The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors

The Word For Freedom Anthology Contributors

 

We have now made a decision on the stories that came through the open submissions process for The Word For Freedom charity anthology, which is raising funds for Hestia; and are also delighted to reveal the fantastic cover donated by Jennie Rawlings at Serafim Design. Out thanks go to Isabel Costello for donating her story, The Word For Freedom, which was chosen as the title of the collection as it sums up the ethos of it so perfectly.

I want to thank all of the writers who sent in an story for consideration. We really appreciate your generosity in being willing to donate your words to this anthology. Sadly we can’t include them all, and many of the stories that have not been selected are great and we’re sure they will find a home elsewhere.

The decision about what to include has not just been guided by the quality of the story but also by the feel of the anthology as a whole. We have included a wide range of stories with different premises and themes to ensure that the collection has a good balance in content, tone, style, word count, etc.

We are delighted to include the following writers and stories in this collection:

  • Brick by Rachel Rivett
  • Cover Their Bright Faces by Abigail Rowe
  • Counting For England by Christine Powell
  • Enid Is Going On A Journey by David Cook
  • My Mother Left Me For A Tree by Rosaleen Lynch
  • The Servitude Of The Sudaarp by Taria Karillion
  • Not Our Kind Of Girl by Anne Hamilton
  • One Woman, One Vote by Sallie Anderson
  • Out Of Office by Emily Kerr
  • Relevant by Anna Orridge
  • Sayyida by Katherine Blessan
  • The Colour Of Sunflowers by Kate Vine
  • The Mermaiden by Dane Divine
  • Those Who Trespass Against Us by Julie Bull
  • Women Don’t Kill Animals by Carolyn Sanderson

These stories join donated ones donated from several authors:

  • Tiny Valentines by Angela Readman
  • Below the Line by Victoria Richards
  • The Second Brain by Cath Bore
  • Myopia by Sophie Duffy

We have more stories to come from Angela Clarke, Anna Mazzola, Helen Irene Young and Karen Hamilton.

Delighted too (actually hugely overexcited!) that the amazing author, Marian Keyes, has also agreed to read an advance copy and provide an endorsement for us.

We’re very excited about these stories and the wonderful collection we’re putting together to support Hestia. Keep an eye out for more details of the anthology itself and bookish events we’ll be doing with Hestia both live and on podcast.

 

 

Separated From The Sea Art Competition

We’re super excited about our latest publication, Separated From The Sea by Amanda Huggins! It’s a stunning collection of short stories and flash fiction centred around the theme of being away from the sea. It’s been getting a great response, with fab reviews all over! And we’re so excited, we’ve come up with a pretty special (and totally unique!) competition. We’re giving away a piece of photographic art to celebrate Amanda’s beautiful piece of written art!

1st prize

The overall winner will receive this one-of-a-kind photograph, showing a very different landscape to the ones featured in Amanda’s book. Professionally printed to highest standard (with UV protection) on aluminium plate metal, it’s approximately 40cm by 40cm. The gorgeous painting effect was created by using a long exposure and shaking the camera. And it looks wonderful hanging on the wall! The image is shown at the top of this page, and can be seen in more detail through a video posted on our social media accounts. The artwork is not available for sale ANYWHERE and (we think) makes for a pretty amazing prize!

2nd prize

A runner up will receive a copy of Amanda Huggins’ first book, Brightly Coloured Horses! The flash fiction collection comprises twenty-seven tales of betrayal and loss, of dreams and hopes, of lovers, liars and cheats. The cover also features arkwork created by Amanda Huggins herself.

What you need to do

To win either this one of a kind photograph or a signed copy of Amanda’s first book, Brightly Coloured Horses, you just have to buy a paperback copy of Separated From The Sea and post a photo of it on one of our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram). Alternatively, you can add a comment below (with a pic) or email us at competitions@retreatwest.co.uk

We’ll choose two people at random to receive either the photograph or the book free! Make sure you post your photo by 23:59 on Tuesday, 31st July 2018. We’ll be announcing a winner soon afterwards! Please note: the winner will be asked to provide proof of purchase.

