charlie_cochrane: (Books)
2016 has started with a very pleasing bang. Just got an e-mail from Julie Bozza to say that Pride of Poppies has been short-listed for the Historical Novel Society (HNS) Indie Award 2016! My flabber is entirely gasted with delight.

charlie_cochrane: (sleeping dogs)
"If you like a good LGBT historical, you like queer fiction of a literary quality, then this anthology covers all the letters and is beautifully written

Read more at On Top Down Under.
charlie_cochrane: (rainbow)
"... a very moving and stimulating read with plenty of original ideas."

read more at the site.
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Jay is back by popular demand! Well, I demanded his return, anyway. Am asking him my Pride of Poppies questions this time.

What grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

I had one story in the slips ('At the Gate') that I had been longing to find a home for ever since I read the article that inspired it; the submissions call was, you might say, the catalyst that finally got it written. The other story was really a response to Julie Bozza, who as editor had been musing on how little the submissions reflected what she had been expecting, i.e. stories about trenches and poets. I offered to write something appropriate, and 'Break of Day' is the result. It also gave me the chance to quote Isaac Rosenberg - the "queer sardonic rat."

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

I write historical fiction anyway, and have been interested in the Great War for a very long time indeed; so I'm lucky, in that it didn't challenge me too much. What nearly caught me out was the assumption that nothing aboard ship changed very much between 1918 and 1939; did you know that the Tannoy wasn't invented until 1925?*

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

The medical staff, full stop. Particularly Surgeon Edward L. Atkinson, RN - "Atch." He was one of Captain Scott's surgeons in the Antarctic in 1911/12, and during the Great War served not only with the howitzer brigades on the Western Front but also at Gallipoli. In September 1918 he was appointed surgeon to HMS Glatton, and was aboard her when she was torpedoed in Dover Harbour to prevent a cordite fire from spreading to the main magazine, as there was an ammunition ship moored astern which would have devastated Dover if it had exploded. Atch went down below to rescue two men, and was knocked off his feet, pinned to the deck through his leg and half-blinded. At which point he pulled the shrapnel out of his leg, got up, and went on to save two more men ...

What are you working on at present?

Right this minute I am between books, having just added 'The Peacock's Eye' to my Manifold Press publications; I'm very proud that it was launched on the same day as the e-book of 'A Pride of Poppies'. My previous book is 'Dance of Stone', and next to come will be 'Across Your Dreams', which tells what happens to Lew, Russ and Alan after the end of the stories in the anthology.

* Charlie's note: I didn't know that, although I do know that the first floodlit rugby match was around 1880.
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
In which Hallowed Ground got a 5 star rating. "I loved the character voice of the doctor in this story".

Read more here.
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
What a lovely bunch the Pride of Poppies authors (or as Julie Bozza just calls them 'poppies') are. Glad to welcome Sam Evans here today; her story in the anthology, "After and Before", reminded me fondly of "Maurice".

What grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

I’ve always wanted to do a story about a couple’s last night together, I just never had the ‘reason’ for the enforced separation. When Julie asked me at the book signing in London in September to have a go at writing a story and submitting it for the anthology it seemed like the perfect moment in time to set my story against. Read more... )
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Here it is, among friends.


I knew Julie Bozza would appreciate the location, but it was only as I panned out that I realised how Wendy and Jay would appreciate it, too!


And nice to see Don't Kiss the Vicar at the Hot Guyz Patrol cover contest.
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Lovely to welcome Adam Fitzroy here today.

What grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

The glib answer to that is 'Julie Bozza', who shook me warmly by the throat. Well, that's not entirely fair, although Julie can be pretty persuasive when she wants to be. No, actually I loved the whole idea of the project from the moment it was first mooted, and everything I've heard about it since has only served to increase my enthusiasm. And obviously, having already written a book with a First World War theme (sort-of), I felt I was reasonably in tune with the period.

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

In all honesty, I can't think of many - although the thing that really worried me was the dialogue. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that speech patterns are constantly changing, or alternatively to fall into the trap of having people in the past speak in some stilted 'King's English' - or, even worse, Mummerset peasant accents. Making people of a past era sound normal is always a challenge; they need to be able to understand one another, and sound authentic, while at the same time being understood by the reader, which is quite a delicate balancing act. However when even such giants of the genre as Julian Fellowes can occasionally slip up (I'm sure I caught an "As if!" in an episode of Downton) maybe there's actually such a thing as being too fussy about detail and we should all just chill out - as I'm quite sure they didn't say on the Western Front!

