PUBLISHING THE DEAD

I’m splashing about in Kindle Direct Publishing, making a mess, trying to keep it light and dismissing stress – don’t think I’ve used any real swear words, yet. Doing April-poem-a-day this year sent me down this path; I sat up one sleepless night with the idea of settling the best of my old previously published poems in a book.

These poems are set in their decades, the 60s being full of childish memories and teenage troubles with a hint of the history of the time. The collection is thick with memoir but there are oddities thrown in; it’s a bit like a packed suitcase where other minds might boggle at the mix. In the 70s and 80s innocence meets up with experience and discovery, and the 90s are steeped in those nasty political upheavals. My intention was to paint a picture with old published poems so there has been a lot of dragging in and chucking out. I think these poems should live together, forever, and hope readers will feel the same.

Some of these poems were written almost thirty years ago, when I was an energetic and wild woman – impulsive. I’m a different being now and most of my recent work doesn’t blend into this picture. If I don’t allow them space in the light they might languish in a document deep in a file system forever. There’s just something about swimming in nostalgia; here I am writing thirty years ago about the previous thirty years, loving the images and characters. That carnival is well and truly over and all the songs sung, but selective memory is a fantasy in itself. The dating of these poems (in this setting) relates to the time in the poem not the time of writing, except when it does.

Of course I forgot to include the copyright notice in the first attempt, and made such a mess of the paperback process that I decided to make a few changes. It’s good to have a little space to see how a project works out before seriously advertising the product; I nipped away one and added four re-formatted poems…and changed the cover. I know poetry won’t pay the rent but the poems are better out than in, lying around like old sloths, and, I seem to be in tidying mode which, apparently, has me re-writing, re-formatting/structuring old work…and it is interesting fun. I have achieved something and think that satisfaction will be guaranteed.

…and, here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071NPRZP8

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Just a Pop-in

Obsession has climbed on my back, wrapped itself around my shoulders, my head – which is lost inside a huge fiction…yes, thirteen books one after another will do that to you. I’m back in True Blood land, living in Bon Temps with Sookie Stackhouse, hanging on every word, to the extent of sometimes going back a bit to re-listen because my attention had strayed to the real world…of just one of my other fantasy places. It’s a nasty addiction, this audio book trail, this reading with your eyes shut…this falling in love with the deep south accent of the same reader through the books. I’ve only escaped for a little while to skin Facebook, Twitter, and to force a scribble for WordPress. The last book is calling me so I think I might have time to make a quick cuppa after I post this before the walls close in. outside I hear the rain running foul of the wind and am glad to be imprisoned in this wee flat, in this cosy bed.

Tales from Elsewhere

our book

It’s launch day for the anthology, Tales from Elsewhere, which includes a story written by meeeee. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Elsewhere-Sarah-Thomas/dp/1522725628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452170228&sr=8-1&keywords=tales+from+elsewhere

Once upon an internet writing group, actually there were two, some folk just wouldn’t be parted so we joined Facebook and set up our own group.We like the freedom to post rantings and creakings of our different gates, and have now known each other for about ten years…and some of us have met. There have been a few get-togethers but as we are spread about the UK and some a little further, not all of us can make it.

In September of 2014, thirteen of us landed in a Suffolk country garden for the weekend, and what a time we had, what with the talking and the wine, and the trampoline, and the wine, and the food, the talking, the wine, the weather…everything was completely fab. It wasn’t until much later that we talked (back online again) about a collection of work that might have sprung from notes we’d taken, or inspiration gleaned while immersed in the excitement of meeting each other, and spending time in such a beautiful place.

I was all about the table and chairs set out under the trees; that is country living for a city girl like me…even though I now reside only seven minutes walk away from Loch Lomond. My hermit life-style keeps me close to home but I do wander over to take photos of the water at least once a year. The Maid of the Loch, must be the most photographed vessel in Scotland, mostly because Ben Lomond is directly in the background.

