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Ron Blanco

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  1. I enjoyed that Sir Nigel. Perhaps there's scope for a follow-up called Ten-a-day?
  2. Good rhythm. Great humour. Smashing.
  3. Yes, I generally cut 10% or more, and it usually seems to give a better end result. Lack of time has been an issue for me also, but I guess I just haven't made writing a sufficient priority. I could stay in to write instead of going down the pub! Re your fellow writer, I wonder if they just started writing something then the ideas and the words would start to flow? Cheers
  4. Hello johnsbucket, I liked the idea of a critical eye provoking a comment from someone in the dark. And agree with the ultimate sentiment of the poem. Thanks
  5. Hi De Batz, I've read your novel. I take my hat off to anyone who has the patience and commitment to write a novel (not me, though maybe one day). It's quite an achievement and you have good reason to feel proud. In my opinion it's a competent piece of work. So many times, these days, I can't finish a book, but not only did I finish yours, I enjoyed it. I remember when you first started out on the project several years ago (here) and I wondered if you could give any feedback on how you have found the process of writing and self-publishing the novel? And, going beyond the personal achievement, are you making anything from it?
  6. Hi De Batz, Thank you for the feedback. Yes, I find writing to a word limit and with a theme in mind helps. But I don't know why it should be that constraints actually help! The theme in this case was 'Insects'.
  7. The late summer sun dominates the sky as Judge Cedric Beaujolais takes in the views of mountains and lakes. He captures every wholesome image, each one serving to push out others that are too incriminating to store. Occasionally a little lost cloud strays across the blue; untidy and ragged, polluting the scene. A midge dots his view; treading air in front of his eyes. Cedric wafts his hand lazily. The insect darts away and then back again. Cedric slaps the air, causing his heavy rucksack to pull on his back. Above him are a dozen more midges. They constantly move and interchange places as though dancing a courante in mid-air. They drop behind him for a few seconds but then catch up again. For Beaujolais, these lonely camping excursions are an escape from the prison of everyday life; an escape from the procession of uncouth ne’er-do-wells and obsequious leeches who sicken him like a cancer in his gut. More than this, they are an escape from his own crimes - against the innocent residents of the orphanage. Those vulnerable souls are victims of his guilty pleasure and compulsion. Lust; it’s a God-given sin. This dark hobby Beaujolais shares with politicians, police chiefs and priests, facilitated by minions of the establishment. Such servants destroy evidence, bribe victims and blackmail witnesses so that the status quo is maintained. Beaujolais, it seems, cannot resist probing the boundaries of power, to see how far he might indulge his mutated animal urges. But his memory cannot be shredded. Cedric walks until the sun begins to fall. As he tires and slows, the cloud of midges grows larger and more frenzied. He drops down to an area of flat ground by a lake. He loosens the straps of his rucksack and allows it to flop to the ground. He unclips the tent bag and notices with relief that the midges have gone. He finds his empty water container and some sterilisation tabs and walks towards the lake. There is an unnatural mist above the water. As he draws nearer it dawns on him that this has not been created by atmospheric conditions, but comprises a great mass of midges. They emit a high-pitched hum, like a million schoolchildren in a playground far away. He stares, confused, but then the humming stops. Cedric instinctively turns and hurries back to his bags. After fumbling to erect his tent, he throws in his rucksack and falls through the entrance. As he closes the tent, he tugs awkwardly on the zip and it breaks. He frowns as he runs his finger along the tiny slit where the flaps do not join. He drops back onto his foam mat, exhausted and dehydrated. He locates his bottle of pills, swallows four of them, and soon his restless mind is forced to sleep. As the sun starts to disappear, a midge enters the slit and hovers above the sleeping man. It settles on his neck, penetrates his skin with its mandibles and sucks his blood until full. Several more midges pass through the slit. They flit around the confined space and select a landing place on the man’s slowly-heaving body. Outside, a long queue of midges stretches to the lake. Each insignificant one of them joins its comrades; they crawl inside the man's clothes until every speck of flesh is covered, and every drop of blood withdrawn. The sun finally disappears, transferring its surveillance to a different part of the earth, leaving the creatures of the countryside prone to the unpredictable energy of darkness
  8. Congrats, De Batz. I look forward to reading it
  9. Back to school... at last! “School tomorrow Ben,” Mum says, rather obviously, as she sets the table for dinner. “Excellent,” I chirp, wearing an exaggerated smile. Parents don’t like it when they can’t nag you about something, because nagging is their main purpose in life. “Tomorrow you’ll need to get up at seven; no more laying in bed ’til noon,” she says. “Easy Peasy, I’ve already set my alarm,” I gaily reply. Mum eyes me suspiciously, as she carefully lowers the tuna-pasta-bake onto the table. But, funnily enough, for once I really am looking forward to school, and have been from the day we broke up six weeks ago. Every morning I have thought of her; gazed at her face on my phone, and savoured the memory of her touching my shoulder and wishing me ‘Happy holidays!’. Rhiannon… lovely Rhiannon. Snakes in September “So, it’s been a while.” “Eleven years, three months and six days to be exact.” Peter frowned at the woman standing next to the restaurant table; he recognized the face but he couldn’t remember the name. “To be exact?” he said. “Exactly,” she replied through an unnatural grin. “Might I ask how you can be so s-s-specific?” he asked as he stood to meet her at eye level. “Because I’ve kept track… because the CSA will want to know,” she said, wiping a greasy clump of hair from her face. Everyone at the table froze; and the ladies, with their perfectly manicured hands, and the men, with their perfectly manicured beards, formed a contemporary tableau of professional thirty-somethings. “Right,” Peter said eventually, “I need a drink and then we’d better have a chat, erm…,” but his voice petered out as he slithered away to the bar.
