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We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 

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I am writing this in a hazy blur of delight. Right now, my short story  STRANGE CREATION is on the Amazon best sellers’ horror page, right under a book by the master of his genre, Stephen King.

The first books I read by this writer, IT and THE STAND were borrowed from my public library [in the days when the UK still had a comprehensive library system]. I soon realised that I would need my own copies, because a single reading was not enough.

Stephen King has an instinctive, visceral grasp of story structure, although I believe he said once that he never planned the plots of his novels. His stories go fearlessly into those parts of our human psyches we would like to pretend we do not own; they show us fallible humans , often making choices that reveal their fatal flaw, as in CUJO, and they show us three dimensional people like ourselves, faced with terrible dilemmas.The possibilities he implants in our heads, before the reveal, shows what dark thoughts we are capable of. He is the voice of our nightmares – but they are ours, as well as his.

The germ of my recent novel DOLLYWAGGLERS was inspired, years ago, by reading THE STAND, his dystopian fable of America after a flu pandemic. I was itching to write my own dystopia, having read Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a teenager, but the idea of a disease [and this could be a metaphor for all kinds of sicknesses our society manifests – or it could be an act of God – or it could be chance], gripped my imagination.

I never thought of myself as being a horror writer, but my short story that now stands, rightly so, underneath King’s, is, I realise, horror with a human face.

I wonder why it is that Stephen King has for so long remained uncrowned as the King of American fiction. Why his fellow writers have not honoured him with a prize. Why the world has not found a way of giving him the laurels he deserves.

I’m not talking about the books that keep you reading far, far into the night, the stories you have to reach the end of, like MISERY, or THINNER, or the short stories that make up ‘Skeleton Crew’, but the ones that reveal King as an author of depth and evocation. Take THE BODY, a story I have read at least ten times, and that made itself naturally into the fine film STAND BY ME. A better drawn picture of fifties’ childhood I have never read. And even though I grew up in England, his references to Schwann bikes, dog tags and hamburger meat brought that moment in time , that little crew of misfits, perfectly to my mind’s eye. The loyalties and rivalries of his group of kids, their language, their fears and hopes, travelling along the rail tracks so they can see an actual dead body, reminds me of the gangs I used to be in, back in London in the early fifties, though we never did anything as adventurous.

Or take a more recent work, BAG OF BONES. A fine study of bereavement, mixed in with the haunting of cursed land, but at the heart, is a man who misses his wife and whose involvement with the supernatural is his way of finding closure. It rings true to me.

King understands the niceties of human nature, and if he chooses to take us down dark tunnels, it is not because he cannot stand the sunshine and daylight up above. On the contrary, his understanding of our whole selves, light and shadow, makes us appreciate life all the more.

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This was a title I played around with for a book of short stories I am putting together. It’s not my phrase, of course, it’s Shakespeare’s, and in coining it, he was referring to LIFE. Maybe it’s because my life is none of the above that I enjoy writing, and reading, the darkest of shadowy fiction I can find. If you do too, then you might wonder if that says something about yourself as a person? Do you have to be sick, or mad, or just weird, to enjoy  inspecting the darkest underbelly of humanity? And how about writers who choose to write that stuff? Can they sleep peacefully at night? What makes them go for the jugular?

I’d like to introduce my newest piece of fiction to you. I have no idea whence it came. Imagination is a wild animal, and I would never try to tame mine.

Last April, thanks to this blog, and a group of friends I emailed, my novel DOLLYWAGGLERS had amazing numbers of sales in its early weeks.
 
I’ve just released a new, very dark, unnatural short story.
Published by Tenebris Books, it is called STRANGE CREATION. 
 
It’s about a down to earth scientist, Dr. Dorothy Broadhurst, working calmly and logically on a project in Central Africa, studying a sub species of ape.
But suddenly, everything starts to go horribly wrong….
 
This comes to you in the form of an ebook for a risible 99p. 
You can buy it on Smashwords:
 
or on Amazon:
 
I hope you will. And I hope you will enjoy it. If you do, and you would like to be added to my mailing list, please leave your email here as a comment. I won’t forget you.
Love
Frances.