For me, Facebook is a tool that works perfectly; it saves me time keeping up with family and old friends, acquaintances…and, has the wonderful accessory of creating groups. Gone are the days when artists and writers were alone and crazy in their garrets – now we can do crazy and chat, moan or celebrate with others without leaving our chairs/beds. I never thought I would do the meetings thing – my son met his old sweetheart on FB and they got together again, sailed between Glasgow and Newcastle, back n forward, several times before finally settling down in Tyneside and now have a son! But, when the weekend in Suffolk was suggested, I knew that I wanted to meet at least some of the people I’d been talking to, and had supported me through feedback on my writing. So we did it, and felt as if we’d already met. Facebook works for us.

And now, after a year of throwing work up to be read by fresh eyes, it was re-worked, edited…and edited again, until just right, a story good enough for publication, polished.

We have a blog here

52

I used to be on the brink of being totally horizontal, but I think I’ve skated across that plateau now and am being pulled upright – good God, I might be standing already! It wasn’t my fault but I know who to blame – Jo Bell and her Project 52. Write a poem a week she said – little did she know that we’d all be writing a poem a day, sometimes more, and her notifications box has gone mental and there she is just sailing up and down canals in her boat, leaving us completely obsessed with a new prompt every week…and we’ve got to do this for a year. She’s cured my procrastination; halted my lovely horizontal progress and addicted me to a Facebook group that produces hundreds of poems a day…and now, I’m caught up in submitting mania, and regaining that old addiction, blogging. This is the third post in barely an hour.

 

DEVELOPMENT

I feel like a project some big developer has saved for his/her last meal. They have filed away plans, ideas, and planks of wood, bags of concrete and sand, steel girders, rolls of wire, insulation tape, roof tile and floorboards. Everything but the actual bricks, windows and doors – now, it seems, they’ve fallen off the back of some wagon and I’m all ready to go.

You know that old saying…that things happen for a reason? Well, the obsessions I’ve suffered over the last few years have suddenly made sense. All those series, one book after another in fantasy realms; the many tarot packs; the postcards from around the world – they were research. Yes, I know I was enjoying myself, engulfed in those worlds, but it was work of a sort.

The older I get the more I say No to the things I don’t want to do, which has had the effect of tightening the focus of my attention/focus/obsessions. It is only now that I realise that quite a lot of time has passed and I am choosing not to read any more Anita Shreve books, or any women’s fiction really; I am staying in the realms of fantasy so perhaps that’s where I should be setting my stories.

I have begun writing many novels but only ever completed one, and even that still needs an ending. The thing is they are only skeletons; there is no fat or skin on these creations. I could never get the sense of place so there was nothing to ground me and hold my complete attention…so I always skipped out and started a new project, or slipped back to the poetry. A couple of weeks ago, while reading a book, I was suddenly gripped with the idea to build my own city – so gripped that I put the book down and sat down at the table with paper and pen to draw it. Now, it is a huge city plan on a poster, all ready to be pinned on my wall and a section of it chosen for the setting of the WIP.

During this period, the character that appears in the opening section of the WIP has a new history, a better explanation for some of his behaviour and a more believable challenge. I am writing fantasy on top of ordinary people, but I know I don’t want to live in the dark ages so this will be modern and urban. I’d love to live in a cave but I’d want a laptop, internet wifi and a mobile phone! Time to reduce my reading to Urban Fantasy – must go find some.

Check-in

My hands are seeking out the feel of real books now and have chosen – well I think it was my eyes that chose the cover of Thomas Trofimuk’s novel, Waiting for Columbus. It is all red and autumny with a gorgeous golden pathway under an arch and a woman walking towards the light. The story is captivating and interestingly set out, in present tense – and it’s not annoying. I like it, and will return when I finish.

This was my day off and I behaved like a slovenly old woman – I did nothing and ate rubbish, but there was a bowl of home-made soup and one apple in the mix…and I did write a few hundred words on a story. I also read a quarter of a book (see above) and learned how to add photos to the sidelines of the blog. My mind rambled through the muddy paths of memory on a whim to discover things I might have done. The sun shone outside but I didn’t pay it any attention. I was lost in my own world within my own walls.

