Six pm Short Story review no.3 – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Hello everyone. You may have been expecting the writing prompts around now but they’ve moved to 8am every weekday rather than 6pm. This is to make way for the new daily (ish) slot of the ‘Six pm Short Story’. My day job is editing and critique so I don’t read as much for pleasure as I should. I have therefore set my self the challenge (which I first mentioned on Saturday) to read a story (short story or novella) every day… or at least as often as I can. It doesn’t sound like much but I also plan to up my 1,000 words to the 1,667-word average for NaNoWriMo next month. So I figured if I put it in black and white then I’m more likely to achieve it.

Speaking of black and white, I started with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s three-story collection ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper‘, working backwards from the third story: Old Water (see Monday’s review) then the middle story: The Rocking Chair (or rather The Rocking-Chair to give its official title) yesterday.

The title story stars with.the first-person narrator and we soon learn she is a tortured soul and how no one around her believes there’s anything wrong. I love inanimate characters and it’s fascinating how much  influence a house has on her.

With her husband away much of the time, the narrator keeps herself to the top-floor nursery, which though light and airy, she finds creepy, as would the reader. The views from the house are so inviting yet she doesn’t leave, nor does her husband want her to do so.

Strip away the flowery writing (and proliferation of exclamation marks) and you have a great story. It could have done with a good edit including the correction of any more to anymore when relating to time rather than quantity. Also, had I been the original editor, I would have suggested name changes as there are only five names mentioned and four of those begin with J: John, Julia, Jennie and Jane. The narrator isn’t mentioned, the other is Cousin Henry.

So for the story: an okay read rated 3/5. And the collection as a whole? Strange. I love strange but this was hard work strange. Interesting reading but not enough to bond me to the author, which is a shame. So an overal 2/5.

Six pm Short Story no.1 – Old Water by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Hello everyone. You may have been expecting the writing prompts around now but they’ve moved to 8am every weekday rather than 6pm. This is to make way for the new daily (ish) slot of the ‘Six pm Short Story’. My day job is editing and critique so I don’t read as much for pleasure as I should. I have therefore set my self the challenge (which I first mentioned on Saturday) to read a story (short story or novella) every day… or at least as often as I can. It doesn’t sound like much but I also plan to up my 1,000 words to the 1,667-word average for NaNoWriMo next month. So I figured if I put it in black and white then I’m more likely to achieve it.

Speaking of black and white, I’ve started with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s three-story collection ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper‘, working backwards from the third story: Old Water.

At a mere twelve and a half 1/4 A4 (A7) pages, it starts with a quite ‘dark and stormy night’ description and three exclamation marked words in the first paragraph of dialogue… four !s in the first two paragraphs… seven on the first page and five on page two. Rather than read on, it became a ‘Where’s the !’? and the results were:

Page 1 = 7; 2=5; 3=5 (in the same para); 4=2; 5=3; 6=7; 7=2; 8=2; 9=6; 10=8; 11=3; 12=18!; and on the final half page there were 8!

And yes, it bogged down the writing so I was less enthused to read the story but I did and my, does Charlotte love her adverbs. (Page 1, second para: Slowly across the open gold came a still canoem sent swiftly and smoothly on by well-accustomed arms.)

Although it’s not erotic in the slightest, it did remind me of Fifty Shades and considering how famous The Yellow Wallpaper is, I’m surprised that this gushy story has been chosen for this tiny collection.

From a technical point of view, the story switches (mid-scene) from the inital main character, Mrs Osgood, to her daughter Ellen… and back… several times. I skim read from about page three onwards, not good for a story of around 2,000 words. There were no section breaks (blank line then left-justified first paragraph) when there was a gap in time (there were several). Although the story was first published in 1911, the language is Austenesque, who died almost a century earlier. Far too flowery for my liking, Old Water, may appeal to historical fans but it only gets one star from me.

Six pm Short Story review no.2 – The Rocking Chair by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Hello everyone. You may have been expecting the writing prompts around now but they’ve moved to 8am every weekday rather than 6pm. This is to make way for the new daily (ish) slot of the ‘Six pm Short Story’. My day job is editing and critique so I don’t read as much for pleasure as I should. I have therefore set my self the challenge (which I first mentioned on Saturday) to read a story (short story or novella) every day… or at least as often as I can. It doesn’t sound like much but I also plan to up my 1,000 words to the 1,667-word average for NaNoWriMo next month. So I figured if I put it in black and white then I’m more likely to achieve it.

Speaking of black and white, I started with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s three-story collection ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper‘, working backwards from the third story: Old Water (see yesterday’s review).

Today is the middle story: The Rocking Chair (or rather The Rocking-Chair to give its official title).

