Book Release: Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I)

Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I) Cover Introducing my latest ebook release, ahead of schedule. I had planned to release this collection on or around February 28, but it all came together. Having learned the bulk of what I needed to learn for my first ebook release towards the end of last year, it was just a process of remembering the details. It gets easier, this publication process, especially if you follow the template you’ve devised the first time round.

Now to the book itself. This has not been a quick write. This is fine. I like my words to settle, to take their time, to marinate. Four Kinds of Wreckage (FKoW) is a book of micro-fictions. I’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen, and for quite some time now, that writing succinctly isn’t always as easy as it might appear. FKoW is comprised of thirty micro-fictions, ‘short shorts’, which range from a mere 60 words in length to just over 700 words.

I would like to make it clear that this collection hasn’t just been trotted out in a couple of hours. On the contrary, it was written in parallel with my other recently published book, Disintegration and Other Stories (DaOS), and the two titles have taken — in total — three years to produce: in the writing, in various peer review processes, in editing, in the loving removal — where necessary — of aspects that needed this. Micro-fiction does not mean micro-thinking!

There are some overlaps in themes in the two books. I aim to produce a ‘body of work’: this is the writing plan. As such, FKoW (Volume I) will inform Volumes II and III. They will be linked. FKoW and DaOS overlap in places. The individual pieces in FKoW each connect, not in characters or storyline or the like, necessarily, but they connect to the piece immediately before and after in the running order. In these ways, this body of work, this density of the written assemblage is gathering around me.

I had aimed to release FKoW for free. However, the cheapest I can release it for, as a permanent price, would appear to be £0.77 / $1.17 / €0,89, etc., at the time of writing (Amazon have an annoying habit of shifting the dollar price, slightly and occasionally, and not making that known). The sterling price of such offerings does seem to remain pretty constant though. This is a short book, so I offer it at the lowest price.

However, I add a caveat to all readers: please read it slowly. My writing pays deliberate attention to the particular words I’ve used, to the rhythm of the piece, to stories within stories, to references to myths or folklore, in places: just because a piece is 200, 300 or 400 words long, only, it doesn’t mean it should be flicked through at pace.

This is one of the points of micro-fiction, as I see it: that much can be transmitted in few words. Hemingway’s famous six worder is a case study (I won’t repeat it here, but you’ll find it if you need to); Kafka wrote a series of short ‘meditations’; Brautigan was keen on brevity; Calvino wrote some beautiful gems . . .

You can find details of how to get a copy of Four Kinds of Wreckage (Savage Short Loves: Volume I), and other releases, at the Bookshop link above or click here. Scroll to the bottom of that page to find out about the free Kindle App for PCs (if you don’t own a Kindle device).

I thank you, and if you buy any of my book offerings please do let me know your thoughts on them.

Of Ordinary Magic and Magnetic Filings

Amazing things often happen when we don’t look out for them. By ‘amazing’ I mean to focus on the tiny details of interactions and other instances of a day. Do you believe in magic? This is not the grand Fantasia magic or the wizardry of epics I’m talking about here: this is the ordinary magic of the world.

Artists gather other artists about them. They just can’t help it. There is Artist A, minding his or her own business, just taking a coffee or a beer or reading, when Artist B’s magnetic filings align. This happens too often to be co-incidence. I meet other writers, designers, poets, and singers this way. Beware, however, because trying to force such links will only repel them from you (or so I find). What happens, happens, or so we could believe. When the time is right, because of magnets, a gathering for some readings might take place . . .

Odd other instances take place which are unexpected, and which ordinarily may just seem matter-of-fact: I take three years to write thirty stories and find, somehow, that they all connect (other than the connections I’ve also engineered). This isn’t just a way of saying that themes run through; this is a way of saying that stories connect in unexpected ways. Magic has a way of being stealthy.

