Competition to win a copy of Mono

To celebrate the publication of Mono, I’m offering a free copy and other prizes (including publication in an ebook) to whoever wins my creative writing competition.

The competition 

Look at the three monochrome pictures further down this page. I made them all using image-editing software. Your challenge is to choose one and write a creative response to it of no more than 200 words, posting your work as a comment on this page. 

The rules

1. Please give the number of the picture to which you have responded.

2. Your response must include a title.

3. Your response must be in English and not exceed 200 words. 

4. You may make up to three entries, but if you do, please select a different picture as your stimulus material each time. 

5. The competition closes at midnight BST on Friday 31st July 2015. 

The prizes

All of the best entries will be published in an exclusive free ebook called Broken Reflections, which will be available through this website and 

The overall winner will receive a signed copy of Mono, plus the ebooks of The Mannequin and In the Dark Room. The ebooks are compatible with Kindle, iPhone, iPad and Android devices. 

Two runners-up will win the ebooks of The Mannequin and In the Dark Room.

Some pointers

I used my pictures as stimuli when writing Mono. They were springboards for free association. I did not try to merely describe them or provide a written equivalent of them. So my advice is to react freely to whichever picture(s) you choose, interpret them, see where your thoughts take you. 

The pictures




Have fun and good luck!


  1. Panic Slip (image #3)

    It was draped over the edge of the well, flaccid and starting to tear in the middle. Its bones were broken trampled and the sharp edges only made further tears. Its batteries were charged with only enough power to send a tiny neon tingle up and down it’s length. It sang a tired beacon ping ping ping.

    The half that finally, after millennia, fell on the outside of the well met the dry matted weeds with relief and a sense of closure. It would dry out there, it would be so much dust under the warm sun.

    The half that fell into the well used what little strength it had to writhe in panic. It was not the death that had been washed clean and scheduled with the moonrise. It was darkness and armies that would march through tissue, merging and transforming to make swarms and matrices. Nothing there was just itself, nothing there could possibly recognize itself for more than an instant.

    The panic lasted longer that it did; panic turned liquid and locked in cell walls, panic as molecular cogs turning sporadically. There was also panic turned into nocturnal birds that glided in the slippery moonlit atmosphere.

    (image #1)
    Bursting out of stock roles, the bat man stopped at his humanness never to come back. Alfred fled the country, others followed, things were quiet at last. Gradually forgetting how to think, worry, socialize, get a nice cuppa, Batty took to fragmenting its identity into countless selves to reach a consensus on what to do next. The thinking couch was no longer necessary when buttocks were but a mere figment of memory, nevertheless it gladly accepted the role of mediator in the selves’ congress, a role that only laissez faire could subdue. Screeching away at random, severely but duly noted were Couchy’s proceedings of these uneventful events. Whereas indoor derelict sidings threatened to rain in doors, the Batties finally decided it was time to let go of the Goths’ City and roam the world, wondering at its creatures. It was a happy-sad occasion to bid farewell to Couchy, each one of my selves ripping off a piece of fake leather as a memento of foregone times bobbing at grandpa’s knee whilst listening to the story of the bat man who was. The wooden carcass waved its goodbyes, my selves are flapping, blood will be shed, fare thee well.

  3. Arecibo, Arecibo, are you receiving?
    {No. 1}
    Voima Oy/Sean Fraser

    [This is where he lives now.]
    The ghost of Christmas Past
    did gyre in the Grande Galerie des Glaces
    [Here, hands need never touch. She left him. She took everything with her, packing up the artifacts of a former life. All he has is this number and a key code to the edge of town.]
    “Love is all we carry from one life to the next. ”
    after rainfallingfell over Versailles with Deities
    [He feels the warm breeze of summer nights like the beating of leathery wings.]
    seated on their opulent velveteen lime throne and, by syllogismus, concluded
    Its recitation of gambolous History higgled haste by Reconstructionists
    and by the lampreys of Forgetfulness enlightenmented;
    The Deities departed as
    [The door opens.]
    The Old Kings entered with great admiration for their reflections
    in Glaces filled of fog:
    they paced
    [White noise of insects. Bootprints, dust of the previous century.]
    on the circumference of that sphere
    [The white dish turns like the moon.]
    in which that Christmas Ghost was flying;
    they themselves pissing as their Past and Present reflections receded
    [The signals come in more clearly, the clicking of an alien code.]
    where the Deities once sat
    before departing
    in woe.

  4. This is the Place (image #1)

    This is the place where I knew each shard of glass, glinting from the floor, like it was my own fingertip.

    This is the place where my screams shaped the walls, so I might play them like a record and relive my torment.

    This is the place where green shoots sprouted through every crack as the Great Mother crushed the structure in the palm of her hand.

