Monthly Archives: December 2014

…great Part Two of a Double helping of Guest Blogs from Authoress, Clodagh Phelan…

clodagh

…what a buzz, to end 2014 with not one, but two, helpings of Guest Postings from the same pal, Authoress, Clodagh PhelanPart One was a fascinating account of how she put together her novel, THE EIGHTEENTH OF NOVEMBER, … Part Two of her blogs below is a goldmine for all we quill-scrapers, long-time hacks and neophytes alike… yeez need to know ‘stuff’ about our scribbling ’business’?… have a decko there :

 

…thanks, again, m’Lady, Clodagh...

CRAFT OR CALLING?

Snoopy2

When I first started writing, I simply wrote. I wrote in every form except the novel. Too long. Too difficult. Not for me. Or so I thought. Until I tried it and found it was a perfect fit. Typical! I discovered how to write by writing and by copying what my favourite authors did. Later, when I began to write novels, I also read some wise, practical ‘how-to’ books on the craft.

 

 

For it is a craft. Yes, there is such a thing as inspiration and inherent talent. Yes, some things can’t be taught but there’s a great deal that can be learned. You just keep on writing, keep your bum on the seat and don’t give up. I’m not ashamed to admit that I used to write with pen in one hand and how-to book, or a novel, in the other.

I read anything and everything. And this too was, I believe, critical to my formation as a writer. I had read most of Agatha Christie’s work by the time I was twelve. My school made us read the classics so Dickens, Tolstoy, Thackeray and other great writers were my companions. I owe my very survival, in no small part, to reading.

Then came the MA at Sheffield Hallam and another steep learning curve. Luckily the skills I lacked were the skills that could be taught. Skills like understanding narrative drive, the difference between a first draft and a finished novel. As a copywriter I knew how to cut and edit. But throwing out great chunks because they are not working. That’s hard. But necessary.

Here are just a very few of the many books I learned from along the way. Only a small sample, but an important sample nonetheless.

WritinginGeneral

Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular – Rust Hills   Beginning, middle end. Character and plot. Setting and motivation. It’s all there. Whether you are writing short stories or novels, this is a practical, down to earth book that no writer should be without.

 

WritingLifeThe Writing Life  Annie Dillard This book has been called ‘a kind of spiritual Strunk & White. It’s full of little stories about what it’s like to be a writer. It’s an inspiration. It’s the sort of book that makes you feel you are not alone and gives you the courage to carry on.

 

 The   ForestTreesForest for the Trees – Betsy Lerner Subtitled An Editor’s Advice to Writers, this common sense and indispensible book gives valuable insights into an editor’s mind. It’s not a ‘how to’ book, it’s a ‘must have’ book. Fascinating, authoritative and comforting at the same time.

 

Revision

Revision –Kit Reed I doubt I could ever have managed to edit and revise my books without the help of this splendid volume. Part of a series, it takes you step by step through the process of revision. And shows how rewriting is a natural, essential part of writing fiction.

 

WriteMillion

How to Write a Million – Dibell, Scott Card & Turco Don’t be fooled by the title, which was probably thought up by the marketing department. This is no ‘get rich quick’ manual. This is a solid, common sense set of guides. The three topics – Plot, Characters and Viewpoint and Dialogue – are each broken up into short sections, which are easy to read and absorb.

ThirteenWays

Thirteen ways of Looking at the Novel – Jane Smiley ‘What to read and how to write.’ That’s it in essence.an analysis of each book, it covers a vast range of topics from the psychology of the novel to its origins and history.

 

StephenKingOn Writing – Stephen King Part autobiography. Part level headed advice for aspiring writers. This is an absorbing and compelling book, from one of America’s most prolific and successful writers. And a book that hammers home the need for writers to read. And read. And read some more.

 

ShippingNewsThe Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx Go for the original. Forget the film. It has nothing to do with the book. Another novel that was always open on my desk. Her prose is poetic, her style distinct. The regular omission of active verbs validated my own style. (Am I allowed to do this?) I found it spellbindingand instructive.

HouseStairs

The House of Stairs – Barbara Vine Published in 1988, this is the third novel Ruth Rendell wrote under the name Barbara Vine.  This, above all the others, was my bible. It was one of the books nearly always open on my desk as I wrote. To see how it was done. I believe that, along with King Solomon’s Carpet, it influenced me to set my books in London, in real time.

