Monday, August 18, 2014

Irregular Update

I wrote a novel, or perhaps a "novel". It is a comedy crime (or crime-comedy) story set mostly in upper-class Edwardian era England. Regular readers of this blog may recognise some scenes and characters.

Currently I am sending it out to test readers to find out what they think and where it needs improving. If you're reading this the odds are good that I've invited you to become such a test reader and directed you here to look at the synopsis below.

The Inexplicable Affair of the Mesmerising Russian Nobleman
A Novel in Three Parts Set in 1902

Part One – Another Country House Weekend
Our protagonist, HEINRICH VON SCHNEEMANN, sometime adventurer, gentleman and confidence trickster, is sent by his patron LADY JANE GLENSHIRE to LORD ALFRED ALLENMORE’s country house to acquire an old book by fair means or foul. Soon after his arrival, Lord Allenmore is murdered. Unfortunately Schneemann was at that very moment stealing the book; his alibi for murder is burglary. Accused, he must solve the crime before his actual misdeeds come to light. The suspects are:
LADY GENEVIEVE ALLENMORE – wife of the notorious philanderer Lord Allenmore
THE HONOURABLE EDWARD ALLENMORE – the charming but disappointing son and heir of Lord Allenmore
THE HONOURABLE JESSICA ALLENMORE – Lord Allenmore’s daughter, in love with, but barred from seeing, the wealthy, handsome, and totally unsuitable American JACK SPOONER
MRS LYDIA D’ARGENT – Lord Allenmore’s widowed sister, living off the Allenmores’ charity and whose dry caustic wit is often aimed at...
MADAM EKATERIN VOLKOVA – Medium and spiritual advisor to Lady Allenmore
PETER VAN HOOT - Lord Allenmore’s business partner, who is sure that their military contracts are drying up and they should convert the shipyard over to civilian use
COLONEL PERICLES BRADDOCK – Weekend guest, an old Indian soldier currently advising the Ministry of War on suppliers, along with...
MRS ANGELA BRADDOCK – Colonel Braddock’s much younger wife, a lover of diamonds, and also rumoured to be a lover of Lord Allenmore
JENKINS – The butler
Also numerous other servants, including the footmen (all named Terrence) and the observant maid ANNIE (ANNETTE DUNWELL) who may just have the key to the whole affair.
Part Two – The Seven Sins
No sooner has Schneemann extricated himself and returned to London then Lady Glenshire has a new task for him. Six of a set of seven statues, known as The Deadly Sins, have been stolen from a friend of hers. Both the statues and the book that Schneemann acquired in Part One were being pursued by the mysterious and rich Russian, COUNT VLADIMIR ANDROPOFF. Lady Glenshire gives him the task of finding and retrieving the statues, and also has him take on an apprentice, her ward, THE HONOURABLE KATHERINE BEDFORD, a young lady with a knack for getting herself into trouble.
After some disagreement, the two of them form a partnership, and discover the statues have been stolen by a notorious gentleman thief known as FITZSHEPARD who has stashed them in an underground vault below the house of LADY CHARLOTTE PRATT, Chairwoman and majority owner of the National and Imperial Investment Bank. Both are connected with Count Andropoff. The vault itself is as secure as its counterpart in the bank, with one possible exception; the bank does not have hundreds of strangers wandering about when Lady Charlotte holds a ball.
Lady Glenshire puts together a team to pull off the heist consisting of:
Lady Glenshire herself, as the mastermind;
Katie Bedford, daring horsewoman for the getaway coach chase and a charmer who can distract guards with just a smile;
Annette Dunwell, former maid, now Lady Glenshire’s companion. Quiet and unnoticed, she can put all the arrangements in place without any suspicion;
MRS MICHELLE SMITH, a cockney of African descent, she is the most thorough of private researchers in England with an encyclopaedic set of London building plans;
MISS RUTH GOLDMAN, possibly the greatest locksmith, safe cracker and artificer of illegal tools in the country, and also the proprietor of a lady’s fencing gym; and finally
Schneemann himself, respectable if not respectful, whose search for the statues has brought him to the attention of their opponents, and so is the perfect distraction for when the robbery goes down...
Part Three – The Wish Fulfilling Jewel
Several weeks have gone by since they recovered the statues without any obvious retaliation. Katie Bedford attends a séance hosted by Lady Allenmore and Madam Volkova. There are two surprise guests, Count Andropoff and his amanuensis secretary MISS MELINDA KHAN. After the usual nonsense the spirits say at such things, the Count holds them all in place and demands answers which are not forthcoming. Madam Volkova is exhausted and takes to her bed for a week.
Later Schneemann and Miss Bedford are breaking up a race-fixing ring when they get an urgent telegram from Jessica Allenmore; her beloved American Jack Spooner has been kidnapped, and the ransom is the mysterious book from Part One. Schneemann, Lady Glenshire and Miss Bedford go to confront the Count, only to discover he has Victorian thriller style powers of hypnosis (made more plausible by using disorienting lights and environments as well as a drugged atmosphere). He offers them their heart’s desires, but what exactly does lurk in the heart of a man like Schneemann, who hides his true self from the world?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bristol Short Story Competition