Make sure you purchase a paperback copy!
Separated From The Sea is available here:
Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Please share

We’re hoping this will reach lots of people, so please spread the word (!) by sharing this blog and the video on social media. If we’re successful, we may run similar promotions in the future and you’ll get a chance to win more goodies!

Good luck in the competition, and remember, win or lose, you still get to keep Amanda Huggins’ beautiful book!

One last thing…

If you’re able to, we’d love you to post a review to Amazon… As an independent publisher, it really helps bring much needed attention! And Amazon will promote the book if it receives enough reviews.

Guest post: Mark Brownless – The Hand of an Angel

Today it is our delight to welcome Mark Brownless to our page as part of his blog blitz for ‘The Hand of an Angel’.  This “shattering medical thriller with a heart-stopping climax” is his first novel and we’re keen to find out all about it.

***

Hi Amanda! Thanks very much for having me along to talk about my book, The Hand of an Angel.

Hi Mark, it’s a pleasure to have you with us. Can you tell us what inspired you to explore the concept of killing yourself temporarily to try and find out if there is an afterlife?

In the 80s, as a nerdy teenager, I was always fascinated by unexplained phenomena, things like alien abduction, Bigfoot and near-death experience. So, when I started writing I had the idea of someone looking back after a near-death experience, and how that might shape their view of the world from now on. But the subtext is all about reality. What did they see? Was it real, or a construct created by their oxygen-starved brain? These are common themes throughout the book.

In one of the first creative writing classes I ever went to the teacher said that there is always some element of autobiography in the first novels we write. Do you think this is true of yours and if so, which elements of your life can be found in this novel? I’m presuming you haven’t tried to see if there is an afterlife!

No, quite right! The story mentions that seeing the afterlife, whatever it might be, is a one-way trip, so I haven’t been there as yet!

My mother-in-law was glad that the children of my main characters, Tom and Sarah, were both boys, otherwise she would’ve felt that they were too similar to my wife and I. Tom and Sarah aren’t us, however, but they don’t feel like characters I created, either. They feel like real people to me – I like a quote from Stephen King that says that he doesn’t create characters, he just tells a story about people that already exist – and that’s how I think of my characters.

When did you first start writing fiction?

Very recently. About three years ago I read a post-Fleming James Bond novel which I hated with a passion, because it wasn’t anything like Bond. I suppose I could’ve written a complaint letter, but I sat down and wrote four chapters of a ‘proper’ Bond story. My wife and I were away for the weekend at the time, so it was a little tense when I spent the whole weekend writing rather than spending time with her! Immediately after that I just started writing a conversation between two characters that became a pivotal moment in The Hand of an Angel.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

I guess my favourite author is Stephen King. I grew up with his books – Carrie, The Shining, and more meaningfully for me perhaps, The Stand and It. I also need to mention the late James Herbert, and even Guy N Smith, the latter who wrote Night of the Crabs, which led me to the former’s The Rats and The Fog and then Stephen King. I love Bernard Cornwall’s historical fiction and this has influenced Locksley, my Robin Hood short story series. Now I read so much diverse stuff that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but recently I’ve loved CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man and Stu Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

What is the book you wish you’d written and why?

That’s hugely difficult because I’ve read so many great books. I guess if you wanted to create a legacy for yourself, as well as being successful and recognised you would want to be influential. So in genre fiction terms, you can’t get any more influential than The Lord of the Rings – there’s so little fantasy that isn’t influenced by it in some way that to have been the imagination that created those worlds and the possibility for others, is extraordinary.

Are you working on your next novel now? If so can you tell us anything about it yet?

I’m working on the second instalment of my Robin Hood short story series, each episode is being released on a monthly basis and should be available for pre-order by the time you read this. As for a full length novel, as you alluded to earlier, I’ve allowed my childhood to influence me and I’m writing a horror story set in a quiet fictional village. Once again I’ll be looking at people’s perception of reality – this time with their memories of childhood – coupled with another unexplained phenomenon in the form of spontaneous human combustion. It’s called The Shadowman and I hope it will be available by the end of the year.

