Call for Urban Fantasy beta readers … tentatively

 

The Shambles, York, Tudor buildings
Image : Pixabay

 

Having finally finished the first draft/second draft/alpha read rewrite of my work in progress – The Restless Dead – I’m now searching for some lovely people who enjoy fantasy fiction to be my beta readers.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader, here are some things you should know … 

The book is Urban Fantasy, not High Fantasy. There are no swords and mages, no orcs or elves. It’s set in the present, in real towns in the UK. Supernatural things occur, and a lot of them, but think more Neil Gaiman or Ben Aaronovitch than JRR Tolkien or George RR Martin.

The book is around 300 pages long.

There will be a questionnaire to fill in. I’m working on it now and will try not to make it too onerous! Though, if you’re used to sending critiques, want to write your own notes and are happy to cover the points I raise, that’s fine too.

Ideally, the process will last no further than Christmas. Though that’s open to discussion, of course – you all have other stuff to do!

This book is based in the UK. One of the main ‘characters’ in the book is the city of York, UK (see above!). The settings are English, the language is ‘English’ English, with English phrases and references.

Now, on to the fun bit …

I loved writing this book! I loved getting to know the characters – good, bad and utterly demonic – and I hope that comes across. I want reading it to be enjoyable too. I want the readers to be caught up in every the running, screaming, drunken, creepy scene.

And if you’re still there, here’s the blurb to give you a flavour of the beast …

Thirty-five-year-old Neil sees ghosts. Or at least the last few minutes of an individual’s life, repeated over and over. Death fills every street he walks along, every home he enters. No wonder he lives a reclusive life alone in his bedsit watching Miss Marple reruns and eating cheese puffs. 
Then one day an old friend – Caro – comes knocking, telling Neil her brother is dead. The police say it’s suicide. She says it isn’t. Luckily, she knows someone who can tell her if she’s right … 
Can Neil solve the mystery, evade Victorian psychopaths, shape shifting demons and save the world from an invasion of the Restless Dead? 

Interested? Want to know more? Then pop me an email. You’ll find the address by clicking the ‘hamburger’ symbol up the top of the screen. My email is in ‘view full profile’ under my terrifying photograph! Look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing opportunity: Calling all Wyrd Sisters … and Brothers

 

Now, I know many of you out there are weird*.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, because you’re like me – you’re drawn to reading and writing on subjects from the darker realms of your imagination and that’s great, right?

When you close your eyes or put pen to paper/ fingers to keyboard, you’re mind is not teeming with big-eyed Disneyfied, fluffy bunny fiction, spilling over with love and flowers and happy endings.

That’s not to say everyone your write is a sociopath with a taste for human flesh, but if your characters are good people who rescue small children and help old ladies cross the road, they are made that way so you can do horrible things to them.

Preferably with pits of magma.

And ghouls.

And horned beasts.

Given that you are a fellow twisted soul who needs a creative outlet (and let’s face it, we’d all be very afraid if you didn’t have an outlet), you might be interested in this writing opportunity at The Wyrd magazine.

So if you’re an author or artist who has

a fondness for weird and slipstream themes

Pop along here. Closing date is the end of this month and good luck, siblings.

 

*Of course, if you’re genuinely weird, you’ll spell this WYRD

The worst writer in the world?

 

Have you ever visited that portion of Erin’s plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?

So begins Amanda McKittrick Ros’s novel, Delina DelaneyI found this quote on the Goodreads site with the tag wtf-does-this-mean. And no, I haven’t a clue either.

Now, literary fashion has changed a great deal since Ros published the book in 1898. If he were writing Bleak House (1853) today, I’m not sure even Charles Dickens would have dared begin with a discussion of the grisly London weather, wonderful though that passage is, complete with mentions of fog, mud, umbrellas and a Megalosaurus. Imagine the tattoo of red pen from a modern editor.

‘Never open a story with the weather’ is one piece of writing advice often given. As is the need to trim your prose of flabby, unnecessary words  – edit, edit, edit is our current mantra – and make your writing as clear as a mountain stream to your reader.

None of which seem to have been a priority to Ros.

The writer was famed for her circumlocutory language. When she wrote in her debut novel, Irene Iddesleigh,

When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life

it probably never occurred to her that she could have said –

Why is it we always feel most fed up when something good’s about to happen?

More was … more as far as Amanda was concerned.

She may have been a self-published teacher from County Down, but that didn’t stop her from imagining “the million and one who thirst for aught that drops from my pen” and that she would “be talked about at the end of a thousand years”. One thing she never lacked was confidence in her own work: she once discussed the Nobel Prize for Literature with her publisher, asking “What think you of this prize? Do you think I should make a ‘dart’ for it?”

