First glimpse – Remember Me To The Bees

So, the proofs are back, changes have been made, a few more minor corrections may be needed, but it exists! My debut short story collection Remember Me To The Bees, nestled in my hands with its heart beating like a live thing.

Remember Me To The Bees first glimpse

And here’s the front cover for you to gaze at, featuring bespoke artwork by the talent Louise Boulter.

Remember Me To The Bees spine

And here’s the spine…

Not long at all now till it will be available to buy. What do you think?

Mid-week writing prompt – wetlands

Something about this scene looks so tranquil to me – the light, the water and the birds swooping by. But imagine if this was your home.

Slimbridge Wetlands cr Judy Darley

What work would you do if you lived here? How would each day unfold? And how would you respond if a stranger arrived and threatened it in some way?

If you write something inspired by this image, I’d love to read it. Drop me a line at judy(at)socketcreative.com and you could be published on these pages!

Book review – Not in These Shoes by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

Not In These Shoes book coverIn this concise, precise collection of poems, each word plays its part, selected with care and slotted seamlessly into place to keep each line aloft, delivering and engendering emotions with equal ease.

The collection begins without apology with ‘Découpage’, a poem that hangs from the stark first line: ”The day of your post mortem”. Glorious imagery abounds and the deceased is remembered as “Thinking in appliqué,” while cheekbones are “Slashed indigo lines.”

Series of poems are strung together to tell a tale, as in ‘Crayfish Tail Salsa’, a lyrical chapter of diary entries written from the point of view of a hotel worker, possibly the poet in an earlier incarnation. Each entry begins with a declaration of her ever decreasing weight, until we are as hungry for crayfish tail salsa as she.

‘Backless’ is a sensual masterpiece, at once enticing and faintly disturbing, titillating us with murmurs about “An opaque window of skin,” while breathing a dark undertone that runs through many of the poems, keeping us intrigued beyond the end. Continue reading

Mid-week writing prompt – the catwalk

I came across this picture filed away among some snaps I took at the Clothes Show 2004. The hats, knee-socks and swimwear/lingerie combo is pretty extraordinary.

Clothes Show 2004 cr Judy Darley

I particularly like the yellow hat so large the girl has to gaze through the brim. She also looks like she might be about to break out of line and run for her life!

So, what do you reckon, are those girls friends or rivals? And, if this wasn’t a catwalk show, what possible reason could they have for dressing like that?

Book review – The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

The Quickening Maze coverReview by Emma Bragg

Adam Foulds’ novel The Quickening Maze was a surprise amongst the shortlist of 2009’s Man Booker Prize. The book revolves around real events in Epping Forest in 1840, which Foulds has managed to combine cleverly with his own imaginings.

Described as a ‘lyrical novel’, the story centres on the poet John Clare who is coming to the end of his career with his poetry now considered not to be ‘in fashion’. As an inpatient at High Beach Private Asylum we see Clare alongside other patients early in the book, such as the religiously fanatic Margaret, and in these surroundings Clare appears comparatively sane.

The Asylum owner is Dr Matthew Allen, another factual character who, with his sermons and asylum-revolved lifestyle, appears dedicated to his patients. It is also apparent that he is able to develop a trusting bond with his patients and he encourages Clare to continue pursuit of his poetry career. Continue reading

Step into Submergence

Ever wondered what it would feel like to step inside a computer? Apparently not as different to the 1982 movie Tron as you might expect! Last night saw UK premiere of an immersive art exhibition in Bristol, named Submergence and exploring this idea in the form of hundreds of light bubbles.

Submergence5

Like an extravagant bead curtain, the lights glimmer on and off in varying patterns and colours. It’s a bit like strolling through an aquarium where the water is breathable – fairly magical, especially if you visit after nightfall when the lights gain a shimmering intensity offset by the darkness outside.

Submergence

Created by award-winning digital artists Squidsoup, Submergence was designed and developed in the UK and Norway, and has already been shown at the Geneva Mapping Festival and in Oslo.

