The Flesh and Blood Soundtrack

Music is an essential part of writing for me, but more than providing a suitable ambience to imagine things, sometimes certain songs just seem to force their way into stories. This was absolutely the case with Flesh and Blood, where a few different songs embedded themselves into the text and refused to let go. That’s earworms for you.

As a way of distracting myself from editing (nearly 50% of the way through. Keep going!) I thought I’d go through the book and pull out any of the songs that are mentioned in the text. Some of these are directly referred to, others are just playing during various scenes. I’ve also included a couple that were mentioned but then lost out to other songs as I edited. It’s an eclectic mix, running from Vengaboys to Aretha Franklin. Hope you enjoy listening!

If you’d like to read the book, then stay tuned to the blog, my Twitter and Facebook and the email list because it’s being released in December, so you’ll at least have something to distract you from your relatives this yuletide season. Plus Flesh and Blood makes for a fine accompaniment to a Rennie or two…

Work Update

Quick work update: I’m soooooo close to finishing Flesh and Blood I can taste it. We’re now at the point where my amazing friend and designer Yolander has started working on the cover design. She shared a sneak preview of how things were going the other day:

By the way, if you don’t already follow me on Twitter then you should because I’m A Grade hilarious on there. I’m also pretty sweary, so if that’s not your thing then don’t follow me. Whatever.

At this point in time I’m thinking that it will be finished 30/11, off to the editor for a week and then artworking done on it ready to be published round about the 16/12. Publishing that close to Christmas is absolute insanity, clearly, but I don’t really have any options – it has to come out before the end of 2021 so that I can keep to my book per year schedule (Before and After was out Jan 2020, so it’s only just scraping in under the wire).

I’m starting to think about what the next book will be after Flesh and Blood. Got some exciting ideas that have got pretty dusty while I’ve worked out how F&B should come into the world. It’s not been an easy book to write, due in part to the pandemic. I was talking to a friend the other day about how much psychic energy COVID has required of us all and how we shouldn’t be surprised if we just feel a bit exhausted right now. If you feel tired and low at the moment then I’m sorry to hear that. Try and be kind to yourself and appreciate that we’ve all been through some shit. We’re going to make it. We’ll be ok.

The take up on the free ad astra stories and NFTs has been really good and the story is getting good feedback from readers. A lot of them are saying that it feels like the start of a bigger story and I definitely agree with that. If you want to grab one while they’re still available to grab then drop me your ETH address. To get one of those you just need to install Metamask. It’s been really interesting to write something about new and dangerous technology and deliver it in a corresponding way. Feels good man.

Ok, back to it. I’ve got approximately 10,000 amends spotted by the Advanced Reader team to sort out.

Let me send you a copy of my new story “ad astra”

I’ve been trying to challenge myself to write more short stories this year. Alongside completing Flesh and Blood, the sequel to Before and After, I’ve also released In the Room and now I’ve got ad astra ready to roll.

ad astra, yes I did that design myself

ad astra was written for Jodrell Bank Observatory, a radio telescope that is very close to where I live and close to my heart. In my mind it’s one of the most inspiring places on earth and if you ever want someone to talk at you for 60 minutes then just ask me what I think about JBO. I wanted to give something back and they were kind enough to assist me in answering lots of questions about observing the universe and the destruction of the world. Don’t ask me why everything with me always comes back to the destruction of the world. It just does. So ad astra concerns the very first and very last SETI messages ever received by humans. It very much feels like the first part of something, but I’m wrestling currently with what that might be.

