Guest Feature – David Bleiman

It gives me great pleasure today to introduce talented poet, David Bleiman. I invited David to come and chat on Patricia’s Pen after hearing him read from his poetry pamphlet, This Kilt of Many Colours, at Dragonflies Spoken Word. Without further ado, let’s go over to David.

On Writing

David Bleiman

Ten years after my (happily early) retirement I was still having vivid dreams in which I would be chairing unruly meetings at union conferences.  Twenty-five years after my father’s death, he would appear in some of these dreams.  I would wake up, the bed drenched in sweat, a poem half-written in my head.  I would dash it down, thinking that the poem was done.  Later I came to realise that this was just the first draft, the painstaking work of revision lay ahead of me. 

In my youth I had an egotistical confidence that I could change the world.  Perhaps I have lost that but writing poetry is another expression of a voice that wants to be heard.  So, reflecting on my own writing, I can see that, while processing the specifics of my own heritage and life story, I draw out what is universal and promulgate a certain view of the world.  The medium of poetry allows for a more nuanced approach.  More the nudge of experience than the shove of youthful dogma.

Some of my poetry is unusually niche, for example the lost Scots-Yiddish dialect which I had to excavate and largely reimagine for The Trebbler’s Tale.  Yet the thesis I advance in This Kilt of Many Colours is that enjoying or suffering these unique combinations which make up our individuality is part of our common humanity.   Yes, I have my own experiences of migration and half-remembered heritage languages.  But so do we all.  We are all homo sapiens, all from Africa. 