I’m still pondering on this male character for the WIP and have decided to find him with my camera. One of the recent photography groups I joined wanted us to take candid snaps of strangers, which I’ve done, but it’s given me a taste for stalking and stealing images from people with their thoughts and intentions on their bare faces. I’m going to look for my Stewart and am excited to know what kind of trousers he wears.

In three weeks I fly to Cyprus to spend a week in the sun, drink cocktails, lounge on a boat, drool over caves and bring happiness and entertainment to my friends. Is it time to pack yet? I had an email to inform me that Check-in was OPEN! It is definitely time to begin cleaning this flat, and not leave everything to the last minute. I would like to have a clear armchair in my bedroom, the hoover fixed and carpets expunged of dust and my hair. And, I should trim and dye said hair too. Oh it’s such a lot of work to do – all that effort. Ah but the thought of leaving our mixed weather and landing on an island in the Med will carry me through.

Hands and eyes will have to choose a couple of books.

BOOKS

I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Snuff and finding myself being drawn deeper and deeper into the story. It’s been a long time since I actually held a paper book and read with my eyes open; these days I prefer to listen to someone reading to me, usually people with great voices that make the characters come alive, and I can rest my eyes all the while. My friend pushed the Pratchett upon me. I’ve had it for ages, and the fact that she mentioned it the other day means that I’d better get it read. It’s great, and a very adult story which feels real world and not fantasy makes it very different from his other works.

The shelves are stuffed with possibilities but my sleeping patterns are so bad at the moment that I can’t always trust that my eyes will be able to keep up. I want to read all my book, and every week I add at least one to the collection from the charity shop when I pop into Alexandria. There are favourite authors and referred books, all waiting for me to pay them some attention. New writers (to me) caught my eye and thought they were going to be introduced to a lovely and enthusiastic reader, languish, as yet unread.

Choice is my middle name. Imagine the horror of not having anything to read! Talking on the phone the other day to a friend who is ill, I was amazed when she said that she had nothing to read. So I searched my shelves and found three books that she might enjoy (we have very different reading tastes) and posted them down to her. My book shelves are better stocked than my cupboards or freezer and I like to have the world at my fingertips.

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I finished Snuff in two days. Very glad I read it. It’s interesting how much Pratchett’s writing is changing just at the end of his career. That might be because of the Alzheimer’s,  he’s writing with someone else and they are tightening his prose and keeping it more realistic – well as far as reality goes in a world sitting on top of elephants on the back of a giant turtle floating through space!

In my ears I have the second book following The Game of Thrones. It’s full of wonderful voices and great stories of struggle and strife for power. But, I am also reading paper again – still testing to see which one will grab my full attention.

Character

I like men with character; if they also happen to look good, the universe gets a lolly.  Gargoyles and carbuncles have interesting features and histories, to some people, and ordinary men blend into backgrounds to create the foundations of that thing we call society. I always wanted a man who could do the backstroke and butterfly right through the sludge…the trouble with men like that is that they are fragile. All the men who captured my attention got broken and I had to leave, or die.

Little did I know that I was never meant for real men or real love in the real world. Fiction is the feast I should have stayed with instead of the battleground of insane relationships, but I’m glad I had all the sex, and added to the population. The wisdom I gained far outweighs that of the 50yr marriages – no, once is definitely not enough. Fantasy men, especially surgeons, US Marshals and wizards, are knocking on my window at all hours of the day and night…honest to God. And, I can read with my eyes shut. Yes, there are voices in my head – only because they’re part of an audio book, of course. The surgeons are mainly on TV so I have to make the effort there.

Last week, I realised that I’d fallen in love with Jim Butcher’s wizard Harry Dresden. Madly, and now I don’t know what I’m going to do until the next book comes out. Remember last year…when I fell in love with McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy?

Well, I’m right back in that armchair. Ah, life is but a dream. My head is full of James Marsters’ voice dragging poor old Harry through all those dangerous adventures and lashing out spells all over Chicago. I want to cry Fuego! And blast up a fire storm under the publishers, and Mr Butcher to get my book done. Meanwhile, I’ll just return to The Lord of the Rings for comfort and snuggle up with Strider, on video. I like the grubby character of the ranger rather than the clean and sweet-smelling king.

