Still Waters?

I’m thrilled that one of my poems, Still Waters?, is featured in the current (May 2021) issue of Writing Magazine, where it is expertly analysed by Alison Chisholm. The magazine is available here (or in W. H. Smiths, etc).

I thought I’d share the poem itself here too:

Still Waters?		

The air falls silent; trees stand 
motionless above the facing shore.
Their twins that hang below it
are still swaying – ever so gently –  
to the quiet singing of the pool.

I throw a stone
and watch it smash those trees 
to splinters. Rings of light
flow outwards, disintegrating
softly on the shore.

Each ring is fainter; 
in time, the patient trees
reconstitute themselves,
becoming whole again
but not quite still: those waves, 
no longer visible, have been absorbed
into the music of the pool, its memory
of every stone I ever threw.

How it all began …

It has occurred to me that it’s been a while since I posted any of my prose on here. So I thought I’d share this little piece that I wrote back in October.

How it all began …

The forest was dying. Where once great trees had stretched unbroken from horizon, now long grasses swayed in the wind. What trees were left were solitary, stretching out long roots to seek out every drop of moisture from the arid soil, or huddled in little clumps where a hollow allowed a little ground water to accumulate. Only the banks of rivers and lakes still held narrow bands of thick woodland, squeezing their inhabitants into enclosed spaces where they must fight each other for dwindling resources.

But, if you were fast enough, smart enough, and wise enough to know where and when the next crop of fruit would ripen, there was still a life to be made here. The apes had survived, thrived even, when so many other species had moved on or died out. They had the agility, the intelligence, the wisdom to make sure there was always enough to eat. But with this new environment came new risks. No longer could the apes spend their whole lives in the canopy, moving from one branch to another, to another. No patch of forest was big enough now to sustain them on its own. They must move from one to the other, take their chances in the long grass to find the next fruit-laden tree. Apes were not built for grassland. Their knuckle walk was steady and serviceable, but never fast, and it kept their heads low, below the level of the waving grass that restricted their view to what was right in front of their eyes. It screened them too, but there were hunters on that grassland that could smell them from hundreds of metres away, and catch them long before they reached the safety of the next tree.

There was a young ape that liked to fool about, walking on its hind legs. The older apes disdained it, but the youngster did not care. It would do as it pleased, and when its troop made the trek from one clump of trees to the next, it would maintain this two-legged gait, enjoying a view denied to the others. One day, as they knuckle-walked along, oblivious, the youngster’s high pitched shrieks alarmed them. The big males gathered around the mothers and babies, and confronted the leopard that had been stalking them. Faced with a wall of teeth and and a hail of stones, and unwilling to fight for its meal, it retreated.

It was not long before all the young apes in that troop, and some of the older ones, adopted the habit of walking on their hind legs. And it was not many generations before their descendants became more successful, more numerous than those of others who still maintained the old knuckle-walking ways. They were adaptable, intelligent creatures. But they were still apes: what that odd habit of theirs would ultimately lead to was something utterly beyond their comprehension.

Welcome, Allison

I’m very pleased to host a short piece today from flash fiction/short story writer and blogger Allison Symes.

Time by Allison Symes

‘You won’t know what to do when retired, Judy.’

‘You’ll be back here in no time. You’ll get bored, Judy.’

Harrumph! My colleagues were wrong. I’d planned my retirement. I wanted every day to have something I’d look forward to – and it was going brilliantly.

On Mondays, I had Book Club. On Tuesdays, I went swimming. On Wednesdays, I was at the WI. On Thursdays, I would visit an English Heritage or National Trust property. On Fridays, I went to creative writing classes and later in the day cooking classes. (I can cook all right but you want to improve on what you do and I can now make a mean lamb rogan josh if I say so myself).
I saved weekends for boring things like housework, getting my shopping delivered and so on. The weekends are for families to be out and about. They don’t need me in their way. I refuse to be in theirs.

