The FREE online creative writing magazine
Winter 2015 Issue 4
Writing Groups - Stronger Together William Mitchell
Eternal Life Inc
Writing on the Wild Side James Burkard
Writing Young Adult Fiction
Going against Fuddyâ€“Duddy Opinions! Maria Moloney
New From Top Hat Books
As the last leaves fall and the Wheel turns into a new season, we finish the first year of Writer's Wheel magazine with issue four, the winter edition. And a big thank you goes to all the editorial team and designer for all the hard work over the past year. Writing can be an adventure and in this edition Cosmic Egg writer James Burkard, author of sci fi novel Eternal Life Inc., chats about writing on the wild side, and being at odds with the rational, analytical approach. "Writing is like jumping off a cliff blindfolded and trusting that you will land safely," he says. It was inspiration from Stephen King in the form of a book on writing that caused James to see that he wasn't the only author who worked in such a structureless, yet strangely structured way. To read more turn to page 6. Every writer begins their writing journey in a different way, whether it was an inspiring teacher or parent, a love of reading – perhaps of genre fiction – that hurled them unexpectedly into the world of writing, or something else, as in this case with author of sci fi novel Creations William Mitchell whose career as a writer began thanks to a writing group. Read all about how writing groups can be immensely valuable on page 18.
the YA market. Why is it thought by old-school literary critics to be beneath our dignity to read or write YA fiction? As a writer how do we learn to ignore criticism and tap into the biggest growing category in fiction today? Turn to page 8 to find out. We have a number of articles by Compass Books authors, and at some point in our careers as writers we all need to learn to develop our writing skills and what better than a residential writing course. On page 16 author Simon Whaley discusses the ins and outs of courses and finding the right one for you; we have the last in the series on characterisation by Nicolas Corder; Sarah-Beth Watkins tells us all about researching her latest book about the historical Tudor figure Lady Katherine Knollys; Linda M. James discusses creating characters that linger in the mind; and Suzanne Ruthven talks about the loneliness of the long distance writer. For a great selection of "How To" writing books, throughout the months of January and February, we have a fabulous Compass Books offer of just 99p/99 cents on thirty eBooks on Amazon, look out for more on this great offer on page 30.
Maria Moloney Krystina Kellingley Suzanne Ruthven Also in this edition we begin a new series on writing for Sarah-Beth Watkins
Writer’s Wheel now invites contributions for the next issue of the on-line quarterly magazine. We are particularly interested in features, articles and interviews from beginners, authors, publishers and readers on all writing -related subjects. Writer’s Wheel is a stable mate of Compass Books, the writers’ resource imprint of John Hunt Publishing and the material submitted for consideration should reflect the hands-on, practical nut and bolts approach to writing rather than philosophical ‘why we write’ reflections.
Submissions: 1000-2000 words, longer pieces by agreement. We will be featuring extracts from both fact and fiction already published by JHP authors but we are also interested in receiving original short stories up to 2500 words and flashfiction of 1000 words maximum, regardless of whether you are a JHP author or not. Stories may be previously published or part of a published anthology or collection. Original poetry should be a maximum of 40 lines. Where possible, the submission
should be accompanied by an author photograph and a 30 word biography; photographs that enhance the submission will also be considered.
Material that is date-related can be submitted for entry on the Compass Books blog: http://www.compass-books.net/ blogs/compass
Submissions should be sent by email and attachments to: email@example.com
From the Editor's Desk
On Writing Lady Katherine Knollys Sarah Beth Watkins
Eternal life Inc. Writing on the Wild Side James Burkard
Creating Characters that Linger Linda M. James
Writing Young Adult Fiction Going Against Fuddy-duddy Opinions Maria Moloney
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer Suzanne Ruthven
Course You Can Simon Whaley
Hera Pan: Village Matriarch Part 1 Helen Noble
Writing Groups – Stronger Together William Mitchell
Darkest Night Hannah Spencer
A-Z of Life-Writes Suzanne Ruthven
Where is the President? Roderick Vincent
Reflections on the Process of Writing Ann Merivale
The Beech Krystina Kellingley
Surfing the Rainbow Sue Johnson
Rokas’ fifth short story: Return Michael Tobert
A Hard Act to Follow Hannah Spencer
Why Do Writers Write? N.E. David
Regular Features Contributor's Guidelines
Fifteen Minute Brain Workout Sue Johnson
Poems & Voice Nimue Brown
Poetry by Leaf Pettit
Behind the Scenes of the Gypsy Trail Nicole Leigh West
Competitions & Events
Special E-book Offer for Writers
What Makes Your Characters Tick? Nicolas Corder
Poems – Moon Poets Tiffany Chaney & Robin Herne
A Novel with a Seasonal Note Sheena Vernon
Poems – Stephanie Sorrell
In writing fiction, and this works for non-fiction too, it's preferable to use active voice whenever possible (though there are good reasons on occasions for using the passive voice such as for consistency, to add authority, to avoid naming someone or when it is unimportant to name anyone). In the active voice the subject performs the action expressed in the verb. In the passive voice the subject receives the action. Active sentences tend to be stronger and more concise. Here are some examples:
Active: Sam accepted the assignment of fire chief.
Passive: The football was kicked by Laura. Active: Laura kicked the football.
Using passive voice for authority
Passive: Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Brontë. Active: Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre. Using passive voice to avoid naming individuals (often used by corporations, governments and so forth) Mistakes were made, but lessons were learned.
Stronger: Alcohol will not be served after 11 pm Passive: The assignment of fire chief was accepted by Weaker: Bar staff will not serve alcohol after 11 pm Sam.
Close your eyes and imagine a pair of gloves. Consider the following questions: What are they like? Who do they belong to? What colour and texture are they? Where are they kept? For instance, are they delicate lace mittens worn by Lady Maria Carey at her first ball and kept in a sandalwood box or are they scuffed black leather gloves worn by Danny Blake on his way to commit an abduction, tossed into the canal after the event? Focus on your pair of gloves. Set the timer and free-write for three minutes. Don’t worry about getting information in the right order. Don’t cross out or censor what you write. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling for now. Look at what you’ve written and underline any words or phrases you particularly like. Think about the hands that will be wearing the gloves – and then try and bring the rest of the person into focus.
What are they like? Notice any blemishes or tattoos. What time of day is it? Where are they? What can they see from their window? How do they feel? ‘Surfing the Rainbow: visualization and chakra balancing for writers’ by Sue Johnson published by Compass Books
‘Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers’ by Sue Johnson and Val Andrews published by Compass Books
Free-write for three minutes about the hands and their owner. Again, don’t censor anything – just concentrate on filling as much paper as you can. Use the senses. For the last few minutes of this exercise, draft the first few paragraphs of a story or create a short poem using the information you have gathered.
James Burkard Writing is like jumping off a cliff blindfolded and trusting that you will land safely. At least that’s the way it is for me. When I started to write Eternal Life Inc., I had no idea where it was going, what characters would appear, or how it was going to end. I had only a vague desire to combine my life-long interests in spiritual development and cutting-edge science in a science fiction action thriller. The whole book sprang from that initial desire, and when I started writing it, I tried to let the book go wherever it wanted to go. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It is a constant battle to let go of the need to be in control and to just jump off that cliff and let the story take you where it will. What it comes down to is an act of faith that the story already exists in some unmanifest form and my job is to work together with it to let it come to expression, kind of like Michelangelo who said that he did not create those sublime statues but only removed the marble from around what was already there. For me “removing the marble” consists of ignoring or trying to shut down all those clamoring voices of self-doubt and criticism in the back of my head that want to be in complete control; analyzing and judging every word, telling me this or that isn’t good enough or this isn’t the way the story should go or OH MY GOD, WHAT WILL THE READERS, PUBLISHERS, AND CRITICS THINK! I have to constantly say to myself, screw the readers, screw the publishers, and screw the critics. They have nothing to do with this, the process of writing, because in the end that is only between me and the spirit of the book. When it’s done, the publishers, readers, and critics can have their say, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about their opinion, but if I have been true to the spirit of the book, then on one level their opinion really doesn’t matter. I realize this way of writing sounds a bit mystical, even anthropomorphic; as if the book is a living thing or spirit that has an independent existence, like those ancient spirit muses who inspired old time writers from Homer to John Milton. In the beginning, this also bothered me because it was so at odds with the rational, analytical approach to writing I had been taught. You know what I mean; you make a plot outline of each chapter so you know exactly where you are going and what each character will do next because you already have built up character profiles and there is very little room left over for the unforeseen, spontaneous surprises. Then after you have all your soldiers in place,
you can begin the battle of writing your book like any good general in control of everything and moving his troops according to plan. I know that there have been many excellent works of fiction written in that way, but it seems such a boring, plodding process to me. I love writing the way I do because, like the reader of any good novel, I never know what is going to happen next, like when a minor character, who I think is only going to have a walk-on part, suddenly develops a life of his own and runs away with the story, taking it in a whole new, unexpected direction. When this happens, all the armchair critics, sitting in my head and feeding on my self-doubt, begin screaming, “This wasn’t planned! This isn’t where the story was going! If you let him do this, it’ll ruin the book!” For years, these critical voices made it difficult for me to trust myself or the process even though time and again it worked out and above all gave me intense pleasure and satisfaction. Then, I came across a book by Stephen King called “On Writing” in which he compares the way he writes to an archeologist who discovers a little piece of bone sticking out of the ground (the initial impulse or idea for a story) and as he uncovers that bone, he trusts that it will connect to another and that finally he will uncover a complete skeleton. The idea being that the skeleton or book, like Michelangelo’s statue, already exists buried there and it is the writer’s job to uncover it. Reading King’s book was a watershed experience. I realized I wasn’t the only one who wrote like this. It gave me faith in the way I was working, and I soon discovered that there were many others working in the same structureless, yet strangely structured way. One of the oddest examples is Minette Walters, the “Queen” of the British detective novel. Some years ago, I saw a documentary that followed her through one year of writing a crime novel. The interesting thing was that by page one hundred and six she still did not know who the murderer was! This was mind blowing. I’d always assumed that writers of detective stories wrote in the same logical, analytical way as their detectives worked to solve the crime by uncovering clues and red herrings that had been carefully placed beforehand. But this wasn’t the way Minette Walters worked. So the question is what is happening here? How do those creative writing classes that, teach structured outlines, conscious character building, and writing about things that you know about or have personal experience
Winter 2015 of, explain a phenomena where the writer has only the vaguest idea of what he is going to write about and no idea of what he is going to uncover along the way and yet still ends up with a highly structured, well plotted story? They will probably nod sagely and point to James Joyce and mumble something about stream of consciousness and the subconscious as if that explained everything when in reality it explains nothing because nobody knows where thoughts come from in the first place, let alone whole novels of thoughts. Now wait a minute, youâ€™re going to say, everyone knows thoughts come from the brain. While it is true that neurophysiologists have discovered that certain areas of the brain are active in different kinds of thought processes, they still have no idea where an actual thought comes from. In fact, a group of young, radical neurophysiologists have theorized that thoughts donâ€™t come from the brain at all, that it is just an interface receiver like a radio or TV, picking up impulses from somewhere else. They theorize that this somewhere else is what physicists call the quantum field which they define as an infinite, eternal, non-place, existing outside of space and time, containing unlimited potential energy, and is the source of everything that exists or could possibly exist, and to top it all it interacts with human consciousness and is therefore itself somehow conscious. This quantum field is beginning to sound a lot like what saints and mystics down the ages have called the realm of the spirit or even the mind of God, and with quantum theory it seems that modern science has curled back on itself and bitten its own tail only to discover that what it is biting into tastes suspiciously like religion. In any case, these young neurophysiologists have no time or appetite for religious implications and instead remain strictly scientific, theorizing that all thought results from a material meat mind interfacing with this non-material quantum field out of which the original seed thought springs. This seed is then filtered through the meat mind receiver which, like a badly tuned radio, distorts it with the static produced by the individualâ€™s unique biology and personality, for example; disease, traumas, beliefs, needs, likes, dislikes, etc. However, it is not only individual thoughts that are waiting to be expressed but whole books of thoughts, an infinite number of books about all possible and impossible worlds that are waiting on the far side of material reality for someone to give them expression. And that bring us back to Eternal Life Inc. and the strange, structureless structured way it was written. If quantum physics and the theories of radical neurophysiologists are anything to go by, then the way Eternal Life Inc. was written and the way scores of other books are written is not so crazy after all. In fact, by trying to shut down the personal critical filters that say
what a story should or should not do, we are, hopefully, making it easier for the story to come to fuller expression, even though I must admit there is also a great deal of conscious editing and polishing that goes on afterwards because a story never makes it unblemished through the distorting filter of my meat mind. When I wrote Eternal Life Inc., I was driven by the desire to write a science fiction thriller that combined spirituality and cutting-edge science, and by and large I think I succeeded. I believe that Eternal Life Inc. represents the spiritual future of a new type of science fiction that walks the wild side of quantum physics into the spirit realm of mystics, saints, and shamans. Although it is an electrifying roller-coaster ride of action and ideas, derailing off quantum cliffs and taking the reader into a dystopian world of gods and demons, Eternal Life Inc. remains true to the time-honored ideals of good winning over evil, love conquering all, and courage triumphant against all odds. It remains an old fashioned, page turning adventure about a reluctant hero and a warrior heroine, who fight and fall in love in a post-apocalyptic world where the gates of eternal life have been thrown open to a demonic alien invasion. What more could you wish for? James Burkard is an avid science-fiction fan. He is also obsessed with science and devours scientific books and articles, especially those that question accepted paradigms. He lives in Sweden.
Maria Moloney In the past year or so, articles have been written and comments made that criticise adult readers and writers of young adult fiction in a way that makes both seem shameful or embarrassing to do. It seems, looking at Nick Hornby's quote from his column in Believer magazine, things haven't much changed from previous years: "I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal…" (October 2007). I quite agree, but there are others that don't. In the article with the challenging title, "Against YA" (Slate Book Review, June 2014), the critic Ruth Graham uses a subtitle of Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children. She goes on to say that the largest group of buyers of YA fiction are between the ages of 30 and 44. "I’m surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online," she states. "Today’s YA, we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children." There is an unmistakable snobby quality in the way Graham writes, which advocates reading literary fiction while debasing reading YA novels. In her opinion, we (as adults) should find it beneath our dignity to read YA, and as a mature reader, she herself enjoys reading intricate stories about people with whom she doesn't empathise. As if to validate my own thoughts, she writes, "Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this." Personally I can't think of anything less enjoyable than unsympathetic characters. I also heartily agree with Kurt Vonnegut: "Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak." In The New Yorker (October 21, 2013) James Wood discusses the reading of children's literature in his review of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize winning book The Goldfinch, which although aimed at an adult audience is often viewed as YA fiction, chiefly because of the young adult main character: "Like the rest of us, Donna Tartt ages; but her fiction is going the other way. Her new novel, 'The Goldfinch' (Little, Brown), is a virtual baby: it clutches and releases the most fantastical toys. Its tone, language, and story belong to children’s literature." Having read this, I have to disagree. Yes, young adults could read the book; however, the story is told from the 8
viewpoint of a thirteen-year-old boy and for me the style works. This is not an adult posing as a coming-ofage teen, this is the boy himself and everything is seen from his thirteen-year-old perspective. This book is YA for adults. Some of the greatest books every written are of course children's or young adult literature: Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, The Secret Garden, Watership Down, To Kill a Mockingbird, His Dark Materials (Trilogy) and The Book Thief and hundreds more. Whether it was meant to be for adults young or old, The Goldfinch I feel, like the Harry Potter series, is here to stay. We all remember that great book or books from our childhoods that helped to shape us, and often read or recommend them to our own children and grandchildren. And, as writers, they are often what encouraged us to write in the first place. The argument goes on, and in the more recent New York Times article (September 2014), A.O. Scott proclaims the death of adulthood in American culture: "In my main line of work as a film critic, I have watched over the past 15 years as the studios committed their vast financial and imaginative resources to the cultivation of franchises (some of them based on those same Y.A. novels) that advance an essentially juvenile vision of the world." All the disapproval of writing and reading YA only highlights that this market is huge. Thankfully many promising authors have ignored the criticism and continue to write good strong fiction that will encourage Young Adults to read, providing good imaginative stories with strong heroes, and dealing with issues that teenagers have to face from day to day. YA fiction has worlds bursting with diverse characters from a variety of backgrounds. Stories and themes are wide-ranging and imaginative and appeal to a broad audience. Yes, it could be said that YA fiction these days is rather dark, but we live in a dark world, and the writing often reflects this. Young Adult fiction is now the fastest growing category in the publishing world. And in 2012 a Bowker Market Research study indicated that 55 per cent of buyers of YA fiction are over 18. It seems the Harry Potter books led the way in this, making it trendy among adults to read them. This led to comments such as, "Oh, you haven't read Harry Potter? Oh, you must." (Or words to that effect.) Some of us had children who grew up with these books. We saw they looked interesting and read
Winter 2015 them together with our child or children, and after they had gone to bed, carried on reading them. (Much like when you were at school and there was a slow reader reading aloud and you had the book under your desk and were miles ahead!) Indeed it was the Harry Potter series that led to my interest in YA fiction and, together with Krystina Kellingley, to starting the YA imprint Lodestone Books. There is nothing shameful, in reading or writing YA fiction and it's a shame that literary critics so often decry this. Looking at the world of YA is looking at the world of our own children through their point of view: the children who will one day be the people who run our governments. Scary isn't it? – or then again, perhaps not. It's adults who have made this world for our children and our children are making the best of it, adjusting to it, and learning to live in a dysfunctional world created by us – the adults. I hope they make a better job of it then we have. So having established that writing for the YA audience is actually a challenge you would like to undertake, and having overcome any embarrassment and read dozens of novels in the category, where do you start? Of course I could say write about what you know, but plenty of authors write about what they don't know and research, or employ a mixture of both. What I would say though, is write what you enjoy, and draw on your own childhood experiences as well as what you observe around you. When it comes to themes, these shift. There can at times, after a successful series, be a spate of copycat literature. However, as long as subjects have a new angle they may still work. It's advisable though to keep an eye on what's trending in popularity. So what's hot in YA literature?
Well it's not surprising to see, among recent lists of the best or most popular YA literature, the Harry Potter books (fantasy), The Hunger Games series and Divergent (Dystopian), and The Fault in Our Stars (there's no dumbing down in this humorous romantic teen angst, cancer-lit book). But avoid trying to write a Harry Potter-esque story, publishers still get inundated with works that have similar characters and themes. The same with The Hunger Games series. There seems to be a lull in vampires after the Twilight series, mainly owing to many authors attempting to ride on the coattails of Meyer's success, though fiction that involves fighting demons still works well. Fantasy fairytale retellings are growing in popularity. Lodestone Books has the novel Briar Blackwood's Grimmest of Fairytales, coming up in the spring. Dystopian fiction is still popular, with a growing trend of a stronger romantic take (the series De-
lirium by Lauren Oliver along with Matched by Allie Condie are examples of this). Romance themes are rising in popularity. This is regardless of genre (see point above). Realism is on the increase with books about everyday issues teenagers have to face (The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Lodestone Books has recently published Reggie & Me by Marie Yates, the first in a trilogy. The story concerns Dani, told through her diary as she starts a new school in the wake of her rape and subsequent court case, and is a unique take on the notion of being a survivor.