Born in Cape Town, I heard my paternal granny, Oma Ethel, speak a mix of English, Yiddish and Afrikaans in every sentence.  Coming to Scotland in 1979, I breathed in the language around me, including the colourful insults of my Glaswegian in-laws.  When my son moved to Madrid, I started to learn Spanish.  So it has felt quite natural to include both heritage and learned languages in my poetry.   In the words of Amin Maalouf (In the name of identity,1996), it is a way to find as many ingredients of my identity as I can and then to assemble and arrange them.   For me this has been an exhilarating experience and I hope that some of this exuberation, albeit leavened by melancholy and nostalgia, comes across to the reader.  Perhaps even encouraging them to take a fresh look at their own lost languages and mishmash of identities.

~~~

To purchase a copy of This Kilt of Many ColoursUK go HERE All Overseas go HERE

About David Bleiman

David Bleiman writes out of Edinburgh in English, Scots, Spanish, Yiddish and a largely imagined dialect of Scots-Yiddish which won him the Sangschaw Prize in 2020 for The Trebbler’s Tale.  He was shortlisted for the Wigtown Poetry Prize 2020 and is a finalist in the Roger McGough Poetry Prize, 2020.  An early draft of his first pamphlet, This Kilt of Many Colours (Dempsey & Windle, 2021), was shortlisted for the Wigtown Pamphlet Prize 2020. New to writing poetry in his retirement, he has had 50 poems published or accepted for publication since December 2019.

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Guest Feature – Helen Christmas

It is wonderful to welcome back fellow Chindi author, Helen Christmas, to Patricia’s Pen. Today Helen chats about adapting her writing style to a new genre. She also provides nine top tips in writing psychological thrillers. Without further ado, let’s go over to Helen.

Adapting my writing style to a new genre

Helen Christmas

I have always loved thrillers. For six years I was immersed in writing a series, Same Face Different Place, a mystery crime thriller across four decades. But in 2018 (after completing my series) I started reading psychological thrillers, a passion born from authors like Caroline Mitchell and Clare Macintosh.

At the same time I was thinking about what new direction to take my writing in and had an idea: the concept of three friends fighting to survive in a children’s home. One of them mysteriously vanishes, leaving the others traumatised, their memories repressed. I imagined them meeting as adults; twenty years had passed and they never knew what happened to him…

This very concept inspired ‘Lethal Ties.’

This was to be a psychological thriller; a historic child abuse case portrayed through the minds of the victims. Parts of my story I wanted to relate in psychotherapy, one character, Maisie, recovering memories, only to experience shocking flashbacks and nightmares. My male protagonist, Joe, meanwhile, spent a lifetime looking over his shoulder.

My book deals with mental health, the characters complex. I struggled at first, because the process of writing a psychological thriller was so different to writing an action thriller.

What are the differences?

Crime thrillers are fast paced. There is action and it needs to be explosive, the storyline gripping. There is likely to be violence, scenes such as police chases or a kidnapping.

But in a psychological thriller, the pace has to be slower. The biggest difference in writing psychological fiction, I discovered, is they are far more character driven.

There is a mystery in Lethal Ties, which needed careful unpicking. This started with my two characters sharing memories. But in my first draft, I revealed too many clues, too fast. You can’t rush a psychological thriller, or you kill the suspense. A gradual drip feed of information keeps readers hooked. And the more of the genre I read, the more I understood how essential this was, but it took two re-writes to hit the spot.

BUY

Top tips in writing psychological thrillers

1. Create a suspenseful backstory; the past has a significant bearing on the predicament explored in the present timeline.

2. Withhold crucial information; psychological thrillers contain secrets in the characters and plot. Keep them hidden to ramp up suspense.

3. Include narrative twists and turns. Taking the story into darker territory will leave your readers on tenterhooks.

4. Create strong, memorable protagonists, the more flawed, the better. It is their failings and instability that keeps readers on their side.

5. Get inside their heads, tap into their thoughts and emotions. An overriding emotion is often fear and there is plenty in Lethal Ties.

6. Create an atmospheric setting. Woods are a favourite and I liked the idea of including a sea mist.

7. But it is not uncommon to use a familiar setting for a shocking scene or twist. Example: a beautiful country house, which transforms into a place of terror.

8. Well researched police procedures are the key ingredient essential to all thrillers (both crime and psychological). Get police procedurals right to give your story authenticity.

9. Checking procedures was one factor that ensured I got the investigation in my story water-tight, so embarking on a 3rd re-write, using this research, I completed a first draft in autumn 2020.

About Helen Christmas

Helen Christmas is creative, ambitious, and enjoys working from home with her husband, running their web design business. She loves where she lives and with a passion for walking and photography has found inspiration to base her novel in West Sussex. She is also active on social media, writes a blog and likes networking with other authors. In 2017 she completed a mystery thriller series Same Face Different Place, and has many ideas for books in the psychological suspense genre. LETHAL TIES is her first psychological thriller, a standalone novel, and there’s even a little romance woven into the pages.

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To purchase Lethal Ties or any of Helen’s other books pop over to her Amazon page – HERE.


Guest Feature – Natalie Normann

My guest today is author Natalie Normann who has come to chat on Patricia’s Pen about how she gets ideas. Without further ado, it’s over to Natalie.

Why are ideas such a pain in the …?

Natalie Normann

I’m always asked how I get ideas. I’m never what to say because that’s one of those questions with no simple answer. Honestly, I don’t know where ideas come from. I have written 64 novels in 26 years – that is, it’s been 26 years since my first book was published. Before that I was a writer in training, with loads of abandoned stories and ideas that disappeared before they ever made it out of my head.

I started writing when I was a teenager,  when there were no books on writing available in Norwegian. I learned by copying stories I loved, except I didn’t know that was what I was doing. I would watch a movie, and then rewrite it as I remembered it. I also wrote sequels if I disliked the ending. Meaning nothing of what I wrote was remotely original, and most of it was terrible.

Even so, I kept writing, and at some point it finally dawned on me that the only thing I could bring to the table, was how I wrote my stories. And when that happened, I stopped worrying so much about being original, if that makes sense.          

Now I love the idea stage because whatever idea I get, it always feels like the best idea I’ve ever had. I get a nice notebook, and write down the idea, such as it is. Then I keep coming back to it, playing with it, looking for new developments and just collecting snippets that I feel is a part of it. Maybe finding names I like, do some research, play around with the options. Developing an idea is so much about choices, and I play different scenarious out in my head all the time. It’s part of the fun of writing.

I might start writing years later, or right away, depending on how I feel. And there’s always more than one idea floating around, and of course, because I’m writing, I can’t just drop what I’m working on and start something new.

When I finally start, even if I have done all the preperations and the research, and have the lovely notebook, whatever I write usually falls apart after a few chapters. After that, it’s like holding on to a slippery jellyfish that sprouts tentacles all over the place.

This is because ideas are always better in my head than out of it. That’s just a fact of writing life. If your first instinct is to chuck the thing in the bin, you’re like me. But don’t do it too soon. Keep writing and at some point it will get better. I always get the first draft down without much consideration to storyline or character arcs or any of the things that builds a story. I don’t spend much time on the first three chapters either, because I know it’s a waste of time. The story will change, and then I have to rewrite those chapters anyway.

And then there’s always edits.

About Natalie Normann

                                                                                                                                                                                               Natalie Normann is a Norwegian writer and writes historical romance series in her native language. Her writing journey started with short stories in women’s magazines until her first book was published in 1995. Writing in English has been a lifelong dream, and with Summer Island and Christmas Island that dream has come through thanks to One More Chapter.

She grew up in a shipping town on the west-coast of Norway, and always wanted to be a writer. Actually, she wanted to smoke cigars and drink whisky like Hemingway, but prefer chocolate truffles and the occasional glass of Baileys.

To buy Natalie’s books and find out more – pop over to her LinkTree

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Guest Feature – Chris Cooper

I am delighted to welcome Christal Rice Cooper, from St Louis, to Patricia’s Pen. Christal has come to chat about her her poetry collection gone sane. Without further ado, it is over to Chris.

gone sane

Christal Rice Cooper

On October 23, 2011 my first and only poetry collection gone sane was published by River King press.

gone sane is an illustrated poetry collection of violence but it is also a collection of persona poetry (A persona, from the Latin for mask, is a character taken on by a poet to speak in a first-person poem.)

The title gone sane came from many of Reverend Jim Jones sermons he gave and I included it in one of my persona poems on Jim Jones in this collection.

I would not describe gone sane as autobiographical; however there is one poem that is autobiographical and perhaps the most emotional and distressing poem for me to write, and that poem is Mark

At the time of writing Mark I was doing a story for The Altus Times on Child Abuse Awareness Month in April of 2003.  This story involved me interviewing the Altus Police Department about a murder case of a two-year-old.  The perpetrator was executed a few days later.

At the time this event occurred my first baby was only 20-months-old, and even though I endured post partum depression and felt disconnected from my baby, I could not fathom doing to my baby what this man did to Mark.  Soon Mark became my own baby, and I decided to celebrate his life by going to an upscale baby clothes shop called BELLES & BEAUS and purchased a green long sleeve onesie, and yellow jumper with matching socks.  I then went to the cemetery and asked the caretaker where Mark was born and he showed me immediately.  It was one of those flat tombstones embedded in the grass.  So I dressed Mark’s tombstone with the outfit and socks and took a photo. Then I came home to where my eight-month-old baby was and just held him.  And I decided then and there that I would tear up the photo the police department had given me of the murderer and I would NOT mention the murderer’s name.

The victory was knowing that Mark was never orphaned – that he always had poets and people, like at the Altus Police Department, and at the cemetery, who loved him and looked after him.

Mark

Mark was severely beaten and had sustained serious injuries –abdomen injuries, defense wounds, brain swelling, his liver was almost split in two, bruising on the back of his hands, blisters on his chest, and burn marks (from what experts believe was a sauntering iron) on his thighs and ears.  Mark succumbed to his injuries and died due to severe bleeding.

Excerpt from The Altus Times article dated Sunday, April 6, 2003
By Chris Cooper

