Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Review: Personal Shopper

From IMDB:
'A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message.'

I watched Personal Shopper last night, and I'm still figuring out what I think about it. I went into it expecting a fairly simple horror film, albeit one with an odd name. Still, the first act plays out much like a horror. I found the first ghost that we see more funny than scary, but it does have some genuinely creepy moments throughout.
Even when it started to shift in tone, I thought we were getting into The Babadook territory, that it might have some depth and something to say about grief. In fairness to the film, it does tell the story of Maureen's grief very effectively. The problem I had on the whole was there were so many shifts in tone that every time some momentum built from the unnerving scenes, it would be followed by a scene that could put me to sleep. Maybe that's a little harsh, with a little tighter editing I imagine it would have been fine.
A lot has been said about the scenes that revolve around Maureen texting with a stranger, and that was impressive. Kristen Stewart is fantastic throughout but especially in those scenes. If anything I think I would have enjoyed this film more had she been alone more. Those were the scenes in which she really shone. She tends to receive negative comments, especially because of Twilight but it's films like this that really show her talent.
Without getting into spoiler territory, there's an odd section in the middle in which the stranger she's messaging with encourages Maureen to explore a particular activity that she is afraid of. I found that to be a little disconnected from everything else, though it's possible it's something that went over my head.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Review: Sparks by S.J. Adams


Sparks
S.J. Adams
Amazon
Published by Flux





This is one of those books that I just happened upon while browsing Amazon one day. I'd never heard of the author before. It sat on my shelf for a while since I've read more Kindle books this year than anything else. I finally got around to picking it up this week and I'm so glad I did.

"There was no point in trying to cover up the fact I'd been crying. 
My face was probably as red as a monkey's butt." 

This book is unusual in ways that it really shouldn't be by now. Mostly because of the happy, healthy, well-adjusted lesbian protagonist. Debbie is a brilliant character, she's funny, unsure of herself but one thing she knows is she is deeply in love with her best friend, Lisa. Her voice is beautifully written, endearing and often hilarious without trying too hard. Now, I can't say I understood Lisa's appeal exactly, but the author does a great job of giving the reader a sense of their friendship, so it didn't really matter.

"Broken hearts are fucking gross."

There are a lot of Full House references, and while I imagine that it does add something to the reading experience if you're familiar with it, I don't feel like I missed out by not having watched it. I thought it was sweet how Debbie could relate to it so much and knew it so well.

"Will you stop staring at me? Haven't you ever seen a lesbian 
having a panic attack on a toilet before?" 

Much more interesting than Lisa are the friends Debbie makes during the story. We get to know them well throughout the quest. Speaking of the quest, it was so much fun to read that I wished I could tag along. The various locations the quest took them to are perfectly described. At times it seemed like another world, like ours but just a little different. It was definitely an interesting place to go for a while.

4/5


Friday, 21 July 2017

Blog Tour: Artificial Sweethearts by Julie Hammerle - Review


Artificial Sweethearts by Julie Hammerle
Release Date: 7/10/17
Published by Entangled Teen

It’s not chemistry between Tinka Foster and Sam Anderson that made them agree to fake date. With her parents trying to set her up with an annoying student golf coach, and intentionally single Sam’s family pressuring him to bring a date to his brother’s wedding, they could both use a drama-free summer.

So it’s not his muscular arms and quick wit that makes Tinka suggest they tell everyone they’re both taken. Definitely not. And it’s not butterflies that makes a kiss for appearances during the lake party go on way too long—so long that Sam wishes it were real.

But Tinka keeps people at arm’s length—she’s always been second best, even to her parents. And her relationship-for-show could crush everything when she realizes she’s done with fake, pretend, and second-best.

Review:

The Setting:

I love North Pole! If you haven't read either of the books yet, North Pole is a fictional town in Minnesota which collectively loves Christmas so much that it is Christmas all year round! No matter the weather, it's the Winter Holiday. A little like that film channel that's currently showing Christmas films throughout July. It's a surreal setting, and maybe in theory it shouldn't work, but it does. The author describes it so perfectly that I had to look it up to find out if it was real (super disappointed that it isn't!). I'm not sure I'd want to live there, but it sounds like an awesome place for a holiday. It's an ideal setting for romance, I can see why Hammerle has chosen to set a series there, it can definitely be expanded more. 

The Characters:

Tinka is a wonderfully flawed character. Not in the traditional quirky, clumsy, funny, kind of way (although she is all of those things too!) but in a very unhappy, and made bad choices to deal with it kind of way. It's this aspect of her character that places a ticking time bomb in the story from the beginning. It makes a refreshing change that it has nothing to do with the love interest, Sam, but instead her best friend Jane. It adds more depth to the story which I loved. Friendship can easily be forgotten in romance. There are quite a few supporting characters in this story but it's easy to keep up because they're all so well-written. 

The Love Interest:

Speaking of Sam, he is wonderfully likable without being too perfect. His love of film is conveyed in a realistic way. Also some serious past pain, and beautifully drawn sibling relationships make him very relatable. 

If, like me, this is the first you've heard of Julie Hammerle's North Pole series, pick up one of these books today! Will be definitely be keeping an eye on them.

4.5/5

Buy Links:


About the Author:

Julie Hammerle is the author of The Sound of Us (Entangled TEEN, 2016) and the North Pole, Minnesota young adult romance series (Entangled Crush, 2017). She writes about TV and pop culture for the ChicagoNow blog, Hammervision, and lives in Chicago with her family. She enjoys reading, cooking, and watching all the television.

