The story parents neglect

Now available on Kindle, Intrusion, Book 1 of this WWII home front trilogy.

 

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A rivalrous coming of age in WW2

A Relative Invasion is set in 1937 to 1965. It has WW2 as a backdrop but it isn’t essentially a war story. It has a child narrator, but it isn’t written for children. I’ve attempted to reproduce in micro those very emotions which the frustrated, humiliated German nation experienced post WWI and which Hitler played upon. I’ve put them in the breast of Kenneth, an artistic, manipulative child, small for age and frail, when meeting his younger, stronger cousin. It’s this sturdy youngster, Billy, who is the innocent protagonist, suffering psychological bullying from his cousin, and physical bullying by his uncle. In Book 1, Intrusion, now out on Kindle, the story starts as war in Europe threatens. In parallel, readers see how Billy’s predictable life will be threatened by Kenneth and a domestic war may begin.

The inferiority that six year olds can have are really the same as those of de-powered nations. I imagine that what lay in the breast of Hitler, a poor specimen of a man without the kind of background he craved, was that desire to outdo and take over other nations just as sickly Kenneth, whose muscly father Billy resembles, aims to over-reach Billy and encroach upon every aspect of his life. In this way he hopes to encompass another’s strength. Similarly, the adults with their own preoccupations fail to intervene.

The cover depicts Billy on the left and artistic Kenneth on the right, facing each other across the image of the shashka, a Cossack sabre with a special significance.

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Billy has seen this in the home of his father’s colleague, Mr Durban. Caught up in his own fearful memories, Mr Durban’s WW1 story of how he came to own the shashka captures Billy’s imagination. The shashka acts as an icon that supports Billy throughout hardships, separations, rejections and evacuations.

In Books 2 and 3 of the trilogy, Billy has known anxiety from his adverse experiences and learned of the dangers of distant warfare. With increasing age and experience, he discovers the dangerous qualities of the shashka and, ultimately, those hidden within himself. For that reason, Books 2 and 3 are loss-of-innocence as well as a coming-of-age story, and therefore rather darker. Billy is aged five at the beginning of Book 1 and in his twenties by the end of Book 3. His emotional and moral development occurs alongside the acting out and ending of World War II and similarly ends as the devastation caused by warfare at all levels must be faced and overcome.

My intention in the writing of Billy’s story in this particular stage of history is to show that we understand at the macro level can be detected in micro.

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To the child himself, there is nothing twee about childhood – a fact that adults often fail to realise.

Longlist for Hilary Mantel Competition and Shortlist for Bonnie Greer Competition

The characterful writer:

Look forward to reading all the long list.

Originally posted on ShortStops:

Longlist for the 2014 Kingston Writing School Hilary Mantel Short Story Competition

Congratulations to the thirty writers of the following longlisted stories:

Blackout
Crow
Dirty Ink
Dog Days
Don’t Look Down
Duende
Fortuna Street
Fresh, Cold, and Most Importantly, Whole
Full of Grace
His Father’s Son
House of Dust
Household Gods
It’s a Luxury to Cry
Nirvana
One Day in Sarajevo
Piece by Piece by Piece
Print
Rag Doll People
Rivers are Damp
Rosa and Kelsey
Season’s End
Small Deaths
Soft Shoes
The Thousand Yard Memory
The Beasts of the Earth Will Adore Him
These Silver Fish
Water Bull Ride
What Lies Beneath
What the Wind Brings
Witching Hour

A shortlist of ten stories will be officially announced on October 31.

Hilary Mantel will publicly announce the first prize and two runners up prizes at a daytime award ceremony in Kingston-upon-Thames on December 5.

Shortlist for the 2014 KUP Bonnie…

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Birth of a trilogy: WWII in micro

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NOW AVAILABLE AS KINDLE –  http://amzn.to/1rdcuEd

The birth of a singleton is a mammoth event in the life of any parent. As for triplets, there’s now a changed and increased expectation, the anxious anticipation of the event, the prolonged delivery and the certainty of ongoing attention. It isn’t surprising if all this results in the emotion of ‘never again.’

A Relative Invasion is a coming-of-age trilogy set in the Home Front of WWII. The concept is that the feelings and tensions in Europe (macro scale) are mirrored in micro by this family, and particularly the two cousins in their emerging rivalry. The protagonist, Billy, a sturdy well-meaning boy is manipulated and bested by the frail, artistic Kenneth who is silently envious. There is a secret symbol of power, the shashka, which insidiously permeates the family’s fortunes.

In Book One, INTRUSION, as the adults worry about the onset of war, Billy’s is already beginning. He so wanted a play-mate but it came in the form of Kenneth. The four parents only see the porcelain looks of Kenneth and not his darker soul. Emotionally neglected or misunderstood by parents and aunt, and bullied by uncle and cousin, Billy imagines owning the precious Cossack sabre of his father’s colleague, a man who champions Billy. This icon sustains him through the invasion of his life by Kenneth, through an evacuation and the shock of war, but can the icon damage as well as protect?

