AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED #thursdaythoughts @Pembrokeshire #humour

Some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be  rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work. Here is a piece written by Trish Power (you may remember her as one of my students whose previous work, Enigma, I posted here

As you will see, this is the same exercise that inspired  Alex Abercrombie’s poem  here .

mansion-160425__340

 

AND THIS IS THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

We study the expansive hall, wood buffed to a mirrored finish reflecting the framed dignitaries set at precise intervals around the walls. At the start of the tour we had chatted and laughed in between our guide’s flawless documentary. But a hush has fallen over us now as we take in the enormity of the events leading to this point. Joleen assesses us. Practised as she is in her art, she is attuned to our mood and knows when to intervene.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, shall we move on?’

She walks ahead towards the end of the hall, stopping at one of the wall panels. When everyone is assembled and she has our attention she reaches out an immaculately manicured finger and pushes on a piece of the gold scrolling.

There’s a collective intake of breath as that section of the wall swings silently inwards exposing a carpeted stairwell lit by bright, rectangular lights recessed into the edge of the ceiling.

‘Please hold on to the rail; the treads are quite steep.’

She takes a step back and ushers us ahead with a sweep of her arm.

We arrive at an area where the lighting is dimmer. Six doors lead off from a central square. There is a shuffling as we make way for Joleen to move through us to the middle door on the right. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

We enter in total silence.

In front of us is a large, rectangular table surrounded by leather chairs. In front of each chair is a file of what appears to be documents. Behind us is a huge, wall-mounted screen.

At the head of the table is a taller chair with a studded back and embellished on top with a golden eagle. There are four phones in different colours set in an arc around a rectangular metal box containing a keypad and a large, red button.

There are other things in the room but for now our focus is on that button. The red button.

‘As you all are aware, ladies and gentlemen, this is where the Secretary of Defense and a united cohort of military advisors attempted to dissuade him from his plan of action. They pointed out the likely consequences for the world but were silenced by his declaration that he was Commander-in-Chief and outranked them all. He wasn’t going to stand by and let someone say things like that about him, even if they were an ally.

‘The video cameras were checked to make sure that they were still running as he insisted on the codes being tapped into the keypad.

‘Again, he was urged not to carry on.

‘But, like a child determined on having his way, he gave a triumphant grin and stabbed a stubby finger down on that button.

‘There were sighs of resignation but the way forward was clear now. He had failed their test and proven himself to be a danger to the free world. The Secretary of Defense gave a nod and two men approached, one of them carrying something rolled-up under his arm. They slipped behind the still-smirking president, reached forwards and slipped his arms into the straightjacket.

‘And so, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the most powerful country in the world was taken into protective custody in order to safeguard our planet – and this is the room where it happened.’

 ©Trish Power 2018

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Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by [Smith, Mary]

 

I reviewed the book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Donkey Boy and Other Stories  4* out of 5*.

Book Description:

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse

My Review:

I do like Mary Smith’s style of writing. Previously I have read and enjoyed No More Mulberries by this author; my review here: http://bit.ly/2CTEuZl

This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

 I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

 Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Links to buy: 

 Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

About the author:

Mary Smith

 

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers and her

Links to Mary:

Website  www.marysmith.co.uk.
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2wWIDci
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2ws6LAt

A Hundred Tiny Threads: Wales Book of the Month January 2018 #Welshpublishers @WelshBooks @honno

I am so proud that  A Hundred Tiny Threads is The Welsh Books Council  BOOK OF THE MONTH in January 2018

The title,  A Hundred Tiny Threads,  is taken from a quote by Simone Signoret (the French actress of cinema and a writer in her later years. She died of cancer in 1985 at the age of 60. The full quote is, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. “

A Hundred Tiny Threads  is the story of the parents of protagonist in the Howarth  trilogy, Mary Howarth. I thought I’d finished with the characters when the last book ended. But something niggled away at me until I realised that until their story was told; their lives explained, the narration was incomplete. The story takes place during a time of social and political upheaval, between the years 1911 and 1922. It’s set in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Ireland at the time of the Suffragettes, the  first World War and the Uprising in Ireland.

