Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Friday, April 04, 2008

April 2008 Issue 91

Nicola's Editorial

We’ll ignore the fact that it’s April the First – everything in this Newsletter is completely true!! It’s a totally new experience to me, writing RAW MEAT on April 1st, so early and yet Easter’s all over really. Jack’s still on holiday though, so I’m making the most of this quiet moment to do my stuff. At the moment Jack’s especially into playing his drums… which is great but it means I can’t do anything much!! I’m trying to teach Jack to learn to compromise and fit in with each other, a bit of give and take, though this is easier said than done when he’s itching to play and I want to do some reading. So what’s the answer? We should be able to reach a compromise between us without any hard and fast rules being laid down. Or that’s the hope… I need to test the theory.
Actually it’s a real shame to have to tell Jack to stop drumming and shut up, because I really like his band’s music. Occasionally they have a practice here, which is great in a way, though it also means that it’s extremely difficult to do anything else much except listen to the band. Jack has been practicing his drumming quite a lot and is noticeably better. He’s going to get a new symbol tomorrow and I’m reminded of my mum’s description of the drummer with The Australian Pink Floyd… apparently his drum kit was so immense that he was hardly noticeable, buried there in the middle.
I’m looking forward to going to see this band next week; as the venue is a smaller one from usual, hopefully the concert will be better – or at least as far as I’m concerned! That’s the trouble when the band gets really famous – I think you lose a lot of excitement with being so far away from the stage. It’s the same with theatre, and that’s why I like the Royal Exchange in Manchester, where the audience surrounds the stage and the actors are so close you can almost touch them.
Major news for this issue is the official announcement that The Ziggy Collection is now available to order. Even though you might already have a printed edition I still think the CD version will interest you, as it’s quite different, having an additional story and a new introduction. It looks cool anyway, with the beautiful cover courtesy of my dad. I’m not exactly sure of the details about ordering it but apparently you have to click on something, I’m not quite sure what! Probably Andy will tell you more. The good thing about the CD version is that you can print off an odd story or two to read on the train or whatever – you don’t have to sit at the computer to read them if you don’t want. Also the price of the CD is just £2.99, which is much more reasonable. So order your copy now!
I must admit to being more excited about the forthcoming appearance of some of my novels on CD, rather than The Ziggy Collection, which certainly has its moments but is not a spot on fiction, which I’ll always return to gladly. As I’ve just completed The Spark, I’m wondering about the possibility of publishing it on CD but I don’t know if this would be wise, considering it’s just the first draft and needs a lot of changes. Perhaps I’d be better to choose something like Killing Time, which is nearer being ready for publication.
We’ve just begun reading the final part of The Gormenghast trilogy. Which might sound a totally weird thing to do, but I can remember the first two books pretty well. However I couldn’t remember Titus Alone at all and so I’m reading it with Ruth. It’s like reading a totally new book in some ways, because I only remember bits of it… and also it’s so weird, reminding me of De Quincey’s opium dreams. It’s full of strange characters like Muzzlehatch, who keeps a menagerie of caged beasts in the grounds of his house and drives his car lying down, if you can imagine that! Titus considers himself to be a traitor to the castle of Gormenghast even though he’s not really broken free and left it completely… it’s still there with him all the time, colouring all his memories and his attitude, rather like religion maybe.
Now that I’ve actually finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I feel in a better position to give you my opinion! I would still say that much of the book was too complicated and involved so that you’re distracted from the main conflict between Harry and Voldemort. The ending of the book seemed quite sudden in a way because it returned to this final show down, which was by far the most effective part of the book and only highlighted the fact that the complicated stories interweaving were unnecessary. If I’m having headaches sorting out the various threads with The Space Between, I feel very sympathetic towards Ms Rowling and don’t like to criticise because I know how much work she must have put into it! But at the same time I don’t think The Deathly Hallows was the best in the series by any means… I really liked The Goblet of Fire and also The Half-blood Prince… because these books I think were slightly less complicated and so more effective and dramatic. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the last Harry Potter book – it was well worth reading.
I met up recently with an old friend from South Trafford College who I haven’t seen for about 25 years. If you want to know more about this period in my life, you should read Wheelspin in The Ziggy Collection. As a rule I don’t like the thought of meeting up with very old friends simply because of obvious physical changes which must be totally confusing for them. I know this is stupid really, but still… so I was very nervous about meeting Paddy after all this time. Though there was no need to be so – he was perfectly cool and friendly, telling me all about his band Homelife. I found it really difficult to remember exactly what he looked like… but anyway, he has a beard now!
Not my book, but rather Andy’s description of this kind of period – a time when nothing seems to be happening. Such is the space I’ve fallen into of late… a bit of a quagmire from which I’m having difficulty escaping. Whether this is due to the long winter depression and lack of light, I don’t know, but my enthusiasm for life seems to be at an all time low. Don’t suggest to me that I need a holiday… I’m quite aware of it. Even my writing doesn’t offer me any escape from these doldrums. It all seems to be leading nowhere. I’ll stop this right here, I think… it’s gone far enough!! I’m afraid I can’t think of anything more positive to say… so I’ll shut up and close this issue now. Hopefully the spring will bring me more positive vibes!!!

copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
It came as a bit of a shock to me to consider finishing The Spark sooner than I’d originally intended – but all things seemed to point towards a conclusion at the end of 1900, before the century turned. I’d actually already written the first part of the next chapter and was quite worried about it; in fact so much so that I asked Andy to read it, which is pretty much unheard of!! He said it was fine, BUT suggested that I start the next novel with it, rather than sticking it at the end of The Spark. I agreed to this drastic action pretty quickly as I was very worried that the new piece didn’t fit in at all… I wasn’t happy about introducing a new character at this late stage of the book, and also the piece was set in a new place, so it seemed like a natural break. Along with the other things that had been mentioned in chapter 10 – an awful lot of discussion involving major themes of The Spark, such as time etc – It all seemed to come together in a natural conclusion. There are several threads still hanging loose, though this may not be such a bad thing with the story going on into the next book.
I had originally intended to finish the book a few years later in 1904 as that was when the Vale Press actually folded and when Freddie met Ross. It seemed these dramatic events were things that I was working towards… and to suddenly end the book early seemed unthinkable at first, like it wouldn’t work. I’m still not quite sure about it though it seems a logical step in many ways, not least because Wilde himself has become central to The Spark without actually appearing! That takes quite some doing, I know, but there you are… he’s carried it off very nicely. Anyway, to end it with his death is quite natural… and it also makes The Spark span roughly a ten year period and ten chapters – it all seems to hang together ok.
I’m still not completely happy about Rickett’s story with the Vale Press not reaching any conclusion… the historical facts don’t seem to make good fiction at all in a way, but just has him struggling on for a few more years after the fire. I’m slightly worried about making the Vale Press actually reach its own conclusion in the next book because I think that a lot of the dramatic quality of Rickett’s actions would be lost or greatly lessened if you haven’t read The Spark, but then again, what’s the point of reading just one book of a trilogy? I had originally hoped to make each book to ‘stand alone’ but now I don’t think that’s really feasible if you’re writing a trilogy.
Another concern was with the Freddie/Jack thread, which I was hoping to bring to a dramatic breaking point before the end of this novel, but the way things were working with the boys, and particularly Jack, meant that there could still be a few more years spent in London. All my intentions of taking Wilde’s manuscript over to France haven’t worked out as I planned either and I can blame this mainly on Gustave, my new French character, who has actually stolen it and taken it back to London. I didn’t plan this, he’s acted against my carefully laid plans! But beside that I couldn’t think of anything to do with the manuscript in France; I was too nervous to get involved too much with politics and setting it in the left wing commune in the Jura mountains, which I was considering. I remain unconvinced about keeping the manuscript in London itself – I thought a change of scene was necessary but the beauty of keeping the next book in London, or at least Britain, is that some of the same characters could be used. I’m not quite sure about this at the moment though.
So then, though The Spark may be finished, that’s not the end of it at all – the next book, which will be called The Space Between, is already underway – just about! Because it’s quite an arduous task to go over old stuff in The Spark, making alterations etc, I’m going to intersperse this with writing the new book, for which I’ve already got several ideas for new characters I’m going to bring in. Also there are quite a few old threads that need tying up before I forget, so work needs to be on going. I think that I’ve learned this about writing a trilogy; it’s quite different to a novel, which you can just leave when you come to the end, not so a trilogy. In fact, you have to keep going or else you’ll lose all the gist and natural progression of the different stories. So it’s a quite different kettle of fish to writing just a novel – but at the same time there are similarities, for instance having to go back over the whole thing once it’s complete; it’s only when the novel has been completed that you can see the shape of it as a whole thing and then it becomes clear which pieces have worked and which pieces haven’t, which characters are important etc etc. Although I thought very briefly of bringing RAW MATERIALS to a close, along with The Spark, I think this would be pretty stupid to tell the truth, after all that I’ve just said about working on the trilogy. It’s an on going process of both creation and hard work I suppose. At this stage I can’t feel like celebrating, much less sending The Spark off anywhere. That’s all to come.

copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008

Please note that The Spark is a first draft and may well be very different to the final published version.

The year 1900 is coming to an end. Ross is with Wilde in Paris; Wilde is dying and as far as we know still has the manuscript in his possession. Back in London, Harriet is still working at Ross’s house as a maid.

CHAPTER 10 – 1900.

