My particular thanks for everyone who is registering ‘likes’ and, in a few cases, ‘loves’ on my posts; it is encouraging to be seen and read. Likewise those people who have been willing to share the posts. Anyone who might be inclined to turn the post likes into likes for the whole page is also very welcome to do so.
Publication date for Howell Grange is less than three weeks away, and I’m carrying on blogs alternating between talking about one of the book’s themes and mentioning some previous items from my three published short fiction collections. Last time, I featured one of the stories from the second collection, ‘Odds Against’. Now I’m selecting one from the third, ‘The Guy Thing’, which includes fifteen stories on the general theme of how men, young and old, straight and gay, deal with the issues and problems which arise in their lives.
‘Philip’s Beaches’ is a first person story, the narrator being diplomat Simon Harrington, whose elder brother Philip is a journalist specialising in dangerous places and assignments. Simon has had to drop everything he is doing, charter a plan and fly out with Philip’s wife Ellen to rescue his brother from an African republic whose dictatorial ruler has taken exception to Philip’s reports describing what is happening in the country. Philip has been shot and wounded, and rebels, working with the local people, are doing their best to smuggle him to the airport to get him out of the country and on a plane to Gibraltar.
Simon remembers one of the earliest times his brother put him in danger, on a Devon holiday when he was fifteen and Philip seventeen. Philip insisted on a walk and run along the coast, until the boys realised they were cut off by the tide, in a cove where the only escape was to climb the impossible-looking cliffs. This is a familiar enough scenario to anyone who lives in Devon and anyone who watches ‘Saving Lives At Sea’ (tonight, 9 p.m.!)
The impact of that day on the brothers’ relationship and their adult escape from Africa are described, with implications on the themes of sibling rivalry and how much risk is justifiable for family men to gather reliable news from wherever events are happening.
Thank you again for the growing number of ‘likes’ for my new bruce l. harris Facebook page; the number of them is already making personal thanks to all rather more time-consuming that I can afford, but I do appreciate people being prepared to give such an indication of support. My novel Howell Grange is out on the 28th, and will be of interest, I hope, to people who enjoy family ‘sagas’, people with an interest in History, and especially British history, and people who like to trace the development of modern Britain and its people. Howell Grange charts the fortunes of the Howell family from 1844 to 1866, with the aim of taking the chronicle on into the remainder of the century and the beginning of the twentieth in subsequent books.
Between now and the 28th, I am describing some of the themes of the book, as well as highlighting some pieces of short fiction from my earlier books. Today I’m looking at the Crimean War, between 1854 and 1856, which for a long time was seared into the memories of three nations, Russia, France and Britain. This time France, less than fifty years earlier our avowed and deadly enemy, was an ally of the British against the supposed imperial ambitions of Tsarist Russia, though like some wars which preceded it and followed it, including the First World War, the conflict was mostly about the territorial squabbles between the huge inter-related and interbred royal families of Europe.
The eldest Howell son, Charlie, goes to war with a commission in a final effort to move away from having to get involved in the family mining business. Even though his father is dead by this time, he is happy for his younger brother Francis to take over the huge responsibility of the Howell mines. His romantic ideas of martial glory soon come to grief in the mud, blood and gore of the Crimean peninsular. My researches in this area included eye witness accounts and illustrations from men who actually fought in the War.
The Crimean War is also the conflict which brought Florence Nightingale, the mother of British nursing, to the attention of the world, though another vital contribution was made by the lesser known but also admirable and courageous Mary Seacole, known to many of the men she helped as Mother Seacole.
HISSAC is an acronym familiar enough to most of the writing world. It stands for the Highlands and Islands Short Story Association, and its annual short story competition has now been going for ten years; an anthology of some of the winning stories is on their site at www.hissac.co.uk
After twelve years of competing, I can claim, immodestly but truthfully, to have registered at least one success in most of the established annual short story competitions, but the HISSAC one has as yet eluded me after several tries. However, persistence and greater experience tend to be their own reward, and this year, my story ‘High Tide’ has won through to their longlist of the final fifteen. Well administered and fairly judged competitions gain a reputation amongst writers, and competitions like HISSAC’s regularly attract hundreds of entries, so to make it to the longlist is something of an achievement. It may or may not go further, but it’s already a worthwhile result.
