Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Speed Dating’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include ‘a line’ in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Speed Dating Lines

“You’re a writer?”

She nodded, expecting him to make an excuse and move away, instead he asked, “Could you write me an original pick up line?”

“I’m not helping you lie.”

“Are you kidding?” He said waving his arm around the crowded venue. “Everyone’s expecting me to pretend.”

“You’re right. It’s so sad.” She stood, “I shouldn’t have come.”

“Wait, could I borrow your pen and notebook?”

She hesitated then pushed them towards him.

“I’m tired of pretending,” he wrote.

“Just be yourself,” she wrote back.

“Could we both be ourselves somewhere quieter?” he wrote.

She drew a smiley.

*****

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Unusual place for me, I know, but this is where Charli’s ‘lines’ brought me this week!

I’ve never been speed dating, having been (more or less!) happily married for over thirty years, but I’ve heard and read a lot about it, and I’m afraid many comments are negative. You all know by now that I’m an incurable romantic, so for this particular couple in my flash, it ended well, and might even be the start of something honest…

If you want to know more about speed dating, follow the link under the picture.

What’s your experience or thoughts on speed dating?

****

 

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Passing on the Spear’ #99Words

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include a fishing tale in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Passing on the Spear

After Ernest Hemingway’s novella ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

Manolin pounded his fists on the weathered door. “Santiago, I’ve brought you coffee!”

The old man had spent the last weeks chasing a giant marlin and fighting off sharks with a simple knife on his way back home. The boy admired him as the best fisherman.

“Get dressed, Santiago! We need to go out to sea again. There are plenty more marlins to catch!”

Santiago looked up, his eyes shining and beads of sweat dripping down his brow. “You go. Here, I give you my spear.”

“But you must teach me!”

“Not anymore. Now I must join the lions.”

****

This flash is a reinterpretation of the final scene of The Old Man and the Sea, where the Old man (Santiago) hands his spear over to his apprentice, the boy (Manolin) and closes his eyes dreaming of the lions he saw in his youth.

Santiago, believes his life has come to an end, after his final, exhausting and futile battle against the marlin and the sharks. He managed to return home, but the sharks ate his trophy, the marlin, which was strapped to the side of his ship, so he only had its carcass to show, and considers himself defeated.

The old man accepts his fate and the natural order of the cycle of life, according to which all creatures are both predator and prey. He has reached the end of his cycle and can no longer help his apprentice, Manolin. The old man gives the boy his spear, symbolically passing on his skill and encourages him to continue his own journey as fisherman. Meanwhile Santiago, dreams of the lions he saw in Africa when he was a young man.

****

This weekend I was lucky enough to have my grandchildren again. They asked me what my friend wanted me to write a story about and I said a fish. They both decided to draw a mermaid!

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Forest Bathing’ #99Words #MondayBlogs

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Inspirational Walks

The Verger at Rochester Cathedral heard the author’s cane tapping the cobbled streets below his window. He must be on his way back from his daily, inspirational walk from Gad’s Hill.

Mr. Miles stepped out to greet his old friend. Turk trotted by his master’s side biting a dry branch collected in the woods.

‘A cup of tea, Mr. Dickens?’

‘Not today, Mr. Miles. The seventh instalment of Edwin Drood awaits.’

Miles sighed, watching him trudge up the hill, stopping to peer at the little graveyard under the castle wall where he had expressed his desire to be buried.

****

Unfortunately, Charles Dickens died of a stroke before The Mystery of Edwin Drood was finished. Only six instalments were published. Dickens died in June and the seventh, unfinished instalment, would have been published in October 1870.

Neither was he buried at the cemetery at Rochester Cathedral, as had been his wish. Instead, he was buried at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, due to the pressure of Arthur Stanley, the Dean, who was searching for a famous writer to boost the prestige of the Abbey.

Turk was his favourite dog, but he died five years before him, so Turk wouldn’t have accompanied Dickens on his last walks.

According to his biographer, Peter Ackroyd, Charles Dickens walked for twelve miles a day, either along the London streets or in the countryside in Rochester, Kent, where he lived. He was usually accompanied by one or more of his many dogs.

He either walked on fact-finding missions for his novels, or for inspiration and tranquility.

Gad’s Hill, where he lived for the last years of his life, is a forty-minute walk from Rochester. Dickens preferred to walk alone because his purpose was to think and create. More information on Dickens walks here.

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I find walking in nature, is invigorating and inspiring, so I do it as often as possible. I often post pictures and poems or thoughts after my #SundayWalks, as I did yesterday, for example.

I’m fortunate enough to live in the country, and like Dickens, the town centre is about a 40 minute walk.

I used to walk with my dogs, but they’ve both passed away. I often walk with my grandchildren and children or my husband. I enjoy walking alone, but I don’t mind being accompanied. Even when I’m chatting with someone, I feel inspired and always take a notebook with me to jot down ideas.