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

This is a tricky one, particularly because the people I consider heroic are rarely giant historical figures such as Lawrence of Arabia but ordinary guys doing ordinary jobs and getting very little credit. In my family, both my grandfathers (one of whom was blind in one eye but still became an ambulance driver) and eight of my thirteen great-uncles saw service of one sort or another during the war. Another great-uncle, prevented from military service by chronic bronchitis, stayed at home and helped to keep the railways running. (The rest were all too young to serve.) We were a fortunate family in that of those who went to war only one was killed and none seriously injured; the ones who came home afterwards went back to work, married, raised families and in due course died as old men. If you'd asked any one of them, they would have told you they weren't heroes; they might, perhaps, have pointed to 'Bunny*', the one who didn't come back, and told you he was a hero, but they were just ordinary men doing what they were told. I can't help thinking, though, that there must have been times when they were terrified, or confused, or in situations they couldn't understand or possibly didn't approve of, but they still did their duty because they knew other people were depending on them. That's heroism, in my opinion - and I hope that, if something similar ever happened and I had to be a very small cog in a very big organisation dedicated - at great risk to itself and its members - to a common goal, I would be able to put ego aside the way they did and do whatever had to be done for the sake of my loved ones at home.

*Private Hubert Dudley Baker, 15th (County of London) Battalion, Prince of Wales' Own Civil Service Rifles, London Regiment, killed in action 18 January 1917 at the age of 20 and buried at Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Transport Farm, near Zillebeke in Belgium.

What are you working on at present?

My current project is a book called 'In Deep', scheduled for 1 August publication by Manifold Press. It's about a retired police officer, Ted, investigating the death of his stepson Kieran on a small Scottish island. He meets Athol, born in Scotland but raised in New Zealand, a loner with something of a chip on his shoulder, and their closeness grows as together they look for answers to the mystery. I'm having a wonderful time with it; the research - as always - is great fun!
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Lovely to have Eleanor here today. One of the great pleasures of this job is getting to meet so many nice people!

What grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

I've been reading books from Manifold Press (who organised the anthology) for some time now, and I leapt at the chance to get involved in any capacity. The First World War theme especially called to me, as a branch of my family tree comes from Germany, having moved to England just years before the war broke out. I learnt a lot in the process of writing the story, and I hope I gave a decent representation of some of the everyday realities people faced.

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

For one thing, research material for 'Inside' was pretty thin on the ground - many of the records I was interested in were lost many years ago! Fortunately, I was able to find out enough to get a decent feel for what I was writing, but I'll be the first to admit that 'Inside' might not be 100% historically accurate. I did my best with what was available! When it came to 'The Man Left Behind', I spent a lot of time puzzling over the way the attitudes of the time would have affected the main character's own sense of self-image. Finally, for both stories, I'd have been lost without the hard work of the anthology's proofreader, F.M. Parkinson, who managed to catch a lot of modern language slips that I would never have noticed. So that was quite an eye-opener, too!

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

My great-great-grandmother, Isabel Schwerdt. Her husband Henry, my great-great-grandfather, was born in London, but - like my protagonist in 'Inside' - his German father and surname made sure that he was seen as too dangerous to be allowed to wander around with the real Brits. He spent the war in a civilian internment camp, leaving Isabel to raise their three children on her own. She changed their names to her maiden name in order to protect them (though she kept her husband's name herself), and kept them all afloat until the end of the war. Although I don't know much about it, it must have been a terrifying time for her - especially as my great-grandfather's eighteenth birthday approached, with the attendant uncertainty about what would happen to him. Fortunately, the war ended when he was still seventeen, and as far as I know he was never called up or imprisoned. Much as I admire Henry for surviving the camp, I also appreciate how hard it must have been for Isabel, so she's a real hero in my eyes.

What are you working on at present?

