite worked.

I will be writing fresh alongside you all

The Chapel is at www.capel-bethel.com

also see the blog


Please respond asap


Alex Keegan
Newbury RG14 5TH

Telephone 01635-34317