Thanks Mark for talking with us today!

***

‘The Hand of an Angel’ is available now for £6.99 on Amazon

You can also find our more about Mark and his writing on his website

 

Mark Brownless lives and works in Carmarthen, West Wales. He has been putting ideas on paper for some years now but only when the idea for THE HAND OF AN ANGEL came to him in the autumn of 2015 did he know he might be able to write a book. Mark likes to write about ordinary people being placed in extraordinary circumstances, is fascinated by unexplained phenomena, and enjoys merging thriller, science fiction and horror.

Mark is also fascinated by myths and legends such as those of Robin Hood and King Arthur. This has culminated in the release of his short story series, Locksley, a Robin Hood story, which will have new volumes added each month.

 

Creating complex characters: Bo in Exquisite

Creating complex characters: Bo in Exquisite

This A-Z of characters blog series is looking at memorable narrators in novels and what has made them stick in my mind. It’s all based on the three Cs of character that I teach in our online courses and at various events and writing festivals. The novel characters that people never forget are complex, contradictory and consistent, just like real people.

In the first of these blogs I looked at Adam in The Imposter from Damon Galgut. Today’s complex character is Bo in Exquisite by Sarah Stovell, who visited the blog to chat to Sophie a while ago about this novel and her writing. Read the interview here.

So who is Bo?

Bo is a novelist, living the dream writer’s life in her beautiful Lake District home with multiple bestsellers in her backlist. She’s got a lovely family and a happy marriage. Bo shares the narration of this beautifully written and compelling novel with Alice, an aspiring writer that she meets when teaching at a writing retreat. The two women instantly feel a connection and an intense relationship quickly develops, with Bo playing the part of the older, wiser mentor who sees traces of her younger self in Alice.

What makes Bo such a complex character?

It’s the different sides of her personality that contradict each other; and that she’s so difficult to suss out. Is she nice or is she nasty? I’m not going to reveal the answer to that but instead look at her character traits.

On the one hand she is caring, nurturing, supportive and on the other she is manipulative, dishonest and ruthless. She’s a great mother to her children and a popular member of her local community. She’s playing games with people’s emotions and twisting the truth to suit her own ends. She’s altruistic and donates to charity. Like the image above, different elements of of her personality were reflected on the surface but at the same time all the other sides of her were still there behind that reflection.

It was really hard to tell who the real Bo is. And this is true of humans in general. We never know what’s going on in other people’s minds and they often do and say things that are in direct contradiction to beliefs they have previously professed to hold. But at the same time they are usually consistent in how they go about things.

As writers it’s our job to decide what goes on in people’s minds, to share that with readers and show how that makes them act the way they do. One of the things I’ve learned through reading and writing a lot of fiction is that it’s the contradictions and the moments of inconsistency that make novel narrators stand out, make them memorable.

Which literary characters have you never forgotten and why? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll pick someone at random to win a free place on our online course, the Creating Complex Characters masterclass, in which I look at the using the three Cs in detail to write your own memorable characters. The winner will be picked on 27th June 2018.

Writing exercise:

Write a list of 3 positive character traits and 3 negative ones. Then create a new character for a short story that embodies them. Think about why they have these traits and how they manifest in their behaviour.

 

Up next in the A-Z of complex characters is Cassie in As Far As You Can Go by Lesley Glaister…

Guest post: Inky Lemons champions young female voices

Delighted to welcome Helen Irene Young back to the blog today. She first visited as part of our Indie Debuts series talking about her novel, The May Queen (read it here) and today’s she’s talking about a great new project she’s been involved in. The Inky Lemons anthology, recently published by Vanguard Editions.

New anthology, Inky Lemons champions young female voices
By Helen Young

Ask yourself when you first felt confident enough to pick up a pen and write. Who encouraged you? Was it a teacher? A parent? A friend? Hounslow Action for Youth (HAY) is all these things and more to the young women living in the West London borough.