Although each December day slipped past effortlessly and was lost beneath the door between the centuries, still Mr. Ross had not returned and Harriet knew without hesitation that Mr. Wilde was dead. She went about her duties in a daze, feeling only the emptiness that yawned all around her, sucking her into it… and she was glad. She watched Mrs Ross pack her cases and leave to join her son in France, without saying a word to Harriet about it. Perhaps Mrs Ross realised that Harriet already knew the situation. Not only was Mr Wilde dead but the century was dying too… it writhed and squirmed on the breach, a dying fish out of water, gasping for breath, for life.
Christmas came and went, a dismal affair that year with only the servants present in the house. Although Mr Jameson carved the small turkey for them and handed round the plates with a forced smile, the general air of anxiety crushed them all down so that they were relieved when all the celebrations were over. Harriet helped to clear away the dishes after the meal, feeling only a great sense of relief. As she opened the backdoor to empty a bucket outside and the iciness of the air stung her face, just as it had all those years before on the back steps at Whitechapel. She stood there in the small garden and turned her face up to the cold wind, smiling as she felt it slicing across her skin… remembering that murderous edge of the blade, that name that lived on. How her life had changed since those Whitechapel days! There was Jack… and there was Emma… and of course there was Charles. Harriet’s smile became frozen as if she were made of ice or alabaster. She shivered as she felt the gentle touch of his red beard against her throat, shivered in sudden anticipation, hoping there was more… and yet knowing there was nothing more. With a heavy sigh, Harriet forced herself to turn back towards the house and leave these thoughts far behind, once and for all.
Later that evening, Harriet took the last remaining candle stump and climbed the back stairs wearily to her room. She opened the door quietly; Jack had already gone to bed several hours before and she did not want to wake him, especially not now, not in these days… for now they had entered the space between without effort and she didn’t want to disturb his sleep. She sat down very carefully on the edge of the bed and looked at his huddled shape between the centuries. Perhaps he would never be disturbed by such thoughts. She wanted to reach out and stroke his hair but didn’t dare to do so… the colour of his hair still held a reddish tinge, almost an after glow… memories of his father would never fade it seemed. Were those days all passed now? Were they truly gone, vanished beneath the door? Gone forever... in the same way as Mr Wilde? Harriet sighed slowly, and the sigh sounded like it should have been simply a breath. Clasping her hands tightly in her lap, she realised that now she stood hovering on the edge of the space between… about to step into the new century, and to leave the old behind. Leaning forward, Harriet pulled the candle towards her that she had put down on the chair, and blew it out. The sudden darkness came as nothing but a relief.
More from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#92

Welcome to Andy's bit...

I woke up on April the first with a stinking cold, don't you just hate colds? I do, but I'm told that they are a necessary evil - better out than in - perhaps. Anyway, the knock-on effect of having this cold has meant that some of my blogging deadlines have been missed and others misplaced. Misplaced? Who's that, then? How? I can feel the questioning across the blogisphere. Well the misplaced item refers to my posting on Space Invaders! my-work-in-progress-novel. I posted the latest segment of Chapter Two, but when I came to read it it had disappeared, off into the realms of cyberspace, all I was left with was the title. So, I'll have to re-write it and try the post again!
Okay, down to Newsletter business. As regular readers of Raw Meat will know, Nicola has a number of autobiographical short stories which she published some time ago in three or four slim volumes. The title being The Ziggy Collection which you can read about on her website http://www.nicolabatty.co.uk/ Well since then, things have moved on and we've moved away from paper publications into the digital age and now, therefore, we have a CD Book to offer, which in actuality is The Ziggy Collection re-vamped and re-titled The complete Ziggy Collection. It also has an extra story and a brand new introduction and a .... well you'll just have to read it to find out. Anyhow, you can scroll down to the Raw Mart section of this Newsletter to find out how to order it. Oh yeah, and for those of you who don't know, Ziggy is the name of Nicola's wheelchair!
What we/I'm trying to do is to un-complicate stuff, to make stuff simple... whatever happened to the simple life? Things are so complicated these days that people only laugh when you mention the simple life. It doesn't exist, they tell me... and carry on burying their head in the sand. Well, they may be right, 'cos to be truthful my quest for this 'holy grail' of simplicity, continually ends with me banging my proverbial head against the proverbial brick wall. However, as far as the digital age goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This Newsletter started life way back at the end of last century as a paper publication and we've been publishing it warts an' all every month since then apart from a period (while Nic was doing her MA at Manchester University) when Raw Meat became a bi-monthly for a bit. I'm only telling you this because we/I want to reintroduce one of the old features from our paper publication days to the digital age. The thing I want to reintroduce is the Raw Mart section where anybody, and that includes you, can advertise or announce their latest publications, web sites, blogs, book readings, poetry nights, concerts etc.
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in RM#92

Watch this space...
This is the section of Raw Meat where you can advertise and announce your latest publications, web sites, blogs, bands etc.
For further info contact me at: properjoes@aol.com
This section will be updated as soon as I get some copy... so please check back!

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