What of the great and unexpected occurrences though? What of the fabulous and weird and strange? Meteors land on Earth all the time, and what if one should come rolling down the hill outside my street? What if a plane should crash land, carving up the houses on either side, leaving mine unscathed? I’m on the flight path after all. One night, the moon shone in through my window, bright as day: I woke up to darkness. What happens, happens, or so we could believe.

I’ve been nominated for a writer’s award, apparently, out there in ‘meatspace’ (I do like that phrase!). It happens, though it was unexpected, like crash landings and light. What shall happen, shall happen.

I trust my words, my books, will find their magnetic filing others and — if they do, whoever they find — they will be the right people to have found them.

(Now, that writer I was talking to for several hours the other day — you know who you are — you seem to have crystallised some thoughts in me).

Words of the Middle World at Hammersmith

I’m in Hammersmith where, on the surface world, in the surface streets of London, the place is just one big cross-flow of cars and buses sweeping away to other realms; of people — plugged into phones with screens, or earpieces, e-readers and other distractions — sluicing between the aperture of one opening of the Underground onto the road to another such aperture. It’s a surface tension.

I have time. I emerge but don’t feel the immediate need to fall out into London. I stay in the liminal labyrinth between the tunnels and the street. I need coffee. I need a coffee house. I know if I find the right one that magic can seep, even here. So I reject the wrong ones: the clinical ones, the empty ones, the coffee houses without possibility, whose definition I maybe can’t describe. Here is a place, deep in.  I step inside.

Immediately words accost me. Hammersmith, out of sight beyond, is an anvil of a place: it’s an iron heart with concrete valves; arteries are tarmac-clad and clogged. Here, in the liminal coffee house, odd denizens pause. Where are they all going from and to? Ten million strangers buzz about us; thirty or forty aliens gather in the hissing and the clinking hollow at the very back of this aperture, which spills out onto the street, somewhere. There’s light out there in the city. Here, for half an hour or so, we gather. I watch as I perch at a corner of a seat, taking in a long glass of vanilla latte.

There are drifts of conversations floating up and sinking down. I can’t hear any exactly and for sure. It’s a steam of words, though not loud. It’s at the edge of perception. I should write this, I tell myself, I should. Where’s my pen and notebook? I commit images and inklings to memory: they’re scraps of photos in my head, strips of audio files. Words accost me. They fly about the place; they’re in the molecules.

Hammersmith is a multi-layered affair: languages, accents, skins and sins perhaps, if we believe in such creations. It’s an affair of thousands overlapping. In the coffee house, I see in between the slots of people’s lives: it has this affect, here in the hiss and steam. Out on the street, or on the Underground, squeezed into tubes, we slip by one another, are absorbed by each other’s energies. We’re oiled. In the coffee house, the process of the pause allows the reader of the place to see between the percolations.

Two young women, neither with drinks, talk and take up a sofa and no-one’s keen enough to tell them; an older couple read newspapers with the table pushed right up to their knees, protecting them from dragons or the like; a coven of witches hordes the middle tables, cackling and swapping spells or emails or maybe e-spells; men in business suits are conducting covert operations; there are Italian, North African, Indian voices and faces; some people are hiding from Hammersmith, some are gathering their thoughts or plans or shopping lists, perhaps, some are hatching eggs.

The coffee house is a dark brown and cocoa butter smear, lit in artificial gold and other substances. Words hide here and paste the walls in thin veneer. They flutter because I see them. Other denizens of this place just talk. Words catch in my hair. I shake them free, but some burrow down to the follicles and cling to the warmth behind my ear. I am their route out of here.

Why do you want to leave? They don’t say. I find them still on my skin, after days and washes. My vanilla-streaked glass is empty and the city is calling. I can hear it coming down the concourse in strands of breeze. At the counter I offer my empty glass back to the man with the thick Italian accent, but this is London and it stands unattended to. I pull on the rucksack that’s been blocking the way to the witches’ circle.