SolomanKing Soloman’s Carpet – Barbara Vine Three years after The House of Stairs came King Soloman’s Carpet. Once more the action takes place in London, noteably in West Hampstead and in the London underground. This too was a big influence. I’ve just pulled out my old copy to find that twenty-three post-it notes still adorn its pages.

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…Authoress, Clodagh Phelan… a treasure trove find for the year-end Guest Blog… PART ONE…

clodagh

…my dear pal, Authoress, Clodagh Phelan has been an ‘ever-present’ in my own wee SOSYAL NETWURK universe almost since my first day on the blogosphere… and what a treat yeez have today in her Double Guest Posting… not one, but two Guest Posts helping to channel yeez out of 2014 and into 2015… Part One exemplifies the tenacity of a good writer, tracking down elusive facts to build into her narrative, and a fascinating over-arch with a London  disaster that many of yeez may well remember… LUV IT!

Clodagh says she’s a Libra/Scorpio cusp so nothing is that straightforward… emb’dy relate to that???
…this original post addresses her book, THE EIGHTEENTH OF NOVEMBER,  and also the motivation and inspiration that led to it as well as a poignant story…
THE MYSTERY OF BODY 115

The search for identity

Cover: The Eighteenth of NovemberThe title of my novel, The Eighteenth of November, is inspired by a tragedy that touched many lives. For it was on 18thNovember 1987, at around 7.30 in the evening, that a devastating fire broke out at King’s Cross underground station. One of the busiest interchange stations on the whole London Transport network – 40,000 people pass through it daily during the two hour peak period alone.

A number of things sparked my interest, which grew as I researched the fire, its causes and the consequences. Above all, I was incensed at the degree of corporate negligence that had allowed the fire to happen in the first place. And I was intrigued and disturbed, in equal parts, to discover that one body was still to be identified at the time I was writing, thirteen years after the fire.

An ethereal being?

One of my friends suggested that maybe the body wasn’t really a person but an ethereal being. This proved to be the inspiration for one of my main characters, Fabriel. Nevertheless Body 115 (or ‘Michael’ as he was called by the police and forensic investigators) had indeed been a real living person. The question remained though – who was he?

While many of the victims were untouched by the flames, dying rather from the poisonous fumes, ‘Michael’ looked ‘as if he’d been thrown on a bonfire. ‘ Despite this, the police thought he’d be one of the first to be identified as there was a wealth of forensic information. Among the distinguishing features were his height – 5’2” – the facts that an unusual metal clip had been inserted in his brain and he possessed a unique set of dentures, which had the initials EH or FH etched onto them. To top it all, the police had a couple of fingerprints.

What was in the ‘left luggage’ locker?

However, two years after the fire, despite unprecedented publicity, including the wide distribution of a realistic facial reconstruction, the quest had got nowhere. Despite over 6,000 hours of painstaking investigation, led by Superintendent John Hennigan and Detective Sergeant Ray Turner, they were no closer to an identification. Then a suitcase was found in a left luggage locker at King’s Cross station; in it wage packets, denture powder, tobacco, clothes that would fit a man of 5’2” and an old Merchant Seaman’s ID card.

The name on the card was Herbert Rose. The face on the photograph resembled the reconstruction. They thought they had achieved their goal; their hopes were dashed. The fingerprints on the ID card didn’t match the fingerprints on ‘Michael’. Despite this enormous setback, British Transport Police continued to follow up the hundreds of enquiries. Getting nowhere but refusing to give up.

Was this ‘Michael’?

As the tenth anniversary of the fire approached they began to focus on a missing man named Alexander Fallon. He had suffered a breakdown after the death of his wife in 1974 and moved to London where he lived a rootless life. He did however have four daughters, with whom he kept in touch from time to time. At first he had been eliminated from the enquiries as his family put his height at 5’6”. In addition, he was 73 whereas it was thought that ‘Michael’ was between 40 and 60 years old.

Nevertheless, there were significant ‘matches’. ‘Michael’s’ body had shown signs of heart and lung disease; he had been a smoker. There were the fingerprints. There was also the unusual clip in the brain. Alexander Fallon had suffered an aneurism in 1980 and been treated at the Royal London Hospital. His medical records led to the surgeon who had operated on him – and yes he would have used that distinctive clip. The dental records matched. New techniques allowed the marks on his skull to be matched with scars visible in photographs taken years before.