In 2017, HAY’s Mash-Up Memoir writing project was born out of a need to support school-age women who felt voiceless and creatively underrepresented. Under the supervision of Jacqueline Crooks (lead workshop facilitator, fundraiser and project developer) they’ve just published their first anthology – Inky Lemons – a blisteringly bold and original compendium of poetry, short stories, flash fiction and illustration.

‘What we’ve learned from this project is that creative writing engages socially excluded young women who don’t take part in other activities,’ said Jacqueline. ‘There is something powerful about helping them find their voice through literature. The young women have gone from a point of not believing they could write, to seeing their writing published alongside award-winning authors. Thanks to Arts Council England for funding this project and others like it.’

To prepare the anthology, over 70 young women living and studying in Hounslow took part in arts workshops run by female writers. Work was also submitted for review as part of a remote mentoring program. I was fortunate enough to lead one of these sessions in Hounslow with a group of fifteen school girls. At times shy and funny, yet all remarkable – Inky Lemons is the culmination of all of their efforts.

The anthology also includes contributions from some of the country’s best poets and novelists, including:

Mona Arshi is a poet and lawyer. Her début collection of poems, Small Hands, won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2015.

Helen Calcutt is a poet. Her pamphlet collection Sudden Rainfall was shortlisted for the PBS Pamphlet Choice Award.

Fran Lock is a poet. She is the author of three poetry collections, Dogtooth, The Mystic and the Pig Thief, and Flatrock. She won third prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014

Rose McGinty is a novelist. Electric Souk was published in March 2017.

Desiree Reynolds is a writer, DJ and workshop facilitator. Seduce was published in 2013 and she is working on a collection of short stories.

Kate Wakeling is a poet. Her first collection of poems for children, Moon Juice won the 2017 CLiPPA Prize and has been nominated for the 2018 Carnegie Medal.

Inky Lemons (edited by Richard Skinner and published by Vanguard Editions Social Action) is available for £7.99 at https://hanworthcentre.org/inky-lemons-book/

Year of Indie Debuts : Magnetism – Ruth Figgest

Firstly an apology for the delay in posting the next in my series of Indie Debut blogs, I can only plead real life getting in the way, along with a healthy dose of snow!

But I’m back and this time speaking to Ruth Figgest about her novel, Magnetism, published by Myriad.

Hi Ruth, thanks for speaking to me about your book and your writing. Your story moved back and forth through time with ease, never losing the reader, so how do you manage to keep us on board? What techniques do you find helps in anchoring the narrative without being heavy handed?

Bearing in mind that it could potentially be frustrating for a reader, I tried to incorporate the real world into the story, in order for the reader to get references to historical events. In the first two chapters there are also references in the text to indicate the shift about to happen. I’ve  worked on ensuring that the voices of the characters remain in keeping with the times (in terms of terminology and what’s happening in the world) and their age at the time of the chapter. It’s all hugely helped by having the date of each chapter at the start, of course.

You kind of tell the story backward, so it to me it does have the sense of an autobiography, which lends a certain kind of veracity to the character’s stories. What strengths do you think starting with both an end and a beginning bring to your writing?

I think it’s really important to understand the story arc, that in writing a story you are constantly working toward the end. I’m pleased that it encouraged the sense of veracity about the characters by laying out the story of their lives through this structure. I had hoped that it would encourage interest in the material and create an satisfying tension for the reader, who (almost) always knows more about the future of the characters than they do.

I am very interested in playing around with time. We never remain fully in the present. We experience thoughts and associations constantly; our minds drift back to the past, and forward to the future. The inclusion of the past in this story allows the reader to understand the characters at a deeper level.

Having said that, it’s important for the writer to know the actual chronological experience of the characters, because otherwise it won’t make sense to the reader. The novel was written out of sequence. I came to understand the characters more and more in the process of creation and then I also added work that I thought would be useful for characterisation and plot development, but I always knew that Caroline would die, and that it would be a key dramatic development for Erica. 