  10. Everyone’s looking at my little boy. Aww, he looks so nervous. Never seen him nervous before. Over here, Alec! I’m over here! I remember how nervous I felt whenever I was the centre of attention; like at those school concerts when I had to play my flute. Mum and Dad were always there. Always. They were easy to pick out, mum waving excitedly, her smiling face bobbing between the other parents’ heads. And Dad’s glazed expression – clearly didn’t want to be there! But he was there. Always. He’d have his hand on mum’s back, reassuring her, or restraining her, I’m not sure which. At home they were just the same. Stuck on the sofa, glued to the telly. Mum would catch me out the corner of her eye and it would trigger a moment of panic. “Have you done your homework, Sally?” “Have you practised your flute?” A smile and a nod would placate her. And if I hadn’t performed one of my daily rituals then it wasn’t worth arguing. “Do as you’re told!” was as much as dad ever needed to say, and I would slope from the room. I yearned to be independent. I yearned for them to be more independent: for dad to go down the pub; for mum to gossip with her friends on the phone. But they didn’t have friends. Absorbed in the family I suppose. Content with their roles: Dad the bread-winner; Mum the home-maker. With me and Simon being the focus of all their hopes and aspirations. It was enough. I can’t remember at what age I decided I wouldn’t be like them. That I would travel. That I would have a career. Alec’s lucky. He had things I never had: gadgets, designer clothes, a TV in his room. I’d never even been to a restaurant until I left home, except once a year in the Little Chef on the way to Skegness. Ha! That was a laugh! We’d stumble through the café entrance falling over each other whilst everyone watched and savoured our awkwardness. Mum and dad would fret the whole time: “Do we order at the counter?” “Do they come to us?” “Should we leave a tip?” How timid they were. I’m almost blushing now just thinking about it. But despite the awkwardness it felt like a real treat. I chose a university far away to give me a chance to grow up, and a chance to breathe for God’s sake. It was a revelation when I met Derek. I swooned at his sophistication and was charmed by his charisma. A nod of the head or the faintest of hand movements and a waiter would appear. He would flick a five or ten pound note onto the table with the deftness of a casino card dealer. So swathe, so confident, but ultimately such a git! He’s not here today, I notice. Some father he’s turned out to be. But we don’t need him or his money. I will find a way to be at home more. We’ll cut back. We’ll cope. Things will be different from now on. Wait! Everyone’s standing. The judge must be entering. Yes, after today things will be different. I will always be here for you, Alec. Always here.
  11. That was mischievous, clever and great fun, Sir_Nigel. I really enjoyed it.
  12. The first sound I notice is silence; not the usual rumble of traffic. The pillow is luxuriously soft and yet powerless to relieve the pain in my neck. A wave of curiosity swells, and my eyelids unseal - creating two slits. Brightness and colour flood in. The slits grow larger revealing a large wall-painting. A red landscape of black, spiky trees lies beneath a yellow sky. Where the hell am I? A geeky man appears, obscuring the painting. His body is tall and gangling. But, oddly, his face is big and round, and smiling, like a Halloween pumpkin. He scrutinizes me through thick-rimmed spectacles. His bizarre appearance seems familiar. A woman appears at his side. She is blonde, pretty and serenely confident. She looks familiar, too. “He awakes,” the woman says. She moves away but the geek still smiles at me. “Hello,” he says. Now I remember him. Last night. I am paralyzed as the scene replays... I’m in a bar, bruised from the match but celebrating another victory and a match-winning try. The blonde is standing at the bar. “Hello,” I say. “I’m waiting for someone,” she replies. “Not a man, I hope?” “Yes,” she says, without a flicker of emotion. The geek appears and stands next to her. She grips his bony arm with both hands. “Him?” I say, registering his presence with the briefest of glances. She looks away. Eventually the geek pipes up. “Would you excuse us, please?” My gaze remains locked on the blonde. “Can I buy you a drink later?” The geek removes the blonde’s clutching hands. “Would you excuse us, please?” he repeats. I slowly turn towards him; our faces almost touching. His breath is pungent. And then… nothing! As the memory fades, the nerd’s grinning face comes back into focus. I leap from the bed and grip his throat. “What’s going on?” I say. His long, skinny fingers gently encircle my forearm. “You were unconscious. So I brought you here to rest.” I squeeze a little harder. I don’t know why. I'm confused, and disgusted at the thought of such gratuitous non-violence. “That doesn’t make sense,” I say. My grip tightens and his face distorts. “Actually it is entirely logical,” says a monotonic voice from behind me. It is the woman. And as her words register, I feel a pinch on the side my neck.
