Nov 15th

Flying to the Edge

By Daedalus

Very proud that my biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies is released today - https://www.amberley-books.com/flying-to-the-edge.html

To thank the Cloud for all the help when I was tearing my hair out over it, here's a snippet:

On 2 February 1941, Flight Lieutenant Duncan Menzies flew to the edge – and over it.

   It was a wintry afternoon when the solitary Fairey Fulmar lifted off the runway at Manchester’s Ringway airport into the cold air. The pilot, wearing the white cotton flying helmet that marked him out as having served in the R.A.F. in the Middle East, scanned the scene and adjusted the throttle for best climbing speed. The Fulmar lifted away from the earth, which was mottled with patches of snow, and its undercarriage folded away into the belly of the airframe.

   A few weeks beforehand, Fulmars almost identical to the one now ascending into the hard grey sky had been desperately battling the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica in the crucible of the Mediterranean. Waves of Axis aircraft pummelled the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, the other ships of Force A and the convoy they were protecting. The Fulmar crews gave their all. They shot down eight torpedo- and dive-bombers, but it wasn’t enough to stop five bombs hitting their carrier, 126 of their shipmates being killed. The Fulmars were the first fighter aircraft operated by the Royal Navy to gain the Merlin engines and eight machine gun armament of the R.A.F.’s Spitfires and Hurricanes, but on that day they had been too slow to climb to stop the worst of the attacks, not fast enough to chase down the multiplicity of targets.

   The scene over Cheshire that February afternoon could hardly be more different. No enemy aircraft harried the lone Fulmar. It did not struggle up from a pitching carrier deck on a heaving sea, but rose from a wide, grassy aerodrome more accustomed to airliners and touring aeroplanes. The pilot was alone, his only passenger ballast to simulate the weight of a person in the rear cockpit.

   His job was to try and make those Fulmars in the Mediterranean and their replacements that bit better. To help them get into the sky that much faster. To help them stay that fraction more controllable at the extremes. The Fulmar’s propeller had been altered with a modification developed by the factory. It had brought a slight improvement but caused knock-on effects elsewhere – instability had crept back into the Fulmar’s behaviour. The task of the day’s flight was to examine those effects and try to establish a solution.

   The pilot was not a member of a front line air arm, but he was still fighting the war. His job was to give the combat pilots the best tools with which to fight the enemy. Duncan Menzies was a test pilot.

   Around fifteen minutes after the wheels had left the runway, the pilot levelled off, having reached perhaps fifteen thousand feet. He scibbled a note on the pad strapped to his thigh, clipped the pencil into its retainer, and tipped the Fulmar into a steep dive.

   Almost immediately, the rudder began vibrating. It started to shake rapidly from side to side. The innocuous-sounding phenomenon ‘flutter’. The pilot jammed his feet on the rudder bar with all his strength. He could not stop the rudder shaking. Then, as the aircraft continued to plummet earthwards, the elevators began to vibrate in sympathy with the rudder, wrenching the ‘stick’ backwards and forwards violently. All the pilot’s strength could not overcome the flutter. The controls had become rock-hard, ceased to work. The aircraft no longer answered its pilot’s commands.

   The Fulmar hurtled downwards, going 150 mph faster than it could ever manage in level flight. The vicious vibration from the tail surfaces reached the aircraft’s limit. Carefully calculated aerodynamics fell off the edge of the page. The aircraft’s nose snapped downward.

   The only thing that could happen now was total structural failure.

   Drawn, heat-treated longerons and stringers snapped like matchwood. Alclad plating tore like paper. The entire tail of the Fulmar broke away from the force of the air. It ripped the aircraft to pieces.

   The limits of the pilot’s Sutton harness had also been reached, and exceeded – twenty times the force of gravity. As the aircraft folded up, blew apart in the skies over Cheshire, Duncan Menzies broke through the webbing straps, through the acrylic canopy and flew into space.

Nov 15th

Motivation - sorted?

By Squidge

You might remember that last month, I blogged about discovering - almost at the end of an edit - that my MC had no motivation. At all. (Read about it by clicking here if you missed it)

Well, I'm glad to say it's been sorted - by one of my super-duper beta readers. 

