It’s been a while since I’ve done a poetry video for my blog so, with Easter and spring and a smidgen of hope in the air, here’s a new one – Charlie Comes to the Mountain. I wrote it last year when we went to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales and took a family hike up Hay Bluff. It was a gorgeous day, baking hot, and there was a boy racing up the mountain, leaving his anxious siblings behind. I’d had the last line of the poem in my head for a long time, but it found its home in Charlie. Have a good Easter.
This is a new poem, so not in any collection yet – but click below if you want to find out more about my previous poetry books:
Read on for a chance to grab The Boy in the Burgundy Hood for 99p/99c in my Bookbub sale…
Well, here we (or at least those of us in the UK) are again in our third national lockdown. To be honest, there are aspects of lockdown that suit me as a writer. It means I lose a long commute to my part-time work in London. Instead of getting on a train in the early morning, I get to take a walk in the local woods, which is good. And of course, being a writer, I enjoy spending time indoors writing books.
But that’s as far as it goes. The homeschooling of two young boys is pushing everyone in my house to the brink. Love ’em as I do, it’s been two months since we all had a break from each other. School may have put everything on Teams – meaning I no longer have to try and explain fronted adverbials – but the technical challenges and juggling of digital resources has added a whole new layer of conflict and frustration.
Anyway *deep breath* that’s enough whingeing from me. I know my challenges are nothing compared to what most people are going through. So over to some lighter stuff…
The Boy in the Burgundy Hood – Bookbub sale!
Need a ‘compelling mystery with a dark twist’ (Amazon, 5⭐) to distract you in lockdown? I landed a ‘Bookbub Deal’ (promotional gold 😀) for The Boy in the Burgundy Hood! That means from 21-24 February you can get a copy for 99p / 99c, reduced from £2.99. Described by US author Sherry Ross as an ‘eerie but beautiful ghost story’, it now has 43 reviews on Amazon UK, averaging 4.4 stars. Click here to grab your copy now:
More Writing News – including my Dad’s memoirs
In other writing news, I’m deep into editing my follow-on ghost story, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, which I plan to have out later in the spring. At the same time I’m writing a prequel novella for The Secret of the Tirthas about Hattie Swift, Lizzie’s witchy ancestor who first discovers the magical garden of portals in Herefordshire.
And finally, in other writing news, my Dad has joined the very small ranks of writers in our family by publishing his fascinating memoirs about the hotel industry. Do check it out by clicking the link below!
I was asked recently about which publishing route I took and why. So here’s a potted history of how I became an independently published writer – or ‘indie author’, as we’re increasingly known.
I’m an indie author, published entirely now on Amazon. I gave up my job to concentrate on writing a few years back. It was what I’ve always wanted to do, and besides publishing quite a bit of poetry, I knew I wanted to write novels. I submitted my first book, the young teen novel The City of Light, to agents and publishers. An agent reader’s report said it was a potential Harry Potter (can you imagine how I felt!?). A friend of a friend in the Children’s Rights department of Random House loved it and championed it through editorial teams – only for it to fail at the sales team, who in the post-Harry Potter world had moved on from contemporary fantasy to gritty realism.
To be honest, I gave up for a couple of years until my sister-in-law suggested I go indie. I’ve never looked back. I’m no more of a control freak than the next person, but sending off to agents and publishers was about as dispiriting as it gets. There were lots of long waits and half-promises. Being in control of what and when I write and how and when I publish is great. The downside of course is lower sales – we’d all love distribution in bookshops throughout the world. But of all my colleagues who write and have been traditionally published, none have ended up with rosy sales figures. And most have had a pretty miserable time with their publisher’s demands and processes.
As far as tips are concerned, I did put a lot of time into publishing on multiple platforms – but always for a measly return. When I went exclusive on Amazon and signed up for Kindle Unlimited my sales rocketed. Sad, but true.
Let me know if you’ve had experience of the publishing world. And if you’re a reader, does whether a book is published independently or through traditional publishers affect your choice?
OK, so technically National Poetry Day was yesterday and I missed doing this Poetry Playlist post due to juggling 101 other things!
Whilst I love reading poetry on the page, it’s important to recognise that it developed from oral traditions, a means of passing down the values, wisdom and playfulness of humanity from one generation to the next before writing became common.
So for me poetry exists in two very distinct states. The poem on the page, which emanates its power in a wonderful, still silence (if it’s good!) And then there’s the poem as read by the poet or avid reader, which can take on a wholly different feel. The pacing and the length of the end-of-line pause, the emphasis of certain words, the catching of the poem’s rhythm. All are shaped by the personal interpretation of the out-loud reader.
