Short Story of the Month | ‘The Purging’ by Drew Martyn

Our new Short Story of the Month is ‘The Purging’ by Drew Martyn.


‘One cloud and a couple of vapour trails lazed against a heat-paled blue sky and a warm afternoon slid slowly into evening; I was aware of none of it. I was seventeen and cool, she was sixteen and hot: that’s all you can see at that age.’

In the lazy days of summer, two teenagers are forced to grow up quickly as they are thrown into the real world by events beyond their control.


Drew and his family live in Wales where he enjoys writing, football, music and real ales. He’s had dark fiction published in a number of print anthologies including Horror Library volume 5 and Fortune: Lost and Found as well as online and in magazines including Isotropic Fiction and Dark Tales. In Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (May 2017) he toyed with sword and sorcery prose-poetry. In the past he’s also contributed articles and conducted interviews for a UK soccer website. If asked about inspiration, he’d witter on forever about Ray Bradbury, William Trevor and especially Georges Perec, so probably best not to…


The Purging

This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on the Seren website.

One cloud and a couple of vapour trails lazed against a heat-paled blue sky and a warm afternoon slid slowly into evening; I was aware of none of it. I was seventeen and cool, she was sixteen and hot: that’s all you can see at that age.

Her name was Alison. She had a body to turn heads and a face to turn hearts, and I swallowed hard and said something inane at the first smile she gave me. It was summer holidays, no school, time for fun. Time for growing up into the real world – and I had a lot of growing up to do and not much time to do it in.

She took me home to meet her family.

I’d heard a few things about them, mostly from Alison. That was ok: listen to her stories and her family were okay. But I heard rumours too. And then someone told someone else who told someone who told me… and those rumours I didn’t like one bit.

But, anyway, we were here, walking onto her estate. The people we passed looked surprisingly ok. Normal. They didn’t have two heads, or bite the heads off kittens or carry machetes or grenades. They didn’t snarl or even growl as we walked past. Most of them didn’t even frown.

It was a typical housing estate: a warren of streets, narrow alleys and short cuts, cars half-off half-on the pavement, some tidy front gardens, a few of them anyway, some just rubbish tips for the couldn’t care less brigade.

“My house is just up here,” Alison said as we turned a corner. I slowed the pace.

“It’s ok,” she reassured me, laughing. “Honest.”

We passed a few bedraggled houses, the ubiquitous mattress in one of the front gardens, a rusty pram in another. And then, for no apparent reason, the houses suddenly looked cleaner, more looked-after. It took me a few yards to realise it was because they didn’t have flaking paint on the doors and windows. And the cars were parked properly. And the lawns were mowed. Lawns? I realised these houses here had the first grass and flowers in front of them that I’d seen on the estate.

“Mine,” said Alison, opening a wrought iron gate. It squeaked a bit as we walked through. I suppose it had to give some sort of nod to the neighbourhood. Or a warning to those inside the house.

That thought both scared me and made me realise I was being a snob. Ew no; one didn’t tolerate unoiled hinges where I came from, certainly not.

I can be a prat sometimes, I reminded myself.

On the other hand this house even had coaching lamps, shiny and polished, each side of the front door. Nice. Bit over the top, common maybe, but nice.

I can be judgemental, too. Goes with being a prat.

Shit, she was opening the front door! I hung back but she grabbed my hand and pulled me along like some toy dog. A waft of soap and Brut hit me as we walked in. I was about to meet the family.


This is what I knew of them:

Da had a reputation that could scratch diamonds, and fists to match. This town was his town.

Ma loved her own. For everyone else there were razors and bullets, mostly wielded by her tongue. Mostly (apparently).

Big brother Paul took one look at me and said: “Get her pregnant and you marry her, or you’ll never see her again.” This wasn’t a threat, this was a vision.

I didn’t listen. I didn’t care. After all, I reasoned, what’s sight worth, when love itself is blind? Oh yeah, I’m a romantic. Bit of a poet, me.

In other words, an all round total prat.


Inside, her house gave no indication of being anything special. It looked sort of nice. Tidy, like. No dead bodies. No suitcases full of money. And definitely no guns.

