Poems; My Golden Son & These Streets

My Golden Son

The boy and I

Walked down the lane

with two old dogs

the lane warmed

by February sun

the sky blue

as we wandered on

in silence

every time I wanted to speak

there was nothing to say

no words

that had not been said before

I felt numb

the boy, sensing this

stayed silent, stayed gold

hope is in the snowdrops

darkness is in me

for all I see is gone

already a land of ghosts

the lane covered in litter

budweiser cans like a trail

I’d like to see that man

with a crow pecking his dead eye

I’d like to watch him die

instead of this gold land

instead of my golden son

These Streets

These streets hold dirt and grime

pigeons strut across the road

seagulls pull at black bin bags

in the back alley

litter and people discarded

rolled up in newspapers

junkies crouching on the corner

we drive on through that

see a glimpse of beauty in

red poppies on the roundabout

wild flowers on the bridge

did someone plant them?

or did they grow themselves?

Then, up up up

up and over

small cars stuttering into clouds

they rise above us

they fill the skies

the horizon is torched

and it hurts to believe in anything

to hope

is a pain in your chest

easier then to see death

in everything, to see the ending

a slow defeat, slow clapping

we hold up our hands powerless

too late to wake up now

we sleep forever

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10 Reasons I Love Writing and Reading YA

On the 11th August my next book The Tree Of Rebels will be released as an ebook. (The paperback is already available!) This will be my sixth release and my fourth YA book. My books fall into both the adult and young adult genres. I never really decide which it will be; that’s a job for my characters. It just so happens that all of my characters tend to be young adults, and in fact, even in my adult books, the young adult voice is very present.  When it comes to reading, I’m not too fussy about genre. I recently devoured horror, crime thriller, literary fiction, autobiography and YA. But it’s fair to say that I am more consistently drawn to YA books, to read and to write.  Here are my reasons for being in love with reading and writing YA;

  1. Inspiration – When I was a kid, the first books I ever really fell in love with were The Catcher In The Rye and The Outsiders. I had enjoyed many books as a child, and I had been writing stories for as long as I could remember, but those two books affected me in a way the childhood books had not. I fell into those books and got lost. I fell in love with the characters and saw them as utterly real. I could totally empathise with the feelings, emotions, and scenarios of both books. I loved the style and the voice they were written in. More than any other books I can remember, those two made me want to be a writer. I emulated them in my teens, writing similar stories with similar characters. From that point on I was always searching for books as good as those. I’m still not sure I’ve found any to top them.
  2. Nostalgia – For that reason, YA evokes nostalgia in me. YA books make me remember the surge of enthusiasm and inspiration I got from that genre when I was a teenager. They take me back to that time and remind me of the impact books can have on your life. This I think, draws me towards reading and writing YA. I’m not a rose tinted glasses kind of person by any means, but I do love a bit of nostalgia!
  3. Feeling Young – There is this. Not that I feel old. I really don’t. In my head, I am still a kid, and I always assume people are older than me and certainly wiser. I still feel new sometimes. I still feel like I have so much to learn. I like reading and writing about young people because I still feel like one of them! What I see in the mirror is not what I see in my head. When I read a really good YA book, I can totally recall what it feels like to be that young. I particularly love a good coming-of-age story. I think being a young adult is a totally unique time in your life. Too many people embrace adulthood too quickly and tend to put up walls, separating their generation from the ones below them. (You only have to look at the amount of millennial bashing that goes on!) I think YA books are important for this reason. They remind you of what it is like to be young, conflicted, confused, with those huge highs and lows, mixed with fear, ambition, self-doubt and hope. If you can read YA and feel young again, perhaps it helps build a bridge between generations.
  4. YA is so varied – This is true. YA is a genre with so many sub-genres and I love them all. I’ll even read Romance, if its YA! Horror, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age, historical, thriller… Having young adult characters just seems to make all these genres better.
  5. YA is fast paced – of course, there are exceptions, but generally I find YA books move pretty fast. Not that I mind a slow moving book. I’m not particularly drawn in by the ‘page-turner’ claim, but YA does tend to grip me. I can’t think of too many YA books I’ve read where I haven’t wanted to start a new chapter as soon as I’ve finished the one I’m on. (Michael Grant Gone series and Unwind dystology comes to mind!!)
  6. Gritty, edgy themes – I don’t want to be bored when I read or write. I want subjects I can really get my teeth into. YA has these in abundance. Frightening dystopian futures, post-apocalyptic disasters, family drama, domestic abuse, substance abuse, self-harm, suicide, bullying, running away, sexuality, sexual awakening, poverty, race relations and more, YA is all about tackling difficult issues head on. As a reader and a writer, this is the stuff I yearn for.
  7. Characters that come alive – I struggle with characters in some adult books because I can’t relate to them. Like I already mentioned, I don’t feel like I am nearly 40, so I find it hard to relate to middle aged characters. I consider myself working class, and so much adult fiction is written by and about middle class people. YA offers a wider spectrum of characters who are flawed, still growing, changing and learning. This in itself makes them relatable and interesting. I’m thinking of Holden Caulfield and Ponyboy Curtis, but also Charlie (The Perks of Being A Wallflower), Katniss (The Hunger Games,) Theodore Finch (All The Bright Places) Leisel (The Book Theif) Jonas (The Giver) Todd and Viola (Walking Chaos Trilogy) and so many more! I really struggle to think of a character from an adult book that has stayed in my head…
  8. You are not alone – Reading YA as a teenager is a life saver. Whatever struggles you might be going through, you are going to find a YA character going through the same thing. There is a YA book out there that is going to help you and show you that you are not alone. This is so important when you are young
  9. Packs an emotional punch – The reason I love writing and reading YA books so much, is the emotional journey they take me on. Writing young characters opens up so many possibilities for reaction and action and motivation when you are throwing dramatic situations at them. They don’t just have the plot journey to go on, they have their own inner, coming-of-age journey going on as well, which I find, magnifies the emotions of everything else! YA books tend to pack an emotional truth and are not afraid to venture into dark or emotional territory. I need this when I am reading, and I find this cathartic when I am writing. What can I throw at these young people and how will they react? How will they change and grow and develop as the story unfolds?
  10. Offers hope – YA books may stray into dark waters, but they are never afraid to offer hope. The characters, being young, tend to veer on the optimistic side. They are not tired or jaded by life yet. They are not cynical. They believe things will get better. These books may not all have happy endings, but you can guarantee most will be fuelled by hope…

