My review of The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. So I thought I’d start again with my recent review of a collection of unorthodox short stories from a writer with a dark and creative imagination. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading stories that are different and weird.

You can grab your copy here:

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Micha%C3%ABl-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

Amazon.UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Orthography-Madness-Misgivings-Michaël-Wertenberg-ebook/dp/B07N5XM1SN

 

Refreshingly different

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by Michaël Wertenberg is a collection of short stories largely about the human condition when in a heightened state. Most of the tales are gruesome and troubling with some marvellous flashes of magic realism that keep you thinking about them long after you have read them. There are lovely vivid descriptions that make you shudder our laugh. I particularly enjoyed the stories in diary form of the author’s experiences living in different countries. Worth a read if you prefer literary fiction to pulp. There are a few inconsistencies in the narrative that need to be addressed, but nothing that detracts from the overall enjoyment of his work.

 

The Orthography of Madness and Misgivings by [Wertenberg, Michaël]

 

If you would like to see what I’m currently working on please go to my website and click on ‘Work in Progress‘. It’s an Historical Crime Thriller set in Vienna 1899, working title – Black Vienna.

http://www.oddlybooks.com/

Happy New Year – Author Spotlight

I know I’m a little late to wish everyone a Happy New Year, but I broke my wrist Christmas night and have to type using my left hand.

Anyway, stitches are healing and I can now move my fingers, so I would like to start 2018 blog posts highlighting a talented author by the name of Y. Correa.

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Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Y.-Correa/e/B00B32WXFE/

Y. Correa is a literary seductress, luring one in with her talent of Romancing the Words, keeping one hypnotized with dynamic characters, and stimulating one with engaging narrative voices, strong plots, and epic conflicts. Her writes are as complex and as distinct as her person; a delightful combination of eclectic and antiquated. Therefore, the mere mention of fitting into one set genre is laughable. The multi-genre decadence is where she showcases her magnificence.

Y. Correa’s works include:

Solo Works such as
Historical Fiction “MarcoAntonio & Amaryllis”

Sci-Fi Mashup “Earth 8-8-2: The Genesis Project” and “Earth 8-8-2: Genesis’ Rebellion”

Sci-Fi Fiction series “A.L.O.M Episode 1” and “A.L.O.M Episode 2”

Paranormal Romantic Drama “Lilith’s Dominion”

“Ryan” a short story

“Loving … them!” a short story

“The G. Particle” a short story

“Camielle’s Lights” a short story
Anthology Contributions such as
“Alma’s Unsung Angel” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Unity

“A Puerto Rican Christmas in New York” featured in “Holiday Keepsakes”

“The Steam of Opposites” featured in “Crackles of the Heart: Divergent Ink Book 1”

“Genomegenics” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Vitality”

“Twin Planets” featured in “Concordant Vibrancy: Lustrate”

Would you like to enter into Y. Correa’s dimensions of literary seduction? Then simply connect with her on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ycorreaauthor

 Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AuthorYCorrea

or Twitter @YCorreaFB.

Short Story Anthology Launch

Here is a blog post about short story writer Paul Toolan. I was drawn to his anthology because of the subject matter, ageing and dementia. We all grow old and with it subjected to illnesses and lapses in memory. Paul uses these themes to conjure up twelve tales to tackle this often sensitive subject.

Please read on and learn some great insight into how the author gets his inspiration.

The characters in this collection are looking back into the half-shaded landscapes of memory. (5)

‘Where do your stories come from?’

 If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

a view from memory hill

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:  smarturl.it/avwm

 

Paul Toolan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Release!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Just in time for the festive season, I have managed to finish and publish The Chronicles of Mayer – parts one and two. They are prequel stories for The Song of Forgetfulness Dystopian/Sci-fi series and give insight into how the world of NotSoGreatBritAlbion came to exist as it does in the books.

There are more stories to follow so I will be releasing them as and when I complete the manuscripts. I takes time as I have to do a lot of research into global warming, diseases, ice cap melting etc in order to get the facts right. I tell you, writing Sci-fi isn’t as easy as you might think. Creating future worlds is so creative, but I do need to male sure it is credible, hence the research.

MayerBiGTYPE5.12.jpg

Here is the link and blurb for The Chronicles of Mayer:

 An Apocalyptic tale in The Song of Forgetfulness series.

A story of survival and courage in a devastated world.

When mother nature turns against mankind in the latter stages of the 21st century sending hurricanes, earthquakes, and deadly viruses to wipe out the human race, a small community of Buddhist monks and scientists are forced to evacuate Mahabharata House on the disused Lakenheath airbase, as rising waters engulf their home.

