Thursday, December 15, 2011
Quite a momentous occasion happened this week - after seven years in my tiny one-bedroomed flat, I finally moved out...
This is where I have written and edited all three of my novels - Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World and It Started With a Kiss - most of which on the ubiquitous white (or not-so-white) sofa, which came with the flat and has featured in many of my vlogs this year. Is it possible to put a blue plaque on a soon-to-be-retired piece of furniture?
So, for the last three years, this has been my perennial view when I've been writing:
The photo of me and Bob was taken when we first started dating five years ago and it's one of my favourites, and the baby pics are of my beautiful niece Freya (who will be three in January). The sparkly bag is what I take to gigs and it contains a selection of earrings, bracelets and necklaces for blingin' it up when I perform with The Peppermints (the inspiration for The Pinstripes in It Started With a Kiss.)
I did have a desk in the corner of my living room, in what I called my 'Van Gogh Corner':
The cafe picture (The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night) is my favourite Van Gogh painting and the portrait of him came free with a newspaper years ago. It's nice to be able to chat to Vince, although he isn't the most encouraging person to look at when I'm in the middle of edits! The desk was from the first office my Dad worked in when he was 16, so is a bit of a family heirloom, but after I had a health scare in the middle of the Fairytale edits I couldn't sit there for long periods of time, so the sofa became my venue of choice for working.
The box of tea you can see on the desk is one of my prized possessions - the fab people at Yorkshire Tea found out that I'd mentioned their excellent tea in Fairytale of New York and made me my very own personalised box of Yorkshire Tea! It will take pride of place on my new desk and will never be opened!
At Christmas, my desk invariably became the place to display my tiny Christmas tree - very festive!
One of the things I will miss the most is the view from my living room window towards the glass foundry on the opposite side of the canal. This time last year, a beautiful haw frost covered everything in white and it was the most amazing sight to gaze out on while I was writing.
While my flat has been an important part of my life - it was my first real home after my divorce and a total God-send to have my own front door and space, scene of quite a few dating memories (and disasters) and the place where I first began work as a published author when my writing dream came true after years of scribbling in secret - it is time to move on. I'm planning my wedding to my lovely Bob next September, have another novel currently being considered by publishers and am making big plans for next year, all of which require more space.
So on Saturday, I said goodbye to Richardson Drive, Wollaston, and moved five miles up the road to a lovely Victorian terraced house which I'm renting from my lovely chum Andi and his wife-to-be Caroline (Andi is one of the inspirations for Jack in It Started With a Kiss). It has two bedrooms so, for the first time in my life, I will have a dedicated writing room! At the moment (after this pic was taken) it is filled with boxes, books and bin bags, but I hope to set it up completely over Christmas. It's going to be a writing room and eventually a small studio where I can work on new songs - I'm so excited to finally have space after tripping over piles of books for the past seven years... (oh, and those curtains? Totally going once I move in!)
It was really odd to see my little flat all empty and ready for the next chapter of its history. And the infamous white sofa, while quite possibly the most uncomfortable piece of furniture ever, was one of the things I found hardest to leave. Needless to say, I sobbed all the way to my new home - but then, isn't that a good thing when a place has been so important in your life? You may have guessed by now that Romily's canalside home in It Started With a Kiss was inspired by my flat - it was my way of paying homage to a place that I have loved for the last seven years of my life.
Onwards and upwards, Dickinson!
And to finish, here's my last glimpse of the unassuming star of my vlogs, site of over three hundred thousand words and the seat where many worlds were created: ladies and gentlemen, I give you - the wonderful Richardson Drive Sofa...
Friday, November 25, 2011
I had the most incredible news this week... It Started With a Kiss has entered the Sunday Times Bestsellers list at NUMBER 13!!
It's unbelievable and I can't tell you how utterly thrilled I am to see how many lovely people have bought my novel - I just hope that everyone enjoys reading about Romily's quest to find her handsome stranger!
It's been a bit of a crazy fortnight, with book-signings in Wolverhampton and Worcester, an article in Closer magazine, an author talk at an event for Walsall Reading Groups in Bloxwich, trying to write book 4 in between and packing up my belongings for my imminent house move! Below is a slideshow of some of the things that have been happening, together with a daft dance tune I wrote with my chum Chris Smith (who may or may not be partially responsible for inspiring the character of Jack in It Started With a Kiss...)