I knew the MS wasn't up to scratch; I knew there wasn't any motivation. I had an inkling of an idea that might work, but in trying to add it, I'd confused myself (and the reader it turned out!) as to what was really driving the main character. 

Enter this particular beta reader.  

In her feedback, she not only identified the two directions in which I could take the driving force (anger or disbelief), she also identified the theme running throughout.

As a result, I'm rewriting. Again. But this time it's from a much more secure place, because someone else has managed to put into words the things that were there, but I hadn't managed to identify for myself.

But - this blog is not really about me and the eleventy-millionth rewrite of a novel I'm refusing to give up on.

It's about the value of beta readers, those folk who give up their time to help you make your book the best it can be - providing, of course, that you are prepared to listen to their feedback and really consider whether it will add value and depth to your work. (You are allowed, between reading their feedback and the considering phases, to kick the cat, eat chocolate, scream, take a long walk, punch something or whatever, if there are things that you don't like hearing)

Here's what I look for in a beta reader; someone who can be objective. Someone whose own writing I admire and respect. Someone - perhaps - with a proven record of publication, though this is not essential. (As we know from this writing community, there are many, many talented and wonderful writers who don't get to the publication stage which leaves us all scratching our heads and wondering why.) I look for honesty in my beta reader, however difficult it might be to hear what it is they are being honest about. And I don't choose someone who I know is a 'fan' of my writing - they'll say it's wonderful, even if it's not. That's not always helpful if it masks a serious issue.

So - to everyone who's ever beta read anything of mine (and there are lots of you, I know!) and who's offered suggestions or helped me work out the kinks in a WIP...a humungous thank you, because I wouldn't be the writer I am without you all. And my stories wouldn't be what they are, either. 

Thank you xx

Nov 15th

A War Memory

By mike

    

 

   A few years ago, I had been moving books from one room to another and an A5 printed leaflet fell out of one of my mother’s music books.   This leaflet must have been distributed  to Allied soldiers as they liberated the Dutch village in which she lived.  She had been a war bride and emigrated to England in 1946.

    There are some line drawings of a church and some heraldic signs on the a5 leaflet  but there is only one other colour and that is in red.  There is quite a story behind this souvenir!   My Dutch grandparents could not speak English and neither could my mother

(The village is near Eindhoven close to the Belgium border)

 

 

Souvenir from Holland

 

To my friend

 

Libration

 

Hurrah, hurrah ....now we are liberated

and nearly everybody laughs and thanks 

as good as can the Tommies and the Yanks

so long by us in slavery awaited.

 

From children you have got  our orange flowers.

from ladies all their kindness, charm  and fruit,

for you is nothing that we have too good...

the mother’s pray: may God give you more power.

 

You are all friendly, gentlemanlike brave ...

we hope for you that soon the war will end,

that each of you can go to his own land

and family, that God for you may save.

 

And we young men will forward fight with you

against all German forces of defense,

till our long forbidden red-white-blue

is waving everywhere in the Netherlands.

 

Nov 15th

Remastered Words - And How the Cloud Makes You a Better Writer

By Stevie

For a short time only, you can listen to the audio version of my short story, 'The Phone' for free (you can also read my blatherings at interview too). Click on the linky below. After this, you'll need to pay!

http://www.remasteredwords.com/?p=3079

Check out the Remastered Words website, it offers a great opportunity to get your work published.  Winning their annual competition was a real high point of my writing to date.

'The Phone' and that win, owes its existance in no small part to the Cloud.

Without AlanP's writing challenge, Now and Then, I doubt the story would have come to be. Without  Debbie Alper and the Writers Workshop self-editing course and the monthly comps, I doubt it would have been good enough to win a competition. Thanks to you folks for helping to  make it happen.  

 

Nov 11th

Who are we really?

By Ariejester

Write something passionate they said. Write something deep. But what is deeper than my thumping heart as it bursts free from pain and sorrow? What teases out the memories of torturous heartache and dismay? Is today any different, will tomorrow be new? It isn't the day, but the mindset. It follows me around through second, minute to hour. Tormenting, impaling my mind with its treacherous desire to hope, have faith. But have faith in what, have hope in who? What difference does it make how we live, how we die? Who are we but a speck of dust in the planets vast civilisation? Who am I but a number in an infinite war of peace and love?

