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Daily Archives: November 24, 2012

Author Spotlight no.139 – Valerie Laws

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-ninth, is of Valerie Laws.

Valerie Laws is a crime and comedy novelist, poet, performer, playwright and sci-art installation specialist. Her eleven published books include award-winning crime fiction (‘The Rotting Spot’) in paperback and as an indie kindle, and a comedy adult-YA cross-over e-book (‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’), poetry (latest ‘All That Lives’, ‘CSI: Poetry’ of sex, death and pathology), drama…

In recent years she has been Writer in Residence at Gordon Pathology Museum, London and Kings College London Medical School, and at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, working with neuroscientists, dementia specialists, and pathologists on human specimens to study the science of dying and brain pathology.

She has written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio. Many prizes and awards include Wellcome Trust Arts Award, twice prizewinner in National Poetry competition, two Northern Writers Awards. Invents new forms of poetry, devising science-themed installations and commissions including the world-infamous Arts Council-funded QUANTUM SHEEP spray-painting random haiku onto live sheep, still widely published and publicised.

Her quantum haiku on inflatable beach balls featured in BBC2 TV’s Why Poetry Matters with Griff Rhys Jones, later live at Royal Festival Hall. Poetry audio-visual installations which move and change to reflect their subjects have featured in public exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Berlin, and her computer-controlled illuminated embedded haiku WINDOW OF ART is in St Thomas Hospital, London. Many other residencies, including in Egypt; newly at Dilston Physic Garden, Northumberland. She performs her work live at festivals and events and in the media worldwide.

And now from the author herself:

My latest book is my comedy e-book, my first as an indie author. It’s hard to pin down the genre, but if I say ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ is Pride and Prejudice told in the voice of the youngest Bennet sister, the outrageous and shameless hussy Lydia, but in modern teen language with Georgian derivations, it will give you an idea! It’s not just a retelling from her point of view, for in my book Lydia is a lot cleverer and more ruthless than the others think, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and a lot goes on that Darcy, Lizzy, and even Jane Austen knew nothing about. It’s in the form of a blog so it’s a bit like Adrian Mole crossed with a younger Bridget Jones in Georgian times. The book idea just sprang into my head – I’ve always felt she gets a raw deal in the original book and I wanted to tell her story and for her to win! I like to cheer on underdogs! But I wanted her to stay shameless and full of herself. She is truly a modern teenager as Austen wrote her.

I’ve written ten books published in paperback by publishers – then my publisher let me put ‘The Rotting Spot’ on Kindle myself, cue learning all about formatting! Then I got an agent for ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ but he couldn’t get me a publisher. They are wary of anything genre-busting, and also were wary of my heroine dissing the sacred Mr Darcy! So I put the book out on kindle and Smashwords, and it’s had great five-star reviews from writers like Linda Gillard, Catherine Czerkawska and Paul Magrs.

You’ll see a strong science thread running through my work, including physics, bio-medical science, pathology, and also comedy. I like to write in celebration, sometimes of things like skulls, and brains, and dead babies in jars, and the lives of people unsung by history. I like to give a voice to people and things both real and imagined. I like to know how, why, things work or happen. My Residencies in dissection, pathology and brains were my response to witnessing the deaths of both of my parents. I wanted to know what was happening inside when someone dies. This sense of exploration and wonder at human anatomy is in my poetry but also in my crime fiction – my first crime novel, ‘The Rotting Spot’, has a skull-collecting theme and forensic interests. It also has a sparky female homeopath protagonist, a sexy fit Detective Inspector who fancies and dislikes her, and family secrets in a sea-washed location.

But I also like to write comedy, I write funny poems about post-divorce dating and sex, my crime fiction has dark comedy in it especially in the dialogue, and my plays, mostly about local historical characters, combines moving tragedy with comedy. Sex and death, comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears, they are what life is about and I write about both sides of life!

