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Scruffy Trainers: how does middle-aged Emily spice up her flagging marriage now the children have flown the nest?

Piece of Cake: Once a down-trodden housewife, always a down-trodden housewife. Unless you’re Belinda.

A-star Student: Becky isn’t like
‘those’ teens – the hoodies and single mums. She’s perfect. But she’s
bored and rebels with horrendous consequences.
Valerie Athrope’s Confessional: a woman struggling coming to terms with her depression.

I write horror… am I warped?

by
Edwin Stark

This is a question that every horror writer must face sooner or later. People will always wonder at someone’s fascination towards all that darkness, gore and creepy things that horror movies and horror literature represent… even more so if that someone loves to write about all these odd happenings. It’s bad enough when they ask you if you are a writer; it gets worse when they find out that you’re a horror writer. People you meet in parties get that strange, shifty look in their eyes as if they’re half-expecting you to leap at them, scalpel in hand, yelling: “Blood! Blood! Blood!”

The truth is rather disappointing; the horror writer (including myself, altough 90% of my entire body of work hardly falls in this genre) is just a regular fellow like you and me… (now, that got me wondering about YOU). I like to cook, hike, ride a bike, rake the leaves in the garden, grow my own tomatoes, read the newspapers and, if I were married, I’d be bringing my significant other some flowers I picked on my way home and perhaps tell the kids a story before bedtime.

And then… why write about horror? Aren’t there plenty of nice things to write about? Am I warped or what?

Just another old-time favorite question in parties, mind you.

Edwin Stark


Well, the horror writer, even though he or she is a normal human being, writes about horrible events exactly because he or she is one (a normal human being, I mean). He (or she) conjures normal worlds where something has gone terribly awry all of a sudden, and then he or she releases a few monsters here and there to wreak some additional havoc. He isn’t writing about this because he or she revels in death, mayhem and destruction. The horror writer is writing this because he or she is celebrating life… by showing us how things can go incredibly wrong in a moment’s notice.

Just like real life, isn’t it?

And here is where the really good horror writer excels. A second-rate horror writer is just happy to let the monster loose on a terrifying rampage, leaving behind an awful amount of destruction in its way; a true master of horror knows that he must properly straighten up the playground after he or she had fun by either destroying the monster or finding a way to lock it back into its cage. He or she will learn how to restore the balance.


So, I guess that the answer to the “are you warped?” question is: “Nope, I’m not warped… I guess I’m just a little bent around the edges.”

Edwin Stark
Signing Off


Introducing…
Cuentos

Amazon.com
Amazon.UK





A doomed vampire hunter. 
A kid trapped in the sewers with an undead thing. 
A
town that could be yours… but hides a terrible, dark secret. 

A scary cosmic
balance. 

A dead brother and his revenge beyond the grave. 
An unspeakable future
and three eerie girls.



All these elements lurk within Cuentos, this collection
of eight short stories and two short novellas that may make you reconsider how
you contemplate darkness… after you’re finished reading it.

Maureen Banks, a character interview from Jonathan Hill’s…

Maureen goes to Venice
Amazon.UK
Amazon.com

   Introducing the protagonist from Maureen goes to Venice, and what makes them them.

I’m Maureen.  Maureen Banks.  I’m a retired schoolteacher and live alone in London.  (My husband died not so long ago.)  What makes me me?  Well, people do say I attract disaster everywhere I go, and I was once called a mayhem magnet.  I’m not sure I’d agree with that.  It’s true that I don’t have the best of luck . . . oh flipping pancakes! There’s another dead bird on my lawn . . . sorry, back to the interview . . . yes, I don’t have the best of luck but I do try to make amends with my good heart. 


I was reading some reviews of my life the other day (Jonathan Hill is writing and publishing my biography in stages) and am surprised to hear of some reader reactions.  One reader gave the book five stars but said I was an atrocious monster!  Charming!!  And another advised readers to run the other way should they ever meet me in person.  Well, that’s just uncalled for if you ask me, but readers do seem to be enjoying my mishaps a lot.  I like to see people laughing and enjoying themselves; it’s just a pity that it’s at my expense!

What is your main goal in life?
It’s a simple goal and one that is what you might call a cliché.  I just want to be happy and live out the rest of my years enjoying each day to the full.  When Roy died (did I say earlier my late husband was called Roy?  Oh, well, you know now), I sent a promise up to him that I would not go with another man.  Will I keep to that?  Well, who knows?  And I wouldn’t want to spoil the recent chapter in my life if you haven’t yet read it. 

What would you change about yourelf if you could wave a magic wand?
I don’t really have to think about this one.  I’d wave the wand to break this run of misfortune I’ve had for the last fifty years or so.  It’d never happen though.  I don’t believe in magic.  Not real magic anyway.  I’ll tell you who is a good magician, although he isn’t really that.  He’s more a mind bender.  Derren Brown.  Or is it Darren?  I can never remember.  Well, this Darren Brown – no, it’s definitely Derren – he did this show the other night where he promised to glue a certain percentage of the TV population to their sofas.  I was a cynic at first but I allowed him to have a go on me.  The TV played all these weird sounds and images and I couldn’t believe it when I found myself stuck to my chair.  I thought it had worked but then I realised my cardigan buttons had caught on some of my seat cushion’s loose threads.  Time for a new chair, I think.

