Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

April 2007 Issue 79

In this issue of
Nicola Batty's -
April Editorial.
Raw Materials -
Nicola shares the secrets, trials and tribulations of novel writing.
The Space Between / To Be Suggestive -
An extract from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy.
Urban Scrawl! -
Nicola's partner Andy writes his kindergarten kidology!

Nicola's Editorial RM#79

Before even beginning this issue, I will make the formal announcement that 50 Bites is now available by sending me an e-mail. You will then receive details on how to order the book which is a compilation of the first 50 RAW MEAT editorials, as I’m sure you know by now. I say with complete confidence that the cover illustration looks wonderful – artwork by C J Batty, aka my Dad. I’ve always loved my Dad’s reproductions of Tenniel’s black and white Alice illustrations, so the choice of the Mad Hatter was an easy one… with slight additions to put RAW MEAT on the cover. I’m sure you’ll agree that 50 Bites is well worth the wait and a welcome addition to my other work. So please don’t hesitate a moment longer to either send me an e-mail or write to me for further details.
Reading back over the first few issues of RAW MEAT was a very unsettling experience for me – it’s difficult to imagine myself back then, at the opening of the year 2000, with Jack as a little boy and myself at a bit of a loss with regards to my writing. My most recent novel at that time was Mrs Johnson’s Cavalier, which Andy suggested we publish ourselves… and so the Newsletter began as a method of advertising the novel. Well, since then it has developed into something much more personal than that. As I can now see very little in detail, my main form of communication is through writing my Newsletter, other than speech, of course, although it’s not always possible to have a conversation with all my subscribers. Perhaps reading 50 Bites will be the nearest we get to a two way conversation…
As well as advertising 50 Bites, I also want to mention the forthcoming publication of my sister’s book of poetry which has a rather wonderful title, The Barking Thing. I’ve mentioned my twin sister Suzanne several times. We’re non-identical twins, so we look just like sisters, but nonetheless there is a special bond between us; we tend to think along the same lines, particularly as we’re both writers. Although Suzanne’s poetry is quite different from my writing; it is strikingly visual. Anyway, you can see what you think; her book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.co.uk/Barking-Thing-Suzanne-Batty/dp/185224772X
It’s published by Bloodaxe which is a wonderful name, don’t you think? I wonder if it has anything to do with Lizzie Borden? Do look up their website for further details on Suzanne and The Barking Thing, including a picture of the freaky cover! http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/personpage.asp?author=Suzanne+Batty
Another writer friend who’s having a book published soon is some one I’ve mentioned before, Steve Taylor. I can’t remember what he’s a professor of; probably philosophy or some such abstract thing. I think I’ll have to read his book to find out more about his theory concerning time being invented by man… in which case, how does he explain human decay? Surely that’s not an invention, by man or otherwise. Nevertheless, it’s pretty damned interesting. Doubtless, Andy can tell you more about it than I can…
Steve Taylor is also a bit of a nifty guitarist who was entertaining me recently at a party with renditions of various Smiths numbers from the 80s. Pretty soon we ran out of Smiths songs we could both remember so I asked if he knew anything by Pink Floyd. “Do you know Pigs on the Wing from Animals?” I asked, and was very impressed when he launched into an excellent rendition, without a moments hesitation. It was great to have personal entertainment!! Besides Steve, it was a great writer’s party held in commemoration of Eric Topp, our friend from the writer’s group who died five years ago. It was amazing to meet with other writers who I’d not seen for more than 10 years – and not half as traumatic as I thought! Even though I couldn’t physically see them, I still knew they were there and could hear and speak to them about The Space Between and other interesting things.
We’re off to Yokel Land (Devon) this weekend for my cousin Karen’s wedding. We’ve all been desperately searching in our wardrobes for some decent clothes and have eventually sorted some things out. It’s not too formal an occasion but none the less… I’m looking forward to it; it’ll be cool to see relatives etc I haven’t seen for ages. And of course it’ll be lovely to be back on Plymouth Hoe, particularly if the sun’s out. mum was telling me that she used to go swimming near the Hoe after school back in the old days. I can’t really imagine Jack doing the same thing nowadays… but maybe I’m wrong! After the wedding we’re going to meet up with our friend Sheila, who’s going to take Jack back to her house in London for a few days. Jack is good friends with her son Daniel. It’s amazing how much they have in common, both being into computers, drama, films etc. I’m sure they’ll have a great time together anyway.
Although we don’t seem to making much progress with Will Self’s How the Dead Live at the moment, I’m still reading Julian Cope’s portrayal of the 80s. The other day we were reading this bit which I thought was really funny – Julian was talking about his little dog which has a crazy name, Smelvin. Brilliant! Though I don’t know if he really does smell… Julian was also describing his converted attic in which he’s rigged up a Scalextric where he plays with his toy cars. It sounds so cool. I hope to go and see Mr Cope when he plays nearby soon. Even though his band, The Teardrop Explodes, dissolved in the early 80s, he still continues to tour solo… and also to write books about stone circles and suchlike. Apparently he lives near a stone circle and perhaps takes Smelvin for walks there.
