The newsletter for the July 2021 meeting can be downloaded here:
Jan Johnstone has just released her latest title, John Wilkinson, Ironmaster – Told By Those Who knew him. It’s available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback format.
Told in a creative non-fiction style, most of the characters within the pages were real people: his father, mother, brothers and sisters, business colleagues, wives and mistress but in order to carry the story, some of the characters are necessarily fictitious these identified in the contents page thus (*).
What they relate however, is based on actual recorded events. At the end of each chapter is a section entitled ‘Historical Notes’. Here the reader will find brief details of what happened to both the people and the many locations where John Wilkinson and his family were involved along with details of sites open to visitors today.
Jan Johnstone has lived in Shropshire all her life and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has had numerous articles as well as short stories published both at home and abroad in historical, specialist and general interest magazines.
Social history is a particular interest and two books have been published by Pen & Sword, Oswestry and Whitchurch in the Great War and Shropshire at War 1939-1945. Two other books are available on Amazon, Promise ofTomorrow written under the pseudonym Jan Davies, a fictionalised family saga beginning in Ironbridge in 1759, and Hadley – The Story of a Shropshire Village written in conjunction with her sister Margaret Jones.
Sue Crampton’s latest book has recently been published.
Sue was enchanted with the Costa Brava when she visited the country in 1962 on her family’s first foreign holiday. She returned forty years later and fell completely under its spell. The magical landscape, unique culture, and charisma were still there but now the people had re-established their Catalan identity and were struggling towards independence from Spain. Their history and this struggle inspired these stories.Continue reading
by Chris Owen
I was reading in the Shropshire Star (issue: 5th Sept) of all places, a piece written by David Banner of their news desk with the shock headline: ‘Monty Python wouldn’t get aired today’
The world-famous entrepreneur and auteur 80-year-old John Cleese, a man of not inconsiderable experience of writing, producing and acting in TV all around the globe, was being interviewed about writing for TV. He was espousing about original broadcast comedy writing in general and said that: ‘those Executives currently in charge, (even in 2020) basically did not have a clue.’ He was of the opinion that they should hand over creative control to artists (i.e. writers) instead of making bad decisions based on what ‘marketing people’ said viewers wanted to see aired on radio or TV.
When asked if he thought his classic Monty Python Show would be commissioned today he replied:
‘No, I don’t think it would.’Continue reading
Congratulations to John Cooke whose book, All At Sea, is published this month.
One man’s voyage through life It’s the late 1960s – a decade of Mods and Rockers; Beats and Hippies and full of peace and love. Aged seventeen, John Cooke ventures out on the roads, hitch-hiking around the UK. On the South Coast, he gets caught up with the romance of the sea and foregoes his freedom when he signs away more than nine years of his life by joining the Royal Navy. It is only after signing on the dotted line that he realises he’s made a monumental mistake; and there is no legitimate way out. John recounts his adventures as an adolescent who sails to the Far East; visiting Cape Town, Singapore, Sydney and Perth along the way. His voyage through the tempestuous sea of life was interspersed with time spent in Military Corrective Training Centres as well as in the Royal Navy Detention Quarters. But this epic journey is only the beginning for John on his road to discovery…
Mike White has just published his novel, Walking with Death, on Amazon, and it’s available in Kindle and paperback formats.
It was the perfect relationship. They met for a week, a couple of times a year, giving and getting what they didn’t at home. And no one would get hurt. That was the plan. But plans change…
Lisa Jade’s latest book, The Tomorrow Project is now available on Amazon for pre-order (release date: 31st October 2020).
The whole world knows Alya Mathis. She’s the Tomorrow Girl – the stuff of dreams. Born in a lab and raised by the Tomorrow Project, she’s the world’s first immortal human.
Not everyone knows about her older sister, Reya. They only know her as a binge-drinking, potty-mouthed troublemaker with a mean sarcastic streak. They only know that she routinely gets into fights, both with the Project’s detractors and Rene Mathis, the Project Head.