I'm editing my latest vlog post today so I will post that later this evening. In the meantime I thought you might like to see a two-part video interview (vinterview?!) I did for the fabulous Chicklit Reviews and News...
Thursday, November 24, 2011
On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.
This week, I'm really excited to welcome the very lovely (and ridiculously talented) SIMON TOYNE into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...
When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
I’ve always written. When I was 9 or 10 I handwrote a book of poetry, riddles and jokes, got my dad to photocopy it at work and then sold it to my family for 5p a copy. Later, I studied English and Drama at university then slid into a career in television where I wrote scripts and voice-over commentary for nearly twenty years. In that time I also wrote a couple of spec screenplays that didn’t get produced. Sanctus is the first novel I’ve written, but I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult life and writing is just like any craft – the more you do it, the better you get.
What interests you as a writer?
People. This is true of the work and also the extraordinary people you meet in the course of researching and then publicizing your books. If there’s no human dimension to the work then it’s hard to get excited by it.
Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I find my children act as a useful, organic timing device – particularly during term time. I get up early, around 6am, and work for a couple of hours until either my son or daughter trots into the office and demands breakfast. I often get half the day’s word count done in these two hours (I try and write 1,000 good words a day). I then stop to do breakfast, school run and dog duties then am back at it at around 10am. This is when I switch the internet on and deal with anything else that needs doing. Because I’m lucky enough to be published all over the world there’s usually a book coming out somewhere in some form or another so I like to support them as much as I can with their PR activities by doing articles and interviews. I try and get these done by lunchtime then take a break before getting back to the book. The kids come home at 3pm so that’s my deadline for getting the word count done. I may do a bit more in the evening (or a lot more if I’m running behind schedule). Whenever I’m close to finishing a book all of this goes out the window and I tend to work exclusively on the book from dawn ‘til dusk, 7 days a week until it’s done.
Which authors inspire you and why?
Anyone who’s a better writer than me – of which there are very, very many. I read a lot and widely. Reading good writing reminds you where the bar is and keeps you honest and sharp.
What are the best things about being a writer?
Being able to work from home so I can take my kids to school every day, pick them up afterwards, eat every meal with them and never miss a sports day or carol concert.
And the worst?
It’s very solitary. You sit alone for months on end listening to the voices in your head. This is also a very good working definition for insanity.
Tell me about Sanctus
Sanctus is the story of one woman’s search for her own identity, played out against the backdrop of the eternal fight between good and evil. It’s a bit like a feminist critique of patriarchal religion wrapped up in a high-octane, modern thriller. If that all sounds too worthy, then it’s also a page-turning holiday read.
Sanctus is enjoying phenomenal success, being published in over fifty countries and translated into twenty-eight languages. What has the experience of this been like for you as a debut novelist?
It’s unbelievable. I wasn’t even sure the book would get published, let alone in so many countries. The plus side is that it has enabled me to write full-time and I get invited to various places when the book comes out there. This year I’ve been to Norway, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, America and Romania. Seeing your book in foreign bookshops is a surreal and amazing experience. The down-side is that I spend so much time doing PR for each launch that I hardly have time left to write. I’m in no way complaining but it’s something I wasn’t prepared for. This, coupled with a tight deadline for delivery of the second book, has meant my laptop has become an extension of my body. For example I’m writing this now in a café in Ravenna, Italy as I wait for someone to come and pick me up and take me to the airport. I seem to spend a lot of time alone with my laptop in strange places these days.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished the second book in the trilogy – The Key – where the ripples from the huge revelation at the end of Sanctus spread out into the wider world and the consequences of what has happened have to be faced by all the central characters. The slow-burn ‘will-they-won’t-they’ relationship of the two main characters is developed further, only with a very large apocalyptic shadow hanging over them.
Do you have a dream project you would love to write?
The book I’m dying to write is actually the third book of the Sanctus trilogy. I’ve got final edits of The Key to do then I’ll start work on it. It’s all planned out and I can’t wait to start. It brings the story to a final, revelatory ending. The conclusion of this book is an even bigger surprise than the one at the end of Sanctus or The Key. Its working title is The End of Days, which gives you a hint at where it’s heading.
What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
1. Write. Read. Rewrite (repeat).
2. Don’t over analyse, just get the first draft done. You can change it as much as you like once it’s on the page and no one else has to see it until you’re happy.