Book 2, INFILTRATION, follows Billy through a second evacuation where he spends the rest of the war while Kenneth is lodged beside Billy’s family. A tragedy enforces a dramatic change in their futures. Billy’s growing attachments develops his confidence and capabilities so that he almost becomes like a hero from his precious book. Kenneth’s talent overlays his strengths and weaknesses. By VE Day, the boys’ mutual admiration and suspicion must be transported back to Wandsworth.

In Book 3, IMPACT, adolescence and the sharing of emotional space bring the rivalry to a crisis. A dreadful incident follows, darkening the boys’ interaction into adulthood. The outcome is devastating for all members of the family. Billy must find an honourable resolution which will enable his survival, while Kenneth ensures he will always have the last word.

TRIPLETS

INTRUSION is out in Kindle, paperback to follow.

The extract uploaded to Authonomy gained its medal and a full review by Harper Collins – awaited nervously.

In a much earlier draft, the book was Highly Commended in the Novel section of the Yeovil Prize 2011, and an extract converted into a short story, was runner up in the Guildford Festival.

Readers on the writers’ sites Authonomy have commented:

“…an enchanting book written by Rosalind Minett who is a master of research. She has skillfully conjured scenes from the WWII era and the chaos and desperation of that time. She has managed to bring it to the reader’s mind seamlessly and effortlessly with clever interpretations from a five-year old mind.”

“…the stark and simple times of wartime Britain are superbly evoked, with just the simplest of brush strokes”

“The depiction of pre-war and 1945 England is so exactly right, so accurate it scares me. Adults … buttoned up both figuratively and literally, unable to express any emotion except anger and often terrifying figures to a small child.”

These readers read early chapters of the first book. As the characters grow, the story’s darker aspects increase. Finding a resolution is never easy for a complex situation.

Flash Fiction

kaleidoscopeNo flashy words:
Review of Eating My Words: 2014

THE NATIONAL FLASH FICTION DAY ANTHOLOGY

Edited by Callum Kerr
Angela Readman
Amy McKelden

One of the beauties of an anthology of flash fiction is that it gives exposure to such a large number of different authors. It was good to see this, rather than many entries by a few authors. Furthermore, the anthology included a section of micro-fiction entries, a form requiring even more skill if a reader’s involvement is to be engaged.

I reviewed last year’s anthology, Scraps, ScrapsBkand approached the present one with happy anticipation. I didn’t have the advantage of seeing the foreword – I only had the e-book.

This year’s title is appealing and apt. It refers to the theme set the writers – The Senses. There was a wide variety in how this was interpreted, and a degree of variety in the quality of writing.

The opening story was totally enchanting in its reversal of perceptions of the rat. With a good arc and subtle references, Becky Tipper’s story set a promising tone for the book.

At the end of the book the winners of the micro-fiction competition displayed the economy of words against the ingenuity of concept.

In the remainder, the following stories pleased me particularly. Different readers will have different preferences, but those stories that feel complete in the read surely master the genre. It doesn’t have to be a surprise ending, but it does need to make sense of the beginning and/or display a clear concept. This blog emphasises the importance of character in writing.  In flash fiction, a character must make an immediate impact.

The imagery in Tasty – a story about pornography – works well, and the conclusion is both believable and restorative. The concept of ‘unfinished stories’ in Dress Sense ensured that the issue of loss and stasis would resonate after the read. This was a sensitive piece as was the much longer story by Sarah Hilary. She paired two unlikely characters and set them forth for an imagined future.

There were several sad reads, and a wry one, Show Don’t Tell, which made me smile. Nik Perring’s story was even more wry. A girl with an addiction to giving up and her boyfriend’s understandable responses suggested two interesting characters who would hold their own in a longer story, but nevertheless the piece had a satisfying conclusion. A wider smile still for What We Do In Our Sleep. It really pays to consider the ridiculous sometimes, for it can illustrate a point – in this case, hypochondria – more clearly than a set of descriptions. Tino Prinzi uses dialogue well and wittily here.

I did balk at some hefty wordiness (“feculent metastatic lesions”) in Seven Breaths, but the psychology of the piece was well understood. Another insightful piece, more about coming to fruition than coming of age, was Launch Pad. It launches the reader into a vivid classroom scene and slyly comments on adult expectations. Handle with Care was itself beautifully handled, displaying sensitivity and poignancy in a piece that explores a child’s revulsion against cruelty.

Michael Marshall Smith totally encapsulated the theme of The Senses in his story, Half-Life, with a very clever plotline. I admired this, as I did the well-written Chekhov’s Gun, for imaginative use of the theme.