“Hi Da,” said Alison.

Da stood in front of a large sideboard mirror shaving with a cutthroat razor, a bowl of soap suds in front of him, his white vest splashed grey with soapy water, his braces hanging to his knees.  A radio in an upstairs room spoke loudly of last year’s moon landing and something about The Beatles disbanding.

As soon as I appeared, Da turned into a statue, the razor blade slicing my reflection, only his eyes moving, following me.

“You Mike?”


Even if I wasn’t, I’d have had to say “Yessir” to that voice.

“Don’t call me ‘Sir’. Don’t call nobody ‘Sir’. When you’re with my girl, other people call you ‘Sir’. Understand?”

I almost said “Yessir.” Instead, I said “So they should.”

It was the right thing to say. He chuckled and carried on shaving.

“Thanks Daddy!” Alison said, grinning.

Mam called out “Alison” and Alison led me into the kitchen. Mam wiped her hands on a tea-towel and threw it onto the sink before turning around to face us.

She looked at me for a second, then “Why don’t you sit down, love?” in a way that said, quietly and gently, “Sit down or I’ll rip your throat out.”

So I sat down.

She looked me up and down. Like Alison, she had big blue eyes, but Mam’s were a mother’s eyes, an assessor’s eyes, looking for weapons and chinks in armour.

I looked at Alison.

Mam leaned forward. That meant “Stop looking at her. Look at me, good boy!”

She said “Still in school, love?”

I nearly lied, saying I had a job, maybe that would go down better. Mothers liked that sort of thing: mature young man and all that.

What came out was “Yes, I am.”

Mam’s eyes smiled then and she nodded. “It’s good you didn’t lie to me,” she whispered. I felt like she could see into my soul, and I blushed. Not cool.

Continue reading ‘The Purging’ for free here

Legend of the Month: Robert Graves

Robert Graves Legend of the Month

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Robert Graves.

Robert Graves began publishing poetry after the outbreak of the First World War, for which he enlisted in 1914 as a junior officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Robert Graves War Poems Charles MundyeHe was one of the first to write realistic poems about the experience of fighting on the frontline. His first volume, Over the Brazier, was published in 1916, and by 1917 he had produced two further collections of war poetry whilst still on active service. Over the Brazier and Fairies and Fusiliers earned for Graves the reputation of an accomplished war poet.
You can find all Graves’ war poetry in recently published Robert Graves: War Poems (Seren, 2016).

During his lifetime Graves published more than 140 books, including fifty-five collections of poetry (he reworked his Collected Poems repeatedly during his career), fifteen novels, ten translations, and forty works of non-fiction, autobiography, and literary essays. His best known works are his memoir of World War One, Goodbye to All That, The White Goddess, and the novels I, Claudius and Claudius the Great.

Here is Graves’ poem, ‘Hate Not, Fear Not’, from his previously unpublished collection The Patchwork Flag (1918) which, almost a century after composition, has now been brought into print as part of Robert Graves: War Poems.


Robert Graves Hate Not, Fear Not









Robert Graves: War Poems is available from our website: £19.99

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

And don’t forget to sign up to our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.



Win a copy of Significance, Jo Mazelis’ Jerwood Prize-winning novel

Win a copy of Significance Jo Mazelis Jerwood Prize-winning novel

Enter our giveaway to win a copy of Jo Mazelis’ award-winning novel, Significance.

To enter, simply sign up to the Seren newsletter before 1st March:

Significance giveaway Jo Mazelis

Significance was a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winner, 2015. Up for grabs in this giveaway is a copy of the new edition of the book, printed to commemorate the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered announcement.

About Significance:
Lucy Swann is trying on a new life. She’s cut and dyed her hair and bought new clothes, but she’s only got as far as a small town in northern France when her flight is violently cut short. When Inspector Vivier and his handsome assistant Sabine Pelat begin their investigation, the chance encounters of her last days take on a new significance.
Lucy’s death, like a stone thrown into a pool, sends out far-reaching ripples, altering the lives of people who never knew her as well as those of her loved ones back home.