3. Switch off the internet when you’re writing.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Love your hat. x
Sanctus is released in paperback today (24th November). You can follow Simon on twitter (@sjtoyne), on facebook and on his website.
Thanks so much to Simon for stepping into the Writer Spotlight (from an Italian café as well!) Sanctus is an incredible book - it's a cliché to say a novel is a page-turner, but in the case of this book it is entirely deserved. Many reviewers have compared Simon's writing to Dan Brown, but in my opinion Sanctus is better by far: its plot is more creative, the pace is better and the characters are people you can believe in. I loved it and I can't wait to read The Key!
Friday, November 18, 2011
If you're looking to find my wedding band, THE PEPPERMINTS, read this to avoid disappointment!
It's come to my attention that some people are trying to find the wedding band I sing with - The Peppermints - who are the inspiration for The Pinstripes in It Started With a Kiss. If you Google the name and find an Oxfordshire-based band with a facebook page and twitter profile, this is NOT my band!
We're based in the West Midlands and are the original Peppermints. Our website is here - it will be updated soon, but you can hear a couple of our songs here (I'm singing the Disco Medley and my fab friend Susanna is singing Lovely Day!).
We're available for weddings, birthdays, events... so if you fancy my dulcet tones at your special event, why not book us?!! Please share this if you can so that the RIGHT band gets noticed! xx
For The Peppermints - the inspiration for The Pinstripes in It Started With a Kiss
- go to:
Thursday, November 17, 2011
OH. MY. GIDDY. LIFE... l've just had the most awesome news about sales for my new book, It Started With a Kiss...
Are you ready?
*tries to contain glee... fails!*
Here it is...
It Started With a Kiss has sold an amazing 6,000 copies in its first THREE DAYS!!!!!!
I am completely, utterly over the moon! Thank you so, so much for supporting the novel and for believing in my writing! I'm absolutely chuffed to ribbons (not to mention thoroughly relieved!). It's such a massive thing to put your literary baby out into the big, scary world and it doesn't get any less terrifying when there are three out there. So when I know that people are buying my book - and loving it, which has made me happier than I can express - it's the best feeling in the world!
Thank you so much for all your tweets, emails and lovely blog comments about It Started With a Kiss, too - they've really helped to quieten the pesky publication butterflies that have been pounding my stomach all week!
I will be filming a proper response to this for the next vlog, but I just wanted to share the good news with you as soon as I could. I will be walking on air for the rest of the day - thank you! xx
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss. This week, the big day has finally arrived - it's P-Day!!
It's been an amazing journey from initial draft to published novel - and it isn't over yet! It's the most special day of my year so far, when It Started With a Kiss officially goes out into the world... It's scary and thrilling in equal parts and I wanted to share my P-Day with you. So this week you can see the first time I see the book on the shelves, my visit to HarperCollins and the very swanky book launch that Grange Hotels threw for me (honestly, it was so posh that I wondered if they would let me in!).
So, without further ado, here's my P-Day vlog! (...and read on afterwards for pics from my launch event...)
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!'
It was so fab to meet some of the lovely people who have been watching my vlog, asking questions each week and chatting with me on Coffee and Roses, twitter and facebook - and to be able to say thank you. It means so much to me that you tune in everuy week and the support I have received this year has totally blown me away. It's also wonderful to see how excited everyone is about the book!
Pics: The view from the balcony at my book launch event; all my babies together - free books for everyone!; meeting lovely people at the launch
Monday, November 7, 2011
All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, due to be published on 10th November. This week, I show you what it's like to see the first printed copy of It Started With a Kiss, give you a bit of a sneak peek at the bonus content I've written for the novel, answer your questions about book launches, royalties and much more!
As promised, I captured on video what the moment was like when I opened the package containing the finished copy of It Started With a Kiss - and got a bit emotional in the process!
Also this week, I received a copy of the special Tesco limited edition of ISWAK, which has pink-edged pages! How cool is that?! They will be available in major Tesco stores right across the UK. It's unbelievably cool to have my very own limited edition and this is the first time anything like this has happened for my novels, so I'm very chuffed with that!
Make sure you visit my website for cool bonus content to extend your ISWAK experience! It includes deleted scenes, character profiles and an extended interview with me where I reveal my childhood fairy ambitions... plus much more!