Some of her best words she saved for her critics, calling them variously,

“bastard donkey-headed mites”

“clay crabs of corruption”

“auctioneering agents of Satan”

“hogwashing hooligans”

“evil-minded snapshots of spleen”

She had a gift for alliteration if nothing else.

What are we, then, to think of an author who – in her last novel, Helen Huddleson – lumbered most of her characters with a fruit-based name (Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, Madame Pear)?

Well, I can’t advise any modern writer to ape her writing style and it seems famous authors would support my decision: the literary group The Inklings (which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein) held competitions where the winner was the member who could read from one of her books for longest without laughing.

But I do admire her no nonsense attitude towards critics, the absolute faith she had in her own work and the way she was prepared to defend it.

In these days when most authors are loathe to get into online arguments with readers over snippy critiques or even outright, troll-like oceans of bile, Ros reacted to a poet’s criticism of her debut novel by printing a 20 page rebuttal in her follow up novel.

No shrinking violet, our Amanda.

So if I think she was deluded in her own talents, she had more self-belief than most of us.

And that is definitely something to aspire to.


What do you think of Ros’s verbiage? Do you agree with the critics or do you long for a time when the circumlocutory phrase was en vogue? Are you tired of this demand for tough edits, long for the return of purple prose?

 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/apr/19/worst-novelist-in-history

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_McKittrick_Ros#cite_note-Words_To_Remember-6

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/01/was_amanda_mckittrick_ros_the_worst_novelist_in_history.html

The Captive River

antwerp-91207_1280

Image: Pixabay

 

Released from the house, from fairy lights and the pressure to eat more sugar, I wander up the hill, supposedly to buy bread and milk, but really to escape and breathe air that doesn’t smell of pine and cinnamon and the vinegary tang of last night’s red wine.

I’m disappointed.

There’s no ice out here, no sparkling clarity and breath-fogged air – a midge cloud batters my face, warmth collects uncomfortably under my coat and the Christmas gifts of hat and gloves have to be stowed in my shopping bag before I’ve taken twenty paces.

The supermarket is a five minute walk from our front door ‒ down the winding slope of the burial ground, past the last two remaining gravestones, commemorating an engaged couple who slipped beneath the choppy waters of the Severn on a pleasure cruise over a hundred and fifty years ago.

But I need to be in the world for longer than the graveyard will give me, so I turn up Dunkerry Road, towards the council flats and the playground painted with purple galaxies and flaking stars. In a couple of days’ time, the pavements will teeter with recycling boxes, dreary with crumpled wrapping paper, shedding spruce trees with ribbons of tinsel still clinging to balding twigs. But not today. Today, let’s pretend Christmas is still with us, before midnight on the 31st murders the season for good.

Back down another hill, past that mysterious heap of blackened banana skins that’s grown every time I see it, a fresh yellow caste added to its peak every day.

Crossing the road by the station, I zigzag through the steel bars that keep out bikes and joyriders and I’m in Cotswold Green. It’s not ancient, never a medieval focus for May poles and summer fetes, but an absence, a hole created when wartime bombs levelled a terrace of houses that no one had the energy or focus to rebuild once the skies went quiet.

I keep clear of the grass, cautious of what dog walkers haven’t bothered to clear, though we clambered the slopes in August to pick blackberries for a crumble and there’s a sloe bush somewhere, though it’s hard to remember exactly where in the tangle of thorns.

On the tarmacked footbridge I stop to look at the Malago River running beneath. Barely a river, more a brook, sliding over a bed of concrete slabs and energy drink cans. It’s tamed, this stream, culverted in parts, encased on one side by a Victorian sandstone wall, girders spanning the water to stop the blocks slipping down the bank.

I’ve read a plaque, a website ‒ something ‒ that says the Malago was once a danger to those terraced houses, before they were turned to brick outlines in the grass. There was a flood, people stranded – drownings. Hard to imagine the river had such power – now an irrelevance, caged and subdued to allow first the railway, then the road to dominate it.

A train clanks close by, halts and clanks again, a crocodile of coal carts bumping behind. A blackbird flies low above the water, chip-chip-chip and back up into the trees.

There’s graffiti on the bridge – sprayed by whoever created the muddy path that disappears beneath. SECRET HQ it reads in garish tangerine and I hope it was written with irony. I imagine the hidden space under the tarmac, under my feet, and think of dripping water and trolls and the excitement of being able to watch passers-by without being seen, avoiding thoughts of nitrous oxide canisters and cigarette butts and I don’t want to think what else is really there.

The rain plops loudly on the drum of my umbrella and I know I’ve been too long, that I’ll be missed, that strip lights and packaging and canned music wait for me in the supermarket and I that can’t avoid them.

But for a little while, the green corridor of the river belonged to me and the sparrows and that was enough.

 

 

The death of Jesse

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Image : Pixabay

 

Others are up ahead, a clump of black silhouettes, paled by a haze of sea spray.