Submergence4The installation at The Eye building, just over the footbridge from Creative Common, behind Bristol Temple Meads train station, is the only UK showing. It’s been brought to Bristol thanks to Squidsoup’s residency within Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio.

“Submergence is the latest work to emerge from Ocean of Light, a research project looking into the immersive possibilities of visual systems that occupy physical 3D space,” says Anthony Rowe, Creative Lead at Squidsoup. “More than 8,000 individually addressable points of light are suspended in a space that people can walk within, to create an experience that is abstract yet immersive, and also responsive – the lights, and therefore the space, respond to your presence.”

Watershed describe it as “a virtual world, where pixels on a screen are replaced by thousands of points of light floating in space”, it’s a truly remarkable experience, and well worth strolling down to Bristol Temple Quarter for.

Submergence is free to visit and is open to the public from six days a week (it’s closed on Mondays) at the following times: Tue–Fri 12.00 – 14.00 & 17.00 – 21.00, Sat & Sun 12.00 – 21.00, until Saturday October 12th, when it flits over to St Petersburg. Find out more.

Mid-week writing prompt – Daisy, daisy…

My lovely father-in-law knows I would love a house with a proper garden so he dug up and potted a daisy for me!

Daisy

I already have a patch of lawn growing in a pot of earth on the desk in my writing room. Must confess to feeling quite horticulturally blessed, but I know most gardeners would be quite bemused.

What other reasons (innocent and perhaps not so…) could someone have for potting up something as simple and common as a daisy?

How to use fiction to explore the truth

A Room Swept White pbToday’s guest post comes from bestselling author Sophie Hannah, and explains how authors can use fiction to explore the truth behind controversial subjects, as she did for her novel A Room Swept White.

In the UK there have been several high-profile cases of mothers losing more than one child to cot death and subsequently being accused of murder: Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Trupti Patel to name just three.

Clark lost two sons to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and Cannings and Patel each lost three babies. The women protested their innocence, but the dominant view at the time in legal and medical circles seemed to be that it was simply too much of a coincidence for more than one infant from the same family to die an unexplained death; many people believed these babies had been murdered.

Choose a subject with the potential to consume you

One expert witness who testified against both Clark and Cannings, paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, said that within a single family, ‘One cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, three is murder’. This came to be known as ‘Meadow’s Law’.

Clark and Cannings were both convicted of the murders of their babies.  Immediately, campaigns were launched to secure their exoneration and release, on the basis that there was no concrete evidence to prove that either woman was a murderer. The only evidence of murder, supporters argued, was disputed medical evidence. Continue reading

Mid-week writing prompt – the balloonist

Don Cameron in the Bristol Belle cr Judy DarleyFor this week’s writing prompt I’ve decided to feature a series of images that I took a few years ago at Bristol’s Balloon Fiesta. The elderly gentleman in the balloon basket is Scottish ballooning pioneer Don Cameron of Cameron Balloons.

Don Cameron in the Bristol Belle cr Judy DarleyThe ragged-looking balloon about to carry him away is the Bristol Belle, the world’s first modern balloon, which don and his buddies at Bristol Gliding Club constructed in the 1960s – it first took to the air in 1867!

There are countless directions you could take this story in – you could draw in the history of this ballooning legend and his first balloon, or you could disregard that and focus instead on what you see – an old man in the basket of a torn and frail-looking balloon about to set off on what may be their last adventure together…

Don Cameron's Bristol Belle cr Judy Darley

 

Book Review – A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

A Room Swept White pbIn her psychological thriller A Room Swept White, Sophie Hannah examines the contentious subject of guilt and innocence surrounding cot death cases.

A serial killer is targeting women accused of murdering babies. The first victim is Helen Yardley, a woman convicted then acquitted of killing two of her own children, who then went on to campaign for the release of other women in the same circumstances. A mysterious card is found on her body, marked with seemingly meaningless numbers laid out in neat orderly row.

The story is told through the viewpoints of the police involved and a woman named Fliss Benson who has been given the job of making a documentary of the acquitted women, and who has received an card identical to the one left with Helen Yardley. Continue reading