Like Old Water, this story stars with description but it is much less flowery and we’re soon pulled into the lives of the narrator Maurice and his friend and colleague Hal. With sinister goings on, their friendship is tested in this short intense story. Althoughthe premise of the story (the elusive girl) is obvious, it’s the journey that captivates. Like yesterday, I was looking forward to the end but to see the conclusion not because I wasn’t enjoying it. The manipulation of the friendship was a triangle in more ways than one. A recommended 4/5 read.

Post-weekend Poetry 129: Living by Gboyero Felix

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the one hundred and twenty-ninth poem in this series. This week’s piece is by Gboyero Felix.

Living

fun 921534Uncertainty as it’s defined

Warlock in its dismay

Living seems odd all the day

Just as the beautiful lady experiences senescence

It’s started well at dawn

But flux on noon day

Waxed further to disdain night

All seems not worthy to live for

But living we shall live it

A question yet define is living….

Its authenticity gurps as a chameleon…

*

I asked Gboyero what prompted this piece and he said…

Continue reading

Post-weekend Poetry 128: A Frozen Heart That Could Be Mine by Samantha Wilcox

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the one hundred and twenty-eighth poem in this series. This week’s piece is by Samantha Wilcox.

A Frozen Heart That Could Be Mine

frozen heart 898289A frozen heart that could be mine

I don’t look

So I don’t find

Sodden trampled leaves beneath me

Slick brown glistening branches beat me

Fast of tread as wind whips chest

Seeking out what isn’t there to take

Buried deep amongst the tissues, vessels,

Bloody secrets twisted, nestled

A shout behind me in the dark

My name, his voice a question mark

I tried. Time and again, I tried

Slow as moments lost at sea

Fast as lifetimes unseen pass

The flow of warmth was chilled to ice

As broken arteries perhaps. I tried

I could not love you

I cannot love. Too tired to try again

A frozen heart that could be mine?

But nothing answers me this time around

And so the ground

Awaits me.

*

I asked Samantha what prompted this piece and she said…

Continue reading

Post-weekend Poetry 127: Huózhe by Samantha Wilcox

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the one hundred and twenty-seventh poem in this series. This week’s piece is by Samantha Wilcox.

Huózhe

An ever-changing tonal wail

competing with the Chinese violin

People move arms up

And circle the air

Sashay hips

Fixed stare

 

Daylight in the entrance to the park

Or later as fading light turns to dark

Colour lights by battery

red and blue

Cascades from cheapest plastic

Some, a few

Are sold

But eggs or chestnuts make the sales

Keep the streets alive with smells

 

Tofu, eggplant, pineapple

Dusty carts laden with foods

Stand on corners by the roads

Under the bridges

And next to the lights

Walking through another time

Breathing smoke and dust and grime

Staying close to locals to make it through the roads

The weaving cars, buses, bikes

Cross safely to the other side

*

I asked Samantha what prompted this piece and she said…

Continue reading

Guest post: Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian – bridging the gulf between? by Margaret Muir

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of historical novels is brought to you by Margaret Muir.

Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian – bridging the gulf between?

Though their stories are set in a similar era, there is a gulf between the historical romance novels of Jane Austen and the maritime fiction of Patrick O’Brian. The divide between these two extends beyond obvious gender difference and the genres in which they write, to the readership they attract and to the authors who attempt to emulate them.

Jane Austen is acknowledged as the quintessential Georgian Romance writer, while Patrick O’Brian and CS Forester are recognised as the masters of nautical fiction set in the Napoleonic period. Yet, born 100 years after Miss Austen’s death, Patrick O’Brian has been called ‘her rightful heir’ (Kirkus Reviews).

Jane Austen’s empathy for naval officers stemmed from having two brothers who served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Both rose slowly through the ranks from mere midshipman to Admiral. But despite her close affiliation with, and knowledge of the navy, Austen did not attempt to write in the sub-genre of maritime fiction. Similarly, while Patrick O’Brian (author of the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series) allowed love interests to filter into his novels, as did CS Forester in his Horatio Hornblower series, neither wrote genre romance.

In the past, writing romance in the Austen style has been and, for the most part, still is the domain of female authors. Conversely, writing in the sub-genre of nautical fiction set in the age-of-sail has been, and still is, the domain of male writers.

But it was not only the writers who fell into this distinct divide. In the past, the readership they attracted reflected a similar distinct male / female split. Generally, females read romance and male readers read maritime fiction. These unsubstantiated variants still appear to apply to a greater extent however very slowly the worm is turning. Today, more male readers are attracted to Austen’s novels, and increasing numbers of women are savouring heroic sea stories set during the Napoleonic wars. Perhaps the in-home TV presentations of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’ have introduced men to Miss Austen. Similarly, the ‘Hornblower’ series, and the epic movie ‘Master and Commander’ have brought nautical fiction to the screen and introduced this genre to a general, rather than a mostly select male audience.

