Watersmeet, East Lyn, Lynmouth

poster of watersmeet
Lynton

This poster is in the mid 20th century style of British travel posters for coastal resorts. It’s the location of Watersmeet House on the East Lyn valley above Lynmouth. The property is now a National Trust tea room, but was originally a fishing lodge built for Walter Stevenson Halliday in 1832.

Two rivers meet here and cascading waterfalls tumble in this iconic Exmoor landscape.

This poster is available to purchase in four sizes from A1, A2, A3 and A4. All prints are made to order snd produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper.

For those who are not familiar with all the ‘A’ paper sizes, a visual guide to these is shown below:

poster sizes
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I used to draw postcards

It feels like a different life when we didn’t have cameras on our phones, or not even mobile phones. In those distant days people would send a postcard to friends and family whilst on holiday. Sometimes the postcards even arrived before they returned home.

postcard blow-up doll
postcard nut on beach

Somehow I started drawing cartoons for holiday postcards. It was only ever meant to be an idle amusement and an interesting challenge. Over the course of a dozen years or so, we sold somewhere between two and three million postcards. This didn’t make us rich or famous as the net profit on a postcard is only a few pence.

Sometimes I find myself browsing in an antique shop and discover my own work. I never reveal my identity – it might spoil the owner’s day to find out that I’m still alive.

The first postcard was mailed in England in 1870. Over 150 years later does anyone send them? If they do, I have a big back catalogue.

postcard dad buried in sand

North Walk, Lynton

poster of North walk Lynton

From a painting in acrylics. This is a favourite place of mine and one of the views that entranced me when I first visited North Devon.

The view is one of the few I am able to enjoy because my fear of heights prevents me from completing the whole route. Every day the colours change and you never quite get the same light air clarity.

This poster is available to purchase in four sizes from A1, A2, A3 and A4. All prints are made to order snd produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper.

For those who are not familiar with all the ‘A’ paper sizes, a visual guide to these is shown below:

poster sizes
buy on etsy button

Southport Pier

poster of Southport Pier

Southport in Merseyside, North West England. Taken one late afternoon for no other reason than it looked amazing. I was there partly to see Antony Gormley’s Another Place and this view was breathtaking. The government was going to move my parents to Southport from London, during WW2, but in the end my father remained in London at the Ministry of War. This was my first visit to a beautiful town in which I almost grew up.

poster sizes
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Three Reasons to Write

psychologist and client

Behind every author, professional or amateur, is a reason they started and continue to write. I have fumbled for words when asked ‘Why do you write?’, especially as I would be classified as commercially unsuccessful (no agent or publisher). But I have spoken to and listened to a lot of authors in my life, from both sides of the publishing divide, and I think most fall into one of three categories.

Literary Ambition
This might be the most common reason people start writing their first novel. Didn’t we all think we going to write either a top-ten best-seller, or the best prose since… well, fill in your favourite writer here.

Emulating a Genre?
There are a lot of writers who have loved a genre so much that simply want to invent their own worlds, their own characters and join with the cohort of authors they have enjoyed and admired.

Therapeutic or Cathartic?
This is me, and I doubt I’m the only one. Through writing characters and plots, I work out some of the sociological and interpersonal conundrums that elude me in real life.

So, is there a writer who doesn’t fall into one of these three groups, or maybe straddles two of them. Love to add categories to this nascent list.


Where it feels right to write

interior of charlie fridays cafe

After a lifetime of working freelance as an illustrator, graphic designer, copywriter and cartoonist, I have an established working routine and a quiet studio with forty years history embedded in every dust mote – or I did have until we moved house a few years ago. I now have a smaller studio, but much of the dust moved with me.

I have always been happy to work alone and have music playing to cut out any distracting sounds. Maybe this is not untypical for a slightly autistic mindset – it certainly works for me. I have no problem focussing on whatever I’m working on and don’t really experience things like writer’s block.

exterior of charlie fridays cafe

Charlie Friday’s
Sometimes I walk down to my favourite café, Charlie Friday’s, where they have great coffee and make the best scones and cakes I’ve had anywhere, not to mention fantastic lunches and suppers. The ambience is totally different to my desk space and makes a pleasant change that can revitalise my mood – at least it could until lockdown struck.