*Laughs* Oh, Maureen, you seem like such fun! So, imagine you’re in a lift with your favourite TV movie star, how would they react?
I’m not really fazed by celebrity, to be honest.  I’d probably act casually and just give a friendly nod.  The whole incident would pass by without hitch.  What’s that look on your face?  You don’t believe I’m capable of the ‘without hitch’ bit, do you?  Actually, I tell a lie.  If it were him off Downton Abbey, I’d probably swoon.  Now he is a true gentleman!  Goodness knows how I’d contain myself in a lift all alone with him.  I’d probably giggle nervously and tell him I’d drop everything to be his maid and turn back his bed for him every night…oh, that sounds a bit naughty doesn’t it.  Stop it, Maureen!  Behave yourself!  *giggles*

Are you happy now that your story has been told? Or is there more to come?
I’m reasonably happy, yes.  It seems to be factually accurate in the main.  Jonathan Hill, my biographer, has done a good job in recreating my life’s ups and downs so far.  Someone once approached me in the street and asked me if my trip to Venice had really been that bad.  The chap was sure the trip had been embellished to get more laughs.  He said that no-one could possibly be that disaster-prone.  I just looked him in the eye and said, “Unfortunately, they can and I am living proof of that.”  With that, he twitched nervously and ran away from me as fast as possible.  It was almost as if he feared for his life.

And a chat with the author of Maureen goes to Venice –
Jonathan Hill.


How many unpublished books/stories do you have lurking under your bed?
None, but there are plenty on my hard drive! Sometime this year I will be assembling the best stories and publishing them in a sequel to ECLECTIC: Ten Very Different Tales. In addition to those unpublished stories, I have many tales started but unfinished, to some of which I will return, to others I won’t. The trouble with me is I become impatient very easily. I will get half way into a story then suddenly have another idea I desperately want to write. It’s a shame no-one wants to read part stories. They’d have a field day with my material. 


What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best part of being a writer is thinking that, at any given time, someone somewhere may be reading the very words you have written. It’s a very special, humbling feeling. It’s also wonderful to receive feedback from readers. When you get a rave review from someone, it pushes all your daily troubles out of the way and fills you with happiness.

The worst? I’m not sure there is a worst part. The hardest part is trying to get your books noticed in an overcrowded market. Although, this in itself can be a good thing. When someone anonymous picks your book to download out of the thousands and thousands available, it’s wonderful! 


Do you have a critique/editor partner?
To a great extent, I am my own critique/editor partner. I have always been a perfectionist and consequently my first draft is largely error-free. I use my family (mother, father, and sister) for ironing out any missed errors and they are usually good at making suggestions to improve the writing’s flow. Most of the time they help out willingly; only occasionally do they proofread my work at gunpoint. 

Promoting is something ALL authors struggle with. How are you managing yours? Ah, promoting. It’s a nasty word. It makes you sound like a pushy salesman, but writers do have to promote themselves and their books to get ‘out there’. I think you can tweet, facebook, post on forums and shout till you’re blue in the face and still not get anywhere. I have come to realise that the best way to promote your work is to, firstly, write something very good and be proud of it, and then allow readers to find your books. By blogging, interacting on forums and not pushing your book in everyone’s faces, people will take an interest sooner or later.

All of the places on the Internet I first sought with the intention of promoting my books are now like second family to me. There are wonderful communities out there where authors help and advise each other and readers interact with authors and recommend books to other readers. Promoting in such places comes second to interacting and building friendships. Of course, I send out the odd tweet and plug my freebie promotions at the time, but constantly bombarding potential readers does no writer any favours!

What is your book about? Genre, theme, essence etc.
Maureen
goes to Venice
is essentially a comedy.  Maureen is a character fun to read about but
possibly less fun to experience in reality! 
She attracts disaster everywhere she goes and her trip to Venice is no
different.  The book gives its readers a
taste of Italy (I holidayed in Venice myself before writing the book) and is
mostly great fun.  Although, there is a
definite darker tone which takes over near the end of the book.  I never like to let readers rest on their
laurels.  Sometimes it’s good to lull
readers into a false sense of security and then pull the rug out from under
their feet.

A Letter for Maureen

“Maureen’s back! 
Run away!  Hide anything she might
break!  But this time, that might include
your heart.” (Amazon reviewer – January 2013)

When it’s Maureen’s turn to chair the local book group meeting, choosing a new
outfit turns out to be the least of her worries.  A secret confided in Maureen by a fellow
reader impacts on her life greatly over the following year.  Then comes a revelation which could change
the way Maureen lives her life altogether.

The disaster-prone Maureen, recently recovered from her comic mishaps in
Venice, stars in a story that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

A novella of ~18,500 words.  This is the
second to be published in the Maureen series, but the book can be read as a
stand-alone story.

Author Jonathan Hill

Jonathan
Hill is an independent author from Manchester, UK.

In
2012, he published his first book of short stories, ‘ECLECTIC: Ten Very
Different Tales’, which cover a wide range of genres.
In
October 2012, Jonathan released ‘Maureen goes to Venice’, a comic novella for
the Kindle. The book was named as one of the top three best short stories in
The IBB Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards.
In
December 2012, ‘A Letter for Maureen’ was released, the second in the Maureen
series of Kindle books. The book can also be read as a stand-alone story.
Jonathan
is an avid reader and his blog ‘Jonathan Hill: Writer, Reader, Book Lover’
features book reviews, author interviews, quizzes, competitions and pieces of
his own writing.
He
is also a keen photographer and theatregoer.

Comment and judge on this short story: Maureen goes to Oz

**The winner of WWBB’s short story competition will win a review and an author spotlight. Your comments will help me decide the winner.**



by Jonathan Hill


Maureen Banks was standing in front of the raised stage, her back to the three or four rows of excited
parents.  The children jostled each other
for space on the stage, each wanting to outshine the rest. 

