Tag Archives: novel

2039. A newsworthy photograph

What a conundrum for Haydn Rex Pratt. He had just published his fourteenth novel and the local newspaper needed a photograph. What photograph should be used? He had a substantial collection of self-portraits but it was a question of selecting one that verged on the academic.

For example should he supply a photograph of himself sitting engrossed at a desk with a pen poised between his thumb and forefinger and the other end of the pen just touching his lips? It was reflective and almost professorial. No, it would not do. What writer these days would be seen dead holding a pen? Hadn’t they heard of computers?

His snapshots sitting at a computer were humdrum. Many of them had the camera flash reflected on the screen. It was so amateurish. Besides, most of these photographs were several years old and the style of keyboard and mouse (not to mention the clothes he was wearing) had quickly become dated and unfashionable.

Then there were several to choose from that were taken outdoors. One of these in particular was his favourite (people said it didn’t look like him but he absolutely adored it). He was standing in front of a date palm. Everything in the picture was so natural. He was smiling. He knew exactly why he was smiling. His time in North Africa had been one of the most enjoyable vacations he had taken. That gladness was clearly reflected in the photo. But what did smiling in front of a date palm in North Africa have to do with his novel? And he couldn’t remember the name of the woman who was standing next to him.

There were several photographs that were unmentionable. He kept them hidden at the bottom of the pile. They were inappropriate of course, but he looked at them for some time as if they could serve some use to the local newspaper.

In the end, Haydn Rex Pratt selected a photograph of himself that didn’t seem to place him in any context or setting. It was a full-length photograph, but it made him look particularly handsome. Not that he wasn’t naturally handsome, but this photograph captured him perfectly. Perhaps it was the quality of light or the precise angle that encapsulated his fetching masculinity. Who knows? It was this photograph that he always thought should be used as a basis once the town decided to erect a statue of him; the resident famous novelist!

Haydn Rex Prat tucked the photo into his inside jacket pocket and set off for work. It was a busy life being the editor of the local newspaper.

Old Monk’s Habits Die Hard

Today’s scheduled tale – Story 2039 “A Newsworthy Photograph” – shall appear out of sequence on February 6th 2021, as I want to say some stuff for today’s posting!

Thing One – A Passing Shower

I am delighted to report that Iseult has reviewed my novel – A Passing Shower – and given it 4 out of 5 stars! Thank you Iseult! The review can be read HERE – and from there to Iseult’s many other book reviews.

I presume everyone’s mother at some stage – at least in Western European Civilization – created some coconut ice. It’s usually half pink and half white. Well, once upon a time there were 5 pieces of coconut ice and I got 4 of them! To want all 5 would have been greedy, and I would have got smacked by Mother, and 5 probably would have made me sick anyway. So I am thrilled to bits with getting 4 stars! If you haven’t read my novel then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. It can be accessed HERE for free.

All sorts of important (and intelligent) people have reviewed my novel apart from Iseult, such as Uma, Yvonne, the late Cynthia, the late Pauline, Lisa, Ian, Andrea, Bianca, Chris. The high percentage of reviewers who have since passed on could well be a hint to you to get cracking before lateness catches up!

I realize that the novel is post-modern and not to everyone’s taste. The narrator is unreliable – in fact she’s a total chaotic mess (try writing a narrator like that! – in fact try reading a narrator like that!) As I said in a comment to Iseult, I once sent the first 50 pages to an agent asking if he would be interested to which he kindly replied with something like, ‘’I think after the first 50 pages I’d get totally pissed off.” The choice is yours!

Thing Two – No More Can Fit Into the Evening

I had said to an editor (THE Editor of Editors – ahem – in fact there are two of them) that I would do something I’m no good at and write a review. Well, here we are although I don’t have any social media network connections to flay about in except for this!

The book is called No More Can Fit Into the Evening: An Anthology of Diverse Voices. This volume of 369 pages by 39 poets from all over is edited by Thomas Davis and Standing Feather for Four Windows Press based in Wisconsin.