Things seemed to have picked up a bit since I got stuck after 1895, as I explained in the last issue. It wasn’t as if I’d run out of ideas… in fact it was the opposite, I had too many which needed sorting into some coherent order. This took quite some careful thought and planning and then I was away! the characters have become so well known and solid to me by now that they really speak for themselves… likewise, the novel almost writes itself. But the most difficult thing is to keep some hold on my ideas or else stop them running away out of control! Although it’s good to be able to do this and let fiction have a bit of space in To Be Suggestive. Now I’ve gained more confidence, I can alter facts very slightly or even ignore them to fit in with my fiction which is always the most important.
From my obsession to Andy’s which is with bikes. After spending hours on the internet researching all these crazy bikes he decided to actually try one of these designs out by attaching two bikes together. You may well ask (as I did) what the purpose of such a tandem made for one is… well, the answer is you can carry heavy things including kids. Anyway, Andy’s crazy bike actually works and has proved, so far, to be road worthy but I’m still working on encouraging Andy to make a Ziggy bike to replace the car. Sounds an excellent idea for the summer, I just hope it comes off. You can see a picture of Andy riding his home-made-extra-cycle on his blogspot Proper Joe’s at: www.properjoes.blogspot.com
Just a word about our boy because I don’t seem to have mentioned him much for a while. This is perhaps inevitable, for he’s a typical teenager in so far that he doesn’t really talk much to anyone! He’s a bright kid with ideas of becoming a film maker or a script writer. I myself think that he may go into animation but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
RAW MATERIALS 79 copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2007
The actual death of Emma involved much tedious research into Victorian ambulances and facts about consumption… so that I was quite glad to actually break free of all that and turn my attention back to the shape of To Be Suggestive from this point on. I’ll have to turn now to the other characters and show the effect Emma’s death has on them. Hopefully I can use this to tie in with my ideas for things that will happen in future chapters; already I’ve got certain events that must take place on definite dates, so really it’s just a question of fitting all the pieces together. I suppose I could liken it to putting together a really complicated jigsaw, which occasionally resorts to misshapen pieces – so it’s totally anarchic!!
While I may complain all the time about doing research, it’s not totally uninteresting… I never realised that they had horse drawn ambulances in the 1890s. I couldn’t find out any details about whether visitors would be allowed to see a dying patient, so I skipped the scene I had in mind, and went straight on to the next bit. It’s a continual struggle to keep myself from getting too bogged down by facts and making everything totally authentic and credible… it’s so difficult to maintain the balance. Of course I want To Be Suggestive to be authentic as far as possible BUT then I must use the facts as a spring board to bounce off and somersault madly through space, falling into the welcoming arms of fiction, at the same time I’m trying to keep to the dates as far as possible, as these are the only facts I have sometimes. It’s lucky in a way that 1896 was a bit of a blank year as far as historical events go… which meant that I was pretty much free to fill it with characters and events of my own, such as Harriet, Sam, Freddie and Jack.
I’m including in this issue am excerpt involving Harriet, as I feel she will become a more central figure now. I have already shown glimpses of her past relationship with Rickets; this now needs to be developed more explicitly in some way to bring the two of them together for a second time. I thought about this for ages… how could I make such a meeting appear credible, when Rickets and Harriet are both from totally different worlds? The solution came to me in the form of Robbie Ross, of course. I could use him as a go between. So my characters are now helping me to write and follow the plot… virtually speaking, with a bit of imagination! I must say I feel much more confident about dealing with my characters, now that I know them so well. I’m having second thoughts about To Be Suggestive as a title… but really this should be the very least of my concerns at this point! So I think I’ll just get on and finish before worrying what to call it. I have a pretty good idea of the direstion To Be Suggestive will have to take in order to reach its ending. It would be so predictable to end it with Wilde’s death that I’m not going to do that – I want it to go on and have an open ending. This almost goes without saying because I have endeavoured throughout the novel to keep the main focus away from Oscar, even in the 1895 chapter about his arrest. I think it’s important with this trilogy to leave the way ahead clear so that some vague direction is given but nothing too specific. I have decided definitely that the action for the next novel, The Space Between, will take place in France. I did concider moving it over to America but then decided to follow Wilde’s manuscript, which should be in Wilde’s possession at the time of his death in Paris. I’m glad about this because I can bring in some characters from The Turn of the Century Party which was my original idea! Anyway, I’ll have to think more about this and see how it develops before deciding which characters to focus on.