Quite unlike any literary crime novel you will have read before, Significance takes the chance encounters of Lucy Swann’s last days and examines the characters she meets so fleetingly in unnerving detail. This is a murder mystery where the murder remains backstage, overshadowed by the many intermingling lives Lucy has brushed so briefly against.


The winner of this giveaway will be chosen at random from all our email subscribers on 1st March 2017, so make sure you sign up to Seren News before this deadline to be in with a chance of winning.

Feeling generous? Why not invite your friends to enter, by signing up using the link below:


Author Appearances at the Seren Christmas Pop-Up Shop

chapter pop-up shop author appearances

The Seren pop-up bookshop is returning to Chapter, Cardiff, for its third year. You’ll find us in Chapter’s entrance hall, Friday 9th to Monday 12th December.

Come and have a browse of our books, take advantage of free Christmas gift wrapping, and chat with Seren staff about publishing, writing, reading – and your love of books. We look forward to seeing you!

When: 9-12 December, 10am–8pm
Where: Chapter Arts Centre, 40 Market Road, Cardiff, CF5 1QE

Seren authors will also be stopping by, so why not come along and grab a special signed Christmas gift or two?



Peter Finch will be joining us on Saturday. A poet, author and critic, Peter is author of the hugely popular Real Cardiff trilogy, and series editor for the Real Series. He has published numerous poetry collections, including perennial bestseller Zen Cymru, and his Selected Later Poems. His latest book, The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back, explores the evolution of rock and popular music, and is the perfect gift for the music lover in your life.

David Foster-Morgan will be coming to the pop-up shop on Sunday. David has been widely published in a number of journals including Poetry Wales, Envoi, Smiths Knoll and The Interpreter’s House, and was recently shortlisted in the Times Literary Supplement Poetry Competition. Masculine Happiness is his innovative debut collection, and signed copies will be available if you come along at 12.


We look forward to seeing you at the Seren Christmas pop-up shop!


Friday Poem – ‘Without Narcissus’, Rhiannon Hooson

without narcissus rhiannon hooson

Last night, we welcomed a chilly December in Chapter Arts, with Rhiannon Hooson reading poems from her debut collection, The Other CityIt seemed appropriate to have Friday’s Poem from this beguiling new release, for those who missed out.

Rhiannon reading to a full house at December’s First Thursday event

the-other-city_quicksand-cover-copyWith a sharp focus and beautiful resonance, the deeply felt poems from The Other City  tend to travel in distinct streams: some reference and re-make narratives from classical Greek myth; some rework elements of Welsh history, both ancient, and modern. There are also a number of poems exploring the idea of otherness and the uncanny, where actions are done and undone, and the familiar made unfamiliar.


Without Narcissus

The lack of his blindness shocks the silver water black.
Your palm’s slap against its surface is looped silence:
bare shoulders with their heron stoop,
the wet ropes of your black hair, the empty water
and the stiff-leafed lilies which break for sharp fingers,
their pink throats silent and smiling. Speak.

Over the water the red rock leans and watches.
Your nails like fish-scales break against
the cool shadow of its noon, and the silence. Speak.
Even the fish have voices, even the rough
hush of the trees, even the birds.You press your body
to the dark-loomed sediment and learn its silence, touch the red
heat of your mouth to the rock and learn the syllables
of its unspeech. Speak.

Birds watch you writing the mangled sign of your name
wet hair strung across the tangled mats of cress,
white fingers and their fish-belly pallor, your white lips
kissed against the petals of the lilies.You can speak
their silence back to them so well, so well.


Buy your copy of The Other City now: £9.99
Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Seren Book Club for 20% off every time you shop with us


Friday Poem – ‘Bluetit Feeding’, Ruth Bidgood

friday poem bluetit feeding ruth bidgood

Our Friday Poem this week is a careful portrayal of the fragility and beauty of nature. So take some time away from the Black Friday madness, and enjoy Ruth Bidgood’s ‘Bluetit Feeding’.