Ah, I met Paul Magrs at booQfest in September. A really nice guy. You can find more about Valerie and her writing via…

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mike Walters – the five hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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Short Story Saturday Story 001: A Walk to Destiny by Jane Risdon

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday story slot and the first story in this series. Because I have a 1,000-word limit on the Flash Fiction Fridays, I’ve decided (helped by Jane!) to add a story to the SSS slot and I shall be alternating (because I just don’t have the time to do both, sorry!) between a full short story and a review. Here is one of Jane’s, a great 1,410-worder. 🙂

A Walk To Destiny

The ancient wooden gate creaked loudly as she pushed against it. The leaf-dappled lane she found herself in smelled of damp earth, moss, and rotting leaves which stuck to the bottoms of her walking shoes as she made her way slowly, taking in the sheer peace of the place. As sunlight filtered through the heavy tree canopy and danced upon the ground in front of her she could hear rustling and fluttering as birds and other small animals moved about their business inside the thick green hedges stretching as far as she could see on either side of the lane.

Overhead high in the blue cloudless sky an aeroplane droned as it climbed higher and she thought how typical of a summer day that sound was. It never failed to remind her of her childhood. She was transported back to about age five, reading ‘Dick and Dora’ and ‘Janet and John’, somewhere outside, bathed in sunshine and with the smell of freshly-mown grass. Somehow it made her feel safe and happy.

After a few minutes she came to a stile, made of rusted iron overgrown with vegetation, and she took great care climbing over it – even though she wore jeans – she was wary of the stinging nettles.

She stood looking around at the slight change of landscape. To her left there was a vast expanse of farmland, some fields looked as if something was growing there, but she could not see what, other fields looked fallow.

Beyond the fields in the distance the land rose and was covered in a mass of green. Dark green, light green and almost grey-green leafed trees seemed to hover above the fields. They looked wonderful against the blue sky; almost Germanic. Memories of the Ruhr valley came to mind and the endless swathes of forests she had loved when she had lived there a lifetime ago. All along the River Ruhr where housing gave way to forest, the countryside was beautiful and so lush. She had spent many hours walking through them in her youth. If only she had possessed a camera back then, she thought, as she gazed at the scenery. Now she only had her memories to fall back on. She turned to her right and in a huge clearing the ruins of an old farmhouse stood, with roofless outbuildings and a side-less barn which still held various decaying farm implements, such as a hay wagon made of wood and rusted metal, some sort of cutting machine which looked as if it had been cut in two. A big old-fashioned rolling machine, which had two huge rusting drums attached to a long handle which she thought must have been for flattening something once.

An old tractor had been left with doors open and was now overgrown with weeds and a young oak tree seemed to be sprouting from the driver’s seat, the leather rotted long ago. The tractor was similar to those used in the fields which rose high behind her grandparents’ home where she used to play as a child, long before combined harvesters and real mechanisation had taken over farming.

When she was a child she used to run alongside Spangle, the local farm-hand, as he pulled various machinery for cutting hay, bundling it behind his rickety old tractor, and then she and her friends and siblings would help by stacking the square bales of hay. Sometimes they would make dens inside them, hidden from the world where they would play for hours. No-one seemed to worry where they might be.

Other times she would collect eggs at the local farm and take little lozenge shaped pellets which had an oaty smell, to feed the cows as they were milked in the milking parlour, a million years away from the modern mechanised milking of cows she had seen on television programmes like ‘Country Ways’ and ‘Country Tracks’, which even now she really enjoyed watching.

Often she would help the farmer and Spangle pick and collect the potatoes when they were ready and the smell of the earth in the lane reminded her of the smell as they harvested the potatoes. Later they would visit the farmer’s mother in the warm cosy farmhouse kitchen and have a glass of homemade lemonade and hot newly baked biscuits or cakes.

The farmhouse has now been turned into a Harvester’s pub and restaurant, however, the original building seems to be almost the way it was in her childhood, with obviously modern additions.

She had been once inside just to look around. It was a really strange feeling to stand in the bar, once the kitchen, and remember how it was back then. The huge fireplace had been retained, so had the low beams and there were sepia photographs displayed of the original buildings and farm. She had found it a very sad experience. Sad for the house and the farm and those she knew who had lived and worked there, and sad for herself; her lost childhood and her happy memories. For the first time in years she wondered whatever had become of Spangle. He had slept in the big barn and had his meals in the farmhouse but as far as she could recall, he had never had a proper home. He must be dead long ago, she mused.