I lost my Joe years ago, poor love. Cancer is a devil. He was 50.  We weren’t blessed with children either. But I’ve always known Joe would want me to live for him so that’s what I did at work and then in retirement.

Then bloody Covid-19 came. To begin with it was okay. I still have milk delivered and I’d used online food shopping for years. But  I missed going out. I couldn’t have returned to work even if I wanted to then. Everyone was furloughed. From what I last heard on the community Facebook page, it looks as if my old firm won’t survive at all.

I got used to Zoom so still have my Book Club and WI but no swimming. I soon tired of “visiting” places by online means only though. I love walking for miles around these places and then going to their cafes for lunch and afternoon tea etc. Can’t do that at home!

The positive though has been my creative writing classes. Not only are they continuing on Zoom, I’ve now drafted several stories and I’m submitting a couple to publishers next week. I’ve had good feedback and if I don’t try, I won’t know, will I?

Oh I so want to feel the air again, to be able to walk as far as I want, and not have everyone shy away from me because it’s clear I’m in my sixties and may be vulnerable.  I’ve never let my age get in the way and I resent a bloody virus for forcing this on us all. And I worry. Will people resent us older, “vulnerable” ones? I hope not but fear so.

I suppose I could write a story about it and have my heroine find a way of defeating the thing. I wish I could trample the thing to death for inflicting this misery. Trust me, I’d do it in a flash if I could.

Allison Symes is a published flash fiction/short story writer and a blogger. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies from CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing. Allison loves reading and writing quirky fiction. She discovered flash fiction thanks to a CaféLit challenge and has been hooked on the form since.

In her flash stories, Allison will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon amongst other delights.
Allison’s first flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, was published by Chapeltown Books in 2017, with the follow-up, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, released in 2020.

Allison blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online magazine, every Friday and usually writes on topics of interest to writers.


Author Links

Website: https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Amazon Author Central: http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

Chandler’s Ford Today Blog Page: http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/

News and a Poem

A couple of bits of poetry news today. Firstly, I’m delighted that I will be involved in #HavePoemsWillTravel, an online event hosted by award-winning performance poet Rose Condo for World Poetry Day on Sunday 21 March. Should be great! You can book tickets for the event here: #HavePoemsWillTravel Tickets, Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 6:30 PM | Eventbrite. Hope to see you there!

Secondly, I was thrilled yesterday to receive my copy of Survival, the anthology from the recent Hammond House International Poetry Competition.

I thought I’d share one of my two poems from the anthology:

West Shore    					

This place possessed you:
the essence of it, borne on sea spray
sank into your bones.
Fleeting light on soft grey waves,
their lilting sussurations
flowed through eyes and ears 
to sow a seed of it in you 
that took root and grew
like sea grass, swaying 
in the tides of life
but tenacious, holding on
to bring you back, and back again.

It was two-way osmosis:
pervading everything, this shore 
in turn was steeped in you.
Elsewhere, you left a vacuum,
nothing but aching emptiness,
but here, replanting 
ancient footsteps, I sense you still
within the glint of sun on water
the salt taste in the air
and the soothing surf
that reassures me
‘sshhh, I am at peace.’

Pic: Tom Pennington: Strand lines on West Shore, Llandudno CC BY-SA 2.0

The Montefiore Bride

I’m pleased to host another guest piece today, from novelist and poet Patricia M Osborne. This is an extract from her short story, The Montefiore Bride, published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. You can read more about it – and Patricia – below.

The Montefiore Bride

 A Sussex Fictional Tale Based on Facts

The Arrival – 19th September 1888

Mr Burr and I push past men in top hats and bonneted women hovering around Three Bridges. White and blue bunting shimmers in the autumn sun. Villagers grip red flags. Mr Burr and I wait with eager crowds for the half past four to arrive.

            Red carpet in position, Sir Francis steps outside. I remember his Pa before him, a good man, one to respect, the Bart’s inherited that gift. He escorts his child bride, ‘Ice and Snow.’

