Objection and ME

I’m annoyed. Annoyed at myself mainly, but also annoyed at this condition I suffer from. (Last week I published a post about ME, which you can read here.)

As part of my MA in writing I set to writing a World War One novel. There were two main reasons for doing this. The first was that I have always had a love for history, and learning the lessons of the past to contextualise where we are today. As a teenager, I visited the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres. The graves and memorials set off something in me, something that I can only describe as a longing to understand “why”?

The second reason for writing the novel is that I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone of science fiction and fantasy and take advantage of the advice and guidance available on my Masters.

The more I researched the setting the more I saw how much Liverpool was linked to the war, and how much it was shaped by it. Everything around me held some link to the war. There were also several Liverpool regiments that fought in the bloodiest battlefields of the Great War. There were so many stories that needed to be told. I’d also watched a Sky one show called ‘Chickens’ about the conscientious objectors, those that refused to fight in the First World War, and it struck me that even a hundred years later these people were considered to be cowards. It infuriated me, and I decided to put a conscientious objector in my novel; the soldier’s brother.

Through drafting it became more and more obvious that both brothers had a story to tell, and through their contrasting stories would show the greater horror of The Great War.

I’m annoyed because last May (2016) I finished the full manuscript of the novel. (The first part was heavily edited as part of my portfolio work for my MA), and I was fairly happy to start sending it out to agents.

I’m annoyed because I then got very ill. I had the worst sinus infection I have ever had, and begun to feel like I did before I was first diagnosed with ME. I’ve only recently started to get back on my feet.

I’m annoyed because I’ve been sending it out to agents recently, but I’m worried that they will think I only wrote this novel to ride on the interest and popularity of the centenary of the First World War, which to me was merely a coincidence for the reasons I have mentioned earlier. I’m also worried that because it is already 2017 and a publishing cycle usually takes about two years (or so I believe?), that agents/publishers won’t take a risk because they think that it will miss the centenary of the end of the war, and the resultant interest.

I’m also annoyed because the film Hacksaw Ridge came out of left field and told the story of a ‘conchie’ in the second world war. It’s a different story, as conchies in WWI arguably had to go through a lot more, but it’s still a concern that people may feel this novel was written due to that. (I wish I could write 130,000 words that quickly!)

I hope that someone will pick it up. It was a very important story to write, and an important story to tell. I genuinely believe people will gain something from reading it. It would be a shame for it to sit in my drawer for the rest of my days.

If you know someone who may be interested, or are interested yourself, please get in contact. I will be more than happy to hear from you!

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Dickens in Space

I’m ill.

I’m supposed to be editing a second draft of a story due to its deadline being on Saturday, but I can’t concentrate. So, I thought the best writing I could do in this state is to tell you about something I did in class last week. I also just wrote this once and Google Chrome, in its infinite wisdom, decided to quit. So here is attempt number two. Probably quite apt, as I’m sure what I typed before was better.

In class last week we analysed a piece of prose in a group, discussing everything we could think of from sentence structure and rhythm to semantic feel and the metaphors used. At the time we didn’t know who our piece of prose was written by, but after our lecturer suggested we read it out loud, I noted it reminded me of the start of a Dickensian film where there is narration and the camera is zooming into the scene. The piece was actually the beginning of Dombey and Son by – you guessed it! – Charles of the Dickens clan. It raised an interesting point, Dickens actually made more money from reading his work than from writing. So, if you struggle reading his work, try reading it aloud, or try and audio book. It makes an interesting difference, particularly to rhythm and pacing.

As homework from this we were tasked with taking a scene we had written and writing a pastiche. In basic terms, every story has a scene, but stories vary in style, so we had to take a scene and write it in the style of the author we analysed; Charles Dickens. It was one of the hardest things I have had to write so far. Thankfully I have read Dickens (I hadn’t read any of the others the other groups looked at), but I have a very contemporary style, that is influenced heavily by modern science fiction. This led to the title of this blog as myself and the other members of my group (all science fiction and fantasy writers) shared our pieces. I suggested Rob should turn his (excellent) piece into Dickens in Space using his usual hilarious comedy stylings. So keep an eye out for that one!

I don’t feel my piece was as good as the others, but I tried none the less. What follows is a scene written for the story I mentioned earlier, re-written in the style of Charles Dickens. Be prepared to laugh, to cry and the throw your computer out of the window in disgust! Without further ado (What is ado?) I give you Endaris by Michael J. (Dickens)

Endaris in the style of Dickens

Michael J. Hollows

The royal court, home to the godly, powerful, and undying king, sat in the heart of Endaris; where the houses lined the city in rows, short, thin, and narrow, like precessions of match sticks, although the inhabitants seldom matched; great grass courtyards grew in splendid colours, like the grasping tendrils of the forest that lay to the south, but controlled and trimmed, synonymous with the populace of the city. Those in power lived in mansions, around the houses, housing the round. They longed for the decorative comfort of indoors, past shuttered doors, and jealous stares.

One such man was Rao, the councillor of councillors, and he shut the door behind him, the door that resembled a wooden face. The hallway was closed-in, like a burial chamber, and claustrophobic in its likeness; where the surfaces were covered in blood, but not the blood of men, rather, merely the suggestion that blood had, could, or would be spilt, as the flickering candle of illumination cast its red-orange hue on the stone steps that led, threateningly, up towards the audience chamber, like the steps of a throne, towering above lesser men. Rao ascended the steps, though his heavy heart passed the other way, ever towards the audience and his doom, through blood-casting candles, and through rooms filled with judging portraits, he continued, forever up.

In the court, the room overflowing with people, like a lake in midwinter, water rushing away, free to its path, his erstwhile colleagues, less erstwhile than colleagues, laughed and joked at Rao’s expense, but he would have the last laugh.

Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!