I knew the years I wanted to cover so one of the obvious difficulties was the timeline. I needed to make sure that those characters, already existing in the trilogy, fitted correctly into those decades. And the two main characters, Winifred Duffy and Bill Howarth, are already fully formed, rounded characters in the previous books so I wanted to show how the era they had grown up in; the environment, the events, the conditions, had shaped them, moulded them into the characters they’d become.

I actually wasn’t going to write a trilogy. The first of the three books is called Pattern of Shadows

I’ve often told the story about how I discovered that the first German POW camp in the UK was a disused cotton mill in Lancashire. And how, because of my memories; of the noise, the colours of the cloth, the smell of grease and cotton when my mother worked as a winder in such a mill, I wondered what it would be like for those prisoners.  I imagined their misery, loneliness and anger. And I wanted to write a story about that. But research in a local history library; finding sources of personal accounts of those times, from ex-prisoners, the locals and the guards of the camp, proved that it wasn’t quite as bad as I had imagined. There were times of hope, of love even. So then I knew I needed to write the novel around a family who lived in the town where the camp was situated. Who were involved in some way with the prisoners.

The trouble was that once the story was told there were threads that needed picking up for the sequel, Changing Patterns

And after that book was completed I realised that there would be repercussions from the actions of the characters in the first two stories that would affect the next generations. And so I wrote Living in the Shadows

 

 

It’s been hard to let go of some of the characters, especially the protagonist, Mary. But in a way I’m still staying in their world. When I’d sent A Hundred Tiny Threads to  Honno , my publishers, for the final time, I wrote and Indie published an anthology of eight short stories called Secrets.

These are the stories of some of the minor characters in the trilogy. At least three of these are crying out for their life stories to be told. I’ve already started on two of the characters: Hannah Booth, the sour mother- in- law of Mary’s sister, Ellen, who appears in Pattern of Shadows, and on Edith Jagger’s tale; the woman who becomes the gossipy and sharp-tongued next-door neighbour of the protagonist, Winifred, in the prequel and previously in the trilogy.

As is often the case, how we finish up in life is shaped by our past.  And both women have a dark secret.

Perhaps, all along, I knew I was not going to walk away from these characters. Perhaps they knew they wouldn’t let me.

Please click  The Welsh Books Council for A Hundred Tiny Threads: Wales Book of the Month for January 2018.

double a hundred one

Click here  for my trilogy and prequel available from Honno.

Gwasg Honno Press

All my books are available from:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CdPuNv

Patient Zero: Short stories from the Project Renova series by Terry Tyler #TuesdayBookBlog #ShortStories

Patient Zero: Short stories from the Project Renova series by [Tyler, Terry]

On my request the author gave me an arc of Patient Zero on the understanding I give an honest review.

I gave Patient Zero 5* out of 5*

Book Description:

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, ‘bat fever’ is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely ‘stand alone’.

1. Jared: The Spare Vial
Jared has two vaccinations against the deadly virus: one for him, one for a friend…

2. Flora: Princess Snowflake
The girl with the perfect life, who believes in her father, the government, Christian charity and happy endings.

3. Jeff: The Prepper
What does a doomsday ‘prepper’ do when there is nothing left to prepare for?

4. Karen: Atonement
She ruined her sister’s last day on earth, and for this she must do penance.

5. Aaron: #NewWorldProblems
Aaron can’t believe his luck; he appears to be immune. But his problems are far from over.

6. Ruby: Money To Burn
Eager to escape from her drug dealer boyfriend’s lifestyle, Ruby sets off with a bag filled with cash.

7. Meg: The Prison Guard’s Wife
Meg waits for her husband to arrive home from work. And waits…

8. Evie: Patient Zero
Boyfriend Nick neglects her. This Sunday will be the last time she puts up with it. The very last time.

9. Martin: This Life
Life after life has taught the sixty year old journalist to see the bigger picture.

Tipping Point and Lindisfarne are the first two full length novels in the Project Renova series. A third will be available around late spring/early summer 2018.

My Review:

Having already read the two post-apocalyptic novels,Tipping Point (here’s my review: http://bit.ly/2um9Fcq), and Lindisfarne: (review here: http://bit.ly/2igJnQG)  of this Project Renova series by Terry Tyler, I was keen to get my hands on her anthology of short stories of the minor characters in these books. Until I read both these novels I was wary of this genre… too gloomy, I thought…not something I’d want to read about. But because I have always admired this author’s work I gave them a go. I’m glad I did. Brilliant writing!  