Almost nobody knows that Reya was supposed to be the Tomorrow Girl. Nobody ever discusses it. It’s like it never happened. But Reya remembers. She remembers a time when the Project were like family to her. She sees their detractors growing in numbers, and becoming more violent with each confrontation.
She’d do anything to make things right again. Even if it means betraying everyone and becoming something else entirely…
The Misfortunes of Lady Alice
by Stephen Palmer
Stephen Palmer has had stories published in print and online anthologies and the first of his Manchester set historical crime novels, Scar Tissue, was published in 2013. He is currently working on a sequel, Dolls and Mirrors, due to be published in 2021. He was born and raised in Somerset, England before leaving to study philosophy at Bangor University, North Wales and then Manchester University. The result of these studies, Human Ontology and Rationality, was published by Avebury Press. In order to make a living that writing and philosophy have signally failed to provide, he has worked as a bank clerk, research assistant, civil servant, film reviewer and an assistant on an archaeological dig at the Roman remains in Castlefield, Manchester. He now lives in Manchester with his wife and son.
‘He was eaten by a tiger! That must have been awful for you.’
‘Well, yes,’ I replied, ‘but not half as awful as it was for him.’
We were having aperitifs on the terrace of the Hotel Renoir. The sun was setting and no doubt its light shimmering on the Mediterranean was very beautiful but instead of letting the sight bathe my aching eyes I continued to study my companion. I was wondering what exactly he intended.
His name was Geoffrey or George or John. Something beginning with a G or a J. I wasn’t listening when my niece introduced him to me. He was an archaeologist or architect or some such and, having exhausted the various ways of sympathising with my loss, began to flatter me after we moved into the restaurant to dine. At least he had the sense to extol my intelligence rather than my looks. I have no illusions regarding the latter. My father was American and ugly but very rich which meant he could acquire as a wife a beautiful but extremely stupid daughter of an English viscount. Unfortunately it was my father’s looks I inherited. My face could be described as plain if it weren’t for my bulbous nose and thin lips. My body does nothing to make up for these deficiencies. My chest is flat, I have no hips to speak of and my legs are spindly. And now my eyes are beginning to fail. To the society in which I am condemned to move there are only two things of interest about me; the fortune I inherited and the fact that my husband was eaten by a tiger.
Ah, yes, my husband. Dear, dear, Charles. He was the most egotistical man I have ever met and am ever likely to. He married me for my money but I didn’t mind. Adventure was what Charles sought and he needed me to fund his expeditions. With my backing he climbed previously unscaled peaks, crossed uncharted wastes and hacked through jungles never before explored. He was dashing and handsome and that strange combination; both the most manly of men and a screaming homosexual. I loved him with a passion that caused me misery for twenty years. It was a misery I relished and even now, despite everything I suffered when I was married to him, I regret that he underestimated that tiger.
My companion at the Hotel Renoir was, like all the men I come across, a poor specimen in comparison. I was hoping when I agreed to dine with him that there would be something about him to spark within me some interest. Perhaps he wanted me to fund the construction of a building he had designed or an archaeological dig at the site of some ancient civilisation thus far unexcavated. By the time we were half way through the main course – a most marvellous boeuf bourguignon if I recall – I had gleaned what he was up to from those words wittering from his lips I couldn’t help but hear.
It was my money he was after but not me he wanted. He was playing the long game and who can blame him. I quite admired his forbearance in wishing to marry my niece and waiting for her to inherit rather than being saddled with me. I can, I have been told, be capricious. But not when it comes to my family. I may not have liked them very much but I am nothing if not loyal and Alexandra is the only family I have left.
Alexandra. I would like to say that, now Charles has gone, she is the light of my life but that would not be true. Sometimes I try to convince myself that I’m jealous. Not only will my wealth and estates be left to her when I die but she has the good fortune of having inherited her grandmother’s looks and her grandfather’s brains. She reads Russian novels in the original and looks very pretty as she does so but, much as I would like to, I can’t bring myself to envy her. I wish she was the sort of young woman who was poisoning me or plotting to push me down a flight of stairs so she can inherit without waiting for me to die of my own accord. Unfortunately Alexandra possesses one of those most irritating of dispositions, a sweet nature. She is kind and considerate to a degree that baffles me and so, of course, I am duty bound to protect her from men called Geoffrey, George or John.