The long search is ended

Another telling piece of evidence. Although he had kept in touch with his daughters, albeit intermittently, all contact had ceased from the date of the fire. Equally significant, he had not claimed any of the benefits to which he was entitled since that date. Something that it seemed was quite out of character.

The family asked that his body be exhumed so the DNA could be tested; in the event it proved unnecessary. The British Transport Police considered it but, among other complications, was the fact that the body had been buried with Ralph Humberstone, another homeless man. In the event the weight of the forensic and other evidence was compelling. Body 115 was formally identified as Alexander Fallon of Falkirk in January 2004, over sixteen years after the fire.

For further information, there is an excellent article in the ES Magazine (the magazine of London’s Evening Standard newspaper) dated September 11th 1998 – over ten years after the fire but still some years before Alexander Fallon was identified. There is now an excellent book – Body 115 – by Paul Chambers. A detailed, thorough and informative examination of the painstaking work that led to the final identification. It’s highly readable and I just wish it had been written before I wrote my book – it would have saved hours of research!

The Eighteenth of November is now available on Amazon:

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…it’s a slippery path, when yeez once digress from the straight and narrow…

…p’raps some of yeez will recall a post I broadcast on here not so long ago in which I called to account that most evil of criminal perpetrators… the cad who arrives at the check-out till at yer local supermarket, yeez know the lane… the one with the huge placard swinging above it on which is printed unmissable script—10 items or less and Cash Only… but one fellow has enuff stuff in his basket to sit out the Third WURLD War, items numbering at least a coupla dozen and more… and then produces a credit card, coz he’s got no cash… insult adds to injury for those in the queue behind him, including myself,  when the card has no credit limit available… my post recounted my interchange with the buffoon when I told him in my best Govan Dockyard, Glasgow accent that I couldn’t figure out if his problem was that he couldn’t read, or that he couldn’t count… and, as they say in the classics, that’s when the fight started…. anyway, that aside, today I stand before yeez in the most abject shame possible…

lane

…unwittingly it has to be said, I have indulged that self-same most heinous of offences… my shopping basket, which I had so carefully determined held a mere nine items, to my shocked realisation, actually contained eleven pieces… I mentally tallied it as I shuffled toward my turn at the checkout… too late to turn back, the unloading was already in process… the heart-beat quickened, the pulse raced, cold sweat eased onto the brow… a sliver away from full-blown panic stations… what would I do if the counter clerk clarioned my shameful act?… would I scream and run from the store?… drop to my knees and plead ignorance and forgiveness?… the young lady tapped the ‘total’ button and gazed at me with what I imagined was a steely-eyed stare… then she smiled, and told me the amount due… on another occasion, I may well have asked her immediately to marry me… give her all my WURLDLY possessions, such was the relief… the bagger chappie who loads the stuff into these interminable plastic bags also smiled… did they know?… p’raps they also can’t count?… net result, this brush with perfidy has left me shaken, and a tad stirred… I’m thinking of toting my pocket calculator with me next time… it’s a slippery path, when yeez once digress from the straight and narrow… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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Did you know where Dickens got the character Scrooge from? It was a bit of a mistake actually…

..Bridget Whelan posts a great piece… LUV IT… Dickens is one of my favourite writers… gonna re-blog this one! 🙂 ( and thanks for Mira Prabhu for highlighting it 🙂

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE/RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

BRIDGET WHELAN writer

It is clear from any Dickens’ novel that the great man enjoyed names. His friend and biographer, John Forster, said that Dickens made “characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves.”  You can find a comprehensive list of all Dickens’ characters HERE a website devoted to anything that could be described as Dickensian.
Patrick Stewart poster

But it was at another useful blog, Bookshelf run by Anthony Atkins, that I discovered the origins of Scrooge. Dickens, never without a notebook, collected real names for his novels and short stories. In June 1841 he was walking around Edinburgh when he saw a gravestone in Canongate Kirkyard to Ebenezer Scroggie. Dickens misread the epithet beneath and thought it said mean man. He wrote in his diary: ‘it must have shrivelled Scroggie’s soul to be remembered through eternity only for being mean. It seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted.’ And…