Eating      EATING MY WORDS 

It is hard to pick out some stories for mention when there are many that make the purchase of this anthology worthwhile. Death, love, lust, thwarted ambition – all are aspects of the human condition that these writers consider. All the more surprising, then, to read about swallowed kittens, chemically induced sensation removal and the beauty of being an oyster.

Long live the flash fiction genre.

Berko Writers: Learn The Art Of The Short Story With Adam Marek

The characterful writer:

What a good course, and very reasonable price indeed.

Originally posted on ShortStops:

The Berko Writers’ Workshop has announced its next course – a six week programme getting to grips with the art of the short story.

It will be led by Adam Marek, author of the collections Instruction Manual For Swallowing and The Stone Thrower.

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Adam won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. His stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and in many magazines and anthologies, including Prospect and The Sunday Times Magazine, and The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2013.

The course runs every Tuesday evening 8pm-10pm from October 7 to November 18 (not October 28 for half-term), upstairs at Here Cafe, Berkhamsted.

Berkhamsted is 35 minutes from Euston and there are four trains an hour, returning late to London.

The course fee is £150 and…

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Writing persistence

Leonid_Pasternak_001

Leonid Pasternak

 

I’ve never read any Stephen King novels because I don’t like the horror or dystopia genres, but now I shall, starting with The Stand, (the novel he rates as his best.)

Why?

I just finished his biographical On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft which reveals Stephen King as an avid reader, a no-nonsense advocate of writing skills, an honest, humorous, generous guide and a devoted husband of over thirty years to boot. Such a guide soon impresses with his engaging style and self-revelations. The first half of the book is less about writing than about Stephen King’s early life, hardships, and above all, persistent writing. He writes when he’s hungry, in a corner, on his lap, in a trailer, in a run-down apartment, after ten bit jobs and later a rough day’s teaching. He does everything to put food on the table for his wife and little one before the time when he can prioritise his writing. Then the wondrous telephone call comes and he makes his first big money. (Carrie is the novel).

‘This is such a nice guy,’ you find yourself thinking, ‘I want to know and celebrate his success and then take account of the how and why.’ That success is so immense, but above all, so appealingly hard-won, that you just can’t refuse to accept what he is saying. Essentially, what he says about writing comes in the second half. It is clear, uncluttered, simple and to the point.fountainpenpaper

Many, if not most writers read books about writing: plotting, planning, joining retreats, engaging in courses, identifying underlying themes and despair that their organisation and acquisition of techniques will never be sufficient.

King has no truck with much of this.  His recommendations come down to this: honest, always honest writing, getting the story down ‘as it comes’, ensuring that the action is or could be true of the characters, similarly that the dialogue rings true of them. He is not precious, and does not value pretensions.  His stories all stem from some initial experience and the personalities he has met. Add to this the imagination to latch on to a stunning ‘What If?’

He gets his first draft finished without recourse to beta readers, then puts it strictly away for six weeks. He works on other things.  In the second draft he fills out as well as corrects. At this point he may sit back and think what the novel is really about, what is important and consistent throughout the story.  This is when he might come up with an image or metaphor that enriches the writing. What is very apparent is that Stephen King is excited about what he writes and loves the activity. He is not identifying a genre where he can make money or intending to write blockbusters. He writes with an audience, an ‘Ideal Reader’ in mind.

This book cleared my mind and stopped the flow of words circling round and down the plug-hole.

dyslexia

It’s not a new book and it will have been lauded and praised many times before this.

However, if there is any reader who has not read a book on Writing, they would do well to read On Writing.   It’s changed me from avoiding his novels to seeking them out.

 

 

 

Stand Up Tragedy: Tragic Misadventures

The characterful writer:

Lovely to see the rise of live lit.

Originally posted on ShortStops:

Tragic Misadventures: Some super hot live event slash fic!

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Two nights enter, one night leaves: Stand Up Tragedy and Romantic Misadventure team up to delivery a night of tragically romantic variety.

Wednesday 9th July at the Blackheart in Camden
7.30pm till late

Featuring Helen ArneyHayley CampbellRadcliffe RoydsNell FrizzellAllan GirodLily PotkinGloria SandersJoel Golby

Hosted by Kit Lovelace and Dave Pickering.

Plus: Tragic Tales: Story Snappers from J Adamthwaite, the unveiling of some Tragic Scents created for SUT by Jo Barratt from Life in Scents and a Tragic Tombola! Plus live art from Liam Willday.

Tickets in advance £5 from: http://bit/ly/TragicFringe

Tickets on the door: £7

Proceeds from the night go towards taking Stand Up Tragedy to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of Spoken Word at PBH’s Free Fringe. We’ll be at the Banshee Labyrinth…

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