So it was on that evening I decided to put him to the test, this Geoffrey, George or John who was buttering me up so that I would not object when he proposed to my niece. I began flirting with him. This is not behaviour that comes naturally to me and must have been a horrid sight but it is remarkable how a smile from thin lips can appear seductive and failing eyes seem to shine when there are several millions in the bank and a vast portfolio of stocks and shares behind them. The poor man was putty in my hands. Very wet putty it seemed given the speed with which his romantic attachment to Alexandra dissolved. He proposed to me over dessert – a wonderful chocolate crème brûlée. I ordered champagne.
So, here I am on the terrace of the Hotel Renoir. It is my wedding night although my husband is not with me. I made it clear that ours should be a companionable marriage. All that sex business would be rather undignified at my age. James – that’s his name, I think – made a valiant effort to hide his relief when I suggested this but failed. Alexandra is unhappy with me, of course. She was quite infatuated with my new husband and fully intended to accept him when he proposed. Her disappointment will pass soon enough. Especially when I put her in the way of a very handsome young Italian count with a fortune of his own who, I’ve been told, spotted her reading Anna Karenina and has expressed an interest in meeting her.
I stipulated only one other condition before marrying my second husband; that he should, as soon as the wedding was over, go out and find the tiger that ate my first husband and kill it. The poor fool took this as another example of my well known caprice and agreed. He is even now on his way to India whilst I am enjoying the reflection of a bright moon glittering in the dark blue waters of the Mediterranean. I must make the most of these moments of beauty before my eyesight fails completely.
When he arrives in India my husband will find that I have provided all the accoutrements necessary for a tiger hunt. He will have the very best equipment but, unfortunately, he is not the sort of man equipped for such an expedition. Thus I have high hopes of becoming that most exceptional of my sex; a woman who has suffered the misfortune of having not just one, but two, husbands eaten by a tiger.
Printing Over the Pictures
By Valerie Bowes
I’ve always loved writing. When I was no longer needed to drive a truck laden with plumbing materials around the building sites of London, I was free to put my words down on paper, instead of doing it in my head while negotiating traffic. Since then, I’ve had over 200 stories and articles published in magazines and anthologies, seen two of my plays performed on the amateur stage and reached the longlist or above in competitions. 2017 saw the publication of my first book, Battle For Love, a romance set in Napoleonic times. Unfortunately, the publisher folded so I’m still looking for one willing to take on my 4 other historical novels…
Something zipped past his ear. He ducked instinctively, his eyes snapping shut, his heart pounding a warning. His hands hovered, ready to shut out the blast that gave a second’s fraudulent silence before the thunder rolled over the bleak and battered landscape, flattening all before it.
The homely bumble of a bee foraging in the hedgerow and the abrupt clockwork trill of a peevish wren brought his eyes open, slowly, as if he wasn’t sure he would see the blanket of wheat, its green blades splashed with poppies as scarlet as Chelsea Pensioners, the yellow spires of charlock and the purple of poisonous corncockle. But it spread out before his eyes, uninterrupted by deep craters of mud and foul, stagnant water, and roofed by a clear and cloudless sky. High above him hung the bright ball of the sun, bathing his skin in golden light.
No storm. No darkness. No thundering guns. This wasn’t there.
The hedgerow scents, drawn heavenwards by the afternoon, teased his nose with honey and warm wood. Another insect streaked past but he was ready for it this time. Even if its path had collided with his, it would not have burst his head wide open to allow blood and brains to seep into the already reddened mud.
