Confused identity

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An emergence from tragedy

This is the first of my reviews of self-published or very small press fiction. In fact, it is not to be published for another few weeks, but I think you will want to put this on your wishlist.

I read Tracey Scott-Townsend’s first book, The Last Time I saw Marion, and was impressed by the quality of writing and unique storyline. When I received Another Rebecca I wondered if the quality would remain, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The title suggests that we are in for a retake at Manderley, but no. This is not a Du Maurier sequel. The other Rebecca is a reformation of her mother, who has the same name. She now calls herself Bex to differentiate from the girl she once was, and sadly, is no more.

The novel opens on a dreamy sequence that is a time slip. Rebecca flits from hospital into a fantastic and erotic adventure, but it doesn’t last long. When we return to the present time, it is clear why Rebecca needs (and deserves) to escape reality.

She lives in a miserable and increasingly crisis-laden home, abandoned by father, caring for an alcoholic mother.

There are three voices: the girl, Rebecca, her mother, Bex and Jack, her seemingly errant father. The language is similar for the two parents, whereas Rebecca has gained more education and maturity despite being a young person.

The alcoholic mother whinges her way to disaster, yet in the chapters in her voice we find the remains of what could have been a nice person. The disgusting state she has got herself into isn’t minimized but the background story, built up slowly, shows her jagged path to destruction.

This author is skilled at setting a conflict from which the story can flow. We soon learn that Jack is caught up in a no-win situation that was caused by his kindness, not his neglect. It is easy to sympathise with his position, torn between competing emotional forces.

Our identification is with the Rebecca whose future is before her. The mystery surrounds and is a part of her, interacting with the art that inspires and possesses her.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes more complex and the fantasy Rebecca began with permeates the theme in a new way. The significance of the title comes into its own. Finally, the tangled threads of these three characters’ story reach their conclusion, making for a thoroughly satisfying read.

This is a thoughtful, well-structured novel with good characterisation. The life-style and thought-processes of the alcoholic are credible, as is the good-heartedness, yet ineffectiveness of the husband. Scott-Townsend has not made the mistake of painting her characters black and white. The positives and weaknesses are carefully revealed.

There are some lyrical descriptions of scenes that add to the pleasure of reading this interesting story. It should please readers of fantasy as well as those who enjoy tales of family conflict.

 

REVIEWS: Oyster A boy with potential

Recent reviews

oyster_tiniest

A Brilliant Short Story
By Sheila M. Belshaw (South Africa)

An incredibly insightful look at the machinations of a boy so intellectually damaged that he cannot fit into normal society. Only a writer with a deep knowledge of the human psyche could carry off something as profoundly moving as this story is. The voice is amazingly real and I found myself following his twisted thoughts and seeing exactly where he was coming from, and at the same time feeling dreadfully sorry for him.
On top of all that, the story is beautifully written, so that nowhere does it not flow as though from the pen of a superb writer.

 

And from Austria, By C.R.Putsche

Oyster. A boy with potential By Rosalind Minett

This is an outstanding short story that I managed to devour in just one sitting. Rarely does an author so courageously expose truths, realities and day-to-day struggles of a boy who finds it difficult to fit in to society.

Jake tells us his disturbing story from a first person narrative which gives the reader a real insight in to his tangled thoughts and feelings that you can somehow sympathise with him and understand his unbalanced mind, while nervously anticipating what he will do next. Jake has quite the back story, as he comes from a dysfunctional family who put his safety, health and wellbeing at risk which results in him being moved from one adoptive family to another before he ends up in the Home and yet another Home before he commits his greatest atrocity in his short life so far.

Make no mistake this book is a real frightener, albeit a book of fiction and a major credit to Rosalind Minett who knows her stuff when it comes to the workings of an unbalanced mind besides having a literal talent to depicts things of an unnatural nature.

These are two of the 5* reviews on Amazon.

The review is also on this review site, as shown below this post.

http://walkerputsche.wordpress.com

Catherine Rose Putsche Book Blog

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00OQTA1FK/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

Oyster
A boy with potential
By Rosalind Minett
This is an outstanding short story that I managed to devour in just one sitting. Rarely does an author so courageously expose truths, realities and day-to-day struggles of a boy who finds it difficult to fit in to society.
Jake tells us his disturbing story from a first person narrative which gives the reader a real insight in to his tangled thoughts and feelings that you can somehow sympathise with him and understand his unbalanced mind, while nervously anticipating what he will do next. Jake has quite the back story, as he comes from a dysfunctional family who put his safety, health and wellbeing at risk which results in him being moved from one adoptive family to another before he ends up in the Home and yet another Home before he commits his greatest atrocity in his short life so far.

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Stories: from germ to germination.

ME-TIME TALES:

TEA BREAKS FOR MATURE WOMEN AND CURIOUS MEN

Me-Time Cover_LR

became available as a paperback today. It is listed on Amazon but can be ordered direct here .  ——-> BUY BOOK  http://bit.ly/1hAomdS

I’m going to be interviewed on a publisher’s blog soon. For the advance information I was asked how I researched for this book.