So here's the latest episode of my vlog, complete with fab questions from Suzy Turner, Joanna Cannon and Leah from Chicklit Reviews (you can read her fab review of It Started With a Kiss here) and the latest news on my Wombat novel!
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled: 'Ooh, Matron!'
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Well, the day I've been waiting for months for finally arrived this week... Here is my very first printed copy of It Started With a Kiss!
I've videoed the actual moment I opened the package to reveal my book - the vlog will be up tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
I can't tell you how truly, utterly amazing it is to finally hold in your hands a copy of the book you've worked all year on. It's magical. There's no other word for it. I'm always surprised by how everything seems to stop when I first see the finished book: it's like an almost reverent moment, mainly because for that one small moment in time, this book is mine - before it heads out into the big, scary world of reviews and publicity. I don't have children yet, so I can only imagine this feels a little bit like when a mum sees her newborn child for the first time. So many hours have gone into making this, so many late nights and frustrations and triumphs and sheer hard slog. And now, here it is: perfect and sparkly and every word in it came out of my head... How amazing is that?!
The first reviews have come in for It Started With a Kiss - and they're both five-stars!
Lovely Leah from Chick Lit Reviews and News said: 'The story is amazing, the characters are so warm and so witty and loveable and Miranda’s writing just flows so naturally. I’m always wary of synopses that proclaim the book to be the “perfect book to curl up with” but It Started With A Kiss is the perfect book to curl up with. Miranda Dickinson just gets better with every book and I can’t wait for book number four. It Started With A Kiss was a triumph in every sense of the word.'
Fab Chloe from Chloe's Chick Lit Reviews said: 'I'm sure you'll be attracted to this book because of its beautiful cover, but let me assure, what's inside is magical too. It's a well written, well constructed tale of love and searching for something that you believe in, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. If you love romantic novels with a bit of a twist, then It Started With A Kiss is certainly the book for you!'
And the great news (which came as a complete shock to me last night) is that the Kindle/ebook edition of It Started With a Kiss is out TODAY! The ebook edition has lots of bonus content, too - including a whole load of deleted scenes from the book, with a commentary by me!
So, it's finally happening - my baby is going out into the big, wide world... Scary but wonderful!
Friday, October 28, 2011
Many people have asked me where they can buy Beneath the Stars, the track I used on my book trailer for It Started With a Kiss. Well, the good news is that you can now buy the download of the track - for only 99p!
I'm in the process of uploading my album to Bandcamp and iTunes, but I wanted to make this song available now because so many people wanted to have it. The response to my songs has been wonderful and I'm so excited to finally be able to share this with you!
Here's the link for the download:
and here's the book trailer for It Started With a Kiss, which is now less than two weeks away from P-Day - eek!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I'm so excited. I can finally reveal the title of my next novel, due to be published in November 2012, will be...
WHEN I FALL IN LOVE
I'm chuffed to bits with it because it's the title of one of my favourite Nat King Cole songs and the lyrics perfectly fit the story (which I will share with you very soon!). I'm also quite partial to the Rick Astley version, but don't tell anyone I told you that!
So, in celebration of my title announcement, sit back and enjoy the master himself (Nat, not Rick) singing the song that will be buzzing in my head for the next year!
Monday, October 24, 2011
All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, due to be published on 10th November. This week, I'm off on a writers' retreat to beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon (watch out for the ultimate in edible Shakespeare memorabilia), take you to a key location for It Started With a Kiss and much more!
I finally managed to get some time off (first holiday all year...) so I headed off to Stratford-upon-Avon and The Cotswolds with my fab chum Kim Curran for a few days of writing (well, talking about writing at least...), nattering (lots) and generally having a bit of a break before all the crazy stuff begins for promoting my new book. It was fab and I even received a round of applause from a group of Japanese tourists when I recreated the cover for Fairytale of New York on one of the bridges in Bourton-on-the-Water!
While I was out and about in gorgeous Warwickshire, I also stopped off at one of the key locations for It Started With a Kiss: Kingsbury, home to the narrowboats that inspired Our Pol, the floating home of Uncle Dudley and Auntie Mags. This is a place of real sanctuary for Romily because her aunt and uncle are such positive people and, in many ways, are more like parents to her than her own parents are. I wanted a place that would be peaceful, colourful and fun to match Mags and Dudley's characters - and this stretch of canal by Kingsbury Water Park was ideal!
