June Round Robin – Through a Glass darkly

June

Have you ever included current social, political, or environmental problems in any of your stories or thought about doing so? Why or why not?

This month’s question could cover a lot of ground and for guidance, contributors were offered a list of possible ways we might be including the issues mentioned. I write mainly historical novels and magazine serials and contemporary magazine short stories.

Hence my title, Through a Glass Darkly: from 1st Corinthians and meaning – to see an issue imperfectly.

Although I don’t regard myself as an ‘issues’ writer, I am very conscious of the things that anger me and hold my interest. Principally, that the discrimination meted out to the female of the species never disappears. It’s an issue that embraces politics, discrimination, wars, terrorism and economics.

The theme a regular reader of my work would identify is the entitlement to education. It was a central plank in my first historical novel, Mariah’s Marriage, and also in the Anniversary serial I wrote for People’s Friend magazine, City of Discoveries.

Once a person achieves the ability to read and write, their future changes dramatically. It was, therefore, a major objective among many to prevent women, in particular, and categories of men from learning these skills. After all, who was going to continue at home scrubbing floors and making the tea? Who was going to be content in dead-end work?

Having lost that battle, it became a major concern that no further ground – like secondary education or university education – should be ceded. This is the main theme of the serial I wrote for People’s Friend last year, In A Class of Their Own, about the struggle of women to become registered doctors.

How does this theme embrace ‘wars, terrorism and economics’? Scrolling the world news channels provides an all too recognisable answer. Women are not entitled to education in many countries. Wars are fought and much of the fall-out will be to remove the independence a previous culture allowed to its womenfolk. Some will be terrorised by the imposition of anti-female laws. Almost all will be economically discriminated against.

The work of fiction, in my opinion, is not only to entertain but to inspire thought. In many Western cultures women are educated, have worthwhile jobs, equal control of their children and the right to leave a poisoned marriage. In many cultures they have none of that. Writing in the world of the early nineteenth century enables me to entertain, but remind my reader – ‘It’s not that long since you were controlled by your father or husband and your children would go with your husband if you dared to leave him.’

The hope is that the reader will recognise and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, use their vote. It was hard to come by.

A large part of Melissa’s story in Courting the Countess is about her struggle to avoid a second marriage where her new husband would be hoping for control of her fortune.

Maybe you’d like to find out how others view the use of contemporary life and some fellow Robiners have contributed below.

Anne

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Anne Stenhouse https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2Fj 

Rhobin Courtright http://rhobincourtright.com

Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

Diary of a Writer – June Prompt

On Offer for a limited time 99p

It is always a prompt to remember that you’ve done it before.

From Lume Books, Courting the Countess, tells the story of Melissa Pateley who was badly burned in a house fire and is under threat from fortune hunters, including a stalker. It opens in the Border country but quickly moves to Regency Edinburgh where Melissa is nurtured by the handsome, Harry Gunn and his family. A fairytale inversion.

Round Robin – May 2022

What are your favorite things to do when you need to get away from a stalled writing? Does it help you to resume with new ideas on the book you are writing?

The above two and related questions are what our little group is pondering this month.

Well, yes, I am floundering in a ‘stalled writing’ state, I think. Having had such a productive Lockdown x 2, it’s hit me rather hard to be unable to progress a story I really want to tell: so reaction to question one:

Go on holiday. It’s now permitted and the UK is full of wonderful historic sites and beautiful gardens. Gardens are balm.

At this time in May, there are many rhodedendrons to see in huge bursts of colour and many, many smaller flowers like the Iris above. Taking a meander through places like Bodnant and Bridgenorth, listening to the bees, watching the birds frantically feeding their young and finding treasures such as an historical novelist will drool over, is a good answer to question one.

And if anyone knows what a chimney like the one above was part of, please tell me in the comments.

Does it help me? I think it does. the mind resets. The brain benefits from being away from the desk/computer and my eyes certainly do, too.