And Patient Zero sets the bar high for collections of short stories as well.

I love this idea of giving the flat characters in novels a life of their own. Each story reveals both the background and the present environment of the characters. Some tales are chilling, some poignant, some even threaded through with slight subtle humour. But all show the universal belief that humans have, that ‘all will be well’  for them belief. (Well, I say all, there is one story; Jeff: The Prepper, where the character has believed that the world as we know it will end and is ready. But even he has a discovery he didn’t expect… say no more.

 

With some told from both the first person point of view and some from the omniscient narrator each story is complete in itself and is a good solid read. 

As always with this author the dialogue, both spoken and internal, is true to each character.

And, as usual, the descriptions of the settings give a great sense of place.

There is the same inevitability to the endings of the short stories, as with the two novels,  after all these are apocalyptic accounts. Yet some took me by surprise (which, for me is always a good sign). There are open-endings, twist in the tale denouements and the ‘of course’ endings. But what they all are, is satisfying.

The character who evoked a sense of sadness in me –  Meg: The Prison Guard’s Wife.

The character that most angered me by her selfishness – Karen in Atonement.

 The character who gives hope, perhaps –  Martin: This Life.

Not that I’m going to tell you their stories!

I strongly suggest to any reader that they check Patient Zero out for themselves.  I highly recommend this anthology to readers who love this genre… and to readers who like good writing.

Links: 

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2jTfp3i

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2yF7sGP

About the Author:

terry tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of sixteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Patient Zero’, the third book in her new post apocalyptic series, which is a collection of stand-alone short stories featuring characters in the main novels. She is proud to be self-published, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and loves history, winter, South Park and Netflix. She lives in the north east of England with her husband, a move that took place nine years ago from the beautiful Norfolk coast; she is still trying to learn Geordie.

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by Wendy Clarke #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by [Clarke, Wendy]

Book Description: ‘Silent Night’ is a collection of thirteen Christmas stories by Wendy Clarke, a regular writer of fiction for national magazines.

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team in exchange for an honest review.

 I gave Silent Night 4* out of 5*

 My Review:

I enjoyed reading these short, sometimes very short, stories around the theme of Christmas. These are tales very much ‘in the moment’, of love lost and found, unrequited love returned, families torn apart and reunited (or about to be), of friendships. All set around Christmas time. They fit neatly into the genre they were written for; as it says in the book description, they are, ” fiction for national magazines”.

Reading to review a collection of such short stories is completely different from reading to review a novel. There are no multi layered characters, no complex plot, no wrestling with an unreliable narrator, no in-depth internal dialogue, no  time for peaks and troughs in the story. Just a good honest telling of a tale with (if not always completely a happy ending), always with a satisfying denouement.

 As such, I settled down to read each one and enjoyed most of them. Wendy Clarke is a good storyteller, I like her style of writing. I loved the depth of emotion she gave to the characters through the dialogue; they were mostly all truly believable.  I especially enjoyed her portrayal of the children; for me she got the dialogue of these perfectly.

And her descriptions and narratives give a good sense of place and era.

What I most admired was the author’s ability to weave the tone of the story into the narrative. Perhaps i should explain by giving a couple of examples:

Silent Night: (the story that gives the collection its title) and  Do You believe in Angels – poignant tales of familial love in wartime. These were my favourites.

Together for Christmas: A lovely humorous story of friendship and empathy.

This collection has obviously been published in time for the Christmas market, although I would certainly recommend Silent Night to any reader who enjoys short stories anytime.

 Love the cover, by the way.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2zRJvMU

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2yhbqcR 

About the Author:

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. She started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down and after completing two creative writing courses, began writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold over two hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food! 

 

My Reviews of What’s in a Name? #ShortStories and What’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by Sally Cronin. #TuesdayBookBlog

What's in a Name? by [Cronin, Sally]

Book Description:

There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

There are classical names such as Adam, David and Sarah that will grace millions of babies in the future. There are also names that parents have invented or borrowed from places or events in their lives which may last just one lifetime or may become the classic names of tomorrow. 