With many humans and animals drowned it is up to devotees Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, cow herds at Mahabharata, to protect the sacred bovines and take them to a safe haven in the highlands of Scotland.

During their arduous journey on foot and hoof, they meet other refugees of the catastrophic flood who join them on their mission to survive and build a sanctuary for themselves and the cows on the mountains of the Trossachs.

Tension mounts as dwindling food supplies cause friction and distrust amongst the disparate group. Their trek north becomes fraught with danger as hungry survivors clash and rogue soldiers try to butcher the holy herd.

As dangerous lightning storms, traitors and disease threaten to wreck their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must do battle not only with the elements but those who would kill to get their hands on the last remaining cattle in the ever diminishing island of Great Britain.

This is an accompaniment to The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure series.

 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

6 Tips On How To Record Your Own Audiobook

I have recently finished recording my first anthology of short stories – Glimmer – for Amazon Audiobooks.

Or ACX as it is known:

 https://www.acx.com/help/about-acx/200484860

It took a while to record, but I think the finished product is professional. It helps that my husband is a musician/composer and knows his way around a recording desk.

But you don’t need to have a studio technician in order to record your audiobook. You can do it yourself, quite cheaply too. Be sure to create your account first and become acquainted with the specifications for recording your book.

glimmeraudioeditionsml2

http://books2read.com/u/3LrNd1

So, here are a few tips to get you started:

Firstly – you need to deaden the room you are in, if you don’t have soundproof room. Since I don’t have a soundproof booth I had to improvise by placing a mattress against one wall, putting cushions in the windows and hanging a heavy duvet on the wall I faced. This will muffle outside noises quite effectively. As I live on a road that can be busy, I had to pause on a number of occasions whilst waiting for traffic to die down.

Secondly – you will need a good microphone, preferably one that is specifically designed for voice-over work. I used an Apogee Mic professional microphone that is suitable for Garageband, iPad, iPhone and mac. These can be pricey, but if you go to this link: http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/usb-microphones/ there is an extensive list of affordable microphones that will be more than ideal.

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Thirdly – a computer/laptop to record it on, with suitable recording software. I use an iMac that has Garageband already installed. It is very easy to use and more than adequate for audiobook requirements. If you have a PC then I am reliably told that Audacity, is the software to use. http://www.audacityteam.org/

Fourthly – make sure you are comfortable before you begin. You should place the microphone level with your mouth about 8 inches away from your face, with a pop shield attached to reduce those annoying,  heavy breathing sounds, gulps, ‘P’ pop noises and other tongue, lip sound we can’t help making on occasions.

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Once you’ve created your track and pressed record, try to pace your reading. Don’t go too fast and make sure you pronounce things clearly. The good thing about doing it yourself, is that you can re-record the bits you don’t like. You can also use headphones so that you can hear yourself as you speak.

Fifthly – when you have recorded your book, edit it to make it crisp and clean and professional sounding. This entails fiddling around with levels to make them consistent, taking out long pauses, reducing background noise, and basically making it sound the way you want it to so that it meets  with the requirements of ACX. I highly recommend that you download a sample of an audiobook to get an idea of the quality and ambiance that ACX need.

Lastly – upload to ACX and await for confirmation and acceptance before it goes for sale. It takes around 10-14 days for this this to happen. Be careful to get your details, book description and categories right before publishing as once it is, making changes isn’t easy. You have to email them and ask. Also, you don’t set the price, they do based on the length of your audio reading.

For a more detailed account of how to home record for ACX, I highly recommend Rob Dirks tutorial  – Yes, you can record you own Audiobook. Here’s how.

http://robdircks.com/yes-you-can-record-your-own-audiobook-heres-how/

 I decided  a trailer would be a good idea as a taster for my new publication. My husband very kindly made this video for me. You can view it on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/XsZCYmua4R0

What? They Banned my Book?

At last, I thought, I’m ready to publish Crow Bones.

jpgcrowbones11crop

 

At times I didn’t think I would. Already this anthology is causing controversy and a number of outlets have banned it from sale. Why? Because an automated system has decided it has content that would offend. This automated system has not actually read any of the content, so I’m assuming it just made an assumption based on the description where I used the word, ‘incest’. I have taken great care to make sure that any sensitive issues I have tackled in these stories are treated with respect and dignity.

