OUT JANUARY 28TH 2021
Publisher – The Book Guild ISBN 978-1-913551-39-1
Sixteen ‘coming of age’ stories involving young men and young women, now and in the past
Author’s takings to the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organisation - en.hydo.org
Foreword by Catherine Martin, Chief Executive of the HDYO
Supporting young people who have, through no fault of their own, contracted hereditary Huntington’s Disease, is a worthwhile cause, especially bearing in mind that, as yet, there is no cure and no treatment.
and other book stores.
All support gratefully appreciated!
The publication date for ‘Fallen Eagles’, a collection of ‘rites of passage’ stories in aid of the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organisation, is still nine days away, but interest in the book is growing, particularly in the Devon locality. On Monday 18th, I did an interview on Radio Devon, and they gave the book generous coverage; many thanks to them. An article, equally generous in space and coverage, appeared in a local paper; thanks to them too.
Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Leicester University and an established author himself, has been kind enough to include an entry concerning me and the Fallen Eagles book on Leicester University’s writing blog; You can read the entry HERE.
Approaching publication day, the interest being shown is very encouraging.
June is quite well on in the year to be registering a first 2020 competition success, and hopefully there will be others to follow, but one is better than none, June or otherwise.
My piece, ‘Nightcaps for Wild Boys’ has not only made it to the short list of the Exeter Writers’ Competition, but also won their Devon Prize for the best story submitted by a local writer. It’s always gratifying to notch up a success in your own back yard, but I don’t forget that the Exeter Writers are one of the most established and respected groups in the country. Their competition regularly attracts hundreds of entries, and getting anywhere near the prizes is very satisfying. They were also kind enough to tell me that one of their number has had a lot of experience in working with people troubled by thoughts of suicide and was particularly struck by the authentic tone of the story. While I’ve never worked directly in that field, over thirty years of teaching and educational research work did include talking to many vulnerable people.
The story is now available to read on the Exeter Writers’ site, and I thank them again for the local accolade.
I’m also pleased to have once again been allowed to contribute to the reputable and well-presented local arts magazine ‘Marshwood’, this time with a review of the third book in Hilary Mantel’s trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, ‘The Mirror and the Light’. It is a long book, but I found it, like its predecessors, a delight from start to finish.
The link goes to the digital copy of the June Marshwood magazine, and my review appears on Page 66. No, I’m not superstitious.
Marshwood+ June 20
Even in the locked down world, books continue to be published, and if the present situation does nothing else, it does at least provide time and opportunity for reading. I have two newly published pieces, both in the last week, one fiction and one article.
My story ‘Pictures of Paula’, which won a commendation in the 2019 Earlyworks Press Competition, has now been published in the competition anthology ‘This Rome Drowns Slowly’; see Link
I’ve appeared in Earlyworks anthologies before, and they have also published a short story collection of mine, ‘Odds Against’, in aid of the Huntington’s Disease Association, which is also on the Circaidy Gregory catalogue.
Making an attempt at getting something positive out of the crisis and people’s enforced leisure time, my article ‘Crisis and Opportunity’ has been published in the Dorset-based arts magazine Marshwood Vale. The link below is to the digital edition of the handsomely-produced magazine; my piece is on Page 12.
I hope everyone is managing to ‘stay safe’ and might shortly be able to get back to something like normal life.
The article included below is reproduced by kind permission of journalist Kirsty Woodgate and all concerned with the Midweek Herald. It was published in the Herald on February 12th; it’s informative and well put together, covering the book itself and the background to it, so I think it would be somewhat remiss of me not to include it on my own site.
DEVON-BASED, AWARD WINNING AUTHOR PENS HIS FIRST NOVEL
Fresh copies of Howell Grange, the first novel penned by Devon-based writer, Bruce Harris, are now lining the shelves of the bookshops.
The prolific multi-award-winning writer, originally from the north-east, started writing short stories and poetry in his spare time, a year before moving to Devon with his partner Anthony in 2003.