Here’s a picture of a path I often take for my walks.

Here’s recent walk with my grandson, who loves inventing stories on our walks. On this occasion, some sheep had been put out to pasture that afternoon.

Does walking leisurely in a forest or the countryside open your senses and inspire you, too?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Bats’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include a bat in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Bats

‘Granny, what do bats eat?’

I sighed wishing my daughter was here to answer her son’s question. ‘I have no idea, Jimmy.’

‘We need to find out.’

‘Why is that, sweetie?’

‘We’re doing a class project about what animals eat and I got the bat.’

‘Let’s ask google.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘Someone who knows everything.’

‘Everything?’

I nodded and tapped the microphone. ‘Ask your question.’

‘What do bats eat?’ Jimmy asked.

A woman’s voice replied. ‘Most bats eat insects and are called insectivores…’

Mrs Google is a really clever lady, granny. Can we ask her when mummy is coming back?’

****

This weekend I was lucky enough to have my grandchildren visit. While we were busy doing some arts and crafts, I told my grandson I had to write a story about a bat. He was horrified at first and begged me to choose another animal, so I told him it had to be a bat, because Charli, was the boss and said it had to be a bat. He insisted they were black and ugly, so I suggested drawing a ‘cute’ bat.

This what he finally came up with. And he was wearing his batman sweatshirt!

While he was colouring his cute and colourful bat, I started jotting down some ideas and I asked him to help me write the bat story.

‘Shall we include a cave in the story?’ I asked him and he shook his head violently. ‘I want to know what bats eat.’ he said and so we asked Google and found out a few things about bats. He was relieved that they ate mostly insects!

We had a great time chatting about bats and colouring. His little sister joined us in the fun and his mum, my daughter, popped in now and again to check on our progress and chat. It was a lovely way to spend the evening, so I’m puzzled as to why my story took such a sad turn.

I suppose I was thinking how lucky we all are to have each other and how important siblings, parents and grandparents are for children. Sometimes we forget to value what we have, until we no longer have it. I certainly hope he never has to miss anyone in his family.

When we’d both finished our tasks, he said he’d like to send Charli the picture, so Charli, here’s the prettiest bat you’ll ever see! Thanks so much for the prompt and for hosting the weekly challenge.

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction ‘Red Ink’

Red Ink

The poet always wrote with red ink.

A constant reminder that his blood, the blood that pulsed through the fingers that held his pen, was red, not blue like the rippling sea, or black, like a moonless night…

His blood was red, a bold, vibrant scarlet, ablaze with love or hate, sometimes sizzling with lust, others fierce with rage, but never tepid.

His blood was red like a crimson dawn, or a ruby sunset.

Black or blue was the choice of those who embraced the vulgarity of conformity.   

He lifted his pen, growled at the blank page and bled.

****

T. S. Eliot’s well known quote, in which he compares writing to spilling out one’s soul, using ink instead of blood, prompted me to write this flash.

I’m sure he didn’t use red ink, or blood to write, but he wrote with fierce honesty, strength and beauty.    

****

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is ‘Ink’. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

1 Day to Book Launch of ‘Midsummer at Eyre Hall’: My Happy Ending, Thanks to Camus, Orson Welles and My Daughter.

Tomorrow is the big day. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is officially complete and available for purchase and download on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

My proof for the paperback version of Midsummer at Eyre Hall arrived today. I’ll be checking it through carefully, and it will be available to purchase in print before the end of the month.

Today’s post is about happy endings.

 

My Trilogy

The Eyre Hall Trilogy in my hands! What an exciting moment, even though Midsummer at Eyre Hall is the proof copy.

In this final post, I’m going to tell you about one of my greatest challenges. I needed to make sure the end of The Eyre Hall Trilogy was not disappointing for readers who had read the previous books. After their emotional investment and the time spent reading, I wouldn’t want to let them down.

The main dilemma regarding the ending: it  could be happy or not.

As I briefly discussed in my previous post, a happy ending is not mandatory in a romance, or in a gothic romance, or even in a Victorian gothic romance, but in the end, that’s what has happened in The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Why did I think of an unhappy ending in the first place?

Well, I didn’t want to be accused of promoting false expectations or chosing the easy way to end my trilogy on a marriage or birth, after all, the end, the real end of our lives, is pretty depressing.

I finally decided to stop at a happy moment, mainly because it was my daughter’s request and Camus’ influence, so I followed Welles advice and found the right place to stop in order to have an optimistic ending.

 

Orson-Welles-fun-wise-quotes

 

Before we continue, let’s take a few minutes to discuss happiness. What is happiness? What is a happy ending?

According to Camus, life becomes absurd once we realise that from the moment we are born, we are walking towards our inevitable death.