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I forgot to mention this, with all the other more important stuff going on, but my latest book, DOLLYWAGGLERS is FREE to download RIGHT NOW.
If you don’t have a Kindle (as I don’t), you can get a totally free Kindle app. from Amazon, put it on any device or computer, and read away.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dollywagglers-Frances-Kay-ebook/dp/B00JYGG58W/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1418067643

That is not a proper link, you have to cut and paste. Sorry. For some inexplicable [to me] reason, I can’t insert a link into this edit.

However, if you have the patience to copy and paste, it will work. And the book is still free!

Paperback versions cost £8.99
Happy Christmas!
If you think this book is not about happy anything, you could be wrong… my characters find hope and a light….eventually.
Oh, and there is a sequel in the pipeline, so it can’t be all doom.
Though ‘Dollywagglers’ is definitely a dystopia.

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It’s like watching tadpoles, as I did one summer, having struggled out of their jelly and learned about wriggling and eating, becoming reduced in number every day by natural hazards such as sibling [or possibly parental] cannibalism, bird attacks, or the gradual drying out of their nursery before they had legs enough to hop to the next pond.
It’s exactly the same with the many, many small publishing companies now struggling at the fringe of that enormous pond. Writers can scan a growing alphabetical list, read their submission guidelines and pick one – or sometimes more – to submit to. That’s what I did, when faced with a choice of self-publishing or not publishing at all. I like working with editors; polishing a novel that you consider couldn’t be buffed up any further to a shine so dazzling it’s amazing the whole world doesn’t notice it, is fun, worthwhile, and exciting.
Ah, but there’s the rub. DOLLYWAGGLERS is now published, and the world doesn’t turn a hair. Everything stays the same. Your book may be brilliant, but somehow, nobody who forms opinions notices the brilliance.
Here’s where self-published authors go ballistic; writing articles, taking blog tours, getting interviewed, visiting book festivals, doing talks and workshops, until their baby begins to attract the attention it deserves. I’m somewhat handicapped from marketing myself, being too disabled to travel far or run workshops [as I used to do]. This blog and my FB page are the only megaphones I have to speak to my world.
So, I’d like to invite you to watch the Grimbold video on Kickstarter, to find out if this tadpole is worth feeding. Your contribution could make the difference between life and death to their precarious existence. Thank you.
Here’s the link:

 

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dear patient readers, yesterday I posted with breathless excitement about my new book. 250 words later and there is no mention of title, publisher or where to get it. This says it all about my weak spot – marketing.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dollywagglers-Frances-Kay/dp/1909845515/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0V386HV1M8TSQAEV2RX4     [not even sure if this will work]Image

And here’s the cover. It’s a dystopian story with black comedy and an unusual main character who is not a mere cipher observing the devastation caused by a flu pandemic in England. I hope, but realistically don’t expect, that it will be best seller.

My pragmatic brother asked me ‘Why don’t you write books that everyone wants to read?’ and this is a question that I can’t duck away from – it’s sensible and logical. But it lacks the vital heart element that is a quintessential part of writing, as I see it.

I write stuff that I like to read. Stuff that comes to me in daydreaming trances, ideas and characters that light the flame of passion. If I am a minority of one, perhaps eventually I will devise a formulaic work that will hit the commercial spot. But I can’t sit down with that cold intention. And I’m not at all sure I could do it.

How about you, reader? Are you passionate about certain genres and hate others? And if you are a writer? Do you have a fanbase? Or do you write purely to please yourself?

I’m heading to my launch this evening. I’ll report back on how it went. Thanks for visiting.

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My next book is published today.  The long wait between acceptance and publication feels to me very like being pregnant, except the gestation can be as long as ten years. Tomorrow it’s the launch – the christening, I suppose – where the baby’s head will be  well sprinkled with champagne and where I hope the world will gaze as fondly on my new offspring as I do myself.

Then there’s the sense of anti-climax, of what happens next? I fight the urge to check my Amazon rankings and imagine I can immerse myself in the next novel seamlessly.

I’m preparing myself for this book to slide painlessly beneath the waves, jostled and suffocated by the other 2,000 odd that will also appear this week. Some writers can market their books, get publicity, make sure their moment in the spotlight is as long as possible. One reason why I am too cowardly to self-publish is that I lack the stomach for the endless graft of selling myself.

If you were to ask me what I would like from you, my potential reader, it would be this. If you read it and enjoy it, tell your friends. Word of mouth is the best way to sell a book. Then ask your local library to stock it. That is all. I hope you will.

 

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