As another episode in the build up to the publication of my novel Howell Grange on October 28th, I’m mentioning events and characters from the book and highlighting stories which have already appeared in my published short story collections.
‘Stephanie’s Times’, included in my ‘Odds Against’ collection, follows entries from the diary of Stephanie Whitman from the 1938 end of her schooldays to the closing days of her old age in 2007, including her adventures as an agent in wartime France, her difficulties with childbirth and her sorrow at having to shoot a lover in France who she identified as a German agent. The general theme of ‘Odds Against’, produced in support of the Huntington’s Disease Association, is people doing their best in difficult circumstances, and circumstances cannot be much more difficult than Stephanie’s. ‘Odds Against’ is still available and can be found HERE
O.K., the day is now approaching fast. My first novel will be published on Monday October 28th 2019. Some would say I’m at a pretty vast age to publish a first novel, but like the hares and the tortoises, we late developers get there sooner or later, and none the worse for that.
Although I would modestly point out that, though ‘Howell Grange’ may be my first novel, it’s far from being my first book; it’s my seventh. Discounting for the moment a collection I half-wrote with the very welcome collaboration of Words magazine, there have been three short story collections and three poetry collections to date. However, I have been working on novels at the same time, and sooner or later, I needed to be organised enough to get one finished and published.
After some time working on the book with a very able and helpful publisher, I’m now going to blog regularly up to and beyond the publication date, partly about Howell Grange and partly about my previous books. This time, it’s something about Howell Grange.
HOWELL GRANGE – the youngest member of the Howell family, Alice, works determinedly towards medical qualifications at a time when women were not allowed to qualify as doctors, in spite of their contribution to nursing, particularly during the Crimean War (which also features in the book).
The first woman to be recognised as a doctor in Britain was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. In 1866, she became a medical attendant at the St Mary’s Dispensary, London. Determined to qualify, she taught herself French and got a medical degree in Paris, but was still refused entry into the British Medical Register. She married James Anderson in 1871 (they had three children). In 1872 she set up the New Hospital for Women at the St Mary’s Dispensary, later the London School of Medicine for Women.
Partly as a result of her campaigning, an act was passed in 1876 permitting women to enter the medical profession. Elizabeth was appointed Dean at the London School of Medicine for Women in 1883, and oversaw its expansion. She retired in 1902 to Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where she became the first female mayor in England in 1908. She died in December 1917 and in 1918 the London School of Medicine for Women was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (now part of the University of London).
Alice Howell is not Elizabeth Garrett Anderson; their backgrounds, lives and experiences are different, even if their eventual target is the same. Like all other women with a similar aim, nothing is simple for her, but her story makes clear enough the grit and determination needed by pioneering women.
Having been on the punter’s end of short story competitions for so long, it was interesting to move into the judge’s chair for once, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to judge the well-established and prestigious Segora Short Story Competition. It’s a judge’s cliché to talk about how high the standard was, and whether it’s always true, I don’t know, but it certainly was in this case. Judging should always be anonymous in the first instance, and Segora have operated this as a strict policy from the start, which makes it all the more intriguing to see who has won what when the final decisions are taken.
The winners are worthy of winning any competition and the top three, plus my competition report, can be seen at the Short Story Competition section of www.poetryproseandplays.com
The Victorian era was, in many ways, the making of modern Britain. The rapid pace of industrial development created the wealth and power to turn the country into the first great technological economy.
But, of course, it didn’t happen without problems. My chronicle of the Northern mine-owning family the Howells between the years 1844 – 1966 illustrates clearly enough the kind of issues which families of the time had to deal with, including equating mining safety with maintaining profits, enabling women to break into areas such as medicine which had previously been closed to them, dealing with the ever-persistent problems of war, in this time span, the Crimean, and a whole host of contemporary problems concerning child mortality, drunkenness and disease.