Let me know what you think - and if you want to ask me any questions feel free! Pop a comment or your question in the comments section underneath this blog or email me at email@example.com
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: 'Ye Olde White Van'
Friday, October 21, 2011
On Coffee and Roses I like to introduce you to new writers. So, I'm launching an occasional series called FRIDAY STORYTIME, where I will invite an author to be our Guest Storyteller. Our inaugural storyteller is the very lovely CESCA MARTIN...
Here's her story:
Last Year by Cesca Martin
Last year you had groaned and dragged yourself unwillingly out of bed, assuming it to be another cold winter day, ready to make an instant coffee and de-ice the car. You had left the room so as not to disturb me and walked blearily down the stairs to begin your routine. Passing the window in the hall you had yelped in surprise, run back up the stairs and practically punched me awake such was your excitement. You were noisy and I had groggily told you off for being so annoying, plunging my face into the pillow to block you out. You had changed tack then, coaxing me out of my slumber with a twitch of our curtains and the enticing view beyond. I had sat up in our bed to look. The whole world had turned white overnight. A crisp, clean layer of snow had found its way into every nook and cranny. It had spilled over gutters, piled high on fences and gates, disguising everyday objects. I joined you at the window and you had put an arm around me, pulling me close, both still warm from our bed.
Our little village was tucked in between two hills and easily cut off from the rest of the world. We had only made a vague effort to get into work. We had pushed the snow off the car and successfully turned the engine on but, as the wheels turned fruitlessly on the ice, it was obvious we were going nowhere. You had called work on your mobile phone and explained the situation. They were resigned to the fact that half their workforce were stranded in nearby villages. They had told you to take the day off and try the next day. I had done the same. We were both smiling as we hung up the phones. Even the electricity going didn’t dampen our mood. You were humming most uncharacteristically as you lit the fire. You heated water in a saucepan for some tea, your face aglow with boyish enthusiasm. We toasted hot cross buns in the flames.
We had dusted down the sledge from the loft and joined the other locals on the slopes of the nearby golf course, trying to get some speed up off the third tee. I had taken a camera and snapped dozens of shots of you, of running children, of dogs burrowing into the snow, overwhelmed by the strangeness, white flakes clinging to their fur. More pictures; of trees, their branches weighed down, the blue sky peeking hopefully through the branches. We had walked to the pub, chatting with the locals, inane talk, delighting in the day off, rubbing our hands exaggeratedly in front of the great fire. On exiting the pub some devious youths had peppered us with snowballs. Our squeals turned quickly to cries of revenge and the youths scarpered the moment we had retaliated. We had bumped into friends on the walk home across the fields. Every now and again we would dive at each other, trying to catch the other unawares, ending up in a great cold mess on the ground. I was giggling childlessly, cheeks bright red with the effort, eyelashes glistening with melted flakes.
The electricity had come back on by the time we had made it home and we had spent the evening watching DVD’s, stretched out under a rug, the embers glowing and bathing the room in a soft light. The snow was still there the next morning but the roads had been cleared and gritted in and out of the village. You had gallantly cleared the car once more and made your way into work at a slow crawl. I had watched you going, deciding to build a snowman on my own. He would hold a sign welcoming you home so when you returned that night you would see it by the gate and laugh.
Last year was eleven months ago. The snow has started to fall again, carpeting the ground in crisp white. The branches are starting to bend and give, little sprinkles fall from them like a sneeze. I’m sitting in our living room knowing I should feel the usual excitement, the child-like wonder at the extraordinary scenes. Great gusts of billowing white flakes are cascading, twirling, settling on the ground. Already children are running past the window dragging plastic sledges, beckoning to their parents who are dawdling at a distance, wrapped in huge coats, knitted scarves and hats blocking out everything but their eyes. Some are holding hands and I know they are all smiling.
I look around me. Ashes in the fireplace are waiting to be swept and cleared. The bookcase stands half-empty. A calendar still announces it is ‘August’. Cushions plumped pointlessly again and again. I don’t want to go out into the snow by myself. I don’t want to build a snowman on my own. You are not coming home today.
I would never have let you go that day if I had known. The lorry had jack-knifed on the motorway, two cars and one coach had been caught up in the collision. Two people injured, one fatally. A man, around 30, they didn’t check his ID immediately, they had been busy. They’d had so many calls that night. He had been rushed to A and E but there was little they could do for him. He had waited, drifting in and out of consciousness for an hour. He had died just before ten o’clock.