            Elegance in satin, her gown embroidered with pearls, she enchants onlookers. The footman opens the carriage, lifts the lady’s moon-lace train. She settles onto the seat. Her spouse slides close, smiles, kisses her hand. We all cheer.    

            Sir Francis gestures to the crowd, confident in his twenty-eighth year, a dignified laugh but his toothbrush tash creeps up and down. As a nipper he spent hours on our farm, watching me shear sheep and milk cows, or in the kitchen with my Mary, dipping his fingers in fruitcake mix, face blanched white with flour.

            Lady Marianne’s slim fingers slip from his palm. Her wee face pale porcelain, nought but a young gal ripped away from her Austrian family.

            Look here, it’s time. Mr Burr and I, we head the procession, he’s hereby from Worth, I be for Crawley, together we lead the bridal party. Blow, bellow, bang— tuba, French horn, drums— Crawley Band booms along the road. A horseman flicks the reins, the cab draws away. Red, yellow, pink blooms of swags and garlands drape across wellingtonia dark greens. Residents in hundreds wave hooray on either side of the flowered tunnel. The pair-horses ease to a halt, jog through an ornate iron-railed entrance, covered with burgundy ivy. I guide them into Worth Park.

Step back to 1888 and become part of the Victorian crowd waiting at Three Bridges Station.

Some background to the story, from Patricia herself:

“Back in 2017 as part of my MA in creative writing I was required to take up a writing residency. I chose my local Victorian Park, Worth Park, in Crawley, West Sussex. As part of the remit, I researched the park’s past going back to 19th September 1888 when Sir Francis Montefiore, the first and last Baronet of Worth Park, brought home his Austrian bride and created a short fictional West Sussex tale, The Montefiore Bride.

The Montefiore Bride is based on facts, filling in the gaps with fiction, which in turn brought me a winning place with The Hedgehog Poetry Press after I entered a prickly shorts competition. The story is published in print by Hedgehog Poetry Press and bound in a beautiful cover to create a prose/poetry pamphlet costing £5.99 plus postage and packaging. Also available in pdf format by email at £2.99. All proceeds of sales from The Montefiore Bride (purchased via my website) go to my local homeless shelter, Crawley Open House.”

****

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).

Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She has two published novels, House of Grace and The Coal Miner’s Son and the third in its trilogy, ‘The Granville Legacy’ is to be published March 2021. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Taxus Baccata, and short story, The Montefiore Bride, narrated in prose poetry, were published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2020.

She has a successful blog at Whitewingsbooks.com where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.

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Croham Hurst in the Mist

Thought I’d share this poem – published on The Poetry Village earlier this month.

The Poetry Village

Croham Hurst in the Mist

Formless and inviolate,
bright shadow cloaks the hillside,
stealing all distance and direction,
concealing traps – the exposed root, the hidden pool.
Eyes suffused with light but seeing nothing
allow mind to concoct nameless horrors
just beyond the veil.

Enough of fairy tales:
there is a spectral beauty
in this open but secluded place
screened from the buzz of human busyness.
The land, the trees reveal themselves by inches:
outstretched hands and probing footsteps map
the pure topography of space.

Tim Taylor lives in Meltham, West Yorkshire. His poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, and his first collection,Sea Without a Shore,was published in 2019 by Maytree Press. He has also published two novels.

https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/timtaylornovels

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Transcending Lockdown

I’m pleased to host a piece today from Elizabeth Ducie, novelist, publisher and author of The Business of Writing series, who shares her positive perspective on lockdown, despite its challenges.

My Lock-down Gladness Jar

Pinching the idea from a friend who keeps a jar full of positivity recorded on scraps of paper, I’ve always tried to see the positives in the strange time we are living through.

