Friday, 21 September 2018

My poems in The Pangolin Review. Scroll down through the PDFs to SEA DANCE.


Sunday, 19 August 2018

This is so useful and so insightful.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Asking the Universe for the Golden - Published by Pangolin Review

I so enjoyed writing this little poem, which is a response to a writing trigger at Cellar Arts Club, to compose a poem based on a colour. "Golden" seemed a good choice, as it's so steeped in lovely literary layers.

My poem is in part 2 of the publication, see link below. All the poems are worthy of reading, but if you are short of time and want to find mine quickly, go to the bottom of the section and scroll up 10 poems.


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Barbara Cartland, Queen of Romance, Born Today 9 July 1901

Dame Barbara Cartland in 1987 by Allan Warren

I remember her well, batting her enormous black eyelashes on TV, swathed in glorious frothy frills and furs and lace and hats. Oh, and enormous hair! There was no one like her and never will be again. Of course, she was madly non-pc, especially by today's terms. But, for all that, she had a certain, rather terrifying, panache.  She wrote over 700 romantic novels - heaven knows where she managed to find 700 different romantic plots. (Is that possible?  I really couldn't say.)

She was born in Birmingham Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland.

Her writing career was not confined to the romance novels.  She was a reporter for The Daily Express in 1920, specialising in writing society material. Some time ago I read one of her biographies, the one about Napoleon's Josephine, and I remember being impressed with the quality of her writing, having had it drummed into me that everything she wrote was formulaic, predictable and trivial. Not entirely true!

Her romances may not have been literature, but they were extraordinarily successful for all that and gave immense pleasure to many women during difficult times, although they may not have furthered the causes of feminism! The main charges against them was they were always about "ideal" upper class women who always did the right thing, beat the bad girl to get their man through their virtuous sweetness, and were rewarded with long and lasting happiness for their rightness and their commitment to the greater good of the male sex.

Cartland married two McCorquodales, cousins Alexander and Hugh (although not at the same time, of course.) Her daughter, Raine, was the result of her marriage to Alexander McCorquodale, and Raine, as we know, married the 8th Earl Spencer, and became the step-grandmother of Princess Diana.

Barbara Cartland also concerned herself vigorously with human rights and achieved some fine results. According to the website

"She also campaigned for better condition and salaries for midwives and nurses. For her contribution in this field, she received Dame of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem."

This multi-faceted woman died of cancer in the year 2000 aged 98.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Ernest Hemingway Remembered on the Anniversary of his Death, 2nd July 1961

Ernest Hemingway, Image: Open Culture

This Sunday, 2nd July, is the anniversary of the death of the novelist, Ernest Hemingway, in 1961. A prolific writer and storyteller, Hemingway was not religious but he was a great moral thinker, using biblical concepts to inform his writing.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American writer of novels and short stories, although he is more highly regarded for his short stories. He was the son of a doctor from Illinois and began his writing career as a Kansas City reporter. In 1918 during the First World War, Hemingway volunteered to serve on an ambulance unit on the Italian front, where he was wounded.
Later, he became a reporter for the Toronto Star. In time he was mixing with such icons as Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein. He became a war correspondent during the Second World War, and in his later years, spent his life in Cuba, which, together with his liking for deep-sea fishing, provided him with the background for his fine, philosophical novella, The Old Man and the Sea.
Hemingway - Much Married
Hemingway was married four times. His first wife was Hadley Richardson whom he married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Hemingway and his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer were divorced in 1940, and then he was married for the third time to Martha Gellhorn. They divorced in December 1945 and the following March, Hemingway married his fourth and last wife, Mary Welsh.
A Novella and a Parable - One of Hemingway's Finest Novels
In simple prose, The Old Man and the Sea explores what is most meaningful and painful about the human spiritual journey. Its central character, the fisherman Santiago, develops a relationship with another creature, an enormous marlin, which he holds in great respect for its courage, endurance and beauty – while trying to hunt it down and destroy it. Eventually, Santiago's central purpose shifts and the great fish's destruction is more about Santiago's pride than his hunger.
Hemingway said, "I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough, they would mean many things."
Certainly, they are good and true. The fish represents religion, while the struggle between man and marlin is symbolic of the struggle for faith and meaning as the two central protagonists become strangely attracted. Although Santiago, metaphorically speaking, reels in his prize, by then it is no more than a carcass since the sea, representing life, has sent sharks to consume the beautiful fish. Santiago's greed has been punished, although his courage and spirit remain triumphant.
It is hard to believe after reading the novel that its author was not a religious man since his writing is steeped in biblical allusions. Interesting as the allegorical levels of his novella are, it is the simplicity of Hemingway's prose that makes the characters, man and fish, especially real. He received a Pullitzer Prize in 1952 and two years later, the Nobel Prize.
Some of Hemingway's Major Works
In Our Time (1925) ~ The Torrents of Spring (1926) ~ The Sun Also Rises (called Fiesta in Britain, 1926) ~ Men without Women (1927) ~ A Farewell to Arms (1929) ~ Death in the Afternoon (1932) ~ Winner Take Nothing (1933) ~ Green Hills of Africa (1935) ~ To Have and Have Not (1937) ~ The Fifth Column (1938) ~ For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) ~ The Old Man and the Sea (1952.) There were two novel published posthumously: Islands in the Stream (1970) and The Garden of Eden (1986.) The Dangerous Summer tells of Hemingway's trip to Spain in 1959 and A Moveable Feast was a memoir of his time in Paris after World War One.
He committed suicide by shooting himself in July, 1961, after a long illness.
·      The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, Editor: Ian Ousby, (1988) The Cambridge University Press.
·      Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea, (1952) Scribner.

