Mar 27th

A Cumbrian Adventure

By Daedalus

A blogpost I wrote for 'The Adventures of Kate' website which may interest some. Plenty of photos of snowy mountains.

"I’m not sure when I started to get an itch to start bagging Wainwrights, but Ros noticed it before I did. A couple of Christmases ago, among my presents was something tube shaped with a tag reading ‘for accounting purposes.’ The package contained a chart of the Wainwright fells and a ‘tick list’ where you can mark off the date you reached the summit."

Mountain Monday - A Cumbrian Adventure

Mar 26th

The Limbo of the Quarter-Born

By Gerry

I guess a few of you have had this. You write your novel – big task, big commitment, especially all that redrafting – but eventually you’ve got a submissions package. And somehow the synopsis makes sense, and somehow the cover letter doesn’t sound too crazed, and somehow the first three chapters hang together. So you feel you’re in with a chance. Worth a punt.

 

So you trawl Agent Hunter or Writers and Artists, and you adapt your cover letter to half a dozen recipients, and you click ‘send’ on your anxiously checked emails – cos you really don’t want Ms Whosit getting Mr Thingammy’s letter.

 

(All of which is much easier, by the way, than just the other day when you needed half a dozen print-outs, half a dozen S.A.E.s, and half a dozen A4 envelopes – though chances were you’d get a full set of replies thudding on your doormat, not the six-week, eight-week, twelve-week silences of email).

 

Anyway, you’ve given it the max. Probably had the novel read by worthy people. Acted on the worthy advice. Not overdone it, though, not turned the thing into a three-legged donkey. So you’re good. Chances are good. Life’s great.

 

What do you do now?

 

Mm, have a holiday or two? Meet old friends and apologise for being a hermit? Take up ballroom dancing?

 

Or do you – here’s the addiction – find it difficult to stop? Well, you’ve built up a lot of momentum, how do you expect to switch it off? There’s a gap in your life. It clunks as hollowly as, say, an old time S.A.E. landing on your doormat.

 

So you confine yourself to just the one city break, and you look up just a couple of old pals, and you just watch dancing on YouTube. Then you’re back to it.

 

Volume Two.

 

Makes sense. A fab book like yours will obviously need a follow-up, won’t it? Mr Agent and Ms Publisher will want more than a single book out of their time-and/or-money investment. You could be looking at a two-book deal. Maybe three, with a following wind.

 

So off you go. Volume Two. And this time it writes like a dream. Well, of course it does. You know what you’re doing now. You know the characters, you know the situations, you know the likely shape of the overall story – where the challenges will be, where the surprises will come, where the turn-arounds, revelations and self-revolutions will arise.

 

Meanwhile six weeks pass, and you’ve got two rejections. But never mind, four agents are still in the game. Eight weeks pass, and there’s another rejection: not to worry, there’s still three in the game. Twelve weeks pass: okay, those other three will never reply.

 

Diagnosis? Well, obviously the submission package wasn’t up to it. Time to get some serious editorial appraisals paid for. Get the submission package reviewed. Maybe get the whole book reviewed. (Someone read the damn thing, please!)

 

As for Volume Two, the momentum has gone. Why push ahead when Volume One is an endangered species? I mean, Volume Two should be a decent enough stand-alone, but, well, it would help if the punters read Volume One first. And anyway, if Volume One is crap, why should Volume Two fare any better? Think of it, maybe the whole concept is wrong. Or its timing is wrong. It might have been great twenty years ago or twenty years in the future, but right now? With the world as it is? With publishing as it is?

 

No, there’s a time for standing back, reviewing the options, and heading off in an entirely different direction. No more arctic romance. Consider ghosts. Consider crime.

 

And so the Limbo of the Quarter Born receives another resident. Well, you probably got a quarter of Volume Two done, didn’t you? Drafted at least. And you can always dig it out of limbo when arctic romance becomes viable again. Or when your ghost-stroke-crime novel hits it big. I mean, come on, ghosts who go around stroking criminals, who could resist?

Mar 25th

An annual Word Cloud competition.

By Athelstone

In autumn of 2010, AlanP set up a competition on the Word Cloud called Inter City Challenge. This was a themed short story competition open to all Word Cloud members. There were sixteen entries and some wonderful stories. It was judged by the entrants themselves. Five more competitions followed, with different themes, and the latest, Now and Then, is about to conclude with the winner announced today, Sunday 26 March. The field has almost doubled with thirty one entries.

For many members of the Word Cloud this has become a special event and it certainly produces some remarkable work. Some of the stories have gone on to publication, others grown into novels, and more still have featured in national competitions. Most of all, it brings out the best in the competitors. It really is as though people find themselves far more challenged by the competition and themselves than by the prospect of winning and I count some of the entries as being amongst the best short stories I have ever read.

Much of the credit must rest with Alan; with the way he has set up the competitions and with his inimitable style in administering their progress. It’s a great personal achievement and one which he should be proud of.