This is the email:

Concerning your book
Crow Bones
BOOK ID: 201746
Our sales channels have asked us not to send certain material to them. Draft2Digital’s automated content review has detected some of this declined material in your book, Crow Bones. As a result, we cannot send this book to the following sales channels:
 24 Symbols
 Kobo
 Apple
 Tolino
 Scribd
The types of material at issue include:
 Incest and Pseudo-Incest: The content portrays characters engaged in sexual
 activity with relatives, blood-related or otherwise. This includes situations
where characters refer to each other using familial terms.
Sales channels not listed above continue to receive this material at this time.
If you believe that your book has none of the content listed above and wish to contest the issue, please reply to this email and we will investigate further.

Now, I looked into this. I went onto these sites and discovered that all of them are selling The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. If you are not familiar with this work, then I can verify that the book is about incest and has many graphic scenes of sexual activity between a brother and sister. So, why is my book being denied publication when there are no sex scenes? I have taken out the word ‘incest’ in my description, contacted the site explaining that my book has ‘none of the content listed above.’ As this goes to print I have received an email stating that they will publish my book after all. Result!

Strange though, that they objected to incestuous material and didn’t mind the other topics in my anthology, such as cannibalism and alien infanticide.

Crow Bones

Revenge, desire, elusive muses, cannibalism, alien infanticide and a very angry goat.

Inspired by artists such as Chagall, Munch, and Banksy, these curious, darkly humorous and sometimes surreal stories explore human nature in all its disparate colours. From finding love against the odds on Blackpool Beach to surviving abandonment on a dying planet, each tale takes you to another time and place where reality is blurred and dreams mingle with the paint from a spray can.

To celebrate the launch of my ‘banned’ collection of short stories,  I am pricing both my anthologies – Crow Bones and Glimmer –  at only 99c – or equivalent depending on the country you live in. Links below on Amazon.

crowbonesv-8_front_only

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M6CT8PZ

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M6CT8PZ

Glimmer and other stories


US: https://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

For  sites such as Kobo, itunes and Barnes and Noble. Just click on the link below:

Would you buy this book?

I have been working on my second short story collection for over a year now. I was going to publish it last Christmas, but like I said in my previous post, I got cold feet.

I have now finished it and will be publishing it on November 5th – Bonfire Night in the UK. May as well start with a bang!

Anyway, here is the blurb and cover. Would you buy this book?

Crow Bones:

Revenge, desire, elusive muses, incest, cannibalism, alien infanticide and a very angry goat.

Inspired by artists such as Chagall, Munch, and Banksy, these curious, darkly humorous and sometimes surreal stories explore human nature in all its disparate colours. From finding love against the odds on Blackpool Beach to surviving abandonment on a dying planet, each tale takes you to another time and place where reality is blurred and dreams mingle with the paint mist from a spray can.

 If you like authors such as Philip K Dick, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Annie Proulx and Franz Kafka, then Crow Bones is the anthology for you.

crowbonesv-6cfront

I will also be launching my new venture – Oddly Books  where I will be publishing my own weird novels and stories as well as getting together other like-minded authors to produce quality fiction that strays beyond the edge of reality.

So, if you are an author who writes quality, speculative, strange stories, please do get in touch.

Here is a short extract form one of the stories in the new anthology

 Soft Boiled.

“The hiss and babble of a pot brewing up bones and gristle gave the kitchen a sense of bustle despite the stillness of the sole occupant.

Alice, fixed to her seat, did not waft her flushed cheeks, scratch the itch that made her thigh twitch or wipe off the sticky fluid on her fingers. She just sat, stared at the pan and let the blood drip.”

My first short story anthology – Glimmer and other stories – the ebook is on offer at the moment for only $0.99 £0.99. You can purchase it on Amazon:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M

Or from a variety of sites such as Kobo, itunes and Barnes and Noble. Just click on the link below:
Any author interested in the Oddly Book anthology, please do get in touch. My email is: nikki@nicolamcdonagh.com. Or leave a comment with a contact for me to get in touch with you.
Thanks for reading!!

What stops you from publishing your work?

There are many reasons an author doesn’t get around to publishing their work. I know from my own experience how scary it is to actually get your stories/novels into the real world. The dread of waiting for that first review, the agonising over the cover, blurb, and oh, the list goes on. I wonder sometimes how any of us manage to do it at all.

I have been wanting to publish my second anthology of short stories for nearly a year now. They have been sitting  in Scrivener for ten months. I have edited, re-edited, edited again, tweaked, cut, added and edited the stories until I hate the very sight of them. Then I wake up and realise there is a plot flaw, or a character’s reaction to something isn’t quite right, and I go back to the story and re-write it. Then when I’m satisfied – ish – I start looking at the contents order, change it around, change it back and when I’m sick of that,  I go onto another project.