~~~

What a heart-breaking story, Chris, and well done on such a poignant poem.

About Christal Rice Cooper

CHRIS RICE COOPER aka CAR COOPER is a newspaper/fiction writer, poet, photographer, & painter. CRC Blog is an INCLUSIVE & NON-PROFIT BLOG acknowledging ALL voices, ALL individuals, ALL political views, ALL philosophies, and ALL religions including Islamism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Atheism, etc. She has a B.S. in Criminal Justice & completed her workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Louis. 

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Guest Feature – Darren J Beaney

It gives me great pleasure to welcome back fellow Hedgehog Poet, Darren J Beaney, as he launches his new poetry pamphlet Machinery of Life. Darren is here now to tell you all about it so without further ado, over to Darren.

The Machinery of Life

Darren J Beaney

The majority of the poems in my new pamphlet The Machinery of Life were written for the dissertation for my MA in Creative Writing. The research tried to answer the age-old question – what is love? As part of my research, I read some interesting academic papers on love and one or two of them inspired a couple of the poems, I also interviewed (via Zoom and over a virtual pint) a number of blokes about their views on love and love poetry and some of their comments found their way into some of the poems.

What is love is a question that has fascinated scientists, philosophers, historians, playwrights, novelists, songwriters and poets for centuries. Well, this pamphlet of 23 poems of love may or may not answer the question, but it does offer some ‘romantic’ food for thought. The poems show love in many forms, as chaos and addiction, serious and fun. The poems try to convey that love can be the real thing, be peaceful, comforting and at times exhilarating.

On more than one occasion there are a few fleeting appearances from Eros and some of the other stars of Greek mythology. There is some philosophy, a smattering of humour, some self-deprecation (I had to be careful how I wrote that) and a bit of under the sheets risqué. I think that along the way it becomes clear that love is a splendid thing!

The Machinery of Life shows that love takes many forms and can be expressed in a variety of ways, it does not all have to be a cliché, wine and roses, gushing sonnets and stary eyes. It shows that love can be elegant, and it can be punk rock. It illustrates that no one should be afraid to show their love, even if the way they choose to do so is not considered the romantic way.