Series remain popular with young adult fiction readers. In planning, it helps if you have an idea of how the plot of the series will play out. It's much harder to decide to write a second and third book as sequels to what was meant to be just one, unless each book is completely self-contained with a new adventure each time. Preferable is that the story is an ongoing one, with some element of closure at the end of each novel, rather than a cliff-hanger. It's equally important to think like a teen. Never talk down to your reader; you need to be on their level and writing from their viewpoint (as with The Goldfinch, it works well). You'd be surprised at the number of novels that are written that "tell" the tale, contain author intrusion and have an author narrator (who is often middleaged). Remember also that teens don't tend to overanalyse themselves, others or events, they see things a little more simply than adults do. They often act without thinking, and judge others, without a thought for the consequences. Sex, drugs, gender issues, drinking, violence, abuse and self-abuse happen in the lives of our teens. You can't pretend they don't and completely avoid dealing with them. Try to address at least some of these issues, even in a small way, though it doesn't have to be the main theme. Teens can be surprisingly mature at times, so do also give them their sensible moments. About 65 per cent of YA fiction is written in the first person, present tense. Books written in the present tense have more immediacy, which appeals to today's teens. Shorter punchier sentences work better. And do please avoid pages of backstory and get straight into the action. You need to hold the attention of the average teen, whose attention span is probably shorter than ever before owing to the digital age. Whatever your book is about, whoever the characters are, behind all good YA literature is good storytelling. Write a cracking tale. But do get writing as the book won't write itself. Take this advice from Richard Bach: A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. We are accepting submissions in the YA category. http://www.lodestonebooks.com/ 9
Declarations of love - old secrets - new lies - sad goodbyes. Hera Pan emerged from the olive grove. Stout and gnarled, like the oldest of her trees, she stood to wipe the sweat from her brow and shade her heavy -lidded eyes from the midday sun. Who was calling her name? Villagers often sought out the matronly figure for her wisdom and advice on delicate matters; they would arrive unannounced, having endured the arduous climb to reach her modest farmstead at the top of the hill, closest to the Gods. But it was only him – Arsenios – her neighbour, and a constant bane in her life. “Hera! Echo told me I could find you here. What do you think you are doing? You should be in the shade. You and me, we should be taking it easy at our time of life. This work is for the young people. Why not join me for a relaxing siesta? Look I have brought you a pomegranate from my tree!” “Don’t call her that!’ She reprimanded him for the name-calling of her young charge and scoffed at his offering. Unperturbed, Arsenios continued, “I speak only from affection for the young girl, and this fresh beauty is good for our love, dear Hera.” He grinned. “The ruby red juice will open up your heart so your love for me will flow more freely.” “It’s more likely to ease your prostrate problems, Arsenio!” Hera retorted. “Maybe you should eat it.” “I have eaten many and I am happy to report that it has worked!” He laughed triumphantly. “Hera, why do you resist me? Our time is now! Let me have a word with the priest, after the Divine Liturgy, and ask him to confer on us the holy sacrament of matrimony.”
“You are a crazy old fool!” she rebuffed him, for the millionth time. “You are far too old for this sort of nonsense.” “We are born of the same time,” he reminded her. “And we are here in the same place, we are neighbours. Let us merge our lands and our lives, our hearts and…” Hera sharply raised the olive branch beater into the air to silence him. “There is much work to be done on this day and I will thank you for not wasting my time any longer,” she announced, turning her back on him and heading towards the modest farmhouse. A young girl appeared in the doorway, lifting her helpless hands, and shrugging an apology. “Where is my Hera? Where is my love? I must see her!” said the girl. “Do not worry, Dora. It is not your fault. He is a very persistent man!” Hera sighed as she ushered the girl inside, closing the door behind them and leaving a red-faced Arsenios standing in the courtyard, sweating under the hot, afternoon sun. Yes, it would make sense. Hera knew this. Both farms would yield more profit if the neighbours pooled their resources. She had the land and he, the resources and the manpower. Arsenio lived alone, lower down the hill in a converted windmill surrounded by fruit trees. He had a vineyard in which he tended the grapes grown to produce the famous Samian Muscat, and one small field in which he kept five donkeys. Since the passing of her late husband, Hera had to let go of the bees and the flock of sheep that had occupied her hillside. This left her with a goat, some chickens, olives and figs. Yet she still had to raise her young step-daughter, Dora. From a young age, the girl had exhibited a curious form of communication. She would speak only to repeat the words of others. This characteristic was diagnosed as ‘echolalia’, a recognised feature of the young girl’s condition of autism. The local school had assisted her as far as it could; now, she seemed happiest when helping out around the
Winter 2015 farm. Hera could rely on her to feed the animals, collect the eggs and keep the birds away from the fruit trees, whilst mimicking the songs of the warblers. Dora delighted most in the sound of the elusive nightingale and would spend hours chasing the swallowtail butterflies through the orchid fields. She also helped Arsenio feed his donkeys and squash his grapes. When Hera was at work in the village, Dora could often be seen on the back of a donkey, being led up or down the hill by the old man, who took great pleasure in rambling on to the girl about his life’s adventures as a merchant seaman. On the hillside Dora could also wander alone, playing to her heart’s content, safe from the cruelties of wider society. Unlikely to achieve her own independence, Hera knew the survival of the farm was crucial to provide for the girl’s future. However, she simply could not envisage the generous form of Arsenios Kokkinos in her bed. It was the face of another man who loomed large in the vibrant imagination of Hera Pan, that of the handsome village medic, Dr Theo Phaedrus. A single man, also mature in years, he was a handsome and gentle healer, adored by Hera. She was due in the village later, in time for his evening surgery. When his receptionist, Eugenia, took a holiday, and there was no one else to assume her role, Dr Phaedrus turned for help to Hera. She was a practical, efficient and reliable assistant, who always seemed eager to please. He also knew she was the village gossip, who relished every moment spent gleaning personal details from the files of his unsuspecting patients. He had felt her suspicious eye on him. He could sense her lascivious gaze through the back of his immaculately groomed head and felt sure that his choking guilt would one day crawl up from his throat and spill itself down the front of his pristine shirt. He knew that Hera could be easily won over by fake flattery, but her inappropriate attention unsettled him. It was a fine balance between keeping her on-side with compliments and kindness, and risking ostracization from the local community. Should he be forced into a position where he had to rebuke her affectionate advances, then he feared his secret may be revealed to all by the scorned woman. However at this time, he was safe. Hera was consumed by a secret of her own. As the Mediterranean sun sank lower in the sky and a gentle mountain breeze caressed the back of her neck. Hera Pan made her way down the hillside
holding the bunch of wildflowers that Dora had picked from the meadow. She entered the church, and arranged her weekly offering of purple peonies, poppies and golden asphodel in a communal vase in the narthex. Hearing the opening of the Royal doors behind, and the rustle of cloaks, she turned to see her friend, Despina Pachis, leaving the nave, closing the doors gently behind her. Tears streamed down the woman’s face. As she passed Hera, Despina raised her hand to her mouth, as if to signify that her words were too grave to be heard, and cast her dread-full gaze to the ground. “Despina!” Hera called after her. She wanted to comfort her friend. The woman was clearly beside herself with grief, or worry. She resolved to call around to the little house behind the bakery later that evening, after she finished work, to console the distraught woman.
Dr Phaedrus arrived early at the surgery. He needed to check on some medical reports before consulting with his patients. Hera arrived precisely on the hour. “Kalispera, Doctor,” she greeted him with a toothy smile and a glint in her large, brown eyes. The doctor noticed the golden shadow on her heavy lids and the gloss on her generous, wrinkled lips. He replied with a respectful nod. “Kalispera, Madame Pan.” He was the only person who called her by her married name. “How is Dora?” He always asked after the girl. “She is fine, thank you for your concern, Doctor.” Hera uttered her usual gratitude.
“My first appointment is due in any minute and I will not be free to make any emergency house calls until eight o’clock,” he continued in his brisk, professional manner. Hera took position behind the reception desk and reached for a pile of files. A concerned look swept across the man’s face and he reached across her to rescue an unopened envelope that sat atop the pile of recently received mail. Letter in hand, he retreated to the privacy of his room. Sure enough, within the minute, the face of Ari Argyris appeared at the surgery door. Hera beckoned him in. She felt a rush to her head and fanned
his fiancée in law school; an all-American girl with platinum hair and a wide smile. Now they were to be married in a beach ceremony in Mexico, and the legalities included an obligatory blood test. On a pre-wedding visit to his homeland, Ari had consulted with Dr Phaedrus who had offered to perform the test for him. Hera was anxious to know the outcome. She had read the results and understood the implications. The advent of marriages, births and deaths always threw up awkward questions or revealed timeless truths. “Andreas Argyris! How lovely to see you. Of course I have heard of your most wonderful news.
her face with her hand as if to waft away a revealing blush. Andreas Argyris, or Ari, as he would always be known to her, was attending at the surgery to receive blood test results. Hera had booked him an appointment on a day that she was scheduled to work on the reception desk. Ari, the only son of Maria and Petros Argyris, the local pharmacist, had grown up into a fair-haired, fine young man. A studious child, he had excelled at the village school, where Hera often watched him playing in the grounds with his friends. His proud parents had supported him through university and Hera had become accustomed to seeing him only on his annual return to the island. He had met
Let me congratulate you on the blessing of your marriage. Will you and your beautiful bride be making your home and raising your family here on the island?” Hera knew this was not to be the case, but she lived in hope. “Thank you,” the young man replied politely. “Nicole, my future wife will be coming to visit with the family after the wedding and honeymoon, and we hope you will join us for a celebratory feast? We will be returning to the States.” Hera knew there was little career opportunity for the couple on the island, and in her heart, she really did wish him all of the luck and success that the world had to offer. After all, that is the reason
Winter 2015 she had placed him for adoption, with the childless Argyris couple, when he was just three days old. Few knew of the arrangement. Dr Phaedrus’s predecessor, who had assisted in the birth and arranged the adoption, had long passed away, taking the secret to his grave. Hera had honoured the agreement not to have any close contact with the boy and Maria Argyris had turned a compassionate cheek whenever she saw Hera standing at the school gate, or looking longingly at her son in village gatherings. “I would love most dearly to celebrate with you,” Hera replied. “And wherever you are in the world you must know that you will always have a piece of my heart, the heart of the village, with you.” She choked, forcing a cough to cover her emotion. Hera knew that she would always live in hope of his return into her life. As the young man stepped into the doctor’s room, Hera prayed that his rare blood type, AB negative (the same as hers) as clearly stated in the report, would not be subject to further investigation. The Argyris family had been aware of this concern and had carefully managed the issue over the years. If the boy came to realise that it differed from that of both of his parents, it could raise serious questions for all concerned. Whilst the doctor explained the implications for his patient’s impending fatherhood, Hera took a deep breath and turned her attention to her pile of papers. She mulled over the contents of the letter that had eluded her scrutiny. The doctor kept few
secrets from her. She reassured herself that one way or another, she would find out soon enough. Through the surgery walls she could hear only muffled snatches of conversation and some laughter. She lifted her head some time later to watch the fine figure of her son leave through the surgery door, armed with his potentially life-changing knowledge. She took a deep breath and surrendered to fate. “No calls now,” Dr Theo popped his head around the door to remind his assistant, before returning to his solitude. The remainder of the evening passed peaceably for Hera, until she answered a call from a frantic Filoppos Pachis. Recalling Despina’s tears, she demanded to know the nature of the emergency. The baker refused to divulge any details, insisting on speaking directly with the doctor. Hera begrudgingly transferred the call. Minutes later, clearly irritated by the timing of the incident, the doctor hurried past her, issuing instructions. “Call the hospital. Ask for an ambulance. There is a premature baby and a sick mother in need of urgent attention, at the bakery.” Hera’s big eyes bulged even further out of her face, her jaw dropped open and for once, words failed her. (c) Helen Noble 2014
Helen Noble is a director in a progressive legal practice. She is also a psychology graduate with experience of working with people in a variety of challenging circumstances. Privileged to have witnessed the resilience of the human spirit, Helen believes that it is only by being true to our nature and honouring our integrity that we can follow our dreams. Acknowledging our roots allows us to spread our branches in new directions. She lives in Pembrokeshire, UK. Helen Noble - Author Page Scorpio Moons
Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau
Mary's Festival of the Candles 2nd February
The smell of oil fused with your sweat is as sweet as a rose, as pungent as a lily to me. Your fingers are sensitive from years of probing, gripping, twisting wires, nuts and bolts, seeking faults to heal in other people's engines. You thumb print my skin with black grease petals veined with your signature. You mark me and tease a rhythmic humming from my body.
Tonight we shall not sleep but the celebratory vigil keep. We shall dance and be merry and burn the candle for Mary. For the day is longer now, the livestock fed by dusk light. The snowdrops' milky lanterns bright enough for us to linger. Though the February air is chill and the snow lies on the Clwyds still, billowing in the breeze, like lace over winter tweed, I am warm inside. My hand in yours. My belly, heavy as the ewes', carries our son, soon to be born with the blossom softened Hawthorn. But tonight we shall not sleep, the celebratory vigil keep. We shall dance and be merry and burn the candle for Mary.
Poetry has always been an important part of my life, a form of creativity and self expression as well as a way to make sense of the world and the lives we lead. I have written since I was a child and studied both the BA and MA in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. My poetry is driven by sense and sensuality. It is often about love, memory, womanhood and our relationships with one another and the natural world. I currently live in North Wales with my husband and three children. 14
Astral Body Pegging out a rainbow of little clothes, prayer flags fluttering in the autumn breeze, basket in hand, it is not my reflection I glimpse but yours. Pulling died-back, frostblacked runner beans from the cold Welsh earth in the low November sun, fingers muddy and numb, it is not my hands before me but yours. Cracking kindling across my knee, collected from the dew-bejewelled grass and golden leaves, it is not my shadow stretched out but yours. Singing lullabies to my boys, soothing words remembered from childhood, resting head against heart, it is not my voice echoing in my ears, Mum, but yours.
Nasogi Himachal Pradesh, India This is the place I gasped my first breath, a lung-full of crisp Himalayan air. Here I was welcomed into the winter stilled world. I unfurled and grew for a year. Now, sitting on a balcony, overlooking the Kullu valley I see through time. My parents walk in the orchard, mustard flowers brushing their calves. My father cradles me tenderly in the crook of his arm. I want to run to him, to know him, but he blurs. The vision mingling with butterflies and apple blossom, swirling in the breeze, like snowflakes flecking the sun streaked spring sky, and I cry. surrendering to the loss of him. This is the place he gasped his last breath before he was interred into the winter stilled earth, and his bones fed this blossoming world.
Finding time to develop your writing skills isn’t always easy, but one great way to achieve this is to go on a residential writing course. It’s a great way to escape from the distractions of life at home, or work, and you can get expert tuition from a course leader. Courses take place across the country (and even the world), depending upon how far you want to travel and how much free time you have. Their duration can range from a long weekend to an entire week, if not longer. However, if you like the idea of leaving behind your busy day-to-day life don’t pack your bags just yet. Invest some time in finding the right course, and then consider how to make the most of the event, while you’re away. Bear in mind travelling times when considering courses. Make them appropriate for the length of the course. For example, if attending a weekend residential course, you don’t want to spend an entire day travelling to get there. Ideally, you want to arrive feeling refreshed and raring to go, not exhausted and brain-dead from a nightmare journey. Don’t let a long and tiring journey spoil the first session on a weekend course that might begin with formal tutoring on the first evening of arrival. Whereas on a week-long residential course formal tutoring may not start until the first full day, which gives you time to recover from any stressful travelling. A good place to find courses is to check out the writing magazines, such as Writing Magazine, Writers’ Forum, Mslexia and Writers Digest. Alternatively, you can browse the courses run by reputable organisations such as the Arvon Foundation, Ty Newydd, Relax and Write, Skyros, Arte Umbria or Chez Castillon to name a few. (See useful websites at end of article.) Finding the Right Course The first step is to check what courses are on offer, which ones take your fancy and which one is right for you. Will it deliver what you’re looking for? What topics will be covered and how long will the tutor spend on each? If the information isn’t clear, get in touch with the organisers, who may forward your request on to the tutor. Organ16
isers are keen to answer any queries from potential delegates. When reviewing course details, look for whether delegates are expected to have an existing level of expertise or knowledge. Is it aimed at complete beginners or writers with an intermediate level of knowledge? If you’re unsure whether you’re at the right level for the course ask the organisers. See if you can be put in touch with the tutor, so you can chat about any concerns you have. Research your course tutor. What experience do they have, and is it relevant to the course they’re teaching? Most organisers are keen to commission tutors who are knowledgeable in their field. Check out the tutor’s website and read some of their published material. Some courses allow you, or even require you, to submit an example of your writing in advance. If this is a requirement, make sure you can fulfil it. It’s a missed opportunity if you can’t – you’re the one losing out, not your tutor. Try not to let the critiquing of your work concern you. On a residential course critiques of pre-course submitted work are usually given privately, face to face. And tutors are keen to offer encouragement and support, so if they find areas where your text can be improved, they should show you how to change and make those improvements. Critiquing should be a positive experience. (The last thing they want you to do is punch them in the face, if they upset you!) We all learn differently, so find out what methods the tutor uses for teaching. Sometimes there will be a mixture of flipchart, audio-visual presentations, and hand-outs, whilst at other times there may be more formal readings. Writing exercises may be solitary affairs, or there may be opportunities to work in pairs, or small groups. Find out how many are on the course, or what the maximum group size will be. Smaller groups offer more individual attention, but if they’re too small the course may not be economically viable. I’ve run courses where I’ve had as few as four delegates, but have had more than thirty on others. Smaller groups work better, because there’s more opportunity for individual feedback and discus-
Winter 2015 sion, however, anything up to ten is a good number because it’s large enough to have a variety of delegates, but small enough to be able to answer everyone’s queries. I know from my own experience as a tutor that it’s nice to give everyone an opportunity to read out their work after undertaking a writing exercise. Make the Most of the Time Away Although a residential course is an opportunity to learn, having some free time is important too. Our brains can only take in so much information, so regular breaks between sessions are beneficial, and some free time during the day and in the evening is often welcomed. Not only does this free time give you a chance to relax, it’s also an opportunity for you to work on your own writing, or put into practise something you’ve learned during the sessions. Bedrooms will be comfortable to retreat to, making them a great place to work on your own, but the venue may also offer some other interesting working areas. Make the most of the time that you’re away from home. If the accommodation has lovely grounds, then explore your surroundings and get some fresh air. A perfectly positioned bench with far-reaching views may be the perfect place to spend an hour, enjoying the opportunity of being alone with only your muse and a pen and notebook for company. If you’re visiting an area for the first time then use some of the free time to explore. Not only does this give your brain a chance to relax from the formal tutoring, your explorations may inspire new ideas. While you shouldn’t stalk your tutor during the entire course, do make the most of them. Meal times will often be taken together and most tutors are happy to answer any questions you have. Sometimes delegates aren’t confident about asking a question during a tutoring session, or they’re unsure whether their question is relevant for a particular session, so these informal chats at meal times or during tea and coffee breaks can provide a better opportunity. However, do respect a tutor’s privacy. They are entitled to some free time themselves because tutoring can be mentally tiring. If you’re unsure, simply ask your tutor if they’re happy to answer your question. Generally speaking, if the tutor remains with the group outside of formal tutoring sessions, then they’re happy for you to ask them questions. Some tutors will offer their contact details at the end of the course in case any questions arise on your way home … as so often happens. Respect the tutor’s time. Get in touch, but don’t worry if it takes a couple of days before you get a reply. While
tutors are teaching on a residential course it means they’re unable to keep on top of their other commitments, so it can take a few days for them to catch up with what’s come in whilst they’ve been away. If the opportunity arises, swap contact details with other delegates. Staying in touch with one another can be a great way of motivating each other once you’ve got home. Some strong friendships have flourished from these courses! As with most things in life, what you get out of a residential course depends upon how much you put in. Always have a go at any writing exercises a tutor asks you to do. If nothing flows, don’t worry about it. At least you tried. You can always have another go when you get back home. Use the opportunity to share ideas and give each other thoughts and criticism. Sometimes a comment made by another delegate can inspire a whole new idea. Hopefully, by the end of the course, you’ll be fired up and raring to get going again with your new-found skills. Think of a residential course as an investment in you and your writing. Yes, it will also be a break away from the family and work life, but it’s an opportunity for you to develop and grow as a writer. It could be the final step you need to take to achieve your writing dream.