A couple of years later, in 2005, Bruce took early retirement from his distinguished career in teaching and educational research, to concentrate on his passion for creative writing.
Naturally, Bruce was excited to talk about his seventh book and first novel, Howell Grange. He commented: “Howell Grange might be, ambitiously, said to be the northern Downton Abbey, though only some of the action takes place in the north”.
The captivating story follows the complex and interlacing lives of the mine-owning Howell family, during the years 1844-1866. Told in five parts, the chronicles visit the family at historical intervals.
The story is set in Northumbria where the mine-owning George Howell and his aristocratic wife Elizabeth, endure the usual trials and tribulations of life. Their eldest son Charlie goes into battle in the Crimean War, whilst the second son Francis, becomes an MP and lobbies to make the mines safer. The eldest daughter, Charlotte, marries a substantial landowner and runs the vast estates largely on her own, while the second daughter, Anne, marries a local firm clerk but is unable to have children. The youngest daughter Alice, aims to be one of the first female doctors and becomes involved with a major pit disaster.
Yet, their lives are united and their safety is compromised, after a knife-wielding miner breaks into the family home and accuses one of the family members of murder…
Readers who love the book will be delighted to know that Bruce’s commitment to writing is enduring and he has several other books lined up. He said: “I have already written a sequel to ‘Howell Grange’, which I hope to get into print. I also have a new collection of short stories in the pipeline and a completed novel probably best described as a contemporary thriller”.
Already, Bruce has written several poems and short stories which have won him a multitude of awards. Consequently, he has compiled his best work into three poetry books and three short story books. The poetry ensemble includes three collections, namely, Raised Voices (2014), Kaleidoscope (2017) and the Huntington Hydra (2019).
His first two short story books namely, First Flame (2013) and Odds Against (2017), consist entirely of tales which had won prizes, commendations and listings in fiction competitions. His third book, The Guy Thing (2018) is a compilation of ‘rites of passage’ stories.
The proceeds from the books, Odds Against and The Guy Thing, along with the poetry book The Huntington Hydra, were generously donated to the Huntington’s Disease Organisation.
The reason for the kindly donations is tied to a cause that is close to Bruce’s heart. His partner Anthony was diagnosed with hereditary Huntington’s Disease in 2016, and Bruce spends much of his time at home to be there for Anthony. He uses some of that time to write. Bruce commented: “I now feel we need to keep what proceeds we make to contribute towards our own future costs”.
Explaining what inspires him to write so prolifically, Bruce said: “All kinds of things inspire me to write. Some are historical, some are comical, some are based on people I’ve known or places I’ve visited”.
When asked about his favourite genre of book, Bruce stated: “Probably historical fiction, though I read a lot of other stuff as well”. His favourite writers include big power-authors such as Hilary Mantel, John Le Carre, Patrick O’Brian, Philippa Gregory and Peter Ackroyd, to name a few.
Howell Grange by Bruce Harris has been published by The Book Guild and can bought for £9.99 at a variety of good bookshops including Waterstones, Foyles, WHSmith and The Book Guild.
My first novel and seventh book, Howell Grange, a saga of northern mining folk, is available from Waterstone’s, Foyle’s, Booktopia, W.H. Smith, Amazon etc. People who’ve read it so far have been saying a lot of very positive things about it, and now I’d like to express my thanks to a south-western newspaper for their generous support for a local writer.
My thanks to reporter Kirsty Woodgate and editor Andrew Coley. Many publications offer support to local organisations and businesses; not so many will help their local writers in this way, and this kind of backing is greatly appreciated.
Further articles and publications will be following.
It’s good to see January gone. No-one should spend their time wishing their life away, it’s true, but January can be and usually is a pain, and its departure signals the closer approach of spring. Down in Devon, the daffs are already emerging, and we haven’t been entirely strangers to the sun in January 2020.