There are a number of poets featured you would possibly know from the blogging world. There is Bruce Goodman (who appears far too often on my blog and has six poems), the late Cynthia Jobin (who has 8 poems), John Looker (who has 10 poems), Ethel Mortenson Davis (who has 11 poems), and Thomas Davis (who has 9 poems). Other poets within the volume probably frequent the blogs but I’m not that good at spotting mountain lions in long grass. Having a decent lot of poems from each writer is a brilliant way of getting the flavour of each poet. Rather than simply sip a single martini one gets to hog the whole bar.

My personal poetry-writing voyage is a little chequered. When I was a kid at school – around about aged 15 in 1965 – a “famous” (still famous in New Zealand although dead) poet – James K. Baxter came and spoke to us. He said “Practise writing poetic forms for twenty years and then write your poem.” I attacked poetic forms with a vengeance. And then a couple of years later I showed a poem to another “famous” poet (who shall remain nameless) who pronounced that the poem was a load of crap. I didn’t write another poem for fifty or so years, and then my blogging friend, Cynthia Jobin said “Why not?” So I started writing poems again, and again resorted often to traditional poetic forms.

I am not too good at always comprehending contemporary poetry – and as the title of this volume says, it is “An Anthology of Diverse Voices”. So what I am doing is taking a poem a day – in no particular order – and reading and pondering it each morning. That way I think I am learning to see what each poet is doing and also coming to some understanding of how some contemporary poetry works. It is rather rewarding! A bit like a monk doing half an hour’s meditation each morning.

So I am nowhere near finishing the volume and feel a bit rude recommending it before I’ve finished reading it. However, I can’t wait a year. I should really chat about some of the poems I have pondered, but won’t because you can do it yourself! The voices/styles/concepts/methods in this anthology are so varied and wonderful that I think it’s an ideal book to take a poem regularly and ponder. After all, of course, it’s not a novel! It is a meditation book of modern poetry – even for those who are not too much into poetry. I can really give it no better recommendation than that. As the poet Robin Chapman says in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1946 (p.102):

It’s the morning of the world
I want to tell you about…

Available at Amazon and all sorts of other places. Four Windows Press is HERE.

Finally, by inference, a story: As one of my students years ago said – he was the captain of the school’s top cricket team and a fairly solid sort of bloke – “Thanks for making us read Wuthering Heights. It was bloody good.”

Our world has lots of lovely people

In recent times – after 60 or so years of getting nowhere (some people never learn) – some kindly things have happened in my life through the care of others. Recently, in my writing there have been three Yipee! moments, which is possibly three more Yipee! moments than have occurred over a lifespan.

Yipee! Moment One

Iseult Murphy of Iseult Murphy named my autobiographical reflections – Bits of a Boyhood, growing up in rural New Zealand – as one of the better books she had read during the course of the year. She gave it the maximum five stars. Thank you, Iseult! She must surely be one of the most prolific readers on the Net, and each week sees piles of books reviewed by her. How she reads so much I have no idea – I barely have time to read all the titles. It was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Two

Ian of Dumbest Blogger Ever named my novel – A Passing Shower – as one of the ten best books he had read during 2020. It was a thrill – especially to be placed in the list along side Homer and Sophocles! I didn’t hear either of them complain about my keeping them company. The Dumbest Blogger Ever is one of the more erudite personages inhabiting the blogging world, so it was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Three

Thomas Davis and Standing Feather edited an anthology of contemporary poetry published by Four Windows Press in Wisconsin. The anthology contains a collection of poems by 39 poets from all over the world. Each was invited to submit poems. Six of mine were selected! Thank you! The volume is called No More Can Fit into the Evening. I find a lot of the poems stunning, and it is indeed a privilege to find myself in such company. Every office needs a janitor I guess! You can read about this anthology of diverse voices HERE, and find how to order it if so desired. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so they say, but in this case it might not be unwise. The cover to me sums up the universality and diversity of human experience contained in the pages. It was a great thrill to be included and I gave a wondrous Yipee! The collection also includes poems by the late Cynthia Jobin. Many of you knew her. Also John Looker who is well-known in these blogging circles and beyond.

An Addendum Yipee!

HERE is a link to a poem (unpublished and I read it aloud as well). It is titled Thank God I’m Not Famous.

Thanks again to all these lovely people mentioned above!