Of course, I took a book away with me. Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell’s award winning book about Agnes/Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare’s son’s death from the plague. I read it for the book group and arrived home with just enough time to get along to the discussion. I thought the book was a wonderful work. Does it inspire? Oh, yes, it does. Time to knuckle down and get on with it.

What are your cure-all techniques? Maybe you’ll find inspiration in the posts of my fellow Robins, below.

Anne

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Dr. Bob Rich — https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2CG

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Rhobin Courtright http://rhobincourtright.com

Diary of a Writer – Admin

Some time ago

Tackling some long-g-g-g overdue admin tasks included clearing out a file dated 2010. Imagine my surprise when this fell out!

My ‘book’ tells me the story was called The Man In the Moon and it went on to be sold after the comp to Story magazine.

Off to the bank soon as the actual fiver is paper and I’ll need to change it for a plastic one. Despite the huge difference in what it would have bought and will now buy, I was really chuffed.

And I now have a working (for me anyway) synopsis. Relief doesn’t begin to describe that reaction.

How’s your writing world this grey Monday?

Anne

Diary of a Writer – May Prompt

Mailboxes

I believed I’d open this post with a photograph of one of Corsica’s beautiful flowers, but on scrolling through the pics I took on my recent trip to that amazing island, I remembered I’d been really taken by this piece. Is it furniture? Maybe it’s what one would call a ‘fitting’. The little panels still have names in some cases so there shouldn’t be any confusion for Monsieur or Madame. The possibilities, however, are endless. Expecting a cheque? You can see an envelope with a bank’s logo thereon through the tiny portcullis – but it’s in the next door box to yours. A love letter? News of a job or a sick relative? So near and, without that key, so far.

Endless possibilities, endless scope, endless fun. What does it conjure for you?

Have you visited Capital Writers April catch-up post yet? Some of my writing friends have been very busy indeed.

Rejection e-mail from the lovely ed. Hurumph! Ah well, goes with the job, doesn’t it? Must try harder. With that wonderful post box above, there’s no excuse.

Anne

Re-reading is such a Pleasure

City of Discoveries

Gathering momentum towards the final resolutions, City of Discoveries has been a joy to follow on the Daily Serial slot from People’s Friend.

Full Blooms

Orchids are a rewarding flower to keep but sometimes the ‘keeping’ can be a while. Two and a half years in the case of the yellow one. The tall pink one, on the other hand, blooms almost year round. So these are for my editor, Alan Spink, who chose City of Discoveries for this second outing. Thanks, Alan.

What are you re-reading? Is it your own? The sublime Georgette’s? Or AN Other’s?

Anne

Diary of a Writer – April Prompt

London

Will this edited photo of me, taken by my Uni friend, Miranda Kennet, inspire anyone?

Well, firstly, Miranda is an artist, Miranda McArthur, and was keen to try out the softwear she’d been sent by a friend. Secondly, she thought the pics of me available online at that time were uniformly bad. (Hides head in shame) I must say, I do like the slightly more sophisticated appearance given by her softwear. Maybe it will inspire me to think myself into circumstances worthy of a story.

Scottish Association of Writers Conference

At the conference last month, I attended Olga Wojtas’s workshop on creating fiction out of historical fact. It, too, involved changing one’s view of oneself. In the workshop, Olga invited us to remember an event which had an emotional impact on us. Then, before writing it up, to change our sex. So, girls became boys and boys became girls. Did this distance us from the incident enough to make more objective decisions? Did it empower us to answer the perpetrator differently?

I hadn’t answered at all in the incident I chose, but others did find becoming male made them more assertive, for example.

I imagine everyone finds themselves furious with themselves from time to time when wrong-footed or left gasping over a verbal insult. Why didn’t I say…

Writing fiction, we have ample opportunity to craft perfect replies for all situations. Let’s get to it. Bullies, verbal and physical, beware the power of the pen.

