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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category


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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This article was first published last month in the online literary magazine THE VIEW FROM HERE.

If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, then why do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we should also be happy if we had no books….. A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen within us.’  [Kafka, aged 20]

I identify with Kafka’s passionate viewpoint, and, as a writer, it has set me an almost impossible task. My new novel is a dystopia – it flowed from my pen with refreshing cataracts of anger and bitter humour against the brutal, chaotic, society I created; dystopia is a perfect metaphor, and a safe one, behind whose barriers we can snipe at what we know and hate.

Dystopia is also a seductive literary form for writers and readers; one of my favourites is YevgenyZamyatin’s tragic 1921 novel ‘We’ . Zamyatin, writing in a post-revolutionary Soviet state, began his work after the failed uprising of 1905, but even four years after the revolution, his political masters took an obsessive interest in novels dealing with dysfunctional fictional societies, and Zamyatin was forced to flee to exile in France, where he died in poverty. ‘We’ is an undeservedly neglected work these days – he was said to have influenced Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’, amongst others – where individuals are  ‘numbers’ and live in glass apartments where their every action can be observed, except for the allocated nights of sexual activity, when curtains may be drawn. The gradual evolution of the  character D503, the narrator, a mathematician, begins with logical, conforming beliefs:  ‘One thing has always seemed to me most improbable: how could a government, even a primitive government, permit people to live without anything like our Tables—without compulsory walks, without precise regulation of the time to eat, for instance? They would get up and go to bed whenever they liked. ‘ and finally to a state of terrified rebellion, caused in part by political anger, but more by his frantic lust for the mysterious Number I-330: ‘I am like a motor set in motion at a speed of too many revolutions per second; the bearings have become too hot, and in one more minute the molten metal will begin to drip and everything will go to the devil. Cold water! Quick! Some logic!..  L=f (D), love is the function of death. ‘

Utopian literature is a different species from dystopia; the plot plods along and the main characters are often ciphers with bland personalities,  like the dinner guests in More’s  ‘Utopia’.  As  H.G.Wells says, There must always be a certain effect of hardness and thinness about Utopian speculations… That which is the blood and warmth and reality of life is largely absent; there are no individualities, but only generalised people. In almost every Utopia–except, perhaps , Morris’s “News from Nowhere”–one sees handsome but characterless buildings, symmetrical and perfect cultivations, and a multitude of people, healthy, happy, beautifully dressed, but without any personal distinction whatever.’

The utopian writer’s passion is generally not so much for story as for social or political theory; the structure of a utopian society must be laboriously exposited, and the most usual device to ensure the presence of a stranger who needs to be educated, is to have the protagonist accidentally fall into or stumble across Shangri La, or Erewhon — thus the society described is not one we can live in – it is a tale told at a safe remove by returned visitors.

Referring to the study of literature, Kierkegaard wrote that ‘there are two ways. One is to suffer; the other is to become a professor of the fact that another suffers’. The same, I believe applies to writers. If we do not write our utopias and dystopias with passion (the Latin word whose very root means ‘suffering’ ) we set ourselves apart from, or even above, our fellow human beings who share the real dystopia in which we live.

And this is my dilemma as I begin the sequel to ‘Dollywagglers’; to create a credible, unexpected, struggling society with some utopian elements, that is not devoid of emotion or predictably liberal, and in which minimal exposition takes third place, after story and character.  I am reading books on energy and economics, and studying real utopian communities, none of which I had to do before I wrote ‘Dollywagglers’.

We actually live in dystopias, we experience their inhuman regimes with their protagonists, we identify with Catniss or Winston as they take the first step away from safety towards risk, exposing themselves to the danger of being seen as individuals with subversive tendencies. Visitors, even if profoundly affected by their encounter with utopia, return to the security of their homeland, unless, like the brainless young Bertie Woosterish  hero of ‘A Crystal Age’ he becomes so enamoured of that society he forgets his past as he attempts to dress like the citizens, to learn their culture, and to commit himself to a loving relationship with one of its mysterious residents.           Of all the utopias I have read, ‘A Crystal Age’ by W.H.Hudson stands out as unique. . I wonder if J.G.Ballard was influenced by this book when he wrote ‘The Crystal World’, where a bizarre phenomenon occurs in the jungle of South America – plants, trees and animals are becoming crystallised. The metaphor  is of slow and inexorable death, but purity and perfection are part of the equation too. A  similar perfection is worshipped in Hudson’s book, along with that figure of sacred reverence, The Mother.

Marx wrote ‘I believe there is no compulsion for the writer to put into the reader’s hands the future historical resolution of the social conflicts he is depicting.’;  which I interpret as the freedom, when creating a society with utopian strands, not to cross every t or dot every i. And as to the social evolution of my flawed utopia, as long as the story is absorbing and the characters engaging,  its future development can safely be left to the reader’s imagination.

Utopian stories give us emotionally cool theoretical or metaphorical frameworks; but to make them vivid, to breathe life into those long dead conceits, we must become the passionate bridge to link their ideas to our present situation; beyond the general or universal, we need to create immediate and specific connections with our lineage of utopian literature, while shocking the reader with insights into undercurrents and dissatisfactions of the’ now’ we live in. As Kierkegaard says, ‘It is not worthwhile remembering that past which cannot become a present.’

 

Agree or disagree? Please let me know what you think.

‘Dollywagglers’  was published by Tenebris books on April 28th.

 

 

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Launching my book at events last week was an excellent excuse for a couple of mad musical parties. I met friends I have never seen before [online writers], family from far away, and friends I last saw when our kids were at primary school – now they’re grown up with children of their own.

I was exhilarated and surprised by the enthusiasm these essentially decent and nice people showed for my dark, depraved, at times, evil, work of fiction. As surprised as they were, I expect, to hear the extracts I read coming out of the mouth of a demure grandmotherly type person. A mad vicar saying ‘fuck’ is a small sample.

I calculate that everyone I know now has a copy. I’ve asked them, if they like it, to tell ten other people it’s worth reading, and to get their local libraries to order it.

Word of mouth is the best way of raising the profile. And with 2,000 books coming out every week, it sure needs raising!

So, if you happen to read and enjoy DOLLYWAGGLERS, please do the above.

Thanks.

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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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