Another modest new year success, only just before January’s departure, with ‘Nightcaps for Wild Boys’ reaching the long list, the last 25, of the Bedford Writing Competition. This adds to ‘Pictures of Paula’ getting into the last 10 of the Earlyworks Press Competition and now to be published in their anthology. Listings can be frustrating; they usually mean, in competitions which usually involve hundreds and sometimes thousands of entries, that it’s a commendable performance for the piece without anything then being done with it, but sometimes, as with ‘Pictures of Paula’, it can mean publication, which is all to the good.
Another poetry success to report, with two of my poems being selected for inclusion in the 2019 Momaya Poetry Review: www.momayapress.com
This year’s theme was ‘Masks’, and the two poems of mine included are ‘Holiday Agendas’, with each member of a four person family trying to get across to the others as positively as possible, and ‘Viva El Devono’, visualising a 2090 when the Spanish will be looking to take their holidays in a more temperate climate than their own.
As I also had two poems in the Momaya Review last year, on the theme of ‘Love’, it’s good to manage two inclusions in succession.
My short story ‘Fallen Eagles’ went on to make the final ten of the Exeter Story Prize, and while it didn’t get into the first three places, the short list is quite an achievement in such a well-supported competition and the story will live to fight another day.
My novel ‘Howell Grange’ is well up and running, with coverage items coming up. I’m aiming to get in one more blog before Christmas, maybe with another success or two to report.
The November cold and short days have been a little relieved for me in recent days with two competition writing successes. Firstly, a poetry one, which hasn’t happened for a while, and is all the more pleasing because it is in a good cause.
The ‘Living Well’ poetry competition has been set up in aid of the Isabel Hospice, and I’ll always happy to enter competitions which have that sort of purpose.
My two entries, ‘Sweet Memories’ and ‘New Day in Spain’ have both been selected to be published in the competition anthology, which I hope will be bought by as many people as possible willing to further that cause. ‘Sweet Memories’ is exactly what it sounds like, as in memories of sweets, the midget gems, chews, cough candy etc. of past times. ‘New Day in Spain’ describes a morning on a scenic part of the Costa del Sol.
My short story entry has made the long list for the prestigious Exeter Story Prize. Even making the long list for this competition is quite an achievement, as it’s one of those whose entries regularly run into many hundreds. I can’t give the title of the story, because the anonymous judging is still taking place, but the piece concerned is a favourite of mine and I hope it makes further progress. Please see:
Four days after publication, and I think the Facebook advertising effort can now stop, for the moment at least, and I can go back to the more congenial business of communicating with my Facebook friends. Many of them, I gather, have now obtained a copy of Howell Grange. The ‘available’ links continue to grow, and here is a gathering of them as they stand so far:
The book is already giving rise to features and interviews, but I think it’s better for me to keep schtum about them until they’ve happened and I can point people in the right direction. It’s wise to make sure your flags are going to stay up before you start flying them with all colours showing.
Talk will soon turn to Christmas, of course, complicated this year by the wearisome intrusion of politics, even though it is a wildly inappropriate time of year for an election for all sorts of reasons. It seems that, not content with driving us all round the bend in working time, they have every intention of raiding holiday periods as well, just to make a real job of it.
Perhaps it makes sense to express an early wish that 2020 vision might prove to be further seeing and more informed than its predecessor years, and we can all start making our way through the twenties without all the tantrums and vacillations of the teens. In other words, grow up.
The number of ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ for both the main page itself and the various posts keeps on rising, and thanks to all for them; time is too limited for me to thank everyone personally, but the interest is appreciated and I hope it will continue up to and beyond the book’s publication date on October 28th. It is available to order from a number of links which I will include here as we move towards the date, the first being Waterstone’s.
The book also contains a graphic description of the aftermath of a pit disaster, caused by exploding gases and all too common at the time – 1860. I make no apologies for this, as it’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves what private ownership of these activities was about. Even when the safety lamps were developed, the mine owners would not pay for them and miners had to buy them for themselves, which not many could afford to do.
The Durham Mining Museum has kept a detailed record of the extraordinary numbers of deaths in coal mines during the 1800s.
It makes for grim reading, but this is our history, and some of our history we certainly don’t want to repeat itself.
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.