He gazed around at the quiet, gentle field, rubbing an ear of wheat between his fingers to release the flour that would become bread. How little it took, to turn a patch of earth from something that gave life to something that sucked it from you. For a moment, the light went out of the day again. The glowing greens and golds dulled into shades of brown and khaki. The leafy hedgerow loud with hidden birds went silent. It shrivelled, distorted, and grew a skeleton of barbs with a figure, crucified, hanging from the wire.
He’d had the means to help. Had it in his shaking hands. All he had to do was bring it to his shoulder and pull the trigger. Arthur wouldn’t have hesitated. Why had it been Arthur hanging there in no-man’s-land, not him?
Barren mud and shellholes morphed seamlessly back into the ripeness of summer as something moved. He saw the undergrowth quiver not far from his foot. Some small creature, no doubt, living its life, oblivious of the destructive power that could be unleashed at a moment’s notice. He moved along the field-edge, glancing casually down at the place where he had seen the movement.
And the eyes looked back.
Round and amber in a triangular russet mask edged with white and black and streaked with red, they were glazed with fear and exhaustion. Ears flattened even tighter to the skull as he stopped and stared, seeing the tangle of stout bramble shudder as the fox tugged unavailingly at the clutching thorns.
He’d never seen one so close before and stooped, peering. The fox froze, as if by stillness it could make this not to be. A slick of saliva dribbled into the green, tinged with blood from desperate gnawing. Teeth showed white and pointed in the panting mouth. Only a young one, then. But Arthur had been young. So had he.
He straightened. It was none of his business. It would get itself free eventually. If it didn’t, it was only vermin. What did it matter if it was trapped there until it died of thirst and exhaustion? He’d seen what happened when one got into a hen-run. The slaughter was indiscriminate and senseless. It didn’t deserve to live.
He moved away a few steps. On the edge of his vision, Arthur hung, arms outspread, head hanging like the Jesus on the cross in the tiny village church. If he helped this time, as he hadn’t then, would Arthur go away and leave him in peace?
It would have been so easy if he’d had a gun now, but he had nothing. He bent to rummage in the hedgerow for a heavystone or piece of wood. The fox jerked, frantic at his nearness. Maybe it sensed what kind of mercy he had in mind. He went on searching, hoping the fear would give it added impetus and absolve him of the need to do anything. Why couldn’t it free itself? Surely it must thread its way through brambles every day?
Then, as he reached for a likely weapon, something scored a deep scratch in his hand. He withdrew it with an oath, to suck the soreness. Then he saw the glint where the rust had been rubbed from the wire. The barbs were deeply snarled in the fox’s ruff. He knelt to trace the strand. If he could pull it free…
Brambles were one thing, dirty wire barbs another. His hand stung already and he thought briefly of sepsis. Why should he risk further injury? Why should he risk it for a bloody fox, for Christ’s sake?
Because it was a life. A life as precious to the fox as the lives of all those young men had been to them. Possessed of sudden purpose, he wriggled out of his jacket and cast it to shroud the fox’s head. The softness of the fur astounded him. He buried his fingers in it, feeling for the barbs, pulling them free with one hand while he held the jacket tight with the other.
Like waiting to go over the top, when you were so keyed up for action you were like to burst, time didn’t portion itself into the regularity of a ticking clock. It seemed to take forever and then, with the suddenness of a shrilling whistle, it was done. He pulled the jacket away from the animal, expecting it to run. But it crouched there, its eyes fixed on his.
He moved back, bundling the tweed to his chest.
“Go on, then,” he said. “Don’t waste it. I couldn’t save him, see?”
The fox moved a tentative paw. Then it was gone, racing flat and fast into the safety of the concealing wheat and the man walked on with a new steadiness in his step, carrying the memory of the soft fur in his fingers and with the first dimming brushstrokes laid over the pictures in his head.
Always Plant Your Marigolds in April
by Pam Keevil
Like many people I began writing through a love of reading; a love that began as a little girl when I would climb a tree in my garden, perch in the crook of the branches with a book and a handful of biscuits. Bliss!
