The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems is out today!!

It’s always exciting when months, if not years of hard work, revisions, edits, proofreads and more edits lead finally to the release of a brand new book. The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems is released today in ebook and paperback on Amazon. It will be on other platforms very soon. Here is the short link if you feel like checking it out! mybook.to/TheOldFriend

This book in particular was a long time coming. Some of the short stories in here go back at least a decade whereas some are very recent. The same goes for the poetry and the blog-style musings you will find scattered throughout the book. I don’t write poetry very often, for example, sometimes only a few times a year, so you can imagine why it took so long to get enough content for this collection.

I am really pleased with it though. It’s a dark, gritty little thing full of musings on life, death, birth, motherhood, nature, society and more. It’s probably the most personal thing I have ever released, particularly the poems, and some of the musings are about real people in my life, real experiences, thoughts and fears and so on.

Of course, many of the short stories are pure fiction. Before release, I wrangled with the idea of adding a page in the book where I explain the background or inspiration for each piece. In the end, I decided to leave it up to the reader’s imagination. But just for fun and to celebrate release day, here is a list of the pieces in the work along with the stories and inspiration behind them;

Murder – This was a poem that climbed intside my head about 5 or 6 years ago when I was jogging down my lane. The crows were absolutely furious. So noisy it was deafening. Quite eerie, and I really did wonder what was wrong with them. Then I thought about how the local gamekeeper shoots them to protect the pheasants they raise for people to shoot for fun and thought yeah, probably that.

The Old Friend – At one point, I thought my book The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was complete. It was a large book in two parts and had a sequel. Then I started getting new ideas. New ideas that meant moving the ending further back and slotting in a load of new content. The only way to do this was to make it into a series, dividing the big book into two, adding a brand new book three, using the sequel as book four and then inevitably that led to a brand new book five. This short story was written around the time I was writing book three. In book three the main character Danny goes through an even harder time than he had previously and I couldn’t help feeling guilty, almost as if I were doing it to a real person! So, I explored this guilt in this story.

A Mother’s Story – essentially a prelude or teaser to my upcoming YA series The Day The Earth Turned, I wrote this from the point of view of Mother Nature.

Leaf – an old story I wrote years ago about a boy and his imaginary friend. This was based on some truth; my nephew had an imaginary friend called Leaf when he was little!

The Writer Woman – A Cautionary Tale – This also goes back a few years and just popped in my head one day. It might even have appeared on this blog at the time. It’s a little nod to the years I spent not writing because I didn’t think I had time and because so many people try to deter you from following creative pursuits. It’s a bit of an over-exaggeration of what could happen if those ideas aren’t let out regularly!

Child’s Eye – Another old story, I can’t quite remember where this idea came from!

Who Turned Out The Lights? – I wrote this one a few years ago after our writing group were talking about horror stories for Halloween. I wrote it around that time and possibly shared it to Wattpad or this blog. We are prone to power cuts where we live and sometimes when the lights go out suddenly, you automatically reach for the nearest hand…

Snotgoblin – This piece appeared on my blog about 8 years ago when my youngest child was approaching his first birthday. Someone on Facebook joked about calling children of this age snotgoblins and I thought it was brilliant. He was a little sticky mess at that age and the piece just flowed from that. It’s a little nostalgic piece about the untamed wildness of very young children.

Reuben’s Race – I wrote this as a short story or possible chapter for my YA series The Day The Earth Turned. At the time I was busy with other books, but if I got a really strong idea I would write a bit for this series. This story eventually ended up as a chapter in the book!

The Puddle -This is another old one and it comes from the memory of my oldest daughter being quite obsessed with puddles as a young child. She would often say there were other worlds inside them…

Stan – A piece that appeared on this blog a long time ago about my late step-grandfather, Stan. He was a very tall, very quiet man who I didn’t feel I ever got to know. But I have so many good memories of him.

Getting There – A few years back I was going through a low period and most of the poetry in this collection comes from that time. For some reason, I can only write poems when I’m feeling really dark! This one is a reference to what me and my husband often say to each other. You Ok? Yeah, you ok? Getting there. It just kind of means we are hanging on.

7 Minutes – Wrote a few years ago after a chat with my eldest daughter. She had read somewhere that after death your brain is still alive for 7 minutes. I started wondering what those 7 minutes might be like.

Slug – Quite an old one written about my ridiculous but genuine fear of slugs!

Crushed By A Number – Another one written during a dark time. I have always struggled with my body image.

The Rubbish Man – wrote a few years ago. I got the idea when feeling really angry about the amount of litter and fly-tipping that goes on where I live.

Fine Wine – I do like to reward myself with a glass of wine on a Friday after a busy week!

Monday Morning – wrote a few years ago after watching my older kids leave home and try to cross the road to their school bus stop. It was a miserable Monday and none of us wanted it.