So, apart from the media, what other factors are bridging this gulf? Today, women feature almost as much as men in ocean racing and sea-faring achievements. Only a few decades ago, women who enlisted in the navy did not step aboard a ship, yet recently, a woman was appointed as commander of a British Royal Navy Frigate. Today, the navy is no longer an exclusive male domain, and maritime fiction is no longer just read by men.

But there is one area where the great divide still appears to be anchored in tradition. It relates to the authorship of the two historical sub-genres. As stated earlier, it is accepted that female authors write romance. A few male authors cross the divide, with some opting to write romance under a female pseudonym. From my observations, authorship of age-of-sail maritime fiction is accepted as being exclusively by males. For many years Forester and O’Brian have been the respected authors of classic Georgian age-of-sail novels. More recently, new names have appeared, such as Alexander Kent, Julian Stockwin, Richard Woodman and many more. But there are no female names on the list. It would seem, therefore, that for the female author, this is a difficult sub-genre to enter and gain acceptance in.

To compete in either genres, writers must know their craft. Just as authors of Georgian Romance must be conversant with the society of the day, the accepted behaviour, mannerisms and dress etcetera; the prerequisites for writing nautical fiction is a thorough knowledge of tall ships, historic sea battles and familiarity with all the bells and whistles of the Royal Navy in Napoleonic times. But is this sufficient for a female author to gain a foot on the ladder of the male dominated sub-genre?

From my own experience, having had four historical novels published, my fifth novel, Floating Gold, was a maritime fiction adventure. As an apprenticeship to writing this type of story, I sailed on several tall ships. I crossed the Atlantic on a barquentine and cruised most of the world’s oceans including the Southern Ocean and crossing Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. I have hauled on ropes, climbed the mast, taken the helm and immersed myself in the days of wooden ships. I have also visited numerous historic vessels and walked the decks of many.

But a knowledge of tall ships is not the only prerequisite to be competitive in this sub-genre. More importantly, the author must be capable of writing an engaging story, and be familiar with the historical facts in order to form the framework on which the story can take shape.

Having graduated with a BA (Writing) in 2004, I returned to University in 2010 to learn more about the Age of Revolution, the Atlantic World and the events of the Napoleonic Period. Just recently, I completed a second maritime fiction novel titled, The Tainted Prize. This is a sequel to Floating Gold, and my second book in this male dominated domain.

Just like the length of time it takes for a young midshipman to rise to the rank of admiral, I imagine it will take some years for female writers to rise up the list of accepted authors in the narrow and rather exclusive sub-genre of nautical fiction. But, I believe the worm is turning. Or, should I say, the tide is on the turn.

I loved that. Thank you, Margaret!

Margaret Muir was born in Yorkshire, but now lives in Australia on the island of Tasmania.

After a career in Cytology (cancer detection), Margaret’s turned to writing, and after completing a Writing degree in 2004, her first novel, Sea Dust, was published in 2005. This was followed by three more novels set in the north of England.

Inspired by the works of Patrick O’Brian and CS Forester, Margaret’s first nautical fiction adventure, Floating Gold, was published in 2010. Recently she completed a sequel to this story as part of a proposed series.

Having a keen interest in the convict history of colonial Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), she also plans to write the story of one of Tasmania’s famous bushrangers – ‘a far more engaging character than Ned Kelly,’ she said.

Apart from writing, Margaret loves to travel and in September she will be flying to London to attend the Historical Novel Society Conference. High on her agenda during this trip are visits to the Greenwich Maritime Museum and the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. ‘A real treat to look forward to’ Margaret said.

Here follows a a little about Margaret’s novel ‘Floating Gold’:

1802 – The Treaty of Amiens heralds a fragile peace in the war with France. Britain’s fighting ships languish in ordinary and sailors litter the alehouses of Portsmouth. From a beach on the Isle of Wight, Captain Quintrell observes a fleet preparing to sail, little knowing he will soon have command of a naval frigate. Entrusted with secret orders from the Admiralty, he heads south, unaware of the horrors which lie ahead, but when he enters the freezing Southern Ocean, a near mutinous crew, murder most foul and the dangers held within a simmering volcanic island pose as much of a threat as a broadside from a man-of-war.

For more information about Floating Gold, go to: www.squidoo.com/floatinggold and www.facebook.com/floatinggold.

Floating Gold by Margaret Muir is available in hardback, paper and e-book from www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk.

Other electronic versions available from www.belgradehouse.com.

Margaret’s websites are www.margaretmuirauthor.com and www.margaretmuirauthor.blogspot.com.

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with adventure novelist and non-fiction author Sondra Smith – the four hundred and eighty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers 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.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation 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.