1878. The opening sentence

Tamsin knew it was high time she started writing her novel. After all, she had spent eleven years researching it. If anything needed further research she could research it there and then while she was writing the book. Today was definitely going to be the day. Once started the momentum would increase. The pages would pour out like the ooze of oil crushed.

Opening sentences are very important. Tamsin typed out a couple of options. She wasn’t overly enthusiastic about either. She typed out a third option. It wasn’t much better. She needed to think about it. What better way to think about such things than to vacuum the house?

All that the vacuuming did was highlight the dust that had collected on the tops of furniture. She would dust it, but while she was getting a rag from the laundry she put the washing on. “I didn’t realize there was such a backlog of laundry,” thought Tamsin. It was clearly going to end up being a laundry day. She might as well strip the beds. The day was too lovely to waste drying things in a dryer. How much fresher is bed linen dried in the breezy sunshine!

Of course, the dishwasher needed emptying, and while she was at it, she might as well prepare the vegetables for the evening meal. Her husband was picking up a pre-cooked chicken at the supermarket on his way home, so all that was needed were a few vegies to go with it. Would you believe? She was out of potatoes. She would have to pop down town to get some spuds. She texted her husband to say “Don’t bother getting a chicken on the way home” and then set out for town.

It was while in the confectionary section that she bumped into Monica. They hadn’t seen each other for a month or so, so it was good to catch up.

Back home, Tamsin peeled the potatoes. All that was needed was a sprig of mint. Oh dear! That section of the garden needed a quick weed.

When all was done, it came to her. Tamsin sat down and typed out the opening sentence of her novel. She was well pleased.

1874. Outside a thrush was singing

Iseult was a novelist. She wrote horror, fantasy and science fiction.

It was raining outside. It was one of those sun-shower days that make you understand why Ireland is called “The Emerald Isle”. The green was translucent.

Iseult gazed out the window. She had been stuck on a sentence for two days now. “Herman raised the axe”. Iseult knew she couldn’t kill off Aoibhinn, the heroine, so early in the novel. It was after all only page 19.

“Herman raised the axe.” What comes next? How could Aoibhinn escape this inevitable fate? Does she bend down to pat the dog and thus escape the plunging axe head? No! No! It’s all too predictable. Simply bending to pat a dog and escaping murder is so gauche. Maybe Iseult had made a mistake modelling Herman on the guy who comes to mow her lawns – he was too much an unexciting character. His personality didn’t advance the plot.

Outside the window a thrush was singing its heart out in the rain. Now there’s a sentence, thought Iseult. “Herman raised the axe. Outside the window a thrush was singing its heart out in the rain.”

Iseult typed the new sentence. At least she was one sentence further on. It’s fun, she thought, that what I type is actually happening! Outside the window a thrush was singing…

Herman raised the axe. Outside the window a thrush was singing its heart out in the rain. Iseult bent down to pat the dog.

(The real Iseult blogs HERE. There she reviews many a book. Her own novel – “7 Days in Hell” – is available on Amazon. Sometime ago, in the comments on my blog, Iseult expressed a mild desire to be a “victim” in one of my stories! Hence today’s gentle, though callous, plot.)

1795. Future classroom dialogue – c. 2162 CE

Student: Excuse me Miss. Do we really have to study this?

Ms. Honeybun: Yes, Zenith. It’s written by a great writer. It will stretch your imagination. It will open your eyes to possibilities.

Student: But we have already studied his novel and poems, and now we’re expected to study his short stories. Why can’t we study someone interesting, like Shakespeare or Emily Bronte or Thorkel X. Kaftan. (Note: Thorkel X. Kaftan didn’t appear on the literary scene until around 2098 CE).

Ms. Honeybun: Shakespeare is so very yesterday and greatly overrated. In my opinion we are studying the greatest writer since Euripides.

Student: But Euripides wrote plays. This stupid idiot didn’t write plays.

Ms. Honeybun: He’s not a stupid idiot, Zenith. And oh yes, he did write plays. His plays are the next thing on the syllabus we will be studying.

Student: I hate having things shoved down my throat.

Ms. Honeybun: When you are older you will thank me for having so forcibly introduced you to this lustrous author. Euripides and Bruce Goodman are undoubtedly the two greatest writers in the history of the world.