New & Selected Ruth Bidgood Friday Poem Bluetit Feeding‘Bluetit Feeding’ is taken from New and Selected Poems. This generous selection of work highlights the steady accumulation of a significant oeuvre. Bidgood’s ostensible subjects are the storied landscape and history of her region of mid-Wales, the hills and valleys of Powys and Breconshire, but her themes frequently have a wider reach, a spiritual depth that is often darkly suggestive and mysterious.


Bluetit Feeding

Early at the window in starved winter
a little knot of energies, a beaky hunger
fluffed and sleeked, taps, prises
unsucculent scraps of cracked putty,
swallows with a ripple of tiny throat.

Behind it climbs a bleak pale hill
stained with ruts of December bracken.
White morning moon is barely seen
on hardly darker sky that seems
opaque, a barrier against pressure
of immensities. Imperceptibly
the chill day flows out to black deeps.

The bluetit pauses in its arid feeding,
flirts a crisp wing. Half-handful of warmth,
it stays for a moment sill,
compellingly centre-stage, diminishing
to a backdrop the hill, dull morning sky,
pale echo of moon, black vertiginous
trenches of space-ocean, myriads
of molten and frozen, dying and rising worlds.



Buy your copy of New & Selected Poems now: £9.99
Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Seren Book Club for 20% off every time you shop with us

NaNoWriMo: How to write a novel – advice from Seren novelists

how to write a novel advice from Seren novelists

It’s November and that means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has begun. If you’re not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is a worldwide writing challenge, where participants have one month (1st–30th November) to write a 50,000 word novel.

Are you taking on the challenge? Perhaps you’re in need of a little motivation? Or maybe your novel has been in the works for a while now, and you need some guidance to get it finished? Whatever the case, Seren novelists are here to help.

Take a look below for some novel writing tips from the experts. Whether your novel takes a month or a year, we know you can do it.

Bethany W Pope author of Masque1. Start by letting your mind wander where it will. Taking long walks helps. Don’t ever say ‘no’ to an idea, however ridiculous or obscene it seems at first. Every idea is a seed; it’s best to let it grow. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)


Jayne Joso author of My Falling Down House2. Don’t begin until the ideas preoccupy your thoughts, until you have read and researched to a point of exhaustion, until your mind is full of the world of the book, and the characters inhabit it freely. Things will change and move, grow, and diminish, and some will brutally be cut, but if you begin with a world that you can see, characters that you are beginning to know, then, when you settle down in the quiet to write, the world of your novel will begin to emerge as though by itself. Research more as you go, as you need to; sleep well, exercise and eat well, and always have something else to read. Stay with the world of your book in your mind, and switch off when you need to, sleep some more, run or swim some more. Then write and write, with fight, with joy. (Jayne Joso, author of My Falling Down House)

Bethany W Pope author of Masque3. Eventually you’ll spot your characters. Once you’ve seen them, the best way to capture what they’re like on the page is by inhabiting them, mentally. Use the actor’s method. Wear the skin of the role that you’re playing; write as if you are them and the writing will breathe. This is easier than you might think — after all, you are them, really; or they are aspects of you. Even the bad guys. Especially the bad guys. They’re parts of your psyche that you never let out. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)

Jo Mazelis author of Significance4. There are two ways to approach a novel: some writers plot the whole work in advance, others begin with a vague idea, character or situation, then plunge in allowing organic development to occur. Neither is right or wrong, but there are certain advantages to both, every writer will discover along the way which works best for them. (Jo Mazelis, author of Significance)

Bethany W Pope author of Masque5. When it comes to the actual writing, do it wherever you can. By this, I mean that you should write wherever you can actually produce work. My top two choices are at the gym (I think best whilst moving — the stepper is my friend) and while sitting in my (empty) bathtub with a budgie on my head. There is no ‘should’ when it comes to writing. If it works for you, do it and give no thought to what other people think about it. You have to if you want to finish the job at hand. Once the story starts coming it will continue to come. If you love it, you will finish it. That which we cannot live without is that which we love. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)

Jayne Joso author of My Falling Down House6. Drink whiskey, drink tea. Plan, don’t plan. Write. Tear it up. Start again, as you like… but finally, remember, there ain’t no way round but through, so just write the darn thing! (Jayne Joso, author of My Falling Down House)