I missed the first one but entered the others and they have all been amazingly enjoyable and enriching. I owe Alan a very big ‘Thank you’ for making the effort and keeping this going so brilliantly for so long. Personally, I can’t imagine not having a competition to look forward to as autumn begins, but the thing is, Alan has decided to call it a day.

 

Anyway. A few weeks ago I was with a party of Word Cloud folks in a flat in Newquay, when somebody said to me that I should have a go at running something. Never one to volunteer, this struck me as a terrible idea. However, as the cold reality looms that this could, otherwise, be the end, maybe it isn’t so daft. A lot can happen in six months and the Word Cloud is a forum that encourages anybody and everybody to step forward. I’m open to other ideas and alternatives. If anybody has an overwhelming urge to take up the baton, then this would be the time to say. But as things stand, when summer fades away and all the leaves are brown, I intend to get the ball rolling on another competition.

Mar 25th

Ah, mon ami, 'eez stuffing?" n'est pas?"

By mike

Comedy is no laughing matter.  I recently went to see  a play and, a few days ago, I walked past the theatre at which it is still staged.   I was on my way to  another production.

 The words: ‘I laughed a lot’ is spread across the bill board advertising the play.  This is a quote from a review in a leading  London newspaper newspaper.   

    The next day, I checked on the review,  The critic’s words are: “I laughed a lot – who wouldn’t, at lines such as ‘You’re pulling my coq au vin’? -”   

   I puzzled over the critic’s words last night.  I might be reading between the lines but what is meant’ by: ‘who wouldn’t?”    I  thank am a grasping at a proverbial straw,  Has the critic send me a private signal, “You are not alone?”

    I have been  in despair over this.

    

   

 

Mar 25th

Saturday's ponderable points...

By OFP

AS discussed this week in the White Van Chronicles;

 

  • 1. Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour.
  • 2. In the UK, it is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day!
  • 3.Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers!
  • 4. When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
  • 5. A flock of crows is known as a murder.
  • 6. Screwfix Direct is not a dating service...

 

Add as to your nauseuum...

Mar 24th

Lost for Words

By AlanP

I have a lawyer acquaintance downtown* The other day I was buying him an expensive lunch at the foot of the Nat West Tower (now known as Tower 42 for reasons to do with the decline of Nat West Bank). It’s something I have to do from time to time in order to remind these chaps that I’m still alive and although playing it cool, don’t enjoy the vacuum that used to be filled with business. Anyway, it turns out Mike is a bit dead in the water himself at the moment. The conversation turned to more social things and led me to reveal my literary side as I mentioned I had just sold one of my stories for a pathetically few dollars on a contract he would fall about laughing at. He said he had always wanted to create a graphic novel, so I encouraged him to have a go.

This led to him telling me about contracts that his firm’s offices in South Africa are preparing. There’s a real literacy problem in S Africa, lots of people starting up small business simply can’t read and write. So these contracts are entirely graphic. Business contracts in flat pack assembly instructions mode. It made me think - I assembled some IKEA flat pack stuff the other day and, when I got home I dug out the instructions from the recycle, just to check. Not one word. I hadn’t noticed, I just put it together. There were numbers for parts, even a picture of someone scratching their head and a telephone number for support. But the assembly itself included not one word. And now it seems that whole business contracts are being created with the same techniques.

It’s interesting. The developing solution to people being unable to read and write is not to teach them how to read and write so much as to remove the need. I’m not sure where this will end.

* Stanley Kowlaski – A Streetcar Named Desire (Tenessee Williams). Always give credit when you steal a quotation, they may sue you if you don’t. :D

Mar 24th

Tea in Peshawar

By John Alty

In the summer of 1968 I was in Peshawar, on Pakistan’s northwest frontier, starting up a grain processing facility. It was my first overseas assignment for the British engineering company that employed me and although I was ludicrously young to be in charge of commissioning this new mill my training and enthusiasm would, they hoped, see me through.

Hotel accommodation in Peshawar at that time was not suited to the needs of westerners but fortunately the new mill complex included a suite for use by visiting dignitaries and this was made available during my three month stay. The sparsely but adequately furnished apartment had the huge advantage of a western style toilet. 

I took lunch each day with the office staff, cross-legged on the floor in the entrance lobby, but I ate dinner alone in my quarters. The food was always the same; spicy curries and chapatti which I ate with my fingers. I never tired of this delicious fare. 

Twice a day I’d be interrupted in my duties by my appointed batman, Rafik, delivering tea in a china tea service on a silver tray. He did this at ten o’clock in the morning and three o’clock in the afternoon wherever I was on the site and no matter in what activity I was engaged.  