What am I not working on? I've got a couple of stories and novels in the editing stages, I frequently write random little writing short stories to keep myself busy - those tend to end up on my blog - and I've recently joined the team of a collaborative fantasy world named Caladria. This means I spend my days wrestling with dragons and goblins, and I've just submitted the first draft of a story featuring a couple 'A Pride of Poppies' readers may enjoy meeting when it's published later this year.

I'm grateful to Eleanor for sharing this wonderful photo is of the aforementioned Schwerdt family (Isabel, Henry, and their three children) c. 1914

charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Lovely to welcome Wendy here today.

What grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

Three answers to that. No, four. They are: Julie, Julie, Julie, and honouring.

I have met Julie only once, through our mutual writing friend, Narrelle M. Harris, and such an impression of joy and verve and delightful wickedness did Julie make that I have already pestered her three times to come visit me in London and be plied with coffee and cake. The other reason this anthology so appealed to me is that, since moving to London 18 months ago, I've been overwhelmed by the honour the city has paid to those who died in World War I. The centenary has seen a literal pride of poppies at the Tower of London, memorial benches honouring the fallen, bus sides scattered with painted red blooms, and new memorials. By sharing a story for Julie's anthology I was glad to do a very tiny bit toward honouring those who did—and still do—fight in our name.

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

Unlike my writing friend Kim Le Patourel, who is deeply informed about the era—from uniforms to armaments, critical dates to rank—I knew very little about this time period so I decided to focus on the one thing I was pretty sure about: For two men in love a hundred years ago life wouldn't have been easy. So how might they have shown their affection for one another, what words could they use for all to hear, how would they love?

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

To be honest, I don't, largely because of my ignorance of the era. I do have a hero though, a man who fought an unkind world with kindness and dignity: Joseph Carey Merrick, the man they called the Elephant Man. His was a gentle soul that, had he lived past the age of twenty-seven, well he might have lived through WWI and I do wonder what such a good man would have made of this first in our great and awful wars.

What are you working on at present?

In the past month I've had my first book published, "Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met," through MX Publishing, and what I'm working on right now is not bombarding my publisher with ideas for books two, three, four, and five. When I'm failing at that (I pitched him a Sherlock Holmes erotica collection yesterday), I'm working on completing my BA in Film and Media.

FRIES wendy the day they met
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
Wonderful to have Barry Brennessel back here, talking about his A Pride of Poppies story “Ánh Sáng”.

Barry, what grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

I’m so fascinated with imagining what life was like for GLBTQI people throughout history. Egypt during the time of the pharaohs. Ancient Rome. Medieval Europe. Japan in the 17th Century. New York City in 1940. An African village in 1960. When I saw the submission call for A Pride of Poppies, of course I was instantly drawn to it. I thought about how the Great War was really a global war. I wondered about what was happening outside of major areas of battle, and the sacrifices people had to make far away from the main theater of battle. That opened up so many doors for story ideas. I knew I had to write a story about a place one usually doesn’t associate with the Great War. I ended up focusing on Indochina in 1917.

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

The challenge, I think, for any historical setting is getting all the details right (as best you can, anyway). This involves figuring out the vocabulary of the time; the clothing; modes of transportation; diet; where people worked and how they relaxed, etc. It’s work, sure; but the research is also great fun for me. There’s so much to learn!

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

Because Clara Barton was a resident of my hometown (Dansville, New York) during the Civil War in the U.S., and started the American Red Cross there, I’ve always been inspired by those who volunteered their services in the medical field. One in particular, Lenah Higbee, was the first woman to be awarded the Navy Cross, and had a ship named in her honor after her death.

What are you working on at present?

I recently released a collection of linked stories set (mostly) in Japan, that span several decades, called Sideways Down the Sky. I’m also working on a screenplay version of my novel Wellspring (another story that takes place, to a large extent, during the Great War). Meanwhile, I keep glancing up at the sky, and realizing I haven’t created any characters who are zooming around the far edges of the galaxy. Hmmm….

SDTS Cover Rainbow
charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
I'm delighted to be hosting several of my fellow Pride of Poppies authors over the next few weeks, answering the questions I inflicted on them.

Starting with that little ripper Julie Bozza.


So, my dear, what grabbed you so much about the Pride of Poppies submissions call that you had to send in a story?

