World Book Day

I genuinely think a book can alter the course of your life.  For children uninterested in reading, the right book can open up an infinity of worlds, trigger new emotions and enable children to think outside the parameters of their own life and their parents’ views.

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A book is a companion to those who find it hard to socialise. You simply don’t feel lonely when you’re reading quality books. There’s no pressure to respond; to say the right thing.  Even the super confident can struggle conversing in this climate of political correctness. The older generation are under pressure to remove vocab and phrases they’ve used for decades. Their language might be narrow, racist, sexist; unacceptable but not easy to delete when you’ve been fed it from infancy. So I could see some of the elderly losing confidence and relying on books as company. A book accepts you regardless of your disabilities, struggles, insecurities and prejudices.

helperI’m unsure if YA books were around when I was a teen. I’m losing my memory and my faculties because I feel like I progressed from The Famous Five to P D James. I can’t remember any books in between, other than difficult English Lit books.  Chaucer? For goodness sake what were the examining boards thinking of. A teen is not going to develop a love of books when faced with The Canterbury Tales at fifteen/sixteen.  They need novels that captivate, with characters they identify with. Adults might love reading YA but that’s not automatically reciprocal.  I have four children and Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls four flippin years is a killer. Some contemporary books please!

I introduced The Famous Five to my children and Gerty, Tom and Paddy stalled. They  couldn’t connect with the kids, they were too far removed from their reality…but Kitty was well in there and funnily enough Literature emerged as her career path.

yaFrom my first born to my last, YA has sprouted like dandelions.  I was literally salivating each time I took my kids to Waterstones. I loved touching the books, feeling the covers, especially when titles were embossed.  I wanted my kids to be swept up in fantasy or on a knife edge or gooey over kissing.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Darren Shan, Martyn Pig, Shadows; some fantastic YA literature was emerging.  I fell into a habit of reading my children’s books probably to justify the cost but also to make it a shared experience. Just like we watched Disney together, Dr Who, X Factor, Buffy and now Love Island

Alongside I’d be reading Val McDermid, Stephen King, Mark Billingham, Jilly Cooper.

I can easily reel off my three favourite books:

  • Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  • 13  Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I don’t read for reading’s sake; I’d rather watch NetFlix. I’m not someone who can read any genre, in any style.  I avoid overly descriptive novels with a plethora of multiple syllable words. Not because I don’t understand them but because the author showing off can effect the flow of a book and the depth of the characters. My only exception to this is Donna Tart; I’ll happily engage my brain there.

I can’t help think how fortunate I am to have access to so many books. When I’ve a little spare cash spending £7.99 on a book is worth it. Consider the cost of the cinema or any activity that takes an hour or more and you’ll see it’s a bargain. When I’m broke (regular occurrence) it’s the library and the charity shops for me.

As a teen, living on a council estate, in a flat charged with emotion, I would escape to the library.  I actually remember resting my head against a row of novels, silently crying. It was my refuge; here I could be anyone and go anywhere. Libraries need to flourish, to connect with the kids that aren’t coming to the library.  We, the people of Britain, debate no end why children turn to antisocial behavior? Millions is probably spent analysing and procrastinating when the answer is simple.  Children need free facilities: school breakfast clubs, social clubs, swimming and libraries; lots of libraries. Ones with cafes and I don’t mean Costa, I mean a hot chocolate for 50p, a bag of crisps for 50p, a coke for 50p.  There should be sofas and cushions and a free book section where a kid can take a book without being a member.  Let’s be fair, unfit parents don’t sign you up to the library.  I was terrified joining the library. I thought they wouldn’t want someone like me.  I never understand how, surrounded by amazing literature, some librarians can be unwelcoming and unapproachable. Jolliness should be on the person spec and there should be book recycle schemes.

As an author I love that my book is on a journey, from one reader to another, one home to another. I’m more than happy for my book to be passed to a hundred people.  I count myself lucky if  someone has purchased my book and liked it enough to pass it to a friend. I just hope I didn’t disappoint…but it’s good to know…I’d like to think being new to writing I can improve.  That the girl holding a book in front of her face to hide the tears can learn to put a smile on a similar kid, forty years later.

I hope every reader and writer has a lovely WORLD BOOK DAY.

 

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FREE EBOOK TODAY ONLY

yellow flowersHi, HAPPY ST DAVID’S DAY.  I’m not Welsh but I do like to celebrate happy times.  I wrote a novel, I wished, I’d read as a teen.  One that would have made me feel less: lonely, awkward and down on myself.  So for all of you: girls, boys and adults who love YA, who remember times when they felt less worthy, different, dark…download for free.  It’s not a sad book…it’s just a real book…with a hint of fiction and a sprinkle of happiness and most of all hope.  Every day has the potential to be good, amazing, fantastical…keep that close to your sole in sad times.