In terms of publishing I’m trying something new for this short story, namely, I’m giving it away for free. Every copy also comes with a unique 1/1 artwork created by me (digitally, because I can’t paint for toffee). This story and artwork is available as an NFT* and the idea is that owners will sell and trade the works and generate a revenue for themselves and me. It could all go to shite, but that’s ok. My friend Jeff Rosenstock taught me that it’s important to keep fucking things up.**

If you would like a copy then you’ll just need to let me know your ETH address. Reply to this email, add a comment below, write it on a rock and throw it through my bedroom window. It’s comically easy to set up an ETH address. Basically, you set up Metamask on Chrome and that’s it. Here’s a really simple link: https://medium.com/…/guide-how-to-setup-metamask… All you need to do is post your ETH address and I’ll send you a copy. It’s free. You’re safe. It’s all good, NFTs are insanely valuable, this is your ticket to retirement.

*It’s minted on the Polygon network, so if you’ve heard that NFTs are about to explode the world with electricity usage then please read up on this first.

**Full disclosure, I don’t know Jeff, but he has chatted to me on Twitter a couple of times and I’m absolutely going to parlay that into a friendship and stalk him at Manchester Punk fest.

New short story “In The Room” Released Today

I have a new short story out today. It’s called In The Room and it’s a fun slice of weirdness. It’s also only 0.99, so it’s a bit of a bargain too (AMAZON UK and AMAZON US) You can also read it for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited type. Perhaps most strange of all is that it features recurring themes from Before and After:

✅ One-legged protagonist

✅ Dog

✅ Living in a flat

✅ Jodrell Bank tea towel

✅ Birds breaking their necks by flying into windows (ok, that’s a new one)

At this point I’m not even sure a psychologist would bother analysing me. I think they’d just stun me and shoot me full of benzodiazepines.

Feel free to grab a copy (AMAZON UK and AMAZON US) to keep you amused during your next toilet break. I’d love to know what you think about it too, so if you’re a fan then add a comment or send me an email.

I’m also looking at doing more short stories in the coming months, so what do you think about that?

I Will Literarily Kill You

I’m well into the sequel for Before and After now and after a few bumps in the road it’s going great. However, I’ve noticed that one thing in particular tends to slow me down and that’s naming incidental characters.

It’s such a dumb thing that sometimes people don’t believe that I struggle with this. However, there’s such a lot of information and sentiment coded in names that if you choose the wrong one it can ruin a whole section, or it does for me anyway.

Consequently, I tend to go back and forth on what people should be called. The other day I spent ages deciding that a character would be called Guy Garvey, only to subsequently realise that the reason this had a fuzzy, warm feeling to it is because he’s the lead singer of Elbow.

See! It’s tough!

Anyway, my solution is to see if you will let me literarily kill you. You submit your name, I use the big long list of willing victims and just pick one that seems right. Plus you get a cameo (almost certainly as a dead body) to show your mates.

www.iwillliterarilykillyou.com is where you need to go if you fancy being a victim.

Guy bloody Garvey FFS.

Before And After Is Coming To The Silver Screen

Typing that post title out it’s just struck me how surreal this is. Let me restate it and maybe it will seem less odd: my book, Before and After is off to Hollywood. People: our friends Ben and Brown are going to LA.

Nope, it’s still very odd.

Let me rewind. How did this happen? About five months ago I got an email from a man called David. It was a polite email introducing himself and his impeccable writing credentials (he’s worked with Rob Reiner! Yes, Rob Reiner!). Ok, hi – how can I help? It seems he read Before and After, loved it and wanted to option it so that he could make a film from it. Ok, sure?

So we talked. He seems like a great guy. He’s adapted books into films before. He’s worked on series for NBC. He’s written series for Amazon. He’s got lots of experience. We talked through the book and what he thought about it and how he saw it being adapted. It was really apparent from the get-go that he had the right heart to tell Ben’s story on screen. So, cor blimey, he’s going to do it.

The paperwork was all signed last week and the announcement will be going out tomorrow. That means that from tonight the arguments can begin: who should play Ben? More to the point, who has the range to play Brown?

Bonus news: I’ve started writing the sequel, first draft will be done by April 1st.

Two more interviews

I’ve been chatting with more fine folk and if you want to have a listen then you can find the interviews here.

