Wednesday, 29 April 2015

That which goes out the window

We met at Tony's to discuss the latest instalment of his work-in-progress, a novel provisionally titled Nothing but a Phantom, which he told us is a nod to a quote by Herman Hesse: "Was all that we called culture, spirit, soul, all that we called beautiful and sacred, nothing but a ghost long dead, which only a few fools like us took for true and living? Had it perhaps indeed never been true and living? Had all that we poor fools bothered our heads about never been anything but a phantom?" The more of the book that Tony reveals the more apt this quote appears to be. But more of this later.

In our updates: Rob mentioned that his two novels are now on sale in Phil Richard's new outlet Bewdley Emporium in Lax Lane; Linda gave news of Chris's talk during Bewdley Bike Week (details here); Annie is pleased with her Polly Poodle progress; and Tony was delighted to have received a royalty cheque for sales of a non-fiction book on mental health nursing that was published 15 years ago. Sadly, Izzie was unable to give her news because she was unable to come to the meeting. Get well soon, Izzie, from all of us.

We agreed that our next meeting on May 12th should not be a formal one since Annie and Linda are both away. The rest of us - including Chris, we hope - will get together for a chinwag over a drink somewhere.  Details to be sorted.

So to Tony's extract - Chapter 5 At the Guards Station. It's a testament to the quality of Tony's writing that there was hardly any comment about the technical side. Although Linda and Annie both thought that the pace could be improved we all agreed that Tony was building the tension well and that the totalitarian nature of the imagined kingdom of 'Angland' is becoming apparent in a controlled way.
The book's protagonist, Tilman Birchwood, is a 19 year-old university student and we all wondered whether he would be more aware of the true nature of the state and therefore less naive about his first visit to a Guards Station. We all praised the chapter's finale that introduced the concept of 'banishment'. What does this mean for Tilman? Read on!

Annie was troubled by the word 'defenestration'. (OED definition: verb [with object] rare Throw (someone) out of a window.) As she teased out why, she realised that in Angland - a parallel country to ours that retained its Anglo-Saxon nature - the Norman influence on our language wouldn't have happened and therefore French-rooted words (fenetre = window) wouldn't have happened. As Annie put it: "If 1066 and all that never happened Angland wouldn't have French words."

Whether this means that Tony is going to have to go through his final manuscript and root out all the words that have Norman roots only he can decide. If he does, his work would be worthy of inclusion in the Oulipo portfolio. It would be a nice irony if this French group were forced to admit a work on this basis.

The meeting closed with a customarily inconclusive discussion on when to use 'which' and 'that'. Next meeting informal on 12th May - venue tba. On 26th May we'll meet at Annie's and consider work by her.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Moonbeams and Madness

Rob was a little late to the meeting having been at a pilates class - we may have just chatted among ourselves about the frustrations of modern life and all its complexities in his absence.

In news, Linda shared details of a short story competition over at the Royal Academy and we were thrilled to learn that Chris has finally FINISHED his book. Tony's had a letter published in Songlines magazine and Rob is back after a recent trip to Lisbon researching his latest novel. He has also sold more copies of Out Of Such Darkness which is excellent news. Annie enjoyed her writing trip in Yorkshire and reported a busy, but productive week. And Izzie has been working on a couple of promotional posts.

Linda read a short story called, 'Winchelsea Beach.' This was filled with beautiful descriptions and created fabulous imagery of life by the sea. Izzie loved the story but was a little confused as to whether or not picnics would be enjoyed on a beach in November. She also loved the cure for madness during Victorian times, 'They would capture moonbeams in a jar, add some sugar of milk and a tiny drop of brandy and shake it all together.' Annie loved the overall feel, but admitted to being a little bewildered as to the ages of the children. She loved the description of Lorna in her dress and the use of, 'a glassy flat sea veneered with mist.' Rob was a little confused about the narrative throughout the story but loved the line, 'no amount of kisses would turn that toad into the man of her dreams.' Tony thought the story engaging and could imagine listening to it on the radio. It reminded him of The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden as it had an innocent, but turbulent feel to it. Everyone loved Linda's fabulous descriptions which created vivid images of disordered family life in an idyllic location. We all look forward to reading more.

The next meeting is to be held at Tony's on 28th April with Tony to submit.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

SVA Hasn't a Clue

(Written by Linda and posted by Rob)

While Rob was scouring Worcestershire for the correct venue for last Tuesday’s meeting, the group, in the most writerly fashion, discussed Tony’s search for a plumber that really would get back to him, the merits (or not) of the 1968 hit Macarthur Park and our relief that Annie hadn’t left her delicious chocolate cake in the rain.
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo
Rob arrived and regaled us with yet more plumbing talk. On the previous Sunday he had been discussing plumbers with Tony on the telephone whilst trying to concentrate on the rugby when the fire brigade arrived to put out a fire in his back garden. We couldn’t take much more excitement and returned to our ‘writing news’ update. Rob is going to Lisbon at Easter to gather research for his latest oeuvre The Petrified Fountain and Annie is off to Bronte Country for a writers’ week. And don’t forget to vote for Izzie in this year’s Brit Mums Brilliance in Blogging Awards!
Out of Such Darkness
Congratulations to Rob on the launch of Out of Such Darkness on March 13th. The event was very well attended and Rob sold so many books that he ran out – a sure sign of success. The whole event was really enjoyable. St Georges Hall is an excellent venue and the cabaret-style entertainment by The Trio Project (who include Rob’s daughter Charlotte) was fabulous.
Out of Such Darkness is published by Patrician Press.
Click here for more information about Rob and his work.
The Petrified Fountain
We all enjoyed the fifth chapter of Rob’s latest book. The characters of Cross and Nicholson (think Jack Nicholson in Chinatown) are strongly portrayed and there is a real sense of tension between them. Cross is a complex and sinister character and we all felt that there would be chilling events to come. Nicholson seems to enjoy capitalising on Cross’s insecurities and ‘drips’ the information on his research into Crosse’s family background ‘at his pace’.
Izzie pointed out discrepancies in place and time which we had all missed and Tony said that the dialogue seemed a bit stilted at times. Everyone agreed that Rob had done an excellent job in portraying Cross as a nasty dysfunctional character. Linda found it interesting that Cross did seem to have insight into his own weaknesses, in particular his obsession with tidiness:  ‘But I am distracted by my desk. The rectangle of clean blotter that Tracy has brought in is cluttering up one side… It always takes time to make sure it’s aligned symmetrically and I anticipate that she would regard me as a bit weird if she witnesses the whole performance.’
We are all looking forward to the next instalment.
Next Meeting
April 14th at Izzie’s house. Linda to read.