Maureen took a deep breath and
counted to ten in her head.  She was
already starting to become irritated by the titters and giggles of the parents
behind her.  Yes, she was well aware that
the yellow brick road she had been up all night painting was starting to peel
away from the floor and, yes, she too could see the wet patch on the Scarecrow’s
trousers.  (The ‘accident’ had happened
two minutes before curtain-up and Maureen did not have a back-up pair of
straw-stuffed trousers.)  Maureen felt
like turning round and berating the parents. 
What did they expect?  This wasn’t
a bloody West End show.  But she wouldn’t
make a show of herself.  She would face
the front and direct her class professionally. 
As she reached ‘ten’ in her
head, she opened her eyes and smiled to the children, who were mostly ready and
waiting for their cue to sing.  Maureen
nodded to Mrs Fisher at the piano, who started to tap out ‘Follow the yellow
brick road…’  The tune was recognisable
but the notes were not quite in the
right order.  Maureen could see even from
where she was standing that Mrs Fisher had been drinking the night before.  It was not unexpected though.  Mrs Fisher had threatened it after some
last-minute cuts to the production which had caused her undue stress.  It was true that most of the first half had
been axed after ‘Health and Safety’ had classified it a risk level bordering on
amber.  (Maureen failed to see how the
desk-top fan, which had been used to simulate the Kansas cyclone, posed a
danger to the children’s lives, but the paperwork would be so cumbersome if
something were to go awry that she duly complied.) 
As the children sang their
hearts out, they proudly projected toothy grins to their parents.  Dorothy, about whom Maureen often worried
(she was in the middle of a family break-up), craned her neck to try to spot
her parent(s); the expression on her face after a minute’s searching indicated
to Maureen that neither parent had showed.
The munchkin (for they were down
from seven to one after six munchkins had been taken ill after a dubious batch
of break-time milk) ushered Dorothy along the Yellow Peeling Road to where the
Scarecrow was standing.  “Hands out of
pockets,” Maureen hissed.  The Scarecrow
obediently whipped his hands out and his trousers, unsupported, dropped to the
floor.  The rest of the cast pointed hysterically
at his white Y-fronts, out of which peeped clumps of paper straw like unkempt
pubic hair. 
“Quiet,” Maureen called.  “You’re embarrassing yourselves!”  Just at that moment a man who, until now, had
been snoozing on the front row, jerked awake and emitted a huge guffaw upon
seeing the focus of the audience’s giggles at the start.  You see, from the front Maureen looked
impeccably dressed.  But had she
swivelled her hips and looked at her behind in the mirror beforehand, she would
have seen the rather large tag hanging there, boasting layer upon layer of
pricing discounts, the uppermost of which alerted the assembled parents that
her mauve pleated skirt had been a snip at only £4.99.

Amazon.UK
Amazon.com
Maureen goes to Venice
A comic story of ~13,500 words.
If Maureen were real, I would advise you to avoid her like the plague. She somehow attracts disaster and farce in equal measure wherever she goes.
As she is fictional though, it should be safe enough for you to encounter her from behind your Kindle.
Maureen had a disastrous trip to a modern art exhibition in ECLECTIC: Ten Very Different Tales. Well, now she’s back in her own feature-length adventure!
The book will give you plenty of laughs and a taste of Italy, so join hapless Maureen on her Venetian break and just be glad you’re not there with her!

Voted one of the Top 3 Best Short Stories in The Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards.

Selected as a RECOMMENDED READ on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum.

Gary Moore introduces us to: Churchmouse Tales – for "big" kids.

At last, a cynical bedtime reading for kids aged 11 to 100 about all the important things that you never thought you needed to know, such as:
Why you should never buy a penguin at auction.
How to make best use of 127 colour-blind hamsters.
How your banjo keeps going missing.
The ideal way to push frogs out of trees.

What really happened during Castro’s Cuban Missile Crisis.
How the Internet started –  and more!
The is a selection of twenty-four short stories and due to be published by Charging Ram Books of Canada to be out Feb/March this year. The book is described as: 24 amusing short stories, in 148 pages of whimsical rubbish lovingly crafted into one slim overpriced book.

Gary Moore says of himself:  I’ve never been afraid of doing things and taking chances. At age 25 I employed 20 people and had a rapidly expanding business. By the time I was 30, I had lost the lot. I’m someone who sees an opportunity, exploits it, and then manages to shoot myself in the foot by trying to be too clever. This has happened a number of times, and hopefully I’ve learnt a few lessons from it. Currently I’m languishing in a trough rather than riding a peak, but you have to keep trying. Most of the millionaires that I’ve known in business (Although not all) have been as dull as ditch-water and have spent their lives accumulating money rather than living. I don’t expect the book to be a best seller, I’m an unknown after all, and I have neither contacts in the publishing trade nor money to promote the book. I also know that not only do you have to write the right material at the right time in the right market, but you also need a decent slice of luck to make it. But if people like the first took, then they will buy the second and the third. Overnight success is something that happens very rarely. The J K Rowling story is well known simply because it is so unusual. I figure that I have to keep plugging away building up a readership. If I get lucky that’s great, but right now I’m not phoning the local Bentley dealership to discuss the colour of the carpets.
 
Gary Moore is an Englishman living and working in France. Has been many things in the past: Army officer,
factory owner, market trader, heating engineer and now writer of satirical nonsense. Has been both rich and poor and has dined with millionaires and paupers. Currently closer to the pauper end of the scale.