I wrote a story for the Bristol Short Story Prize. Today they announced the longlist. My entry is not on it.

Therefore it's no longer bound by the "no publishing even on your blog" rule. I could keep it hidden away, my precious, until I find somewhere else to send it to. But on balance, no. Let's just put it up.

This is becoming a recurring theme on this blog, mostly because I'm not posting anything except things that went to competitions. This is also the third of the stories I wrote earlier this year which featured young women estranged from their fathers, the others being September Mondays and Mr Bug Makes New Friends.  Anyway here's my story, which I called:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

National Poetry Competition

As previously noted I sent a poem of to the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition. I didn't win. Having not won, I can now put it on the blog without being disqualified!


The river has many secrets to hide
When not in flood the bottom can be seen
After the storm it leapt onto it’s sides
We look at it and wonder what it means

When not in flood the bottom can be seen
Standing on the bridge which we use to ride
We look at it and wonder what it means
Our past lives, washed away, no longer guide

Standing on the bridge which we use to ride
Looking down into the fast flowing stream
Our past lives, washed away, no longer guide
The water has scoured all the bones clean

Looking down into the fast flowing stream
After the storm it leaps onto it’s sides
The water has scoured all the bones clean
The river has many secrets to hide

So who did win? Linda France with a poem called Bernard and Cerinthe. It's pretty good! It and the runner-up/commended and so on are all at the link.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How Do I Feel?

For creative writing class we were given colours and the fact it was "Blue Monday" the most depressing day of the year, and sent home to get on with our homework. So here's the special internet version of mine with links to the soundtrack:

September Mondays

And I still find it so hard to say what I need to say
But I'm quite sure that you'll tell me just how I should feel today
Blue Monday 1988, New Order

Everyone called her Blue, except for Mum and Auntie Vi. She didn’t mind much. At the end of junior school she’d been called Monday-Funday-Church-on-Sunday which was far too long and not grown up enough for someone starting at Mathew Grey Comprehensive. She supposed she should be thankful to John, or possibly his big brother who was into music and had bought the single.

She wasn’t sure if she liked the song. There was something to it, especially the start. The beat that sometimes tripled in speed, the electronic noises that began clear and were then distorted, the guitar that appeared unexpectedly in the tune. She didn’t like the singer though. It would be much better sung by someone else, Phil Collins maybe or Luke from Bros. Even Belinda Carlisle.

Still, she didn’t complain when John put it on. Although you weren’t supposed to like boys, she preferred his company to most of the girls. They made her nervous. Nothing she wore was right, too dull. Her hair was always wrong. And as for make-up, that was a complete mystery. Better to spend time listening to tapes on John’s stereo.

I thought I was mistaken, I thought I heard your words.
Tell me how I feel, Tell me now how do I feel.
Blue Monday-95, New Order

Arriving at college, she nearly left the name behind. She’d introduced herself as Mandy to the people she met the first day. But that first night, dragged reluctantly to the student disco, the DJ played the new mix as she entered. It seemed a sign.

“I’m Mandy, but my friends call me Blue,” she admitted over a third pint of lager in a dark corner of the bar.

“Blue, oh man,” laughed Lyndsey. “Now we’ve known each other for two hours I guess it’s time for deep dark secrets then?”