Social Media Links:

Newsletter: http://juliehammerle.us13.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=83bea3773ce2e6025ac4114c7&id=21c06afa78

Sunday, 16 July 2017

You are not obligated to talk to anyone

I'm writing this post just in case no-one has ever told you this before: You are not obligated to talk to anyone at all, especially if they make you uncomfortable. Maybe it's just because I've always been shy or maybe it's just the way I was raised but I've rarely doubted this fact. What I'm noticing again and again though, is that a lot of girls were not taught this. I have a couple of examples.

This week my wife and I were out clothes shopping, something that happens very rarely. While we were in a store that's is aimed predominantly at young women, a lone man in his mid-fifties passed us by. I felt like something was a little off right away, he was alone and walking along smiling for one thing, but no big deal. Until we stopped to look at some jeans and I noticed he'd circled back and he approached us. I didn't know until afterwards that my wife hadn't noticed that. He started talking, mainly to my wife.
Now, I'm pretty pissed at myself. I walked away. I was so confident that she would do the same that I didn't think anything of it. I only walked around to the other side of the stand, but far enough that I regret it now.
He asked her if she's a student (she looks a few years younger than she is), she said no and he began to ramble about how he's looking for a rich woman to marry. What I didn't know until afterwards, you know when somone's talking to you and they'll kind of tap you like on the arm or something, to keep your attention? This guy did that, but tapped her stomach. If I'd stayed, I would have at least slapped his hand away. Eventually he wandered off.
We talked about it, and I asked her why she humoured him at all. My sweet, understanding, wife said that maybe he was lonely or mentally ill. I'll be honest, this is one of those instances where I really don't care. He was deliberately hanging around in a women's clothing store to chat up young women.

It reminded me of something that happened at my old retail job. Two huge guys came in and asked my co-worker for help. While she tried to tell them about products they'd asked for help with, they kept interrupting to tell her how beautiful they thought she was and to ask her out. They weren't even quiet about it, but she did her best for at least ten minutes before finally walking away. She told a couple of us while the guys were still there, and our manager threw them out. HA! Just kidding! Management were all male and even after hearing how scared and uncomfortable she felt, they left them to it. One of our male co-workers served them instead which didn't take long since all they wanted to do was harass her.
After they left and we were talking about it, I asked her why she kept trying to serve them for so long. "I didn't want to be rude." It didn't cross her mind that what they did to her was so unacceptable that she could just walk away. When they returned later, deliberately seeking her out from the moment they walked in, I told her to go in the stock room. At first she wouldn't because she didn't want anyone to think she was being lazy and not doing her work. This is insane. On a side note: I completely lost faith in our store managers that day, who cared so much more about getting money in the till that they'd allow that to happen.

Obviously, it isn't always safe/possible to 'walk away', you do have to be safe. Often, that is the best course of action. So what if some stranger thinks you're 'rude' or even 'lonely'? It's incredibly rude to harass people and maybe this is why they're alone. If this seems really obvious, that's awesome! However, if it's the first time you've heard it or thought about it, taking some time to think about whether you have some personal examples of the same kind of behaviour and how it was handled by those around you.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Review: All Things New by Lauren Miller


Synopsis from NetGalley
Seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and noticeable scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels. 
Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, but her anxiety only gets worse in the wake of the accident.  That is, until she meets Marshall, a boy with a heart defect whose kindness and generous spirit slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.
All Things New is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world.
Release: August 1st from Three Saints Press

Review
Although when I first read about All Things New I was desperate to read it, and thrilled when Netalley approved my request, it took me longer than usual to get around to reading it. I'm going to blame the cover for that, it was hard to remember how awesome it sounded with that cover, here's hoping it's altered before release. 


"We've all got stuff. It's so much 
work pretending that we don't."

Without a doubt, this is the best book about a character with anxiety that I've read. The writing is descriptive and at times beautiful, without ever info-dumping or becoming preachy. Jessa's struggles are so realistic, perfectly realised. The accident happens very early in the story and is a catalyst to everything that follows, but it's the anxiety and panic that are really the star of the show. The fact that that was already a part of Jessa's life before the accident happens makes it all the more realistic, a lesser book would have had that begin because of the accident. The writing is so skillful that we can feel Jessa's exhaustion from the years of carrying this around with her. What the accident does do, is accelerate the plot so that the anxiety isn't the story, still just like in real-life, it's ever-present. 


"Watching him, I'm swept up in sadness, 
why do we rip ourselves apart?"

If I'm honest, I do sometimes have trouble connecting to books with a male love interest. However, All Things New has one of the best. Marshall is such a well-written character. At first he seems like a standard quirky, light-hearted type but the more we find out about him, the more of a parallel can be drawn between his experiences and Jessa's. They appear to be genuinely perfect for each other, rather than that fact being forced. He's a fully fleshed out person who I could easily imagine myself being friends with. In fact, his family is wonderful. This book has some very strong supporting characters. The parents, both Jessa and Marshall's, play a decent role in the story which can be a difficulty in YA. 

"no-one wants to talk about how messed up things are, 
so we let each other play pretend."

Even if you've never experienced anxiety yourself, this book would be a great introduction to it, especially if you know someone who does struggle with it. It does the impossible by putting the complex feelings into words, and beautiful words at that. And that isn't all, imperfect parent-child relationships, addiction, and teen burn-out all play a part in the plot. That being said, it never feels like there's too much going on. 
So pre-order All Things New now, you won't regret it. 

5/5

Friday, 30 June 2017

Casual Conversation

A couple of days ago I went shopping with my wife and one of our friends. I don't know whether I was listening out more to the people around us or whether it was just bad luck, but I heard a lot more negative casual comments about mental illness while we were walking around. I think maybe because I heard something that bugged me early on, I just tuned in more throughout the day. I kind of wish I hadn't.