Links: gary.moore@orange.fr

What inspired you to write your book?
Lack of money originally. I live in a poor part of rural France where there are not many jobs,and those that are available are poorly paid. Despite working full time as a self employed heating engineer, a long period of constant bad luck meant that I was always left with nothing in my pocket at the end of the month. The only thing that I could think of that wouldn’t cost me anything and might bring in a few pennies was to write. I had always entertained kids at family parties by telling them stories that I had made up, and people used to say that I should write them down and send them off – They didn’t tell we where to send them though!

Click below for more!

What is it about/the genre?
Difficult to answer that one as there is no specific genre that it relates to. I suppose the nearest anyone has got to it is that it’s children’s stories for grown ups. The stories can generally be read in two ways. For example the story “Great Aunt Mabel’s Folly” can either be a kids story about someone inheriting a 25ft stuffed cat, or it can be a story about greed and incompetence. The only constant feature to all of them is that they make people laugh.I’m terrible at telling jokes but seem to be able to write them.

The book is introduced as “whisimal rubbish”, why?
Well I suppose they’re not really, but you have to keep a sense of perspective. It’s a book of humorous short stories, not a cure for cancer, and as such I don’t think that it all should be taken too seriously. I would hate to adopt the sense of superiority that you find with some writers simply because I write stuff that makes people laugh. The book is now out and available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, all good book stores and some bad ones.

How are you promoting it?
Everyone I show the book to loves it. However it’s an odd genre to promote – Kids stories for adults doesn’t really exist as a sub section. If it were a sports book or a military history then there would be obvious places to promote it but there is no one group of potential readers to target, and so it’s a case of getting it out into the wider world via reviews and reading sites and seeing what happens.

We’ve all heard of characters that were a joy to write about, but was there a character you struggled with?
Not really. The beauty about short stories is that the characters don’t really have time to develop and take over the story. I’m also a believer in the adage “The waste paper basket is your friend”. If it’s not working throw it away and start from a different direction, rather than labour away over something that you’re never going to be happy with.

How long are the stories?
Generally they are around 2,000 words but it varies from 1,000 to 3,000. Wanna read one? OK here’s a short one…………… (Auntie Vera and the Goddess of Health and Efficiency – is at the end of the interview.)

How many unpublished books do you have lurking under your bed?
One completed novel that needs extensive re-writing and will probably sit there until I run out of ideas, and one half completed book of humorous short stories based on one main character.

How did you find you publisher?
We pretty much found each other. He is a writer of action based novels and having realised how little money one gets after the publisher has taken all of the costs out, he thought that it was more cost effective to set up his own publishing house. We knew each other from an online writers forum, and when he was looking for additional titles for his new portfolio he asked me. At the time I had made up a “promo” book of my work so he could see roughly what the finished article would look like. We worked out a contract, I supplied the content. He put it together, organised ISBN’s etc, and now we are in the position of having the finished article. What we’ve got to do now is figure out how to sell the thing effectively.

The publisher is Charging Ram Books of Canada. They can be found via http://www.chargingram.com/ It’s a small publisher and is less than a year old so I don’t know if they are accepting submissions or not. Probably best to e-mail them with an outline first.

What’s the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best part has got to be when you hear someone laughing when they read your stories.I’m just as vain, needy and shallow as everyone else and when you hear them laugh, you know that it’s working. The worst part? Honestly can’t think of anything.

What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Evenings. Simply because I don’t have any other time available to write. During the day I still need to do my day job.

Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer.
I initially started with pen and paper but now It’s all on the computer, although when I edit I have to print the work off and amend with pencil before going back to the computer to rewrite.

What/who do you draw inspiration from?

Inspiration is everywhere. Providing that you question what is going on around you. There is so much corruption and hypocrisy in the world that rather than getting angry about it, you twist the story, throw in a few animals and write a parallel report about what’s happening.It’s not a new thing of course, Animal farm, The grapes of Wrath and many others have all been fictional stories reflecting current events.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as a word count?
No. For me writing is a joy rather than work. If I am lucky enough to give up the day job and write full time then that may change, but for now the difficulty is forcing myself to stop writing rather than forcing myself to write x number of words per day.

What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I am very excited about the next book. As I said said above it is based on one character: The venerable Auntie Vera. She was originally a character in one of my short stories and was loosely based on one of my aunts. My Aunt obviously had an inkling of what was happening as she died between the writing of the first and second stories.The stories are proving to be very popular on the site where I post my first drafts for
comments (Thewriterscircle.biz) and they practically write themselves.

How do/did you deal with rejection letters?
Rejection letters are very, very useful. It is possibly the only completely honest critique of your work you are ever likely to get. Fortunately, I haven’t had many, and so haven’t had need to borrow the mess webley and go for a short walk outside, and those I have had, have always been good sources of information. If you need to change the way you write or present stuff, a rejection letter with comments is worth its weight in gold.

Do you have a critique partner?
I put most of my stuff in first draft form on a writer’s site. Because we don’t live or associate with each other we don’t need to be nice about the writing. If it stinks we can suggest ways of improving it without worrying that we are going to have the dinner slammed on the table or lose a friend. I would much rather be told how to fix something than be told that I am the next John Grisham and wander around with a false sense of my own brilliance.

And here’s the story:

Auntie Vera and the Goddess of Health and Efficiency.
Auntie Vera liked Tuesdays at the pensioner’s day centre, for it was one of the few times that she was able to get together with her friends without some fool of an official trying to organise something useful or helpful for them.

