Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

January 2008 Issue 88

Nicola's Editorial
I’m beginning this issue while the New Year is still raw and almost untouched as yet. I’m actually feeling quite positive about the year ahead, which makes a change from usual; the rapid progression of time always unsettles me, especially now that I’m becoming so old!
I’ve promised myself to not only finish The Spark this year, but also to produce The Ziggy Collection in the form of an e-book on CD along with an additional story which is yet to be written! Although I’m not absolutely sure what form this story will take, I think I’m going to write it in the first person – a major break though for me because I’ve always shied away from writing autobiography in the first person! Nothing personal, if you see what I mean. Anyway, that’s just one of the writing projects I want to do presently, which will mean taking a slight break from The Spark… but only a slight one!
I’m not the only one beginning a new writing project – Andy will tell you more about his new project in Urban Scrawl. Meanwhile I’m still hassling Jack – I want him to contribute more to RAW MEAT in the way of a short story or something. He agrees readily but is somewhat slow to come up with the goods… typical teenager. I think it’ll be good practice for him because he’s considering going into journalism as a career, so he’ll have to get used to working to a deadline!
One of the highlights of my Christmas day was spending a bit of quality time with Jack, which is such a rare treat these days! He was playing me a version of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall by Korn, which was actually pretty good. It was so great to actually hold a decent conversation with him that I resolved then and there to make sure I repeat the experience throughout the coming year. I’m not quite sure how much luck I’ll have sticking to this resolution though.
It might seem strange that I’ve hardly mentioned Christmas but it was quieter than usual, though not boring by any means. Although I didn’t really do anything incredibly exciting over Christmas itself, I did go to Liverpool to see Echo and the Bunnymen earlier in December, which was amazing. I was surprised to discover that the band were still going, I remember them from the 80s though I’d never seen them live, I’d always wanted to. They were playing at Liverpool Academy which was a wonderful venue; like Manchester Academy it was very small with everyone standing up and bopping around. Ziggy received quite a few kicks which all added to the excitement of the live music. I could feel as well as hear the drums, we were so close to the stage! While I think about the band, I’ve actually got vague memories of seeing them and other bands at the Hacienda in Manchester - which is now no more, so I’m showing my age once again. BREATHING WILDE
We’re continuing to read Gyles Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders, which is pretty gripping so far. It’s also rather interesting to me because of Mr Brandreth’s resurrection of not only Mr Wilde but also Arthur Conan Doyle, Constance Wilde and Robert Sherard (Wilde’s friend, who tells the story from his journal some years later) so these dead characters have become more than simply words on a page, they really live and breath which is very exciting. Ruth has suggested that I should contact him, not Mr Wilde, but Gyles Brandreth. It’s a cool idea as we both seem to be talking about the same thing, resurrecting the dead.
So infected am I by the book, it’s made me want to read to read some of the old Sherlock Holmes mysteries which I’ve never felt the urge to do before! I’m rather intrigued to discover that Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine – which must surely have caused a bit of a scandal when the books were published. In Mr Brandreth’s novel, Oscar himself takes the place of Holmes against a sinister background of Victorian smog and dark alleyways. There’s even a dwarf which I’ve always I’ve always associated with Sherlock Holmes since seeing a film 20 years ago… I can’t remember the exact title of this film, but I’m sure it was set in Loch Ness. It was very atmospheric, though I don’t know if it was actually a Sherlock Holmes mystery or not, none of my family seems to have any memories of this film… does it sound familiar to anyone else? Please let me know, these memories have been plaguing me over the past month.
Still talking about Mr Wilde, I recently discovered that my article on The Space Between has been published in Intentions as promised! I think that I may add this piece on to my website presently… so other people can read it there. Although I’m glad to see my article in the Oscar Wilde Society’s magazine, I’m also a bit frustrated by the exclusive nature of Intentions. Its readership is too limited for my liking! Of course it will reach fellow Wilde freaks who may be interested to hear about The Space Between, but I would like to see my work made available more generally. By putting it on my website I hope it will reach many more people… and anyway, my website is long overdue a spot of updating. I’ve not changed it much since it first appeared and I don’t want it to become too boring or jaded! I also want to advertise my novels as they appear on CD, beginning with The Ziggy Collection in April.
The complicated job of unravelling the latest Harry Potter book has come to a temporary halt with the departure of my helper, Jessica, which I’m very sorry to see. She’s been with me a few years now and has become a great friend to me. Those of you who have met her will join with me in wishing her good luck with her new job!