Over to you folks! What do you think about YA books? Do you have a favourite from your youth? Or have you discovered any great ones in adulthood? (PS – here are 12 of my favourite ones off the top of my head!)

  1. The Outsiders – S.E Hinton
  2. The Catcher In The Rye – J.D Salinger
  3. The Chaos Walking Trilogy – Patrick Ness
  4. The Unwind Dystology – Neal Shusterman
  5. The Gone series – Michael Grant
  6. The Giver (quartet) Lois Lowry
  7. The Book Theif – Markus Zusak
  8. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  9. All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
  11. The Shock of The Fall – Nathan Filer
  12. Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

 

Something As Simple As Rock ‘N’ Roll Could Save Us All

Last night I went to a gig which reminded me how glorious us humans can be. How glorious most of us constantly are. It was a Frank Turner gig, which may or may not be significant to the effect it had on me, the emotions it stirred, the tears it unexpectedly brought to my eyes. But then again, it definitely needed a certain sort of singer and a certain sort of crowd for this blog post to have been inspired.

Frank Turner, for those of you who don’t know, is an English singer/songwriter, of a folk/rock tradition. This was the second time I’d seen him live and it was even better due to the smaller, more intimate venue not far from his own home town. Over the years many of his songs have gotten to me personally, but isn’t that always the way with performers we become attracted to? They write so many lyrics that could have been written just for us, making us feel like they are talking directly to us.

So come on now if we all pull togetherWe can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders, just for a moment or two.png

 

Frank Turner invites a mixed crowd of people, which in my opinion makes for the friendliest and safest kind of gig. Young teenage couples stand and sway beside grey haired ones. Parents stand with hands on the shoulders of their children. Women in their thirties and forties, and everyone in between. It doesn’t matter what you wear or how you look, you’ll feel instantly relaxed and at home. There’s no sense of danger or threat in this mild mannered yet devoted crowd.

Not everyone grows up to be an astronautNot everyone was born to be a kingNot everyone can be Freddie MercuryBut everyone can raise a drink and sing (1).png

 

Like all great performers, Turner knows his job is to make us happy and he plays this role to perfection, making it is his sole purpose to excite, entice and invite the crowd to have fun. Like the pied piper of music lovers, if he says jump, we jump, if he says sing, we sing, and if he tells us all to hug a stranger, we hug a stranger. There were some truly wonderful and memorable moments last night, including a man who had flown in from Lithuania to see Frank, being called on stage to pick out someone who would then crowd-surf to two points in the audience in order to deliver high fives to two chosen men.

Having recently mentioned money being raised for Safe Gigs For Women, Turner asked us to prove what a safe and respectful environment his gigs provided for all. Later on, he crowd surfed himself in order to find a beautiful girl to dance with while singing I Wanna’ Dance. He found a little girl and danced with her, and I am sure it will be a moment she will never forget.