In August, I had knee replacement surgery; and I am grateful for my good health; for the wonderful NHS system which, despite everything, provides excellent care free at the point of delivery; plus enough painkillers to stock a small pharmacy; and the army of folks, both professionals and friends, who supported me, encouraged me, and put up with my moaning for the past six months.

We all complain at times about social media being a time sink; about never being able to switch off. But how much worse lock-down would have been without Zoom? From family chats, through quizzing with friends, to online literary festivals, the options are endless. And not just Zoom. There’s Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media platforms. WhatsAp is great for swapping jokes, pictures and advice. 

I’m a townie, born and bred; but in 2007, we moved to a semi-rural setting on the outskirts of a small town. Our nearest neighbours live in the cow shed across the stream. We’re within walking distance of country lanes and parkland; and a short drive from the seaside and the moors. On our walks we count squirrels; try to identify birds by sight or ear; and attempt to capture that perfect photo. When we first arrived, we took every opportunity to visit Exeter or Plymouth. You can take the girl out of the city but… Now, I’ve not been near a city for nearly a year. And I didn’t miss it one little bit.

Within hours of the lock-down announcement the town council had set up a Task Force to deal with emergencies. Food retailers switched to delivery services and restaurants became takeaways. One thing that’s been overwhelming in our little town and elsewhere is the great sense of community.

There’s a saying doing the rounds: not everything’s cancelled. So true. Sunshine’s not cancelled. Okay, it’s not here much at the moment, but we had some glorious summer days and it will soon be spring again.

Reading’s not cancelled. It’s quite nice to be able to take time during the day sometimes to curl up and lose oneself in a book.

Naps are not cancelled. When I came out of hospital, I was told to take at least an hour morning and afternoon to switch off and snooze. I dismissed the idea initially, but actually found I look forward to my naps and get quite grouchy if I miss one.

And finally, imagination’s not cancelled. Times are strange at the moment But, we can dream, plan for the future. We can imagine what life will be like after this is all over. And maybe, just maybe some of it will be a lot better than before rather than worse. And for that, we should all be truly grateful.

SONY DSC

Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie gave up the day job after thirty years to become a full-time writer. She has published three collections of short prose and four novels, including a series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. She is currently working on a cosy murder mystery set in a fictional village just down the road from her home in Devon.

Elizabeth is also the author of The Business of Writing, a series of manuals on business skills for writers. Her latest, Part 4 Independent Publishing, is based on her decade of experience as an indie publisher. She also coaches new writers taking their first steps down the indie route. You can find out more about Elizabeth and her work, or sign up for her newsletter, on her website. Or you can hear her speak on Routes to Publishing at the Women in Publishing Summit online in March.

Opening the Box

Just a random poem from me today. This one was first published in the anthology Leaving, published by Hammond House last year.

  
 Opening the Box
  
 Even when you left,
 I kept some pieces of you:
 words and crosses scribbled
 on thin card; images 
 of smiles and sunshine,
 small gifts from another time
 now too painful to look at,
 too precious to lose.
  
 I made a box for them: square,
 solid, secured with a lock.
 In the box, they were safe,
 they were harmless – 
 that lacquered wood lid
 had the power of forgetting.
 If they burned or fermented 
 it stayed in the box. 
  
 Until yesterday, 
 seeing your face in the street.
 That look, like the turn of a key
 and that sound, in the silence
 of your box – and mine – 
 of the drawers sliding open,
 the clatter of relics
 strewn out on the ground. 

Let’s Get Published

Today I am delighted to host a guest piece by Val Penny. Val is best known for her ‘Hunter’s’ series of crime novels set in Edinburgh, but today she is sharing the introduction to her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published. Take it away, Val! ….

Many people say anybody can write a book.  Most of these individuals have never tried to write one. Alternatively, it is often said that everybody has a book inside of them. That is simply not true. This is repeated and belittles the achievements of authors.