Outside – I wrote this after the first lockdown, when restrictions were starting to lift. During the strict early days, it was so quiet everywhere, it almost felt like the world had ended. This is from the point of view of a woman who doesn’t want the world to go back to normal…

Nothing – another fairly dark poem from a dark time

Grief – This one is fairly recent. I was feeling so sad about the state of the world, climate change, the decimation and extinction of wildlife…

Moonlit Shadow – This has a story behind it. I got up one morning about two summer ago and walked blearily into the bathroom. I was sure I saw a shadow move across the floor and when I sat on the loo I got a really strong feeling of loss accompanied with lyrics to a song I couldn’t recall the name of. I associated it with my sister, though I still have no idea why! I ended up googling the lyrics until I found the song. It was Moonlit Shadow by Mike Oldfield. I still have no clue why it made me think about my sister!

Bug – small, strange poem about me accidentally killing a bug. I hate accidentally killing things.

Smokey Sneak – a little poem about the stresses and strains of modern life

Zombies – a poem I wrote during a recent election.

The Shed – This story was my son’s idea! It was during the first lockdown when he was 12 and he told me he had a story idea but didn’t want to write it, so I did.

Dark Little Girl – another dark poem from a darker time!

What If… – a poem that expresses concern about the point of life

Friends List – a poem about Facebook!

Mother Pt 1 – just a little one I wrote one day when tired. I remembered my mum always saying there was no point her sitting down, and I felt the same!

Fried Eggs For Breakfast – The idea for this came when I was cooking eggs and wondering what I would do if something unexpected came out of one…

Tired – a poem that crept in my head when I was still dog-walking for a job as well as running writing clubs. I was really, really tired!

All These Thoughts of Dying – a bit of a grim one, but I find it really hard not to think about death when I am driving!

The Forest – a recent poem I wrote after a walk in my favourite woods. I wondered what it would be like to just lie down and sink into the earth.

Things You Don’t Want To Do – A poem I wrote a while back when feeling a bit overwhelmed. Sometimes life is just full of things you don’t want to do….

Driving The Bends – this one evolved in my head during my constant journeys up a certain narrow, twisty road where I live. It’s one of those roads that is just begging for an accident to happen and it only takes one idiot…

Dylan’s Dream – another idea from my teenage son. He had a bizarre dream and described it to us in great detail. I said that sounds like a weird story. He didn’t want to write it down, so I did.

Read Now, Die Later – I got the idea for this one when dog-walking. I was on a narrow, gravelled path and I kept thinking I could hear footsteps behind me, crunching the gravel. Whenever I turned, no one was there. I soon realised it was the loose gravel flying out behind me when I walked and scattering further back. But by the time I felt safe, I had devised this whole story in my head!

The Universe – I like this one, it’s one of my favourites. For a long time, my husband had to start work at 4am and as we only have one car, I’d wake up too and drop him there. Sometimes on the drive back, the sun would just be rising and everything would seem very peaceful and calm, and if a perfect song came on the radio and if all the traffic lights stayed green, I would cruise safely home feeling that the universe was on my side.

The Death of You – another poem about death. I often get fearful about driving especially when I see the remains of animals on the roads, but then I started thinking about all the other ways you could easily die at any time…

2020 – one I wrote during the first lockdown! 2020 was certainly a memorable year.

The Black Van – This short story arrived unexpectedly when I was driving home one day. The lights were red and a black van was in front of me. Just then an identical black van pulled up behind me and I was sandwiched between them. It was early morning with no other cars about. The lights seemed to take forever to change and I started imagining what would happen if the vans contained bad people with sinister intentions! By the time I got home I had the story idea and wrote it later that day. It just flowed! It then became a novel idea which I intend to co-write with Sim Sansford soon, now that we have finished our trilogy together!

Mother Pt 2 – I think a lot about motherhood. Being a mother makes you realise things about your own mother. I think it gives you a clearer idea of what she did for you and what she sacrificed. Thinking about how much kids are attached to you as little ones but then leave home and don’t look back made me think about my own mother and my experiences as a mother.

A Woman Of A certain age – I wrote this in the kitchen one Friday night after a stressful week when my perimenopausal hormones had really battered me. I had a drink on the go and music from my youth playing.

My Golden Son – I wrote this quite a few years ago when my oldest son was about ten or so. We were walking down the lane which is very beautiful, sheltered by oak trees and enjoying the wildflowers and the hedgerows full of birds, and then I got suddenly very depressed by the litter and the prospect of climate change and I just felt awful for him, having to grow up in such uncertain times

These Streets – Another one that popped into my head during an early morning drive home after dropping my husband at work. He works in a fairly run down area and it was these details I was noticing as I drove.

Black Hare Valley – A few years ago I had a vague idea to write a horror story about a group of kids living in a very sinister town. I started a few character bios and loose ideas and then created a huge map for the fictional town of Black Hare Valley. It was a lot of fun and my son helped me. I couldn’t write the book at that point but I wrote this prologue or teaser for it instead. I am now writing the book!