“Have you got one?” Blue was suddenly, intensely curious.

“Sure. I mean, I’m not really a blond.” She flicked the hair out of her eyes.

“Well you sure act like one!” said Tom. The conversation died for a moment. A familiar beat filled the awkward gap, as the spinning lights reached out from the black dance floor.

“I swear, that DJ must be in love with the song. Maybe he should just give up and marry it.”

“Mmm,” said Blue.

“You know, that’s one way to lose the name,” said Lyndsey. “Get married. There would be no reason to call you Blue.”

“I don’t know. I’m used to it,” she said, not letting on that hell would freeze over before she got married.

She makes my heart beat the same way
As at the start of Blue Monday
Always the last song that they play
At The Indie Disco, The Divine Comedy, 2010

They stood by the entrance of the registry office, shivering in their coats. A small band of smokers were politely giving them room.

“We can wait inside,” said John.

“It’s unlucky to see the bride beforehand,” Blue replied.

He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, I suppose you have to keep some traditions. I mean you’re not going to change your name or anything.”

“No. I’m comfortable with it. Grown into it even. For that matter, it was you who first called me Blue.”
“Yeah, yeah. As you tell me every time we meet. Still, at least it prepared you for one more tradition today. Something Blue, you know.”

She punched him in the arm. “Don’t make me regret having you walk me up the aisle.”

“Thanks anyway. I was surprised. Flattered too.”

She smiled, her face illuminating the dull September day. “Well you’re my oldest friend. Mum and Auntie Vi wouldn’t even consider it. There’s only so much change they can take.”

Lyndsey appeared at the door, unmistakable in the scarlet bridesmaid’s dress she’d insisted on. “They’re going in now,” she called. They followed her and John took Blue’s coat – cornflower of course – so Lyndsey could fix the dress. “You’re okay? Do you need a minute?”

“I’m ready,” said Blue. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready.” Lyndsey waved a signal and the music started. Elvis Presley, I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.

 Lyndsey handed her the bouquet as she took John’s arm and they walked to the door past the easel holding the sign.

11:30 AM Monday 13th September 2010
Alice Baker and Amanda Mundy


To answer something that came up in class: It's called September Mondays because all three parts take place on a Monday in September; school and college years starting in September.
While we're talking about timing, I like to think that Blue was born in 1976 at the same time as the future members of New Order (and Joy Division) were at the Sex Pistols gig that inspired them to form a band.
For completeness sake, here is the five minute task classwork we did before the homework, on much the same topic. It is almost unrelated to the piece above:


I don't know why blue is associated with depression. Sky blue is a cheery cover. Navy blue warm and enveloping. Blueberries are delicious.

Grey might be a better choice. Grey Monday. That sounds like a proper downer. A real January emotion that. But I'm comfortable with Grey. It's neutrality is makes a good backdrop for highlights and shadows.

Now there's black, but I wear black all the time and not to depress anyone. I wear it at work for formality and authority. I wear it at other times for the blandness except for when it's for the drama. Black can mean anything, which means that equally it can mean nothing.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

New Friends

At the Writer's Circle (who sit on two sides of a rectangular table in a pub that is not round) someone had written a piece that someone else thought would be good for a magazine. By the end of the meeting, we somehow found that we'd agreed whole group writing something for that magazine. I did, presented it to the group, took on board their suggestions and then sent it off to the magazine.

Today I got a rejection slip. Woohoo! As it came in my SAE I had that weird feeling when a letter comes addressed to me in my own handwriting! It's like something out the Twilight Zone.

The piece I submitted to them is below.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

366 Poems in 366 Days: An Epilogue

One year starts as another one ends
So much time passes since we had the last
An evening to see what the new one sends
Today, tomorrow, all lost in the past

So much time passes since we had the last
As always I'm crept up on by the date
Today, tomorrow, all lost in the past
Two Thousand and Fourteen can't come too late

As always I'm crept up on by the date
No time to panic, can't wait forever
Two Thousand and Fourteen can't come too late
I do not mind if it arrives never

No time to panic, can't wait forever
An evening to see what the new one sends
I do not mind if it arrives never
One year starts as another one ends

This is number 366 of 365, riffing off of number 1, also a New Years pantun. I will now return this blog to it's regular programme.