Noah, or the guiding voice within


Darren Aronofsky’s rendition of the biblical saga, Noah, which I can highly recommend, explores the loss of the guiding voice within, the one that people attribute to God. Cut off from that creative life force, Noah clings to what he believes to be right. And in that unbending adherence to a rigid set of ideas he progressively becomes a traitor to life and the inevitable tragedy ensues. Ideas or principals when they are no longer anchored in life fuel hatred and destruction. The film ultimately has love, family and little children triumph. But that apparent resolution must surely be seen as sidestepping the challenge of connecting to our inner voice and, beyond that, the quest for spiritual connectedness.


Fiction Master Class


Today was the first part of a master class about fiction with Michèle Roberts organized by the Geneva Writers Group. This gave rise to a number of pieces which I publish here.

Automatic writing: I want

I want a basket of fruit so that I can squash the bananas and peaches and grapes between my toes and listen to the squelching sound as I squeal with pleasure….

Names and us: What’s in a name?

My name is Peter McCloud. Peter like in Peter Pan; the boy who never got old. I love the name, but I wish it were Anne. At least I can dream. As for McCloud, it’s a beautiful name, so light and full of inspiration. Though when teachers call me that, it rings so formal. And it ties me to the McClouds. I don’t want that. My father died when I was very young and my mother and sister became so beastly. No. Just Peter, that’s me.

Peter is the main character in Boy & Girl and in In Search of Lost Girls.

Food from childhood: Beans on toast

Mum is not home and Dad is at work, so I have to cook. Beans on toast. I love the smell. I could gulp down the whole tin, but I have to share with my two young sisters. The reek of the burnt match and the hiss of the gas flame make me sick. God knows why. I try to close my nose to it, but the stink hangs on. Pre-cut bread under the grill, one slice each, done on one side only. I lay out three plates, melt marg on the toast and dish out the beans. One spoon for each girl and two for me, till there is no more in the pan. And I get to lick the spoon. Now’s the key time. As I turn my back to cut the gas, the plates whip round till my whopper serving stands in front of sis.

A hundred words of one syllable: Sigh

Help. Not here. Not now. I sink to the floor. As the pain hits me hard in the gut, my lips move but no words come out lest it be a moan that I can’t hold back. I close my eyes and lie stiff with dread, sweat on my brow. I might once have been smart, yet I find no way out. So few words are left me now, all the rest lay lost by the way. My time is over, the end has come. Help.

A sex scene like we’ve never lived it: Please

“Please don’t touch,” I whisper, my voice uncertain, as she rests her hand lightly on my knee and squeezes.

It’s not that I don’t want her to, I tremble with desire at the thought if it, but I’m afraid if she does, I will no longer be able to keep a hold on myself, I will dissolve and flow into her till there’s nothing left of me but a shiver of pleasure.

I close my eyes but that only heightens my senses. I see her face in my mind. I love the way she smiles as if her smile were a familiar presence in the pit of my stomach. I love the wrinkles that form around her eyes, the fullness of her lips. How often have I dreamt of kissing them, sweet and soft and succulent? I’ve spent hours watching her from the far reaches of the class, till her face was almost a part of me, warming my insides. And yet I hesitate.

When I open my eyes, I steal a glance at her face. She is looking off into the distance, but feeling my gaze she turns and smiles.

“Please,” I plead, unsure if I am beseeching her to go on or to let me be.

She leans ever closer till I can feel the warmth of her breath on my face and her lips touch mine, at last. I can’t help sighing. How could I possibly have been so afraid? This feels so right, so good. Then when she pulls back I feel so cold and bereft that I grab her blouse in my fist and jerk her into my arms. She lets herself be held for a while before responding, then she pulls me in an eager embrace, her hands snaking down my back as she presses her breasts against mine.

Back to the new novel…

After a number of weeks without writing my new novel, partly due to extra translation and editing work and a bout of illness, I finally got back to it today and finished chapter six. Here’s a tiny snippet to wet your appetite:

The giant took a threatening step forward as if he were about to punch Sniffer. When he was only a few feet away, Sami lightly brushed the man’s arm with her hand and the giant halted, starring briefly at his arm, a perplexed look on his face. Little more than a heart beat had gone by, but Jon wondered if Sami had swayed the man’s behaviour as the giant abruptly changed his mind.

Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief


Read my review of Rick Riodan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Here’s the beginning of the review:

Before I begin, let me say I enjoyed Rick Riodan’s Percy Jackson story. According to my local bookseller, Mathew Wake, the book has had quite a success with young people. I listened to the audio version twice. The gleeful helter-skelter of action kept the story and me as reader moving forward. But the book left me unsatisfied and I wanted to know why. (Read on)

Draft of a short story

I have just completed the draft of a short story that I have been writing for the GWG Fiction Masterclass with Michele Roberts in April. The story is called The Complex Weaver. Here are the first couple of paragraphs of the draft:

“He’s not a Complex Weaver…”

The young woman’s voice broke off. Such words should never have been heard, but the Lord’s Keeper strode in at that moment and there was a lull in the bray of voices. He rarely had business in the tavern and his presence never left indifferent.

Conversation faltered, then failed completely, lapsing into awkward silence. Some eyed the elegantly attired Keeper, but most of the men glanced in the woman’s direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of the one who had dared say that name (…)

Review: Cruel Beauty


Read my review of Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty.

Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty is a retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Divided into three parts, the first part deals with the period before Nyx, alias Beauty, goes to join her new husband, the ‘Beast’, ironically named the Gentle Lord. The second and most substantial part portrays the evolution of Nyx’s feelings for her monster husband. And the final part, unravels a number of complex threads and draws the story to a conclusion. (Read on)

Short story: The Lift

Read my latest short story called The Lift. It began as an exercise with Marie José during a GWG workshop on dialogue, but quickly took on a life of its own. Here’s the first paragraph.

Catching sight of her striding after him as he hurried into the lift, he was relieved when the doors started to close and a mechanical voice said: Ground floor. Going up… (Read on)

The new novel…

In the six days since I began my new novel, I have written five chapters, that’s over 10’000 words. I don’t get so much sleep as fragments of the novel come unbidden in the middle of the night. Today I’m taking a day off to read what I have written and see if I’m on course. I’m not sure I will be able to resist continuing the story…

Review: Harvest


Read my review of William Horwood’s book, Harvest. Here is an extract:

(…) The flow of time of the Hydden, the little people that live unseen at the edge of the human world in William Horwood’s Hyddenworld series, might seem laborious to us, accustomed as we are to rushing from one event to another without taking the time to stop and look and listen. Maybe it is this failure to pause and savour life to the fullest that contributes most to our inability to see and appreciate the Hydden and their way of life (…) Read on.

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