The book visits the Howells in the years 1844, 1852, 1856, 1860 and 1866; children grow into soldiers, doctors, landowner and Members of Parliament. The Howells are the British, and this was how they dealt with it.
See Waterstones and The Book Guild
A time lag of almost three months between blogging and Facebooking, and no, I haven’t left the country or run away to join the circus, I’ve been concentrating on working with the Book Guild to get my novel, Howell Grange, in working order. The Guild is a very effective and efficient publisher to work with, and consequently, even though the book’s actual publication date is October 28th, it is already there and available for advance orders on the site of The Guild itself as well as Waterstones and Foyle’s and Booktopia.
Howell Grange is centred on a North-Eastern mine-owning family, and this first book covers their history from 1844 to 1866, including their experiences with pit disasters, the Crimean War, the struggle for women to become doctors, and the various mixed fortunes of relationships and children. It is a full-blooded Victorian family saga, carefully researched and put together. During my time growing up in the North East, I became well aware of its challenging history and the various qualities of its remarkable people.
The ups and downs of the Howells will resonate with fans of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and many other people who know something of where their families came from.
I’m now on Skype, and should anyone want a face to face about the book, or about how things are going for me and mine at the moment, message me via Facebook and we can try to fix things up. As regards family and friends, if any of you are already on Skype, let me know and we could have the occasional catch up. Whatever happens, I will be blogging more frequently now, to support the books already out there and the fortunes of my shorter pieces along the way.
Thank you to all the people who have ‘liked’ First Flame, numbering almost six hundred now, and I hope you’ll allow me to remind you that First Flame is a book containing twenty five stories which have all won prizes, commendations and listings in U.K. short fiction competitions. If you enter such competitions yourself, or you might be interested in doing so, or even if you just like a good read where you can dip in and out of the stories available, First Flame might be worth your while, and an e-book version can be obtained at
For a print version, please contact me at
As is clear from the time lag since my last blog, I’ve been concentrating on my writing; it’s not always easy to make writing the top priority, but this last month or two has enabled me to do that. My new short story collection, ‘Fallen Angels’, has been delayed for reasons beyond the control of either the publisher or myself, and that has helped to give me a quiet interim period. It’s proved useful, as it’s enabled me to knock one of my three finished novels into shape, and successfully so, as the one I’ve attended to is now due to be published in the autumn. I’ll be blogging more details on that when we get nearer to publication day.
My latest short story publication is contained in the anthology produced by GRIST magazine at the University of Huddersfield. The collection has the simple title ‘Trouble’, and is concentrated on a theme of protest and dissidence. My contribution. ‘The Unplayable’, has as its theme the continuing homophobia of professional football. The story centres on a young footballer whose professional career begins in 1990, not long after the suicide of Justin Fashanu, and who eventually finds it impossible to pursue his livelihood because of the pressures placed upon him. It also makes the point that even now, nearly thirty years later, there is not a single ‘out’ professional footballer. This is the ‘Unplayable’ situation.
The supply of good quality print short fiction magazines has, if anything, dwindled in recent years, and the University’s GRIST project has proved to be a valuable addition. To obtain the ‘Trouble’ anthology, click https://unipress.hud.ac.uk/plugins/books/18/
My poetry collection, ‘The Huntington Hydra’, remains available, with all proceeds to go to the Huntington’s Disease Association. To go directly to the publisher’s site, please click
If the site’s black and white version appears, please scroll down and press the Adobe Flash Player button to get the full technicolour version! Thank you.
Back in business after a few offline days and the business of getting a new PC, which I now have and which works at about twice the speed of the last one. The Huntington Hydra book is now supported and featured on the Huntington’s Disease Association website, and the link is here:
Further articles and references to the book will shortly appear in various magazines, both printed and online, and I’ll include them in future blogs.
As a reminder, the Huntington Hydra is a collection of poems, some of them referring to the experience of my partner and I before and since his diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease in 2016. They are close to our lives, but we feel their publication is worthwhile in terms of raising awareness of the illness. Research efforts are continuing and may bring forward very positive results a few years down the line; in the meantime, HD remains incurable and untreatable. In 2019? Yes, in 2019.
