Getting All Eeky

Gidday. Tomorrow evening I'll be reading my (mercifully) short story 'The Phantom Limb' at a charity fund-raising event organised by Den of Geek. This is it. You know, in case you can't make it.

The Phantom Limb

The doctors who amputated Alex’s left arm below the elbow told him he would suffer phantom pains in it as the nerve endings in his stump tried to keep telling his brain that something was very wrong down there. They didn’t tell him that he’d also be able to clench his non-existent fist and snap his non-existent fingers. And certainly no-one, least of all Alex, guessed that he might be able to touch anything in that place where the ghost of his dead arm still lived.
Or that anything there might reach out to touch him.
It had been a stupid accident. A weekend’s narrowboat holiday, for him and Kirsty to lazily meander through the heart of Birmingham’s canal system, because at three miles an hour in a straight line, how hard could it be, right? Harder than it looked. The straight line became a zigzagging ricochet from bank to bank, and when they started heading towards another boat he panicked, tried to fend them off with a pole, slipped, and fifteen tons of steel-hulled narrow-boat lazily crushed everything below his elbow to the consistency of corned beef.
So off it came.
There was pain at first – but it became sporadic, and eventually nothing more than the occasional burst of pins and needles in his ghost flesh. There was talk of fitting him with a prosthesis, but when he found himself able to make a fist, and touch his fingers with his thumb, he decided against it. He couldn’t move anything – at least not in the physical sense – but he could feel differences in temperature wherever his hand was. Warm breezes. Sudden chills. He was convinced that somehow, somewhere, his hand was still working.
And then, one day, another hand grasped his.
It was sudden, the grip of someone in desperation. He freaked and pulled away with a yell. More carefully, as if reluctant to scare him away, the other hand returned, and with gentle, tentative touches convinced him that it meant no harm. It felt like a woman’s hand – the fingers were slender, the skin smooth, the nails long and pointed. But her fingers quickly became agitated again, restlessly tapping a complex rhythm on his palm. She was trying to tell him something.
He taught himself the deafblind manual alphabet, which was basically sign-language by touch, and avoided mentioning anything about it to Kirsty, since there was something peculiarly intimate about communicating with another person purely by the sensation of their skin.
The first message came through: one simple word.
‘Help how?’ he asked. ‘Who are you?’
Trapped, came the reply. Please help. Pull.
So he pulled with all the strength of his dead limb. Agonisingly, an inch of his lost fore-arm began to reappear. Then another inch. Then his hand. Then the hand that gripped his own. And when he saw that it wasn’t really a hand, and that the ravening creature it belonged to wasn’t in the least bit like a woman, he began to scream.

eNarrows and Tourmaline

The good people at Snowbooks have told me that by the end of this week The Narrows should be available for Kindle (what's the preposition there? "on" kindle? "through" kindle? Grammar pedants need to know), which means - well, exactly what it says.

In the meantime, phrases like "reads beautifully" and "very excited" have been used in recent conversations about Tourmaline, which is currently in the agonising throes of me going back through it, wincing, muttering to myself things like "Good God, tell me I didn't actually write that", and then doing it again. But with less adjectives.


I love watching people in low-slung, expensive cars trying to negotiate the speed-bumps on their way out of our school gates. I love that it's obviously so tricky that they can't spare any concentration to indicate which way they're going to turn afterwards, and I wonder if they also find it hard to perform other awkward tasks simultaneously, like walking and peeling a banana.


For about a week I've been wondering why there's a strange smell of donuts in my car. Last Sunday I bought one of those huge boxes of assorted cream-filled artery-destroying bastards from Krispy Kreme at Selfridges in the Bullring to take home to the ravenous hordes of my two girls, and I haven't been able to shake the smell since. Either it's wishful thinking or it could be that around the same time I topped up my windscreen washers with some heavy duty winter-strength fluid laced with antifreeze. Which probably says a lot about what Krispy Kreme put in their donuts. Still going to eat them, though.

Why they kicked me out of Australia

Interesting conversation at work today, with a female colleague who started to tell me about the problems she'd been having with getting her car fixed and why the temporary replacement drive had been so much better. It was all going very well until she started getting all technical on me about specs and things like, I don't know, engine size, probably. That was the point at which I had to hold my hands up and admit that as far as I was concerned, all I cared about in a car was how quickly it could get me to the nearest comic shop. Obviously she'd assumed that because I'm a guy, I know about this kind of thing, and she was simply trying to speak to me in my native language of Laddish. Bless.

Once we'd got over that little bit of awkwardness we had a much more sensible and meaningful conversation about how badly Underworld 4 sucked. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it does.

I get the same thing about sport too, all the time. Is it any wonder people ask me whether I'm really an Aussie?

Let the schmoozing begin

So I spent a good few hours on Sunday afternoon schlepping my rucksack full of promotional copies around the bookshops of metropolitan inner Birmingham - all three of them. Would have taken me all of half an hour if I hadn't succumbed to the lure of Muji's stationery section.

Waterstones on High Street and New Street were lovely, though I could see the fear come into the eyes of the poor sales staff as I wandered over trying to look all nonchalant and clutching a copy of my book with white knuckles. Oh shit, here comes another self-published loser looking for a bit of free PR. No, honestly, it's a real professional book, believe me. Look, it's got an ISBN and a quote from Adam Roberts on the front (yes, the actual one, not just some guy from down the pub with the same name), and it's got real proper punctuation and grammar and everything. The guy at Forbidden Planet even sounded like he'd actually heard of the book - which was sweet.

Got home and then parcelled up a load more to send off to various places. All I need now is a bank loan to pay for the postage.

By the way, I know that this sounds like the continuation of something I've been writing for a while, but it isn't. Sorry. This is the first proper blog post I've written about the process of getting The Narrows published. I haven't written anything about it before now because I figured a) anybody reading this who's already a writer probably knew the drill, and b) anybody trying to get published was probably just going to get all depressed. I also sort of think that I'm lucky enough getting some stories out there at all - why should I expect anybody to be reading this drivel? So hey, sorry you missed out on the roller coaster ride of me getting all paranoid about why it's been taking so long and oh my god I haven't heard anything from Snowbooks for a nanosecond and I know it's all going to go wrong whine whine whine.

You didn't really need to hear that shit. Believe me.

But you know, I'm writing another one so there's still time.