 

We are but humanity, a tumble weed alone in the distance, spaced out from the normality that surrounds us, hoping to live another day, praying for it to smile brightly once again. But who do we kid? Who really smiles on us anymore, what are we to the immortals that created us, if they even created us in the first place. Science argues that truth, but is it truth, is it fiction. Who are we really?

Nov 11th

The jury is out

By mike

 

The jury is out.  A blind historian and classicist too!

 

      How not to interest a literary agent!  Nothing to send anyway.   I have posted this as I had raised an issue and have come to some sort of conclusion.This is over a few blogs I posted recently about memory and blindness.  I know very little on the subject and only consider it from the viewpoint of literary biography.  RNIB gives a figure of over two million sufferers of blindness in England, but I am considering blindness in 1853 when partial blindness became total blindess, though this might hsve occured in 1846.

    In my mind, I see a blind historian, on a stage, recalling a trip down the Nile in 1832.   I have seen many recent London productions and there are imaginative possibilities in theatre that are not available to prose.  

      The  historian  has an entry in the ‘Dictionary of National Biography‘ but I am trying to view the character from the perspective of a great, great grandson.  For the past month I have been a bit housebound and spent the time trying to get close to a Regency figure. Language is a bit of a barrier but he can seem very modern. He was of the progressive left and much of their agenda is now law.   I wonder how many LGBT issues are implicit in a Chartism? (I came across this in separate research on the year 1846.)  The French Revolution is the key event and the historian was an admirer of Rousseau.  How did all this effect his view of the Nile?  Was his view changed by encroaching blindness?  More to the point, what did Arabs think of him?  This would be the play’s agenda.  

 

    A historian can pursue a career when suffering from blindness. This may be somewhat pedantic but there must be a difference between being completely blind and partially sighted. (In his later years, Joyce was partially sighted. He could still write with a crayon.)    If you are completely blind memory, surely, must come into play?   Borges is mentioned in this respect and Homer.

      In the case of the blind historian, Milton is the key figure. If it were drama, he would be the plot point.   He wrote ‘Paradise Lost’ when completely blind though he had written much beforehand.

       The historian wrote a history of Ancient Greece which was published in 1842.   In his introduction, he admits seeing things ‘obscurely as though a mist.’  Due to the action of sun, dust and the Arabian desert, blindness has encroached. He then adds: ‘Homer, however, and Aeschylus, with Plato and Demosthenes, will though the voices of my children - voices more cheerful and willing than ministered to the old age and blindness in Milton - to project their beauty into my soul.’

    His children had acted as amanuenses. Four sons were journalists.  I am not sure what the aside about Milton means? It seems Milton’s young daughters were not enamored over ‘Paradise Lost’

   In 1848 the blind journalist wrote introductions notes, footnotes;. etc - for a six volume edition of Milton’s prose works.   I made an error in thinking the historian had been a Victorian.  He was a Georgian and, to someone on the progressive left, Milton must be a key figure.  I have no idea how he accomplished readin the texts, but he must have known Milton’s works in detail or had them read out aloud.  Braille had been invented but was it much in use in the 1840’s?      He ends his introduction to the history of Ancient Greece with: “Had things been otherwise ordered, I might have continued these researches. As it is, I take leave of them here. Our friend, Mr. Keightley, who has visited Italy for the purpose, will perform for the Romans what I have endeavoured to accomplish for the Greeks” 

    The suggestion is that encroaching blindness had made research difficult. Travel might have been a problem too,

    Mr Thomas Keightley did publish ‘The History of Rome to the End of the Republic.’ The publication date is 1858.

    While looking into this I had been reading Mary Beard’s recent ‘History of Ancient Rome.‘  It did occur to me that she might be on the same wavelength as the blind historian/classicist.  Some of you may have come across Mary Beard on TV.  She tries to bring the lives of ordinary Romans to life by examining archaeological evidence.   Women, slaves, the working classes and children are seldom mentioned in ancient texts.   Her historical forebear, the blind historian writes:

   "It has been my aim to open up, as far as possible, a prospect into the domestic economy of a Grecian family; the arts, comforts, conveniences, and regulations affecting the condition of private life; and those customs and manners which communicated a peculiar character and colour to the daily intercourse of Greek citizens.’ 