How this works in practical terms
I write predominantly using the Pages app on a Mac computer. The files automatically update on my iPad so I can stop mid sentence, grab my iPad, walk down the road to Charlie Fridays and continue writing.


The Parracombe Prize

four people writing at home

Last autumn a small group of writers in Parracombe, both amateur and professional, decided to launch a short story competition. The village is unusual in that a population of less than 300 inhabitants has held an active book group for over twenty years and has several people involved in writing or in publishing services.

We felt there was space for a short story competition that wouldn’t penalise entries for punctuation errors or minor grammatical slips and that celebrated the skill of weaving a story for the joy of the reader. So, the Parracombe Prize was born.

We kept the entry fee as low as we felt we could and opened the competition to all. The stories have been a joy to read and, at the time of writing, there are still three weeks left for people to enter (closing date is 31st January 2021).

We will definitely be repeating this event.


How I didn’t find a Literary Agent

picture of unicorn

A quick check on Google confirmed my worst fears. There are almost half a billion returns for ‘unicorn’ and only 168 for ‘literary agents’. Does that mean that getting into a conversation with a unicorn is more likely than getting a literary agent to consider my latest novel? This was how I approached the process.

Stage 1 Before submitting any material I read through the sites of some 150 agencies. I checked the agents online profile, twitter feeds and video posts. I noted their likes and dislikes and checked the authors they represent.

Stage 2 The first three chapters of my novel were submitted, a query letter and a synopsis to a number of agents (all tailored to their individual specifications).

Stage 3 A couple of depressingly quick rejections ensued. I waited longer (quite a long time in fact) but heard nothing from the majority of them.

Stage 4 I repeated of stages 2 to 3 – several times.

Stage 5 A few more rejections – some polite, some formulaic and some friendly – but also a lot of silence.

In summary
It may be about ‘who you know’, but I hope it’s also about what you’ve written. My readers like my style and my stories, but my offerings simply don’t grab the attention of agents.

Why?
I’m sure that literary agents stand shoulder to shoulder in wanting to like your novel. I fear that I can write a popular novel, but get the pitch wrong when I am approaching agents – being on the autistic spectrum may be a problem here as my command of interpersonal relationships is learned rather than intuitive.

How to do Sex Properly

book cover for how to do sex properly

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was involved in this book (sometime in the early 1980s). I worked freelance for a book packager at the time. They would put a concept together and see if if they could get a publisher interested. The book concept would be sold before it had been fully written or illustrated. I would be involved in the design and concept stages and then, quite often, nothing would transpire.

This book was one such. It was written tongue-in-cheek (feel free to make up your own innuendos) and most of the illustrations of teddy bears and other soft toys were conceived immaculately by Colin Rowe. All the teddy bears would nowadays be offered trauma counselling, but back then they just had to get on with it.

How to do Sex Properly was a one-season wonder. It sold well I think, but soon disappeared from sight. Wind forward to the new millennium and it reappeared on Amazon – with excellent reviews. Soon after publication I received a letter from a Health Authority complimenting us on such a straightforward approach to sex education – this was never the intention. I don’t even own a copy now, but I know people who do.

A Point of View

cover design for a short story

I could try to explain but I doubt you’d get it. The thing is, you would want to know why and there is no why, there is no point to anything. That’s what people don’t understand, that nothing matters. Nothing you do will make any difference. That’s why I want to do this, that’s why I need to do this, to show you, to make you understand it doesn’t matter.

Today is not a special day. It’s not my birthday or anything like that. People always try to find an explanation, but they won’t find one because what they’re looking for doesn’t exist . That’s the whole point, there is nothing to understand. You see, we’re all nothing but worms grubbing through the earth, breeding more worms, eating what comes our way and leaving our shit behind.

***

It’s sunny today. My back is getting hot while I lay here. But I like being alone, I like that nobody knows where I am, this is my place, my view point. Nobody really cares where I am anyway, as long I’m not their problem. Nobody really cares about anyone.