These people slip into my armour and become part of my obsessions and I will love them forever, re-watching, re-reading, and re-listening until I fall out of my rocking chair. Does this make me a character? Probably. I won’t be a bag-lady but I’ll never fit into the normal shape of an old woman. As long as I don’t slobber over young men in public I shouldn’t make anybody sick…but I can’t consciously think salacious thoughts about young men because my grandchildren are stretching into manhood and it doesn’t feel good. The men I want to hook my eyes and ears into are all over thirty – so that’s all right then, isn’t it? And don’t get me started on Timothy Olyphant from Justified. God, that man’s a god.

So, how do some characters bury themselves up to their armpits in your life and hundreds/thousands of others don’t? I need to know how almost every episode of Greys Anatomy makes me feel something, and how I’m drawn to Harry Dresden so I can write characters and build scenes like that. My characters are never going to be the standard of beauty or climb into one-size-fits-all lives but I want them to cast spells. I want people to feel them, to need them in their bags, on their tables and talking in their ears.

I’ve done a lot of thinking this past six months of not writing and now that it’s over I feel the words falling out of the air, dropping like bombs – a big one landed today and has changed my plans for tomorrow night. I’m alive after all. But, now I’m wondering what my Harry Dresden would look like.

MY LIFE IN BOOKS

Watching this programme brought old favourites back into my mind; I’d forgotten that I used to love The Wind in the Willows and Bre’r Rabbit and Heidi. They must have slipped through the cracks in my memory or were battered over the head by Enid Blyton; she seduced me away from nature stories and forced me to believe in fairies and yearn to live in trees.

 

Superhero comics belonged to Saturdays. On the way to Granny’s little house in the city we would cut through the Gorbals to exchange our comics and buy one new one every week. I think I was in love with tiny people because, along with a story in The Bunty, (I think) I remember superman having a miniature domed city full of little Kryptonians – no one else seems to remember either. I always wanted my own Living Doll – I think that was the title of the other story.

 

All of these stretches of the imagination (talking animals, tiny people, fairies and superheroes) followed a year of having an imaginary friend. I’m sorry that I don’t remember her now; her name was M A R I O N and pronounced for clarity, so I’ve been told. My father had to help her on buses and I would scream if anyone sat on her – he also had to take her hand and swing her just like he did me. I think books seduced me away from M A R I O N.

 

I always wanted to go on adventures and luckily we lived across the road from an old internment camp; it had a big old house with a monkey-puzzle tree, a froggy pond, a burn (river) and a wood – we spent all day in there. My grandchildren will never experience anything like that except for the camping trips around the loch with my son but always supervised.

 

Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe crept into my life but Enid’s Famous Five and Superheroes and comicland’s The Four Marys pretty much stole the show until teen mags appeared – as I remember more I’ll have to come back and update this!

 

When did romance arrive? I’m not sure. My mother read big magazines like: True Romance and True Detective, and I read them after her. My father read westerns and crime novels, and I read them too. I grew up the day (in my fourteenth year) that the teacher yelled at me in the school library – ‘Just pick any book and SIT DOWN.’ I grabbed Neville Shute’s On The Beach and it broke my little teenage heart. It was the first time a book had ever made me cry. Then I moved on to Mills & Boon – I was a real woman then.

 

So, the books that shaped me from childhood to sixteen would be Blyton’s The Faraway Tree, Superman comics, Shute’s On The Beach and a million romance novels. No wonder I ran wild.

 

I used to be a raver but I’m all right now. Add to all that every pot-boiler and pulp-fiction novelist producing in the 70s 80s and 90s and you’ll get the complete picture of me – yes, I’ll have read almost anything you can dig up by almost anyone. I lived a lot though, drank and shagged a lot…and dragged up three kids by myself…and then I’d had enough and popped along to college where an English teacher gave me a reading list and introduced me to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. And the rest is history.

 

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