1. While I was paying for something, the two people working there were talking about how messy their staff area was. One of them said laugh 'I just have to tidy it' more laughter 'It's my OCD' laugh laugh. 

2. Next I heard two guys talking about a video game that one of them would have made had he not quit the course. He described the main character as 'well he's a bit weird, I mean, he has mental issues'. The other guy responded like that was a specific character personality description. He then continued with how 'weird' it all would have been.

3. This one was short and sweet. Two girls were talking, one of them was talking about an annoying girl she knows, the other said 'Ugh, people like that make me want to kill myself'.

I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but this is the kind of stuff that just makes it so hard. These types of comments fuel the misconceptions and mean that we have so much more explaining to do when we need to talk about our stuff. I wish people could hear themselves the way some of us hear it.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

In which I've become the kind of person who cries at things on TV

All my life, my Mum has been one of those people who cries at everything on TV. I'm talking about 'normal' stuff like weddings, births, and the less traditional, like adverts. Those old BT ads with Chris Marshall and family got her every time.

My Dad and I had always gently teased her about this, and she takes the piss out of herself too. I never got it, I'd watch these things dry-eyed. Some stuff does get me. When I watch The Middle it's a 50/50 chance I'll cry at the end of the episode. (It's mostly the warm and fuzzies when it's about Brick's 'quirkiness' or Mike actually talking about his feelings.)

Now, at almost 29, I think I get it. Throughout the big Grey's Anatomy rewatch my wife and I are having right now (currently Season 7) I've cried a couple of times about Callie and Arizona. Last night we finished the latest Season of Orange is the New Black. (SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED IT ALL YET, TURN BACK NOW!) When Piper proposed I suddenly said, "That's weird, why are my eyes so itchy?" Not that my wife fell for it for a second.

It was last night that really got me thinking, and not just because I was mocked the way I used to do the mocking. I am totally the kind of person who cries about lovely things on the TV, it just needs to be people I can actually relate to. If my Mum cries about almost anything on TV, that's because straight people are 99% of what's on TV. I'm only now realising I'm one of those people because the representation of WLW has never been so good.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

What a difference the tense makes

I mentioned in a previous post the many false starts I've had lately, writing wise. At the time I thought I was past that, that I'd started something that would work out. Unfortunately that one didn't work either, and I was getting really frustrated. I'd been happy with some of the ideas I was working with, they seemed perfect, one is even something I've been playing around with for a couple of years. The other two that haven't worked out were ideas that I had while I was trying to aim at a particular thing. That may have been part of the problem, I usually just start writing and figure out the best plan for what to do with it once it's done. But this year I do have some goals in mind for what I'd like to write, and some of it is slightly different.

Already I've found that that can help, for instance, Away From Her was written with an anthology with a publisher in mind, and I self-published when it wasn't picked up. So far it is easily my most successful book. Still, this time around it isn't as easy going as that one was.

Last night, after several evenings of wishing I was writing, but not knowing where to begin, I once again started something new. It's from a rough plan that I wrote about six months ago, something that is connected to one of my novels, though it's too early to say what it is yet. Within the first page, I felt like something wasn't working, and that's when I realised what's been wrong this whole time; it's annoyingly simple. The tense.

For the projects I've tried and had to let go of for now, I had to try to write in the third tense. It doesn't come naturally to me, and it had been difficult but I hadn't noticed before that that was all that had held me back. As I'd been trying so hard with it, I automatically began this new project that way last night. Once I realised, and quickly changed the first page, I found I had a lot more to write.

It's frustrating how simple the solution actually was all along, but it's nice to know it isn't necessarily the ideas that have been the problem. Now I can go back to them in the future, and re-think them in the 1st person.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Why do you write?

Someone asked me recently, someone who doesn't write and was curious, why I write. It sounds like it should be a simple question, right? I opened my mouth and realised I didn't have anything to say. I've always written, I don't remember a time before writing. I remember starting my first 'novel' when I was eight. I wish I still had it because no doubt it would be hilarious to read now! All the main characters were named after members of B*Witched, their ages changed wildly throughout the story, and it was basically a bunch of random ideas roughly stitched together. I spent most of a year working on it. Funnily enough, none of that story has made its way into any of my current work.

It started earlier than that though. Back in early primary school, when I was 5/6, I used to draw these storyboard type picture stories. I don't remember anything about what those stories were about but I think I used to draw the same story over and over just for fun. It was probably stuff based on things I'd seen on TV.

No matter what else I've been doing in my life, I've always been writing in some form. I had a bunch of false start novels before I finally wrote Ways To Fall Apart and now realise that they are definitely a part of the writing life, there will always be false starts.

So, I write because I can't help it. I love it, it makes me feel good. I can't imagine not writing. As for the subjects I write about, I write what I do because it's close to my heart and it's the only way I feel capable of helping in the way I want to. I say it all the time, there aren't enough books/films that contain self-harm, depression, LGBT issues, especially without them taking place of a real plot. No matter what kind of story I'm writing, some of those are guaranteed to be in there. Even when I wrote a horror story last year that was very different from my usual writing, my MC was a lesbian ex-self-harmer.

I feel like this is something that a lot of writers might have a different response to, so why do you write?


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blog Tour Stop: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott


 Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen


DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.
CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.
MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.
WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.
When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.




Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving fan mail from across the world. Victoria loves high fashion, big cities, and pink cotton candy. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instragram | Goodreads


As soon as I saw the title and cover of Violet Grenade, before I even knew what it was about, I wanted to read it. We're taught not to judge a book by its cover, but the cover of this book is a thing of beauty, I couldn't wait. The only thing I'd say is that the premise gives away far too much of the story. I was quite shocked when I started to read, and realised that I already knew quite a bit of the direction the story would go in, so my advice would be to avoid reading too much about this book before you read it! Except for my review, you should read this, obviously. 

Domino - she is such a strong main character, her voice is clear from the first page. There is some mystery to her, with information drip fed in a way that gives you just enough, and keeps it interesting. I still could never have imagined the darkness this story gets into, which is some of its brilliance. Although Violet Grenade seems to be contemporary, it has a timeless air about it, it could be set at any time in some ways. In a similar aspect, there is a hint of magic, although technically there aren't any supernatural elements, it feels like there's something under the surface. 

The characters are overall very well written, and strong. In terms of interesting villains, there are few better than Madam Karina and Mr. Hodge. Until the very end I couldn't decide whether Madam Karina was genuinely a vulnerable, sympathetic person who was a little unhinged, or whether she was a manipulative, terrible person. We follow Domino through this journey of not knowing either, seeing everything through her eyes. 

As I mentioned earlier, Domino has a mysterious backstory that we find out along the way. The dark, brooding, love interest carries some dark secrets too, with a story that complements Domino's well, without being too similar. Sometimes Cain does seem a little too...romance hero-y, especially in Domine's descriptions of him, though it does sort of fit here.

When it comes down to it though, what I loved most about this book, and what really kept me hooked, is Wilson. I don't want to give anything away about Wilson, I'll just say that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who/what I thought he exactly is. I love his voice, and I think now that possibly we all have a little bit of Wilson inside of us.

So if you want an easy, simple romance try something else, however, if you want something more intense, with moments of serious darkness, that make you wonder what you would do in some extreme situations, read Violet Grenade. 




Friday, 12 May 2017

An Unusual Analogy

A couple of years ago, I did a 10K race. I walked it (I never got the hang of running!) but I got off to a bad start. There was a lot of build-up and excitement at the beginning of the event, they got everyone really psyched up and then everyone took off at a run. I didn't want to be alone, walking passed all the people cheering us on, so I ran too. It was a very bad idea.

Since I wasn't prepared for it, and I started off way too fast, in shoes not at all suited to running, my right leg began to hurt early on. From my right knee down to my toes, it hurt. It's easy to look back and know I should have stopped for five minutes, but I cared about my finishing time. Even though I wasn't running, and was barely racing against anyone else, I wanted it to be my best.

After a while, my leg went numb. It didn't feel like a bad thing, although I'm sure there is nothing healthy about it. It was sort of like dragging a moderate weight along with me, but it was better than the pain. When the feeling came back, with about 2 miles to go, it was hell. I longed for the numbness to return. By the time I finished, I was OK.

I tell this story because today I got to thinking about the cycle of depression, numbness, and cutting. I noticed a lot of similarities to what happened at the race. When I'm depressed (sad/tired depressed rather than numb/anhedonia depressed) I don't actually get many urges, in terms of my addiction it's probably the easiest time. The thoughts don't come the way they do at other times, and I feel so bad that I know it wouldn't make a difference anyway, along with the fact that it's hard o find the energy. As terrible as it is to feel that way, it's so much better than being constantly triggered and tortured by urges. It's a relief just as much as it's horrible.

Then that feeling begins to pass, after however long, and usually the first hint that I get that I'm feeling better is that thoughts of cutting begin to return.

Much like the pain in my leg, followed by the blissful numbness that still wasn't quite right, followed by the sharp pain - my body feels the same way. The cycle isn't quite constant. I do get breaks from it all, where I feel OK, I get to be happy, without being triggered, although that's is a rare combination. That just seems like an illusion when the cycle is going on.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Quietness

My whole life I've been described as quiet. Sometimes when I was younger, it was interchangeable with shy but mostly, it was quiet. From my first school parents evening until the last, (with only one exception when I finally had a teacher who understood and while she agreed, she didn't call it a negative as every single other teacher had), I was described as quiet. It reached the point where my Mum would often open with 'We know, she's quiet' and they would laugh or just agree. My parents found it funny because in their words 'At home she never shuts up'. Often during these parents evenings, the teachers would try to give me tips on how to improve. It was without a doubt a failing to most of them. They'd ask me to 'simply' put my hand up just once per class. They'd try and make me laugh about it. They'd try to appeal to me, say that if I didn't talk, how would they know how I was doing? (It didn't take long for me to think 'Not my problem, find a way, accept that every student isn't exactly the same). None of it worked, and by the time I left school, I'd long accepted that I wasn't going to change, mainly because I had no desire to. I'd stressed myself out plenty over the years trying to change because everyone told me I should, because it suited them better. I wish I'd realised earlier that it really wasn't my problem.

Even now I'm described as quiet at work. It's less often said as a negative now, luckily. I've come to realise that a big part of why people say that is basically because I don't talk about myself much. I don't feel the need to blather on about my life to anyone that will listen. Once I realised that, I realised just how many people do do that. It isn't always a bad thing. I mean, sometimes I do listen to people talk, the ones who really do go on and on about their lives, every tiny detail of every 'drama' going on in their lives, and I wonder how they have the confidence to do it. I'm not jealous, because I often find it boring, but I wonder how they can do it. If I talk even a bit to most people, there's a commentary in my head telling me no-one wants to hear it, it's a shock when they do. This isn't just a case of low self-esteem, often it does seem to be the case. Anyone who's fairly quiet, and plenty of people who aren't, can tell you that people who are loud or talk a lot will just happily interrupt and talk over you like they are the only person worth listening to. (They usually aren't.) I've also been called boring to my face, although that was because that person thinks someone who doesn't drink or do drugs is boring, and it made it really easy to remove her from my life.

