Share your work

On these pages you can share your writing with other WiO members … be it prose, poetry or non-fiction. You might even be looking for comments on your latest chapter or have a tricky villanelle you’re working on? This is the place to share work and get ideas (sent privately back to you, by email).

Email whelan.mariah@gmail.com with any work you want to share. We’ll then get your work up on these pages.

‘A Real Lockdown’ – by Philip Gooden

Today we have a non-fiction piece from WiO member Philip Gooden. Philip writes mysteries and books about language. His six Nick Revill Shakespearean mysteries have just been republished by Constable as e-books/paperbacks. In this piece Philip takes a look at how epidemics were handled in England in the first Elizabethan age, and the details might make us glad we live now rather than then.

If you’re a reader or writer of historical crime fiction, which is the
best period of history to go for? By the best, I mean the worst. The
bloodiest, the most turbulent, vicious and conniving.
        Plenty of readers and writers opt for the Middle Ages, an era when
the four horsemen of the Apocalypse – famine, war, death and
pestilence – ran roughshod over the landscape.
        When I started writing historical crime I plumped for a couple of
hundred years later, London at the meeting-point of the 16th and 17th
centuries, the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James. Specifically
the area south of London Bridge which for centuries was the only way
to walk across the Thames. It led to Southwark, a nest of bear-pits,
brothels and playhouses, and conveniently outside the control of the
city authorities.
        My sort of hero/detective is Nick Revill, fresh from the country and
desperate to make his way as a player by joining Shakespeare’s company
at the Globe Theatre.
        When I was looking for interesting backdrops to set the books
against, one of the obvious and most dramatic was the plague. The
Black Death was the big outbreak, killing off an estimated third of
the population of England and the rest of Europe in the 14th century.
        But the plague never went away. It bubbled beneath the surface for
generations, erupting every now and then. It was still bubbling and
erupting in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
        Now we know that bubonic plague is spread by fleas carried by rats
and passed on to humans. The flea’s bite transmitted the plague
bacteria. Often, several days passed before the first symptoms – the
plague swellings or ‘buboes’ – showed themselves. By then it was too
late for our ancestors to do anything. Not that they would have known
what to do anyway.
        The research for Mask of Night, the fifth book in my Nick Revill
series, threw up some intriguing and horrifying plague material. As
usual, the rich could escape because they had the means to move out of
London for the duration. The poor, in cramped housing, suffered most.
        Lockdown really meant lockdown.  I have a scene early in the book
where Nick Revill and a friend observe an alderman giving orders for a
plaguey, tumbledown house in Southwark to be sealed up. The door was
daubed with a cross in red paint and then padlocked, with the people
inside. It wouldn’t be opened again for forty days. If they weren’t
already infected, they might well starve to death. Anyone trying to
help the occupants escape or even wiping off the red cross would end
up in the stocks or the ‘House of Correction’.
        These methods were as useless as they were brutal. No one noticed the
plague-bearing rats scampering from slum to slum.
        When the weekly death tolls in London passed a certain level, the
theatres were closed. An equivalent figure for deaths in the city now
would be well over 1000 a week.
        At that point the players went on the road. They had to, to practise
their trade, to make money. In Mask of Night they travel to Oxford.
But the plague is there too, sometimes treated by physicians garbed in
the Elizabethan version of PPE, thick coats topped by the sinister
bird-like masks intended to protect the wearer from noxious air.
        The cape and the bird-mask would be good cover for a murderer, I
thought. And where better to bury a body or two than among the mass
deaths produced by an outbreak of the bubonic plague?
        Which makes you wonder when the first covid-19 thriller or mystery is
going to appear. Someone will be working on it now for sure.


     

CORONA DAYS – by Merryn Williams

Corona days, trudging along the silent towpath
of the canal, wishing that it was the sea,
each day I hear, singing along the airwaves,
fresh news of death, divorce, disability.
 
How distant now the days when I was battling,
three months ago, to set the world to rights.
Now, every trivial move must be considered.
I gasp for sea air.  I envy the red kites
 
that wheel above us, back from near-extinction,
enraptured, each day feasting on roadkill.
Celandines, crowsfoot fringe the path where few now
step out, spring colours, radiant and cruel.
 


Weeding the cliff edge – by Martin Stott

April 25, 2020

The following is taken from WiO member Martin’s blog where he writes as his alter ego ‘Lord Muck’.

You can read more of Martin’s blog at:https://www.martin-stott.com/blog/

Back in 1996 a band called Summit released an album called ‘Weeding the cliff edge’. Their label call it ‘down tempo/ambient’. One of their fans described the You Tube version as ‘one of the strangest techno albums I’ve ever heard.’ Lady Muck reminded me of this truly obscure musical event – she knew about it because she shared a house with one of the band members back in the day – when we discussed the current lockdown and its impact on us.  She was referring to the title, rather than the music itself, as a metaphor for how we feel right now.  I had been explaining that my growing season, despite the utterly glorious weather and all the time available, hadn’t been as successful as I’d have hoped and that repeat sowings of beans were going a bit awry.  Especially runner beans for some reason. So I’d placed some more in an improvised sprouter to get them on their way. Three days later on checking to see how they were getting on I’d looked at them and thought ‘Those aren’t runner beans. They are broad beans. I’ve got lots of sprouted and planted out broad beans. What am I doing?’ Minor panic. Am I losing my marbles? Not exactly, but perhaps the subconscious is still fixating on the bigger things of life – like will I still be alive in three months’ time? Will my loved ones be? What about my neighbours? When will all this end? Actually most of the time I’m like everybody else – fretting about the length of ‘socially distanced’ queues at the shops, wondering who is in that ambulance that raced by the house ten minutes ago, but otherwise enjoying the sun, the time to read, write and think, and missing the closeness and interaction with Lady Muck and daughters. (Actually, lucky me, at 66  I don’t have to worry about if I will have a job to go back to, or where the next meal is coming from, like so many people) But this response is rather like weeding on the cliff edge. It is a perfectly reasonable past time. Until you look over the edge to see what is there over the cliff. Then suddenly you question what the weeding is for.

From ‘The Dark Horizon’ – by Liz Harris

Today we’re lucky to have the first chapter of The Dark Horizon by WiO member Liz Harris. Born in London, Liz moved to California after university and now lives in Oxfordshire. She is the author of seven novels and is interested in the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords. To find out more about Liz and her novels visit her website at: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com

Here’s a short introduction to Liz’s forthcoming novel The Dark Horizon. You can read the first chapter by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.


The Dark Horizon

Oxfordshire, 1919

The instant that Lily Brown and Robert Linford set eyes on each other, they fall in love. The instant that Robert’s father, Joseph, head of the family’s successful building company, set eyes on Lily, he feels a deep distrust of her. 

Convinced that his new daughter-in-law is a gold-digger, and that Robert’s feelings are a youthful infatuation he’d come to regret, Joseph resolves to do whatever it takes to rid his family of Lily. And he doesn’t care what that is.

As Robert and Lily are torn apart, the Linford family is told a lie that will have devastating consequences for years to come.