Useful Websites: Arvon Foundation: http://www.arvon.org Ty Newydd: http://www.tynewydd.org Relax & Write: http://www.malagaworkshops.co.uk Skyros:http://www.skyros.com/writing_holidays.htm Arte Umbria: http://arteumbria.com/courses/creativewriting.php Chez Castillon: http://chez-castillon.com/courses-tariffs
Simon’s Courses: Simon’s next courses include: Photography for Writers at the Writers Holiday (Fishguard July/August 2015): www.writersholiday.net The Complete Article Writer (Weetwood Hall - 25-27 September 2015): http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/ september-2015-the-complete-article-writer/
My career as a writer actually began thanks to a writing group. In 2004, the company I worked for added a set of general interest newsgroups to its intranet, a bit like internet forums for discussing hobbies and random chat over lunchtimes and coffee breaks. How they stayed running given the amount of time some people spent on there I'll never know, but I'm glad they did because if they hadn't, no one would have had the bright idea of setting up a writing group. The idea of being a writer had always appealed to me. So when one of the members suggested a fortnightly writing challenge — someone picks a title and you have two weeks to write whatever comes to mind — I decided to have a go. And even though I never got to meet the other members face to face (this was a big company with sites all over the country) it made the whole thing much more rewarding, knowing that people would actually be reading what I'd written, within days of my writing it, and what's more coming back with comments and suggestions. The alternative of sitting at home filling a screen with words which wouldn't be read for months, if at all, felt pretty bleak by comparison. As it turned out, there was another benefit too — my first published piece, a short, sharp, horror story, which got a very positive response within the group and was accepted by a short fiction magazine just weeks later, when other members told me I should send it out. Not many writers can say they got a sale at their first ever attempt, yet without the impetus from that group, albeit a loose, informal group scattered across the country, it would never have happened. Not long afterwards though I had the opportunity to join a more conventional face-to-face group. It was a chance encounter that got me into it; I met the husband of someone my wife was on a course with, and it turned out he was a writer too. At which point he told me about this London-based group he was a member of, and suggested I give it a try. The group is called "The T-Party" and I've been a member ever since (albeit an absentee member for the past two years due to children and house moves). Overall though the whole experience has been immensely valuable, for a number of reasons. First of all, and the obvious one I suppose, is the chance to improve my writing. My group is primarily a critique group, and I should point out that what I'm about to describe is just how our group works; there are many different ways of doing this which I'll mention later on, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. But in our case we meet up once a month in a pub in London on a Saturday afternoon (we pick pubs with backrooms we can book to get some peace and privacy). Prior to each meeting, anyone who 18
wants something checked out will email it round the group (at least 2 weeks ahead). Then, once we meet we go round the table with each person saying what they thought of it. We have a maximum of three stories per meeting, and a maximum total word count of 30,000. As a result we mainly do short stories (but someone could submit the opening of a novel if they wanted) and the emphasis is on honest crit — the group isn't there to make people feel good regardless of how good or bad their work is, but rather to let people know what needs fixing so they can make it the best they can. But at the same time no one will ever unfairly denigrate someone else's work; it's not about that either. And in our group, if someone has anything bigger they want read, like a finished novel, they can put out a call for volunteers to read it, then arrange their own gettogether outside of the usual monthly schedule. Usually people do this after having put the opening (e.g. first three chapters) through the regular group meetings, so that potential volunteers can decide if they want to read the whole thing. (The reason we let people critique novel openings, specifically chapters one to three, is that when
Winter 2015 eventually submitting to agents and publishers, your initial approach often consists of those first three plus a synopsis, so they have to give a good impression all on their own.) As I said though, that's just how our group works. That round-the-table crit process (with additional rules like a time limit per person if there's a lot to get through, plus the fact that the author has to wait until last to reply to any points) is called "The Milford Method", and came out of the Milford workshop sessions. There are other ways of doing it though — for example in some groups people bring material to read out loud rather than sending it round in advance. It takes longer, but reading your own work aloud is sometimes the only way to really judge how it flows. Another note about some writing groups, including ours: we have an entry requirement, namely that you've either had something published already, which can include a short story in a small-press magazine (which luckily I had), or that a writing sample emailed round the group is voted as being good enough. It sounds tough, but it helps to keep the overall standard of advice high if everyone is up to the same level. Other writing groups don't do that kind of thing, but that doesn't mean they're no good — they just run things a different way. When I put work through the group, I've learned over time which members "get" me more than others and are more receptive to my kind of writing, and for me personally that spread of opinions probably counts as much as who has or hasn't passed the test to get in. Another very important point on critique groups: you are under no obligation to act on every suggestion you get (because in a decent sized group, there will be a lot of differing comments and views coming your way). Some people don't like the idea of critique groups at all, because you end up with stories effectively written by groupthink, but I think it's valuable as long as you're very selective about what ideas you go with. For me, if someone suggests something and my gut reaction is "I wish I'd thought of that," then I'll use it. Or if it's pretty much unanimous that something I did needs changing, I'll do that too. But if there's a wide range of views I remind myself that any published story will get a range of reactions too, and you can't please everybody. (But I still keep a special ear open for my "key" critiquers, whose advice has been most valuable in the past). And finally, I always remind myself that it is my work, written the way I want it in my own style, and if someone else's critique is ultimately just a way of saying that they would have done it differently, then that doesn't mean that their way is any better or worse than mine. No story is ever perfect — if the critique process helps a writer learn to avoid flaws and pitfalls, and the best ways to develop ideas into finished stories, what comes out of that process will still be heavily influenced by their personal style, which no critique process should ever attempt to erase. In fact some people take a middle ground between
advocating and opposing the critique process. They say that group critique is valuable when a writer is starting out, and still making clumsy mistakes, but gets less valuable later on once they have developed their style into a form they're happy with, i.e. they are still writing imperfect stories, but trying to act on other people's suggestions would start to wear down the things that make their work unique. There may be some merit in that, but the counterargument is that in writing, as with so many things, you never stop learning. For instance even an experienced writer should expose themselves to critique; they should simply filter out anything that amounts to differences in personal style. One thing that took me by surprise a couple of years ago was the success of a story which I never got round to critiquing, simply because I ran out of time (it was for an annual contest whose deadline was looming, and I figured I'd send the story in its original form, then if it failed, put it through the critique group and have a second attempt the following year). So I was more than a little surprised when this story, which no human eyes other than mine had laid eyes on before the contest judges opened it, took the first place prize. This was after years of writing group membership, with real tangible improvements in my work as a result of receiving critique, which I would have done for this story if I'd had time. Does that mean I'm past the point where critique can help me? I don't think so — as I said, you never stop learning — but I now know that all on my own I have a solid grounding in writing work which is good enough for publication. I mentioned earlier that the chance to improve as a writer is just one of the benefits. One other is the social aspect — writing is such a solitary activity, which suits some people just fine, but we all need to come up for air sometimes, and if writing is a big part of your life, then being able to talk to fellow sufferers (no one else really understands) counts for a lot. If these new friends write the same kind of things as you then they'll read similar things too — all of a sudden you have something else in common. And if you want hints and tips to help with getting published (like hearing that a certain agent has just left their old agency and is actively looking for new clients) then the writers' grapevine is the quickest way to get the news. (One of the T-Party writers has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of agents and editors, and all the latest developments, which we are only too happy to exploit). So in summary, writing groups, whether online or face-to-face, are immensely valuable — just filter the advice you get, watch your writing improve, and enjoy the benefits of turning writing from something solitary to something social. Hailing from London, Will Mitchell is an aeronautical engineer. He writes horror and science fiction, and has published several short stories. He lives in East Sussex with his wife and son.
If you dream of a loving relationship, this book is for you. At 40+ you know what you want. You have a good job, plenty of friends, a great home. You just arenâ€™t meeting the right person to share your life with. There seem to be fewer opportunities. You keep repeating the same patterns. Join psychologist Lesley Lawson Botez, MSc, herself a 40+ bride, and dozens of couples who share their stories on a five-step journey to relationship bliss. Discover how to get rid of whatâ€™s holding you back, the meeting opportunities that work, whether a new relationship is worth pursuing and how to deal with challenges like past baggage. Packed with exercises, case studies and useful tips, Holding out for a Hero proves that relationship happiness can begin at any age. This guide to meeting and keeping a partner should not be missed. Helen Arabanos, Author of He's into you... but is his home? Lesley Lawson Botez, MSc, is an English-born writer and psychologist. She runs workshops for 40+ singles and writes and coaches on relationship issues. She lives in Switzerland.
Forward or Foreword?
He moved forward up the train. (He travelled towards the front of the train.) Taking the job was a big step forward. (He made progress onward.) Stephen King has written the Foreword of my book. (A short introduction to a book or published work written by someone other than the author.) Literally or Figuratively speaking? He literally killed himself laughing. (This actually happened. So he's dead now then?) He almost laughed himself to death. (Imagined/metaphorically/he is figuratively speaking.) He literally read every book in the room. (He did actually read every single book in the room.) She literally flew out of the room. (Not unless she has wings.) She flew out of the room. (We can guess this is a figure of speech.) 20
Writers' and Artists' Yearbook Short Story Competition 2015 A cash prize of £500 A place on an Arvon residential writing course of your choice Publication of your story on www.writersandartists.co.uk No more than 2000 words. Closing date midnight on Sunday 15th February 2015. https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/ competitions
Poetry Space Competition 2015 Prizes: 1st £250, 2nd £100, 3rd, £50 Entry fee: £5 per poem. Friends of Poetry Space (i.e poets who have paid for annual membership) One poem free for every paid entry. Three first place winners, seven highly commended and ten selected top create an anthology of 20 poems The top twenty poems selected will be published in a beautifully produced competition anthology and all selected will receive a complimentary copy. Poems must be your own original work, must be previously unpublished in print or online and must be 40 lines or less. Entrants must be 16 or over. Deadline will be June 30th, 2015. http://www.poetryspace.co.uk/2014/11/poetryspace-competition-2015/
Purbeck Literary Festival 16th February - 1st March 2015 Creative, comedy and blog writing workshops, poetry, performances and events featuring the works of Enid Blyton,T.E. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Percy F. Westerman and contemporary authors many of whom lived in or were inspired by Purbeck and Dorset. http:// www.purbeckliteraryfestival.info/
Exeter Writers: Short Story Competition First prize: £500 Second prize: £250 Third prize: £100 No longer than 3000 words. Entry fee £6. Closing date 28 February 2015 http://www.exeterwriters.org.uk/p/ competition.html The Short Fiction Prize First Prize receives £500 + publication. Second prize £100. Stories must be no longer than 6,000 words and must be unpublished in print or online. Stories may be in any theme/ genre and you can submit as many times as you like. Entry fee: £10 – submit up to 2 stories £6 – submit 1 story Open for entries January 1st – March 31st 2015 http://www.shortfictionjournal.co.uk/ 500 WORDS 2015 The Chris Evans Breakfast Show’s 500 Words story-writing competition returns to Radio 2 for a fifth year in 2015. 500 WORDS asks children aged 13 and under up and down the UK to put pen to paper to compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The entry form will be available on the website at bbc.co.uk/500words. Listen out to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Monday 19th January for details on how to submit your story and how to become a volunteer judge. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/ artcles/2cJMvfCyFNb7bpTk9ch4gW7/500 -words-2015
Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition 2014-15 Win Publication of Y our Own Chapbook All proceeds to two London Homeless Cold Weather Shelters Maximum 40 lines. Closing date 14th February 2015 Single poems £2.50, 6 poems £10. http://www.wardwoodpublishing.co.uk/ competitions-lumen-2014-15.htm
Cambridge Literary Festival Winter Spring Festival 15-19 April 2015 Newest fiction, cutting edge commentary and science, workshops, children's events and lots more. Details available soon. http:// www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com/ Chipping Norton Literary Festival 23rd-26th April 2015 Author talks, signings and readings; workshops; children's events (more info to come). http://chiplitfest.com/index.asp
StAnza 2015 The only regular festival dedicated to 1st PRIZE £1000 poetry in Scotland, StAnza is interna2nd PRIZE £500 tional in outlook and now widely rec3rd PRIZE A Place on a Creative Writing Course at ognised as a major poetry festival in Ty Newydd in 2015 (worth £550) the UK and in Europe. Founded in ADDITIONAL PRIZE, a personal tour with Mark 1998, it is held each March in St AnCocker of his most cherished wild life places in East drews, Scotland’s oldest university Anglia. ** town. The festival is an opportunity to *The prize does not include the cost of travel to engage with a wide variety of poetry, and from the centre. to hear world class poets reading in ** The prize does not include cost of travel or exciting and atmospheric venues, to accommodation. experience a range of performances The winning poems will be published in The Rialto, where music, film, dance and poetry Britain’s leading independent poetry magazine. work in harmony, to view exhibitions £6 for your first poem £3.50 for each subsequent linking poetry with visual art and to poem. discover the part poetry has played in If you wish to submit more than six poems you the lives of a diverse range of writers, will need to make a second submission which musicians and media personalities. The will include a second submission fee. simple intention of StAnza is to celeClosing date March 1st 2015. http://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/nature-poetry brate poetry in all its many forms. Dates: March 4 - 8 -competition-2014/ http://www.stanzapoetry.org/
Nature Poetry Competition
Suzanne Ruthven What the How-To Books Don’t Tell You Since creative writing became one of the largest growth industries in the hobbies market, there have been count less how-to books written advising new writers on the best way to get their work into print. So here’s a simple A-Z checklist of some of the do’s and don’ts to get out of the way before we start: Agent A semi-mythical creature that inhabits the twilight world of publishing. Everyone seeks them but they remain elu sive and shy, avoiding new and not-so-new writers like a cat avoids water. Can only be attracted to the smell of success ... when the writer has already hooked a publish er’s interest ... after the author has done all the work. Book The Holy Grail of all publishing ambition and a musthave for all serious writers, both old and new. If unable to place the typescript with a mainstream or small, inde pendent publisher, many writers go for self-publication, regardless of the cost or quality of the content.
Good Advice Ignore it! As Oscar Wilde said: “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never any good to oneself.” But still lots of it around, and every one’s an expert on getting published these days. Humour An absolute minefield for the fledgling writer. Never state that you are submitting a humorous piece as ten to one it will fail to amuse the editor. If they read it and it makes them laugh, it’s humour and stands by itself - tell ing an editor they are about to be amused seldom works. Most humour pieces that arrive on an editor’s desk usual ly mean instant rejection, simply because they don’t even raise a chuckle.
Ideas Let’s get one thing straight - there’s no such thing as an original idea in publishing. “Ahhh!” I hear you cry. “What about Harry Potter?” Been done before ... what about all those Enid Blyton boarding school adventures? It’s a highly original slant on an old (and in its time, very popular) theme. JKR had the imagination to extend that Clichés theme into the world of fantasy and came up with a win A no-go area according to the how-to books but they ner. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about! form an integral part of our daily speech, are easily iden tifiable, and appear constantly as the basis for hundreds of Jam on the Bread titles in magazines. If uncomfortable with using an old- In other words, getting paid for your work. OK ... agreed fashioned cliché — invent your own. it’s exciting to see your by-line in the initial stages of a writing career but just how long are you willing to carry Discipline on churning out material free? How-to books will guide Try to write something every day during a set time peri the novice towards a diversity of publications but hardly od. Great idea in a perfect world. Most households don’t ever state that very few of the mags listed will stump up function like that and it is almost impossible to set aside a with cold, hard cash in return for your well-crafted piece. daily creative period when football is on TV; the cat’s Expecting to earn a living from the written word is a very just been sick on the mat, or the dog needs to be rushed to precarious situation indeed. the vet; a child has found an exciting new way of attempt ing to eliminate itself; and the boiler’s packed in. Self Karma proclaimed discipline is a smug person’s way of letting Or putting it another way, ‘don’t piss off the editor’. Edi you know that they’re a more serious writer than you are. tors move around from mag to mag or between publish ing houses - and have very long memories, so any alterca Email submissions tion may single out a writer as a person who’s too much Easy to lose and/or ignore. Not always viewed as serious trouble to deal with. This isn’t to say that all editors are contact if the office is busy and can therefore be deleted good guys, but your ‘trouble’ may still come back to with a flick of the little finger. W hoops! Make sure this haunt you several years down the line. is an acceptable means of contact before submitting your work via this medium. Letters Accompanying letters need to be short, concise and to the Frustration point, rather than some rambling discourse that gives eve A permanent condition that hampers a writer’s every at rything from your blood group to your grandmother’s tempt to get things done. Like trying to get some sense maiden name. This style of letter may just convince an out of the ‘girl on the switchboard’ when you’re trying to editor, agent or publisher that they couldn’t possibly work find out the correct editor to whom you wish to send your with you, no matter how much they might like your work. material. The jury is still out on whether she’s being de liberately awkward, or just plain thick. Muse A pretentious referral to some perceived guardian/ creative angel, who hasn’t got anything better to do, other 22
than sit around feeding ideas to wannabe writers. Also Typing used as an excuse for not writing, because the creative Nice old-fashioned concept in this age of computers but you’d be surprised how many experienced writers don’t Muse has gone AWOL (see Writer’s Block). observe the basic rudiments of the typing class. Such as No Word Count changing the ‘ribbon’ (i.e. ink cartridge) when printing All magazine submissions, both fiction and non-fiction, off a finished typescript. Editors still receive pale (and have to fit into a slot in the publication’s layout. If this therefore not interesting), single-spaced sheets that are information isn’t included on the title page you risk hav extremely difficult to read, and often from experienced ing your otherwise excellent piece being discarded be writers who should know better. cause everyone’s too busy to sit down and work out Under Pressure whether it’s going to fit the pre-allocated space. Professional writers are always under pressure. Once Opinions you have your proposal accepted, whether for a fullNever have one! The majority of editors dislike ‘opinion length book, magazine feature or regular column in a lo pieces’, so if you want to make a political or controversial cal newspaper, you will be under pressure to supply on statement get quotes from both sides of the argument be time. Once you miss that deadline the opportunity will be fore you begin. The writer’s voice is merely the channel gone and someone else will step in. This is why it is es for other people’s viewpoints. A good journalist, howev sential to understand that it’s not a good idea to give up er, can always get the intended message across by know the day job if part-time writing finances your living ex ing when, where and how to use the quotes. Leave your penses. The pressures on a writer are great enough with self out of the picture. out having to worry about the mortgage, paying off the car, or covering the monthly direct debits. Publishers The Olympians of the publishing industry are almost as Vulneratus non victus difficult to corner as Agents. These lofty creatures aren’t Literally meaning ‘wounded but not conquered’ and an looking for the next Dan Brown or JKR, they’re looking ideal motto for a beginner writer. Beware of using foreign for someone new. No matter how good your presentation, words and phrases without clarification, otherwise you’ll there’s got to be much more to catch their eye. Study pub come across as trying to be too clever. lisher’s catalogues and become familiar with the type of material they are looking for ... and try to pre-empt them! Writer’s Block One of the most popular urban myths of all. Only ama Quirks and Foibles teurs refer to it as though it is some form of obligatory Every editor has them ... silly little things that please or childhood complaint such as chicken pox or measles annoy, which can lead to rejection as quick as [insert ap professional writers can’t afford to have it, and don’t get propriate cliché or simile]. Quirks and foibles have little it. They work on something else until the ideas start to to do with the actual presentation of a typescript ... it’s flow again. more to do with a writer’s personal style. Twee address stickers … signature in pink ink …coloured/fancy pa X-Factor per ... spelling a name incorrectly ... Don’t leave yourself The sign that all the chemicals have blended well enough open to an editor’s personal dislikes by not submitting a to turn dross into gold. It can’t be defined but everyone can recognise it when they read it. Aim to give the perfor totally professional package. mance of a lifetime but don’t be too devastated if some Rejection Slips one else is declared the winner. When all is said and Possibly the most boring subject in the whole field of cre done, the final decision will always go to the item that ative writing but the same old stories circulate about how appeals personally to the editor or competition judge. many times [insert name of famous writer of your choice] had a MS rejected, together with personal tales of having Yearbook received enough rejection slips to paper the lavatory. Eve Every writer has their favourite version but do bear in ry writer receives rejection slips ... just the same as every mind that a lot of information can be out of date before one receives an electricity bill. It’s just not worth com publication comes around. This is because yearbooks are menting on, never mind writing tedious articles about compiled a year in advance, so all details should be checked before submitting material. them. Stamped-Addressed Envelopes There has been a great deal of speculation over the fate of the SAE in publishing circles. Often comes under the same heading as ‘Where do flies go in the winter?’ No matter how many SAEs a writer encloses with submis sions, there is very little chance that the ‘girl in the office’ will be able to marry a SAE to a submission, so no chance of a reply. And you do have to stick the right amount of stamps on if you want a reply, because SAE means ‘stamped-addressed’ not self-addressed envelope. And IRC means International Reply Coupon.