I was wearing two hats for this project – and as the tome’s editor I wasn’t going to let my writerly self get away with not contributing. I was particularly interested in the notion that the wartime experiences of GLBTQI people would be much the same as for everyone else in some ways, but very different in other ways. I was also interested in the idea that such dramatic upheavals in society can create opportunities and freedoms as well as having more dire effects.

What were the particular challenges about writing a story set a hundred years ago?

I think there are two main challenges. One is not only getting the details and the language correct for the time, but also the mind-set and world-view. I was certainly aided in all of that by our proofreader F.M. Parkinson, for she is not only widely read and knowledgeable, but is also a spiffingly good historical novelist herself. The other challenge, I think, is trying not to accept unquestioningly the myths and assumptions about the period. We think we know certain things about the era of the Great War, but they’re not always true!

Do you have a 'hero' (or heroes!) from WWI? Who and why?

Of course there are so many people who could be named here, both those sung and those unsung. But the one I feel I know the most about is Wilfred Owen. He was an entirely loveable chap whom I think anyone might like and admire. As an officer he went out to France and bravely led his men ‘from the front’. After suffering shellshock, he was hospitalised and on light duties for months – and then he was brave enough to go back out there to fight, when he could have pursued an opportunity to serve safely at home. All the while, he was courageous and honest enough to write openly about the personal experience of war, when of course he was expected to maintain that stiff upper lip and suffer in silence. I think he was a marvellous person, and his early death meant the loss of a good man as well as a good poet.

What are you working on at present?

I am just starting to write a sequel to my novel The Apothecary’s Garden. I hadn’t intended to, but Hilary and Tom haven’t yet left me, and I felt the need to tell more of their story.

Charlie's note. That last answer has delighted me. Hilary and Tom are adorable.

charlie_cochrane: (lessons for suspicious minds)
"Quite often the blurb for a book exaggerates, or offers a promise that the words inside simply do not deliver. I am pleased to say that, in the case of A Pride of Poppies, the stories within do much, much more." Read the rest of the review here.
charlie_cochrane: (dohertys)
Delighted to be over at Elin Gregory's today, talking about the inspiration behind my story in Pride of Poppies.
charlie_cochrane: (Lessons for survivors)
And the winner is... At the Gate by [ profile] jaylewistaylor. My notes contain a single word; stunning.

It's not long ago I came across Scrimgeour's Small Scribbling Diaries, which is one of the most powerfully moving books I've ever encountered about WWI. "At the Gate" reproduced an authentic atmosphere of men at sea, living the claustrophobic lives that young Scrimgeour would have known.

I'd have given my eye teeth to have written that story.
charlie_cochrane: (Lessons for survivors)
After & Before by Sam Evans was very nice. That sounds lukewarm, but I mean very nice in the way Aunt Olive describes Ralph Lanyon as "very nice" in The Charioteer, so praise indeed!

Sam's a fledgling author, but shows a deft touch; parts of it reminded me of both The Charioteer and Maurice. All of this is good!
charlie_cochrane: (Lessons for survivors)
Per Ardua Ad Astra by Lou Faulkner was a solid story. I've not long ago finished reading book about fighter pilots of WWI, and 'Per Ardua' rang with authenticity. If I had one niggle, it would be the rather abrupt ending; we could have done with a page or two more. Or maybe a whole book?
charlie_cochrane: (Lessons for survivors)
Break of Day in the Trenches by [ profile] jaylewistaylor is another gem. My notes say "Abso blooming luvverly" which sums it up entirely. I have to admit to going all fangirly about this story.

Escaping from the German lines hasn’t gone to plan. Second Lieutenant David Lewry is sheltering from the barrage in a German dug-out, literally thrown together with Captain David Russell-Hansford-Barnes. Although the two seem to have nothing in common beyond their first name, they share two things: a desire to get back to the British lines, and a desire to live. Then, as they talk through the wait for dawn, the realisation comes on them that they share still more.

Funnily enough, Jay's story has a similar story arc to my offering in the anthology, although very different characters. I enjoyed his light touch and creation of a real atmosphere of the time and setting.
charlie_cochrane: (Lessons for survivors)
The second story I'd like to mention is "I Remember" by Wendy C Fries

It's absolutely charming. A deft mixture of light and shade; one of the stories in the anthology which I wished I’d written.

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