Bethany W Pope author of Masque7. Do not worry about proofreading or editing until after the first draft is finished. Get it out, as fast as possible, even if it’s rough. It’s much, much easier to edit a finished manuscript than a few measly pages. But once it’s out of your head, for the love of God, go over it with a fine-toothed comb. Remove all the nits and every last tangle before sending it out to meet the world. It’s your child, after all. It deserves a clean face. (Bethany W. Pope, author of Masque)


We hope these helpful tips from our talented authors give you the push you need to get that novel finished – however long it takes.

‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’
– Douglas Adams




Friday Poem – ‘Seamus on the Tube’, Tony Curtis

Friday Poem Seamus on the Tube Tony Curtis

Last night saw us at Chapter, Cardiff, with Tony Curtis and Cynan Jones for November’s First Thursday event, and today we are featuring one of the new poems Tony read on the night – for all of you who missed his entertaining performance.

From left: Tony Curtis, Amy Wack (Seren Poetry Editor), Cynan Jones
From left: Tony Curtis, Amy Wack (Seren Poetry Editor), Cynan Jones

From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Tony CurtisTony Curtis has been writing poetry for fifty years, and his new collection, From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems contains poems from ten of his published collections, as well as fifty pages of new poems. This is a poet whose themes and variations remain consistent: a deep affection for his roots in West Wales, tender attachments to family, a profound interest in the wars of the last century, and an abiding fascination for all art forms, particularly painting and poetry.


Seamus on the Tube

Looking away, not looking away –
The happenstance of what may change everything;
Those standing commuters moving off at Charing Cross
For the Bakerloo Line and then your eyes lifting

Above those seated opposite, as one does, to read
Between faster Broadband and Las Vegas –
“Where your accent is an aphrodisiac,” it says,
And where “what happens here, stays here,”

The Railway Children where in the white cups
Of the telegraph wires a young boy knows
That words are carried in the shiny pouches of raindrops.
Like this poem carried for you in the red and white Tube

On the Northern Line in cold January’s real freeze;
Snow is promised in the suburbs so everyone’s scarved
Against the weather. Words taking you back to the fifties
And his boyhood summers before everything changed.

Reaching Warren Street, you’ve read it
Four or five times, absorbed the innocent wisdom
And sense of the thing. Those people opposite
See a crazy old man mouthing words, appearing to sing.



Buy your copy of From the Fortunate Isles now: £12.99

Claim 20% off when you become a Seren Book Club member

The true story behind Alun Lewis’ poem, ‘Burma Casualty’

In January 1943, after fracturing his jaw during a regimental football match, Alun Lewis spent 6 weeks in Poona Hospital. In this blog post, Maggie Evans, whose father lay injured in Poona in the bed next to Lewis’, tells the true story behind the poem ‘Burma Casualty’.

As a child, “My Dad’s in a poem”, was my default position when any Dad boasting was called for.  “Don’t believe you”, was the usual reply, but here I had them.  I could run to the shelf and produce the evidence. There, in a slim volume entitled Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was the poem, entitled ‘Burma Casualty’ and even more exciting, with a dedication – To Capt. G. T. Morris, Indian Army – My Dad!

It was years before I actually read the poem and even longer before I was capable of understanding it, but the magic of a special poem about my own special Dad has never faded.

Dad was born on 12th July 1911 in the Eastern Valley of South Wales. His given names were Thomas Griffiths but he was always known as “Griff”. To me and my two older brothers he was just our Dad, and the fact that he had one stiff leg shorter than the other and had to wear funny, built up shoes was of no consequence. We were children of the Second World War and post War period – war wounds were common. Dad didn’t ever let this hamper him. He wouldn’t accept a Disabled Badge for instance, and wouldn’t countenance anyone thinking of him in this way. He carried us on his shoulders and took us swimming and walking just like any other Dad and so I never fully understood the extent of his injuries until recently, when following a house move, I found bundles of his letters and photographs from that time. Reading the letters he sent from hospital in Poona sent me straight back to the poem – and now for perhaps the first time I was able to understand it.