I had great fun doing the dissertation and writing the poems that ended up in The Machinery of Life, it may not give any one the answer to the question – what is love? But it may start to answer the question – what’s love got to do with it? (which was actually the original title of the pamphlet).

It has been an exciting few months for my poetry. Honey Dew was my first pamphlet, published in December 2020, and I have had 15 poems published in various anthologies, print and e-journals. I have plans for a full collection to be published at the end of this year and two pamphlets on the cards for 2022.

In addition, Flight of the Dragonfly (the spoken word event I co-host with my mate Barbara) has gone from strength to strength. It was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award; we have done two special launch events for 6 poets and have produced our very own e-journal called Flights.

Honey Dew and The Machinery of Life can be bought directly from Darren J Beaney HERE

About Darren J Beaney

Darren J Beaney has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Brighton. He co-hosts a regular spoken word night in Brighton/Zoom – Flight of the Dragonfly. He is a hopeless romantic! He cuts his own hair. He enjoys music, predominantly punk rock, but a lot of other sounds as well. His favourite author is Orwell.  He has developed a thing for Greek mythology!  He lives on the West Sussex coast, with his lovely family.

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Flight of the Dragonfly

Witches’ Exhibition

Back in April 2016 I visited Preston Manor in Brighton with my fellow author friend Suzi Bamblett. Why? Preston Manor was celebrating ‘Brighton’s Mother of Modern Witchcraft – Doreen Valiente.’ The exhibition was totally fascinating and during our walk around at the exhibits, Suzi and I each made separate notes to save time, with the view at some point to merge together. However, although we swapped notes, to this day I’ve still not been able to put the spells together just in case…

On Tuesday, I shared my poem Witches’ Exhibition on Twitter’s TopTweetTuesday run by Black bough Poetry, and it was only on sharing, I realised I’d never added it on Patricia’s Pen for my followers. So here it is. Enjoy.

Witches’ Exhibition was published in MagicGloucester Poetry Society Anthology in 2019.

Guest Feature – Tim Taylor

My guest today is novelist and poet, Tim Taylor, who has come along today to talk about poetry. So without further ado, it’s over to Tim.

Talking Poetry

Tim Taylor

Thank you very much for hosting me today, Patricia. Like you, I write both fiction and poetry. I find the process of writing very different between the two forms. For me, writing a novel is a bit like making a sculpture out of clay – you have an idea of what you’re after and you build towards it steadily, piece by piece, sometimes surprising yourself along the way. There’s a lot of shaping and editing to be done, of course, but what results from it will be a recognisable descendant of the original vision. 

Writing poetry is much more haphazard. There is no certainty about what, if anything, will emerge – or when. I can often come up with a reasonable draft of a poem from scratch in three-quarters of an hour. Many others, though, will be discarded or remain indefinitely in my Work in Progress folder. Sometimes, however, failed first drafts contain the germ of an idea that is good enough to persevere with, and I may come back to them many times over months and years until – at least sometimes – they can finally be brought to fruition.

I recently completed a poem begun in 2014, which I had returned to over and over again, each time producing another version I wasn’t happy with. It lay dormant for a while, then a few weeks ago I received an e-mail reminder from a publisher about a deadline for submissions to an anthology – in two days’ time! I thought: oh, that poem would be great for the anthology – if only I could finish it! So I got my head down and ploughed through it yet again, and this time, finally, I managed to produce a version I was satisfied with – just hours before the deadline!

I’ll end with another poem of this kind. The core idea for it was lying around for ages. Every so often I would have a look at it and once again fail to come up with anything I could be satisfied with. I had a few lines and fragments of others, but couldn’t find a way to fit them together and fill in the gaps between. But I loved the idea, so I just had to keep plugging away, adding a line here, deleting a word there. Eventually – years later – this was what emerged:

The Old Couple

When they were young

their love was a thing of flame.

Colliding like two asteroids

they were magnificent

but sparks would leap from jagged edges.

Incandescent, they would fly apart,

only to spiral inwards once again.

Look at them now,

sitting to watch the sun go down,

still warmed by the embers of that ancient fire.

She leans on him, and he on her;

time has smoothed their curves and hollows,

sanded them to fit each other

like pebbles rubbed together by the sea.