Perhaps both my helpers have influenced me slightly because they’re both vegetarians. Though I would say my major influence has been Sheila’s son, Daniel, who’s become a vegetarian recently, despite being just twelve! Well, I thought, if Daniel can do it then I should too, so I’ve actually become a vegetarian after wanting and intending to for years. Andy’s quite happy about cooking Vegetarian meals, even though he says he’ll still eat meat, as will Jack.
Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
Without hesitation, I’ve chosen the final page of the 1899 chapter to include this month, because I’ve just finished writing it and also because I thought it was time for a bit of drama as opposed to people simply bickering. Originally I was going to finish the chapter with Harriet and Jack but then Ruth suggested that I could write some more about Charles’s fire, which you may remember from the last issue. I agreed at once, though I had no set idea what was going to happen with the scene, which takes place at Ricketts and Shannon’s new house in Richmond.
So the scene actually wrote itself, the characters taking over and dictating which way the action went. This will always be one of the most exciting things about creative writing to me – that moment when the writer becomes almost invaded by the characters’ spirits, which makes it sound a very spiritual experience. Well, maybe it is in some ways.
Anyway, I had to be very careful with the level of violence Charles and Shan displayed towards each other – I had to keep it credible, they’re Victorian gentleman and I don’t think for a moment that they would have allowed themselves to physically fight, but on the other hand I felt it was high time things were spiced up a bit as they seem to have been such an amiable pair so far. I don’t think it would be possible to live with someone all those years without falling out pretty dramatically at least a few times! Especially with a character like Ricketts, with his temperament, not at all an easy chap to get along with.
It was also interesting for me to write this scene because I found myself feeling not only really sorry for Charles but I discovered a side to Shan which I’ve never seen or thought about before. In fact Shan’s sudden toughness came as a complete surprise to me, though I actually feel quite happy with it – I think it’s quite believable in such a situation. I don’t think these two chaps are going to lie down peacefully and allow themselves to be written out of this story without some resistance. At least Charles, if not Shan, will stay around for the rest of the book, I suspect.
As the novel approaches 1900, my thoughts are turning towards the next book, which will be called The Space Between. I want the main character to be Gustav who will actually come in to the next chapter of The Spark, so I need say no more about him now. I want Wilde’s manuscript to stay over in France for the next few years, and I’m also considering ideas of anarchism, specifically an anarchist commune that existed in the Jura Mountains at this time. I’ve been doing some research on this commune, which was actually set up by Swiss watchmakers and might have involved some confrontation between anarchist ideas and those of left wing workers. While all this is very interesting, I’m not quite sure whether it’ll be interesting enough for me to want to write an entire novel based around it… I might well get totally pissed off with politics!! It may be a cool background for my characters though; I just have to be very careful not to allow Gustav to become too involved. I’m also thinking of getting Robbie Ross to visit the Jura commune – this may not work at all because it’s not something that actually happened and may totally go against known facts but on the other hand, who’s to say where Robbie was exactly on certain dates if there’s no evidence? It’s another space between waiting to be filled. It’s good to be able to write down all these ideas that are flitting around like bats in my head, and hopefully get them into some sort of order.
More immediately is the year 1900, the year of Wilde’s death, which I’ll just tell from Robbie’s point of view. All these ideas for rounding off The Spark will have to be put on hold for some time while I write a story for The Ziggy Collection which shouldn’t be so great a break away from The Spark because it will involve characters from the novel, alongside me of course… though I hope to become fictional as they are, rather than them becoming real. What’s the difference anyway?
Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
Please note that the following extract from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy may well be very different from the final published version.
The story so far…
The year is 1899; Wilde has been released from prison and is living in Paris. He has his manuscript with him. Meanwhile back in London, Charles has left Harriet and moved away to Richmond with his old partner, Charles Shannon. Most of Ricketts’ founts have recently been destroyed in a fire that was actually started by him, unbeknown to Shan. He is beginning to suspect though and the two are now arguing about this.
CHAPTER 9, 1899
“You’re a liar! Don’t you dare -” Charles moved rapidly towards Shan, his fury bubbling over. Swinging his clenched fist forward… it sliced through the air. He wanted to smash Shan’s words, to obliterate them completely. But Shan was too quick for him; grabbing Charles’s wrist, he held him steady there for several long moments, his eyes as sharp as any blade.