First up was an interview that I did with Mysterious Goings On podcast supremo Alex Greenwood. This was a fun one as we had an interesting chat which ran across a whole gamut of topics, including advice for new writers.

Next up, I chatted with Andy from Spoken Label, who do a whole heap of great things supporting creativity and writing in Manchester, Gawd bless ’em.

You can also get the Spoken Label pod on Apple, Pocketcast, Youtube, Radiopublic, Castbox, Listennotes, Bullhorn, Podcastaddict, Podbean, Himalaya, Podbay, Amazon, Tunein, Anchor and Spotify!

You are officially up-to-date with all Shanahan related news. I’m hoping to have two more posts up before Christmas with 1) BIG NEWS and 2) SOME WRITING FOR YOU.

Best get back to it then. As you were.

Podcasts, Ramblechats and Interviews

I’ve not been neglecting Before and After while I’ve been writing my next book. I’ve been doing quite a lot of podcasts and interviews, where I ramble at length about the book, my brilliance and what Shanafans can expect next. I’m going to round up some of the posts in this post so you can listen (or not) as you see fit.

Reading in Bed is a podcast where Amanda Steel records extracts of her reading from various books she’s enjoyed. She kindly read from Before and After and did a great job. You can find her reading below and her website here.

Next up I spoke to Eric Eskenazi who runs the excellent Erratic Dispatches podcast. It was fun speaking to someone from America about the book and getting a different perspective on it from that point of view. This one is 58 minutes of me chatting, so if you’re really finding it hard to sleep then this is the one for you.

I also spoke to BBC Lancashire about being a writer in the North and what it was like releasing a book about being trapped at home during a pandemic (spoiler: it’s a fun challenge!)

I’ve done another couple of interviews recently and I’ll add them to the blog when they go live. In other news, I’m experimenting with taking a break from social media as it seems to be sucking my time into a vortex of self-recrimination and Trump Derangement Syndrome and I need some fresh air. Consequently, I might just make some more time for blogging and further ramblechats. You lucky things…

Short Story – Vic is not having a good September

Recent seasonal factors reminded me to put this story back up on the blog. Hope you enjoy it.

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Vic Is Not Having A Good September

Vic stops for a Cadbury’s Boost. He had seven lagers earlier so it’s time he thought about food. There’s something about that layer of a Boost just under the chocolate, it’s this sort of caramel and biscuit mash. It’s beyond sweet. It makes your mouth ache. That’s the real stuff. That’s what Vic wants. He’s never really had much of a sweet tooth, but just recently he’s become obsessed. It could be to do with trauma. It could just be because Boosts are nice and Vic never realised. Sometimes he finds that even as he’s started eating, he’s thinking of what he’ll eat next. Vic used to be focused, but these days he’s more flighty. It’s the thoughts that do that. He realises he can’t be doing with the Boost after all, so he moves on.

It’s early afternoon. Got to keep moving, that’s the thing now for Vic. Onwards. Upwards. That way. Through a door. In the atrium of a library. Into a car. Push on. Maybe that’s why the hunger is there. Maybe the hunger is fuelling the movement and the movement creates the hunger. Is that what it is, wonders Vic – but the answer and eventually the question gets lost in lager. The aim with moving is to reach that point where everything peripheral blurs and your brain can only worry about what’s coming directly towards you. It’s a form of focus when that background buzz eventually goes away, it’s probably something motorcyclists understand, thinks Vic.

Vic is in a pub. The late Summer evening sun is weak in the sky and there’s a big smash of pink clouds. Be nice again tomorrow, Vic thinks. He’s at the back of the beer garden. Not hiding, but not advertising his presence. He drinks lager. He drinks lots of lager. He’s spent a lot of time quietly contemplating the meniscus of lager, how you can almost sense from the curvature of the top of the pint that the liquid would return to being droplets if given its freedom. Vic likes to drink a proper lager with the head all frothy and white but somehow his lager always seems flat. Why is the pint nearly always gone too? Cider tastes better, but it comes in those stupid bottles, whereas lager is in those welcoming pint glasses. So it’s lager; lager is the thing. Vic drinks lager. It’s good and it’s strong. Sometimes if you have lager you don’t even have to keep moving to get the thoughts gone.