Zany Can be initially appealing but wears thin after a while. Use in your writing but not in your covering letter to an editor. Extract from Suzanne Ruthven’s Life-Writes: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas From ... It’s Called Life published by Compass Books. ISBN: 978-1-84694-8534 Price UK£12.99/US$22.95
Some people are ‘born writers’. No doubt you all know, or have heard of, people who have written for pleasure all their lives and maybe scarcely remember a time when they didn’t hope to make it their career. Others come into it later, sometimes pushed, or even forced, into writing through, say, their work, or a burning desire to share information that feels important to them. Those who come into the latter category (among whom I number myself) have no need to envy the born writers. We are all different – what a boring world it would be if we weren’t – and we all have completely different paths, not only from each other but also each time that we come to Earth. For the reason for returning so many times is to learn new lessons, and some-
times we choose for our growth to learn these the hard way. So the first thing I should like to say to anyone who is seriously thinking of ‘putting pen to paper’ for the first time (probably figuratively in this computer era) is: don’t let feelings of inadequacy or inexperience put you off. For one thing, we have all done so many different things in each of our incar24
nations that it is unlikely that you will never have written before and, since all our talents remain latent within us, it could well be that your writing ability only needs a little stimulation to resurface. (Well, my own probably needed rather more than a little, but I had the additional disadvantage of having been brainwashed throughout my childhood into believing myself to be “useless at everything”. That was the challenge I took on this time round: without early difficulties to overcome I would certainly never have become a therapist.) I have as yet no professional experience of writing fiction, but it is nevertheless clear to me that the process of producing a novel must be very different from that of writing books that are more factually based. Whether or not you can accept the comment “What is imagination but subconscious memory?” it is clear that some people are better endowed with it than others. And the most successful novelists are surely among those whose imagination shows the greatest originality. So, though a good novel will inevitably be fed by people, things and events with which the writer is surrounded, most of it will be conceived inside his or her head. After that, (unless you are a literary Mozart!) transferring what has originated in your head onto paper, in a way that makes reading it enjoyable, must take an enormous amount of work. So the second thing I’d like to say is: if you’re really determined to write a book – any sort of book – be prepared to put in a great deal of both time and labour.
Winter 2015 Academics (I know because I married one) are expected during their careers to write, if not books, at the very least several, and preferably numerous, papers. For this a great deal of research is required. (Of course historical novelists must have to do a lot of that too.) The nature of the research will vary according to the subject: an archaeologist will do much of it by digging, a geologist in field work, a historian by extensive reading, a physicist by experimentation in a laboratory, a musicologist by listening to a great deal of music. My husband is a mathematician and so, though he does of course read books and papers around his subject, most of his research is done by thinking up new problems in his head and then endeavouring to solve them. What all these professionals have in common, however, is a need to consolidate all their findings and convey them on paper in a manner that is both coherent and logical. This requires skill, and skill is normally developed or improved by practice. (Regrettably not all academics either have this innate skill or see the need to work at it!) I class myself as being in a category that is something in between that of the novelist and the academic, and I imagine that many other JHP writers would consider themselves in the same way. All the books that I have written so far are based on facts – facts from either my own life or the lives of my therapy clients – but my ‘real people facts’ are always embroidered with my own reflections, with research that I have done through reading, and then polished with attempts at creativity. When I have clients with interesting stories, and whom I find to be happy for their stories to be put into a book (normally with names etc. changed), I then have the task of piecing together notes taken – often from several sessions, and sometimes weeks apart – into something coherent and readable. (Some therapists who
are also writers make use of tape recorders, but I tend just to rely upon my own scrawl.) I have never found this task to be at all an easy one, but I would like to say that years of practice have increased my skill at (and also incidentally my enjoyment of) it. My recommendation is to read and re-read what you write over and over again, and, if you have someone at hand who is able and willing to oblige, do not hesitate to ask them as well to have a look at what you have done. Often a complete outsider (my mathematician husband is an excellent example) can be invaluable at pointing out something that you have not thought of, noticing ambiguities, or thinking of a better way of expressing a particular sentence or phrase. They do not need to be at all expert in your individual speciality to be of use in such a way! Talking of “ambiguities”, sloppiness in the use of language is one of my ‘bugbears’ about presentday English. I was recently given some new, more powerful, hearing aids, and one of the instructions
printed in the leaflet that came with them reads: “Use a wet wipe to gently clean the part of the hearing aid that goes in your ear every other day.” Did they tell me at the hospital to wear my hearing aids every other day?!!! On the contrary – they stressed that I should use them every day. This is no doubt a rather extreme example, but re-reading with care can help to eliminate ambiguities. Another of my personal bugbears is incorrect 25
grammar, and that is alas something that has been spreading like wildfire in recent years, even among educated people, both in writing and in speech. One habit that always makes me want to scream, and that is now unbelievably common, is saying or writing something such as “He gave it to David and I”. I call it the “Nominative bug”, but even those who (with Latin being now almost obsolete in schools) have never been taught about nominative and accusative will surely know the difference between subject and object. What annoys me so intensely about this error is its complete illogicality. For who would ever say “He gave it to I”? (My husband assures me that I’m not as fierce as I might sound!) My daughter, who did English Language to A Level prior to a degree in Linguistics and an M. Phil. in Publishing, reckons that people’s reason for making this mistake is an over-reaction to their school teachers having ordered them never to say “David and me are going…” If you feel uncertain of your grammar, I strongly recommend James Cochrane’s book BETWEEN YOU AND I – A Little Book of Bad English. (It has an Introduction by the BBC Radio 4 broadcaster John Humphrys, who shares my view on spoken and written English, if not on Elgar.) Since we are all so different, we all find inspiration in different ways. Some will be intensely moved by poetry, while others are more affected by music, painting or beautiful views. Other countries come into my writing a great deal, and I have in recent years been in the fortunate position of being able to travel quite a lot. A niece of mine who did an M.A. in Creative Writing, and is currently an aspiring novelist, won a grant to do a trip on board a cargo ship, and I am now looking forward to reading her resulting novel. But it is by no means always necessary to go very far afield for one’s inspiration. My latest book is centred on the great English composer Sir Edward Elgar, who happens to have spent most of his life not far from where I now live, and so that made visiting his favourite haunts fairly easy. (Above are colour versions of two of the photos that appear in the book.) So, before taking up your pen (or sitting at your computer), it might be a good idea to spend a bit of time simply soaking yourself in the things that give you the most pleasure. 26
Finally, I’m sure all writers must find, as I do, that ideas can pop into their heads at any time – and sometimes in places or circumstances where it is difficult or impossible to write them down immediately (which makes cultivating one’s memory highly desirable) – and it is partly for that reason that I have unbounded admiration for full time writers who make sitting at their computers for a certain number of hours every day a matter of discipline. When I met the well-known John Matthews and asked him how it was possible to write over ninety books, he replied “Actually it’s over a hundred now. It’s through necessity. I just sit at my computer all day every day, and if nothing comes I just go on sitting there.” Except for the “lucky few” (or rather for those with good karma in addition to exceptional talent) it has never been easy to make a living from writing, and I suspect that nowadays – with ever more competition and ever increasing numbers of ways of getting published – it is more difficult still. I also feel that those of us who have alternative sources of income would do well to appreciate our good fortune in not being forced to sit at our computers all day every day. Quite apart from the backache and eye ache that it can cause, it’s not at all good for the health. Here, however, I’m afraid that I should be preaching to myself: when I’m really in the flow with a book, I often find it difficult to take enough breaks. I therefor urge you not to “do as I do”, but instead to remember to stop every now and again – preferably halfhourly (a cooker timer is a useful thing to keep on one’s desk) – and do some stretches or simple exercises, or just go off briefly to do the ironing or washing up, or walk the dog. Or even lie down for a little rest! This last needn’t stop you thinking, and as you do so you will very likely think of an even better way of putting that last sentence. The satisfaction of finally holding a book in your hands with your own name printed on the cover makes all the hard work infinitely worthwhile. And when anyone tells you how much they’ve enjoyed the book, or how much it has helped them, or how it has resonated with their own life experiences, that satisfaction is increased a thousand-fold!
Winter 2015 Sue Johnson
‘Surfing the Rainbow’ combines my passion for writing and yoga. The breathing and visualization exercises will help writers in other aspects of their life – for instance when facing an appointment at the dentist or a job interview. It also helps with bringing creative ideas into focus and shows pathways towards achieving your creative ambitions. Every building on earth began as an idea in someone’s head before it became a reality.
date back to 3000 BC. It relates to seven main energy centres in the body that are linked to particular organs or hormone regulators.
Visualization is an important part of writing. To the uninitiated, it can look like daydreaming and staring out of the window. However, this is often when the most important work is done. If you as the writer can see the events in your story clearly, then so will your reader.
Take time to prepare well before you start. Clear any blockages that are likely to hold you back.
Create a rough outline of the story. Make sure there is enough conflict to sustain the interest and keep your reader turning the pages.
Create believable characters.
Develop your settings. Interesting, well-drawn locations sell stories.
Create convincing dialogue.
Use the senses! Colours, sounds, smells and textures help to create a full picture for your readers.
‘Surfing the Rainbow’ also includes ideas on visualizing your ideal work space and creating ‘triggers’ in the brain that signify writing time. These can be playing a particular piece of music, lighting a scented candle or having a special crystal on your desk. You do need a little bit of time when you’re not likely to be disturbed – so it’s not a good idea to try it when the children are running riot or your husband or wife may need you for something. Take a few minutes to relax and slow your breathing down first. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to rush off when you’ve finished. Write down as much as you can remember when the idea is fresh. Make sure you eat and drink something – particularly if you’re going to be driving a car or operating machinery! The landscape of your novel isn’t just something you see – like a film – it needs to be experienced on all levels. Thinking about what a place smells and sounds like and including those details in your story will bring it alive for your readers. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to visit the locations you’re writing about. Take photos and sound recordings, collect anything that may be useful to you. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel or circle. The earliest recorded mention of the word is in the Hindu holy books called The Vedas – some of which
Each chakra is associated with a colour of the rainbow, with red being at the base chakra and violet at the crown of the head. The stages of writing a novel are colour coded as follows:
Finish what you have started. Then polish the story until it shines. Each section contains: A visualization Information about that particular chakra A recipe Three writing exercises The work that needs to be done in relation to the story you are writing
For instance, in the YELLOW section which relates to creating characters, there is a questionnaire that helps to draw out fresh ideas about them. It then suggests that you follow those characters around 27
the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom to see how they behave. You need to know the characters in your story better than you may know some members of your family. You will know when you’ve achieved this because they start talking back to you. With my first novel ‘Fable’s Fortune’ my main character insisted on a change of name. (At the time, the book was called ‘Cloak of Stars’. When I found the right name for my heroine, it led automatically to a new title. The book was accepted by a publisher soon afterwards. When working with the exercises in ‘Surfing the Rainbow’ it’s a good idea to allow an equal amount of time for each colour to begin with. If working on a novel, the best results come from beginning with red and working through the book. For instance, you could spend three days or a week on each colour to begin with. Allow your ideas to settle and ferment and then, if you need to, go back and re-visit some of the colours. Many readers have reported that the quality of their lives have improved as a result of working through the exercises in ‘Surfing the Rainbow.’ One lady said she’d become more aware of colour, sound and scent and had become inspired to create a book of her own recipes. Other reviewers have said they felt more positive and energised as a result of focusing on colour. The key thing to remember is to keep writing – however bad you feel your work is. You can’t edit a blank page! Aim for a short writing session every day. Fifteen minutes is good to begin with. Don’t try to write and edit at the same time. They involve different parts of the brain and you will soon feel frustrated and muddled and as if you’re not getting anywhere. Write first and edit later when the idea has had time to settle. If you do feel stuck, then put your pen down or switch off the computer and try something different. For instance, you could listen to the sort of music your main character likes and see if this gives you any fresh ideas. Go for a 28
walk or plant some seeds. Experiment with a new recipe – and imagine your main character doing the same thing! Happy writing! Sue Johnson www.writers-toolkit.co.uk
‘Surfing The Rainbow: visualization and chakra balancing for writers’ by Sue Johnson Pub. Compass Books ‘Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers’ by Sue Johnson & Val Andrews Pub. Compass Books
Hannah Spencer It's an all-too-common issue with writers. They write a novel, rewrite it, edit it, and get it published. Then they start on a second book. And they find themselves experiencing the condition known as 'Second Book Blues.' The planning, structuring and writing of the new book feels a near impossible task. The characters are dull, the plotlines too weak, the twists predictable. It becomes very demoralising, especially when it didn't seem that hard the first time round. Many writers wonder if they have lost the muse, and they give up.
and will be able to see where it has gone wrong. Writing later scenes can give insights into the characters which help you to put right their earlier stories. You can go forwards and backwards from the sections where the story is flowing perfectly and figure out how to keep that momentum up.
A lot of writers think a piece has to be written in a linear fashion, as it will be read. For the early drafts it is far simpler to write as your mind takes you. Write whichever scenes are most vivid in your head and don't worry if they are out of place. When you have enough pieces, lay them out in order and you can see where the gaps are. Only the later drafts need to be worked from beginning to end to ensure the details (characters' emotional state, the weather, the day of the week) continue in a logical fashion.
Apart from the psychological strain of knowing you are at the beginning of a marathon effort, there is a simple reason for Second Book Blues. Writing a novel is no different to creating any other artform. As Hilary Mantel said, a book is a collage. Different When you thought you'd finished the first draft of your first components are brought together to create something book – let's face it – it probably wasn’t that good. In fact, it beautiful. You wouldn't create a painting by starting in the was probably terrible, you just didn’t realise it. It was only top left corner and working in a linear fashion to the after endless rounds of complete rewrites, brutal critiques, bottom right. You would sketch it as a whole, fill in the maporing over writing manuals, plot revisions, addition and jor aspects, and then adjust the details later. Writing needdeletion of characters, eventually, it turned into a polished n't be any different. and publishable novel. Once a complete rough draft is finished, the best way to see Think of all the mistakes you made in that first novel with- where problems are is to create a chart detailing each chapout realising it. Plot flaws, weak characters, wooden diater, with the word-count, characters and main events as logue, insubstantial character arcs – had you even heard of they progress. Then it's easy to see if major plot developthat term when you started out? That's why it was so easy ments are too close or too far apart, if an important characto write. ter has inadvertently disappeared for 10,000 words, if a minor plot-line has petered out. Marking individual characWhen you started the next book, with the benefit of all ters and sub-plots in different colours is an easy way to these hard-earned lessons, you knew not to make these keep track of their individual progress. Plot-lines can be mistakes again. You unconsciously set the bar much higher juggled about until the story flows smoothly from one to in terms of plotting and structure. And consequently it is so another. much harder to plan and write it. No matter how hopeless it feels, keep writing, and keep It is easy to write a poor novel. And it is much easier to turn rewriting. Every writer goes through a stage where they a poor novel into a good one than it is to plan and write a feel a novel will never work out. The only way it will certaingood novel from scratch. The second book is not difficult ly fail is if you give up on it. A terrible draft can be turned because you have lost something. It's because you have into a good one, but only if the terrible stuff has been gained so much. written down in the first place. Keep waiting for that magical moment when you read your work and think, this is perThe best way to overcome Second Book Blues is to just start fect. Your finished novel is in your hands. writing, and keep writing. It may not be perfect, but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. Just concentrate on getting Above all, be grateful for the Blues. They are not a detriwords down. My early, rough drafts are full of “insert scement, they are a sign of skill and experience. You know ne / character / dialogue” type notes. A rough draft only where the problems are, and that is the biggest step to needs to be that. putting them right. If a scene is dull and static, gloss over it and write the next one. If a sub-plot doesn’t seem to fit with the main story, leave it and concentrate on getting the other story lines in place. It may seem wrong to deliberately leave a scene flawed, but when you have a complete draft on paper, however rough it is, you can look at the picture as a whole,
Hannah Spencer works on a dairy sheep farm in Warwickshire where she writes her stories in her head while milking several hundred ewes a day. She has had several short stories published and her novel, The Story of Light, was published in 2014 by Moon Books. Her website is http://lightonecandle.blogspot.co.uk
SPECIAL E-BOOK OFFER FOR WRITERS FROM COMPASS BOOKS!
I only need to lean forward, relax, and then I will fall. The water will cover me, and it will all be over. The torrent churns beneath my feet, tumbling over itself on its quest to reach the sea, the place it calls home. How long will it take to get there? Hours? Weeks? I've no idea. But I'm jealous. I have nowhere left to go. Fog is beading on my eyelashes. I blink and cold moisture blurs my sight. The water is mesmerising, pulling me forwards. My foot slips. I lurch forward then sit down hard as I try to save myself. It jars my hip and I want to cry. I could go back now. Back to my single bed in a backwater B&B, to fall asleep in front of some trashy TV. But what's the point? 'A nice holiday, it'll do you good,' concerned colleagues had said. Why ever had I bothered? A shout and a dog's bark come from somewhere behind me and I tense, both frightened and hopeful. But they don't see me. I didn't think they would. Or perhaps they think I'm just looking at the view. I pull my clammy hands inside my sleeves. At least this coat's warm. It was a present from Rob, two years ago. 'It'll keep you warm when you’re out walking Pommy.' Pommy, silly name for a Labrador. I'd assumed he was a Pomeranian at that first awkward meeting, after how many years, but apparently he'd almost choked on an apple as a puppy. Mum had been a French teacher. I remember standing in her kitchen, me and little Robbie, all grown up. No trace of the gawky, spotty kid he'd been. He busied himself with the coffee, it was easier than thinking of something to say. I looked round the kitchen, the dresser arranged with the same china, the same chipped worktop, the same sugar bowl. The rocking chair was new, though. When had I last been in here? Had I said goodbye to her before I left? A suitable farewell for what was to be our last? I'd no idea. I told her over the phone that Pete and I were moving to Glasgow. I picked up a rubber ring and threw it. Pommy obliged and returned it. The game went on, far longer than necessary. Me and Rob focussed on his antics. At last there was no further excuse. We had to sit down and face each other. 'What happened to Pete?' I thought I'd prepared an answer. Something that did me justice after choosing him over my family. But when I met Robbie's – Rob's – eyes, my careful speech failed me. 'He left.' He nodded. I searched his face. Told-you-so? Sympathetic? Pleased? He just seemed neutral. But he'd been the only one to like Pete. With his leather jacket and mo-
torbike, he was every boy's hero. 'We can help you pay for a wedding,' Mum said on one of my increasingly rare visits home. Strictly Catholic, she just couldn't understand. Rob leaned forward. 'Why?' What could I say? He'd found someone else. She'd had his child, too. They'd been together before we met, apparently the kid had never known his father. We'd been trying for ages, but it had never happened. 'Just didn't work out.' I couldn't meet his eyes. But he knew, though. There was still a bond there, a bond that the years couldn't break. He could see it all, the yearning soul and the ticking clock. The emptiness. Pommy nudged my arm but I ignored him. Another silence. 'What do you think about the funeral, Kat? She wanted her ashes scattered up on the cliff, but have you any thoughts about flowers, hymns?' I hadn't been called Kat for years. Just plain, boring Katherine. I looked at Pommy. I was grateful for the question, but it wasn't worth asking. I'd no idea what she'd like. 'Whatever you think best,' I said at last. He nodded, too quickly. 'She liked Jerusalem, and Praise Me. What do you think?' All I could do was agree. Another silence. 'Let's take Pommy for a walk.' He was suddenly enthusiastic. 'Down by the river, where we used to play as kids.' He was already fixing the dog's lead. 'Do you like walking?' he belatedly asked. I didn't. But I didn't like to say. Instead I hobbled along in my unsuitable shoes, hoping I didn't end up splat in a puddle. Without the spectre of Mum looming over us, or maybe through the antics of the dog, we seemed freer. We talked, we laughed, we shared memories, happy and sad, of our missing ten years. 'Oh, Kat! Your shoes are ruined!' He laughed then stopped himself. I looked down at the suede, wet and smeared with mud. Pommy bounded up and placed a huge front paw squarely on each shoe. I squealed, then broke into giggles. 'They'd sell them in boutiques like that, £200 a go! Country fashion!' We laughed together, then I wrapped my arms tightly round him. A second later he returned the hug. The clock was wound back and the last barrier was swept away. Pommy came up and tried to burrow between us. 'You should have him,' Rob said. 'He likes you.' 'Are you sure?'