    The ‘Spectator of Saturday nov 19,1842  comments:”.....It is......about the first successful attempt to popularize classical archaeology, in such a way as to make it attractive to the general reader whilst it conveys learned information to all but the very learned.”

     When the historian revisited the Nile in his imagination, and published the book in 1853, it seems he had lost his eyesight completely.  This  is confirmed by three memories written by fellow journalists. One of these  memoirs mentions that he ran the political department of a newspaper when blind.

    ‘A Life of Walter Raleigh‘ was published  in 1868.  Almost thirty years had passed since the onset of blindness.  I had thought the historian might have been partially sighted - as how could  primary sources be consulted?  This is not the case and another son had acted as his amanuensis.

          I can see that writing a life of Walter Raleigh might not be affected by a writer’s blindness but personal recollections of Arabia could be different category?  It seems that these memories are why he is mentioned in footnotes on books of Egyptian history,  He had tried to record the lives of ordinary Egyptians.  This was more uncommon at the time as archaeology had been the major interest.

       Two contemporary recollections of the journalist recall his love of Arabia and his telling of stories about his time there.  I think it is in these memories that Milton is relevant and memory comes into play.

       This is purely speculation but during the Georgian period, there had been much interest in Ancient Greece which centered on ancient Greek and Latin texts.  This might well have been conducted in an Oxbridge environment.   The blind historian came from a different background,  He was the son of a blacksmith in a small Welsh village. He was a new kid on the block!  However.  I suspect Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ had been the historical model for the time.

          

          

 

          

 

Nov 8th

Stories for Homes 2 - paperback version coming soon

By Catasshe

Dear all, 

The paperback version of the brilliant Stories for Homes anthology will be launched on 21st November. 

The Kindle launch was greated with a storm on Twitter and much excitement, and is already raising money for Shelter. But we know a lot of people are waiting for the paperback to buy it.

Please make a note in your diary to buy it on launch day! The more people buy it within that one day, the better chances of shooting up the Amazon charts and getting promoted more. It'd make a fantastic Christmas present!

As part of launch celebrations there are many social events happening around the country, where all Cloudies would be welcome. Check the events calendar here!

There'll be readings, socialising and, most important, alcohol. 

Debi, sally and all the rest of us would love to see lots of Cloudies there to support us. Details here: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com/events-2/

Nov 7th

Ancient wisdom

By John Alty

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm”

This quotation intrigued me not because of its simple wisdom but because it was written in the first century BC. That seemed an awfully long time ago to be using metaphors involving the helming of boats. How many people in those days would have been familiar with the way boats were steered? This was before leisure boating was widespread, I’m guessing, and before movies – even silent ones. 

Anyway, a little research reveals that there was a vast trading network of liburnias, corbitas, gaulus and cladivatas plying the waters around Italy at that time, so the concept of helming was probably as familiar as it is today.

The words were penned by a clever bloke called Publilius Syrus who was popular in first century BC Italy as a writer of maxims – sort of early one-liners. Old Publilius was a Syrian who had been taken to Italy as a slave and had then been freed by his master who was impressed by his witty repartee. A valuable thing is a ready wit, I’ve always said.

 

Nov 6th

Talks

By Dolly

Sometimes I jot things down as they happen, and this was the case a few years ago when I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea, with the early evening new on the telly. It started with the usual grimness, then developed into something bizarre and absurd. I subsequently used it in a short story I wrote about something that happened to me one mad night. Apart from some invented bits, the whole thing was true. The following is a short extract from the story and proves nothing changes, and politics and politicians can quite often be stupid.

 

It was this exact situation which happened to me, as I waited for the kettle to boil, and listening to the early evening news from the TV in the other room. It would seem that human beings have a liking for bad news. For instance, the news never starts off with, ‘Bill Smith fell about laughing today, when someone told him a stupid joke.’ The news I was hearing was no exception.

There was a devastating earthquake that killed thousands. Then war, famine, hurricanes, floods, suffering, disease, relief agencies and the plight of refugees. This was followed by job losses, unemployment figures, (nothing to do with us said the government, its market forces.) The problem of the homeless, (nothing to with us said the government, it’s the councils. There’s plenty of empty houses about, go and talk to them.) Just to brighten things up a bit, before people started jumping off high buildings, or hanging themselves from trees and rafters, they threw in a bit of good news. A Japanese manufacturer was building a new factory, which would initially create nearly a thousand jobs, and if all went well, this figure could double or even treble in three or four years. (Look at all the work we’re creating for the unemployed said the Government.)