    This is the place where I followed the journey of blood spilled from the brightest red to blackest black, enjoying each shade of orange and brown in between.

    This is the place where I was was overpowered by strength, then fear, then shame.

    This is the place where I closed my eyes so tight my whole face hurt, lest I glimpsed what brushed my cheek.

    This is the place where the volume of my own breath always betrayed me.

    This is the place where I have returned of my own free will.

    There is no place for me elsewhere.

  5. Primitive Cubism (image 3)

    The master craftsman carved with whetted blade and an unstudied calibration. Treble strata, inlay abutting inlay. Sunken upon cameo upon intaglio upon relief. Dovetail joints for a fountainhead martial spirit. No nails or pins to hold them in place, solely the natural tension between forces. Carved all of a piece. Hot stones placed inside the stripped flesh to cure it. Human integument attaining the quality of mud and straw. The features preserved in perfect ratio unlike those headshrinking lip servers. Those butchers satisfy their barbarity by sewing the labia shut, when you need to be able to observe the teeth. The white enamel tombstones and a portal for the soul to escape. Similarly the lamina of the skin cells. Like the train tracks that trammelled the country. Flattened contours, bearing the footprints of a culture marching up and down the continent. Primitive Cubism.

  6. Bloom (Image 2)

    Forget about the corpse, bring along the flowers.
    Who wants a rotting body, anyway?
    An oozing, stinking body made of flesh?
    Who wants a rotting body if it’s dead, anyway?
    Nay. Forget about the body, bring along the flowers and forward march
    The open arms of the ocean, there
    Clapping breaking of the waves
    Welcome you to its bed, a lover waiting for her lover to crash along the waves, embraced within the sheets, the foam, legs holding in a tight grip that tightens in a tide and will not let you go.
    So bring along the white-petal-jasmine-flowers to seed inside your fertile heart, lover.
    And drown into the tide.
    Flowers will bloom there once you die, out your mouth,
    your eyes,
    burst inside your chest:
    a garden.
    For who wants a rotting body if it’s dead?
    Seed the pores the Sea Queen shall embrace and make bloom out her salty waters.

    We were carried to the fields, back then, opened up like pearls inside a shell.
    Now we’re starving.
    We’ve eaten the many and now it’s me and you:
    We’re starving for each other.
    See the ancient hunger in our eyes.
    And we forgot to bring the flowers.

  7. THERE (3)

    I go there when I’ve done it again.

    My father helped build this railroad, way back.
    Way back when he was a good man.
    He showed me how to do it.

    He once told me each sleeper represents a dead man.
    I laughed.
    He hit me. Hard.
    They died building this damn railroad, he said.
    And hit me again.

    Yeah, this was when he was GOOD.
    Imagine how it got.

    So he was my first, my father, right here.
    When I’d had enough.
    Only idiots go around painting, he’d said.
    Elegant last words, I thought.

    One more sleeper.

    Years come and go and visits there stack up.
    Sleepers, more and more.
    Men died for this railroad.

    I paint.

  8. The Room is Empty Even When I’m Inside It
    (Picture 1)

    I have lived what seems like a thousand years and I feel each moment of it. The time collects, weighs heavy. There is a sense of waiting. A long nothingness. Time is empty. It can’t be filled easily. It can’t be filled alone.

    Everyone I have ever been is layered, one on top of the next, a collection of selves. I consider talking to past selves to pass the time, but we have little in common. I think about empty space, and how I could fill it.

    My past begins to disintegrate, old relationships die out, becoming unreliable memories.

    Perhaps if I wait some more, something will eventually blossom?

  9. An Invitation of Logic and Sense from the Cheshire Cat
    {No. 3}

    The low viscosity entrail-type darkness had flowed effusive from the glass
    and the depth of dark was reflected
    on the obsidian become effluvia
    that had the chamber filled;

    The dark lantern had been positioned Cyclopean light burned eternal
    of entrance wooden steps corrupted by Age

    that led into the everdarkenedlands beyond

    the glass purloined,

    waiting for one who would

    not be returned;

    On the mantle
    a small bottle strangled by the wire wound on a carte

    which was written,

    “Drink Me”

  10. Flowers of Alba
    Image #2
    153 words

    What fragrance is produced by the white flowers of Alba? It has been compared to the aroma of peonies blasting from a laundromat in November.

    No. And it is not the smells of a seaside holiday, the ozone of an approaching storm, the petrichor of Paris, or fresh-cut grass. It is not the gasoline of a truck stop off the interstate, or coffee at 2 am.
    But it could be a blend of these things.

    It is gathered in the silent gardens where the flowers bloom among the vines of moonflowers and lilies.
    It is gathered under the light of the waning moon by the widows of Alba.

    It is a scent that never leaves them. It clings to them like dew. It lingers on their fingers, and they cry as if they were cutting up onions.