She would settle in her favourite chair by the radiator and hold court on whatever subject happened to be the current hot topic. In the course of their conversations, she and her friends had worked out how to end world poverty, resolve the situation in the middle east and had compiled a league table of the best doctors and the worst bus drivers in the district.

Tuesdays were special in other ways too. For Tuesday was cake day, and cake day was when Pam Harper the council funded manageress of the day centre would wheel in a trolley loaded with soft sponge’s, Battenburgs and Bakewell tarts for the members. As a result there would generally be more people than usual gathered there all in anticipation of securing a free bun. Therefore, it was somewhat disturbing when one Tuesday morning the sanctity of the day centre was violated by the appearance of a chirpy middle aged woman carrying a large CD player, rather than someone delivering a hundredweight of jam doughnuts and iced cup cakes.

Apparently, someone at the council had seen a television report about health and fitness programs for pensioners, and demonstrating the enthusiasm for such things that is always shown by people who organise things rather than having to endure them themselves, had booked the woman to put the members of the club through their paces.

The official notice pinned to the board that announced that this was to happen had been unread by everyone due to the smallness of the type. Auntie Vera and the others watched with some horror as the woman, having set up her equipment, stripped off her clothes until she was dressed solely in a Lycra leotard and woollen leggings. Mr Pemberton who had been observing the woman more keenly than the others had to sit down and take one of his “calming” tablets.

“Come along now,” said the Lycra clad woman, clapping her hands.“It’s time to get fit and healthy.”

This statement was met by uncomprehending stares from her potential fitness class.“Come on. Come on,” she demanded. “This is going to be fun!”

Auntie Vera’s wasn’t sure that having her Tuesday morning disturbed by someone with a ghetto blaster whom she had never met before could be accurately described as fun. A view evidently shared by everyone else as none of the club members made any move to leave their seats. This display of passive resistance didn’t seem to dent the enthusiasm of their unwelcome guest, who with the dedication of a true professional switched on the CD player and began to perform aseries of energetic movements to the music.
By the end of the third track, it was apparent that the woman was starting to be less certain of her authority.

“I am the Goddess of Health and Efficiency,” she proclaimed somewhat desperately, as she bounced up and down while clapping her hands above her head.

Auntie Vera thought that the goddess jumping up and down before her resembled a slightly mad middle-aged woman with too much make up, rather than a mythical being. She also thought that goddess’s probably didn’t sweat as much as this one, and as Vera had suffered at least thirty years more misery than the woman who was now telling her what she should do, she wasn’t inclined to take the exercise class too seriously, but at least the woman was a tryer, and you had to admire her dedication.

This seemed such a stupid thing to say that Auntie Vera was tempted to point out that she had been doing exactly that for the last four score years. But instead she reasoned that she should show some solidarity with the woman, particularly as the poor girl’s makeup was now starting to run, so she made a vague wind-milling motion with her hands.

Auntie Vera thought that the goddess jumping up and down before her resembled a slightly mad middle-aged woman with too much make up, rather than a mythical being. She also thought that goddess’s probably didn’t sweat as much as this one, and as Vera had suffered at least thirty years more misery than the woman who was now telling her what she should do, she wasn’t inclined to take the exercise class too seriously, but at least the woman was a tryer, and you had to admire her dedication.

This seemed such a stupid thing to say that Auntie Vera was tempted to point out that she had been doing exactly that for the last four score years. But instead she reasoned that she should show some solidarity with the woman, particularly as the poor girl’s makeup was now starting to run, so she made a vague wind-milling motion with her hands.This seemed such a stupid thing to say that Auntie Vera was tempted to point out that she had been doing exactly that for the last four score years. But instead she reasoned that she should show some solidarity with the woman, particularly as the poor girl’s makeup was now starting to run, so she made a vague wind-milling motion with her hands.

Encouraged by this first sign of co-operation, the woman continued straight into the next music track. “That’s it,” she gasped. “Everyone wave your hands.”

By the end of the forth track the intructress was obviously flagging, and Auntie Vera was becoming concerned for her well being. Indeed the woman would have probably stopped, or at least slowed down at that point had it not been for the arrival behind her of Pam Harper and the cake trolley. At this sight everyone raised themselves from their chairs and started to move forward in order to secure themselves the best cakes. Taking this as an indication of participation in the fitness class rather than participation in demolishing the club’s stock of confectionery, the woman – now red faced and struggling to keep up with the rhythm of the music – gamely continued dancing to the next track. It was only when her fitness class swept past her that she staggered to a halt.

Auntie Vera went to the CD player and pulled the plug out of the wall.

“Are you alright, dear?” she asked the woman.

“I think so,” she replied, holding her side “But I’ve got a bit of a stitch. I’ve only just started doing this again now that the kids are grown up, and I think that I’m not as fit as I used to be.”
Auntie Vera patted the woman’s shoulder. “Come and sit down,” she said. “I’ll get you a cup of tea and a piece of cake.”

OUT SOON!

(Re) Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story

By
Mary L. Tabor

     Fresh, quirky and delightful, (Re)Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story, is brutally honest while giving hope that passion doesn’t need to end after a certain age. Tabor takes the reader from Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia and eventually to Paris, a visit that offers a stunning surprise—one that changed the author’s life.

Mary L. Tabor had been married for twenty-one years when her husband announced to her, “I need to live alone.” Already grief stricken by the deaths of her mother, sister and then father, the news threw Tabor into a tailspin of impetuous acts, the good, the bad and the foolish.

In this deeply personal memoir, Tabor wholeheartedly shares her journey, all after age sixty, proving it’s never too late to find love—and oneself.