But this is not meant to be a gig review. If it was I would say that the crowd were suitably enticed into a hand clapping, feet stomping frenzy, roaring along to each and every song, dancing and hugging and kissing. I would say that Turner did a magnificent job of interacting with the audience, delivering an energetic and passionate performance while coming across as a genuinely lovely and down to earth person.

But all that aside. Something happened last night. I kept getting emotional. I kept wiping away tears. It might have been the two pints of cider. It might have been the songs (I’m not ashamed to admit I wept openly to Ten Storey Love Song and I Am The Ressurection when I saw The Stone Roses) But it was more than that. Because I’ve been feeling emotional a lot lately.

I’ve caught myself staring into space, lost in fearful thoughts. I’ve found myself breathless in the beauty of nature whilst a cold terror that everything is ending clutches at my heart. I’ve had moments of intense love with my children, which feel undeniably punctured with hopelessness. And I’m not the only one. So many people I know seem to be experiencing what can only be described as a sort of mourning. We’re grieving for a world that seems to be going backwards in so many ways, devoured by hate and division. We’re mourning for a beautiful glorious earth that cannot hang on much longer under the damage we inflict. We’re aghast at the utter demons who rule the world and who are voted in by people who should know better.

It’s been bad news followed by worse. Now you might have different political opinions to mine, and that’s fine, but these things need to be spoken about. None of us should ever have to be silent. You might have voted Conservative, for Brexit or even for Trump, but I cannot hold back from discussing the fall out from such outcomes. On the morning of the Tory election win, there were groups of mums gathered in shock at school, in tears. I cried myself. People who were already scared and dismayed at the rate at which the NHS, education and the welfare state had been cut back, rolled back and privatised for profit, were facing another five years of rule under a barely elected Government extremely lacking in compassion.

But we soldiered on. Signed petitions and even won some of the battles. Then came Brexit. And again, if you voted differently to me, that’s fine. I know plenty of people who voted for their own reasons which were not doused in selfishness and intolerance. However, it cannot be denied that Farage and the right wing press whipped up a frenzy of suspicion, hatred, selfish nationalism, not to mention the repetition of outright lies and misinformation.

The morning after I saw the same shocked faces at school and at home. It felt like the extreme right wing racists had won, and the terrifying increase of racially motivated hate crime since then would suggest they felt they had. They felt vindicated and are now proud to voice their intolerant views. It felt like everything was going backwards.

But we shouldered it and carried on. Then came the election of the most powerful man in the world and we all know how that turned out. Avoiding social commentary and political discourse as much as I possibly can here, it cannot be denied nor should it be, that the majority of people across the world right now are pretty scared. They’re either so scared they voted for a misogynistic unqualified lunatic or who doesn’t believe in climate change, or they are now terrified because of that outcome.

As Turner said himself last night, it has been a shit year and the world right now feels very unstable divided and scary.

I felt it hit me last night. The emotion, the fear, the ache of hope, the solidarity with others. With each song he sang I guess I released a little bit of what I had been holding onto. When he spoke about his song Rivers not being about nationalism, but about the beautiful rivers that carve up our land, I wanted to shout yes! I came away feeling lighter, not knowing how much I had needed a night like that.

'And when I dieI hope to beBuried in out in English seasSo all that then remains of meWill lap against the shoreUntil England is no more''Rivers'Frank Turner.png

I guess I don’t really believe any more than rock and roll can save us all. Maybe we are all too far gone, but I do still believe it can save us, if only for just one night.

And I thank Frank Turner for that.

And in his own words; ‘We can get better, because we’re not dead yet!’

and-i-still-believe-in-the-needfor-guitars-and-drums-and-desperate-poetryand-i-still-believe-that-everyone-can-find-a-song-for-every-time-theyve-lost-and-every-time-theyve-won

 

Indies!! What The Hell Are We Doing?

Indie writers, if you’re anything like me, you ask yourself the same question on a regular basis. It looks a bit like this;

headinhands

I’m sure my family think I am mad. None of this really pays off, let’s be honest. My husband chuckles when I declare I am going onto the laptop to ‘work’. He thinks I am crazy for giving myself so much stress.After all, it’s not like I have a boss breathing down my neck! I don’t actually have to do any of this, do I?

He can’t understand when I announce that ‘I have a lot to do tonight’. To explain, it usually goes a bit like this; ‘I’ve got to finalise the short story for the newsletter and I’ve got to fiddle with the template, plus I’ve got to share the newsletter link to my page before it goes out, so I can try to pick up a few more subscribers, then I’ve got to go over this week’s blog, because that goes out tomorrow and I haven’t added images yet, and I’ve really got to start hitting some book review blogs and I’ve really got to start submitting to some competitions, but I’ve got to finish this book too, and plan this other one…’

And I’m sure he’s thinking; um no, you don’t actually have to do any of that. You could have a night off and watch TV or something.

