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Posts Tagged ‘Dollywagglers’


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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Sometimes a random stroke of luck brightens the day for me. Like a chance encounter with the woman behind the bookshop counter who, in answer to my question about her love of writing, revealed herself to be a fan of mine. [My writing, that is]. That led to an invitation to come and meet her writers’ group; things like this make me realise afresh that writing isn’t just what writers do in their offices, it’s a way of thinking and being, and of taking pleasure in hearing how others find their way to being writers.
Here’s another fine human being whom I don’t know and am not related to, who’s picked my book to review, and this could be a link in a serendipitous chain of events that brings home to me, who can’t easily get out there and push my work into public attention, how the word gets around and around.

Here it is, a kind and fair review from someone who ‘gets’ the book perfectly:

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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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Blog Hop: What Do I Write And Why?

June 2014

Kristin Gleeson has invited me to join her blog hop. I’m now a link in a chain of great minds, connected by our passion for writing  – and, even more important, reading.

Kristin is a writer of intensely felt, meticulously researched, wonderfully evoked historical literary fiction novels, spanning her own territories of Ireland, North America and Canada. I recommend Selkie Dreams  She’s also the world expert on the Canadian First Nation woman Anahareo, wrote the first biography of this extraordinary and troubled woman, Anahareo – a Wilderness Spirit, and this summer will be a keynote speaker at a conference on herself and her husband, known to thousands as ‘Grey Owl’, in fact an Englishman from Sussex called Archie.

We first met on an advanced novel writing course at the West Cork Literary Festival, run by the amazing Carlo Gébler, and we have remained friends ever since, beta-reading each other’s unpublished work, mutually being encouraging, and cheering on our publishing successes.  As well as writing, Kristin is also a gifted musician, singer and painter; if you are lucky enough to attend one of her book launches, you may see her playing the Irish harp.


What Do I write?

I write plays and novels. Drama is in my blood, on both sides of the family – my Dad was the best theatre carpenter in the business, my mother acted straight out of RADA with Laurence  Olivier – she was one of his daughters in ‘Oedipus’,. My father’s parents and grandparents ran ‘fit-up’ travelling companies; musical theatre was my grandmother’s field and she was one of the original ‘Tiller Girls’. So writing plays started early [I was five when my brother and I performed ‘Clever Fox’, a two hander, to an audience of kind parents and neighbours].

I write plays for children, mostly in Ireland, but have written puppet shows and TV dramas in the UK as well. Adult novels are where I let my shadow side out to play. Children deserve optimism and hope, but my novels pull no punches. I write with passion and from a perspective of people in our society many would rather not know about, about events and feelings we’d like to pretend don’t exist. My latest novel, Dollywagglers, published by Tenebrisbooks,is a dystopia set in England, after a flu pandemic has decimated the world’s population. I love reading dystopias, from ‘1984’  and ‘The Road’ to ‘The Hunger Games’, but I didn’t want an atmosphere of despair and gloom, so I made my central character a puppeteer with a wonky sense of humour.

My first novel, Micka, published by Picador in 2010, was a sad and brutal story, told in the voices of two ten year old boys. Neither of these books pleased a mass audience, but I feel joyful and privileged to be speaking to adults and children in a way that, I hope and trust, enters their heads and hearts in a truly reflective and gripping way.

What am I writing now?
I’m at work now on the sequel to ‘Dollywagglers’, a story with utopian threads mixed in with the darkness. Quite a challenge to write with the same black humour and not be too predictably liberal and socially aware as I construct a new society from the remnants of the old.

I’m also working on the second draft of a memoir, I suppose, it’s about fifty percent true and fifty percent made up, about a nine year old girl at boarding school in the 1950s. It’s far from being Hogwarts; it’s a place that tries to break her spirit and crush her imagination.

Two children’s plays I wrote last year had a great run in Ireland. Feast of Bones is set in 1918 Dublin, and loosely follows the fairy story of Henny Penny going to see the King. The sky fell on many heads during that war; it makes a powerful metaphor, and in some ways you can only tell the tales of war in metaphor, unless you were actually there.

The second play, which ran for three months earlier this year, was about an old man, alone with his radio and his memories, talking to an audience of 6 year olds and up. My challenge was to make his life, so removed from their experiences, into a story that they could connect with. A spider and a jackdaw helped, plus his tragic love of Gretel, a circus bareback rider. Mr. Foley – Radio Operator played all over Ireland this year., and will be at the Babaró Children’s Festival in Galway this September.

Why Do I Write?
It’s an addiction. If I don’t have a piece of work on the go, the sparkle goes out of my world. Three years studying English Literature at university dried up the flow of ink, partly because I was constantly deconstructing great writers and literature, and partly because that critical approach helped sharpen the teeth of my inner critic, so that I was too intimidated to create anything for about three years after I left. Maybe you share that experience? Sometimes, our formal education can be a serious handicap. Happily, the flow of thoughts came back and has never dried up since. I live an extremely eventful life, high with joy, elation and adrenalin, and low with massive bereavement at a young age, lack of money, and near despair at the awful start in life some children have. I worked on projects in Newcastle and Scotland with kids whom society forgot, and their resilience and cheerfulness was an inspiration to me when I started writing plays for them.

Tagging the next three:
Here are three more writers.  You can follow the chain onward or backward to see all the other writers in this blog hop. Happy Hopping!

Nichola Hunter,  blogging at http://nicholahunter.blogspot.ie

Nichola’s evocative novella, ‘Ramadan Sky’ about an Australian tourist having an uneasy, passionate romance with an Indonesian man, was one of the very first books to be talent-spotted and published on Kindle by Harper Collins after their editors  read her work uploaded to their ‘Authonomy’ site. Find herbook on Amazon UK at: Ramadan Sky

Anyone who writes is welcome to join ‘Authonomy’, and if your novel gets voted to the top five by the reading community, it will be professionally read, and may lead to publication. You also have the benefit of other writers’ good critiques of your work, which, in my case, led to beneficial rewrites.

Neil Randall, blogging at http://narandall.blogspot.ie is a writer of dark and disturbing fiction, often with a Russian flavour. His most recently published work is The Holy Drinker; another novel set in Stalinist times is satirical, compelling and highly recommended by me; find it at: Amazon uk ‘The Butterfly and the Wheel’  – it will be published later this year.

Third in my list, but the most celebrated and consistently selling of all of us here, is Cathi Unsworth, the Queen of London Noir, as she was recently described by David Peace. Her novels expose the seedy underbelly of human desires and vices. Check out her website: http://www.cathiunsworth.co.uk and find her most recent book on Amazon UK at : Weirdo

Hope you’ve enjoyed my section of this hop. I welcome any comments! Thanks for reading.

 

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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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