Me-Time Tales is a collection of ironic short stories with a dark edge. Each one has a character self-absorbed in some way. I didn’t research them, I met them, listened and later someone like them popped into my head as I wrote.  The book isn’t one of my novels where I had to check facts as, for instance, for ‘A Relative Invasion’, which is set in the forties. For that, I had to spend a long time reading old newspapers, looking at WW2 archives, government and military information, domestic and blitz accounts and visit The Imperial War Museum.  The actual war references are minimal, but it’s still important to get them right.

In Me-Time Tales, each story had a very different starting point. The only research I did was to observe and record. There’s nowt so funny as fowk. I believe that’s a Yorkshire saying? (I should rush and research that). Observations: a woman moaning about her boyfriend’s lackadaisical responses; another fussing about her health; a further complaining about the eating habits of her (now nervous and inhibited) child. At some point, I sat down and wrote, not necessarily with those people in mind but perhaps a sentence they’d uttered, or a sentence I was writing made me summon up a character similar to them. I don’t know why I wrote any of the stories on any of the occasions, except that I had fun.

Of course, it’s not enough to create a character. They must have a voice and something in their life must have meaning or impact upon the reader. As Robert McKee says in ‘Story’ “…the life story of each and every character offers encyclopaedic opportunities.”

I wanted one younger woman to struggle with a moral dilemma and I didn’t want her to be any kind of weak pushover. I invented her from scratch.  An author’s characters live and breathe as result of his/her interactions with the world over the past – however many years lived. I really don’t know where all my characters, their sayings, peculiarites and weaknesses come from except that they are present in everyday life somewhere, and I’ve come across them some time even if I don’t remember that now. It all goes into the unconscious into a morass of mini experiences and observations.

I wrote the Me-Time Tales at different times in different places. It was only four years ago that, scanning through my documents I saw that I had several short stories I could group together. I had one hundred copies of the collection printed to trial them. If there had been no interest, that would have been that. But they were well received.

Last summer, I tweaked, rewrote, proof-read the stories before they hit the print rollers. A few (I won’t say which) I wrote especially to make the collection up to a reasonable size. Then I used an editor, tweaked and proof-read again. That doesn’t sound like a fun time. It wasn’t. However, I found fun. I was advised to start a blog. I decided to let Me-Time be the owner and to let the characters do the talking. They took over and were often quite hard on me.  The blog is truly a dialectic, a characters’ dialectic. If you haven’t visited it, it represents the second face of my ‘characterfulwriter’ logo. You will find the fun blog at http://fictionalcharacerswriting.blogspot.com. I found an image for each character to summon up either their personality or their story.  Here are two of them:

Tattoo
JESS: you rate my tattoo?  What I rate is trending on Twitter.
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DARYL: Who will change old lamps for new?

Doing the Me-time blog has made me smile. My characters have been bitchy, challenging and feisty. Strangely, they have attracted visitors from everywhere except Latin America and Japan.

I should run a poll, perhaps, to see if my 3,500 visitors want the blog to continue now that the book is published. On this more serious site, I will write more about the progress of publishing this set of short stories if you comment by scrolling right down to the bottom.

THE SECOND THIRD. Writing a psychological drama.

ONE THIRD THROUGH in the process of writing this novel, I thought I’d share something of the process.

There seem to be two approaches to writing a novel: the planned and the unfolding. I so admire, no, emulate, the well-organised planned way, but I’ve consistently failed in my attempts. You can’t write against your nature.  I’m disorganised, I don’t often make notes in my specially bought Moleskin, I’ve never kept a diary. The calendar is not up to date – if indeed I have one this year. It isn’t something I’d buy. If I get given one, even if it’s covered with garage repair adverts and no pictures, I’ll use it. A bit.

Therefore, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m an unfolder.  I start, and the plot unfolds gradually according to the characters’ nature. I comfort myself that this messy method is in tune with character-led writing. Since my characters have dominated me from an early stage in my Me-Time blog (http://fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com)   I do trust on or other of any newly created ones to direct the turn of events in my novels.

I’ll discuss the novel I’m writing now –  ‘Speechless’.                                                                       Notes about this cover in another post.

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I call it a psychological drama rather than thriller because no-one is murdered. There is some mystery over whether there is in fact a baddie lurking beneath one of the well-behaved personas inhabiting the drama.

My beginning was the idea of an unexpected behaviour in a normal child. The environment is that of a comfortable, stable, supportive family. The child’s behaviour causes concern, then confusion, then external investigation, and lastly, internal investigation. I don’t enjoy fantasy – I have to believe. Therefore, the aim of my novels is always for the reader to feel it could happen to anyone.

The next step was to start and develop each of the characters. There is a father, mother, older brother, grandparents. The way each of these decided to unfold in relation to the shadowy main character determined the first few chapters.