But write books? Me? Never! That was for people who did English Literature degrees or had famous relatives who already wrote or published. However, as a teacher I was tempted to write for children so I began to experiment with short stories and completed an MA in Creative and Critical Writing in 2016. I realised what I really enjoy is the psychological interplay between characters and the relationships between them, using my knowledge of psychology and over ten years studying personal development. My first full length novel, Virgin at Fifty, a poignant and funny feelgood novel about starting over, was published by Black Pear in 2018. With my husband, I co authored a book on happiness, called Finding Happiness after Covid 19 which was published in July 2020 and am in the process of editing a cosy mystery about estranged siblings who meet and fall in love and is set in Gloucestershire, where I live. I may yet get round to writing a children’s book.
I’ve won several short story competitions, taken part in Stroud Short Stories on two occasions and the Cheltenham Poetry Festival in 2017, judged competitions, including children’s writing competitions and am an active member of two writing groups. I have a regular monthly slot on Corinium Radio and my website www.pamkeevil.com will tell you more, including how to keep in contact.
I am absolutely thrilled to have won first prize in this competition!
A shadow flits along the lane, like a man running. Not a jogger. More furtive. I rub my eyes and go to find my glasses. There’s nothing. I’d imagined it. That’s the trouble with being on your own. Things get out of proportion. I know I should go down to the lunch club every week. I might think about it later. Those marigolds won’t plant themselves unless I get a shift on. Stan always said marigolds need a good month before they start to do anything.
The September 2020 newsletter can be found here: Sep 2020
Sue Crampton’s first novel is available in print and Kindle format via Amazon.
The backdrop to this thriller is Iran and the last years of the Shah’s regime. Annie and her teacher husband Mike arrive to live in a remote expat community contracted to supply military expertise. She struggles with life changing decisions; she encounters Major Jack, and makes friends with two Iranians. Can they all solve their problems or will the escalating political situation prevent this happening?
Sue Crampton worked in Iran with the British Army in the years before the Iranian Revolution. More recently, she lived in Catalonia and helped her husband run a walking holiday business. Inspired by her love of history she has written stories about the Spanish Civil War, about the forgotten early Labour woman MP Edith Picton – Turbervill O.B.E. from Shropshire, and a memoir about her Dad, ‘Disgusted Tunbridge Wells’. ‘Behind the Oleander’ is her first novel. For more information, click here.
When Shropshire Star journalist Toby Neal said to Jan Johnstone, “Nothing’s ever happened in Hadley,” that set her mind running. And here’s the proof he’s wrong. Out now in Kindle and paperback format, Jan (and her sister’s) local history book about Hadley!
August’s newsletter can be downloaded here: Aug 2020
The newsletter available at the July 2020 meeting can be downloaded from here: July 2020
Our very own Denise Telford, who writes as Denny Jace has been interviewed by Capsule Stories. Read the full interview here: https://capsulestories.com/capsule-collective-interview-denny-jace/
The newsletter available at the June 2020 Meeting can be downloaded here: June 2020
Congratulations to Rolan Twynam, who has just self-published his novel On The Other Side.
When Brendan and Anna O’Neil arrive in New York from Ireland in 1889, their dreams of a new life are crushed within hours. Attacked and robbed of their money, implicated in the death of their assailant, the young couple flee — with a Pinkerton agent on their tail. Forced to work in an anthracite mine with little money and less food, Brendan risks their precarious life for the sake of shooting a rabbit for Anna’s pot. When a benefactor recalls them to New York, they have no choice but to face up to American justice. Will this young couple from Donegal get the chance to start again?
The newsletter available at the May meeting can be downloaded here: May 2020
Tomorrow Can Wait
By Chris Owen
Being isolated at home for any length of time can be a trial but with a full programme and a steady repeatable daily schedule the time passes well for any productive writer.
If you believe in your own talents and want to push on with the next project without worrying about agents and publishers’ commissions then go for it. There will be many alternatives for publishing your book or whatever when finished and if not the magazine article market is still out there hungry for online contributors even during the lock-down.