I never made it to the hospital. Bewildered, I had waited for you to come home. I had rung your mobile incessantly, hearing your voice telling me to leave a message time and time again. I had rung your colleagues and they had said you had left, had left hours ago. I had panicked, pacing up and down, ringing my parents who were helpless, now upset and confused. They couldn’t come. They were sorry. I had rung his parents, they hadn’t heard anything, his mother had started to cry. No one knew where you were. I had tried all the taxi firms, no one would take me anywhere, the roads were still bad they’d told me. You were alone in those last moments, you would have been scared.
I sit slowly, unseeingly. Outside the snow is still falling, blanketing the world in a layer of new. I sit and I pray, pray that you are going to walk through the door soon. Pray that it might be last year.
The story behind the story
The short story Last Year had been floating around in my head for a while. It was inspired by a day I spent in early 2010 when it snowed for days on end. Our village became cut off from the outside world. Work was cancelled, electricity was down and all we could do was sit it out! My boyfriend and I were racing around, totallly over-excited, building snowmen and being silly with friends. It was a free day off, a magical little 24-hour bubble of fun, and I never really forgot it. And then I suppose, like everyone, I imagine what my life would be without the people in it who matter to me and this story is about that. I hope you like it.
A massive thank you to Cesca for such a brilliant story. You can follow her on twitter @CescaReviews and visit her blog here.
Watch out for more Friday Storytime features soon!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, due to be published on 10th November. This week, I'm out and about enjoying the gorgeous October sunshine and talking about favourite quotes, dream sheds and swanky book launch plans...
...and I've even got a brand new hat! so it's a very exciting episode all round!
There's still time to enter my competition to bag tickets for my very swanky book launch - all the details are here - so you could be sipping wine with me at a gorgeous 5-star hotel in London and nattering all things book-y. And, as I explain in the vlog, your favourite quotes from Fairytale of New York or Welcome to My World could feature in the presentation film that's going to be playing on the night - just pop them in the comments box below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know!
p.sThis week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Non-plussed smile'
Thursday, October 13, 2011
On Saturday, I finally got to perform some of the tracks from my album About Time (only a year after I officially launched it!)...
I was taking part in Moment, an event organised at The Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton by my lovely friend (and awesome singer) Susanna Westwood. It was a fabulous night: art, film, dance and live music brought together under one roof. I performed a set with my band and also joined Susanna's band as a backing vocalist - so a bit of a busy night!
My band for the night were Chris Smith (keys), Phil Jevons (guitar), Dan Clark (bass) and Dan Guest (drums). Not only are they all fantastic musicians, but I'm also proud to call them my best friends - so it was great to be able to enjoy them performing my own songs. We performed three songs from the album - The Question, More Than You Know and A Million Miles (all of which you can hear on the media player at the bottom of this post) - together with one cover (People Get Ready).
Also in the set was a world exclusive first performance of Right Here Alone, a track from a set of songs I've written with Dan Clark and Chris Smith especially to accompany It Started With a Kiss! The EP will feature Last First Kiss, the song that Romily writes with Jack in Chapter 8 of the novel (which you will be able to hear on my website when the book launches on 10th November), together with three more songs inspired by the novel. Keep watching my blog and vlog for updates - I'm going into the studio to record it with the band in two weeks' time (really exciting!) and I will, of course, be taking my trusty Flip camera...
NEW! BUY MY ALBUM - AT LAST!
I'm also working on putting an online shop thingy on my website so you can buy my CD album About Time, the EP when it comes out and also signed books - keep watching the blog for details. In the meantime, if you would like to buy a copy of my album (hear the tracks below) for a Coffee and Roses special price of £8.99, email me at email@example.com and I'll send you an order form. I'll even sign it for you if you like!
Images ©BobWhite Photography 2011 (from top down) Me and Dan Clark (bass); Chris Smith (keys) and Phil Jevons (guitar) doing their funky thang; the whole band (seriously want a star curtain now); and pre-show rehearsal with Susanna and her brilliant band (who have also played with Il Divo, Prince, Beverley Knight, Anita Baker, Westlife and many more...)
LISTEN TO ABOUT TIME!
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Have I got a competition for you...