People do sponsored runs, walks, swims, concerts, events of all kinds. It doesn’t seem that bizarre to me to support a cause with writing if you happen to be a widely published writer, which I was somewhat before 2016. Yes, there are a great deal of causes out there demanding attention, but those of us inextricably linked to someone with an incurable illness cannot do anything else but seek help wherever we can find it, and try to push along efforts to ensure the ultimate defeat of the condition. If you can help, please do.
This is the mythological beast the Hydra, slain by Hercules. It compares to Huntington’s Disease because the illness also has many heads, attacking a patient’s mobility, cognitive understanding, emotions, diets and immune systems – in fact, almost every facet of human health and well-being.
The title poem of my Huntington Hydra poetry collection concludes:
‘No-one is ultimately alone or deserted
while scientists work to defeat the Hydra
and like multiples of Hercules, thousands will fight
to slash the heads down one at a time
until the beast is broken and we are all free’.
Expressions of sympathy and support, Facebook ‘likes’, thumbs up and smiles, all of them I appreciate and it is heartening to know posts are being seen and noted. But I also hope that people, however they feel about poetry and whatever sufferings may have been inflicted on them in schools and colleges in its name, will find their way to actually getting hold of a copy of the book and join those thousands who are fighting the Hydra. I ain’t no Hercules, and neither’s the guy I’m caring for, but if we can put together as many heads as this thing has got, maybe the day is still coming when we will all be free of it, whatever dark secrets are lurking in our children’s genes.
Thanks to the people who’ve been ‘liking’ my posts on Facebook concerning the new poetry book The Huntington Hydra, mostly concerned with the experience my partner and I have had with Huntington’s Disease before and since his diagnosis in 2016. I should say to anyone who is prepared to go on and acquire the book that the publisher’s site, www.therecusant.org.uk, has two versions; simply press the Adobe Flash Player button for the more colourful version. However, the pink and yellow cover of the HH book is visible enough on both, and thanks in advance to those who obtain the book and donate to the fight against Huntington’s. As you can imagine, this is more than just a book to my partner and I; it is one way of hitting back.
Writing competitions which publish anthologies of the winners have always been favourites of mine; to stand out from usually hundreds of entries is encouraging, but to see the piece in print is so much the better. 2019 is starting very nicely in that respect; having succeeded in getting into the forthcoming Celebration of Protest anthology compiled by the university-supported GRIST magazine , http://mhm.hud.ac.uk/grist/ with The Unplayable, about the continuing homophobia of professional football, another hit has already come along.
The organisation Audio Arcadia, www.audioarcadia.com which not only publishes pieces in an anthology but also audio versions, has selected The Finishing Line for their anthology. This is about a man recalling his late teens and his charity worker father disappearing about being caught up in the vicious war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997.
Two anthology appearances before the end of January isn’t bad going, and they’re both stories which I took a good deal of time and trouble over. The competition in the writing world is fierce, and every success is worked for.
I hope January isn’t being too unkind wherever you are, and it does at least draw us nearer to spring!
My partner is hanging in there, but that toll is beginning to be taken. We have agreed to publish the anthology, to enable further donations to the Huntington’s Disease Association and continue to raise awareness of the illness. And no-one should be in any doubt; yes, research is progressing towards a ‘gene-silencing’ drug, but it isn’t here yet and probably won’t be for at least another three or four years. In the meantime, for thousands of patients of all ages all over the world, there remains no cure and no treatment.
My writing didn’t start with the appearance of HD in our lives; I had established a record of success in poetry and short fiction competitions and been extensively published in print and online before 2016, so I’m happy to claim some literary worth for the work in addition to the causes it serves, which I hope some reviews will reflect.
I will be writing individually to family and friends both inside and outside the writing world to ask for their support. The book will retail at £8 on the publisher’s site and I will pass that address on when it is available, but in advance, I don’t think the family and friends concerned include people who would obtain a book and then not donate, so I’m inviting anyone who would like to receive a signed thank you copy or copies of the book to send me a message; in most cases, I will know your address anyway, but include it just in case. I will post the book to you with my signed thanks and ask you to donate to the Huntington’s Disease Association at www.hda.org.uk , quoting the book if you can.
