Pangolin Issue 41

Last month’s Pangolin featured some artwork by my mindful soulmate. This month we can admire her photo of the amazing view from our hosts’ garden as we have ten days’ holiday in Madeira. Where does your eye take you? The bird of paradise flowers in the foreground? The big palm in the centre? The church tower? The misty cliffs? The far headland of Sao Lourenco? Or even the electricity cable, whose presence could be said to earth the picture (sorry!) and show that it has not been air-brushed.

March 2019 is a pivotal month for my writing. Draft 1 of my second novel was finished on February 24th, ahead of schedule, so that Tamsin Hopkins, Cinnamon Pencil mentor can have the benefit of seeing the whole thing in one go. Spare a thought for her as she ploughs through all 82500 words of it. The weakest part of my submission to the mentoring scheme was the synopsis. One of the tasks she has given me is to rewrite the synopsis a number of times, starting with the words. This is a book about…

Just as you might choose to focus on the palm, or the church, or the cliffs in our photo, I will accept Tamsin’s challenge and write complementary synopses which show that mine could be a book about justice / revenge / medical hubris / love / inheritance / persistence / enduring friendship / leeches. It includes all of the above.

While we enjoy the sub-tropical climate here in Porto da Cruz, the UK has endured Storm Freya in our absence. Freya is a Norse Goddess but it is also the given name of my main character. In my dreams, the blurb on the cover of my book will read: Freya has spent most of her life trying to forget. In a tale of power, inheritance and leeches how far will she go to seek justice? I cannot tell you the (brilliant, of course) title of the book because of the remote possibility that someone who reads this blog will also be a judge of a novel competition for which the story might one day be entered.

February also saw the final session of the excellent Leeds Comma Press short story course with SJ Bradley. During our last session we dissected another great story, Herman Melville Volume 1 by Victor Lodato. SJ had chosen this as an example of longer short fiction. During our discussions, I had one of those penny-dropping moments, too small to rate as an epiphany, but big enough to write down and underline. I realised that I am trying too hard to ensure my stories have narrative propulsion, a phrase used by Jude Cook when he critiqued Yetunde’s House on behalf of The Literary Consultancy, when what my works really need is more narrative tension.

There was a little time at the end for SJ to advise about submissions to magazines, websites and competitions. She pointed out that submissions to literary magazines may stand a greater chance of success because they are only read by one or two people, whereas competitions often have a number of filter readers who our words have to convince before they ever reach the eyes of a judge.

So, when we are not walking the levadas, cliff paths and mountains of Madeira my other writing task is to chisel away at two good-enough stories I wrote for the course and prepare them for submission. Sadly, I think this may be the only pangolin to emerge from Madeira, but I will use this post to remind you of the plight of the real pangolins, the most-trafficked animals on the planet, as is my custom. My next one is due out on April 5th.

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