Take regular breaks from using IT media. Work 2 hours max per session. Then stop, relax take a stroll in the garden or your special space.
The newsletter available at the April 2020 meetings can be downloaded here: Apr 2020
Jan Johnstone, writing as Jan Davies, has self-published her novel, Promise of Tomorrow, and its available via Amazon in both digital and paperback format.
‘Promise of Tomorrow’ is the story of five generations of the Greenwood family who lived in and around Shropshire’s Coalbrookdale area, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, during the construction of the world’s first iron bridge. Beginning in 1759, each generation relates the story of their lives and their efforts to better themselves, whilst other family members, friends and enemies, also add their recollections to the ongoing Greenwood saga.Can this family succeed in bettering themselves against all odds, despite the hardships they encounter at every turn? This is a story of class inequality, hardship and love as the Greenwood family battles to achieve their dream of the ‘Promise of Tomorrow’.
Ebook £1.99, Paperback £7.99
The March 2020 Newsletter can be downloaded here: Mar 2020
The Powerpoint slides from Sue Ross’s poetry workshop can be downloaded here (in PDF format): Poetry Workshop 15th Feb 2020 definitely the final version
The newsletter available at the February 2020 meeting can be found here: Feb 2020
The newsletter available at the January 2020 meeting can be found here: Jan 2020
The newsletter available at the December 2019 Meeting can be downloaded here: Dec 2019
The newsletter available at the November meeting can be downloaded here: NOV 2019
The newsletter available at the October 2019 meeting can be downloaded here: OCT 2019
Playing by the Rules
By Barbara Young
The coppers came to the house quicker than I expected. A stern, frowny detective with a scraggly beard, wearing a shiny grey suit, and a woman in bulky uniform that made her look fat. I had to go to the station for an “informal chat”. Not sure what they meant but Mam always told us to say nowt to the coppers. They asked her to come with me but she had one of her headaches – she was pissed – so my social worker’s here instead.
“Rose, could you tell us what happened down by the rockpools?” asks the policewoman with a smile.
I think she’s called Tracy, or maybe Macey, I wasn’t really listening when she told me. She’s trying to make me feel comfortable, make me think she’s my friend. She’s got the same cheesy smirk my social worker uses all the time.
by Sam Szanto
Amelia’s crying wakes me. The red eyes of the clock say 12.45. For a couple of minutes, I ignore her in the hope she’ll go back to sleep. She turns up the volume.
‘Don’t you know I have to be up for work in six hours?’ I mutter, dragging myself along our skinny corridor.
There is an unfamiliar, plastic-y smell. I want to investigate, but Amelia’s cries are growing louder. The neighbours have never complained before but it would bug me to be woken by someone else’s bawling baby: my own is bad enough.
‘When’s this going to stop? I need to get you off the breast; you’re sixteen months… shush, sweetheart, shush….’
by Vanessa Horn
Rat-a-tat! Rat-a-tat! The Ladies are here again. And it’s different today; I’m down in the hall and Mother’s upstairs. It’s the first time I’ve been this close to them, but I had a feeling they were around our area and my feeling was right – they’re just behind the door.
The Ladies come every few weeks or so. Not regularly enough to guess exactly which day, though. I’ve never seen them in person, but I always know it’s them at the door; their rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat is different from any other knock I’ve heard. But even when I hear them, I’m never near enough to answer. Until today.
The newsletter available at the September 2019 meeting can be found here: SEP 2019
The newsletter available at the August meeting can be downloaded here: Aug 2019
The newsletter available at the July 2019 meeting can be found here: Jul 2019
The Newsletter available at the June 2019 meeting can be downloaded here: Jun 2019
The handouts available at Olga Merrick’s workshop at the May meeting about creating characters and bringing them to life can be downloaded here: Olga Merrick’s Creating Characters
The newsletter available at the May 2019 meeting can be downloaded here: May 2019
The newsletter available at the April meeting can be downloaded here: Apr 2019