Readers will find hope in a story that gives new meaning to romantic comedy.

The American adult woman is featured in this debut collection of stories about love, adultery, marriage, passion, death, and family. There is a subtle humor here, and an innate wisdom about everyday life as women find solace in cooking, work, and chores. Tabor reveals the thoughts of her working professional women who stream into Washington, D.C., from the outer suburbs, the men they date or marry, and the attractive if harried commuters they meet. One woman fantasizes about the burglar who escaped with her deceased mother’s jewelry.
In another story, the protagonist uncovers her husband’s secret: his pocket mirror and concealer do not belong, as she had feared, to a mistress but rather are items he uses to hide his growing bald spot. Revealed here are the hidden layers of lives that seem predictable but never are. Reading Tabor’s wry tales, one has the sense of entering the private lives of the women you see everyday on your way to work.
Mary L. Tabor’s short story collection The Woman Who Never Cooked won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. An excerpt of her new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story is forthcoming in the poet Ravi Shankar’s eZine Drunken Boat: http://www.drunkenboat.com/
Her memoir can be found here: http://sexaftersixtybook.com/. Her fiction and essays have appeared recently in the anthology Electric Grace, Paycock Press, The Missouri Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Image, the Mid-American Review, River City, Chelsea, Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review. She has taught at The Smithsonian’s Campus-on-the-Mall, George Washington University and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

Click for the interview:


What age group is you book geared toward?
You’d think from the title and me that older women would be my audience, and indeed they are, but the surprise has been that young women and men of all ages respond to the book because I am interrogating myself about commitment and intimacy.

Into which genre would you say your book falls?
I’ve written a memoir that deals with separation: Woman gets dumped, craters, tries to figure out what happened and ends up figuring out herself.

Tell us a little about your book?
(Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story is about my journey after my 21-year marriage crashed and burned when my husband “D.” announced, so Greta Garbo, “I need to live alone.” I cratered, then embarked on a relentless dash through the hazards of Internet dating, the loving, the illusions, and through it all a hard look at my foibles, whimsy, desolations, and in the end indomitable hope when all was hopeless. The key to my recovery is and continues to be the search to answer the question, Who am I? and how do I become whole again with or without the man I love? I am gifted by the journey of the living and the writing that became this true story.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
Sure. Here’s Chapter 1 of my brand-new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story:

I Need to Live Alone

I love romantic comedies: weep over them, quote their dialogue without attribution in conversation as when I am with a man who says he wants to be friends with me, “You actually believe that men and women can be friends?”

When Harry Met Sally: Harry: “What I’m saying is—and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form—is that men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.”

I collect music scores of Rom-Coms, buy the DVDs and watch them over and over again. Now sure, the appeal to me and others is this: girl meets boy and LOVE results, inexorable, indomitable, irrefutable, life-changing LOVE.

I was sixty years old when my husband—let’s refer to him as D.—dumped me—old story, I know. But wait, as the commercials for fancy French Fry cutters say.

I begin writing about my separation from D. on August 25, my parents’ anniversary. They were married fifty-four years. Can you believe it? I am alone and reading The New York Times in my condo where I live now. I find this: AP report, dateline: Chamonix, France (Isn’t that where Cary meets Audrey in Charade’s first scene? “Can’t he do something constructive like start an avalanche or something?” Reggie, played by Audrey Hepburn asks Silvie after young Jean Louis shoots her in the face with his water gun. Jean Louis shoots Peter, played by Cary Grant, as well.) The AP reports on an avalanche that “swept down a major summit in the French Alps before dawn on Sunday, leaving eight climbers missing and presumed dead along a trail often used to reach Mont Blanc . . . . One survivor, Marco Delfini, an Italian guide, said he saw ‘a wall of ice coming towards us, and then we were carried 200 meters.’ An injured survivor Nicholas Duquesnes, told Agence France-Presse, ‘There was absolutely no noise; it was very disturbing. We only had time to swerve to the right before being mowed down.’ ”

I had been married twenty-one years when D. announced, “I need to live alone.” Oh so Greta Garbo. There was absolutely no noise. I was sixty years old and had been chasing him around the bedroom—to no avail—for ten years. Bill Maher in a comedy routine on HBO not so long after he had been dumped by ABC only to arise again with Politically Incorrect, said in a joke about older women, “menopause.” Get it? Men A Pause. Yeah, I got it.

The French Fry Cutter salesman raises his voice on the commercial in my head: “But wait, there’s more”: I decide to date. I want a man who believes that men and women in love must be friends. But Harry is right that the sex part matters.

The hell with Bill Maher.



Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?
This is my life, or let’s say, a big part of it—the loving and living-live part—close-to-the-bone, I pull no punches.

Can you sum the book up in one sentence?
A love story where a series of men appear–all identified as a lower-case first initial–while the upper-case D. weaves out and in, as both he and I maneuver through the separation, a journey where you’ll find Internet dates, emails, T.S. Eliot and Nietzsche, romantic comedies and the Grimm Brothers, photographs, recipes, dreams, the Obamas, and yes, even the kitchen sink.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
D., for what he did that made me broke my heart and for what he did that gave me courage. As I say in the book’s acknowledgements, “Oddly enough, this book would not have happened if D. had not left me and sent me on my journey.”

So “D” is your ex-husband? How does he feel about that?
D. in the memoir is my ex. To find out how he feels, you will have to read the book.