Then there was the ludicrous situation where a bunch of politicians somewhere, were having talks about having talks, then having more talks, to discuss what they were going to talk about when they had the talks. While I was trying to unravel the mystery of all this gobble-de-gook, news came in of another lot, just in front of the last lot, who, having gone through the preliminary stages of having talks about having talks, and what they were going to talk about when they had the talks, were entering the next phase. This consisted of having talks about having talks to decide on where they were going to have the talks before they had the talks. This would be decided in another round of talks, where they would have talks to set a date and time for the talks. At the end of all this hoo-ha, there was another lot who had gone through all the hoop jumping and had actually had the talks, only to find they couldn't agree with each other, and the whole thing would have to be gone through again with different personnel from both sides. All very stupid, confusing, and totally useless as far as I could see.

I spooned some sugar and coffee into a cup, added water and milk, and decided to watch the evening rain slide down the kitchen window, which was more interesting than politicians having talks.

 

The Bank of England was to decide the following day, whether to raise interest or not. Financial pundits were of the opinion that they would stay where they were, as house prices had steadied. The pound had fallen against the dollar, but was up on the Euro. The dollar was up on the pound and the Euro but hadn’t moved against the yen. The Dow was on the up after being down, and the Hang Seng was about to open. The FOOTSIE, (what does it all mean?), had been on a roller-coaster ride for the best part of the day, finishing two points up from the day before, which was better than the corresponding time last year when it was three points down. There were banks buying up banks, and other banks buying up building societies, who were giving away money for the privilege.

Nov 4th

High Roller

By Mat

 

High Roller

 

Latest 'blag' [US] entry, detailing/expunging(?) weekly despair.  Author seeks bookshop role circa 35k only.

 

‘Bobkin, Bobkin, come back Bobkin,’ cries the walker, and his hound gallops away [from him] toward me.

I am stood, almost a subhuman creatures, stood over a square hole in the dirt. My high viz vest shines like a night sight for the doggy.  The Autumn evening closes in, I really used to like Labradors.

‘Owrll, owrll,’ he chews at my forearm.  I squeal and tumble into my hole.  Bobkin barks from the edge.

A moment later, and somewhat out of breath, the silhouette in Wellingtons and a Barbour coat, looms over the hole.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘Bobkin has this thing for high viz, it’s the same with the postman,’ he says.

‘Thank you very much, squire,’ I don’t say, and the pair bumble away, happy in darkness.  It is their park after all, I’m only employed here for the digging of holes.

Though I’m not very good at digging holes, or at engineering, or irrigation.  I mean I might be okay in about four weeks time, but for now in week six, or seven the pressure is upon me.  The reports from my foreman to my manager detail how I ‘work hard’ but am ‘less than effective’ they might say.

So I feel sadness in this state of affairs, suffer anxiety at my inability to conquer the manly arts of nut bolt, angle grinder, the saw and shovel.

But then, and working away, the suicide of Monday passes to Thursday and by Friday I am still digging holes, here on the fringes of the country park, but today watch the happiness in the golfers’ eyes.  The men [& women], so happy, joyful for their Friday play, some have a cheroot wedged in the gob and they wack the little balls from hole to hole.  All-consuming and wonderful for them, I enjoy their pleasure but y’know out the side of the mouth only, I say, y’know, well it is ridiculous.

‘It pays your wages, so get digging,’ says Rick, the man of muscles levers digger buckets with his bare hands, overhead even.  ‘I’m half your size,’ he says.

‘Yes sir,’ I say, and know, and know it is half-past one on the Friday afternoon, only an hour, an hour on the roller for me before the great escape, the camaraderie among white van folk on the M25, my boys.

roller.jpg

image found on Youtube c/o Twentytrucks, I hope that’s okay.  Ours is a little smaller, more of a country version.

The roller is bloody scary.  I roll from my high seat on the machine, roll along valley sides at two miles an hour, each bump underneath me feels like it might be my last bump, the roller toppling like a shot rhino, but the trick is to hold your nerve and roll on.

I am rolling on.

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