Why?

Because I want my work to be perfect. Until I think it is, I know that I will never publish.

Then a friend told me to stop being so precious and ‘anal and just publish the thing!’ She was right, of course. My writing is never going to be perfect. Even if I think the stories are as near perfect as I can get them, I guarantee that I will want to change something at some point.

So I have decided to go ahead and finally publish my second anthology of short stories.

Crow Bones.

crowbonesv-6cfront

Due for release 5th November 2016 via my new publishing company – Oddly Books.

cowbonezsofar12-10

Now that it’s official, I will have to do the deed.

Are there any authors out there who share my dithering when it comes to publishing? If so, what are the reasons you don’t do it? I’d love to hear from you, just so I know that I’m not alone.

My first collection of short stories – Glimmer – is on offer at the moment. Only $0.99 £0.99 on a variety of sites. Just click on this link to take you to where you can purchase your copy:  https://books2read.com/u/4AgOLA

Or go to Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

 Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glimmer-other-stories-Unusual-suspense-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M/
glimmer front red 2

Is it really okay to write in the present tense?

 

Tenses, past and present are a vital part of any narrative. Some say you should never write in the present tense as it is a sign of amateurishness. Say that to Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens and Ian McEwan.

Still, there  are many who dislike the use of present tense. Philip Pullman is one such author who frowns upon it because of its limitations, in his opinion.

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‘I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective. I want them to feel able to say what happened, what usually happened, what sometimes happened, what had happened before something else happened, what might happen later, what actually did happen later, and so on: to use the full range of English tenses.’

You can read the full article here:

http://www.theguardian.com/global/2010/sep/18/philip-pullman-author-present-tense

I have to say that on the whole I agree with him. Personally, I’m not a fan of novels in the present tense, without some past tense in the form of flashbacks or memories. That being said, I believe the present tense can be used well for short story writing. I then thought, oh no, present tense!

A horrible memory came back to me. A creative writing tutor once shamed me in front of the entire class when I submitted a present tense short story, written in the first person, by saying, ‘Never write in the present tense. Only amateurs and bad writers do that. Don’t write in the first person either, that shows a lack of imagination and arrogance. Let’s face it, no-one wants to listen to your voice, you are nobody.’ His words hurt and I vowed to never write in the first person or the present tense again.

 

Until a year later after gaining a Creative Writing Diploma and winning a short story completion with a piece written in the first person present tense.

Glimmer

 ‘The world will not end because I close my eyes. The sun will still shine, so too the stars. Yet the darkness behind my drooped lids tells me otherwise. I see a macrocosm made up of swirling silhouettes and geometric shapes that aren’t strange to me at all. This is where I live now, in x-ray blackness. There is peace in this non-colour. A stillness that demands quiet.’

This story is now part of my anthology – Glimmer and other stories – and is getting some brilliant 5* reviews.

‘A stunning collection of highly original short stories, written with verve and style. They do not glimmer they sparkle!’

‘Glimmer and other stories’ is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories. As I was reading, I fell into a trance of adjectival excess… they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever…’

 http://amzn.to/239YbRG

glimmer front red 2

With Mr. Pullman’s article fresh in my mind, I decided to write another short story in the present tense, with past tense mixed in. Then I thought, oh, does it work? Why not write the whole thing in the past tense and be done with it? No one will criticise me and…well, I did and I didn’t like it as much. The tone and narrative voice works better in the present tense, for me, anyway.

What do you think?

Below are two short extracts from the beginning of the story The Shivering Oak. Inspiration for the story came from a painting by Marc Chagall.marc-chagall-autumn-in-the-village

Present tense:

Coward.

To conceal yourself up a tree like a rat.

I do not hide. I am here for all to see. Lounging larger than the low roof I recline upon.

At least, that’s how it seems to me as I raise my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it. Yes, even the heavens are on my side.

I will wait.

I do not grow tired or hungry. I am nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroke my bare arms and lips, which are red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, now that I glance at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I think they resemble the hue of the roses on my dress. Or perhaps they are nearer the shade of the berries on the bush growing below your dangling feet. I notice the soles of your shoes are worn. Is that a toe, that pink protuberance sticking out from the emerging hole? The twitching thing is making Genghis yank at his leash.

I sit up to get a better look. You struggle to maintain position on the creaking branch. One hand wrapped around the frail wood, the other clutching onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me at the Christmas concert.