Excellent answer! So, which comes first for you – characters or plot?
All my writing begins with a character. Henry James in his preface to The Ambassadors talks of the novel’s “strong stake.” I think what he means is that we must know the trouble that drives the character, but the strong stake is ultimately the fullness of that character’s life on the page. In his preface to The Golden Bowl, he admits how he inexorably chooses to move closer. “There is no other participant, of course, than each of the real, the deeply involved and immersed and more or less bleeding participants….”

Who is your publisher and where are your books available? Are there e-books and hard copies available?
My publisher is new, Kelly Abbott of 3ones, Inc. The book is available on Amazon for the Kindle and soon as a paperback there and at other online bookstores—I hope—by January 10. For now, you can find the paperback, the pdf and the Sony Nook versions at http://sexaftersixty.book.com My first book The Woman Who Never Cooked, Mid-List Press 2006, is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?
I am planning a blog tour and would like to do interviews, or book club visits. Contact me, please, at mary@maryltabor.com Something else is happening in mid-January. I’ll e-mail you as soon as that occurs.

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
I don’t have an agent—and I need one. Maybe it’s time for me to actively look for one—something I’ve not yet done. Kelly Abbott found the book that I was writing as a blog, liked it and offered to publish it. Going with a new publisher required a leap of faith on my part. I guess time will tell whether I was wise or foolish. My first book won a contest: Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. This independent literary press has spent the last thirty years looking for new voices.

What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
I’m on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Tabor/125813534105239 and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/maryltabor and I have a website at http://maryltabor.com/ I have to admit that this is the hardest part of the journey, but I am learning all the time and have met wonderful soulful folk who have loved the book and told me so—many even have tried to help me sell it by tweeting about it or inviting me to their blogs or interviewing me. To these good people I give my heart.

What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
When I wake or after a nap.

Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I journal all the time—so that’s paper. But when I sit down to put a narrative together, I work on my beloved Mac in my office where quiet and solitude reign. And I mean I love my Mac. I like to say that the living person I would most like to have dinner with is Steve Jobs.

What do you draw inspiration from?
From looking. And I do mean always looking, even when I’m sleeping. And I paint, but I never show that work.

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
That sounds like something I should do, but the oughts and shoulds have never worked well for me. Most important to me is simply showing up in front of the page, blank—or better, not so blank. I once read—this may be apocryphal—that Hemingway always left one sentence unfinished so that in the morning he had that place to begin. The painter and sculptor Roy Lichtenstein said he always had more than one canvas going in his studio. This works for me in the writing sense.

What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I write to understand. It is a search that gives meaning to my life. I admit freely that I have few answers and often define myself by saying, “I’m confused.” I’d be satisfied with that epitaph and hope that my friends would understand it to be the statement of one whose search continued until death.

What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I am writing what I refer to as a “blended memoir,” the story of my mother’s and my father’s family of the way their history of displacement (pogroms that preceded the Holocaust in Poland and Russia) have invaded my life. I am interviewing everyone still alive in my family and discovering the meaning of these stories in my own journey for understanding. You can read the germ of this idea, “Absent” here: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/2010/04/time-limits.html

What is your writing process like? Do you do a lot of background research? Do you plot every detail or do you prefer the characters to move the story in new directions, or a combination of both?
I’m always reading and researching. Everything I read becomes part and parcel of the journey of understanding. But most deeply I believe the “not knowing” drives my work. If I know where I’m going, the story, whether it be memoir or fiction, no longer interests me.

Do you belong to a critique group?
No. I had that experience while I earned my MFA—and that was well worth it. Now, I rely on one or two chosen writer friends who pull no punches.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It took a lifetime to write The Woman Who Never Cooked. (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story I wrote live as a blog over two years while I lived the experience.

How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
A piece I recently wrote, “Why I came to writing so late” gives the answer to that q.: a complicated and hard answer that can be read here: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-i-came-to-writing-so-late.html

What mistakes do you see new writers make?
As a teacher, I see that new writers don’t realize how important the small moment is and they fear writing close-to-the-bone. Here’s what I mean: I like to say that writers say the unsayable. If you want to write fiction or memoir that matters, you are going to have to take risks. You are going to have to tell the story that nobody tells, the story that is the underbelly of your generalities. The story that is hard to write, that cuts to the bone, the way a secret cuts to the bone. This is scary stuff to do. But here’s some advice from Eudora Welty: “One can only say: writers must always write best of what they know, and sometimes they do it by staying where they know it. But not for safety’s sake. Although it is in the words of a witch—or the more because of that—a comment of Hecate’s in Macbeth is worth our heed: ‘Security is mortal’s chiefest enemy.’ In fact, when the we think in terms of the spirit, which are the terms of writing, is there a conception more stupefying than that of security? Yet writing what you know has nothing to do with security: what is more dangerous? How can you go out on a limb if you do not know your own tree? No art ever came out of not risking you neck. And risk—experiment—is a considerable part of the joy of doing, which is the lone, simple reason all writers of serious fiction are willing to work as hard as they do.” That’s from Welty’s book The Eye of the Story. Read it.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Don’t give up and value the small journal. It took Faulkner thirteen years to see his first short story in print. And he sent to the literary journals. You may say, “Literary Magazines: Why bother?” I say the “little” magazines and eZines take more risks than the slicks or higher circulation journals—and this is so in print and on the Internet where I think the world lives now. Some of those risks pay off in Best American; not often, but sometimes. Let’s talk Faulkner again: He published “That Evening Sun Go Down” in 1931 in The American Mercury (now gone)—in those early pages we are introduced to some of the Compsons who make up The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner’s first short story in a national magazine was the still widely anthologized “A Rose for Emily.” It appeared in Forum (now gone) in 1930. Both magazines rejected earlier stories. And the rest is history. I will say more about this in a new blog post soon.