This is his sixth lager in this pub. He’ll get kicked out soon. Moved on. Don’t want you or your sort around here. Vic gets angry when he hears that. What’s wrong with him? What’s my “sort” anyway? That’s usually when it gets violent. Vic doesn’t think of the violence, never has. It’s just a fact; something that happens. He doesn’t get scared, he couldn’t care if it’s the biggest bloke in the world, some total Jason with tattoos and stubbled head, or some flappy woman screaming at him – he’ll have a dig at any of them. To be fair he doesn’t usually start it and he often loses and is forced to tactically retreat, but he’s seen more than a few off over the years.

Look at that big pink fucking sky, Vic thinks – it’s the lager that’s thinking now – I’m going to get up there and fight that sky. What a stupid drunk thought. What a pointless fighty thought. Vic moves on and finds another pub.

It’s morning and Vic doesn’t know where he is. Don’t think he slept much, but he stopped moving for a bit and the thoughts weren’t at him. That’s perhaps the best Vic can hope for now. He’s wandering round this house wondering who it belongs to. Not many photos on the wall, it’s all art and cobwebs in the corners. Trying to remember how he got in. It was late, or early. Maybe it was days ago. He’s not going to wait around now he’s up anyway. All the doors are shut up, so eventually he tries the bathroom and finds he can get out of the big window. Then he’s off and away and suddenly starving. Vic used to be one of those who would have protein for breakfast – sensible meals, sensible portions, plenty of exercise – there didn’t use to be a scrap of fat on him. He’s not fat now, he just feels like he’s losing definition. He wonders sometimes if this will be what kills him. Not violence or illness, but a gradual Gaussian blurring until he stops being recognisably him. Keep going for now.

Vic is in a pub. He’s in the back room of some dim and bad jukebox pub that smells of bleach. There was this blue-purple light in one of the other rooms that gave him a banging headache, so he’s come back here. He’s got lager and the thoughts are going now. He watches them recede as the lager does what it should. He risks a look at her, she’s still bright in his memory. She was everything to Vic. He knew that she was bigger and more than him. Everyone knew she was out of his league, but it worked. Vic didn’t even mind the others. Well, not much. Vic didn’t have much education, a number of schools made it clear that they didn’t want him there, but in her he found his purpose. His family had always been on at him about getting a trade, but it was only when he was with her that he knew what he was meant to do. Yeah, well, it didn’t last. The home, the family, the everything – it didn’t last. Bigger and more. Bigger and more lager.

Wooooh, Vic is seriously flying now. It’s lunchtime and he’s twelve lagers in. Shit. Time and place are fractured. Maybe his leg as well. It certainly hurts. There was a lorry that nearly hit him and a central reservation. Something then a roundabout. He was on a big field and a blue slushy ice drink. There was an awful smell and coughing. This family wouldn’t let him share their picnic, what are they getting so fussy about? Did you lose your home? Who do you know that died recently? Stupid fucking picnic! Stupid fucking tablecloth! It’s a fucking council park, if you want tablecloths then fuck off to a field of wheat with your tablecloths and your crying kids. Did he fight the children? Yes. Both of them. Ha! Their little faces all red and puffy and shouting. He left. He noticed the family packing up their picnic stuff as he left the park. We’ll call that one a draw, thinks Vic. Lager!

It’s night and Vic is inside again. He doesn’t care where he is. It’s a room, like other rooms. Vic can’t sleep and there’s no lager here, so he has to sit with the thoughts. Some of the deaths come back to him. Friends. Family. Vic has known murder. He’s never murdered, but he’s known it. One time he saw the insides of – he pushes that thought away and hopes it won’t complete itself. Down and away. He can’t have lager and the terror of 4 a.m. sobriety is reaching out for him, so he has to have movement. Vic bumbles around the rooms. It feels so repetitive, like he’s banging his head against a wall, maybe that would help him sleep? He tries banging his forehead into the wall, but it doesn’t help. Sleep can’t find him, so the thoughts do.