Winter 2015 He nodded. 'Julie doesn't much like dogs anyway.' That was his girlfriend, he'd said. I gazed at him. It wasn't just a dog, it was so much more than that. It was something to muffle those lost years. It was the memories I'd never have of Mum, the time I hadn't spent with her. The family I'd lost, the children I'd never had or have. At last, I nodded. 'I'd like that.' It's dark now. The water is no longer visible but its presence is bitterly comforting. Somewhere there should be stars wheeling above the perpetually rattling stream, but no light penetrates the fog. I'll never find my way back now, even if I wanted to. And there is nobody to care if I don't return. I'm not afraid of being here alone. Even when I had a future to care about, it never bothered me. It's something I got used to during all my forays into the wilderness with Pommy. I press my face back onto my knees. With my hood pulled over my head the world is muffled. It seems like it's no longer there. There is nothing there but the past. 'Follow your dreams,' Pete always said. I'd followed them to Glasgow, and then I followed them back again. And finally they were coming true. I belonged. I bought a house with my share of the inheritance money. Rob looked out for me, like I used to look out for him. We went out together: me, him and Julie. We shared our memories. I regaled them with stories of the underground music scene and Pete's band. All-night parties, dancing on warehouse roofs. Driving home, eleven people in one old banger, literally falling into the road when the cop car stopped us. We laughed long into the night. I had family again. I was happy. But then, the bombshell. I knew as soon as I saw Julie's number on the phone, and just felt empty as I listened to her tears. Why did he still ride that stupid motorbike? She chose black granite for his grave, expensive and showy. He wouldn't have liked it at all. We kept in touch for a while, but gradually the phone calls stopped out of mutual apathy. Now all I had left was Pommy. Oh, Pommy! It was then that I began to run. It was on a whim at first, but soon I couldn't cope without it. Pommy trotted along at my side, tongue lolling, his beautiful face laughing up at me. The miles mounted. Weeks became months. Months became years. My flabby, middle-aged body toned up. The waist line retreated along with the wobbling thighs and the bingo wings. 'You look good!' people told me. I wished I felt good. Pommy started lagging behind. I just assumed it was my new-found fitness. But when he started falling over, I knew it was something more. We tried everything, but in the end the vet said there was nothing more she could do. I stroked his still-warm fur afterwards, and more tears fell than Iâ€™d ever shed before. I had nothing left. Nothing, nothing, nothing. As the torrent of water runs ever onwards, as it always has and always will, I relive all those happy days long lost. It's torture, like driving a knife into my arm, again and again and again. The bitter pain reminds me I'm still alive. Striding across the moors with Pommy, a time when I still had somewhere to go. The sun was warm, the air alive with bees in the heather. I was looking forward to a meal that night: my birthday. A huge bird exploded up from under my feet and I ended up on my back in the grass. Pommy stood
squarely on my chest and woofed. I laughed and laughed. The soft fur I grabbed when Pommy jumped up and licked my face, my new-found brother leaning on the worktop and laughing. As I picked up the rubber ring I noticed the smiley face etched on the table leg. I did that when I was six. Mum never noticed until I was thirteen. My carefully straightened hair ruined by the wind as I rode pillion on Pete's bike, my face pressed into his neck. Later, I felt his lips on mine for the first ever time. The chill of ice cream â€“ raspberry ripple, my favourite â€“ burnt my mouth as I crammed it in too fast. Robbie had almost finished his already. I glanced at him round Mum's knees, to check his progress, and saw him doing the same. Mum swung our free hands as we tottered over the rocky cliffs, the wind almost knocking Robbie from his feet. I laughed as the last fragment of cone dropped from his fingers. It was the same spot where we would, one day, long into the future, return with her ashes. The sky begins to lighten to a deep blue. A mile or so away I can make out the hill I climbed a couple of days ago. I passed a dozen people struggling upwards, and when I reached the top my breath was catching in my throat from unshed tears. It just wasn't right without Pommy. I turned and ran back, my feet flying over the rocky path. People stared at the mad woman gasping tears, but I didn't stop until I reached the road. I leant on a gate, hiding my face from a couple slowly approaching. They were both using sticks. When they paused I doggedly looked in the opposite direction. 'I used to run up that hill and back every day, when I was training for the army.' I wasn't sure if the old guy was talking to me or his wife. I didn't turn round to see. The slow click, click of the sticks began again. When I looked round, I saw they were holding hands. I suppose that's one thing I still have left. Health. Fitness. Maybe I should be grateful for that. Maybe I'll climb that hill again, just because I can. Somewhere a bird begins to sing. And then the first brilliant flash of orange appears. The mist is illuminated, myriad orange -pink sparkles dance though the air. I close my eyes and feel the warmth caress my face. I think back to my night of memories, of all the blessings I've ever had. And that's when I begin to realise. It's about what I've had, and have. Not what I've lost. I still have the most important things. Memories. Life. Myself. I'm the sum of all my parts. The roaring trickle of water fills my ears, and I can almost imagine I'm flying on the current towards the sea. At last I open my eyes to the sunlight falling on the rushing stream in ethereal and ever-shifting patterns. It will flow onwards forever. I'm still alive. As the mist fades in the rising sun, I smile. Hannah Spencer works on a dairy sheep farm in Warwickshire where she writes her stories in her head while milking several hundred ewes a day. She has had several short stories published and her novel, The Story of Light, was published in 2014 by Moon Books. Her website is http://lightonecandle.blogspot.co.uk
I regularly buy The Daily Telegraph – once a week, on a Saturday. Not for its political opinions I hasten to add, I’d be just as happy to read The Independent, although I usually find Charles Moore’s views eminently sensible. No, I buy it primarily for the chance to do the Prize Crossword (I’m an avid fan) and because the Review section contains the week’s TV guide. The same Review also provides an ongoing insight into the world of books and after I’ve read the headlines this is the next thing I turn to. A recent edition proved particularly fruitful as it included a ten-page special on fiction about to be released. My interest lies in the fact that I need to keep up to date professionally plus I have two reviews every month to do for Book Talk and good material can be hard to find. Here were eight ready-made opportunities – and they were all in the genre I tend to inhabit i.e. literary fiction. I emerged from my Sunday morning perusal with two distinct possibilities, one maybe, five definite rejections and the nagging question as to why I had made these particular choices and why these writers had chosen to write what they did. So what started out as a potential reading list turned into a major thought provoking exercise and may well change the way I work. As we know, what appeals to us in literary terms is a very individual thing – one man’s meat etc. – and what resonates with me will not necessarily suit someone else. I have never been able to get to grips with Martin Amis or Will Self for instance, either in terms of style or content, so THE ZONE OF INTEREST and SHARK were not for me. I avoid anything futuristic so Howard Jacobson’s J and David Mitchell’s THE BONE CLOCKS also fell by the wayside. As for Ali Smith (HOW TO BE BOTH), her novel involves duality of both gender and time, ‘in the best modernist tradition’ I was told. So much so that it will apparently be a matter of chance as to which narrative readers will encounter first – half the copies of her book are published in one order, half in the other. Hmm ... I confess to having an interest in ‘the modernist tradition’ if on34
ly to compare it with trends in the art world and I intend that to be the subject of a separate piece, but I don’t think I actually want to read the book. So what do I want to read? I’m always intrigued by Ian McEwan so THE CHILDREN ACT is on my list. I’ve never read Sarah Waters but THE PAYING GUESTS sounds good. I seem to recall that an earlier work of hers, THE LITTLE STRANGER, is on a bookshelf somewhere so that might provide a good introduction to her style. My one maybe is Rachel Cusk and OUTLINE, the reason being that the book is a series of conversations designed to show how self-effacing its narrator (and presumably modern womanhood) can be. And since this is a conceit that is bound to annoy me, it’s probably best avoided. I am at least clear as to why I made these choices. They are all realistic (nothing surreal or futuristic here), they all deal with human relationships and they are all reasonably contemporary i.e. set within this or the last century. The reason I am drawn to such books, I have discovered, is that they might help explain the world as it is to me. But is that why the authors wrote them? Did they set out with that particular intention or did it just happen accidentally? What caused them to choose their time, place and subject? Why do they write what they do? Why indeed do they write at all? The critics usually take delight in implying some kind of purpose to these things. Why else would critics exist? THE CHILDREN ACT is alleged to be a thinlydisguised tirade against religion. Sarah Waters is known for inserting lesbianism into contexts where it has previously been impossible to do so, while Rachel Cusk’s work is held to be blatantly autobiographical. Whether this was what the respective authors set out to achieve when they wrote their books is open to question. Perhaps there were psychological factors at work. Maybe they just had something on their minds, wanted to set it down on paper and decided to let the critics sort out what it was actually about later on. In
Winter 2015 the introduction to my copy of THE SOUND AND THE FURY (William Faulkner) Richard Hughes tells the story of a celebrated Russian dancer who was asked what she meant by a certain dance. She answered with some exasperation, ‘If I could say it in so many words, do you think I should take the very great trouble of dancing it?’ Could things really be as simple as that?
the thought that my own beliefs and feelings somehow seep into those of my protagonists and that however inadvertently, I am surreptitiously passing these on to my reader. If my reader can gain something from that, so much the better, but let me assure you, there is no deliberate message. There may well be one hidden in there somewhere, but like the Russian dancer, I’m not sure I know what it is.
Up until recently I thought I knew why I write. Firstly, it gives me purpose. Purpose is a wonderful thing. Without it we wither away, in every sense. Secondly, it’s a form of self-expression. It’s one of the ways I let myself, and others, know who I am and what I’m about. There are stories in my head I was (and still am) desperate to tell but I don’t necessarily know what they mean. I’ve said in my various biographical notes that my only intention was to entertain the reader and that I had no political or moral message to convey, or at least, none that I was aware of. More recently, and particularly in light of the above, I’ve come to think differently. Yes, my shorter works, the novellas, probably are pure entertainment but a serious novel like BIRDS OF THE NILE needs something more than that to sustain it. I came to realise, after it had been published, that it was in fact an exploration of the character of Michael Blake. I was still trying to entertain my audience because I needed them to continue reading but through the story I was telling I was hoping that they would ‘get’ him as a person. Now, when someone has read the book and tells me that they do, it’s a source of immense satisfaction. And I think I know why.
One day a critic might read my work (I wish!) and tell me what my books are about and what it is I’ve been trying to say – the literary equivalent of a visit to a psychiatrist if you like. In the meanwhile, I know enough about things to conclude that I should cease this pretence that my books are merely entertainment and get on and change my biography. To find out more about N.E.David why not visit his website at www.nedavid.com. His debut novel, BIRDS OF THE NILE is published by Roundfire. For details, go to http://amzn.to/1eMBzMI (UK) http://amzn.to/1iCoudy (US)
Michael Blake is clearly an extension of my own personality. I am a large part of him and he is a large part of me. So when someone tells me they understand him they are in effect saying that they understand me. So in just the same way that I read the books of other authors to try and understand their world, perhaps I write novels so that other people can try and understand mine. And if this puts me closer to Rachel Cusk than the rest, so be it. Although my books are by no means intended to be autobiographical. I may be a keen bird-watcher and I may have been on a trip on the Nile, but I wasn’t caught up in the Egyptian revolution, I haven’t gone blind and I certainly didn’t fall in love with a Malaysian student half my age. My life informs my work rather than defines it, although I still can’t escape 35
Introducing two poems from the Moon Poets anthology, by Tiffany Chaney and Robin Herne. In this slim volume you will find six Moon Books poets from the USA and UK. We are delighted and immensely proud that Tiffany and Robin, along with Lorna Smithers, Romany Rivers, Martin Pallot and Beverley Price have honoured Moon Books by sharing their work and allowing us to publish this anthology. The Ghillie-Dhu My Cailleach The storm collects a gaggle of old women knitting nurture for the earth, to wet the soil for seeds to spread sprout and flower into small beauties like the old women before they built the stepping stones. The Cailleach is said to be an old hag that turns to stone on Beltaine, blooming into a frozen dryad, then preceding the winter months when the harvest is reaped, weathered she is released from stone, wizened and wild. She stands on every mountain, but I think she is the storm clouds that gather matching mist to the blue of the rocky stepping stones, and there she retraces the steps of an ancient dance around the bonfire, bellowing sheets of ice. My Cailleach, ancient grandmother, believes me to be her mountain. She herds the wild-eyed deer from field to field, strikes her staff between my knees so I can’t move. She is gray and bays, spring windstorms between leaves, the white wolf calling to the winter moon. She cries for me. I never see her face. Tiffany Chaney is a poet and artist residing in North Carolina, USA. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Salem College in 2009. Her works in poetry and fiction have appeared at Moon Books, Ophelia Street, Pedestal Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review (InstaPoetry) and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. Her poetry collection Between Blue and Grey won the 2013 Mother Vine Festival Award for Best in Poetry. Discover more about her at tiffanychaney.com
Pale moon-skinned, hair pendulous, Still stands the tree-sire, dreaming Of the wildwood tenebrous That echoes through the gleaming. Fierce runs the boy, hell-hounded Solace sought from grim kinfolk Future bleak, grief compounded Gnarled tree faces fears evoke. To the forest hideaway He came, a silvered haven, Thoughts like toys in disarray Midst the perch of the raven. Distant bellows terrorised Setting birds to flight, cawing. Breeze-stirred branches mesmerised Till scarce could hear the roaring. Birch limbs mournful resounded, “The beast pursues me, Ghillie!” The boy pleaded, unfounded Hopes stillborn within Billy. “I can’t go home anymore,” Whispered the boy, lip bleeding. Father’s rage truth’s guarantor, Tree stirred to the youth’s pleading. Drunken, brutish, thundering, Dire sire up the trunk scrambles, Billy’s hopes fast sundering. The tree stands stiffly, ambles. Stirs the guardian, uprooting, Wails the father tumbling Watches son’s life rerouting, The walls of his world crumbling. Sings the Ghillie melodic Of the land in the mountains Where life will be rhapsodic His passenger soon made hale. Robin Herne is an educator, poet, storyteller, artist, dog-owner and Druid. A regular speaker and performer at pagan events, he has a passion for ancient mythologies – especially Celtic, Greek and Egyptian. He is the author of Old Gods, New Druids, Bard Song and A Dangerous Place and has contributed towards a variety of Moon Books anthologies including Paganism 101. He lives in Suffolk, UK. His public blog can be found at roundtheherne.blogspot.co.uk
Of all the written forms, poetry is the one that most benefits from being read out loud. It’s an awkward truth that many writers are not good readers, and cannot be relied upon to do best justice to their own words. Writers are often shy, nervous creatures who are uneasy having to stand up in front of people, and who may not be easily able to say aloud the things that flowed so readily onto the paper. I think poetry is very different in this regard, because the voice of the poet matters, be it ever so hesitant. With a poem, the exact pacing and the tone of a single word can shift the meaning. Questions emerge that were not visible in the written text. Playful elements, sarcasm, delight and bitterness may be implied by the work but aren’t clear without the voice of the poet. For me, poetry is all about voice, and when I come to it on paper, I always end up wondering how the author
meant it to sound. This doesn’t happen to me with other forms of writing. I enjoy more the poets whose speaking voices I know, where I can gather that sense of sound and take it back to my reading.
Slam poetry has a voice of its own – a pace, tempo and tone that defines it. I see YouTube has a lot of slammers sharing their words. It is a raw, immediate form of poetry and I’ve never seen one written down. I mean to keep it that way. The intimacy of the spoken word is an essential part of what makes it work. Written poetry can suggest universality, but the voice of the poet makes it personal again, and I like that. So, rather than offering you a written text, here’s a poetry link, where you can listen to my voice, such as it is, and the words falling exactly as I meant them to. http://nimuebrown.bandcamp.com/track/skyclad
Shaman Pathways - Following the Deer Trods A practical guide to working with Elen of the Ways Following on from the author's successful book Shaman Pathways - Elen of the Ways, this is a practical handbook filled with tried-and-tested exercises, journeys and experiential work for the reader to engage in. Essential reading for anyone wanting to begin the old British paths. Elen Sentier is an awenydd, spirit keeper and cyfarwydd (storyteller) from a long family lineage in the British native tradition. Her mother’s mother was a witch from the Isle of Man and her father came from a family of cunning men. She spent much of her childhood with family in the wilds of Dartmoor and Exmoor learning the old ways. She now lives with her husband, cats and a host of wildlife in a lovely farmhouse in the back of beyond by the river Wye in the Welsh Marches, where she writes and teaches the ways of the awenydd, the British shamanic tradition. http://www.elensentier.co.uk https://www.facebook.com/elensentier 37
Peter Tieryas Liu’s Bald New World is longlisted for the 2015 Folio Prize! The Folio Prize is the first major English language book prize open to writers from around the world. Its aim is simple: to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible. What if you woke up one morning and everyone in the world lost their hair? In Bald New World, that very event happens and overnight, religion, politics, and fashion undergo dramatic shifts. Nick Guan and his friend Larry Chao are a pair of eccentric filmmakers who choose to explore the existential angst of their balding world through cinema. Larry is heir to one of the most lucrative wig companies in the world. Nick is a man who’s trying to make sense of the tatters of his American Dream. Taking place throughout China and America, the pair set off on a series of misadventures involving North Korean spies, veterans of an African War, and digital cricket fighters. Their journey leads them to discover some of the darkest secrets behind wig-making and hair in a hairless world. Gorgeous language choices combine with Nick’s philosophical journey of personal discovery to create a deceptively deep story. ~ Best Summer Books 2014, Publishers Weekly If you took the world building of Philip K. Dick, and added in the gritty reality and humor of Haruki Murakami, with a touch of Aldous Huxley (of course), you would get Bald New World. ~ 15 Highly Anticipated Books of 2014, Buzzfeed
Bald New World is an entertaining read and a book you definitely want to add to your wish list if you like your science fiction tales believable. ~ Stefan Blitz, Forces of Geek Peter Tieryas Liu is the author of Watering Heaven and Dr. 2. He has been published in journals including Electric Literature, Evergreen Review, Gargoyle, Hobart, Indiana Review, New Letters, New Orleans Review, Toad Suck Review, and ZYZZYVA, and was the recipient of the 2012 Fiction Award from Mojo, the magazine run by Wichita State University. He has also worked as a technical writer for LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilm. You can follow his work at tieryas.wordpress.com. He lives in Los Angeles.