I welcome all reviews…but it’s here to enjoy xxxxxxx

Skin Deep Valentines

cakeYesterday was a fab Valentines. It’s not something my husband and I usually celebrate because over the years working with four children, three dogs and three cats we were always too exhausted.  But the children are grown and my son’s girlfriend bought us afternoon tea for Christmas and immediately I booked it for Valentines.

It did not disappoint: cappuccino, mini banoffee tart, chocolate mousse, pear cake, quiche and tiny hot toasties.  Umm delicious…And among them Random Attachment.

My book has given my husband and I lots to chat about; like all writers the dream of a bestseller lingers in the air.  It’s probably a bit weird bringing my book with me when I go out; which is rare due to my condition.  I sound like an old car; one with a blown engine. I like including it in my little excursions, finding photo opportunities.  Letting readers know a bril YA awaits https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1550235599&sr=8-2&keywords=random+attachment

When I was twelve (forty years ago) I was already searching for that Disney magic; that charging hero with shoulders wider than a cinema screen.   I was very much a child, not sassy or wise like pre teens are now.  So much has changed in my lifetime, not just technology but identity and love.

skindeepI would have adored Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt when I was twelve; I loved reading it yesterday.  This would be soft porn when I was twelve; easily a bestseller and like Grease the talk of the playground. I remember being madder than hell (internally – no way would my mum tolerate any expressions of anger) when she said I was too young to see Grease. Everyone was talking about the cinema scene and it was the first time I considered lying and seeing it secretly.

Now I’m the mum.  This is not a criticism because the intimacy between Jenna and Ryan was mutual, tender, romantic.  I’ve no doubt they were in love; it’s the sort of first love you hope for your daughters. Not the – flash in the pan I’ve had my way with you love.  Or the – you’re not going out with friends because I own you love. Still…I can’t help wishing she were a year older. One might say what’s in a year but a lot at that age. If I was Ryan’s mum I’d be terrified he’d engage in a sexual relationship with Jenna because legally she’s under 16.  If it ended badly there could be legal ramifications.  I know it’s only fiction and the fact that I’m worried is because Lisa creatively formed real characters.

I think if Ryan was a nerd and not girl savy the age gap wouldn’t bother me but Ryan at sixteen is a young adult, he’s sexually active; Sadie wasn’t his first.

“That was the thing about the girls who chased me.  They lived in their own little worlds in their heads.  They made their own realities and I was just there to make them feel good.  It didn’t bother me.  I never got attached. It was just sex.”

He’s shaving, working, responsible for his mum.  He’s functioning as an adult although his language and emotional struggles reflect he’s still young and needs supports.

But maybe his maturity is what led to his friendship with Jenna which blossomed into love…and if any girl needed to see herself reflected as desirable in a boy’s eyes…it’s Jenna that it’s now.  We can’t always empower ourselves; sometimes we need to be told you’re beautiful.

I don’t want to get into the age thing deeply.

A quick music interval to put my one concern aside.  Fav song at the moment is My Ye Is Different by OSH a Brit rapper from Croydon.  I love the accent; it’s gritty and feels like home.

 

Back to Skin Deep. Firstly I love the novel’s Britishness; I’ve read so many American romances that sporadically I need a taste of England.  I think Skin Deep is on par with my favourite YA American writer; Courtney Summers.

Laura Jarratt’s timing gently moves the romance along and I was engrossed in Jenna and Ryan’s lives and relationships.  All the characters were relevant and I was glad the attack was a sub plot and not some – did he do it? dilemma because the warmth and trust between Jenna and Ryan would be compromised.

This novel is easily a one sit read; other than a dash to the kitchen for a cuppa and a walnut whip.  I know what you’re thinking – she ate all that and still needed a walnut whip?   D’on’t judge.  I was not going to bed till I’d had my Valentine Disney moment when true love wins out and that required chocolate.

The line in the book that resonated with me the most was:

“I felt guilty for feeling suffocated again, but I hugged her back because I loved her.  And I didn’t understand how those two feelings could sit in a person side my side.”

Because it mirrors a line in Random Attachment:

“Joslyn sat on her throne at the kitchen table, carmen rollers in, plucking her eyebrows.  Noting the empty bottle Mia tensed, her mum had stolen Jesus’ miracle and turned rent money into wine again. Mia’s anger tasted all the more bitter because she had to swallow it.  How do you tell your mum you love her but you hate her more.

