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Self-editing webinar - members only

Hello folks

We've got another self-editing webinar coming up on 6 July at 19:00 (UK time.)

If you want to submit some work for me to RIP APART WITHOUT MERCY then:

a) Mwah-hah-hah. I look forward to feasting on your bones

b) Please give me a chunk - maximum 300 words - in the comments below. Please include your name (or I'll just use your Townhouse handle.) Also the title of the piece, and just one short sentence telling us what kind of book it is. (Plus something about the set up of the snippet, if we need to know.)

I won't be able to use everything. In the past, I've been able to get through 3-4 pieces in the hour.

Please don't submit your work below if you're not a JW member: we won't be able to use it.

Please also don't submit your work unless you are comfortable having it discussed publicly, cos public discussion is exactly what's gonna happen.

All clear? Yes? No?

Yes! Tremendous. Look forward to seeing you there.

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    • Title:  MARKED WITH THE CROSS OF LORRAINE by Laura Fuster

      The first book in my two-book FIGHTING FATE series, it’s a YA historical action/adventure set in 1940 London and war-torn occupied France. 

      Chapter 1:  Losses

      Enrique’s eyes flew open, dissolving the blaring siren.  He bolted upright, his heart thumping, and listened; but the only sounds were the slow, rhythmic breaths of the four still asleep.  He sighed.   Just another dream. 

      He threw his blanket off and climbed out of bed; it would be a long time before he’d be able to go back to sleep.  He snatched the windup travel clock from the sill of the blacked-out window and tiptoed over to the tiny nightlight—one thirty, maybe tonight, they’d be lucky and the planes wouldn’t come.

      He looked down into the crib where his infant sister lay sound asleep, the sock puppet he had made for her during the voyage clutched in her arms.  As he watched, a little smile creased her lips and her eyelids began to flutter as she enjoyed some pleasant dream.  He bent over and kissed her forehead, careful not to wake her.  

      He turned to walk back to his bed when the sudden screech of the siren jerked his head towards the window and sent his heart rate skyrocketing.  Seconds later, Elena was climbing up the bars of the crib, screaming bloody murder.

      ‘Está bien, Elena’, he shouted as he ran to the clothes he had staged at his footboard. Jumping into an old pair of baggy woollen trousers, he nearly fell over as his foot caught in the gas mask flopping at the belt loop.  Without removing his pyjama top, he threw his secondhand jumper over his head and pushed up the dangling sleeves as he stuffed his sockless feet into the tattered leather shoes lying under his bed.   Then he hurried back for his little sister.

      Her flushed cheeks glistened in the weak glow of the nightlight as he scooped her into his arms.  Bundled in a thick yellow sleeper in anticipation of this now all too frequent emergency, she should be warm enough in the crisp, late September air; but just in case, he grabbed her blanket, along with her red and blue Mickey Mouse gas mask.  

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      • "Rescuing Sycamore House"

        This is an extract from the first chapter of a novel set partly in the present day and partly in the 1950s.  (genre unknown).  The main character, Damian, is a conceited local newspaper reporter, who is disgruntled in a cafe after being sent to cover an agricultural show.

        At a time when most jobs were difficult to come by, I couldn’t just walk out but the frustration caused by a lack of the progress I deserved was beginning to chafe at my psyche.

        A regional newspaper couldn’t be the height of journalistic ambition.  It was the launch pad – but I couldn’t seem to get off base.  An editor with no imagination didn’t help, rejecting as he did my ideas and favouring others with the meatier items on the few occasions when there were any.  When I had started with The Herald, I would have been happy enough to have been sent on the job I had just done but now, three years later, it seemed like an insult.

        I’d have to keep looking for something else in a difficult market –it was the only thing to do.  Besides, I might not have a choice after speaking to Nick.  I’d have another go at re-vamping my C. V. as well.  Maybe I hadn’t made enough of my many abilities.  Someone at one of the nationals must recognise how I could enhance their offerings, surely?

        “So, this is where you’ve disappeared to!” said a familiar female voice.  I looked aside.  To my irritation, it was The Herald’s photographer, Katy.  “I saw you at the window as I drove past.  You can’t claim this on expenses you know, Damian!”

        “I know.  I didn’t see you.  Just taking a break.”

        “Well, I thought I’d better stop and have a word.   Nick isn’t too happy with you at the moment.  You told me so yourself.”

        Obviously, Katy was glad of the excuse to talk to me again. 

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        • The opening of a short story, in which things do not turn out to be quite what they appear.  It is (perhaps) in the speculative fiction genre and is set in the present day.