In August of 2014, when I still worked for the NSA, I attended an artificial intelligence conference in St. Louis when riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Details were sketchy through the dubious media, but what I do remember was an unarmed black kid was shot and killed, and his body unceremoniously left on the pavement for four hours afterwards. I remember feeling infuriated with the ordeal, and I felt obliged to go there and join the protests. I left the University of Missouri after the day’s numerous seminars and after giving my own lecture on neurosynaptic chips. A few days earlier, I had read a NY Times article on the militarization of the police, and I wondered how much of it was true. Perhaps this was in the back of my mind driving into Ferguson. I arrived on West Florrisant Avenue as the sun finished reddening the sky. I parked the beige, mid-sized Buick rental car a few blocks away and put my phone in the glove box, leaving it behind even though I had taken out the battery before leaving. Then I walked up the street to where the rally was already underway. As the night crept over the indigo atmosphere, voices blaring from a loudspeaker grew stronger, commanding people to go back to their homes. They had brought out the heavy machinery—SWAT buses and armored vehicles, MRAPs 40
and paddy wagons. I stood alone, watching a good twenty yards from the throng’s circumference as people yelled in the street. I stood there for an hour or so, more content to watch and observe before joining the crowd. After a while, a man split off from the crowd in jeans and a gas mask and approached me. He had a backpack slung over his shoulder and wore a flak jacket underneath his baggy Rams T-shirt, the aqua-blue ram’s horns roping around his chest like a coiled serpent as the humid breeze made his shirt flutter. He lifted his gasmask off his face and asked me my name. “I’d rather not say,” I said. “Let’s start with yours.” “Des.” “Des what?” “Des.” He stood a good head above me, thick forearms roped with veiny muscle. He was undercover, I thought, fishing through the crowd to mark down instigators. “Nice to meet you Des Des.” “No, just Des.” I nodded, giving him a little lopsided grin as if to declare how obvious he was. “What are you here for?” he asked. “I’d rather not say.” “The AI conference probably.” “Why do you think that?” I asked, taken aback. He gazed up at the sky as a helicopter flew over. Its spotlights
beamed over us as it hovered for a few seconds before dashing off. “You’re not a townie. You’re missing the accent. And you don’t see people holding their hands behind their back in such a pedantic manner around here.” “You got all of that from the way I hold my hands?” “That and you still have a nametag pinned to your shirt.” He laughed as I peered down and saw my name scrawled in felt tip marker on a card within the plastic folds of my badge. I hurried to unpin it. “So really, what are you doing here?” “I was curious,” I said. “You look like someone checking out lions in a zoo. There aren’t any cages out here if you haven’t noticed. Are you sure you should be hanging around this neighborhood?” Still thinking him a cop, I said, “It looks to me like these people are just exercising their First Amendment rights. What’s wrong with that?” He moved beside me on the sidewalk. We were side-to-side as he glared at the police line a hundred yards away. The crowd chorused the word Justice as a man yelled out, what do we want? We stood there silent for a while, listening: “What do we want?” Justice. “What do we want?” Justice.
Winter 2015 “What do we want?” Justice. “Hands up, y’all.” Hands up, don’t shoot. “Hands up, y’all.” Hands up, don’t shoot. “What do we want?” Justice. “What do we want?” Justice. Des pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes and offered me one. A courteous gesture. It would have surprised him if I had taken one, but I didn’t. He lit up the cigarette and blew the smoke high up into the air. “So here we are. Both observing.” “If I might be so bold to ask, what are you here for?” He smiled, motioning with his cigarette. “I’m looking at their formation, how they move. The people here don’t stand a chance. They’re not expecting anything to happen, see. But wait. Something will go down.” “What makes you so sure?” He blew a smoke ring into the balmy, humid air. Somehow by the expression on his face, I knew he would ignore my question. He took another drag on his cigarette, gazed out into the crowd, massed with their hands up in the air— men bare chested with bandanas, women with cutoff jeans and rolled-up short-sleeved shirts. “They could have a fighting chance with the right equipment and a few tactics.” “What would you suggest?” “Flank ‘em. They’re all facing north. They’ve got a naked ass. They’re mooning the south side.” “Who exactly did you say you work for?” “I didn’t.” “Would you care to share that
information?” He smiled at me with the predictable look of an emoticon, as if the whole question were a joke to him. “Prepper & Survivor. It’s one of those survivalist magazines. We’re going to put together a riot police survivor package. Sell it as a lot. We’re going to publish articles on how to beat this kind of shit.” The sound canons started a high pitched whine, sporadic at first, the loud chirping of a pterodactyl. We watched the police line inch forward. Des reached in his backpack and pulled out a pair of shooting earmuffs. Inside the bag I caught a glimpse of what looked like an Uzi and several machine gun clips. He shrugged his shoulders putting on the earmuffs, as if to say, sorry I’ve only got one. The sound intensified, the people in front of us now silenced, arms winged out holding their ears. I cupped my ears as well, but the sound seeped through. Des yelled, but his drowned-out voice was overpowered by the whelping of highpitched, blaring car alarm sounds coming from the LRADs. He motioned with his finger, drawing a slow arc in the sky, then put on his gas mask. He grabbed my arm, and I almost yanked it away, my heart pounding wildly as I thought I was being arrested. I wanted to flee, and he seemed to anticipate this, tightening his grip as a smoke bomb landed a few feet away. My exposed ears absorbed
the full brunt from the sound canons, but over it I could hear shots and shouts of pain. Des had my arm, leading me away in a brisk walk, calm and sanguine, as if this were an every-day occurrence. The sound canons stopped. We walked, and I tripped, but Des stepped underneath my arm to support me. My legs shook and my throat went dry. As I struggled to find my feet, I couldn’t help but look back into the fray to see what was behind me. A canister of tear gas flew overhead. The memory I have now was feeling like Lot’s wife, staring into the dusty cloud of Sodom, people darting out of the plume of smoke, shots cracking in the thick night air, me with a body about to turn to salt. Fire ran up my throat and my eyes watered. More people fled past. More rifle shots. More people screaming in pain. “They’re fucking shooting at us,” one panic-
stricken man yelled running past. “Motherfuckers are shooting into the fucking neighborhoods.” We stopped down a side street, angled so we could still see all of the action. Des had clearly picked the spot, methodical in his every action. I wouldn’t understand his role in the Minutemen until several years later, but I was glad he was with me then. “So what do you think?” he asked, replacing his gas mask for a pair of night goggles out of his backpack and crouching over on a knee to look through them. A tank had run over me. I gasped for air, dizzy and disorientated. My soaked shirt glistened with sweat. My nose was running and my head throbbed. Perhaps my eardrums had burst. I fingered my temples and imagined a spliced cerebral cortex inside my head split like an egg. Des observed the police pushing forward with the heavy machinery, the forward line now attacking just as Des had predicted. Riot squads had shot 38 MM riot smoke projectiles, tear gas, and rubber bullets into a retreating crowd. Now they were hunting them in side streets and neighborhoods. I continued to labor for breath. “How did you know it was going to go down like that?” “How do you know a computer will do what you tell it to do? Are the ones and zeroes so easily predictable? Look out there.” He cupped my forehead between his hands and directed my gaze to the SWAT guys emerging from the cloud. Gas-masked riot police with polycarbonate shields moved through the billowing smoke. “It’s black versus white, but is that all it is? Look closely. Do you see ran-
domness in police action, or a well thought out plan? You don’t write code without a design, do you? Look at their equipment, how they’re armed. They didn’t raid the Army surplus store yesterday.” He let go, and I looked at him with a blank expression. My head ached, and my eardrums rang as I attempted to orientate myself. My heart beat spastically in my chest. People were running in all directions, like a nest of disturbed ants after a foot stomps the nest. “Which bit are you—” and then he said my real name, not the name I had pinned to my shirt. “A zero or a one? Are you on or off? What are you doing out here if you don’t care? For someone who built Stuxnet, you’re smart enough to see what’s going on here. It’s much more than just race. So what is it?” He backed away in a little lope as I tried to absorb the shock of how much he knew about me. “I’m a friend, Promiscuous. We want to let you know we respect your work. Ask yourself if you’re where you want to be. Certainly it can’t be with the NSA. You can’t play both sides of the spectrum and you know it.” The next day, locals rallied, incensed by the over reactive police response. Over the next days— more protests, more violence, until the National Guard would move in. The President was on holiday in Martha’s Vineyard at the time, yelling ‘fore’ and three-putting on a crew-cut green. Where was the President? I thought. Where is the leadership? Rule of law had devolved, the police reacting militaristically to a peaceful protest. Noise was
trapped inside the channels of communication, the public voice snuffed out by an authoritarian force. But the incident was the beginning of a much larger problem only a few were discussing at the time. The false economy was being felt, the blacks the most disenfranchised. George Gilder’s WSJ interview where he predicted America becoming both police state and social state was eerily prophetic. America’s heart palpitated in the darkness, the President asleep while the NSA boosted data collection activities to maximum, eyeing instigators, building profiles by sniffing Twitter accounts, digging into Facebook profiles, worming into mobile phones and listening in directly on West Florrisant Avenue. They sucked in each heartbeat into a mosaic of what was to come. Government growth a vine, its tendrils spreading into the cracks deep within the heartland. Read Chapter 1 of “The Cause” here where a riot takes place in L.A. in 2022. Has anything been learned eight years into the future? Thanks for reading, and let’s hope a lesson is being learned in Ferguson. It’s time to take the country back.
Roderick Vincent is the author of The Cause, book one in the Minutemen series. He has lived in the United States, England, and the Marshall Islands.
Nicole Leigh West Snow swirled by the window and an empty fireplace taunted my blue fingers as I sat in the parlour of Lednice Castle, in the Czech republic, listening to the tap, tap, tap of inspiration seeping from my soul into my brain. My first novel was coming. Although a published travel writer, I hadn’t ventured into serious novel writing before. A lucky break – meaning a boyfriend with a job on a movie set, filmed on location at Lednice Castle – led to my imagination being plunged into a ready-made atmosphere, just waiting to be peopled with quirky characters and magical adventures. We moved on from Lednice to Prague and perhaps 20 percent of the first draft of ‘The Gypsy Trail’ was written there, with ever-changing backdrops of cosy, underground cafes, freezing hotel rooms and lively pubs – armed with extremely cheap, always excellent, wine and a side of fried camembert… of course. From the beginning, Claudia, my protagonist, grabbed the story in her tiny fingers and hauled me along with her. I sometimes felt like she was sitting by my side, whispering her tales into my ear, and I appeared quite crazy, I’m sure, as I couldn’t help but speak back to her. Lucky I had the wine to blame for my imaginary friends.
knowing – but nothing could have prepared me for the unique sense of learning and frustration that comes with this form of editing. I’d had my articles edited, was not a stranger to evil red lines, and emotion never played much of a role. But I’d never fallen in love with my own characters and their worlds in such a way that any disruption to that fictional paradise/hell, felt like an intrusion into my very own sacred private life. Never did the quote, “In writing, you must kill your darlings”, by William Faulkner, become more useful or more annoying. Surviving a couple of years of editing, killing my ‘darlings’ (until next time) and finding a fantastic publisher are all things I achieved throughout the process, but, primarily, for me, in writing, nothing beats that first tap of inspiration, that first glimpse of characters as they descend on your imagination and the feeling of diving in to a new world, fingers first. Nicole Leigh West is an Australian author and prolific traveller. She practices Reiki and Holistic Counselling. The Gypsy Trail is her debut novel.
As an Australian, simply being in Europe with snow, cobblestones and ancient buildings spewing history is exotic enough. Add to the scene a black beret, long black jacket and a tattered notebook with actual WORDS in it, and I was living in a very real version of a long-held ‘writerly’ fantasy. Unfortunately, as can happen, upon returning to sunny Australia, Claudia’s voice screeched to a halt as I once again submersed in life as a choreographer in a full time job, writing blogs for websites and hanging out at the beach. Somehow, Claudia just didn’t seem to ‘fit’ anymore, despite regular, urgent nudges of inspiration at 3:00 in the morning. The nudge finally became a push at midnight, one stormy night (what is it with wild weather and inspiration?) and I could no longer ignore my cast of characters leaping from their neglected drafts. My reinstated novel writing practice always took place at night, with candles lit and incense burning and meditation music soothing the frustration of sentence structure. After a few years – how long exactly I no longer wish to keep track of – I decided to ‘get thyself to an editor’, with my finished work. My editor for ‘The Gypsy Trail’ was, and is, one of the most delightful, exuberant, talented, succulent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of 43
Imagine a story where everything is just fine and dandy. A story where nobody wants anything, because life is peachy. Our hero gets up in the morning, has breakfast with his non-squabbling family. He goes off to work in his perfectly reliable car and there are no roadworks on the way. At work, his boss, his co-workers and everyone he meets are all perfectly pleasant. He goes online to check his bank balance: he has easily enough money till the end of the month. He buys his wife some flowers and she’s pleased with them. He decides to mow the lawn, which was fairly neat anyway, but needed a little trim. The mower works just fine and the weather is pleasant enough so he doesn’t break out in a sweat. He decides he’ll fire up the barbecue and he and his wife share a bottle of wine. Whilst that sounds like a pretty decent life, it’s not fiction. There’s no dramatic tension for our main character. Yes, we can perhaps write some beautiful prose. You’ll be able to hear the buzzing of the lawn-mower, smell the sizzle of the sausages, taste the chilled Chablis as our hero rolls it round his unfurred tongue, but you’ll be bored stiff. There’s no yearning, nothing missing from this character’s life. All the reader is going to say is ‘So what?’ Contentment may be fine in real life, but fiction is not real life. Fiction is where we pile on the agony and make our characters suffer. And we pile on the agony by making a character want something and putting obstacles in their way as they try to reach their goal.
daughters, all of whom need marrying off. She’s motivated by trying to find husbands for them all. If we take two of the staples of fiction, the romance novel and the detective story, it’s quite easy to see the main characters’ motivation: the girl wants the boy or the detective wants to catch the criminal. Be Specific But we need to be more specific. Whilst we can say in general terms that the heroine of a romantic novel wants love, we have to force ourselves to be more precise with our motivation. ‘Love’ is too vague. She could stick an advert on the Internet and just take up with the first bloke who came along. No, our heroine must want precisely one person. She may waver and dither between two or three choices, as happens to Elizabeth Bennet, but eventually she has to plump for the right one. It’s not just any of the three that will do; it has to be Mr. Right, in this case Mr. Darcy. Similarly, our detective isn’t going to make do with collaring the Garden Gnome, Nabber, when there’s a serial killer on the rampage. Captain Ahab isn't going to settle for just any large aquatic mammal that swims past the Pequod. Give us some jeopardy The most potent motivational force of all is fear. Fear comes in all shapes and sizes:
In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Captain Ahab wants revenge on the great white whale that has made off with his leg. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jay yearns for Daisy. Jay Gatsby’s great desire to live a life of wealth and luxury is to prove to Daisy that he is good enough to marry into her refined family. Even in comedy, we need motivation. Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice has five 44
If you don’t catch the serial killer, he’ll do it again If you don’t find the bomb, it will go off If you don’t use clever questioning in court, the criminal will get off scot free If you don’t find Mr. Right, you’ll be the only singleton at the party If you don’t find work, you’ll lose your house If we don’t get her to the hospital in time, she’s going to die If you don’t get your hanky out in time, you’re going to sneeze on your boss’s lunch
Of course, it’s the character’s reaction to that fear that makes your character an individual. It’s the
Winter 2015 way in which they go about assuaging their fears that makes us want to read on. If at every twist and turn you place your character in jeopardy, then you will test them to the full and they will resonate more strongly with the reader. Be nasty This means you have to be as nasty as you can to your characters. If you make life easy for them, then we can’t root for them. They’ll just be mowing lawns in their happy suburb. Imagine if our serial killer just walked through the door and gave himself up? Where’s the dramatic tension? He’s done the detective’s work for him. No, we have to put obstacles in his way. If someone does walk in through the door claiming to be the killer then it has to be a hoax confession. But it has to be a good hoax. Perhaps the confessor knows details that the police think are not in the public domain. They are pretty convinced until something happens to disabuse them — another killing, or the realisation that there is a leak from the police station and gory details are all over a macabre Internet chat-room site. We can throw up other obstacles — a killing that looks initially as if it’s part of the same sequence, but which isn’t. The arrest of a very likely suspect, who turns out to be innocent. Someone lies convincingly to give the real antagonist an alibi.
proving him guilty. He essentially does this, but the guilty man walks free from the court on a technicality. So your detective takes the law into his own hands. His motivation is now to kill the villain. He kills the villain. Now his motivation is not to get caught himself. He makes it look like suicide. Now his motivation is to act normally … and so on. In addition, every other character in a scene must have some kind of agenda as well. Your heroine's agenda when she goes to the party might be to cheer herself up by hanging out with some old friends, but then she meets a man she fancies and her motivation changes to trying to get him to ask her out. Fair enough, both examples may seem hackneyed, but the point is that everyone has a motivation in the scene. It creates conflict, and without conflict we have no drama, we just have barbecuing and lawn-mowing and sips of Chablis. To Sum Up So, every character needs something, and what they need changes as your story unfolds. And every character in every scene you write must have an agenda to be in that scene. That way, your characters exist for a dramatic reason and the reader feels something for them. Ask yourself what every single character you create wants, then try your damnedest to stop them getting it.
Motivation changes Motivation changes as the story progresses. Your detective finds out who he thinks did it, his motivation then changes from finding the perpetrator to
Bear or Bare? I really can't bear to touch you. (I can't tolerate touching you.) It's a hard load to bear. (It's a hard load to carry.) I can't bear cheese. (She strongly dislikes cheese.) He picked up the hot coals in his bare hands. (Naked/without covering.) The bed was bare of blankets. (Devoid of blankets.) Pack the bare minimum of clothes. (Just sufficient.)
Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, sit back and take a glimpse into the world of Kitchen Witchcraft. This little book will give you an insight into what a Kitchen Witch is, what they do and how they do it. It gives an overview of the Sabbats, working with the Moon, the elements and candle magic. Packed full of ideas for crafting such as washes and smudges for your home and your body, witch bottles, incense, medicine bags, magic powders and offerings. Take a stroll through a Kitchen Witch's garden and discover what you will find there and finish up with some lovely meditations. Follow the heart of a Kitchen Witch... One of Moon Books' best-selling authors, Rachel Patterson is High Priestess of the Kitchen Witch Coven and an Elder of the Kitchen Witch School of Natural Witchcraft. A Green/Kitchen Witch with an added dash of hedgewitch and folk magic. She lives in Portsmouth, UK. 46
Every plant, every flower, every herb and every tree has energy, and that energy has magical properties. This book is go-to guide on how to work with these magical herbs and plants, how to use them and what to do with them. "...If you want to begin a love-affair with herbs this book is certainly for you." Elen Sentier "This book contains all the guidance most witches need for working with common magical herbs. Filled with useful ideas and applications." Hearth Moon Rising, author of Invoking Animal Magic
During a regression to find out the reason for the unusual emotional attachment that she'd had since the age of 16 to Sir Edward Elgar both his music and the man himself - Ann Merivale was knocked for six at finding herself in the life of Helen Weaver, his first fiancĂŠe. One year on, following a meeting held at Plas Gwyn, in the very room that had been Elgar's study from 1904-11, a series of letters between Edward Elgar and Helen Weaver started writing themselves in her head. Gradually, and on the advice of colleagues, she decided that this 'imaginary correspondence' should form the middle section of a book devoted to her personal experiences. It has the dual aim of introducing spiritual subjects to musical people who are unfamiliar with them, and introducing Elgar to spiritually minded people who know little or nothing about him. This is a novel approach to biography and a daring one. Humphrey Burton, Writer and Broadcaster.