In one way I want to dislike this book (professional jealousy; a mild form).  Electric Monkey (Egmont) passed on my novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, three years ago.  The feedback was great:

“Henry Whittle, I think, is one of the most distinct novels I have read in some time and really enjoyed the noir Mean Girls element to if.  For me it felt a little too adult focused…”

My novels are hard to place; I see that.  Why? Because they’re books aimed at older YA readers 14+ and have crossover to women’s fiction but the voice is very much YA/NA.   My books are contemporary romance; the characters do make love. There is a criminal sub plot so there’s violent content. And no matter how much publishers say they like the premise, the characters, the writing, they are uneasy with some of the content. So I self publish; that way it’s the story I want to tell, written the way I write.

So I’ve had an agent, I had my book edited, I’ve been passed over and that makes me even pickier. A novel needs to be better than mine for me to appreciate it so credit to Laura Jarratt…Skin Deep is a top teen read and so even though my blood pumps green envy it’s a

5 out of 5 ♥♥♥♥♥

booksI must make one last point.  I’ve read two cracking adult thrillers recently  Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear and Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.  Two great reads, both books I’d recommend though I didn’t award full stars.  I read across all genres even Andy McNab; I don’t have a rating guide, I simply tell you how I feel at the time I read the book.

Sending hugs to anyone who needs them xxxx

Jafaris myelopathy & me

It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life.  Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s

 

Disappointment

Enjoying a book is subjective. I know this from the many rejection letters I received from agents when I first started out.  Then when I had an agent, rejections from editors saying ‘I liked it but I didn’t love it’.

I am prepared that for every five-star review my novel receives, there might be twenty one-star reviews.  I can’t be more accurate because so far Random Attachment has only 3 reviews. In a way this feels worse, it’s like you’ve gone to the school disco and no one wants to dance with you. I feel rather rejected. It’s early days I tell myself.  Life is so busy that readers most likely won’t review my book which is disappointing when you are literally a struggling writer.

In between tweeting about my amazing, spectacular, potentially YA version of #FiftyShades meets #Psycho (I have to be this confident because doubt won’t sell copies) I’m reading.

Lisa Jewell – Then She Was Gone: Slow start but boy does it get a grip of you and twist you around.

C.L. Taylor – The Treatment. The well plotted adult thriller writer diversified into Young Adult. I’m such a big fan that perhaps my expectations were too high.  It simply did not take off.  The YA voice was lacking, the characters flat, the story predictable.  I think the biggest challenge of writing YA is that I’m a middle-aged woman who needs an authentic teenage voice. This is one of the reasons I’m going it alone.  With my first (unpublished) novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle my agent felt the YA voice was too street and too sophisticated.  I don’t think she gave credit to the savvy young adults out there ruling the world. I also feel she found the slang and swear words unpalatable, as do I, but the protagonist’s voice is central to the success of the novel. I don’t say f**k but Mia does. And she wants to make love with Flynn, on a bed, against a wall, once, maybe more; she views intimacy as a natural response to finding someone attractive. Promiscuity is possibly an outdated verb. It’s these key issues that I compromised on first time around with my agent. My daughters advised against diluting the vocab and the darkness and they were right.  I’m not saying CL Taylor’s characters should be swearing and jumping each others bones but they should be 3D. I hate blandness; I want to love, hate, fear characters. I remember when I picked up 13 Reasons Why long before the hype and I couldn’t put it down; I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, not just for Hannah and Clay but her family, Jessica, Justin – that is a book that doesn’t come around often.

I’m new to writing, I’ve been working at it for about five years on and off; barely any time at all.  If I could write one totally, mind-blowing novel like 13 Reasons Why that would mean the world. Perhaps I’m incapable…I don’t know.

I am confident in my writing though; I don’t shake at the knees that my friends are reading stuff and nonsense.  I’m widely read in the YA/NA market and if I can make sales I think Random Attachment can hold its own out there.

I recently read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and other than a cool name and a great book cover I didn’t rate it. Random Attachment is all about the characters. Could the premise be better constructed? Yes, with the help of a professional editor or maybe by me in ten years when I know what I’m doing.  I’m winging it at the moment.  I guess I expect more of traditionally published novels because of the expertise and resources they have to bring a book together. I didn’t connect with Mara. The story seemed all over the place.

I daren’t think about the criticism coming my way.  Or perhaps readers are so pee’d off they won’t review it. I hope that’s not the case.

Right now I’m focusing on social media, getting my name out there, trying to sell my book.  The paperback is as low in price as I’m allowed, I’m only making 25p on each sale and 20% of that is going to charity @myelopathy.org and @YMCAWestLondon.  So reviews are key and for anyone that has purchased the paperback, passing it on would be great. If you liked it then please Instagram it, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.  I’m relying on reviews and word of mouth. To date I’ve sold 43 copies, not exactly mind blowing so all support appreciated. I’m not too proud to accept help, go for it!