“Control yourself, man!” He said quietly, pushing Charles away from him with a strength that caught Charles by surprise. He fell back heavily against the sofa, knocking his head on the arm of it. The vicious sound of skull against wood resounded through his head, spinning round until it joined with his own echoes, to create one tangled mass of confusion. Charles shook his head slowly and looked up at Shan, dazed. Shan continued staring at him coldly, raising one finger and pointing directly at Charles.” Don’t you ever do something like that again.” He whispered fiercely; then he turned away abruptly, striding across the room to the cabinet and taking out another bottle. Charles watched his movements through half closed eyes, still feeling removed and distant, as if it were all happening to someone else, as if he were merely catching sight by chance. He tried to sit up properly on the sofa but fell back against the cushions. He saw the tall figure pour the spirits into the glass and bring it slowly over to him… he watched himself raise his hand and take the glass… did he really take it? Was he really raising the cold glass to his lips… was he really tasting the liquid? Were the spirits really burning his throat like a fire? Was the figure really standing still beside him, watching him but saying nothing? Charles was glad, glad of the silence. He needed time to think, space in which he could arrange his thoughts. He didn’t want to talk; he felt that too many words had already been spoken. He laid his head back against the cushions taking another gulp of his drink… relishing that burning liquid coursing its way down his throat, the flames still leaping up and destroying the entire building and all its contents.
“Thank you,” he said finally, amazed at how small and insignificant his voice sounded. Still Shan said nothing, but turned away and crossed over to the veranda door. Pulling the curtain aside he opened the door and disappeared outside into the darkness, leaving the door open behind him. Charles shivered as the chilly air penetrated his clothes, intruded his body. He found himself staring numbly at the red stain on the wall just beside the sofa; he couldn’t remember exactly where it had come from… was it all part of what just happened? Was it blood? His own blood? Was it Shan’s? He closed his eyes and lay back on the sofa, waiting for Shan to return and offer him some comfort and reassurance. He closed his eyes and his breathing gradually became calmer and more regular. He waited.
Perhaps ten minutes later he heard the veranda door close. Charles lay there perfectly motionless, listening to every sound. He could feel Shan’s presence there beside him… and a definite warmth covered him as Shan threw a blanket over him. He still didn’t open his eyes as Shan’s fingers brushed over his face with an incredible gentleness... so that they didn’t disturb even one tiny hair of his eyebrow or bristle of his beard but they simply stroked over the dark bruise on the side of his head. Then Shan’s face came closer and Charles felt him touch the bruise lightly with his lips. Still, unbelievably, Charles didn’t stir, even though he was perfectly conscious of everything. “Night then, Charles,” Shan murmured, turning finally and leaving.
Jack's Page!
Jack promises to do at least a picture for Issue 89.
Urban Scrawl!!!
Welcome to Andy's bit...
I read on these pages that I'm writing something... Well, what am I writing? I did tell Nicola that I was going to write a novel this year, but we all say things like that in the heat of the moment, don't we? Okay, I did mention it to a couple of other people as well, so I guess I've got no excuse now, have I?
I haven't actually made any New Years resolutions but one thing I'd like to do, if I get the chance, is to finish my computer course. When I say finish, I really mean start, because so far I've only managed to skim through the first of six books twice.
I know you're dieing to know what I got for Crimbo, so I'll tell you, Books! Seven books actually and two kitchen gadgets - three if you include the cookbook easel - Thanks Steve!
One of the dead good books I got was the Modigliani story that Nic used to own but some unidentified borrower has never returned. I've read a couple of chapters and it just makes me want to go back to Paris. Of course the Paris of the First Great War can never be recreated (thankfully) and the poverty that the foreign artists and writers who were pretty much stuck there for the duration could never be bought.
It's already nearly the last day of Christmas and this is the first time I've been able to get near the computer. So, if you're one of the people who've been checking my blogs over the last couple of weeks, I apologise. From/by next tuesday, I should be back up to speed with some new material.
You can of course check out Nic's web page at: http://www.nicolabatty.co.uk/ She's got some Christmas holly up at the mo and very soon she's going to post the article she wrote for The Oscar Wilde Society Magazine Intentions.
If you want to read some really bad poetry you need look no further than my pub-poetry page SweetTalkingGuy at: http://www.sewina.blogspot.com/

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