The plant had been built in an undeveloped area on the banks of a river to the east of the city. One morning in June a hoard of people and animals arrived on the far side of the river and erected tents and other temporary shelters. I was told these were Shia Muslims assembling to celebrate Muharram. If I had an hour or so to spare during my day I’d climb a rickety wooden ladder to the stairwell roof atop the six story building and recline in an old rattan chair I’d liberated from the office to watch the activities in the sprawling encampment. One day I’d retired to my perch to watch the finale of the celebrations; several fanatics were engaged in flagellation, enthusiastically whipping their own backs with long chain flails. Their flesh was being ripped to shreds and blood and sweat flowed freely. There was wailing and clapping and much ado. It was fascinating if gruesome entertainment. 

I became aware of some activity behind me and turned to see the ladder moving.  A china tea service appeared over the parapet followed by a black woollen Jinna cap and then the sweat-bathed, grimly grinning face of Rafik. It was three o’clock.

 

Mar 22nd

Comedy writing

By mike

       There had been a mention of comedy writing.   I attended a stage production of ‘The Wipers News’ last night.  You might have seen a BBC film of this drama  a few years ago.  I have not seen this film.  Of course, I do not know if the script of the film and the play are the same.

     The dialogue is witty, unforced and appropriate for the characters.  The play is an ensemble piece.  I would give the comic dialogue (*****) .  The script is by Ian Hislop and Ian Curtis.  The dialogue held my attention to the end.

    The play is set during the first world war and concerns a newspaper that was written and distributed to the troops in the trenches. 

      The venue is ‘Arts Theatre’ which is a small theatre just off the Tottenham Court Road in London. Copies of the script, the DVD, and the programme were available for sale in the foyer.  Had there been space available, I am sure that plastic models of the cast would be available too.

     I certainly enjoyed the show.

     I thought I saw Ian Hislop in a crowd, as I entered the theatre.  I enquired of the people nest to me and, apparently, he was seated about  six rows behind us.  Perhaps he was there to keep an eye on the cast?  He had no need to.

    I do not know if the show will travel around the country?   If it does, I can recommend a good evening put.

 

Mar 22nd

In a story would I....

By AlanP

So here’s the thing. My credit card was recently cloned and used for close on a grands worth of online shopping (this week), before I spotted it.

Please don’t worry on my account (see what I did there?). Thanks to the joys of online account management and a ripple of suspicious activity I was able to inform the credit card company well within the time needed to not cause me any loss and on one of the transactions I don’t think it even went through.

So here’s the writer’s bit. This afternoon, to see if I could do it, I called the three companies involved. From two of them, with remarkably little effort I managed to get the address that the goods were delivered to. I did this by identifying myself with my real details. Because it was my card they had to use them. As part of the discussion, when they asked if I had received the goods I was able to say that I had not. This is a true statement. I told no lies. I haven’t received the goods, have I? Two of them gave me the address to see if they had it right, the third wanted the email address on the order, which I don’t have of course. I tried for the email address from the other two, but in order to avoid lying I had to tell them that I was the card holder but that the order had been fraudulently placed. They clammed up like a clam with a serious case of jaw lock. With one I was really close to a mobile number, but only the first 5 digits came across before she twigged.

In real life, as a law abiding citizen, I have shared this information with the investigations department of my credit card company. But in a story what would my character do? Let’s say he is someone who bears a grudge, is somewhat asocial. Maybe a villain with no sense of proportion. Bearing in mind there is a trail of recordings of him finding out the addresses but also that, as a villain, he has villainous mates who owe him favours.

He might have enquiries made or legs broken on principle, or even burn the house down if he’s a proper psychopath.

Or would it be too risky even so.

I am still surprised that without lying I have obtained these addresses, but I have them. Incidentally, it’s two different addresses, but with a half mile of each other. Whoever received the goods is almost certainly not living there. Would an intelligent psycho care about that?

To discuss?

Mar 21st

I'm here!

By Jan

Hi all

 

Introduction first, member of the human race and rather good at procrastinatinig. At 50 years of age and with three kids and now no job (Just got sacked- whattttt?!) and having just completed my first JSA application on line I decided to do something for me. I joined you lot. Thank you for having me first of all. I appreciate it, truly I do. You see for the last twenty years I have lived outside of Wales. Wont go into why cos that is truly a story for another day. But I sold up about a year and a half ago and came to live by the sea with my youngest son. I thought it would be all violets and lollypops but oh no I have struggled to find a permanent job and a tribe. I want to be able to discuss and communicate and find discourse and friendship....Not happened. I am on a mission to find my tribe and a place to belong and of course a new invigorating outstanding life since soon, oh so soon my lil old man will be off into the great outdoors and I will become a faint memory in his back mirror. I dont want to vegitate and become green with envy about how they are all grabbing life by the balls and poor old mum is well ingrained in indifference. I want to get the balls and grab em and love em and tie em to me as if they are a part of my inner workings, never to be detached apart from with hours long surgery. I am here, thats all that matters isnt it? I have started to do something for ME. XXXXXXXX

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