I check my instinct to call Jesse to heel. Stupid dog’s too far away, closer to them than me. If I call they’ll see me.

There was a storm last night. Idiot! I stumbled from the shack just as the cold sun was lifting over the bay, only half awake, unprepared. If only I’d made coffee, got the stove going, sparked some brain cells to life. But the wood store was empty, the coffee jar too.

I watch Jesse for one second, two, as he jogs towards the hunched figures, his tail swinging. Only now do I notice wreckage littering the sands – a plastic bottle, half full of  something blue (shampoo? mouthwash?): sodden paper: a splash of red cloth, bright as spilt paint. The others will have been out all night scavenging for what’s left of the boat’s crew.

One last glimpse of golden fur and I turn back, walking fast, forcing myself not to run, not wanting to draw their attention. I sink my hands deep in my pockets, feel the bag I’d brought along to collect Jesse’s morning mess – a hangover of more civilised times.

Stumbling over a silver belt buckle, a boot with no laces, I hear Jesse bark, growl, yelp.

Poor Jesse. I bite my lip hard, blink away salt water.

I determine to find more coffee.


Not sure if it’s the hunched, hooded figure in the foreground that turned my thoughts to the dark side, or just the fact that I’m a miserabilist.  What do you think of when you see this picture? Is it more cheerful than the way my tale went?

As the Valentine’s Day rush of roses and desperate paramours is upon me, I find myself absent from the screen for a few days. So here’s a tale I penned a year ago.

Apologies to all who comment in the meantime – I shall reply once the madness is over.

 

The Big 5 – 0 – 0

Gold star on red and blue background

Image : Pixabay

 

Well, my dears I’ve been looking at my stats and noticed something pretty big has happened.

A few posts ago I passed the big 500 mark here on WordPress.

In my twenty two months of blogging I have written, proofed and posted just over 500 posts, much of it nonsense rambling – a bit like this post actually – the rest fiction.

I’ve explored words, explored worlds, from fantasy to sci-fi, to historical and domestic with a bit of creepy horror, blood and guts thrown in.

It’s a bit of a landmark, whichever way you look at it.

It means – at a very rough estimate – I’ve written around 150,000 words on here. Both a good, lovely thing and some might think a bad thing, as if I’d used the same time writing novels, I would have stopped prevaricating and finished the current book by now.

Still, I wanted to take time out to say Ta Muchly, because without people to read my writing, to be positive and encouraging, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have posted so much and so often.

Thanks all and you never know, maybe one day I’ll be here celebrating my thousandth post.

 

 

 

The Daily Prompt: Cake : Donnie’s Birthday

Chocolate cake with candles

Image: Pixabay

Donnie’s 40th birthday was on the 5th September. Her little boy a middle-aged man – who would believe it?

Jane hadn’t a clue what to buy him, but as she found tea often helped her think, she put the kettle on. Her father had always bought ‘useful’ presents – new saucepans for mother, a winter coat for Jane even though her birthday was the middle of August. He never bought luxuries for himself, so he didn’t see why he should do it for anyone else.

An oily slick had formed on the top of her tea by the time she had an idea. Her boy had had a tough time of late. He didn’t need something useful or practical, he needed something frivolous. He needed spoiling. She would make him a birthday cake.

The day before Donnie’s birthday, she gathered her ingredients together. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate. She’d even tottered down to the supermarket with her walking stick and trolley to buy sugar strands and silvery balls and edible glitter to decorate it.

Jane never made cakes when Donnie was little. She’d been too busy working in the grocers or cleaning offices or serving behind the counter in the fish and chip shop. He’d been a good boy though, never complained even when he missed out on the best toys at Christmas. Even the year she forgot his birthday and he had tinned beans and pork sausages for his tea when she’d promised to take him for ice cream.

Making the cake was trickier than she’d expected. She didn’t know what some of the terms meant on the recipe and had to mix it in a saucepan because she didn’t own a mixing bowl big enough. Such a mess too – flour everywhere and a blob of butter on the kitchen tiles that she skidded on, bumping her knee on the cupboard door, making her heart hammer like a steam train.

Eventually it was done and she was so tired her hands were shaking. Thirsty and uncomfortably hot, she sat at the kitchen table and stared at her creation.

It was … beautiful. The sugary glitter caught the light like frost, the silvery balls like stars in a chocolate night, the icing deep and inviting as a bed of furs.

And suddenly she was crying, sobs breaking from her, shivering her narrow shoulders. Because Donnie would never taste it, would never sit at her kitchen table again, would not let his own mother visit him, not to see him in that place, with its smell of fear and its dark corners and its long, loud nights.

 

‘Happy birthday, son,’ she whispered, tipping the cake into the bin.

 


Written for The Daily Post’s Daily PromptCAKE. See here to join in and to read the other posts.