The very lovely people at Grange Hotels have arranged a fantastic evening event at their very gorgeous 5-star Grange St Paul's hotel in London to celebrate the launch of It Started With a Kiss - and the best news is that they would like you to join me!
There will be wine, delicious nibbles and the chance for us to have a good old natter, all in the lovely surroundings of a five-star boutique hotel. Sounds like a cracking evening to me! The event will take place in November and will be a chance for me to thank you for your fantastic support for my blog and vlogs this year. I'm so excited about it!
I have 30 tickets up for grabs for this exclusive event.
Fancy one? No problem: all you have to do to enter this amazing competition is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me why you'd like to win a ticket. It's that simple!
I would really love to meet you on this special evening - it would be great to be able to celebrate the launch of my third novel with you. So what are you waiting for? Email me now and all the very best of luck!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Much has been said and written recently about the ‘death of chick-lit’, with media commentators quick to grab their pitchforks and hound out anything with a remotely pink cover. From angry attacks (Harriet Walker writing in The Independent, stating that chick-lit is ‘saccharine silage that fails women’) to the downright incorrect (Lauren Paxman’s ridiculous Daily Mail article which identifies Jodi Picoult as a chick-lit author), journalists have had a field day.
So here’s my response, for what it’s worth.
I write romantic comedy. If my books ever become films, they will probably be labelled ‘chick-flicks’, so by definition my novels are often referred to as chick-lit. They have sparkly covers, one of which may even have featured the colour pink. They are written from a woman’s perspective and address life’s issues using humour and, I hope, a cracking good story.
I’ve read all the articles, and seen the excellent, dignified response from authors such as JoJo Moyes and Tasmina Perry, together with the intelligent, witty debate on Twitter. Debate is good and the question of whether we classify ourselves as chick-lit writers or not is as old as the nametag itself.
But what I can’t agree with – and what angers me more than anything – is the way in which readers have been slandered by the media blitz. The reports assume that the women (and men, for that matter) who choose to read light romantic fiction are somehow less intelligent and less discerning about the literature they choose to read. How dare someone dictate what people should or shouldn’t read! And how dare they suggest that the only worthwhile literature should be what they deem as worthy!
Reading should be a pleasure – whether it challenges us, enlightens us, scares us or makes us laugh. The point is that reading should be a choice. It is the universal right of the reader to decide what he or she wants to read and nobody’s right to take that away. So what if the book they choose to read is light-hearted, romantic comedy? Light-hearted reads are not ‘retarding’ readers, as one report suggested. In fact, if anything, they help us relax and gain important perspective on the issues we face. Comedy is a powerful tool for addressing the issues of our day, and the best comedy fuses humour with moments of deep emotion and resonance. Let’s face it: we have little to laugh about at the moment, with the economy in freefall and many of our futures uncertain. Why should we then be denied the right to find light relief in what we read?
The other assumption that these articles have made is that readers are only capable of reading one genre of book. This simply isn’t true. I am, and always will be, a fan of romantic comedy. But I also love thrillers, literary fiction, biographies and comedy-fantasy. In the past month I have enjoyed books by Laurie Graham, Howard Jacobson, Lucy Diamond, Helen Simonson and Sir Terry Pratchett. Surely anything that encourages people to pick up a book should be celebrated? Yes, literature should be well written. Yes, there are an awful lot of books (in all genres) that are marketing department ‘write-by-number’ attempts to cash in on successful formulas. But there is also a wealth of stunningly original, witty writing to be savoured and enjoyed. Contrary to what some in the media would have you believe, readers are discerning, intelligent people who are more than capable of deciding what to read. They should be celebrated, supported and encouraged, not lambasted for their choices. It is time that the media and some areas of the publishing industry gave readers more credit.
As for the ‘chick-lit’ label, I agree that it has become a derogatory term used by lazy journalists to lump everything written by and for women together. But readers know a great author when they find one and, ultimately, they will decide who succeeds and who fails in the industry. And may it ever be thus!
Friday, September 30, 2011
As promised, here is the second announcement for The New Rose Short Story Prize 2011 - our two runners-up and the winner of our Special Judges' Mention award!
It is my great pleasure to announce that our two runners-up in the 2011 New Rose Short Story Prize are:
STACEY MATHESON with When I Died
HEATHER GAUTHIER with Margaret
The judges were incredibly impressed with the quality of both stories and, in particular, the way in which each entry drew us into the characters' worlds. Massive congratulations to Stacey and Heather, who both receive a critique of any piece of their work from Head Judge, Jamie Guiney, together with signed goodies from me.You can read both stories below.