It's also because I really don't enjoy small talk. I'm incapable of talking about the weather for more than a sentence. The things I am good at talking about, writing, certain TV shows that aren't crappy reality ones, mental health, basically what I write about here, most people don't want to talk about. I'm also just comfortable with silence, I don't have a need for conversation or to fill the silence, I'd rather sit quietly than have the stress of talking.

People make a lot of assumptions when you don't say a lot. A lot of people do assume I must be a boring person who has nothing to say. Like the time when I mentioned to my then-Manager that we'd had Indian take out the night before and I'd had a Korma (first one in ten years). He laughed and said 'Of course you had a Korma, I knew that's what you'd like.' Translation: 'You must only eat mild food because you don't brag all the time about eating spicy stuff like I do'. Or the time when one of my colleagues said that he couldn't get his head around all of my tattoos, they didn't fit with his image of me. Or when someone on a training course with me asked about my writing, and the next day he said he thought he found my stuff, but there was no way it could be me because there were stories about a lesbian biker gang. The room came to a goddamn standstill because no-one could believe it. He was expecting boring literary crap instead.

So, if you're a quiet person, don't take any crap from other people. It's OK to be quiet, no matter what the reason. You should only make changes if you're unhappy, and experiencing distress.
If you're one of the people who gives crap to quiet people, no matter how minor the crap, I hope you'll reconsider that now.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lost Sense of Pride

I've been on a diet for a while now, I know, pretty much one of the most boring topics there is! It's something I really hate talking about, because I just have no interest at all in it. When I have friends or family that are doing weight loss programmes, it feels like they've joined a cult when it's all they can talk about.

I'm not doing anything like that, just your standard eating less and exercising. In theory. The fact is, it's a lot harder than I expected, and I've been putting this off a long time because I thought it would be too hard. For the first few weeks, I did well. I cut my food intake down to a healthy amount, got up early to exercise four days a week, it was going well. It was something I thought about pretty much all the time, which sounds bad but it was sort of a healthy distraction from other stuff.

Then it all fell apart. I watched 13 Reasons Why, got severely triggered, and suddenly all my mind and body were doing all day was telling me all the things they wanted, that I couldn't give them. It didn't take long for me to cave a little, and the diet just kind of evaporated.

And now it's so hard to get back into it. The main problem I have, along with everything else that gets in the way, is that I rarely feel a sense of pride in restricting myself. It seems like most people have that and it helps keep them going. At first I did feel pretty proud, especially once I started to lose weight. Then when I started getting constant urges to cut, it really wore me down, and I started to lose that pride. So far, that hasn't really come back, though I know it will. I'll have to find some other way to stay motivated until then, after all, I have a ten mile walk coming up and it would be a lot easier to do with less weight on me!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Inevitable Backlash of 13 Reasons Why


From IMDB.com 

I've mentioned before how much I love 13 Reasons Why, both book and show. It definitely isn't an easy watch by any stretch but it's an important one. It has sparked so many conversations that we as a society desperately need to be having.

Unfortunately, some people still aren't ready to have any of those discussions. Some people are afraid of the subjects raised by the show, and as people will do when they are scared, they attack, and pick fault. Is 13 Reasons Why a perfect show? Of course not, there's no such thing. The fact is that this is the very first TV show that has done what this one has. Other shows have touched on the topics of suicide and rape but none have gone as far as this one. Often we only get an episode or two of a character feeling extremely sad, they may contemplate suicide, then something happens and they have that 'Oh my God, what did I almost do?' moment, and then everything's OK again. I've always found it frustrating how few shows are willing to go the whole way and show the aftermath. Degrassi is an example of a show doing a pretty good job of that, quite a few years ago, but it isn't well known here.

I've seen quite a bit of criticism about 13 Reasons Why, and that's fair enough, I've seen plenty of praise too. Then today, I read an article that just frustrated the hell out of me. So I want to address it directly. The article is here, definitely worth a read if you want to share in my frustration (and make sense of the rest of this post).