We Write – The newest poem in the collection. I am obsessed with writing, as you probably know. I love it so much. I think it is pure magic and these are just some of the reasons we feel compelled to write.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these brief stories behind the pieces in this new collection!

The Tree Of Rebels and Disconnection From Nature

So it’s finally here! The day has finally arrived! Sometimes when in the middle of writing and rewriting and crafting a book, publication day can feel like an impossibility. Something so far in the future it feels like it will never happen. The Tree Of Rebels felt like an impossible thing more than once. This was a very tough book to write and one I had a constant love/hate relationship with. It’s very different from my other books and I wrote it with an audience in mind, something I’d never done before.

As I’ve mentioned before, the seed of this book was sown while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’d kept seeing these petitions to sign to stop Monsanto patenting seeds. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but what I did read and digest alarmed me and got the cogs turning in my head. I’ve often thought about nature and who owns it. Have you ever walked through the woods or across a field, only to be stopped by a fence and a Private Property sign? Have you ever stood on a high hill and looked down at the landscape and realised how restricted our movements actually are? How the paths and roads have been laid out for you and how signs and fences stop us roaming as we once did?

The more I thought about large corporations owning seeds and nature and having that control over the food chain, the more I imagined a frightening dystopian world where growing your own food is banned. This might seem like a far fetched idea right now, but for some people this is already becoming a reality. Believe it or not, there are places in America where people are not allowed to have backyard gardens or chickens. Where people can be arrested for attempting to gather rainwater. The frightening future is already on its way…

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Distrustful of GMO’s, hormones in meat, anti-biotics in milk and pesticides on fruit and vegetable, more and more people are turning to growing their own food. Self-sufficiency is becoming popular again, and you can’t deny this is a form of rebellion, of taking back control. It’s vital for our planet too. The meat and dairy industry is literally killing the earth.

Dystopian future in mind, I already knew I wanted to write a young adult book. The protagonist, 13-year-old Lissie had been evolving in my imagination for some time, and now she finally had a place to play and grow. The book undoubtedly evolved into something more than I had envisioned. It’s not just about seeds or a post-apocalyptic future, it’s about rebellion, questioning the status quo, defying your parents and searching for the truth, no matter who it hurts. All classic issues in the complicated journey of growing up.

But one of the main messages I hope people pick up from this book if they do indeed pick up any is the consequences of becoming disconnected from nature.

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. A head in the clouds type of girl. I love nothing more than a walk down the lane, to the river, or across the fields, the common, or the woods. Something special happens to us when we are in nature, when we walk barefoot upon the earth, when we touch trees, smell leaves and view flowers and wild animals. Sometimes I think I might be a bit odd. I have very strong urges to touch and hug trees. They call to me, they really do. Once I lay my hand on the trunk of an ancient Oak, I find it very hard to pull away. I can’t get over the fact they are helping me to breathe! They are eating pollution. Without them, we would all die. The same goes for the humble bee and other vital pollinators. We simply cannot afford to ignore nature. We are nature. And I truly worry that many of us have forgotten.

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Where I live is very beautiful, but I fear that others do not see it. When they race their cars down the narrow lane and hurl their rubbish into the bushes, I fear they never linger long enough to see the beauty and majesty of the trees. I fear they have no clue that they would die if the trees were not there. I’m fascinated by the unseen lives of birds, insects, and animals. I’ll stare at birds in the sky, watching their flight, hearing their cry, wondering where they are going and where they live and what they do. I want to know. I want to be part of their world. Sometimes I feel like I am trespassing. Especially come dusk when the bats start circling and the owls start hooting. This is their time, not mine. How they must despise us, I often think.

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I think the thing we are often missing is gratitude and wonder. I am in awe of nature which makes me want to protect and nurture it. Sadly, others just don’t see it at all. In truth, this means they do not see themselves. They are disconnected from it, therefore they don’t care about it or appreciate it. If you don’t care about something, or see the value in it, you’re not going to go out of your way to protect it, are you?

In Lissie’s world, the people are taken care of. They are housed and fed and educated and worked. There is no war or violence. They have returned to traditional ways, fearful of the technological world that enabled war and destruction to almost wipe out the entire human race. But in order to keep them contained, the people are separate from nature. Food is grown and delivered to them. Animals are raised in domes . Unwanted plants are circled and torn up. Wild animals are feared and killed. They know very little of the natural world. And this is all sold to them as the perfect world. A society without war and hunger and homelessness. A safe, sheltered, catered for life. It’s Lissie who resists this version of life and strives to find out more about the outside world. A true rebel, spurred on by the dying words of her Great-Grandmother, she seeks the truth. What happened to the Old World? Who destroyed it and why?

Please feel free to leave a comment! What are your fears for the future? Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books, and if so why? How do you feel about the issues of humans becoming disconnected from nature? What can we do about any of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!