Sunrise comes. Vic feels that it’s his last day. Can’t say why. Perhaps dying is a choice. Perhaps it’s simply an awareness that has come to him – a gift from the universe to allow him some perspective at the last. Vic decides to take the universe’s gift back and exchange it for lager. Vic finds lager. Three pubs in quick succession. Thrown out of the first two for violent behaviour. He leaves the third one because he wants to find a fourth. What sort of reason is that for leaving a pub? Stupid. Vic’s thoughts are all lager and death. He thinks of her. She was my Queen, is his thought. It was an honour to serve you. He drinks lager in her memory.

Vic looks out of the window and realises with a slow surprise that he’s not far from what was his home. It will be empty now, but he could stop by if he wanted after the pub. From the window he can see the trees he used to play in. The trees bulge outwards and suck inwards as his back is crushed. The air whooshes out of his trachea and sacs. Four of his legs snap as he is pressed against the window with a magazine. Vic hears a too loud splitting noise in his head. His thoughts goo out. His vision blurs and the last thing he sees is the magazine’s pressure pushing the pattern of his wing against the window. Vic is not having a good September.

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This is a story I wrote because I’m trying to see the good in wasps. I’ve been stung twice this summer and I realised that it’s really no worse than a nettle sting, so all of the flapping and hysterical flicking I’ve been doing for years was rather silly. I hope that wasps will acknowledge this magnanimous artistic gesture and leave me alone the next time I’m eating a Calippo on the beach.

I trust that all good-hearted entomologists will forgive the poetic licence I’ve used in the story around the true nature of wasps. Perhaps most egregious is that adult wasps don’t actually eat solid foods – they use their mandibles to tear up prey which they then feed to the wasp larvae. The larvae then emit a sweet secretion which the adults eat.

That’s revolting isn’t it? Wasps really don’t help their PR cause with such grotesque behaviour.

I danced around that fact in the first paragraph by having Vic alight on a Boost but not actually eat it. I did however manage to edit the story in time to change my mistake that male wasps don’t have stingers, who knew? Certainly not me.

My thanks to Kate Feld, John Ossoway, Yolander Yeo and Emma Shanahan for early draft feedback and suggestions.

If you liked this story then I’d love it if you would share it but please no spoilers about the sting in the tale (unlol).

Listen to Before and After For Free!

Earlier this week I was contacted by a Manchester radio station who wondered if I might be interested in reading Before and After for them to broadcast. I ummed and ahhed because recording good quality audio is opening a Pandora’s box of niggles, hissing, pops and flubs.

After thirty seconds it appeared that my legs were walking me to the office and my hands were opening the Easy Voice Recorder app on my phone. 45 minutes later I’d recorded the first chapter. Given that this is one take I’m inordinately pleased with it. That is until I start listening to all the niggles, hissing, pops and flubs.

Anyway, I present it hear for you in case you fancy some listening material. I’m still available for readings and I’ve now done a few chats with book clubs who selected Before and After and I’m always pleased by how open those discussions are. It would be a bit embarrassing if everyone was just saying they liked the book because I was there. As it stands it’s clear that everyone is very happy to say what they do and don’t like – much as it should be.

Enough – pin back your lugholes and cop this:

Quick work update: hard at work still promoting Before and After and The Bossy Book. I have also finished the first draft of 232 Miles Of… the novel that’s set on the M6. There’s lots of good things in there but it’s still a bit raw and could probably do with five years in an oak barrel. I’ve now started work on a very dark tale of ghosts, fatherhood and medical-grade psychedelic drugs. Hoping to have draft #1 done by year’s end.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the first chapter.