The Old Couple was published in Acumen and in my poetry collection Sea Without a Shore.

~~~

Thank you, Tim, for a great blog. I can completely relate to everything you said. I have poems sitting in my computer archives from 2011 and sometimes come out for an airing but go back in again as still not ready. I love The Old Couple.

About Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor writes fiction and poetry. He has published two novels, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day, with Crooked Cat and a poetry collection, Sea Without a Shore, with Maytree Press. His poems and stories have won, or been shortlisted in, a number of competitions and appeared in various magazines (e.g. Acumen, Orbis, Pennine Platform) and anthologies. Tim lives in Meltham, West Yorkshire, teaches Ethics at Leeds University and enjoys playing the guitar and walking up hills (not usually at the same time).

Buy Tim Taylor’s Books HERE

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Guest Feature – Sheena Bradley

I’m really excited to introduce my guest poet today, Sheena Bradley, as Sheena is a very good friend of mine and I am very lucky to have seen the poems grow in her collection Painting My Japan. Here’s Sheena now to tell you all about it.

Painting My Japan

Sheena Bradley

My pamphlet Painting My Japan is an exploration in poetry of the people, culture, history and sights of Japan as I experienced them during my many visits to the country. The idea originated in a presentation for my cohort and tutors during my first year of the Masters in Creative Writing. Since I was restricted to ten minutes, I wanted to give unity to the reading by confining myself to a single theme. I had four poems already written about my travels in Japan; the collection developed from there and became the topic for my dissertation.

I first visited the country in 2001, when my son had emigrated there. I travelled mainly in the hope of understanding his fascination. During that first visit I spent time in Tokyo and visited all the other major cities, but I also included a ten-day walking tour of Old Japan along parts of the Nakasendo Way, an ancient Shogun route between Edo (Tokyo) and Heian (Kyoto). We had an inspiring and informative guide who sparked my interest in the literature, poetry and art of Japan.

Nakasendo Way

Travel narratives have been around for millennia but travel writing/poetry has become more popular in recent years. As a genre, this may be even more important to people today, since travel has become so restricted by the pandemic, vicarious travel must be safer.

The biggest criticism levelled against travel writers in general, is any claim they might make to objectivity. Travel entails cultural and linguistic translation. Such choices and translations can displace meanings from their original context. Paul Theroux claims travel as a creative act in itself. And Peter Bishop says, ‘Travel writing creates worlds, it does not simply discover them.’ Nonetheless, writing about another culture to which we do not belong is fraught with problems in these days of cultural appropriation. My poems are purely my view of Japan and its culture, as it appeared over many visits and as I came to love the country.

I have titled the pamphlet Painting My Japan in a reference to one of the poems written from the perspective of Van Gogh. He was heavily influenced by Japanese prints, mostly those of Hiroshige and Hokusai, which were flooding Europe at the time. His best and most famous works date from these years. (1885-1890).

Best view in Hakone

The title of the pamphlet also indicates that the poems display how I personally see it. To continue the ‘painting’ idea, I have included calligraphy from my 14-year- old Japanese grandson, Keigh Tachibana Bradley, in the volume.

The above translates as Journey created by Keigh Tachibana Bradley

~~~

I hope the above has tempted you to purchase a copy of Sheena Bradley’s Painting My Japan. Details below on how to purchase a copy but first, let’s find out a little more about Sheena.

About Sheena Bradley

Sheena Bradley was born in a village near Draperstown in Northern Ireland and went to University in Dublin. She spent five great years in Liverpool and has now lived in Nottingham longer than anywhere else. She worked as a Radiologist in Grantham, Lincolnshire for 22 years, and since retirement has been writing, mostly poetry.

She loves words and images, but also mountains, bogs, beaches, birds, clouds, and all sorts of natural things.

Her eldest son lives in Japan with his family, and before travel restrictions entered our lives, she visited that country regularly and loved their rich history, culture, traditions and poetry which inspired her Dissertation for her MA in Creative Writing completed at NTU in 2018.

Many of her poems have been published in Sarasvati, Dawntreader and Reach, (Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd). Her work has also appeared in Orbis, The Beacon, As It Ought To Be, (AIOTB), Poets’ Choice, Dear Reader and Impspired.

To purchase a signed copy of Painting My Japan go to PayPal – £1 from each sale will go to UNHCR

or order via Amazon

Taxus Baccata – Book of the Week

I was excited this morning to discover that Taxus Baccata is The Hedgehog Poetry’s Press Book of the Week – and what’s more – signed copies purchased from my SHOP on this website have been reduced to half price! Pdfs available discounted at 99p!

Check what Mark Davidson at The Hedgehog Poetry Press says HERE and if you fancy a copy then go to my shop HERE and scroll down.

Also see what Nigel Kent (shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Reviewer of Literature, 2021) says on his website HERE