Life is absurd, but we can make one of two important choices: to live or to die.

We can exert our freedom and refuse to play the absurd game by committing suicide, or we can freely accept the absurdity of life and chose to be happy.

So, if we choose to be happy, we accept our transient nature and implicitly agree to make the most of our time here.

camus qute

Now, back to The Eyre Hall Trilogy. Why is it a happy ending?

Mainly because the main characters, the characters the reader cares most about, are in harmony with the life they lead at the moment the narrative stops. They have made their choices, fought for what they wanted, and they have achieved what they desired, so they are happy at the end.

On the other hand, not all the plot lines are tied up optimistically, and not all the characters are living in harmony. John, Annette and Susan made some unwise decisions which they will have to live with. There is a shadow looming over Michael due to some risky decisions he made, and of course, Jane is getting older towards the end of the novel, and although she is in good health, in Victorian England life expectancy was low, but I wrote ‘The End‘ before she died.

The final moment in Midsummer at Eyre Hall is full of harmony, but the characters, the reader, and the writer are well aware that this is a photograph of a fleeting moment. In any case, I hope you enjoy this temporary representation of happiness.

*****

The following is an extract from Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, where Charles Dickens and Jane Eyre are discussing the difficulty of ending a novel. Mr. Dickens is visiting Jane and they are chatting by the fireplace at Eyre Hall, after dinner. He calls her Miss Elliot, beause it was the pen name Jane used at that time.

It’s one of my favourite intertextual scenes in the novel; the author I most admire chatting to my favourite fictional character about literature. A magnificent moment.

****

Dickens Victorian lady

“The time has come to end this wonderful evening. I would not like to tire you, or I shall not be invited again.”

“Endings are so sad in real life, and so hard to write in fiction. How does an artist know a work of art has reached its end? And what is a good ending to a great story?”

“Indeed. It is no secret that I struggle with every ending.”

“I prefer happy endings, as you know, Mr. Dickens. Readers prefer a satisfactory conclusion. It makes the reading more rewarding.”

“Perhaps you are right, my dear Miss Elliot, but I am afraid it is not always possible.”

“Who should we bear in mind when writing the end, the reader or the story?”

“The reader always. We write for our readers. I had a more pessimistic ending for Great Expectations, but my dear friend Wilkie Collins persuaded me, or shall we say convinced me, that my readers would prefer a more positive ending, so I left the door open for Pip and Estella.”

“And are you pleased with this modification?”

“Yes. I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable with the altered ending. After all, I think Wilkie was right. It is for the better.”

“I must admit, it is one of my favourite novels, and I am glad you decided to present a happy ending. Would you read the last chapter before we retire?”

“It would be a pleasure, Miss Elliot.”

She handed me a copy of Great Expectations. I opened the last chapter and read the ending she wanted to hear.

‘I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

Seconds later, I closed the book and watched a single tear slide down her cheek.

“Thank you, Mr. Dickens. That is the most perfect ending anyone has ever written.”

I wanted to add that it was a mere illusion, because there can be no happy ending to any story. We will have to surrender everything we have, in the end, and we will leave this planet as naked and helpless as we came, but I was silent. Why spoil the magic moment?

*****

What kind of endings do you prefer in the novels you read or write?

Why I write neo-Victorian Fiction

I’ve had a special and personal interest in Victorian Literature since I was about 12, when my teacher, Sister Catherine, used to read aloud to us, mostly Victorian novels, which I grew to love. She introduced me to the Victorians. I vividly remember listening to The Moonstone, David Copperfield, Little Women, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. I can still hear her soft sibilant voice tell us all those wonderful stories, which made us laugh and cry. I wrote a post about Sister Catherine some time ago.

 

Moonstone

I write historical fiction because I love travelling in time and space. I’m not interested in purposefully (I’m afraid I can’t control my subconscious) writing about myself or my contemporaries, at the moment. I prefer to lose myself in other places and eras. I’m especially obsessed with Victorian times and writers, because they have become my beacon in the sea of words and ideas I need to express.

I am fascinated by novels such as Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Silas Marner, Persuasion, Tess of the d’Urbevilles, The Woman in White, etc. My inspiration and ideas come mainly from 19th and 20th century writers, especially the Victorians. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a tribute to my Victorian ‘Masters’ who introduced me to the pleasure of reading and taught me the craft of writing. Many of these writers and their literary creations appear throughout my trilogy.

Jane Eyre

History is continuous, and understanding can only occur in retrospect. We need to stand back and expose the prejudice and injustices of the past in order to understand the present and move forward. This can only occur in retrospect. If you take a step back from a problem you have a better angle. You can now see the whole picture. It’s happened and it’s over. You can understand it better.

We congratulate ourselves because we have a fairer education system and more freedom of choice, gender equality, but I’m asking readers to walk in Victorian shoes, to understand our literary grandfathers and where we come from. How we fought to gain these social advances and why the struggle is ongoing.