Why are you here? What is your true purpose? You may need to look no further for answers! Drawing on many yearsâ€™ experience of studying questions relating to reincarnation, the author explains how we decide on our Life Plan, and the technicalities of incarnating. Using real case histories, she considers each stage of life from a psychological, astrological, emotional and spiritual viewpoint, concluding with a fascinating account of possible post-death scenarios. With self-development exercises at the end of each chapter, this book is an exciting and indispensable guide for everyone interested in looking at life from a broad perspective. A fascinating, informative and inspiring book, drawn from rich personal experience as well as from experience as a pastlife regression therapist Anne Baring, Jungian analyst, Author of The Dream of the Cosmos: who are we and why are we here? 47
Celebration of life I celebrate you, waiting eggs! For your vulnerability in the open nest. For having the courage to break through the shell that sustains and restrains you. Thank you for fragile wings that grow strong in your trust of life. I celebrate you, little spider! For the patience with which you weave your dawn shimmering web. For never faltering in your weaving even when harsh winds rend your work. Thank you for the soft sunlit threads with which you cocoon your babies. And the trust with which you hang this jewel upon the loom of life to hatch. I celebrate you, bright dragonfly! For the years you crawl at the bottom of a cold muddy pool. For daring to believe all along that you could be anything other than a shapeless grub. Thank you for the dream of beautiful wings and flight. For making me believe that I can dare to transform too. I celebrate you, little child with a million faces! For the silent language that pours through your eyes. And the pure soul of the Creator that resides in your tiny heart. Thank you for the miracle of your human self which reminds me of the miracle of mine.
God Has Fur I have discovered after all this time What I always knew. That God has fur! Radiant with the fire of a thousand stars His hands and feet walk the animal way With fur as soft as thistledown. How else could the Divine touch The aching heart with such compassion? Or keep vigil on the wounded dying With dignity and grace? Or warm our nakedness with unconditional love. I am in no doubt about this – God has fur! 2004 Stephanie June Sorrell
Star Gatherer (for Jane) One by one She calls in the stars As a lighthouse guides Its boats into safe harbour. She will not abandon Her task – not ever For she knows the endless depths which long exile brings. The aching loneliness which precedes The breaking of the light. And remembers the radiance As vista upon vista of constellations Tumble into manifestation. One by one She calls the register of Cosmic Souls for she knows within each broken heart, the light shines so radiantly. Understands the dark womb which births Its own cosmic radiance. And, even when there is no answer to her register, she does not give up. She knows they will return one by one, like dewdrop prisms who lose themselves in the sun. Stephanie Sorrell( 2013, St John’s retreat centre)
Shall I fold back the forest for you? Shall I fold back the forest for you? Uncurl the shy virginal fern. Peel away the lichen bark and expose the slim white limbs beneath. So you can see their vulnerability beneath their ancient disguise. There are avenues within the dark labyrinth. They grow there in the first green of spring. If you breathe in the bitter tang of oak you would find the musk odour beneath. In sacred moments the light pours ceaselessly through the trembling branches, coating the ground in gold fire. If I fold back the forest for you, would you love her as I do?
Many people will have heard or sang parts of Handel’s Messiah at Christmas, but few of them, I suspect, will be familiar with the story of rejection and rehabilitation that lies behind its creation. Handel was, in every sense of the word, a celebrity. He landed on our shores in 1711, after living in Italy for three years and familiarising himself with every aspect of Italian opera, just as the aristocratic taste for all things Italian was in full flow. What’s more, he arrived shortly after Parliament had invited an obscure German elector to become our future king; the fact that Georg Ludvig couldn’t speak English and had little interest in running the country were seen as advantages by those who ruled. What mattered was that he was a Protestant and that his great, great grandmother had been James I‘s sister. With royal backing, Handel became director of our only opera house and brought music in London up to a standard that rivalled Paris and Vienna. He did this by importing talent: violinists from Germany, horn players from Romania, singers and librettists from Italy. He became an entrepreneur just at a time when this new type of animal was busy staking out London’s playhouses and pleasure gardens.
in his life, I decided to write a novel which would try to capture the circumstances surrounding the creation of the most popular of his oratorios. The focus of the book is not actually Handel; rather it tells the story of a young singer, Harry Walsh, who falls in love with Handel’s assistant, Peter. The relationship sours just as Harry’s fortunes go into spectacular reverse and he loses all his money in an unwise speculation. It's as much about a young man exploring his sexuality as it is about the rise and fall of the Italian opera. There are plenty of rather heavy biographies of Handel, listing his many compositions. This isn’t one of them. It’s a light-hearted romp through the 1730s and ‘40s, when musical tastes were changing. But it shows, I hope, how a German émigré arrived on these shores just as colonialism, capitalism and cosmopolitanism were taking off, and summed up for his adopted land, better than anyone, what it meant to be British. I don’t pretend to be an expert on music and you most certainly don’t have to be one to enjoy the book. Messiah. Love, music and malice by Sheena Vernon is published by the Top Hat imprint of John Hunt Publishing and can be ordered through Amazon or your local bookstore.
But after years of success Handel’s Italian singers, who he regularly had rows with, turned against him. In fashionable society he became ‘yesterday’s man’ in part because he was inadvertently caught up in the game of hate being played out by George II and his son, Prince Frederick. It was a Hanoverian tradition for elder sons to hate their fathers and Frederick was never able to forgive his parents for deserting him as a child when they moved with George I to Britain. Handel was kicked out of the opera house to make way for a rival company sponsored by the Prince of Wales. In 1737, due to overwork, he had a paralytic fit. As he lay in his bed, unable to speak, you could be forgiven for thinking he was finished. Yet he resurrected himself: being the entrepreneur he was, he created a new genre of music – the dramatic oratorio sung in English – which appealed to a new audience of successful businessmen and professionals. His oratorios inspired choirs to spring up across Britain and in 1741, at the age of 56, he wrote the single, most enduring piece of music ever to have been written in English. Messiah was premiered, not in London but in Dublin. Laden with debt and sick of the constant harping of the news sheets, he spent ten happy months in retreat there. In Dublin, he felt, ‘good conversation and wit have yet to be banished from polite society.’ Intrigued by the majestic figure of Handel, and the dramas 49
‘Well, if you know so much Stan Clarke, I expect you know that too,’ I said, spinning around on my heel and flouncing out of the room. I went straight to him, The Beech. I was shaking now, all my earlier exhilaration draining away as I contemplated all the trouble, the accusations ahead. Stan, his ego pricked, might become spiteful. I wanted the grainy strength of The Beech against my skin. I wanted the great peace I felt come over me whenever I caressed his leaves, feeling them shiver beneath my touch. I pressed my cheek to his trunk, closed my eyes. That’s when I felt it — strong and clear — sorrow! My eyes flew open and I heard myself gasp as I stared up into his branches. Instead of the comfort I’d expected, I’d found pain. Somehow, in hurting Stan, I’d also hurt him, my love, my one true love. I was shocked to the core. Tears spurted from my eyes in the unrestrained manner of a small child. That was how Stan discovered me. He thought I was crying because of him, of course. Because he’d found me out: found out I’d stopped loving him long, long ago, and now he thought I was afraid of what he’d do. As if I cared! If it wasn’t for Tom, our son, I’d have asked him to leave months ago. ‘We could try again,’ he offered. ‘You could learn to be a better wife.’ As for me, I was beyond words. That night I cooked a venison casserole into which I put some of The Beech’s mast. It seemed right somehow. As if that’s what he would want; a kind of sharing. I had a little oil I’d pressed from fallen nuts. I’d long looked on his mast as a gift to me and searched for ways I could use it to bring the two of us closer. I ran Stan’s bath for him and I splashed Beech oil into the water, and even though I hated having to touch him, I gave Stan a shoulder rub with the oil after his bath. I would’ve done anything to heal the hurt I’d done to The Beech. Stan, of course, thought he could do anything after that. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d closed my eyes and thought of England. The funny thing was though; that night was a 50
turning point. Oh, I don’t mean I stopped loving my Beech and fell in love with Stan. But, it was as if the love I had inside me grew — so there was enough to go round for all of us. I’d been secretive and possessive about my fella; sharing him with only Tom, because that felt right, felt as if that was my family. And I’d had the evenings, when Tom was sleeping, and the glorious, black velvet nights, out in the garden. Stan had never wanted to spend any time in our little patch of nature; he’d always been too busy in his workshop. But now he started joining us and that was all right. Most importantly, when I laid my hand on him, I knew my Beech was happy. There was no trace left of the sorrow and pain I’d felt. Now there was only a huge, abiding serenity that leached from his roots, from his leaves and from his mast, into us. His branches whispered to me of the oneness of all creation and I began to understand that when you hurt even the smallest part of that, you hurt all of it, including yourself. Gradually, in my newfound patience, Stan irritated me less and less. I discovered compassion. And Stan developed perception. He stopped bringing me his work to admire and he stopped making things out of wood for me. One night, some months later, June, it was, I dreamt the heart of my Beech, the elemental spirit, you might say the life force, came to me. His tunic and trousers were the reds and purple-green of his foliage. His face was pale and smooth. When he folded me into his arms, I could smell the greenness of young shoots. His body was straight and slim. His limbs had the lean, iron muscle of a dancer and his kiss was sharp as sap. I woke then and opened my eyes. Stan’s mouth was tasting the skin at the inside of my elbow, planting delicate, sweet kisses, in an ever-widening circle. The heady smell of greenery was everywhere. Stan was blond but as I plunged my fingers through his hair, I would’ve sworn it gleamed red. The years seemed to have dropped away from him, but when his eyes fastened on me, drinking me in; they were filled with an ageless, ancient, knowing. ‘My beloved,’ he said. ‘My sacred love.’ In all our
Winter 2015 years together, I’d never heard Stan speak like that. I learnt everything that night. I think Stan did too. I don’t think either of us had ever had an inkling of how love really could be. Afterwards, drifting on the waves of sleep, I heard The Beech. ‘My beloved. My Diana. Our essence always entwined. In all of creation, our souls call each to the other and each knows the other. You are my heart, my Itchita. Mine through all eternity.’ When I awoke, Stan was sleeping, his hair gleaming red in the morning sun. There were bits of twig and a few leaves tangled in it. Later, when I made the bed, I found a handful of mast. We took to making love beneath The Beech after that. Even when the nights drew in and the air cooled, we were never cold. It was as if we were protected. The following spring, something else happened. I noticed it first. Stan was mowing the lawn. He’d taken off his shirt and I noticed the tiniest, green shoot, growing in his armpit. Stan snapped it off — it didn’t hurt. We found others after that, behind his ears, the cleft of his buttocks. One morning we found some nestled in his groin. It seems very odd, I know, but we weren’t at all worried. It never once crossed our minds to go to the doctor or anything like that. We accepted it, just as we accepted the reddish glints in Stan’s hair. Summer was beautiful that year and Stan and I thought it would go on forever. It didn’t of course. That autumn, Stan took up working with wrought iron. I found a book in the library on Beech folklore and read all about the triple god-
dess, Itchita, who resides within the beech and all about the Goddess, Diana, who held the beech to be sacred. It was winter before we realized The Beech was sick. We consulted a tree doctor immediately. He did what he could, but by the following April, The Beech was gone and Stan found the first swellings under his arm. He died in October. The day of the funeral, when everyone had gone, I came here and planted my handful of nuts, together with Stan’s ashes. Tom had never been close to his father but he came with me. I don’t know what he thought about what I was doing, we didn’t talk, didn’t discuss it. He seemed all right with it though. Maybe he just wanted to please me. I didn’t think for one moment anything would happen. I just felt a need to do something life affirming. And now … I ran my fingers through the tender young leaves of the slender sapling. ‘My Beech. My handsome young man.’
Krystina Kellingley is a commissioning editor/copy editor/ publisher of imprints Axis Mundi Books (esoteric books), Cosmic Egg Books (Fantasy/Sci Fi/Horror), and Lodestone Books (Y/A). She is currently working on an adult supernatural fiction novel. She has had several short stories published in spiritual magazines as well as many online articles on dream interpretation and other subjects. Krystina travels internationally to tutor in writing workshops as well as privately mentoring new writers of adult and children’s fiction.
Leaving the hyphen out of ages. It was a three-year-old girl. (The age is an adjective that comes before the noun "girl" and modifies it.) She acted like a three-year-old. (Here we have missed out the noun "girl" in this adjective phrase, but the adjective still modifies the missing noun. "She acted like a three-year-old girl.") She was three years old. (But a hyphen is used if it is a compound number. She was twentythree years old.) 51
I have always been an avid history fan. I grew up in an historically rich part of Surrey, not far from places like Hampton Court Palace, Ham House and Kew Gardens. My own family history was full of Second World War stories and other titbits, like how great granddad was chief stoker of the boilers in the hot houses of Kew or how my great auntie had sewn the parachutes for RAF pilots. Both my step-dad and granddad were history lovers and I spent days as a child being dragged to museums and battle fields. I can't say I enjoyed it much then but I surely appreciate it now. As any social science or history student will know â€“ history is his story. Where were her stories? So many women have been left out of history, so many interesting lives that no one knows about. I wanted to write about the lives of women who had been forgotten and bring their stories to a new generation of readers. Lady Katherine Knollys is my second history book, due out in January with Chronos Books. The first was Ireland's Suffragettes, published by the History Press, Ireland. The research for this came about during my time as a community devel-
opment worker where I worked with women's groups on issues like politics and voting. I spent many a day in the National Archives in Dublin sorting through boxes of files, newspaper cuttings and prison records. It started as research for my degree and then morphed into an idea for an article that was published in Ireland's Own, which then spurred me on to writing a collection of mini biographies. But I always wanted to write a book about a woman who had been glossed over in history. Katherine spoke to me through the ages as a girl who had been denied access to her father because of his own political and marital status. She was mentioned, briefly, in many of the Tudor books around but there was no definitive story of her life. I was intrigued. Who was Katherine? Was she really Henry VIII's daughter? Little girls dream of being princesses but in the Tudor age being a princess was no great joy. Both Mary (Catherine of Aragon's daughter) and Elizabeth (Anne Boleyn's) swung from receiving their father's affection
Winter 2015 and attention to being bastardised and hidden from court. Katherine missed out on being a princess but that probably worked more in her favour. She was never acknowledged by her father, Henry VIII, for several valid reasons but still she rose through the ranks in court to become one of Elizabeth I's closest confidantes. Katherine served Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. She had to flee England when her halfsister Mary came to power. Missing her husband terribly, she died at a relatively young age, and was given a royal funeral. Every indication pointed to her royal blood so I wanted to write about her life and explore how she had grown up in Henry VIII's reign, lived through Edward VI's and Mary I's, and died in Elizabeth I's. I've always loved the Tudors and thought I knew plenty about them – until I came to do the research! We take on board so much history from TV and film that just isn't correct. My step-dad refused to watch the Tudors series because it had so many historical inaccuracies. I watched it to try and spot them – and to ogle Henry Cavill! I had to begin by getting my facts straight. I started by scouring my local library for any and every book on the Tudors. I searched the bibliographies and reference sections for further resources. I bought old, second hand, research books through Amazon and created piles of Tudor books all around my desk area. The reading for any research is huge but this really was monumental. I had sticky notes sticking out of all the relevant pages and sheets of dissertations and articles printed off and highlighted. Living in a rural setting, the Internet is my biggest research tool. I used sites like British History Online and JSTOR to find what I need. Sometimes the most random searches will turn up amazing facts – as long as you check they are facts! Some great volunteer projects have digitalised old classic works, so books like Fox's Book of Martyrs and Hall's Chronicles as readily available online. The local library was also invaluable. They had access to research sites that would usually be quite expensive to subscribe to but there, for an hour a time, they are free. If
the library wasn't busy I could manage a few hours and the only costs I had were for print outs. My main sources for Katherine's biography were the letters and papers and the calendars of state papers that are available online. The history of parliament website also had invaluable information on Katherine's husband, brother and sons. I talked to other historians who sent me information or told me where to look, and quite often I would find out more about Katherine through her husband or sons. For instance, Katherine's husband was jailor to Mary, Queen of Scots. In his letters back to Queen Elizabeth and her advisor Lord Cecil, he would often mention his wife, asking after her in his absence. This built up a picture of her later life and one of the relationship between Katherine and her husband. She married at 16 and had 14 children – a near miracle in Tudor times – and they still missed each other when they were apart. She may have missed out on her father's affection but she was much loved by her nearest and dearest, including the queen. Writing historical works can be tough. Some days the gaps will not be filled, there are too many questions and the research just doesn't bear fruit. But seeing my book in print has made it all worth it. Already my book has been trending at number one in British Historical Biographies and Henry VIII biographies on Amazon. Lady Katherine's story will be told and I hope readers will enjoy finding out more about this Tudor lady.
Sarah-Beth Watkins is a freelance writer with over 20 years' experience writing for magazines and websites on a variety of topics including writing, parenting, crafts, literature and women's development. Over the past ten years, she has also tutored a number of writing courses within community settings and as a distance and online learning tutor. She lives in County Wexford, Ireland.
In this article I will ask people a series of searching questions that will help you create real, flawed human beings who breathe. This is a powerful characterisation tool which produces incredible results because once you have answered these questions you know exactly how your character thinks, speaks and acts in every situation. In fact, you will know these people better than yourself! Character Biography 1. What is his age and name? 2. What is his height, build, colour of hair, eyes and skin? 3. Does he have any facial expressions, a squint or any disability? Does he wear glasses or contact lenses? 4. How does he walk or move? Does he have any mannerisms or habits? Does he smoke? If he doesnâ€™t, what is his attitude towards people who do? 5. What type of clothes is he comfortable in? Does he change his clothes often? 6. How does he speak? Whatâ€™s the pitch and speed of his voice? Any favourite sayings or words? Does he use slang or swear? 7. Does he live alone or with other people? Does he have any children? What is his relationship to them? What are his children like, if he has any? 8. Where does he live? Does he own his home? How is it furnished? Is he domesticated, tidy or messy? 9. Is he successful in material terms? Does he have a good job with enough money or is he worried about his finances? Is he financially independent? 10. Does he like his job? If not, what would he rather do? 11. Are his parents living? Does he like them? What has he inherited from them both physically and psychologically?
12. What kind of education did he have? Did his parents expect too much or too little from him? 13. What is his nationality? Does he live in his country of origin? If not, why not? How does he feel about this? 14. When he is at home for an evening alone, is he happy with his own company? What does he do? What sort of music does he like, if any? 15. What sort of personality does he have? How does he express tension? How does he express pleasure? How does he express anger? 16. Do people like him? Do people respect him?
Winter 2015 17. What does he like most about himself? What does he like least? Does he want to change himself in any way? 18. What does he want out of life? What is he prepared to do to get it? Once you know the answers to these questions, you will know exactly how your character thinks, speaks and acts, i.e. he will start thinking, speaking and acting for himself, not being manipulated by you. In fact, this technique is so effective that sometimes, a character will actually speak to you. This happened to me one night when I was writing a scene from my WWII novel called “The Invisible Piper”. It was a cold, windy night, rather like the weather in my novel. (Interestingly, I’ve only just realised that the weather outside my window was being mirrored in my writing.) Charlie, my disarming, cheeky 10 year-old evacuee was listening outside a door to his foster-parents’ lounge because they were talking about him. They were discussing the fact that he would have to be evacuated again as the government thought that evacuees from London weren’t safe in Hastings. He entered the room (against my wishes!) to say he wouldn’t go. This kid took over my plot because he decided that he wasn’t going to move again from people he had come to love. He told me this quite clearly when I was writing him out of the scene. I heard his voice whisper in my ear saying ‘I won’t go, so it’s useless trying to make me.’ That’s how alive a character can become if you dig deep enough into his personality. Naturally, you won’t need to use the answers to every question I’ve asked in a story or novel, but you should learn as much as you can about your characters because once you know exactly how they think, move and act, they become living, breathing human beings. Then when you’re learned everything about them, you can often use a ‘snap-shot’ to introduce them.
makes her tick, you will then know what happened to her in the past to make her act in this manner. Powerful characters are only one of the elements in creating an exciting story or novel that will sustain a reader’s interest. As a writer and creative writing tutor for many years, I’ve used my knowledge and experience to write a book called How to Write and Sell Great Short Stories which will show you many more effective writing techniques. (The ingredients for writing a page-turning book will also be found in my video called “What Makes A Good Book?”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liYD-NPOXQQ Linda M James is a writer of novels, non-fiction books, screenplays, short stories and poems. Before becoming a writer, she was a model, a singer and an English Lecturer.