In short, the article was written by a psychotherapist, Brooke Fox, on the website of Fox, Levine and Associates. After reading the article, it sort of terrifies me that she is a therapist within an association that deals with not only adults but adolescents and children, because she has a pretty patronising opinion of teens, but we'll get to that. The article presents the main points as a list, so I'll respond the same way:
  • Nobody is responsible for our mental health: Of course not, I won't argue with that on its own, and I know a lot of people had a problem with this aspect of the show. But this idea that Fox has that all Hannah needed to do was 'dig deep' and 'find her power' shows a lack of empathy and understanding. Hannah believed that she had tried everything. That might not necessarily be correct, but when a person is severely depressed, worn down by their environment/situation, they don't see things as they are. This is something a lot of people seem to be ignorant of when they criticise the show, Hannah was not in her right mind. She believed she'd done everything she could and that she was worthless, that things wouldn't get better. And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't encourage people to find the power within themselves to defeat these things, although that certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but the fact is, Hannah didn't have anyone around her helping her to do that. So as much as Fox believes that's important, none of the other characters did. I've also heard it said a few times that they failed in not outright telling the viewers that she was ill. Maybe it wouldn't have been such a bad idea, to help people to know the right kinds of terminology, but otherwise, I thought it was because it was so obvious?
  • It's a suicide revenge fantasy: Maybe this is a matter of perspective? I mean, that isn't what it is at all. It's about many things, this is not one of them. Also, suggesting that a teenager is incapable of processing the concept of death? That's what really made my blood boil as I read the article. I sincerely hope this woman doesn't actually work with teens, because I can only imagine how she talks to them. Not all teens are out of this world smart, but neither are plenty of adults. Most teens can perfectly process the idea as much as any adult. It is highly unlikely that teens are going to watch this show, and then kill themselves in an effort to exact revenge upon people who have hurt them, believing they will then be loved and worshiped. If that's something a parent is worried about, that's when it's a good time to make sure you have good communication with your kid. If your kid tells you they are uncomfortable having a conversation about this with you (*cough*) seriously consider why they are uncomfortable talking to you. It's important. 
  • Girls are depicted as dis-empowered: Yes, they are, that's one of the best things about the show is it really shows how some boys believe they can treat girls and get away with it. I also loved how it broke down the way that a group of people will stick together over something they all know is wrong, given the right set of circumstances. This isn't a bad thing, it's showing something terrible that goes on in real life, to start a discussion and also educate people. 
  • The suicide scene is cause for outrage: Now, as I've said before, I couldn't watch this scene. However, I've heard/read quite a bit about it and by all accounts it's brutal, harrowing. No-one can realistically complain about it being 'instructional' because we all know how if we wanted to. If you see the pain she's in, you see how horrible and gory the act is, that does not make it appealing, it shows the truth. It isn't a case of nicely falling asleep, it's bloody and painful. 
  • Its glamorises suicide: As I said in my previous point, that isn't at all the case. As for this list of rules, I haven't read them before but my God, they are terrible. It basically amounts to - don't talk about it, ignore it, let's all pretend it isn't a real thing that can happen so people don't get any ideas. 
From IMDB.com
There are many reasons that people become suicidal, and because they saw it on TV is not one of them. It isn't a bad idea for a parent to watch it with their kid, but it should be as a way to facilitate conversations that should happen anyway. If your kid doesn't want to talk to you, you are probably the reason. And if they, or anyone you know, says something like 'I feel that way'/'I want to do what Hannah did'/'I relate to that' for God's sake, do not tell them that that's not an option. Talk to them about it, ignoring it will not make it go away, and see how you can best help them to get help. It is one of the worst things to hear, and really hard to deal with, but if someone chooses to share it with you, they are asking for help. That is one of the lessons to take away from the show, figure out how to help people, and remember everyone has something going on most of the time. As Ellen says 'Be kind to one another'. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Glass of Water

About eight or nine years ago, back before I met my wife, and my Mum patiently accompanied me everywhere, we went to a talk by the authors, and couple, Joanna Briscoe and Charlotte Mendelson. Things like this don't happen outside of London often, so it was brilliant to attend that kind of event and hear two writers talking.

Since in my family it's rude not to show up ridiculously early everywhere we go, we got front row seats and watched the little space be set up. It was a small room, only around twenty of us in the 'audience' sitting on these really comfy sofas. The two talks were one after the other, rather than talking together, so there was only one seat at the front, and a little table. On the table, one of the people setting up placed two bottles of water, and two glasses with ice.

I remember quite a bit of both talks, they were both funny, and brilliant in different ways. There's one small detail that I remember and think of often (even though it's really silly and kind of embarrassing to admit but for some reason I can't help myself), and that's the glass of water.

Joanna gave her talk first, I remember her being quite nervous. Charlotte sat at the side, encouraging her. Joanna poured the bottle of water into the glass and sipped it throughout. Then when her talk was over, and they switched places, Charlotte didn't pour anything into the second glass, she continued where Joanna had left the first one.

Like I said, a really tiny detail, but I remember it because I noticed and thought it was adorable for one thing. There was something so sweet about it. And I wanted that. At that point I'd never been in a relationship, so I wasn't familiar with these kinds of details in my own life. Watching the two of them together, noticing that, I felt so warm inside. And I wanted someone to share a glass of water with, in the casual way they did.

Now I have that, and it's seriously awesome. We share everything, and when I think of this memory, I feel blessed.  

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Art of Forgetting

I've been on and off submitting various types of writing for years now, but this year I'm doing it a lot more seriously - which basically just means submitting a lot! Last year was the year of sorting out my day job. I'd been in one that I hated for years, and the job hunt really wears you down after a while. I'd go months without applying for anything because I just didn't have it in me to put myself through it. Unfortunately I was so depressed in that job that I often found it difficult to write. I still did, but everything took a long time. The gaps between projects could be long. So I took a tiny, what felt like a final, little spark of energy, and threw myself into every application I could think off. A grad scheme, university, jobs I didn't think I stood a chance of getting. Thankfully, I did get one of those jobs. It's made my life a million times easier, and now I'm writing all the time.

That makes this year (and I expect many, many years to come) the year of writing a lot and sending it to many places. Before, I'd rarely had more than one piece out in the world for consideration at a time. Not because that's all I thought it took, like some people, but because I didn't have good enough work often. That means I never realised how important it is to just forget what you have out there. Especially since half the time you don't get any response at all, which is somehow worse than a rejection e-mail. I have to say though, I've found this with magazines and non-fiction sites. I'm building up a nice collection of rejections from publishers, which I appreciate.

If you know there's a set date when the decision will be made by, it isn't so bad. You either get your rejection by then, or nothing, but at least the date passes and you can move on to the next thing. If there isn't, you just wait a very long time, and hope for far too long. Right now I only have two things out in the world, and no idea when I'm supposed to hear, but on the plus side, it's definitely motivating me to forget them and keep writing more.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Review: On The Outside by Siera Maley


Synopsis from Amazon:
High school junior Kayla and her two best friends have always been close. Even after Kayla becomes a cheerleader with a basketball star boyfriend, Riley falls in with the skaters, and Evan loses himself in school, the three remain dedicated to their promise to each other: to remain friends no matter what. But when a disastrous prom ends with Kayla single and her best friends dating, the strength of their bond will be tested. Because, as Kayla soon realizes, her feelings for Riley are more than just friendly. Dating a girl is something that’s never crossed her mind before, but more than that, she can’t bring herself to hurt Evan. As tension between the two girls grows, Kayla is forced to grapple with the fact that she might be bisexual, in love with Riley, and about to break their friendship apart.