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…passion in yer writing… my friend, Authoress, Lauren Sapala nails it…

…my, my, my… yeez wait all year, reading and enjoying blog posts of yer fellow Lads and Lassies of Blog Land…. and out of the blue, almost at the last knockings of 2014, comes this gem from my pal, Authoress, Lauren Sapala… this is arguably among the finest ‘all-writers-must-read’ blog pieces I’ve seen this year… with her permission, I’m gonna cut and paste it (coz, being the computer Jurassic that I am, I can’t seem to reblog it automatically onto WordPress) …with attribution to Lauren I’m banging it out on all my SOSYAL NETWURK channels … THIS is what it’s all about! the passion to write! Thanks for sharing this, m’Lady, Lauren 🙂

SAMSUNG

Why I Never Got An MFA by Lauren Sapala

Growing up, I loved writing and books. Storytelling in any form was one of my great passions. So when I got to college I was super excited to take creative writing classes.

But my first creative writing class was far more disappointing than I expected.

Our professor gave us different essays to read by prize-winning authors and then spelled out a bunch of rules that we should all follow if we wanted to be good writers. Realism was important, he said. For example, if we included a can of soda in our story we should make sure the can was 12 oz. just like a real can of soda would be.

My heart sank. I had about a bajillion words inside me ready to spill out, fragments and images and flashes of fire and lightning that I yearned to piece together into the story I knew was there. This guy was telling me to focus on how many ounces a can of soda contained.

The yearning inside of me to write and my professor’s set of rules felt worlds away from each other. Did this mean I was going to be a bad writer?

I didn’t do well in that class.

The assignments I turned in felt flat and stale. I didn’t care about them. I was writing to compete with my classmates and get a grade, hopefully a decent one.

The next class I took was even worse.

This was a critique class. We each wrote a short story and then sat in a circle of 25 people who critiqued it. I knew my story wasn’t awesome to begin with—after all, I had hated writing it.

Sitting through the critique was worse than pushing out all those unwanted words on the page.

My classmates took it apart line by line. I felt like I was watching a machine being disassembled.

No one asked me the things I wanted to ask my classmates but was too shy to bring up. Every time we critiqued someone else’s piece I wondered, “Is this the story you really wanted to write?” “Does writing feel as hard and scary to you as it does to me?” “Do you think other writers feel this way?” “If that’s not the story you really wanted to write, when are you going to write the one you do?”

To me, those questions felt so much more important instead of pointing out a metaphor that could have been fresher.

After that last class, I was done. Writing had lost its joy to me. I already felt shy and insecure enough about my writing without having it picked apart and picked to death by more people. My own inner critic was doing a fine job of that, thank you very much.

So I stopped writing. And I didn’t start again for seven long years.

It took me seven years to join a writing group. Seven years to try writing anything creative down on paper. Seven years to tell people I wanted to write. Because of my couple of bad experiences I totally shut down. I didn’t pursue writing in college beyond those two classes, and I didn’t even consider going for an MFA. I didn’t pursue the one thing in my life that I was truly passionate about, and that fulfilled me on so many different levels.

Instead, I went into resistance. And I let my writing life be ruled by fear.

I don’t regret the path I took, because I do believe that it was the one I was supposed to take in this life. However, I can look back and see how many opportunities I turned down and how many people I didn’t meet who could have been great writing friends.

The funny thing is that when I was turning stuff down and missing out, I thought I was making a good decision. I thought I was protecting myself.

But the reality is that I was living from a place of resistance and fear. I was just plain scared and so I didn’t take the risks that could have brought so much joy. Many writers do this and our resistance can take so many forms. It might look like:

Saying no to going to a writers’ conference because you won’t know anyone else there

Saying no to submitting your work to agents because you think it’s not good enough

Saying no to starting your novel because you don’t have it all worked out just yet

Saying no to sitting down and writing once a week because you’ve convinced yourself you don’t have the time

There are tons of different avenues our resistance can take, but you see the main theme. When resistance is in the house with us, we say no to our writing. We say no to life.

The only solution is to do the opposite. We have to say yes. Even if we’re scared (which we still will be, almost guaranteed). Even if our mind totally freaks out and goes into panic mode. Panic doesn’t last forever. In fact, it can’t even sustain its own energy much beyond an hour or so. But saying no can close doors permanently.