    It is addictive, intoxicating–the perfume of nostalgia, melancholy, saudade.

    The flowers weep, tears of snails for the sea.

  11. One More
    Image 3
    199 words

    Her face fucked the railway sleepers one by one until her teeth shattered and fled her gaping mouth.

    She laughed.

    She laughed the way a hyena does when it sets upon a victim. The red couldn’t be seen in the moon light, but she could feel the dripping wet and the dry straw between her fingers and under her knees.

    The noise increased yard by yard as it grew nearer. Her eyes fixed on the path and waited for the engine to grind.

    The barrel watched.

    The glow edged closer, with venom and reason. Her feet twitched and her toes twisted in her sneakers. A splinter pierced her shin and gave stark reminder that it wasn’t over, not quite yet.

    The barrel tapped her temple and with a feral turn she savaged upon his wrist. Her nails dug deep, her leg swung wide and in a moment, their positions had reversed.

    The glow became light, became caustic, became fatal.

    His midnight scream made her smile.

    She sat and bathed in the breeze from the pumping engine arms and ran her fingers over her soaked face.

    She staggered towards his car, turned on the radio and reached for her list.

  12. have fun and good luck (3)

    grassy eyed
    pelt of leaving

    upstart body
    under a settled field

    in the adirondacks
    we reintroduce cougars to their prey

    there is a valence
    to meet there

    a smile in
    their tracks

  13. Image 1
    180 Words

    The Poet Considers The Nature Of Beauty

    While relaxing with a double Talisker and a Choiba cigar in the burnt out factory that I use as an office, I realised that the blank sheet of paper in front of me was not, as I previously hoped, a radical new form of poetry, but more a symptom of deep malaise with the world, the city and, in particular, aesthetics. Suddenly enthused by this notion, I downed the Talisker and lay the Choiba to one side for later. The five traditional senses, those weak perceptions permitted by social construct, were utterly useless for the chaotic ocean of post-modernity in which we find ourselves trapped.

    Echo-location was the answer.

    Fortunately I have been blessed with large ears – although it had not seemed a blessing during childhood when classmates, unfamiliar with alternative beauties, nicknamed me “dumbo” – and it was a moment’s work to blind myself. Admittedly, it has taken a while longer to create clicks with my tongue against my teeth, but I am confident that soon I will master the technique and know the world uniquely and anew.

  14. #1 Broken World

    It felt like a nearly-falling at first. Like a petal dripping from a flower, I slanted to the right and everything shunted along with me.
    My eyes struggled to focus on images blurred in real-time, my glasses useless against the sloping universe which had revealed itself to me.
    The last time this happened, I eventually slid back, but begrudgingly. Everything was more beautiful, somehow more pure, in this skewed multi-world I had re-entered. Objects splintered like fractured glass in moonlight, their refractions visible only to me and my staring eyes.
    Pieces of world float around me in grey-scale dimensions too vast to comprehend.
    And then it turns.
    The nearly-falling becomes a plummet, and down I go, through the wormhole. Nightmares live here, and they spring out from innocuous nests with vicious eyes. I scream but only in black and white.

  15. Image 2
    195 Words

    Cappuccino To Go

    After six months working in a coffee shop, Hermit decides to escape Lithium City and its concrete phalluscape of high-rises and factory stacks, acid spiked barbed-wire and reality checkpoints.

    He builds an aircraft from starling feathers and bones, pram wheels dredged from the canal, and a propeller of petals plucked from the last surviving orchid. For the engine, he uses his own heart, cut from his chest with a tin opener and replaced by a pair of bellows and an antique clock from the charity hypermarket that recently metastasised in the High Street. It takes a while longer to collect the fuel, drip by drip of fluorescent lit hopelessness from the local A&E department (he attempts to speed up the process by spiking cappuccinos at the coffee shop with vodka although this only had a paltry effect on the Lithium citizens).

    Finally at midnight on the longest night, the aircraft is fuelled and ready. The engine begins to beat. The propeller begins to spin. And he is airborne on starling wings and extinct orchid petals and hopelessness. He still flies tonight and every night, across the endless concrete of the Lithium City.

  16. End Game (image #1)
    28 July 2015

    Stereo is on max, Meatloaf screams about a fledermaus transcending from Dante’s inferno.

    I sit pondering whether Mozart ever experienced the smell of bat guano?

    Is it possible to push a needle into one’s eye without pain?

    What does it feel like to inhale fire and let it cook your lungs from the inside out?

    Soon I will know and with all the other questions of the universe answered, I may return to tell you or I may not.

    Will you wait?



    Your shell is tough
    and you were built to ride dirty.
    Maybe with some luck
    you could find someone who adores
    distance and treble,
    downbeat when one’s ears want to hear strings.
    Every girl you meet is emotionally discordant.