          Joe Cortanna

          Just one hour ago, I had been warm and calm and comfortable, swaddled like a baby, high in the skies in my aluminum cradle.  From LA to JFK, I had boozed and snoozed across the continental divide until the thump of the wheels on the runway cleared my gin fogged head.  Now, driving north on Broadway, the billboards whispered to me in the darkness of the night.  No PowerPoint needed, they pitched their deal in compelling fonts of pink and neon, their unique selling point a fragile, desperate promise of intimacy amongst the city millions.  As I left the rental in a parking lot, the pavement released its heat into the late evening, filling my nostrils with the acrid taste of cement dust. I set off towards the brightness of the lights, ready to settle amongst the other moths, thirsty to drink the nectar of companionship.

                     I was on my third Manhattan when the blonde breezed by - her sky-high heels heartache red to match her lips, hair tumbling onto her shoulders in a way that made Niagara look like a shy rain shower. She paused and then poured herself onto the bar stool next to me.

                      ‘Hello, stranger.’

                      I was not surprised. My Alan David suit, Gucci diamond cuff links and old school Paul Molé razor cut all signalled - 'I have it all -- come flutter with me'.

                      ‘What will it be?’ I said.

                      She let me take in the full view before replying.

                      I added up the numbers.  She was just under six feet in her four-inch Jimmy Choo stilettos.  Waves of blonde hair lapped gently on her shoulders.  Her Pearl Rose cut-out tulle gown did not so much clothe as embrace and caress her perfect hourglass figure.

                      ‘Vodka, straight, one ice cube.’

          For the full story, see here.

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          • Just joined JW, so this would be an ordeal of fire if it got selected for discussion!

            This is the prologue for a thriller, The Thirteenth Voice: After nuclear catastrophe, twelve strangers survive in a secret bunker. But as they struggle to adapt, a master manipulator emerges and no one is safe. 


            She looks at the live feed. Thankfully, all the dead in the lobby are hidden in bundles of clothes, and it looks more like the aftermath of a wild party than the apocalypse. 

            Outside, the end of Broad Street holds its abandoned vehicles, litter blowing in the breeze. In the corner of the wall of the Sheldonian, under the stern stone faces carved on the columns, some rubbish is stirring. She watches it for a moment, a GAP bag catching a gust and circling up before dropping back to the pavement and starting again. It’s mesmerising. It seems almost alive, dancing in the breeze. She watches as it pulses, enjoying the unpredictability of it. Her mind begins to wander, thinking of the days when plastic bags were in the hands of the shoppers, the days when she wasn’t the only living person in Oxford. She may doze. She has nothing else to worry about right now. The plastic swirls. It’s the only movement on the screen, and something about it stirs a memory, long buried. She frowns, the fuzziness of sleep evaporating. What does this remind her of? It’s giving her the feeling of a strong emotion, as a song might remind you of an old boyfriend or a sad film. 


            She sits forwards, examining the movement. What is it that this bag reminds her of? She stretches out her mind, digging into the past, and nearly hooks something, but it’s a slippery thing. She closes her eyes, seeing the image now only in her memory. It lifts and dives, and she is hurting. Aching with loss and the ultimate betrayal. She can feel the pain in her chest. 

            Her eyes fly open just as the bag catches a bigger gust and sails off down the street, gone forever. 

            She remembers.

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            • Hi Harry, I'm Jason.

              Here's a submission for the editing webinar!

              Title: The Broken Ballad of Mr Tallywhacker

              A dark comedy adventure set in a fairytale land

              300 words of story beginning:

              Percy’s mood was one of disquieting melancholy, as though he was emotionally prepared for the impending tragedy. All that morning the gloom had filled him, and his mind was awry with unwelcome insights; the most poignant of which seemed to be centred on his specific reason for living. At first he attributed these thoughts to a fourteen hour sleep, that, even by his lethargic standards was unusually long. He paced around the wooden floor of his bedroom, pondering the purpose of his existence, which was a deeply troubling notion to consider. After much deliberation he could find no definitive reasoning for his being, and so, dissatisfied, he huffed and lay fully dressed on his bed, crossing his booted feet. Here, he dreamt up various scenarios that would cause his life to expand with meaning and adventure. The permutations of his own mind took him by surprise, and he found himself drifting away in a seamless transition of unrelated hypothesised events, all of which culminated in the conclusion of adventure being a dangerous proposition.

              What is adventure, anyway, but a troublesome disturbance, he thought. It was a disturbance that he was often disturbed by; the thoughts often creeping up on him like a shadow at dusk, and something deep inside of him knew life held more possibilities than the lonely existence he had lived. He was eighteen years old, and yet the bountiful lust of youth seemed to have passed him by without a care. Lifting himself from the mattress he moved to the window, where his thoughts drifted to the previous summer.

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