My second project, a short fiction collection of ‘rites of passage’ stories called ‘Fallen Eagles’, will follow shortly after the poetry book. I will come back to it nearer the date, but this one will be in aid of the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organisation, www.hdyo.org. HD is not an age-specific illness, and contracting it in youth can mean an even more intense and disruptive experience of it. If anyone would also like to order similarly signed copies of it when it appears, please let me know as well.
This is unlikely to be the year when HD is beaten, but it will be a year when we can continue the fight against it, with a little help from our friends.
Number nine in the series is Broos Noos below, a festive episode, though it’s not easy to get the festive mood this year. Perhaps by this time next year, the major Brexit issues will be settled and we can go into the celebrations with a little less anxiety and division crackling around, though I don’t think anyone’s holding their breath on that one. The thing is beginning to have a kind of aura of eternity about it, as if we’ve all been sentenced to wrestle on in futility ad infinitum like ferrets in a sack.
However, I have one good reason to be cheerful at the moment, and that is completed proofs of my poetry collection ‘The Huntington Hydra’, which will emerge in January and, I hope, contribute to raising awareness of the illness and funds for the Huntington’s Disease Association, www.hda.org.uk , who have provided a ‘foreword’ for the book describing their role and how they seek to help HD patients, carers and families.
The book’s subject matter is not, in the main, very cheerful because it can’t be, but bringing the issues into the light concerning the effects of a still incurable illness can only be useful for those suffering it and the people who care for them.
Not all the poems relate to HD; some of them are about the places Anthony and I have visited and the subjects which have concerned me over recent times. I hope everyone who looks at my blog messages will consider supporting the book, and when it is published and available, the details and availability links will be at www.bruceleonardharris.com
Whatever you’re doing or whoever you’re with, all the very best to you and yours for a peaceful, enjoyable Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.
It’s difficult to understand, after yesterday,
the naming preferences of P.M. Mrs. May;
to call her ‘bloody difficult’ is apparently alright;
to call her ‘stupid’ is asking for a fight.
As her government is taking us ever faster
to the teetering edge of economic disaster,
other expressions now quite often heard
would by comparision make that a milder word.
President Shout’s current service to his nation
is to work on increasing the prison population.
Seeing what’s happening, he might just start to think
that his entire administration will finish up in clink
and he himself become the chief prison bore
shouting ‘lock her up’ from behind his cell door.
And in Paris, Jumping Jack Macron Flash
believes ‘Joyeuese Noel is a gas, gas, gas!’
For a Tory pantomime, Mother Brexit will do
with so many little options she doesn’t know what to do
or maybe Cinderella, with a royal coach that stalls
on its way to all the glittering Euro-balls.
Soon be 2019, and that’s maybe not so bad
with the promise of a brand New Year to be had
but paraphrasing Tiny Tim, behind our Christmas fun,
what we should be saying is ‘God help us, everyone!’
I’m delighted to record that I have an American reader, or at least one I know about, and what’s also pleasurable is that the reader in question is an accomplished writer herself, with a formidable collection of work at www.susantepper.com To be read across the Atlantic is much appreciated, and as Susan now has her copy of ‘The Guy Thing’, I will also be sampling her writing. We are both contributors to the Irish magazine www.thelinnetswings.org, and it says something about the reach of LW that it can claim a truly transatlantic readership.
While on the subject of our cousins across the Pond, it is a regrettable but unavoidable fact that Huntington’s Disease spreads its deadly tentacles all around the world, and the U.S. is no exception. However, organisations fighting it are also international, and one of the biggest and brightest is the Huntington’s Disease Society of America , https://hdsa.org. I’d just like to express my congratulations and admiration for their work, as one whose own life has been invaded by HD as a result of my partner’s illness.