    That grand lady, the one that pulled up
    in an Escalade dressed in camo-
    What was it that drew you like
    a magnet in a hardware store?
    I could see the horizon.
    I knew a storm was coming.
    You never took one step backwards.

    You were better off with someone like me, a girl
    that knows about double-lined housing,
    immune to quick rights and undercuts.
    I still like soft things and sweet aromas.
    My head wasn’t installed straight,
    my empathy like paint on the walls.
    My heart is one of those wind up toys.

    You and I could weather any desert.

  18. Image 3
    197 Words

    The Bone Creatures

    The first bone creature taps on my window with a knuckle stained by years in the grave. Its eye sockets contain the loneliness of midnights.

    I pulled the curtains and return to my Bible studies.

    The cat-flap clicks open and claws skitter across the kitchen floor – the neighbour’s cat, run over last year and buried in a plastic bag full of the lies they told their children. Tiny bones scrape as it slinks into the living room and skulks behind the armchair, wheezing feebly as it has no tongue to mew.

    I turn the translucent pages of the Bible, the words beginning to fade under the influence of the bone creatures, the Jungian sorcery of a faithless city.

    Another bone creature beaks the window upstairs and climbs in. I hear it rattle around the bedroom where the double bed remains unslept in all these years. It rifles the drawers for memories. Bone creatures pick the lock of the front door, clamber down the chimney, creep in through the drains. Now they lurk on the border between the shadows and the light of my reading lamp.

    I close the Bible.

    We have made peace with the bone creatures.

  19. Image 3.

    Capital D.

    Capital D is always there for me.
    He always has been.
    Through all the dark times in my life, he’s been the only one I can truly rely on.
    Cap D and me.

    I look down at Oliver and wonder when D will turn up.
    I know it will be soon.
    He never fails to show, not when I need him.
    Just like when he helped me out of the wreckage of my step-dad’s car when I was eight.
    Or like on that camping trip where Willy and Jeff got lost in the woods.
    And that time when Lisa fell down the stairs and broke her neck.
    He’ll be here.

    Oliver stares up at me, unblinking.
    His eyes are filled with surprise.
    I have to confess, I’m somewhat surprised myself.
    Who would’ve thought slitting his throat would’ve been so easy?
    Not me, for sure.

    D arrives, silent as a ghost.
    He wraps his long arms around me and hugs me tight.
    I smile.
    “I knew you’d come,” I say.
    D doesn’t reply.
    He never does.
    But I know he’s smiling, just like I am.
    Capital D always smiles.
    He loves his job so much.

    So do I.

  20. Silverpede (2)

    Beneath the undergrowth of subconsciousness
    A grotesque grub is growing.
    The landscape it lives within cracks as mental textures morph.
    A moon globule has splashed.
    A cognitive transmission loaded from the armoury of phases.
    This conceptual caterpillar feeds on logic.
    Digests your thoughts.
    It’s built from bastardised ideas.
    A flung together, mish-mash monster
    gestating inside your brain.
    pregnant with it’s form,
    Is your mind ready to give birth?
    In placenta spectrum frequency.

    Haphazard echoes bounce into a 3D nightmare.
    The unfurling limbs of Escher sections sprout
    Microcosmic machine mouths, hungry for colour. Insects in the gloom.
    Attracted to the imaginations instinct.
    Feel surreal spokes whirl,
    See unreal whorls puncture space.
    Hear reality cages clang

    In this jelly spasm infected environment, fungal exoskeleton teeth glint off negative horizons.
    This is the mind meat on which mad maggots feast.
    When the egg of your skull hatches,
    revealing the succulent parts to pollinate the Think Travellers.
    It will become a motor of metamorphic material roaring.
    Sending Optic-Origami shadows shivering.
    A carnival of chaos; a clown car gone mad!
    We are all racing reflections caught in the splintered mirror of time.
    Pole position poltergeists of each other.

    Haunting heads,

    Latticed threads,

    Electric eggs.

  21. Between a Whisper and a Dream (Image #1)

    There is a place, she said, between a whisper and a dream. That is where you can find me.
    When she left, my body began to fragment, disintegrate, drifting away, leaving me alone in the emptiness.
    Now I watch, here in the dusty memories, swirling in the wake of passing ghosts.
    There is a place she said, high in the mountains, where fear is lost and silence and time spin out in long slow strands. There, you can sit and breathe and be nothing but you. That is where you can find me.
    There are things here, left behind, long forgotten, abandoned things, lost objects, the detritus of our lives.
    There is a place she said, when this has all ended and you will remember what it feels like to smile.
    I drift and gather my body again from where it has scattered, to piece myself together, bind it with blind, stupid hope and desperation.
    I am gone she said, but not forgotten. Visit me in that quiet place between heartbeats.
    If you look, she said, you will find me again.

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