Somewhere in the distance she could hear sheep bleating and following their cries she could just about make out a flock high on a ridge to the left of the farm where a field stretched into the distance. She wondered where the farm they belonged was located. The farm next to her had long been abandoned which had her wondering what had happened to cause it to be deserted, seemingly in a hurry given what had been left behind. It must have been good working machinery back then and the house would still have been habitable, a mystery which would remain unsolved unless she met someone she could ask. She didn’t think she would however.

The lane continued past the farm and became more and more overgrown until it was impossible to go further. She looked around deciding what to do; try and cross the field where the sheep were and take the faster route home, or go back the way she had come. Looking at her watch she decided she had time to retrace her steps, enjoying the warm sunshine and the scenery.

She needed this walk, to clear her mind and refresh her spirit. So far it seemed to be working.

The fresh air, warmth of the sun and the beautiful scenery filled her with a calm contentment and her fears and anxieties began to be absorbed into the peace and tranquillity that surrounded her.

Now she could think clearly and she stopped for a moment, listening to the sounds of nature around her.

She belonged here, in this place, in this time, in this skin. She had every right to exist just as the animals and birds and vegetation around her had a right to this space and time. Bending down she touched a fern and recalled how ferns had been on this planet since the very beginning and no doubt would be here long after she had gone. Long after he had gone.

He. He crept back into her consciousness, ruining the moment. He. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through her mouth. She tasted the earth and the vegetation on the back of her throat and her resolve stiffened.

Looking around her she was filled with an overwhelming sense of self, of her ability to cope with anything; at last, courage. Courage to face what was to come, to face Him. She thrust her chest out and straightened her back and began to walk purposefully back along the lane.

She reached the stile and hesitated for a second or two as she gazed along the lane on the other side. Somewhere deep down she knew, she felt, that once she crossed over the stile to the other side there was no going back. She would have to carry on now that her mind was made up.

Whatever the outcome, there was no going back. The decision was made. She mounted the stile and as she alighted on the other side she knew that ahead was her walk to destiny. She felt strong.

© Jane Risdon 2012

Thank you, Jane. I love a strong female protagonist. 🙂

For the last thirty years Jane Risdon has worked in the International Music Industry as an Artiste Manager, Producer and Music Publisher with her husband who was a professional musician when they met in their teens.

Together they have discovered, mentored and guided the careers of Singers, Bands, Songwriters and Producers all over Europe, the USA and SE Asia as well as the UK, resulting in Chart hits, TV and Movie Soundtracks and numerous other successes, including launching the very first Industry Showcases at the London Hippodrome in the mid 1980s.

She has lived and worked in Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, USA, as well as Europe and England – working with English, American, European and Chinese artists in all genres of music and in various languages including Mandarin and Cantonese.

Jane has been writing since childhood and has had articles published in the Music Press. Her main genre is Crime writing; mysteries and thrillers – usually with a twist in the tale.  At the moment she is writing a crime story, ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’, which features and ex-MI5 Officer and her new life in a rural Oxfordshire Village.  This novel should be completed by early 2013.

In addition to this novel she has a series of stories which she describes as Character Based Gentle Humour, called ‘God’s Waiting Room’, which she hopes will be completed next year.

Jane is also co-writing a novel with an award-winning author of over 28 books. They hope they will complete their joint venture early in 2013.

With numerous Short Stories and several Flash Fiction pieces under her belt she is a prolific writer who is yet to publish a book in her own right.  However, she has had several short stories published for Charity during the last year including her story, ‘The Look’, in ‘I am Woman Anthology Volume 1’, in aid of Breakthrough, Women for Women and Women’s Aid and two stories, ‘The Debt Collector’ and ‘The Ghost in the Privy’, published in the anthology, ‘Telling Tales’, in aid of The Norfolk Hospice.

Jane also has written a chapter for a new book project, which features several authors all writing a chapter each, without any idea of what the other has written.  She found this great fun and looks forward to reading the finished book. Jane would like to thank Morgen Bailey for all her support and for publishing her Flash Fiction stories and Short stories, and she wishes her much success with her own novel.

Jane Risdon (Author) Blog: http://janerisdon.wordpress.com

Jane Risdon (Author) Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2

The ‘I am Woman Anthology Volume 1’ is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

:*) You’re welcome, Jane, thank you, and good luck with your novel. 🙂

***

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mike Walters – the five hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.

As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and I also review stories of up to 3,000 words on Short Story Saturdays. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 3,000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in blog, Facebook, short stories, writing

 

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