In February 1942 Dad was fighting in the Burma Campaign with the 17th Indian Division which was decimated at the Battle of Sittang Bridge during a retreat from the Japanese. He was badly wounded, carried off the bridge by unknown hands, and ended up in hospital in Poona where he remained until late 1943.  Earlier that year he had for six weeks a new neighbouring bedfellow – one Alun Lewis, also a Welshman, who had sustained a shattered jaw in a football match. The sharing of his experiences with Alun resulted in ‘Burma Casualty’.

Thomas “Griff” Griffiths in Poona Hospital
Thomas “Griff” Griffiths Morris in Poona Hospital

Re-reading the poem now reveals how much Dad shared with Alun of his pain and fear – showing that at times he might have welcomed death as a release from his own physical pain and from the loss of so many comrades.

Thomas Griffiths and his wife on their wedding day
Thomas Griffiths Morris and his wife on their wedding day

But his letters to his sister from the same time show that as he recovered, his focus was on re-stablishing his family life with my Mum, his childhood sweetheart, and my oldest brother, born in 1940, whom he had never met.  He resisted Death, the ‘beautiful singing sexless angel’, preferring ‘his wife’s sweet body and her wilful eyes’ (though, like any child, however advanced in age, I confess to being unable to think of my mother in these terms without feeling slightly queasy!)



Dad never spoke of his experiences of jungle warfare and rarely mentioned his time in hospital. When pressed, he spoke of his friend, Alun Lewis, as something of a tortured soul. As an adult I have come to understand and love Alun’s poetry, not because he allowed my childhood self to hold its own on the boasting front, but for his luminous verse with its dark undercurrents. I can now say with pride, “my Dad knew a true poet’.





































‘Burma Casualty’ is one of the many poems featured in Alun Lewis: Collected Poems. Buy your copy now from our website: £9.99.


Friday Poem – ‘A Pembrokeshire Artist’, Tony Curtis

A Pembrokeshire Artist Tony Curtis Llangwm

This week we have a treat for you – our Friday Poem is one of the new poems from Tony Curtis’ forthcoming From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems (Seren, October 2016).

From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Tony CurtisFrom the Fortunate Isles, published in celebration of the author’s 70th year, features poems from ten of Curtis’ published collections as well as a substantial number of new poems. This is a poet whose themes and variations remain consistent: a profound interest in the wars of the last century, an abiding fascination for all art forms, particularly painting and poetry, tender attachments to family, and (most evident in the poem below), a deep affection for his roots in West Wales.


A Pembrokeshire Artist
John Knapp Fisher (1931 -2015)

An evening with the rain coming in,
that sea so cold and unsettled, a heavy graphite,
you’d not have gone out with your mackerel lines
in the Viking or any of her successors
from the stone-brick embrace of Porthgain.

We’ve eaten our fill at your wake, John,
the Sloop Inn squeezed tight
with suits, black ties and memories.
Wives, patrons, grandchildren.
Photos of you through all seven ages on the screen.

Inland to Wolf ’s Castle and as far south as the cathedral
the farms, haggards and holiday lets
shrug down for the cold night.
You’d have worked to conjure the reluctant light
discovered in them under this empting, moonless sky.

And the first scurp coming would have dabbed
your paper, blossomed and been coaxed,
smudged, into the finished sketch.
Now the county will have to sing its own spirit,
compose its own shape, keep its own watch.


If you would like to listen to Tony read from his forthcoming collection and other books in his native Pembrokeshire, don’t miss his event at the Llangwm Literary Festival, Saturday 12th August. More details here.

You can buy copies of Tony Curtis’ poetry collections, anthologies he has edited, critical essays, and other writing direct from us (20% off for Book Club Members):
Crossing Over
Heaven’s Gate
Tokens for the Foundlings (ed Tony Curtis)
After the First Death (ed Tony Curtis)

Wales at War
Real South Pembrokeshire
Keep an eye out on the Seren website – Tony’s new collection, From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, is coming soon…