The central problem has to cause a series of new events.  These involve secondary characters. I’m not sure how far I will let these intrude, or whether they will allow me much of a say in this.

Planning ahead? I always know what the next chapter will be when I finish one. I do know the ending. It mustn’t be predictable, but it must be believable, so I have thought this out. I probably did this by the end of Chapter Three.

Now I’ve reached the point of writing in tertiary characters. The parents need to discuss their problem with friends. They are going to do this at a dinner. It’s a tradition that this group meet up monthly. I know that the help is not going to be helpful. Other than that I don’t know yet how the conversation will go.  I do enjoy writing dialogue (perhaps that’s why I like the retort style of Twitter rather than report style of LinkedIn). The dialogue will happen (unfold) of its own accord because of the nature of each friend.

For that reason, I have written a brief biography for these people. I need to know how and when they met the parents, what their work is and sufficient about their individual experience to colour their reaction, comment and advice to the troubled parents.

Perhaps I will write an update to the process of writing this novel at a later stage. For now, I must off and prepare the dinner the eleven characters are about to sit down to. Their reserved table at the Soft Swan is already laid.

LATE OPENING WORDS

guilty

When I began seriously trying to fledge a book or two I found that it was a universally accepted truth that I would have to potter around in social media. Like other writers, no doubt, used to being a hermit, hiding my light underneath a bushel of characters, the idea of self-promotion was hideous.

When I read a novel, I only want to enjoy it fully.  I might want to know the author’s intentions or relevant research.  That’s all. In past days of innocence, I hoped that if I wrote something good enough people might read it. No. I’m told I have to become a social animal, sharing my personal life, persuading people that I have something to offer, trading tricks, begging to be read.

All writers are advised, urged even, to engage in every possible way online and offline to promote their wares.

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PaperBag Man
by JJH

I penned a rebellious note to start this website.  I sensed that it was unwise to publish it so I kept it private. Now that I have fully learned the error of my ways, I admit them here.

I wrote: When I need a plumber, electrician, home tutor, laboratory assistant, psychiatrist or garage mechanic, I don’t seek to find out how many chameleons s/he owns or where he likes to enjoy a pint or a double scotch. I just want to know that he can do the job efficiently and well. He may have to list his name and service in a directory but not since the 19th century does he expect to stand in the local barn exhibiting his face along with his tool of trade, waiting for attention.  These workers, along with college lecturers, engineers, architects, nannies, surveyors etc do not have to display themselves in situations totally separate (alien?) to carrying out their work.

Surely writers should only need to display their writing ability and track record, or an extract of their work?  I recently enjoyed The Silent Wife and was sad to hear that Harrison had died before it was published. She was saved from a heavy round of book-thirsty visits and signings, and her excellent psychological drama is going to sell and sell anyway.  I read and reviewed Conor Patrick’s short stories on this site, Goodbye Crocodile. I was impressed but I don’t care a jot for what the author looks like or even if he’s a he, a she or a crocodile. Whatever his appearance, present accommodation or family setting, I’d read his work again.

Rebellious thoughts outed, I now confess.   withnail-guilty-dog-face-i-am-not-guilty-nikon         (Nikon ad.)

 I was brought up to be obedient. (I was just disobedient in my head). Therefore, here I am, rebellion suppressed, involved in social media.

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I began by creating a blog. This was to promote Me-Time Tales, a book of short stories, ironic and with a dark edge.

I overcame the problem of author biog by calling the blog by the name of the book (http:\\fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com).  As I couldn’t bear to bare my soul, I let the characters do it for me. They’ve always been critical and now they dominate me. See the blog for yourself. I’m sure you’ll quickly have sympathy for me. Or perhaps you’ll tell me to assert myself and buy a self-help manual.  I do have a laugh writing it and am amazed that visitors from 19 countries read it. I am warmed by that fact. And, there is not a whiff of my personal details on it, except what the characters reveal e.g. that I’m disorganized.

However, one blog does not make a social platform. There is Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, LinkedIn, various writers’ sites and numerous writing blogs to be entered upon. I do some reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. That activity is worthwhile and stimulating. But I have a feeling that if I could ditch fiction and just write fact, such as the manual for a vacuum cleaner, I could escape social media.

x-guilt      Succumbing to the necessary, I have opened my arms, if not embraced, social media. I’ve been told to. So here is this serious site. I admit I enjoy reading and reviewing unusual books. I truly love talking to other authors. What I don’t believe I will ever like is ‘Buy my book, it’s the most amazing x or y since Shakespeare.’  Who knows what will happen on this site? One thing’s for sure, I’m going to hang on in here and not rebel any more. Oh, I’m an obedient soul at heart and I do want to sell my books. Eventually. When I’ve got them right. You’ll be able to buy them here.

When I write that manual about sprockets, I’m not going to advertise it at all. It will just come with the goods.