They pretend, they make noises like they care, but they don’t, and I don’t. I don’t need their sympathy, their concern, their boring repetitive words of encouragement. I like it when they are a bit scared of me, worried about whether I’m going to do something, something they don’t expect. I can see the tension in their bodies, their readiness to jump, to escape. But when they go home they forget about me, they forget about everything. I’m going to make them remember me, make them wish they had listened. They will never forget me again.

I always feel at peace up here, comfortable, it’s my place now. On the roof there is nobody to tell me what to do, to look at me like I’m not one of them, like I’m not normal, a freak, an outsider, a waste of space, somebody they don’t want to acknowledge or talk to. Up here I am alone, I can be me, unjudged, unseen.

***

Did I tell you I have a new counsellor, she’s my third one. She talks to me like she knows me, like she understands me. She’s all crap, it’s her job to pretend like that, to pretend she cares. She goes home and forgets too. 

She always has to read her notes when I go to see her, flicking through the pages like she’s written down all the answers somewhere. I’m a file, a collection of words on sheets of paper to her. If I tore up the paper and threw it in the bin I’d still be there, but she wouldn’t know who I was. She doesn’t listen to what I say, only what she wants to hear, only what ticks the box she’s put me in.

***

On summer days, melted pitch seeps through the grit which covers the roof, so I took an old piece of carpet up there to lie on. I always wear black, so marks from the pitch wouldn’t show that badly, but I’d know they were there. I wouldn’t like that.

There’s noise below me now. Not individual people, but lots of voices mixed up so you can make sense out them. Random white noise, it comes in waves, in ripples, up to where I am. It washes over me. Up here I’m safe, nobody knows I’m here. They won’t until it’s too late. Too late to run, too late to hide. Too late to live. You have to understand that I don’t hate anyone, not anyone in particular. No one person is special enough to hate. It’s the system, the collective, the whole nest of stupid little people doing the same shit every day, thinking they’re important, thinking their stuff is important

I don’t have friends. I don’t want friends. I don’t even care what anyone’s name is, there’s no point. We’re all here then we’re gone. Leaving more shit behind. 

I don’t why it feels so right today. It just felt right when I got up. I knew. I dressed, checked myself in the mirror in the hall. My mum said goodbye. She looks at me like she’s disappointed, like she’s always been disappointed.

***

The sun is really hot today, burning through my hoody, but I won’t take it off. The metal is cool against my fingers. There’s no sweat on my palms, no excitement, no fear. I often think I should feel something, but I don’t. Why should I?

The metal is smooth. My fingers close round it, a perfect fit as I let it settle it in my hand, pointing it at the one person who is the centre of attention. His name is Mike. He kicked my crutch away when I had a broken leg last year. He apologised, but he’d done it on purpose. I heard him call me a weirdo, a loser. He will be the first. People will know then that I’m not a loser.

***

The noise of a rifle is not as loud as everyone thinks it is. It’s more like a dry stick snapping underfoot. And bodies don’t recoil when they’re hit, they just kind slump where they are. It’s not like in the movies. I’ve seen my father shoot a deer. If the bullet hits their heart, or their head, they just kinda fall down where they are. It takes a while before the other deer know what’s has happened. They run, but then they stop. Pretty soon they start eating again, eating and shitting, just like people do.

 I’ll be cool, methodical. The metal barrel will lift in my hand with the recoil of every shot. I will choose, aim, fire, and repeat the sequence. It will take a few seconds before anyone realises what’s happening. Maybe when the second or third kid drops they’ll realise. But they won’t know where I am, what I can see, where they can hide. When they work it all out they’ll find me, but I’ll be dead too by then. If anyone had listened, maybe just one person believe in me, they would understand.

***

I still have to walk with a stick. My leg never healed well. It’s gunmetal grey, about the length of one of my father’s hunting rifles. It rests in my hand now, I sight along the length of it, practising, selecting targets, quietly correcting life. If it was a real rifle I wouldn’t feel any different, maybe my heart would beat faster, but I doubt it.

***

If you were where I am, if you could see through my eyes, all those ants scurrying below me, you’d maybe understand. You might see the world differently. Then you might understand my point of view.