In truth, it is a very hard thing to write a book. Most people never attempt it, fewer still succeed in getting published. But if you have written a novel, or novella, or perhaps compiled a collection of short stories, poems or flash fiction, this book may help you with the next step. It is primarily intended for authors of fiction who have completed a draft of their novel and who are now looking to prepare it for submission to agents or publishers.

Of course, it may also aid poets, short story writers and authors of non-fiction. It is designed to facilitate authors in maximising their success when submitting work to agents or publishers. It is to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print and identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach. It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission and preparing their submission package to give them the best chance of success. 

Writing a novel is hard work.

Completing even the first rough draft of a novel can take months or even years, particularly if you are trying to fit your writing in amongst work or other commitments. It is definitely a marathon, not a sprint and requires dedication and persistence. The American writer Richard Bach who is widely known as the author of some of the 1970s’ biggest sellers, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull once said,

‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit’.

If you have finished the first draft of your novel and, like all writers, you now want it to reach the widest possible readership. It has to be published so that other people can read your book and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Getting your book published is likely to be even harder work than writing it. We have all heard the stories of the multiple rejections received by now best-selling authors including Kathryn Stockett who wrote The Help, also Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Carrie, was rejected over thirty times and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels were rejected on numerous occasions before Bloomsbury took a chance on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. No matter how good your book might be, to get it published you will need the same level of determination, resilience, hard work and careful planning that you harnessed to write it. Nevertheless, there is good news. There are now more routes to publication than ever before. Have a look and see which one suits you best – Let’s Get Published!

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Darkstroke. The fifth book in the series, Hunter’s Secret, was published in 2020 as was her first nonfiction book, Let’s Get Published.

Author Contact Details

 www.valpenny.com
 www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739
 www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303
 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny
  
 Buy Links

 mybook.to/hunterschase
 mybook.to/huntersrevenge
 mybook.to/huntersforce
 mybook.to/huntersblood
 mybook.to/hunterssecret
 bit.ly/LetsGetPublished

Looking Forward …

Well, what a year that was! It began with me turning 60, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my Mum on 13 January. Oh well, at least it’s got to get better after this, I thought …

However, I don’t think there is much point in raking over the awfulness of 2020, or the fact that the Covid crisis seems, right now, to be worse than ever. It was what it was, and it is what it is. Nor do I want to speculate about when we are finally going to emerge from all this – I’ve done so in the past, and been disappointed. But I do want to look forward, and I’m going to take the risky step of talking about some things I want to achieve this year.

My first priority is to get my novel Going Down in Flames – about a woman’s relationship with her father as he loses his memory – published. This has been rumbling on for a long time now. It’s been drafted, edited, sent to some agents, redrafted and edited again more than once. I was very confident in the concept and the characters, but something about the structure of it wasn’t quite working. I put it aside for a while and worked on other things, but last year I decided I had to get rid of the bloody thing. After a final edit with the aid of beta readers and some professional advice, I am now happy with the novel in its current form, and am determined to get it in print. It is with a publisher as we speak – I hope they like it! If not, there will be others.

I’d also like to make some progress with my slow-burning sci-fi project. Having published a first story from it last year (“Delving” in the Darkness anthology – https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2020/10/04/darkness/) I want to publish at least one more this year. Other than that, I’ll be continuing to seek to get poems published in magazines and anthologies, and placed in competitions, after a reasonably successful year in 2020 (about the only good thing about that year!). I may even look to get a second poetry collection (after Sea Without A Shore in 2019) published – but I’m not going to commit to that yet – it depends on what else happens. Finally, by the end of the year. I want to have started work on another novel. I’m not sure what that novel will be yet, but I have a few ideas.

So there it is! I’ve set out my stall for 2021. The good news is that none of this is dependent on the end of Covid or coming out of lockdown – indeed, maybe I’ll make better progress without the distractions of holidays or going out – but I’m not going to wish for that!

Finally, I’d like to wish all readers good luck in their own writing or other projects, and a safe, happy and ultimately positive year.