It’s not real, but it’s definitely true

dreams-mirrorLast month, Authors Electric’s Bill Kirton wrote this very interesting post. He was talking specifically about the fantasy genre, but he made a point that I think is relevant to all fiction:

“We carry all these race memories, dreams, imaginings; we can release people and things from their restricted functions. Maybe fantasy is simply a means of relaxing our grip on experience, a way to deny chronology and inevitability. Maybe it’s just a less uptight reality.”

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A Brutal War seen through a Young Woman’s Eyes: Ellen’s People by Dennis Hamley

A1zllPmfbbL._SL1500_“It’s dark now. The church clock has long struck midnight. Betty and Madge, twins and my younger sisters, went to sleep the moment I blew their candle out, but I can’t sleep and I’m wondering if I ever will again.”

Thus begins Ellen’s People, the first novel in Dennis Hamley’s Ellen Trilogy. Ellen Wilkins, a young woman living in rural England on the eve of World War I, has just witnessed a recruitment drive in her village. She has also witnessed some of the less attractive behaviour associated with such campaigns: jingoism, hatred of “the Hun”, and fury against those who openly prefer peace to war. To Ellen, this is more than a purely abstract concern: her beloved brother Jack has enlisted, and she worries about what might happen to him. “I don’t know much about wars,” Ellen admits, “except soldiers and sailors get killed and Jack might get killed with them.” Continue reading

Beauty? It depends on who’s looking…

Warning: reflections may be distorted by societal pressure.

Warning: reflections may be distorted due to societal pressure.

A man of my acquaintance, who shall remain nameless, is currently going through something of a midlife crisis. Just a few years ago, he accepted an expanding waistline and greying hairs with equanimity. Now, he has begun an aggressive campaign against these things. He practically lives in the gym. He is contemplating cosmetic surgery to rid his face of its tiny, almost imperceptible, lines. When he isn’t doing these things, he’s complaining about how he isn’t quite as handsome as he’d like to be. And there I was thinking that obsessive anxiety about one’s appearance was a female trait… Continue reading

Linear vs Circular

cycletimeI recently read this very interesting post by Lauren Sapala, in which she argued – very convincingly, to my mind – that writers, by pressuring themselves to achieve goals, can actually hinder their progress. In the post, she made a very simple but, to me, quite startling point, which in turn provoked one of those “lightbulb” moments, when I thought, “Ah-ha! So that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time!” She says:

“Our culture tends to think of time as linear. It moves forward in a straight line. So if you want to get anything done, you need to move forward in a straight line as well. And the most popular method used in our culture to conquer this straight line is to push ourselves. This push is commonly referred to as ‘drive’ or ‘motivation’.”

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“Art is Magic” – Aniko Carmean introduces her new short story, MIXED MEDIA

Aniko Carmean

Aniko Carmean

It’s guest post time, and today’s visiting blogger has a special significance for me. Aniko Carmean was one of the earliest people to befriend me when I first set out my stall in cyberspace, and she’s been a kind and encouraging friend ever since. Her blog is beautifully written and occasionally raw, touching upon all the problems and frustrations associated with putting pen to paper. Her writing hums with verve, insight, and sheer talent. Continue reading

Two Great Gothic Finds: And Soon the Song & The Frankenstein Inheritance

Sometimes, I really think I ought to read more slowly. I find myself – and not for the first time – with two books to review in quick succession. In my defence, I’ve been on something of a Gothic fiction reading spree in preparation for my contribution pieces to the Edinburgh eBook Festival 2014 (coming soon, as they say). That entailed reading a lot, and fast. Anyway, on to business . . .

91LNVA4m+NL._SL1500_My first great self-published Gothic fiction find is J.D. Hughes’ And Soon the Song. (Disclosure time: J.D. is an acquaintance, and an occasional visitor to this blog. As always, I’ve tried not to let this influence my evaluation of the book.) Continue reading