Start by saying yes. Say yes to something that makes you nervous. Say yes to sitting down once a week and writing for 30 minutes. Say yes to going to a writers’ conference, even if you won’t know anyone else there.

The fear will dissolve later, on its own. That’s not yours to worry about. The only thing you need to concentrate on is saying yes, and let life take its course and do the rest.

…wonderful stuff… yeez can follow Lauren’s blog on laurensapala.com

…see yeez later…LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE/RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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Best Bloggers Blogging … according to me!

…honoured is too weak a WURD to describe how it feels to be included in this list… thanks gazillions, m’Lady, Susan… this will be broadcast immediately to all points of the Bloggers Realm!!! 🙂 mwaaah 🙂

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE/RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

I’ve already given you a wrap-up of the best books I read in 2014. As well as being a reader and an author, I’m also a blogger who promotes other authors and doles out advice and information on all manner interesting areas, to me and my readers. Throughout this past year I have become “acquainted” with other like-minded bloggers (some of whom are also authors), have followed and read their blogs, commented on them, and reblogged their posts a number of times. Some of these bloggers came to my attention in the first place, because they offered to read and review my books or gave me promotion by way of an interview or guest post on their blogs. In turn, I met a number of other bloggers through that first set – people who commented on those posts about me or who won a copy of my book through…

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…the new breed of Soccer Olympians… the Diverse Divers…

…I won’t claim to have been around since the beginning of soccer, but I do go back far enuff to remember when Methuselah played centre-forward for the Cairo Camels Eleven… and in the dim and distant past of Master Gallacher’s youth, I played professionally in what was then the top flight Scottish Football League… the photo displayed here has been shown on my blog before…no, Mabel, I didn’t ask Mister Sepp Blatter’s permission to show it… yeez can clearly see me standing in the middle at the back….

photo

…the point is, I think, having been associated with the beautiful game for that length of time, my credentials stand up on being able to spot the charlatans currently nailing down salaries of up to Sterling 100,000 per week for showing the ability to con referees week in, week out… I’m a self-confessed human-transformed-into-a couch-potato every weekend when the English Premier League matches are beamed in live to the Middle East where I currently live… but there’s an epidemic which has infected every dressing room up and down the country… what used to be a splendid ‘contact sport’ now resembles the worst kind of pantomime for players who fall to the grass at the hint off a nudge from an opponent… they classify into distinct clusters, which I’m delighted to enumerate for yeez :

1. The Rudolph Nureyev/Nijinsky

swan

…these male footballers-cum-ballet-dancers assume the role normally reserved for the lead ballerina from Swan Lake… the Dying Swan routine is magnificent in its execution, but would be better suited to sumb’dy wearing a tutu rather than football boots…

2. The Lazarus

…the amazing recuperative powers of the trainer’s sponge is most appreciated in these situations when the seemingly lifeless corpse of the fallen player results in his scampering around like the Roadrunner, mere seconds after being close to receiving the Last Rites…

3. The Circus Acrobat

…many a professional tumbler would be put to shame compared with the half-pike, tuck, and forward rolls demonstrated by the guy who collapses in a heap twenty yards from where the contact tackle was first made…

acrobats

4. The Sniper’s Victim

…the opposite technique to The Circus Acrobat, this fellow goes down on the spot, like a ton of bricks, as if pierced through the skull by a marksman’s best shot…

5. The Pain Transferor

…an uncanny number of tackled players get hit, say, on the arm, the leg, or the hip, but instantly grab their face with both hands as if they’ve just been on the receiving end of the famous ‘Glasgow Kiss’ headbutt… a bewildering transference of pain from body part to facial body part…

6. The Lourdes Syndrome

…from an apparent imminent segue from this life to the soccer player’s after-WURLD, the miracle of salvation descends on the prone body, and up he jumps, emulating a participant in the greyhound stakes…

dog

..in another time and age, the famous quote resonates from the legendary John Lambie, former Club Manager of the Scottish side Partick Thistle (known to many as ‘Partick Thistle Nil’)… when told his concussed striker did not know who he was, said, “Tell him he’s Pele and get him back on.” 

… the game needs more John Lambie Managers!… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE/RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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