Returning to the Linnet’s Wings, I’m happy to say that another piece from The Guy Thing collection, ‘The Telegram Boy’, will shortly appear in their forthcoming issue. It is a story particularly appropriate for 2018 and the centenary of the First World War, and it sets out to highlight, as well as I can from such a distance of time and circumstance, the experiences of those guys who were too old or too young to actually do the fighting themselves.
More Broos Noos nonsense below. With the maelstrom swirling around us, I think many of us are not sure whether to laugh or cry, but I know which one I prefer, especially where I am at the moment.
Inciting the people and stirring the mobs,
rich Tories aren’t going to lose their jobs
and maintain a vision of Britain whose view is
based on the country in the crisis of Suez.
How they love to torment their own Theresa,
to undermine her, twist her and squeeze her.
Soon now, they’ll be hearing a very old song;
the past is for the old; the future’s for the young.
Over in Paris, we see the evolution
of a sort of Hi-Vis revolution
aimed at helping those in poverty
by setting fire to people’s property.
Another ex-Trump man gets his face on the telly,
the new ex-Chief of Staff John Kelly
as we all sit and watch, boggling our minds at
one more ship deserting a sinking rat.
Another competition success to be reported, I’m glad to say, and perhaps a few more might appear before Christmas. It’s an impossible business to predict which ones will do something, since competitions and judges can be so different, but my ‘Paris by Night’ piece, on a romantic theme with a darker undercurrent, has managed a third place and prize in the Erewash Writers’ Annual Competition and is now displaying itself on their site at
My poetry collection, ‘The Huntington Hydra’, due to be published in early 2019, now has a foreword piece from the Huntington’s Disease Association, www.hda.org.uk , and ‘Fallen Eagles’, the short fiction collection of ‘rites of passage’ stories due out at a similar time will be introduced by Catherine Martin, the Chief Executive of the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organisation, https://en.hdyo.org/
Final proof readings coming up in both cases, which will be something to do apart from eating, drinking and watching various festive bilge on television!
Speaking of which, latest Broos Noos below, which does manage to have at least a first verse which isn’t about Brexit.
Like a twenty-first century Emperor Nero
President Shout is the climate’s anti-hero;
he’s ducking and diving, twisting and turning,
while all around him, the planet is burning.
Yet another last chance in Poland today
for our tottering species to find some way
to pause at the least, and even reverse
the one-way road of the climate change curse.
And in our festive home, Brexit rolls along,
like an ever-repeating annoying old song
and we wrestle on with eternal debate,
seemingly resigned to our miserable fate.
Families will soon be getting together
snarling ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ at each other as ever
and to the merry sound of the jingling bells
we will all slug it out in our Brexitive hells.
A few updatings before yet another silly bit of news rhyming in the Broos Noos series, which is good for reminding me that writing doesn’t always have to be serious or deeply meaningful; in fact, it’s better if it isn’t for at least some of the time.
The GRIST writing organisation at the University of Huddersfield have recently held a competition under the title ‘Trouble and Strife: A Celebration of Protest’, the idea being that the best entries will be included in an anthology. My contribution, ‘The Unplayable’, centred on the theme of gay professional footballers, or rather the lack of them, is to be included in the collection, I’m pleased to say, especially as it’s a subject worth an airing as far as I’m concerned.
Two of the poems on the influence of Huntington’s Disease in the lives of my partner and I, ‘Us’ and ‘The Undefeated’, are also to be included in the Momaya Press 2018 Annual Poetry Review, and thereafter will go into the anthology ‘The Huntington Hydra’, to be published in early 2019; more precise news on that coming up.
And so to the Noos, and why not?
We’ve seen more final Brexit crunches
than the Queen has given gala lunches;
such sharp division hasn’t been seen
since Marmite entered our British cuisine
and now Treezer’s going nationwide
to get the country on her side,
the dour remainers, the diehard leavers
and the who gives a shit non-believers.
And Russia keeps spreading alarm and fear
by buggering around in the Ukraine and Crimea;
Ms. Nightingale’s ghost stalks the place, willing
the poor land to be free of maiming and killing
and if you’re doing research, the place not to be
is on the territory of the U.A.E.
and if you are, what you must wish for is
your Foreign Secretary will not be Boris.