Whatever the name there is always a story behind it. In What’s in a Name? – Volume One, twenty men and women face danger, love, loss, romance, fear, revenge and rebirth as they move through their lives.

Anne changes her name because of associations with her childhood, Brian carries the mark of ancient man, Jane discovers that her life is about to take a very different direction, and what is Isobel’s secret?

My Review:

In What’s in a Name? – Volume One, Sally Cronin’ brings together characters in her short stories, framed and shaped by their names in one way or another. Her gift to evoke a scene, a sense of place, runs parallel with her knack of homing in on the minutiae, to bring to life situations and relationships. And, as always with all this author’s work her innate empathy for the human condition shines through while at the same time she writes to entertain the reader. Each tale, whether coming to a foregone conclusion or having a unexpected twist at the end is such a satisfying read.

Highly recommended 

I loved this first volume so was thrilled when Sally gifted me the second: What’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance, in return for an honest review…

 

What's in a Name?  Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance by [Cronin, Sally]

 

Book Description: 

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.

Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son. 

Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe… Well she can see into the future.

In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

My Review:

And I can honestly say I enjoyed this set of stories even more than the first volume. In this the reader finds stories continuing the alphabet of names, male and female; here there is joy and despair,  true love and duplicity,  romance and companionship.

 What’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance shows, yet again, what a consummate storyteller Sally Cronin is. This author carries the reader into the world of fiction; ever willing to be swept along by the words; by the willing suspension of disbelief.

 As always, I won’t give away any of the stories; they are there waiting to be discovered.

All I can say is that I wholeheartedly recommend this collection of innovative short stories.

I’m more than happy to give both these volumes 5*

Buying Links:

 Amazon.co.uk: What’s in a name:  http://amzn.to/2wu4ve9

 What’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance: http://amzn.to/2ij2NXJ

Amazon.com: What’s in a name:    http://amzn.to/2weFR1h

What’s in a Name? Volume 2: Stories of Life and Romance: http://amzn.to/2fWXMTP

About the author

sally cronin

 Sally says:

After working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition. 

I have always been a reader and that fuelled my imagination as a child. The ability to write is a gift that millions still do not have and it makes my stories and novels even more precious to me. I hope you will enjoy them too.

 Links to sally’s books:https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/

My Review of Rusticles by Rebecca Gransden for #RBRT

rusticles

I was given this book of short stories by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave this book 3* out of 5*

Book Blurb:

In Hilligoss, a tired man searches for a son, a flamingo enthrals the night, and fireworks light up the lost. In these stories and more, Rusticles offers a meandering tour through backroads bathed in half light, where shadows play along the verges and whispers of the past assault daydreams of the present. Walk the worn pathways of Hilligoss.

My Review:

I am unfamiliar with this author’s work so the first time I read each story two thoughts struck me: they are unique in that they are written in an oblique style difficult to grasp initially; much is implied within phrases and partial , seemingly unfinished dialogue. And secondly, that  these tales are almost poetic prose. I say almost, because for me, they stopped just short of creating flowing images; the pictures they create are elusive. And this, I think, is what Rebecca Gransden is aiming for in Rusticles; that tenuousness grasp of understanding. So that the readers is forced to interpret each story in their own way. This place, Hilligoss, is filled with characters that tell a tale, a moment in their time, of their lives, through an individualistic, idiosyncratic point of view. I suppose there is no right or wrong way for the reader to decode what they are reading.

I liked the cover; the blending of the colours, the vague images. The way the eye is led to the light. The rust shades that reflect the title. Said aloud the title rolls of the tongue. I had to look up the meaning of the word. The interpretation is as follows:

 A rusticle is a formation of rust similar to an icicle or stalactite in appearance that occurs underwater when wrought iron oxidizes. They may be familiar from underwater photographs of shipwrecks, such as the RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck. Rusticles are created by microbes that consume iron.

 So it’s a clever title. I just wasn’t sure of the stories. They weren’t really to my taste as a reader. But I may be missing the whole point of this book. I’d be interested to see what other readers think.
Buying links:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2uJymOA

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2tTdg15