What is your website and/or blog where readers can learn more? Can they friend you on Facebook or Twitter?
Of course. Contacts below. I have two Facebook pages. Hit “like” here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Tabor/125813534105239 and then find my friend page.

Contacts:
(Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story: http://sexaftersixtybook.com/
Blog: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/

New Author Richard Sutherland

THE ROAD INCREASINGLY MORE TRAVELLED
 by
Richard Sutherland
Brace yourself for a hackneyed opening line. Here goes: “I always wanted to be an author”.
Apologies for that. Now let me make it up to you by adding: “But the fact that I did very little writing and was too shy to tell anyone about it hindered this ambition.”
There we go, that’s spiced it up a bit and given me something to focus on instead of just rambling for a few paragraphs. So now I’ll elaborate on how someone who didn’t really write anything ended up being an author. Or I’ll give it a go, at least.
Whilst at college and university, I wrote a few short stories and a single poem (the latter being something which, at the time, I thought was a one-off), but I didn’t consider myself a writer until July 2008, when suddenly everything changed. Waterstone’s (my employer from 2002-09) were running a competition called ‘What’s Your Story?”, which invited the public to create a tale that could fit onto a single-sided postcard. The winners would then be published in a postcard book alongside famous authors the likes of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling and many others. I’d never taken part in a writing competition before but this really took my fancy, and the fact that I worked at Waterstone’s gave me that much needed thrust to actually take part.
Sitting at my computer, I felt dismay at the realisation that I had no idea what to write about. My eyes flitted back and forth around the room, finally landing upon the spine of Aesop’s Fables, this particular edition being illustrated by the wonderfully fantastical artist Arthur Rackham. On the cover, Rackham had beautifully captured an array of characters from the book, one of them being an anthropomorphised stork. This swiftly resulted in me writing a story based not around the fairy tale creature per se, but around a perfect couple who can obtain anything they desire, except for a child. This short story is called ‘Special Delivery’ and it’s the first in my book because I still hold it dear; but the version that I wrote in July 2008 went through many changes before it was published in December 2009, most notably the ending… and the beginning… and pretty much all of the stuff in-between. (One piece of advice I can give: even when you think a piece is finished, chances are it isn’t. There’s often a sentence or even just a single word that might need changing. Take a break, then look at it with fresh eyes. This can pay dividends.)
Having written a full story, I became insatiable! I wrote another called ‘Savage Competition’, which charts the barbaric feud between Polar Bear and Walrus, followed by many others of various styles. One of my favourites, and by far the simplest of them all, is ‘The Life in a Year of the Traffic Lights’, which I wrote at about 3am because I simply couldn’t get to sleep without composing a tale about sentient traffic lights. I’m an odd man.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I wrote the contents (obviously), designed the cover and overall layout (those pesky margins, page numbers, copyright page and so on), registered with Nielsen Bookdata in order to buy the block of ISBNs and list the book on their database, paid a printer to put ink onto paper, created an account with Gardners Books so that it could be sold to shops, which in turn I then had to contact one by one because I’m my own marketing and press departments, and generally spread the word like crazy! As much as I’d love to say “that’s that”, the process continues until every single copy has sold (I broke even a few months ago, so trickles of profit make their way to me now and then, which is a pleasant surprise).
Self-publishing can be a long and hazardous road (not to mention lined with expensive tolls), but by God, there can be a lot of interesting incidents on the way. And providing you reach your destination, the hard slog makes it all the more satisfying. So I would recommend self-publishing as a route toward getting your words in the public’s view as it’s worked out great for me, but do some research first to make sure that it suits your needs. There are websites such as Lulu.com that publish any book, NightPublishing.com that publish many books, and then there’s the DIY route that I took (I used the printer Think-Ink.co.uk, based in Ipswich). Again, take your time and find the method that’s best for you.
Oh, and that postcard competition – I didn’t win. In fact, I didn’t even enter it! Why? Well, because I decided that my story deserved to be longer than a single-sided postcard, simple as that. And who needs to be published
alongside J.K. Rowling? I’m pretty close to her in the alphabet anyway.

 

Take a collection of short stories that range from the sombre to the slapstick, with characters from the psychopathic to the fairy tale. Add to the mix a bunch of humorous poems, a ‘monologue for two’, a story written entirely in text speak and even one that includes a bit or Morse Code, and you have yourself ‘The Unitary Authority of Ersatz’.
The Unitary Authority of ErsatzDespite the contents incorporating very different genres, styles and rhythms, they all take place within the eponymous city (Ersatz itself), a place where flights of fancy come to land.

The book is now in over 100 bookshops across the UK, stocked by Amazon and Play.com, and available worldwide from the author’s website: http://www.ersatzscribblings.com/

About the Author

Richard Sutherland is the author of ‘The Unitary Authority of Ersatz’, a collection of eclectic fiction and humorous poetry.


He studied History and Art History at Hull University and has worked as a Frozen Food Assistant, a Market Researcher, an Electricity Salesman, a Waterstone’s Bookseller and is now in the Marketing Department at Hull Truck Theatre (so he’s accustomed to people dressed as anything from cheeseburgers to penguins walking through the office on a normal day).


His life revolves around a loving girlfriend and two insane cats. His favourite colour hasn’t yet been discovered by scientists and he has a worrying obsession with traffic lights.

To get a glimpse into his bewildering imagination, take a gander at http://www.ersatzscribblings.com/