The village hall was crammed that night with the young, old, and those in between. Forced to stand at the back, I peered over the shoulders of the tall men. I didn’t mind, though. It was good to be in the world again after all those years cooped up with dad.

Past Tense:

Coward

Concealing yourself up that tree like a rat.

I did not hide. I was there for all to see. Lounging larger than the roof I reclined upon.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me when I raised my chin to the sky and let the sun kiss it.

Yes, even the heavens were on my side.

I waited

I did not grow tired or hungry. I was nourished by the warm May winds that gently stroked my bare arms and legs, which were red. I painted them the colour of blood. But, when I glanced at my reflection in the darkened window of the building opposite, I thought they resembled the hue of the roses on the dress I wore. Or perhaps, they were nearer the shade of the berries on the bush that grew below your dangling feet. I noticed that the soles of your shoes were worn. Was that a toe, that pink protuberance that stuck out from the hole? The thing that twitched and made Genghis yank at his lease.

I sat up to get a better look. You struggled to maintain your position on the creaking branch. You had one hand wrapped around the frail wood, whilst the other clutched onto your fiddle. The same violin you used to seduce me last Christmas at the village concert.

Thank you for reading. Any comments about which tense works better for you, would be very much appreciated.

Glimmer and other stories will be on a Kindle Countdown deal from 6th June. So, if you want a copy at a bargain price, just head over to Amazon.

 UK: http://amzn.to/1n6Hqpu

US:  http://amzn.to/239YbRG

 

 

Want Something Different To Read For Mother’s Day?

Firstly, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there.

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I am all for celebrating the joy  and hard work of motherhood. I think it is a wonderful idea to have a special day to say thanks, but I do get a bit fed up with all the over-the-top sugary sentimentality that the event conjures up.

So, as an antidote, let me share my Sestina – Echo– with you all. It may be a little dark, but it does celebrate the relationship between a mother and daughter.

Sestina – Echo

b&W Tulip

Echo

In blackness, Mother reaches for the light

switch, but the bulb has blown. There’s a candle

under her pillow, ready for a time

like this – when the darkness grips. A cut

on her arm has festered and now the skin

appears red and taught; an angry mark.

She tries to rub it away, but the mark

won’t go. Mother cowers, whispers, ‘No light.’

Calls out, ‘Mary, quick.’ Then picks at the skin

around the wound. Mother lifts the candle

rubs it on the dirty scratch. Mary says, ‘Cut

again?’ Then sets the wick on fire. One time

she found Mother naked, another time

crouched in the corner making a mark,

a sign to her daughter. A broken nail cut

her arm, left a blood trail that soaked up light.

Mary saw it flow and seep into the candle

whose flame highlighted Mother’s aged skin

hanging in folds. Mary peers at her own skin.

But the dimness hides the truth; that at some time

gravity will win. Mary takes the candle.

Sees a rough carving of a heart-shaped mark.

Did Mother make this? A bird calls as light

shines through the window. It’s enough to cut

into the gloom they stand in, and to cut

away the chill. It shines upon the skin

they share, so similar in this half-light.

Mary shudders at the thought that in time

her fate will be to scratch out such a mark

and wear her body half melted like candle

wax. A strand of hair has stuck to the candle.

She pulls it off revealing a perfect scar, a cut

embedded. With her thumb she makes a mark

like Mother made, leaving some of her skin

behind. They smile at the symmetry; how time

has crept up behind them and how the light

transformed the candle wax into a fresh skin

to lay across the cut, giving it time

to heal the mark, slowly fading in the light.

REd tulip_

If you enjoyed this poem, you might like to read more unusual and darkly inspiration stories to be found in my anthology – Glimmer and other stories.

On the Eighth Day:

“He wriggled and pushed the bedclothes down. It was the first time I had seen him in the flesh.  His skin was white, and smooth as the skin on warm milk.

Never knew a man could feel so soft. More used to rough hands grabbing, not knowing what they touched.

He knew.

At least, I hoped so. Hard to tell. Been a while since I was in the company of a male.”

glimmer front red 2

‘The subjects range from humour to horror and supernatural romance to repressed creativity – they all have an underlying oddness about them which is quite refreshing. Recommended for those who enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary.’

‘Glimmer and other stories’ is a miniature treasure chest of jewels. I absolutely loved these short stories. As I was reading, I fell into a trance of adjectival excess… they were mesmerising, masterful, original, eloquent, lyrical, clever…’

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