The mother – daughter relationship, does it ever, can it ever run smoothly? I loved the way you write them, how the mother gives this impression on one hand of being laid back and not interfering in her daughter’s life and yet the second later is doing exactly that, attempting to control her in the same breath as protesting that she isn’t. I’m not going to ask if this is built on real life experience here, but is it based on real life observations?

I honestly don’t know what smoothly might look like because I think people are messy and imperfect and intimate relationships between messy and imperfect people are ripe with opportunities for misunderstandings and clashes as they each try to figure out what they want and who they want to be. Real life observations and personal experience tell me that a new mother is still in the process of becoming. She brings her fear, her immaturity and her baggage as well as her aspirations to parenting. 

Parents usually try their best to make their children feel secure and loved and confident, but their best might not be good enough or apt, because children are all different. It’s a fine line between supporting and stifling because it’s all too easy to fail to see a child as separate from yourself. It’s a formula for failure on both sides. Children have an idea of their parents which is incomplete; they fail to see their parents as individuals outside of their role. Parents can have issues with letting go, of allowing their children to be different, to want different things, to become grown-ups.

The plastic surgery in the book is such an interesting dynamic, and the sense that even though now we can ‘fix’ everything we don’t like about ourselves, we still remain unsatisfied. Was that something you wanted to explore in the story?

Yes. I wanted to explore the experience of women with regard to ageing and appearance. In the environment of this book plastic surgery is common place. I think the mother, Caroline, wants her daughter, Erica, to have a more pleasing appearance because she thinks it might improve her chances with men and a beautiful daughter might also reflect well upon her. But there’s a sense of anxiety about this even for Caroline. Though she pushes a young Erica to have surgery, she resists getting her own teeth cosmetically enhanced. The search for this kind of “perfection” becomes never ending and never satisfying. It is the result of fear. In the future the faces of people who die of old age may look forty years old, but they’ll still be dead.

How do you create the atmosphere in all the different locations and timescales you use? What research tools do you find helpful?

I think you have to think about popular culture, products, technology and clothing as well as attitudes. Checking out what was happening at the time of the story historically was helpful for structuring the story. I thought about putting the characters in situations where they think about events in the bigger world, and the growth of feminism, and of drug use and sexual freedoms are always in the background of the novel. I also tried to include climate in the book. In the Midwest, summer humidity and heat pervades absolutely everything.

What are you writing now, another American setting or somewhere else this time?

I always try to have two or more things on the go at once, so that I don’t take anything so seriously that I get anxious about it. It also means if one thing seems to be stuck, there’s something else to work on. I am presently making good progress with a novel which is based in Oxford, but I’m also working on a couple of other stories. One set in Turkey fifteen years ago, and another based in the UK. I’m sure I’ll write about an American setting again, but maybe not immediately.

What does your writing day look like?

There’s something about the rhythm of walking that helps me with beginning to write. I daydream about my characters and, when I’m driving or when I’ve got free time, I think with intention about their lives and potential plot developments. I’m a morning person so the best day is a very early walk with the dog and writing until the rest of my responsibilities press in and force me to stop.

I have a wonderful study and I climb up the stairs to work with expectation and a sense of excitement. I almost always write to classical music and I usually start by transcribing longhand work from my current notebook onto the screen, or with something I know needs more tweaking to make it good. This starting point gets me back into the work smoothly and after a while, I find that I’m writing new material and I can see the way ahead. This is a lovely sensation and at this point I allow myself to make a coffee because I know exactly where I’m going when I get back to the computer. Every few weeks I write with others at my home – we call it a “Just write” session – People can come and go as needed, but most turn up at ten and write without discussion until one o’clock when we might then chat about what we’ve been doing. It’s a good energy, this writing with others. 

And for my silly question, are you a long walk in the cold sort of person, or would you rather be waiting in the pub for everyone else to get there?

I’m guessing it’s the afternoon or evening, so I’m definitely waiting in the pub watching people while day dreaming, or reading a book. I’m extremely happy to wait in these circumstances.

 

You can buy Ruth’s book here, and if you have a mother I think you’ll find it hits home and makes you both grimace and grin as you read it.