  13. We'll be discussing The Secret History by Donna Tartt on 2nd July. The book after that will be Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.
  14. ... I have moved Woolyhead's story from the Writers' Group Introduction Thread. Here it is. I'm sure Woolyhead would appreciate some constructive comments. Title: LUCIFER'S STORY. By Woolyhead Two men sit at a cocktail bar. "Good evening." We nod back. A short silence follows. "Let me introduce myself. I'm Lucifer and you are?” We tell him. We ask whether Lucifer is his real name. He laughs. He understands what we really mean. "Oh it's my real name alright. And I really am the devil. No doubt you've heard of me." Another silence. Uneasiness. He waits as we absorb the situation. What's he going to say next? Is it a joke? If so it isn't very funny. He sits staring at the large mirror on the wall opposite. We follow his gaze and suddenly realise that he has no reflection. Our growing fear is quickly replaced by disbelief. Must be a trick. Maybe we're not sitting in the right place. We move about to see if we can change the angle. Still can't see him. He turns his head and smiles. “Satisfied? No, I can see you're not. But don't worry, I'm not after you. You're perfectly safe. So before you panic, just let me tell you what I'm doing here. "As you know, I was thrown out of Heaven for being too radical. My ideas really could have improved things. But would they listen? Of course not. Why should they? All those civil servants up there have got it made. It's down here that things aren't so good. I told Him where he'd gone wrong of course but nobody ever wants criticism, do they. He said my perception must be faulty. Faulty, me? Rubbish! No, what it was is a cover-up for all the mistakes His people made with this universe. I expect you've come across hundreds of them. Most people have. I told Him that with creatures such as you, free will is a big mistake. You know how it is. If everything worth while is too hard to resist, why struggle when you can be forgiven. If you're a believer, that is. Of course if you're not then you're doomed anyway. What a setup. Sounds like a no win situation all round, doesn't it. You'd think that sin didn't really matter as much as the forgiving. Well I suppose that with His resources maybe it doesn't. He might as well have said "Do what you want and then be forgiven." It's not the way I'd do things. But then I'm only part human... well almost. When I asked about it He said "Love conquers all." Now I know a thing or two about love and about life in general and I can say with confidence that love hardly ever survives long enough to affect anything, especially with your lot. If you'd only take better care of things. And of each other of course. And not keep on needing forgiveness. Why can't you just do things right once in a while? I'm not saying that I'm perfect myself. Far from it. I admit to liking a bit of laugh now and then. I mean, who doesn't ? And that's my point. People aren't designed to be perfect. It's alright for those religious freaks. They don't seem to want anything out of life apart from serving as slaves to admiration, guilt, begging and forgiveness. Not much of a horizon for someone created in His own image, is it? Heaven certainly didn't suit me. No sex, no jokes, no laughter, no fun. All hail Marys and hallelujahs from morning to night. Of course that's OK if you haven't got an intellect and none of those healthy, physical desires. You know what I mean, don’t you? So what was my idea, you may ask. And well you may, my friend. Let me tell you. My first idea was that if they were to be given free will then they must damn well take the consequences when they choose personal gratification over duty. After all, I had to be responsible for what I did. And although I say it myself, I'm a little more honest about it than your lot. Of course He didn't like that idea so I came up with another one straight away. But would He agree? Of course not. He insisted on giving you all what He called "proper" free will so that you could all make your mistakes just the way you wanted to. He said that He only wanted properly forgiven, pure souls with Him in heaven, not some preordained quota. I didn't know what to say. I could have pointed out that my idea was in His own interest, that free will was bound to benefit me more than Him But what was the point in trying to convince Him? He always knows best. OK, in theory I'm better off with His arrangement, except that now I only seem to get those souls who actually believe in punishment. I ask you, where's the fun in torturing people like that? Mind you they're not happy. They think they've been caught in some sort of a scam. As if the temptations were too strong to allow their tiny minds to make use of their so-called free will. And there's no screaming or moaning any more. Oh no, nothing amusing like that to listen to .... just complaining, morning and night. I tell you I'm getting fed up with it." We don't know what to say. A long silence follows while he stares at the mirror. Suddenly he speaks. "It's almost as if I wasn't here. You can see what's happened of course. They only have to ask, in a half hearted way and He forgives them. You can you see where that leaves me, can't you? I'm stuck with the really sad cases, the nutters who actually want to be punished. No pleasure in that for me. Of course, now it's too late I can see what His plan was .... Please everyone, except me, by letting them get away with murder, then forgiving them all. He's got me to do His dirty work for Him while I get nothing in return. His idea of a joke, I suppose. So who's the real victim of this scam, would you say? Right, it's me. Anyway, drink up. I can see you're decent sort of chaps. I'm taking you to a nice little place in Soho where the girls are right out of this world. And it's my treat. No, really. I insist. END
  15. Woolyhead, Please direct your technical questions elsewhere. Ron Closing thread
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