All Hallows Museum

Which writers have influenced me?

My most important influence is Charlotte Bronte. Her literary creations, Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester, Richard Mason, and Bertha Mason have come to life once more, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre ended. I have also brought to life the original setting and recreated a new residence for the Rochester family, after Thornfield Hall was burnt down, Eyre Hall.

Charles Dickens appears as a character in my novel. I have read many of his novels, letters, and biographies, so I have enjoyed recreating his voice and opinions in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. Charles Dickens’ London is also present in my recreation, and I have used many old maps of London, pictures and photographs of the time, to inspire me and take me around the city.

dickens

Robert Browning also appears, after his wife Elizabeth Barret Browning died, as Mr. Greenwood, Adele’s suitor. I read Thomas de Quincy’s detailed account of his opium addiction in Confessions of an Opium Eater, in order to write about the use and effects of opium at the time.

Jenny Rosset is based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s long poem, Jenny, about a Victorian prostitute. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson is referred to. Michael Kirkpatrick is partly a combination of Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth and Thomas Hardy’s Gabriel Oak.

The characters in the Eyre Hall Trilogy read and discuss novels such as, Treasure Island, Persuasion, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Silas Marner, and Wuthering Heights, among others. They also read and quote poems by Christina Rossetti, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Anne Bronte, and Robert Browning.

Dorian Gray

In my final volume, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, makes special reference to Maria or the Wrongs of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft, Frankenstein by her daughter, Mary Shelley, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by R. L. Stevenson, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, among others.

What are my aims in writing neo-Victorian novels?

I had four objectives when I decided to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy:

Firstly, my aim was to expose Rochester as a tyrant and revindicate Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic, as his victim. I am sure that Jane Eyre would have become another victim, given a few years, which is what is disclosed in my novel.

Secondly, I wanted to make sure that amends would be made, so Bertha’s daughter (my creation) would be reinstated, and Jane would find happiness and lasting love, with another, worthier man (my creation).

Thirdly, I’ll admit I’m an irreverent, daring, and provocative writer, who looks to her favourite writers for inspiration. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is meant as a tribute to many Victorian (and some 20th century) authors, which I have already named.

Twelfth Night Billboard

Finally, I aim to write novels that will entertain readers and transport them to another time and place, to a pre-digital and pre-electronic age, where our great-great grandparents lived and loved, just as intensely as we do today, in spite of not having lightbulbs, cars, phones or tablets.

If my readers are encouraged to read or reread the classics, that would be an extra bonus!

I’ve written a previous article about writing prequels and sequels here: https://lucciagray.com/2014/11/08/sequels-prequels-reinterpretations-rewritings-and-writing-back/

How have I approached neo-Victorian fiction?

I’ve used the following literary strategies:

Intertextuality:  A literary device that creates an ‘interrelationship between texts’. I’ve included texts, plots, characters, from other novels in my novels.

My most important sources are the characters, plot and setting in the prequel Wide Sargasso Sea as well as Jane Eyre.

Metafiction: Literature talking about literature.

Charles Dickens discusses the process of writing with Jane, inviting the reader to think about literature and the process of literary creation. Jane also talks about the books she writes and her writing process.

Postcolonialism: Writing back to the ‘Empire’ and traditional Victorian writers.

I’ve done this by paying attention to the secondary or marginalized characters who would have been ignored at the time, such as the servants and the prostitute.

I’ve read between the lines of Charlotte Bronte’s unreliable narrator: a young, naïve woman who is in love, and looked below the surface for hidden meanings.

Feminism: Empower Jane to move on without/in spite of Mr. Rochester and I’ve made an attempt to reinstate Bertha Antoinette Mason.

Lucy writing

What’s my writing process like?

At this point, I ought to tell you that before I sit down and write, I have ‘seen’ the scene in my mind and heard the characters interacting. I usually jot down a few ideas and do lots of research which includes finding pictures and specific information, too.

The Eyre Hall trilogy is character driven. I plan a simple, loose plot outline, basically three parts and thirty chapters, and let the characters interact and move the plot forward. I need to know what my characters want, how they feel, what they’re wearing, looking at, thinking about, and doing, before I write. I learn more about them as I listen to them and watch them interact.

I’m overjoyed when readers recognize my sources, and I love it when they say they’re going to reread the original Victorian novels I mention, this isn’t my main aim. I’d like my readers to walk in Victorian shoes, to understand our literary grandfathers and grandmothers and where we come from.

My objective is to write novels that will entertain all types of readers and transport them to another time and place, where there were no light bulbs, phones, fridges, malls, emails, mobiles, planes, or cars; to the world where our great-great grandparents lived and loved just as intensely as we do today.

Are you interested in reading and reviewing my novels? I’d love to hear from you!