The following extract is from Nicola’s work-in-progress-trilogy.
The Space Between / To Be Suggestive copyright © Nicola Batty 2007

From Chapter 6 – 1896
“Where is Emma? Is she not well again?” asked one of Harriet’s neighbours as they stood together sheltering beneath the porch outside the church. Harriet made no reply but simply shook her head and glanced at Sam who was standing silently. He appeared to be as rigid as a wooden soldier, quite devoid of humanity. Or was it simply buried beneath his starched white collar and otherwise immaculate appearance. Harriet turned away, sighing with impatience. Her neighbour continued to speak but Harriet had stopped listening, so her neighbours words tumbled off her madly and then were scattered over the ground without any sort of order or meaning. She allowed the sounds to wash over her head, watching them fall from a great height without even touching her. From all around came the gentle murmur of voices; the porch was filled with people sheltering from the sudden downpour of icy rain after the service. Gazing out, Harriet wondered if it would ever stop… perhaps she should just ignore it. She felt a sudden longing to feel the stinging drops lashing against her face, a sense of reality in the void. Feeling movement against her skirt, she looked down and was grateful to see Freddie standing there, pressed against her leg, making himself an extra part of her. Her looked up at her, his eyes blue and beseeching. Just like Emma’s.
“Where’s Ma? When will she be home?” He asked in a small voice.
Looking down at him, she stroked his hair gently back from his face; then she turned suddenly to Sam.
“I’m going to go to the hospital again with Freddie,” she announced abruptly. “Do you want to come?”
As she expected, Sam simply grunted and turned away.
“You’re wasting your time… they won’t let you in,” was his only remark, but Harriet ignored him and taking each boys’ hand she ran out into the rain.
She realised as she bent her head against the gusts of cold wind that she had left her hat in church but such things now ceased to be important. She was glad of the boys scampering along beside her, along the church path and out of the gates, along the streets towards Whitechapel.
By the time they reached the London Hospital, Harriet was almost out of breath and she had to lean against the grey building for a moment to recover herself. She looked up at the grim stone walls and shuttered windows… it all seemed so intimidating, just like before. Perhaps he’s right… perhaps I am wasting my time. Shaking her head, Harriet made towards the nearest door. She hesitated before entering, taking the boys hands quickly, as much for her own reassurance as theirs.
Inside was a large entrance hall covered with white and red tiles. There were many doors all around the room, all of which were tightly closed; there was a small cluttered desk to the left behind which a man was slouching, his head back, his eyes closed and his mouth wide open. His heavy boots were propped up on the desk and he snored gently but as soon as Harriet entered he started awake, his eyes snapping open.
“Yes?” he demanded, swinging his legs round and quickly standing up. “What do you want?”
Harriet swallowed. The man appeared to be even more massive than she remembered.
“I… wanted to see my friend,” she said falteringly.
The thick set man rubbed his stubbly chin thoughtfully, studying her with watery blue eyes.
“Wait a minute… it’s you again, isn’t it? I’ve already told you, no admittance to the isolation wards.” He walked round slowly from behind the desk, a harsh smile spreading itself across his face. “Don’t you understand me?”
Harriet drew back, alarmed by his aggression.
Suddenly, the man moved very fast towards her and slammed her back against the wall, grabbing her arms and pinning them behind her. As he moved closer to her she could smell the beer fumes on his breath and she tried to struggle free. The boys ran away quickly to the far side of the room. The man laughed softly.
“You know, I think I know you. Don’t you live on Dorset Street?” He moved his hand clumsily over her breast, ripping the buttons off her best shirt. “With the other whores?”
“No – not anymore!” Harriet shook her head franticly, thinking suddenly of Jack. She looked around desperately for him; both the boys stood by the entrance door, huddled together.
“Old habits die hard.” The man breathed in her ear, “we should do a bit of business, me and you.” He broke off, glancing quickly over his shoulder and calling out. “Why don’t you boys run along home now? I’ve business to do with your mother.”
Hearing the boys footsteps going away, Harriett realised suddenly that she was alone. She didn’t feel frightened; she had played this game so many times before, in the old days. Standing there passively, she allowed herself to be pushed inside one of the back rooms. She made no resistance, feeling nothing… yet at the same time feeling everything, every jolt, every rough movement against her. Although she had thought that those days were well and truly over, here they were again, refusing to die. Lying back on the rough wooden pallet, she waited for the man to exhaust himself… which eventually he did and rolled off her. She scrambled quickly to her feet, pulling down her skirt.
“Well? May I see my friend now?” she demanded, watching the man clamber to his feet and button up his trousers.
“Don’t be in such a hurry. What did you say her name was?”
“Emma Taylor,” said Harriet at once. She watched as the man disappeared from the room and waited for several more moments… it suddenly occurred to her that the man was not being totally honest. Perhaps he won’t return at all. But as she took a few faltering steps towards the door, he reappeared. He rubbed his hands together, grinning at her maliciously.
“I’ve just found out that Emma Taylor died this morning,” he said with a dry chuckle. “Sorry about that.”
Harriet stared up at him numbly, shaking her head in disbelief.
“It’s not true… you’re lying,” she said finally in a strangled whisper, watching the man rock steadily back and forth on his heals as though playing a game.
“I’m afraid it is true… the doctor told me so.” The man turned away and left the back room, losing interest. He called back over his shoulder, “Get out quick now, before someone sees you. Go on, get out of here!”After a moment Harriet did so, stepping out into the icy rain. Everything around here seemed grey, static and lifeless… nothing moved, nothing breathed. She began to walk carefully away along Whitechapel Road, ahead.