E.g. ‘Imogen was the sort of woman who used men like other women use toilet cleaners.’ Doesn’t that powerful sentence reveal so much about this woman? Once you know what 55
Suzanne Ruthven reflects on why writing and athletics require a similar approach and discipline. It’s often been said that everyone has a novel in them and every year it is estimated 80% of the population plan to sit down and begin telling a story that may have been haunting them for years. But like the Mum or Dad left gasping for breath after taking part in the parent’s event at their child’s sports day, both writing and running need quite a bit of serious preparation before leaving the starting blocks. I’m obviously a better writer than I was athlete because I’m still churning out thousands of words for publication and gave up on the athletics shortly after leaving school because I discovered I wasn’t good enough to compete in adult events. Long distance writing, especially a novel, is an extremely solitary occupation and requires a lot of self-discipline to see it through to the end. So how do we develop the right training programme to enable us to realise our ambition?
one receives an electricity bill or an income tax demand. We will probably enter for local or charity events (no fee) for the fun of taking part, until we become more proficient, when we have our sights fixed firmly on the winner’s prize. Third Step: With a little bit of success under our belt, we indulge in the displacement activity of social media, where we spend more time talking about writing than we do producing new material. We bask in the glory of our first major acceptance at our writers’ group or on a writers’ blog. Our training programme has become a leisure activity and we prefer to surround ourselves with like-minded people who are always tripping off to writers’ holidays and workshop events to listen to other writers talking about writing. Our work-out consists of developing more literary aspirations, often including the enrolment on a degree course for the coveted MA in Creative Writing. Fourth Step: With some serious coaching behind us and an intensive training package on which to focus, we have now identified the precise area of the market where we intend aiming our work. Ambition has entered the equation and we tend to forge on alone because our fellow writers are too busy having fun on the literary scene. Our hard work is beginning to pay off and with a few major publishing successes to pad out the CV (a modest booklet, regular magazine or newspaper column, creative writing tutor), we often find ourselves invited to act as a workshop facilitator or guest speaker at one of the major annual writers’ events.
First Step: The path to publication isn’t quite as straightforward as we are often led to believe. We read the numerous entries on Blog and Facebook bubbling with enthusiasm for the forthcoming book launch but we rarely hear of the months, if not years of anguish, in trying to get the damn thing right! No one becomes a fully-fledged author overnight and most writers have served a fairly lengthy apprenticeship within the short story and article markets before turning their hand to the full-length book. This means we have gone through the limbering–up process of discovering all about the different market outlets available to us and the type of material we wish to write. Fifth Step: Just as the professional athlete requires sponsorship to support a career, so the writer also Second Step: We begin to flex our muscles in build- needs an ancillary source of income to support ing up the courage to submit our writing for profes- them as a full-time writer. The lure of the novel (or sional scrutiny and taking part in the race. Believe it other magnum opus) looms large but we often or not there are thousands of writers out there who spend more time on generating material with a view are too afraid to submit their work to editors for to topping up the monthly income than writing crefear of rejection. At this stage we must understand atively. At this stage it is possible for writers to earn that everyone receives rejection slips, just as every- a living from their work, although this should not be 56
Winter 2015 taken for granted when giving up the day job. Be warned: magazines and publishers are frequently changing editors and our market outlets can dry up overnight when these in-house changes are implemented. Sixth Step: With the publication of our first fulllength book we’ve gone from junior to adult league and instead of things getting easier the business of writing appears to become more difficult. The reason being that we’ve put everything we’ve got into producing that first book and we can feel as though there are no reserves left for a return match. Few publishers are interested in a ‘one book author’ and so we should have already given some thought to the next one – but how do we generate ideas for this second book? Perhaps we need to step back for a moment and reflect on the fact that the first book was easier to write because we were drawing on autobiographical material (personal, friends, family, colleagues, etc.) and didn’t need to go looking for plots and sub-plots, heroes and villains. This time we’re starting from scratch and require lots of fresh ideas.
need to take some time off to recover. Ninth Step: Preparing for the big come back, we’ve finished the first draft of the second book and theoretically we’re ready to come out and set the track alight. Unfortunately, we’ve spent so much time away from our typescript that we find ourselves looking for a different type of displacement activity to delay getting back on track. This usually takes the form of research – the most fascinating, compelling and time consuming element of creative writing! Research is addictive and we can’t get enough of it, especially with all the short cuts provided by Wikipedia. If we don’t kick the habit now, we’ll find ourselves on the substitute’s bench forever.
Tenth Step: By some great act of will power we’ve completed the second book and crossed the finishing line. It’s now in the production stages and we feel we can now consider ourselves a professional writer, a fact that will be further endorsed when we receive our six author copies. We can break open the champagne and toast our own success – before embarking on the publicity campaign for the new title, while thinking up ideas for book number Seventh Step: Now that we’ve proved to be a win- three… ner, the pressure is on to keep producing the same results. With a first book we had the luxury of com- Loneliness is the down-side to a professional writing pleting it in our own time – now we have to work to career but like the committed athlete, the arduous a deadline and that can be extremely stressful. At hours of ‘training’ do pay off in the long run. We the same time, it’s now part of the author’s brief have to make the conscious decision whether to that they spend a considerable amount of time on side-line our family commitments and press on with publicising and marketing their own title. And since the third book that begins to occupy every moment Amazon has now become the new shop window for of our spare time. Writers need silence and solitude selling books, we have the thankless task of trying to (not to mention mental fitness) in which to work but boost the number of customer reviews that extol there may come a time when we actually begin to the virtue of our particular title over the competi- enjoy the loneliness and mental agility of the longtion. In fact, we’re spending so much work-time on distance writer. social media and generating book reviews that our writing time is virtually non-existent unless we utiSuzanne Ruthven is the former edilise the hours of the evening and early morning, tor of The New Writer magazine and when nobody else is about. commissioning editor for Compass Books, a writer's how-to book imEighth Step: It’s probably by this stage that we stop print for John Hunt Publishing. She is to reflect on the fact that during the past year we’ve also author of nearly 40 titles in the hardly taken any time for having fun. In between MB&S and countryside genres, inour day to day chores like the school run, washing, cluding two novels. She regularly procleaning, cooking, trips to the vet, shopping, etc. we vides contributions to a wide variety have to fit in writing, research and marketing activiof different magazines and writingties – including speaking engagements, attending related blogs and Facebook sites. writers’ events and book signings. Suffering from chronic fatigue and a mental ham-string injury, we 57
Michael Tobert All the doors of the houses are locked. Such is the custom of the town, a gentle town but cautious. Xavier is late. He is a visitor. When he reaches the door of the house where he is staying, he grasps the handle knowing, before he turns it, what he will find. It is his own fault. The woman, with whom he is lodging, has warned him. ‘We lock up here as soon as darkness falls. You may find this strange, many visitors do, but we have our reasons. So come back early and I’ll have a fine plover pie waiting for you.’ She must have noticed the look on his face because she then asks, ‘have you ever eaten plover?’ He replies that he hasn’t and she goes on to tell him they are quite a delicacy in these parts. It may have been the thought of those little birds whose plaintive song, phee-oo, phee-oo, has always found a place in his heart – was he to eat them whole, heads and all? – that causes him to tarry. Or it may have been the snow, which is most unexpected this far south. Or it may have been the feeling that comes to him as he is still trudging through open country that something or somebody is following him. Where this feeling of not being entirely alone comes from, he has no idea. He is sure there is no reason for it – the land is flat and white and, when he looks around, he sees nothing, nor anywhere for a pursuer to hide – but as Xavier well understands, reasons are one thing and feelings another. Xavier trudges through the snow which melts on his boots and penetrates the stitching which holds the pieces of leather together. He is aware of the dampness in his feet but doesn’t mind. He sings as he goes
along, a cheery sort of a tune, the sort of tune which he feels might encourage whoever is behind him to make himself known, so that they might cover the remaining miles together in good companionship, swapping stories as travellers on the road are wont to do. No one shows themselves and the bright light of the afternoon begins to fade. He imagines dusk gathering on the horizon and would no doubt quicken his steps if the pie he has been promised was more to his taste; beef or lamb, even pigeon. Xavier likes his food. He has always eaten well: his parents were church folk. Even so, he tries not to take life’s abundance for granted. Things change. Today’s plenty might be gone tomorrow. This he knows. Though knowing, as he also knows, is not always enough. A life without a good meal to sit down to of an evening, or a good bottle of wine come to that – what sort of a life is that? Hard to imagine. Hard to contemplate. Who would want to spend their days in a place where plover pie is regarded as a delicacy? He shudders at the thought and slows his steps. Better to be locked out. At least he will be spared having to hear the crunch as he bites off the poor little creatures’ heads. And yet the young woman in whose house he is staying does not seem unhappy. Hard to explain, but so it is. Life is full of mysteries, he concludes, and begins to hum to himself a popular folk tune of the region, one he heard earlier in the day: a song of love and yearning and regret made the more poignant by the beauty of the singer’s voice and the blindness of her eyes. When he stood before her to pass over a coin, she seemed to
flinch as if she didn’t know that what he was offering was a gift. ‘Here is a small coin,’ he said, as he pressed it into her hand. He notices an outcrop of rock ahead of him and decides that there he will stop and rest for a while. He has some bread with him and some strong peasant cheese which he bought in the market before setting off. It will be enough. Or at least preferable. When he comes to the rock, he finds an area that will serve as a seat and sits down. He takes out his bread and cheese and begins to eat, a mouthful of bread followed by a mouthful of cheese. Such simple food, but so good. When the pie is offered to me, he thinks, I shall refuse it. I shall say that so much food was thrust upon me earlier in the day, I can’t manage another mouthful. The woman will understand. From somewhere behind him comes, or so he imagines, birdsong; tlee, treeolee, phee-oo, phee-oo. Xavier’s thoughts turn towards girls. When he isn’t thinking about food, he thinks about girls. Sometimes he thinks about Marianna, the girl he is going to marry. He pictures her sewing. She is always sewing. Or baking. Or making stews. Marianna is a home-maker, a nest builder. He thinks of her sleek black hair which clings to her scalp like feathers and laughs. He opens his mouth as if to receive some morsel from her, a worm perhaps, and drops into it a piece of cheese. He wonders what it would be like to be with a blind girl. He would describe the world for her in all its detail and she would respond with the only reliable instruments she has at her disposal; her hands, her lips. She
Winter 2015 would touch him all over, searching out the source of his magic and, in her feeling of him, he would understand her desperation, her need to swallow him whole in case he should escape her and be gone. Xavier lies back in contemplation of blind love and hums once more the tune he heard earlier. Something then makes him turn, though what it is, he can’t say. He imagines for a moment that perhaps the person following him is Marianna, that she wants to find out for herself what he gets up to when he goes out on his journeys. He searches for her in the landscape, but sees nothing. This doesn’t trouble him. He is happy being alone. He continues to stare out across the flat plain of snow behind him. The longer he looks the more certain he becomes that his instinct is correct: something, even if not Marianna, is out there. The gloom of dusk gathers about him and, as it gathers, the land which so recently appeared empty now confirms his suspicions, seeming suddenly full of shapes, full of flitting here and gone, full of appearances too large for this world or too disproportioned, of gargantua and absurdia and all things weird. ‘It is the dark’, Xavier says to himself. ‘The mind plays tricks.’ He shakes himself to clear his head of its phantasms, finishes his last piece of cheese and is preparing to be on his way when he feels a hand on his cheek. He jumps back in alarm, forcibly detaching himself from the hand, if such it is. He shudders and prepares once more to leave with as much speed as he can muster, when he feels the hand again. This time, perhaps because he is halfexpecting it, he doesn’t jump away. He lets the touch linger. It is soft, pleasant, like the inquiring hand of a girl who wishes to absorb into herself the sensations she feels on his skin. There is nothing but curiosity in the touch, no malice in it, no hint of evil, so he remains beneath it, in its orbit, perhaps even under its control, though he can see nobody to which
the hand might be attached, nor indeed anything. ‘It is a dream,’ he thinks. ‘I am dreaming.’ He lies back on the flat rock and lets the hand go where it will. It travels down his face and rests on his chest, its fingers playing in the hair it finds there. He thinks that perhaps the hand’s further movement might be restricted and so, carefully, not wishing to scare it away, undoes the buttons of his clothing. He lies on the rock with his front bared to the sky, his eyes closed and his body quite warm enough in spite of the snow on the ground all about him. He must then have fallen asleep – if indeed he hasn’t been asleep earlier – because night has truly set in by the time he gathers himself. ‘I can’t stay here forever’, he declares and, buttoning himself, gets to his feet and walks. His mind is easy now and, if there are phantasms out there, he is content to regard them as friends from whom he has no secrets. In fact this is the essence of his feeling: that all that he has, he has shared, and so is purged, cleansed. He has held nothing back and resolves that, in future, whatever anyone asks of him, he will give. Presently, he reaches the village. He walks down the main street in silence except for the sound of his boots on the stones. A single dog wakes and barks. Then another and soon all the dogs of the village are howling. ‘Soft, my friends,’ he whispers, ‘be soft, people are sleeping.’ When he reaches the door of the house, he finds, as he knows he will, that the handle will not turn. He tries it again. ‘I can’t spend all night outside, not in this cold,’ he thinks. He turns the handle once more, this time applying all his strength. Still it doesn’t move. He rattles the door frame. Perhaps it is the act of rattling which starts it, or perhaps some deeper frustration, but anger now begins to rise within him. He kicks the base of the door with his toe. ‘By what right is she keeping me out?’ he asks himself. ‘Haven’t I paid? What is she
afraid of?’ The door stares back at him impassively, or rather, as it seems to Xavier, provocatively. Fuelled by its mute resistance, he leans his shoulder into the wood, pulls back and crashes against it. The lock snaps. ‘Thank heavens,’ he says to himself. His anger leaves him as quickly as it has arisen. He brushes himself down with his fingertips, pushes the door back quietly so as not to create any further disturbance and creeps across the threshold. He feels for a lamp that he knows is kept on a ledge by the window and bends down to light it. The glow of the lamp casts a flickering light across the room. In the corner, he makes out the figure of the young woman with whom he is lodging. She is standing. He has no doubt that she has watched, terrified, as he beat down the door. ‘I am sorry,’ he says. ‘I have broken your lock. I will repair it in the morning.’ ‘If you can, I would be grateful.’ ‘I hope I didn’t frighten you.’ ‘You did. Nonetheless, it is better that it is you who enters than a stranger. I have prepared a pie as I promised. Would you like it now?’ Xavier, after all the damage he has caused, feels he cannot refuse. ‘If it’s not too much trouble,’ he replies. ‘No trouble at all. Please sit.’ She points to the wooden table in the centre of the room. After a while, she comes out with a plate on which is a large portion of pie, so carefully cut that the faces of the plovers are looking up at him with their beaks open as if they are in their nest awaiting the return of a parent. Xavier is overcome with sadness. ‘I have nothing to give you,’ he whispers to the dead and hungry birds. As the woman bends to lay the plate before him, her blouse brushes against his cheek. He feels the curve of her breast beneath. ‘Eat,’ the woman urges. ‘The plovers this season are particularly delicious.’ Xavier lifts up his fork and prepares to plunge it in...
COMPASS BOOKS WRITERS’ RESOURCE DIRECTORY Krystina Kellingley is a reader and commissioning editor/ copy editor/co-publisher across various imprints. Author of a children’s novel, she has had several short stories published in spiritual and fiction magazines as well as online articles on dream interpretation and other subjects. Krystina travels internationally to tutor in writing workshops as well as privately mentoring new writers of adult and children’s fiction. She has a First Class BA (hons) in Imaginative Writing and Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. She lives in the UK. Here is what one author has to say: “I felt very lucky to have Krystina Kellingley as my editor and mentor. She is a sensitive and intuitive professional with broad vision and a huge knowledge in creative writing. Krystina is a visionary who has the ability of traveling deeply inside the story as if she were one of the characters. All this ensures a high quality on her work.” F. T. Camargo, author of Shanti and the Magic Mandala. Find her on, http://writerswheel.com/ RESOURCE: Editing at all levels, fiction manuscript appraisal, tutoring, workshops, re-writing, ghost writing. Maria Moloney has been part of the John Hunt Publishing team for six years and runs editorial services and foreign rights. She is also a publicist and co-publisher across various imprints. The author of five MBS books with two more in the offing, she has also authored a children’s fantasy novel, and is currently writing the sequel. Over a number of years she guest lectured at Liverpool John Moores University, and now holds workshops in writing fiction and non-fiction and on spiritual subjects internationally. She has had many articles published, and as well as being a team member on Writer’s Wheel magazine, she was co-founder and former deputy editor of Irish magazine, Brigid’s Fire. Maria has a BA (hons) degree in Imaginative Writing and Literature, and has studied both Writing and Research at postgraduate level. She lives in Ireland. Find her on, http://writerswheel.com/ RESOURCE: Editing, mentoring, workshops, fiction and non-fiction manuscript appraisal. Suzanne Ruthven has authored over 30 titles in the country lore, MB&S and creative writing genres, as well as ghostwriting a further ten books for other people, including a field sports autobiography that was nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. She has also tutored at writers’ workshops including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle College (Lincolnshire), the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Welsh Academy - following which she was invited to become a full member of the Academi in recognition of her contribution to literature in Wales. She now lives in South Tipperary, Ireland. Find out more at http://suzanneruthvenatignotuspress.blogspot.ie/ RESOURCE: Ghost-writing, tutoring, workshops, non-fiction manuscript appraisal.
Sally Spedding is an experienced adjudicator, speaker and workshop leader at many literary festivals and writing conferences, where she enjoys meeting aspiring writers and helping them get published. She is a manuscript appraiser for the CWA and regularly assesses work sent by all those who have stayed in touch. This has firmed up her belief that new, original talent is too often overlooked for the safe bet. She lives in Carmarthenshire, UK. Find out more at http://www.sallyspedding.com/ RESOURCE: tutoring, manuscript appraisal, speaker, workshop leader. Sarah-Beth Watkins has been a freelance writer for over 20 years writing for magazines and websites such as Your New Baby, Changing Ireland, Banulacht's Gender and Development Bulletin, Take a Break, Scouting, Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly and many more. She has written over 300 articles for the web on a variety of subjects. Her most recent work includes writing articles for Wikio Experts, Vista magazine, Overblog and New Consciousness Review. Sarah has also tutored creative writing and journalism courses for various colleges and community centres. She is the author of Telling Life's Tales, The Writer's Internet, The Lifestyle Writer and Life Coaching for Writers available through Compass Books. She lives in Ireland. Find her on https://www.facebook.com/SarahBWatkinsWriter RESOURCE: Non-fiction tutoring, coaching for writers, making the best use of the Internet Simon Whaley regularly facilitates workshops and courses at writers' festivals and events, and also at writers' groups. His practical and hands on workshops offer tips on non-fiction writing including: how to analyse your target publication, drafting your magazine article, writing letters for publication, writing travel features, creative non-fiction and maximising your ideas. He lives in Shropshire, UK. For more information visit http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/workshops-talks/ RESOURCE: workshop facilitator, tutoring Nicholas Corder is the author of hundreds of articles and fifteen published books and plays. He writes mainly on the topics of historical crime and on writing skills, but also light stage comedies. He has worked in a variety of community settings and as a university lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Open University. His novel The Bone Mill is set in the murky world of body-snatching in 1820s Stoke. He is currently working on a new novel with a contemporary setting, as well as a book on writing crime, which will be his second outing with Compass Books: the first, Creating Convincing Characters, will be published shortly. He also writes songs for The Pie Men, a light-hearted musical duo. He lives in Shropshire, UK. See www.nicholas-corder.co.uk and www.thepiemen.co.uk RESOURCE: Public speaking, workshops, teaching, manuscript appraisal, mentoring, writer-in-residence.
Welcome to the fourth issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. Writing can be an adventure a...
Published on Jan 16, 2015
Welcome to the fourth issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. Writing can be an adventure a...