I’ve done quite a few poetry readings in the past – at festivals, schools, pubs and in such illustrious venues as the basement of the Troubador Cafe in Old Brompton Road, where Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones played (and Ed Sheeran and Laura Marling for you young folk!). But with Covid there’s much fewer chances of doing live readings, so why not take a look at this Poetry Playlist I’ve put together? In it, you’ll find me reading six of my favourite poems from my two collections, Up in the Air and The Things We Thought Were Beautiful.
And if they inspire you to read more, the books are available here:
Today I’m reading a short excerpt from The Unknown Realms, the last book in my mystery adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas. It’s the moment a Venetian boy, Alessandro, sees the hero, Lizzie Jones, emerge from one of the magical portals, or tirthas, with a very unusual – and frightening – companion. I won’t give any more away for those of you who haven’t read the previous books!
If you enjoyed this reading from The Unknown Realms click below to find out more; or, if you’ve not yet started the series, click on The City of Light.
To learn about the magical garden of rooms that inspired the series go here, and about the real City of Light in India go here.
I was amazed when I heard ‘Negative Capability’ used in a meeting the other day. People were looking at the ways in which society works, and using the term to highlight the skills needed to navigate increasingly complex systems. It’s pretty impressive, considering Negative Capability was a concept invented by the Romantic poet, John Keats, to describe the poet’s seeking after Beauty without becoming bogged down in reasoning.
I’ve always liked this concept. We can easily get distracted from creativity and even living life itself if we try and keep on top of everything. Negative Capability is not really negative at all, it’s about letting go, about wading right into the mystery and seeking out the things most beautiful and important to you. Hold faith with those things you cherish, even in the midst of doubt and uncertainty.
Many people are not happy with uncertainty. They prefer to make concrete decisions about the way the world is and isn’t. I think I’m the opposite. As part of the universe, I feel fundamentally ill-equipped to make final pronouncements on it. I just don’t know. Why are we here? Is there an ultimate purpose to life? I tend to think not, but given the inconceivable improbability of our own existence, who knows? There are always gaps, always possibilities.
I think in our modern context, Negative Capability really comes into its own. Society is becoming more complex, mainstream views are being overturned, strong-man populists reign, a pandemic rages, and the climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. In a decade or two’s time, most jobs will require digital literacy, or be taken over by robots. The times, in short, are changing. Sometimes it feels like the only way to survive is to ignore the the big picture and double down on what matters most to us. Whatever that may be. Art, Environment, Politics. We need to function, and thrive, in the midst of all this complexity.
So, hats off to Keats. What an amazing poet, creating words and concepts that are just as significant now as when he invented them.
How’s your tolerance for mystery? Are you happy not knowing things or do you like to find rational explanations for everything?
Today I’m announcing a special book sale offer for anyone who wants a paperback copy of one (or more) of my books.
I’ve realised that with the continued impact of Covid-19 on our lives, I’m unlikely to be returning to bookshop signings and other events for a while. This means I have a reasonable stock of paperbacks that I’ve decided to put up for offer.
So here’s the deal… You can order any of my books for the cover price (£6.99 for novels, £5.99 for poetry), with FREE postage and packing in the UK. For the rest of the world, I will deduct the price of the UK postage (about £1.70) and you would need to pay the difference.
On top of that, if you order 3 or more books I’ll also deduct 10% from the total price of the books.
I will also sign copies if you like, and I can do dedications for birthday and other gifts.
To take advantage of the offer, please email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org, with any dedication details etc. You’ll need to pay by a PayPal account – and I’ll need your postal address of course. Here’s a full list of the available books:
This poem from my first book Up in the Air was written a few years ago. I think it’s pertinent to our current coronavirus crisis, where once again we find ourselves reliant on brave and selfless public workers. It’s my first – and only – prose poem and I wrote it after watching a TV programme about the Marriott World Trade Centre hotel, which stood beside the Twin Towers. As you can imagine, the hotel was damaged beyond repair, and there was one guest who spoke in tears and amazement about how a firefighter saved his life. I can’t remember much more than that, but it showed how there’s something more important to us than money and power and status. It’s the ability to feel widely, to be open to everything and have empathy. We’re not talking about being wishy-washy, but about sensing the ‘drunkeness of things being various’, as the Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice would put it. The world is amazing. What makes us special is the fact that we are able to sense and feel it, in all its fathomless complexity.
I’m posting this poem from The Things We Thought Were Beautiful for World Poetry Day not because it’s a ‘happy’ poem, but because sharing our sadness can also help us to pull through.
Many people think of poetry as a sideline, or even worse, an irrelevance. But for many of us, poems are a source of inspiration and comfort. Losing the possibility to see and hug our close relatives is surely one of the hardest things for us all to deal with at the moment.
This poem, Sorted, heads up the ‘Without Love’ section of The Things We Thought Were Beautiful, and it was written about the frustration and emptiness we often feel when we’re not with a lover. But I think it works just as well in the context of being apart from anyone we love.