Second Student: Speaking on behalf of the rest of the class, we simply adore what you are teaching us, Miss Honeybun.

Ms. Honeybun: Thank you, Echinacea. I’m glad most of the class recognize greatness when they see it. Now could you please all turn to Story 1795: Future classroom dialogue.

Footnote: See the links at the top of the blog page!

1770. That’s how you do it

Neville was destined to become a famous novelist. Thus far he hadn’t had anything published. In fact he hadn’t quite finished his first novel. It needed tweaking. There was a reason for his not having finished.

Neville became so attached to his characters that he refused to kill any of them off. Thus the pages of his masterpiece gathered more and more characters. They overcrowded the pages. If they had existed outside the novel, and lived in the same house, there would be one hell of a queue outside the bathroom.

Honestly, by the time he got down to the fourth generation he should have killed great grandpa off. But no! Great grandpa was arthritic and senile and very much alive.

Eventually he submitted his tome to an editor.

“There are too many characters,” the editor said. “Kill some of them off. It’s easy; just cross a few out. That’s how you do it.”

“I know, I know,” said Neville. He left the editor’s office with a heavy heart. He began the long walk home. Who to kill off? And how?

He was so engrossed and desolate that he failed to notice where he was going and got run over by a truck.

That’s how you do it.

1675. Almost published!

For some reason Charlie had always imagined he’d be a successful novelist. Such a dream was surely about to come true. His first novel had been accepted by a major publishing company. For over a year the manuscript had been edited, honed, changed, amended, corrected, revised, rewritten, modified, improved, refined, sharpened, perfected, enhanced, polished, altered, transformed, adjusted, brushed up, gone over, read aloud, examined microscopically, and had removed from its pages all possible accusations of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. In fact, Charles reckoned he could hardly recognize the original.

He didn’t like the finished product much. It had had the stuffing knocked out of it.

On his final visit to the publisher Charlie was told that the novel lacked panache and it was no longer going to be published. It simply wouldn’t sell. Charlie told them to shove it. He went home and wrote a poem.

1547. Book worm

(The closing sentence for this story was suggested by Chris Nelson of chrisnelson61. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future closing sentence for these stories, click here for a peek as to what’s what. Try not to read the closing sentence until you’ve read the story!)

Raymond had three children, two boys and a girl. He was immensely proud of his two sons. They had done so well at school, especially on the sports field. Now that they were old enough to leave school they were as keen as mustard to get jobs. In fact, Jared had already been accepted for a job on the railways.

The daughter, Annette, was another kettle of fish altogether. She was a book worm. “Get your head out of those books and start doing something useful. Reading books won’t earn you money.” It was Raymond’s favourite axe to grind.

“That lazy girl is not going to go far living in fantasyland in her books. This morning I had to physically force her to slam the book shut and start peeling the potatoes for tonight’s dinner. We’ve got a house to run.”

And indeed, Annette had been engrossed in the book. She had only a few pages to go. Ellen, the narrator, had moved to Wuthering Heights soon after Lockwood had left to replace the housekeeper who had departed. In March, Hareton had had an accident and been confined to the farmhouse. During this time, a friendship had developed between Cathy and Hareton. This continues into April when Heathcliff begins to act very strangely, seeing visions of Catherine. After not eating for four days, he is…

Annette left her novel to peel the potatoes. Why was her father so demanding; almost to the point of cruelity? Why couldn’t he let her finish when she was almost at the end?

After half an hour of dinner preparation, Annette returned to her novel. Only then did she notice that the last page was missing.

1409. Going! Going! Wait!

You wouldn’t believe the excitement! It had not been long since Abram had finished his first novel. It was called “Going! Going! Wait!” He had boasted about it online and then… WHAM! … a message came from a publisher:

WE WOULD BE INTERESTED IN HAVING A LOOK AT IT.

“I guess I just struck it lucky,” said Abram.

He sent a copy off to the publisher immediately, and waited…

…and waited …and waited. They never replied. He never heard back.

“I guess it’s not going to get published,” said Abram.

But what Abram didn’t know was that it had been published. It had been translated into Chinese under a different author and name – along with thousands of other Western novels. The “publisher” made a pretty penny, and still does to this day.