It's possible that all you need to know about my experience with this book is one thing - I read it in one sitting. Sure, I got up to stretch, to get lunch, but my Kindle came with me the whole time. It was a blissful 5 hours of just reading. As much as I love to read, there aren't many books I can do that with. Amazingly, my mind didn't wonder, I didn't get bored. And then afterwards I discovered that Siera Maley has written a bunch of other books! I don't know why I hadn't find her before. (I'm reading Taking Flight now, and loving that too!)

I loved these characters so much! I could honestly believe they were real people, they were so well developed and the writing is so clever. Maley is a master of telling the story in the 1st person, but mentioning small details that give hints of what other characters are thinking and feeling. Of course, that means I sometimes wanted to shake them, but that isn't always a bad thing. 

Although the story is simple, it's still unpredictable. I genuinely didn't know what was going to happen. Also refreshingly unusual, is that the Prom came so early in the book. Most stories with a significant event like that leave it until the end, everything is a build up to it, but in On The Outside, it's a very effective catalyst instead. 

I also appreciated the fact that the main characters aren't always morally great people. A lot of it is that you can't help who you fall in love with, but Kayla and Riley really struggle with the best way to do things right. It can be easy for writers to make their main characters thoroughly good people, but it isn't as interesting. 

So if you haven't read any Siera Maley yet, this seems like a great book to start! 

5/5

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quiet Release: Away From You

So, you may have noticed an extra book has suddenly appeared on Amazon, and on my Books page. Hot on the heels of These Endless Days, I quietly released Away From You this week, a novella that I wrote with the hopes of getting published in a particular anthology. Sadly that didn't pan out. I read through it again since it had been a while, and thought about which publishers I'd like to approach with it. It surprised me that as I read through it, I decided I didn't want to approach any with this one.

I'd forgotten a few parts of the story, and as I read, I realised this one was a lot more personal than I'd remembered, or intended it to be. It is quite different from my other books. It's more New Adult for one, and also has a hint of fantasy. The fantasy is very light, in a way the story could probably have been told without any of the magic, but I think it does add something, a lightness it wouldn't have had otherwise.

All of my stories have a way of becoming dark, no matter what I intend to do with it. My plan can be thorough and detailed at the beginning, but if some form of darkness isn't there then, it will be by the end. Naturally, this darkness often touches on personal things, and that was the case here. I long ago accepted that I need to send my writing out into the world to be read by strangers who will judge it, that's a part of the business. This is the first time I've looked at something I've written, and decided I couldn't do that. So the natural next step was to release via Amazon. I considered waiting until Halloween, as that holiday is such a big feature in the story, but I have the patience of a child when it comes to these things. I can take all the time in the world perfecting a story and everything that goes with it, but once I've decided it's ready, I can't wait.

Also, how beautiful is that cover?! This is the one I'm happiest with and most proud of.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Violet Grenade Blog Tour

I'm so excited! I found out today that I'm going to be part of Victoria Scott's Blog Tour for Violet Grenade! Look for my review in late May. Yes, there's a bit of a wait with this one, I believe the release date was pushed back a month or so. Since I read about this book week's ago I've been dying to read it, so I can't wait to get involved with this!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

All About Rethink


Now that These Endless Days has been out for a couple of days, I think it's time to say something about the charity that I'm donating 10% of the profits to. If you haven't heard of Rethink Mental Illness, they are a UK based charity who do a lot of much-needed work.

It started out as the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, founded by John Pringle, who's son suffered from Schizophrenia. Back in 1970, Pringle wrote a letter to The Times about his experiences with his son, which is now on their website, it's well worth taking a few minutes to read it if you're interested.

Nowadays, they do a lot of great work, but they still aren't as widely recognised as they should be. They have an extensive website full of expert, but accessible information. I've noticed that often, the term 'mental illness' is thrown around but only to cover the more well-known issues like Depression and Anxiety. Even then, it doesn't cover the full spectrum of those.

Rethink run a range of services, including support groups, crisis housing, help with employment and training, and help that is tailored specifically towards young people. They really help to educate people about their rights, and advocate for people to get what they should have when they are unable to themselves. Both alone and by teaming up with other charities, they run campaigns that educate and raise awareness. The website is colourful and easy to navigate, I've spent a lot of time on it, (if you've never visited their site before, make sure you have plenty of time because you'll have ten tabs open in no time).

Along with giving 10% of the profits from These Endless Days to Rethink, I'll be doing my second event to raise money for them this year too, a ten-mile walk in June.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Release Day!


Release Day has been awesome! I can't believe this is my third novel, it's surreal! I'm so excited to release it. This is by far my most personal work up to now. I feel like there was so much in this one that I've been circling for a long time, writing around certain things, but with this novel it was time to actually get down to it. That was definitely a good idea, I think that's why I'm so proud of it. I hope that people like it, that someone out there will be able to relate to it. If you read it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon! Self-published authors depend on them.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas


The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
Out: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan - Macmillan Children's Books

From Netgalley:
'Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost. Fifteen-year-old Grace is funny and plain-spoken. Just because she has Asperger's doesn't mean she's great at maths (she's not) or can draw the Eiffel Tower from memory (she can't). Like any teenager, Grace just wants to fit in, so when it turns out that the cutest boy in school likes her, she finds herself falling in with the cool crowd. But with her dad away and her mum distracted there's no one at home to see Grace's younger sister spiralling out of control, and suddenly everything threatens to fall apart - unless Grace can fix things on her own. Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace is a heart-warming story of one girl and her totally normal teenage life.'



Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for my advanced copy of this novel. 

Grace is easily one of my favourite narrators that I've read in a while. Her voice is so authentic, she's imperfect but so sympathetic. I have to say, I know very little about Autism, so I can't speak for how true to life that aspect of the story is, but it felt very real. It's very well written, conveyed by small details rather than beating the reader over the head with the fact. From an anxiety point of view I really related to Grace's struggles, and I think a lot of people will do. I also admire the fact that at no point is Grace's condition a substitute for the plot. Even without that, this would be an interesting book, there's plenty going on. In fact, because the book is so well written, and drew me in so much, I found that I didn't even realise how much everything was building up until it all started to go wrong, then it kind of hit me.

The writing itself is beautiful, at times poetic, which is what made me really love this book from the first page. It's full of heart but never to the point of being over the top, this is a very British book after all. The tone is exactly right. There's so much going on, and so much that Grace doesn't understand, but the subtle details are in there to let the reader know more. Sometimes we can see it even if Grace can't.

There are quite a lot of characters. but because of all of these subtle, little details, it's never confusing. Even characters who aren't around much or very involved in the story still provide an important part of the backdrop. Nothing in the story is black and white, it's obvious Grace isn't the only one that's struggling with things that are happening.

To say anything more about the story itself would be to give too much away. I went in knowing very little and got some wonderful surprises, I recommend anyone else doing the same.

5/5

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

5 Things You Should Know About Self-Harm

It's an Addiction

When my teachers, and then my parents, found out I was cutting back when I was fifteen, I was unhelpfully told to 'just stop'. They considered punishing me for it, and it was made very clear I'd done something wrong. I knew very little about it, but I knew it wasn't that simple. I was in my early 20's before I really got to learn about the subject, prompted by the fact that it still hadn't gone away, no matter how many times I decided to 'just stop'. It wasn't exactly a huge surprise to learn I was addicted, but I was relieved. Until then I'd often been angry at myself for never having been able to let it go. Of course, it also means I'll be fighting it for the rest of my life, but at least I know what I'm fighting. You can't battle an enemy you're ignorant of. And it's a part of my now, it's been with me for half of my life, and we have a long way to go from here.

It works (but that doesn't make it ok)

There's a reason that self-harm is a coping mechanism. Deliberately inflicting pain upon oneself does temporarily lift your mood, cause a high and make life seem easier. However, it isn't healthy, adds a problem on top of other problems and can be dangerous. This one is still difficult for me, because of the little voice in my head telling me how awesome it is. Logically, I know it isn't. 

It has nothing to do with gaining attention

Chances are, even if you don't know it, you've met people who self-harm. We are very skilled at keeping it a secret if we want to, because rarely does any good come from people knowing. For me, maybe because of how it was handled back then, I feel deeply ashamed when someone knows, and very few people do. There are also people who aren't too bothered by people knowing. It doesn't necessarily mean they want to talk about it, or that they want any attention, so just be cool about it. Even if someone were to hurt themselves 'for attention', it isn't how it sounds. If someone does that, you better believe they need some attention, of the right kind. 

It comes in so many forms

My experise is only in cutting, but if you're worried about someone, it's worth knowing that there's all kinds of forms of self-harm-burning, starvation, drinking/drugs, punching walls, head banging (against walls, not along with metal music. Although, I never did get the hang of that without feeling like my brain was bouncing around inside my skull). 

What to do if you're worried someone you know if hurting themselves

If you think that someone close to you is hurting themselves, as uncomfortable as it can be, try and approach them about it. Do some research on the subject so you're prepared, don't tell anyone else about it, show a clear lack of judgement and never patronise. Make sure you have plenty of time to talk and that it is in a completely private place where there is no risk of interruption from others. If you're wrong, you'll probably be able to laugh about it afterwards. If you're right, then ask them what they need. Don't bother with a simple 'If there's anything I can do', it's easy to say and rarely do people actually follow you up on it. Show it instead. Make an effort to create a safe space to talk when they want to. Help put together a box of their favourite things such as books, DVD's and pamper products. You could even do this first to show you care. Don't go in with a bunch of solutions. And don't let it get you down if you receive a negative, unpleasant reaction. If you believe they are taking every precaution to avoid being caught then it will be a shock to have someone bring it up. If they really don't want to talk about it, keep it in mind, and wait and see if they come back to you in time. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

These Endless Days Cover Reveal

I'm excited and want to hide in a dark corner and never come out, so it must almost be release day! I cannot believe I'm about to release my THIRD novel out into the wild. After the long road that was 3,000 Miles of Arizona, (yes, pun very much intended, and I am indeed proud of myself), this one has been a whirlwind. It was the easiest to write, though a little close to the bone at times. There were times when I struggled to keep writing it, but I'm so glad I worked through it.

So as promised, the cover -


"Fifteen-year-old Mia is struggling enough with the bullying she endures every day at school, without anything else bringing her down, but she quickly finds life doesn't stop there. Between family drama and her best friend's manipulative boyfriend, every day is harder to get through than the last. One bright spark in all the trouble is Evangeline, who may live 5,000 miles away, but she may make all the difference."

Out Friday 14th of April! 10% of the profits from every copy will go to my favourite charity - Rethink Mental Illness