Synopsis writing has at last turned the corner. Being confined to my study while a new carpet was laid on the landing and staircase was a material factor.

Really enjoying the Daily Serial manifestation of City of Discoveries.

How are things with your writing?

Anne

A Second Life

City of Discoveries

Re-running on the People’s Friend website is my anniversary serial set in Dundee and Australia. Jennet Marshall is the subject of unwanted attention from the foreman, Fleming. However, an unsuspected champion is on her side.

City of Discoveries

DC Thomson are running a strand of the City of Discoveries serial I wrote for them to mark their 150th anniversary of continuous publication of the People’s Friend Magazine. It began in January 2019 in the magazine and these excerpts are available on their website, link below at City of Discoveries. The illustration is by Mandy Dixon and remains as colourful and attractive now as it was then.

City of Discoveries

Anne

ROUND ROBIN – February

Describe a flawed character you might use as a heroine or hero in a story. How did they become so flawed? How might their flaws affect the story and what will happen to them?

Hullo from a snowy overcast Edinburgh. I know that some of you wouldn’t regard what I see out of the window this morning as being snow – or anything approaching it – but as it hardly ever snows in Edinburgh, I stand by my view.

A Retreating Writer

The pic above was taken in Assynt when the DH and I made a winter trip there and saw it under snow for the first time. Our normal visits having been during the summer months.

What has the weather to do with using flawed characters in one’s writing? What if my brain conflates the image above with the dusting of white on the front path this morning? Because I am not a cold weather person and, matter of fact, dislike snow a lot, any snow triggers a disproportionate reaction in my brain. That’s a flaw in my character which might affect my behaviour and that of others.

It’s a flaw, or warp, that might cause me to stay at home missing an important event, a treat, a funeral, the opportunity to secure a job… the list is endless.

Moving on to the other types of flaws. Supposing a person has been brought up in a family group that believes ALL of the people in another family are EVIL. They live in circumstances where it’s difficult or impossible to avoid the other clan entirely. But at a crucial moment in their development, they are being taught, and influenced, by a teacher from outside the area. That person doesn’t know which family is aligned with which or, if they do, ignores the implications of such a feud. The teacher is either wholly rational (not everyone in any family can be evil) or their own irrationalities are different.

In due course, our flawed character finds themselves in danger together with one of the hated clan. They must work in harmony to save themselves/the local hospital/the barn storing the winter grain/ something IMPORTANT. They do.

Having discovered that at least one member of the other family is not a bad person, a conflict has been set up. How does the character settle back into the old life? The story is likely to be the struggle they have to climb out of hatred into rationality.

This character flaw – accepting as gospel what Mum, Dad and the other relatives say without question – is the basis of much great literature. The tragedy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for example. The hero and heroine move rapidly to a place of acceptance, but the families do not.

A lot of the work of one of my favourite writers, Georgette Heyer, is based on the flawed character, but is to comic effect. In Friday’s Child, for example, Sherry, Viscount Sheringham, is told within the first few pages of the book why his chosen bride won’t have him. The flaws of his character are laid out for the reader and the rest of the book is the tale of how he is made to face up to and overcome them before achieving his true life’s partner (not, by the way, the one of the opening).

And in my writing?

I’m currently tackling the planning of a serial and I have a flawed character who will in due course influence events. It’s a she and her character flaws relate to the problems of insularity and are the product of upbringing. I’m using her to encapsulate much of what is wrong in the society she inhabits. Will there be hope arising from her eventual story arc? I’m very keen to find out. Will she be affected by her ‘journey’ – oh yes!

My fellow robins, listed below, all have something to say on this subject. Do drop in on their blogs, too, and please, if you find our pieces of interest would you consider sharing through your facebook or Twitter channels? Warm thanks in advance.

Anne

COURTING THE COUNTESS

COURTING THE COUNTESS (US)

COURTING THE COUNTESS (AUS)

COURTING THE COUNTESS (Esp)

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2yB

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com