Through icy weather I walked the two miles to Chester city centre to the Bear & Billet public house. This black & white original Tudor pub is where Chester Writers meet monthly. I’ve been attending irregularly for five years, but some have been reading and critiquing there for decades. An eclectic group, we have a Christmas cake mix of newbies, journalists, poets, published authors and then there’s me. Last night a member sent us rolling around laughing as she read out letters she received when she was an Agony Aunt on a San Fransisco newspaper in the 1960s. Others read poems and one read an extract from her novel-in-progress based on the 1700s Ladies of Llangollen. That will be a great novel. I might have helped a wee bit by pointing out where she could add smells to the reader’s experience. So many writers forget to engage all the readers’ senses in their work, and I have to keep reminding myself.
And so it was my turn. I decided to read my 1600 word fantasy short story, Witch’s Alien. The story came from the title, which came from a random title generator. Immediately, my brain warped into action – witch and alien, what a great combination! It had been critiqued already by members of the BSFA and Cafe Doom, but I wanted to test reactions at this 3-D group. When the group realized what a laid-back quiet man I was, they asked me to remove my hearing aids. This trick makes me talk louder! Hah. I also removed my specs – all the better to read my story. All went well until page 2. My eye caught a pronoun, ‘his’, referring to the incorrect subject of that sentence. Ah. How could that have sneaked by all those crit groups? While my eyes and mouth continued reading, my brain, independently corrected the sentences and bookmarked it in memory to be sorted later. By the time I had to turn the page I realized I’d no idea how I’d read the rest of that page!
I thought it would take six minutes, and it probably did, butI couldn’t wait to grab my pen and do the correction at the end. After I used my teacher’s experience to emphasise and change voices in the reading I reached The End. A little applause and a few gasps, and congratulations came over. Umm, no one else noticed the pronoun error. Maybe it didn’t matter, except to me, although I couldn’t help thinking of my editor friend, Allan Guthrie, who would have pounced on it immediately!
It wasn’t until we were outside that my old colleague from teaching at Queens Park High School, came up to me and said: “Geoff, that was horrible. It made me feel sick.”
Oops. But then I thought, hey, it was a mix of fantasy, sci fi AND horror. So I thanked her for telling me the horror element was a success! If the story was bland and they happyclapped it, I would have failed. My next mission is to induce vomiting at the reading in January! Hah.
At home I corrected the pronoun and submitted the story to a magazine that publishes horror, fantasy and science fiction. Only five months to wait for a response. In the meantime if anyone wants to read it, drop me your e-mail.
I gave out flyers for EV mag including call for stories, poems and articles as well as a suggestion they buy a copy! Sales of Escape Velocity magazine are picking up. I was told by a Newcastle pal that his family are buying them for Christmas presents – so come on folks before the season is over. Buy it here.