Indies, I’m sure you can relate to how I feel when I regularly ask myself; what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I writing another short story to add to another newsletter than only 19 out of 34 people will even open, and out of those 19, only 2 will go on to open the file and hopefully read the story? Why am I sharing my thoughts, my progress and my blog posts to Facebook so that it can show them to only 23 people out of 1027? Why am I asking for reviews when I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall? Why am I writing a book when the ones I have released already barely sell? Why do I constantly feel like I am fighting a losing battle? Why am I forever looking for the holy grail of ‘making it’ as writer? Will I even know it when I find it? Why the hell am I doing this to myself?

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I think it’s common to feel thwarted, frustrated and downhearted as an indie writer. You constantly swing between feeling like an outsider, and feeling proud to be doing it your own way. You feel like you have something to prove, when surely having a nice, fat traditional publishing contract, would be all the proof you’d need? As an indie, you keep one eye on the sales, you pester and beg for reviews, you enter competitions, and do all you can to promote without becoming an annoying spammer. You lose yourself in social media, and it is all for your books. Sharing interesting writer advice to Twitter, pinning funny writing quotes and making storyboards for your books on Pinterest, running events and giveaways on your Facebook page, and starting an email newsletter to try to gain a decent, loyal following. You do it all, don’t you? And wonder when on earth it’s going to pay off…

How do you know when you have succeeded? How do you measure achievement when you’ve chosen the indie path?

Maybe it’s enough money to live on, or to at least pay a few bills. Maybe it’s some level of fame, recognition or critical acclaim? Maybe it’s wonderful reviews, or just a nice, steady trickle of sales? Maybe it’s just becoming a better writer.

Sometimes I have to stand back and force myself to ask some awkward questions. What if I never sell lots of books? What if I never get the amount of reviews they say you need to get Amazon on side? What if I never win an award? What if I never get any recognition or any level of success?

Would I stop doing it?

No.

Never. And when I remember this, I think, fuck it, and keep going.

And what is success anyway? Yes, more reviews, more sales, an award or too etc, would all be lovely. Of course they would. They would make it all worthwhile. They would help justify the hours, the blood sweat and tears and sanity invested in all this. They would help alleviate the crippling self doubt and the gloomy, why am I bothering days.

But you can measure success in other, smaller ways too.

Such as, where was I a year ago? Or two? How about six?

Well, six years ago I was still working on the early drafts of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, having dragged it out from the dusty suitcase under my bed where it had been living since I last worked on it aged 16. With my then youngest child starting school, I’d felt the strongest urge ever to get writing again, as that book had just never stopped talking to me.

In the years that followed that decision, I’ve published four novels and one short story collection. I’ve finished two more novels and am working on getting them released soon. I’ve started a Facebook author page and slowly but surely reached over 1,000 likes. I started this blog which also has over 1000 lovely followers. I’ve had many articles about writing published by Author’s Publish. I’ve fallen back in love with writing short stories. I’ve started my own writing business, Chasing Driftwood, running adult writing group and children’s creative writing workshops. I’ve been asked to run several workshops for children and adults by the Dorset Writer’s Network. I’ve become a reviewer for Underground Book Reviews, where I actually get paid to read books! There is so much more I want to do too, such as working regularly with schools, running workshops for aspiring authors and after school writing clubs. I want to write all of the books in my head! And if that’s not the main motivation for all of this craziness, then I don’t know what is!

Plus, I have a confession. I do moan, I do lose heart, I do get frustrated and I do have ‘I’m just gonna’ give up’ days, but do you know what? The truth is I actually enjoy all the craziness that goes with being an indie. I’m proud to be doing it my way, I’m proud to be learning from my mistakes, I’m proud to be getting stronger and more confident, I’m proud of the sales and reviews that I have, and the messages from readers. And as for all the other stuff; Pinterest, tweeting, author page, email newsletter…yeah, I have to admit it is all quite fun. Admit it!! It is fun!! Plus, writing blog posts, learning how to master social media, attempting articles and short stories, will all help make you a better writer. You may be doing them for promotional reasons, but the process is going to help your writing in the end, so that’s a win-win!

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Now, over to you, fellow Outsiders. How often do you feel like quitting? How do you really feel about being an indie? How do you measure your own success? Do you enjoy all the promotional activities that go with being an indie, or are they a curse? Please feel free to comment and share! 🙂