The threshold to the concourse might well ripple as I step back into the other realm. I’m through it and the colour and the sound and the taste of where I am, a few inches beyond, shifts immediately. Through the plate looking-glass window I see the dark smear and its exotic array of denizens therein. I’m peering into an otherness.

I wait just a little while before Hammersmith sucks me to the street, and the place outside explodes around me. I push my way back into London’s surface tension. Words stick to me, here and there, pressed against my skin. Perhaps they’re shivering.

Interview by Nick Wale

I return from my travels with the possibility of words forming. Until they do, however, the following is a majority excerpt of a recent interview I gave to Nick Wale. Nick helps promote books via his site Novel Ideas and contacted me a few weeks ago through my Facebook writer page (see the link in the side bar here). He’s helped me and I’m happy to help him in his venture by publicising links on my blog. The direct link to the interview below can be found here.
Q) So Joel, why did you become an author?

A) It’s a compulsion, a drive, I suppose. When you write you just need to keep on writing.

Q) What does a compulsive drive to write feel like?

A) It often feels like blocking out, locking in, sinking in. You know? Some days it’s a rush. Some days you read and re-read and it’s like you’re looking at something that shines (or might shine) and you want to keep that, show that, have that, always.

Q) Do you ever find it hard to stop yourself from writing? Is it like a daze or a dream you can’t break from?

A) Physically writing (or typing), yes, I suppose. I mean, it can be extremely immersive, as many writers will know. However, that immersion also plays itself out in the day-to-day, pen not in hand, computer not on. Words (or the possibility of them) are everywhere.

Q) Words are your thing as a writer? So what is your favourite word?

A) What an excellent question! A barman asked me what my favourite book was recently (your question reminds me of that): how to pick one? You can tell by the long pause that this has given me cause to think. I can tell you what my most recently learned word is (and, by extension, a current favourite): tenebrous.

Q) Tenebrous? So what does tenebrous mean?

A) It’s to do with the obscure, the dark, as I understand it. This isn’t a reflection of my writing; rather, the word has a sort of rhythmic quality to me.

Q) Well, you have to learn something new everyday! So, lets reflect on your writing. What do you like to write about? Tell me about your writing.

A) In all its forms, long and short, my writing is intended as a means of finding the small gems of this world. There are hidden things in between what we just see on the surface — there are textures and layers to relationships, subtleties, moments. I’m looking for the moments that also linger. There are ‘objects’ of beauty, even in the laments, in many places.

Q) It’s interesting that you write about ‘beauty’, as everyone’s definition of beauty is so different. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written about? What is ‘beautiful’ to you?

A) Well, beauty is subjective, of course, but I’m sometimes taken aback by how things turn out. It’s unexpected. There are moments that happen which I read time and again because they still have some power over me. In one of my stories, a child’s brief interaction with the narrator takes me in every time; in another piece, it was something I wrote in a female voice because I needed to do this more, I was there with her, as her, in Venice because the words were in that flow state; poetry is a vanity, but there are lines of colour and there are lines that sink me sometimes. Questions such as these are like choosing between children!

Q) If you could write anywhere in the world, where would it be? What landscape would really incite your creativity?

A) On a beach, in the mountains, in a forest, all of these. Specifically, though I’ve done my fair share of overseas travelling, I’d come back to the west of Cornwall. Standing on the cliffs overlooking some of the little unknown coves down there, the sea and the wind in your hair and on your face, that huge sky (it really is huge, like they say in their tourism promotions), makes words just come in for me. The artists there laud it for the light; I just can’t get enough of the energy.

Q) I understand that you’re published so others can enjoy your creative energy. Which of your works are currently available?