·      The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Editor: Margaret Drabble, (1987) Book Club Associates, Guild Publishing.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Linked Short Stories - the Best of Both Worlds

I love linked short stories.

People who prefer novels often say it's because they have become attached to the characters - a short story doesn't fulfil that sense of "I'm going to be with this narrative for a while and, yes, I really care about what happens next."  So, if you want to get to know a character and make him or her part of your precious inner fictive reality, then maybe a short story isn't going to work for you.

I understand this completely, although I truly love the short story as a particular literary form that is spare, concise and self-contained and sometimes poetic or lyrical.


Inspired by an excellent TV series based on Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," I picked up a book from the shelf, one I've had for some time. It's a linked series of stories by Margaret Atwood entitled "Moral Disorder" and was published in 2006. I have read a lot of her work in the past, but I'd forgotten just how much I enjoyed it. 

As with most short story collections, the title is that of one of her stories. 

I love Nell and Tig. Margaret Atwood explores their lives, in Nell's first-person narrative, in eleven delightful, self-contained stories, which seem commonplace (although commonplace in gorgeous language.)  Yet the depths of her incredible insights may only dawn on you after you have read for a little while.

People are, by definition, so irritating and so adorable and there is nothing ordinary about them, ever! The characters are beautifully dissected as Atwood's sharp analytical dagger of perception stabs into the most private and awkward places. Yet she is always kind and not judgemental.

Her first short story is "The Bad News" and wow! is it easy to make analogies with what is going on today? Tig wants to get "The Bad News" off his chest the moment he opens the newspaper, but Nell needs time before she is ready to face being able to "absorb, to cushion, to turn the calories of bad news - and it does have calories, it raises your blood pressure." It's impossible not to identify with her characters, to understand yourself more fully as a consequence of reading her.

Yes, bad news is definitely very high in calories and we can all do with less of it.

If I ever write another fiction book, it's going to be a book of linked short stories. They won't be a patch on Margaret Atwood's, but maybe I will come up with something worth reading, some new insights, a neat turn of phrase, a memorable metaphor!  Who knows?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Frank Parker - Interview with an Author of Great Historical Fiction

You were an engineer before you retired, but when did you actually start writing, and why?  

I wrote on and off throughout my adult life. I started doing it seriously – as my main occupation – after retirement at an online magazine called Suite101 (I think that's where we first encountered each other!) This was 2010 and about the same time I heard of a local writers' group and joined them. It was all good experience and encouragement.

Was it something you always wanted to do from childhood?

Absolutely. When I left school I thought I might join the local weekly newpaper as a junior reporter. I was told that only a handful of those who became reporters actually made it as professional writers. “Get a trade: you can always try writing later, then if you don't succeed you'll have the trade to fall back on”. So I took up an apprenticeship as a Mechanical Engineer.

Your blog says you "retired" to Ireland. Are you actually Irish?  

No. Back in the early nineties my son, who is a psychiatric nurse, was working in Frimley. He met a nurse there who happened to be Irish. They settled in London after marriage but when their child was approaching school age they couldn't afford housing near a good school so decided to come to Ireland where the 'Celtic Tiger' had just taken off. When I retired it was a natural choice to go and live near them.

Do you read any particular Irish writers to help inspire your own writing?

I do read a lot of Irish writers. Colm Toibin, Colum MacCann, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, John Boyne – to name just a few! But I also read many English, American and “New World” writers also.

What was your first real success? 

I'm stll waiting for that! Although I have self-published four novels and two collections of short stories, none of them sell in significant numbers. It's a good month if I get a couple of sales via Amazon. I've recently started selling print copies of Strongbow's Wife via visitor centres in Irish heritage sites. I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

Do all your novels have a historical background? 

Yes. The exception would be Transgression which is set in the present day but has a back story covering the whole of the period since WWII. So not really an exception at all!

Do you have a "muse"? 

I'm not even sure what that is. The nearest thing would be the Writers' Group, especially its leader. She and they are very supportive.

How much do you edit before you are satisfied/ Can a writer "over-edit" do you think?

I probably don't do enough editing. Strongbow's Wife went through 7 drafts before I was satisfied. Transgression had about the same number of drafts plus a professional edit. As for “over-editiing”, I think you know when your WIP is the best it can be. It's striking a balance between having the patience to keep polishing and believing it's good enough to release to the world.

Does your mood make a difference to your writing?  Some writers are most productive when they are under stress.. Others try to achieve a real distance from their characters before they can write about them. What works best for you? 

I'm a great one for indulging in diisplacement activity. I'm not sure if that is something to do with mood. More to do with having the self discipline to grapple with difficult scenes. I find that I have to work scenes out in my head before I start writing – not that the scene always ends the way I originally expected!

Any tips you can share to help other writers? 

I'm wary of giving tips as I still regard myself as a beginner. The only thing I would say, and it's a cliche, is never give up.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about myself and my “practice”.

(Interviewer's footnote: Frank Parker is far too modest!) 

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