(Rhymes with pub crawl)
Welcome to Andy's Column…
The web is weird and that’s official! Just when you think that you’ve figured something out - it can all come back in your face. Take the RAW MEAT subscription fiasco, if you’ve tried to subscribe to Nicola’s Online mailing list and failed, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The bottom line, as far as the mailing list goes, is that when you sign-up you should receive a verification e-mail that you need to reply to. If you don’t reply to this e-mail within a few days your details are deleted and you will have to subscribe again. Crazy? It gets even crazier, ‘cos a lot of people tell me that they have never even received the verification e-mail and therefore assume that they have subscribed – when in fact they haven’t. So where is the elusive e-mail? THE ANSWER OF COURSE IS THAT THE WEB IS WEIRD – and your e-mail provider has probably hidden it, blocked it or buried it in the junk/spam pile. In which case you can either retrieve it or re-subscribe. If all else fails you can e-mail me at: properjoes.blogspot.com
I've been out and about on my home-made-extra-cycle these last couple of weeks. I took two old bikes and sawed one in half and bolted the one and a half frames together through the bottom bracket on the rear frame and the rear drop outs on the lead frame. I then drilled a hole through the seat tubes on both frames and inserted a threaded rod to stabilize the whole contraption. I then joined the two chains together and re-routed the rear brake cable and bingo! I've got an extended bike! If you don't know what an extra-cycle is you can take a look at my home-made version on my blog Proper Joe's just clink the link HERE. Of course if you want to see what a real extra-cycle looks like you'll need to clink the link HERE. to xtracycle.com
Many of you will remember me raving on about Steve Taylor's book The Fall last year. Well guess what? He's got another new book coming out later this year, and if you check this column - I'll keep you posted. Anyhow, for now read what Steve says on his website: Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control it (to be published by Icon books in the UK, 2007) This book is partly an attempt to explain the different ways in which we experience time passing in our lives – e.g. why it seems to speed up as we get older, why it seems to go slowly when our attention isn’t occupied, why it seems to slow down or disappear altogether in accidents, drug experiences, certain mental disorders, spiritual experiences and so on. The book also looks at the question of whether time actually exists, and concludes that it’s a kind of illusion created by our normal conscious mind, or ego. In addition, it suggests what we can do to control our sense of time passing, and to actually expand the time that we live through, so that we can, in effect, live for longer.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


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