A) I’ve got a collection out at the moment (Disintegration and Other Stories). I loosely label this as literary fiction (though that term can be interpreted in many ways). DaOS is out in ebook and print. This collection came together in an odd way: I didn’t realise that there’d been a thread running through some of my writings for a number of years. It was like seeing invisible ink slowly become visible. I’m working on a collection of micro fiction, which will be a first volume (Four Kinds of Wreckage) to be added to. Micro fiction is much misunderstood. Away from fiction, I’m also published in the field of what’s known as ‘playwork’ (a particular way of working with children). I’ve had writings taken on by the national/international playwork publication for the sector, as well as credits with the organisation concerned with psycholudic playwork practice. (Now though, I fear I’m stepping into the jargon of my other calling — though writing is also a big part of this, too).

Q) So tell me, Joel — why did you want to be interviewed by me?

A) You do a good job of finding writers, Nick. When I became aware of your work I came over to your blog, and yes, I like what I see here. What you’re doing is exactly what writers need — a way of getting their words out there.

Q) Thank you, Joel. One of my stock questions is to ask — if you could be any writer from any time who would it be?

A) As far as writers are concerned, I have a range (as we all do probably): Milan Kundera, Gabriel García Márquez, Jeannette Winterson, Iain Banks, Ian McEwan, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, Neil Gaiman, Adrian Henri. There are others. I wouldn’t want just one small list to define me, though we start somewhere with questions such as these.

Q) Characters are important to you. What makes a good character for you?

A) The unusual wrapped up in the usual. Subtlety people often might not see. The strangely put. Love in odd places, ways; perceptions of this. Someone who aches in some way.

Q) It has often been said that ‘repeated readability makes a book’. Would you, as an author, agree with that?

A) Yes, I think I would. Who was it who said that journalism is read once, whilst literature more than this? Something like that. Anyway, it’s the sentiment here that counts. There are books on my shelf that I come back to time and again; there are passages on some pages that just astound me. Kerouac wrote about ‘fields the colour of love and Spanish mysteries’ in On the Road. I come back to that time and again.

Q) You strike me as an intellectual — someone striving for the beautiful things in life. Would you agree with that?

A) I don’t know about intellectual! I certainly am on the search for the beauty of the world though. That’s in words, in moments, in art, in love and lament, in the play of children, in the play of us, in nature.

Q) What would you personally deem as ‘ugly’?

A) There’s nothing so ugly as not wanting to see, perhaps. Ugliness is also wrapped up in the politics of power, greed, deceit.

[End of excerpt]

Writing on the Move

The road, or the tracks, or the air, or the sea, all of these, make words more immediate. I’m on the move, soon enough. We’re comprised of moments and of journeys, which are process rather than product. A fellow writer I’ve just recently made contact with sent me skimming through old notebooks looking for certain words: give me poetry, he said. Notebooks are full of words laid down in the process of moving: poems and scraps, the notes of the journey itself, people and ways of seeing, sketches of characters barely formed come to the scratched ink surface.

What makes the words of notebooks laid out like this so immediate? Just as the impressionists painted the light, there and then, in media res, in the midst of things, so too are the words on the move so much — what? Purer? Refined? Raw? It’s the rawness of the pen or pencil marks, the movement of the lurch of the mode of transport, the seaspray on the pages, the crumpled edges that make the words . . . more.

I’m wandering through times gone by: I write on the Greyhound bus, from Boston down through Harlem and Manhattan, spiderwriting (it’s difficult to see in the process, as we travel back north by night, a single light above my head on the back seat); I write in the air, always in the air, compressed but needing to write out the journey; I write on the ridiculous lean of the high speed train from Malmö to Stockholm, making myself sick in the process; I write in between flights at airport concourses, sat in bus terminals in Basque country, in little rooms in the former East Germany, in the Danish wilderness, somewhere in Paris . . .

Writing in the mind, whilst travelling, is spiderwritten too. When the notebook isn’t easy to reach, or when I’m travel-filthy and tired, I watch. I think of words I will write. The process needs to be caught. There is no product because it shifts on each new reading, years down the line.

I’m on the move because I need to move, and because moving is a way of finding words too. It is the rawness of the wind and the air, of the light and the day, of the hunger or the cold, or the heat or the night, all of this, which give the words their rawness of edge.