We also decided to award a Judges' Special Mention to I'm Yours by BROGAN BOWIE. At only 15 years old, the judges felt she showed great promise and we wanted to recognise her talent with this special award. Brogan wins a goody bag from me - congratulations! You can read Brogan's entry, I'm Yours at the end of this post.
So, without further ado, here are our two runners-up and the winner of the Judges' Special Mention award. Enjoy!
When I Died by Stacey Matheson
When I died, people weren't shocked. They weren't even surprised. After my numerous attempts at suicide over the previous three years, it was expected. It had to work sometime. Everyone walked around with sad faces for a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks. But life moved on - for them.
I think I'm in purgatory but I'm not 100% sure because I never really paid attention in church. I feel a bit ashamed admitting that because I used to go to every Sunday, even when I was really ill. But I was only paying lip service to the All Mighty Whatever you want to call Him. I never really believed so I never really listened.
The minister spoke, my mind wandered. My mind likes wandering. It's nosey - it pokes around in all the dark corners, prods things with sticks, ignores people when they're talking and then somehow brings the conversation around to me. I don't know why it does that. I'm not interesting, and I'm not interested in talking about me. Frankly, my mind is an embarrassment and I'm pretty pissed off that it's followed me here. Wherever here is.
A definition flashes up on a screen in front of me: "Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven". Who knew you could Google in the afterlife?
I have a funny feeling that killing yourself doesn’t qualify as a “state of grace”. And if this isn’t heaven, then the only other way is down. Ooops.
So. This is hell, is it? It’s really not what I was expecting. I thought, when I passed out, that it would be forever blackness. I didn’t realise I would spend eternity meandering through my old life. My life (afterlife?) today is identical to my life before the eight packets of paracetamol and two cans of cheap wine in the expensive hotel room. I’m surrounded by the same people, the same petty situations; everything that made my life a living hell. Oh…so that’s where the saying comes from.
I wondered, for a while, if I was a ghost, but I can’t walk through walls (I did try. Don’t ask). If I’m a ghost and I can’t walk through walls, I’m going to have serious words with Someone. Walking through walls is a bogstandard feature for ghosts. Who can I complain to, here in the forever-after?
I certainly feel like a ghost. I’m solid but people don’t see me. They look right through me. They talk past me. I’m not there, in their world. I’m here, stuck in my own little world of “wherever”.
Let’s not bother too much about where “here” is for now. I’d settle for knowing “when” it is. Time dithers around like you wouldn’t believe. One minute is sometimes just that: one minute. Sixty seconds. The next minute can stretch into hours and days. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, whether it’s day or night. Sometimes it feels like everything’s happening at once, and then nothing happens forever. It’s more than a little unnerving.
It’s like that feeling you get when you wake up from the dream where you go to work in your pyjamas? Everyone’s had that dream. You might be going to the shops, or walking down the aisle on your wedding day. You might be wearing a tutu, like that Sex & the City woman, or you might be naked…but it’s that “oh shit” thud of the stomach as it bounces off the soles of your feet. Then you wake up.
You wake up; I don’t. My stomach is permanently set to “roller-coaster”. Just as I’ve winched it back to central, I get another of those “pyjama” moments and I’m scraping it off the floor with a metaphorical spatula. Good job I’m dead and don’t need to eat anything; I’d never keep it down.
It’s night, but I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept since that night, and that wasn’t really proper sleep. It was a medicated hammer to the head. My last memories are of popping pills in batches of four, washing them down with greedy gulps of wine, staggering to the bed and collapsing across it, my head spinning off my shoulders. Next thing I knew, I was here. No bright light, no tunnel, no loving voices calling me. Not even Death with his black robes and permanent grin. I’m cheesed off about that. There should be someone to explain the set-up to us newbies. That’s another thing I’ll mention whenever Someone gets round to seeing me.
I don’t know how or why I ended up back in the hospital. Not the one where they pronounced me dead, the psychiatric one. The nut-house. The loony bin. I can call it that - I’ve earned the right after three years as a permanent in-patient. I’ve been here longer than half the staff. Why the hell did I choose to come back here? Hah…there’s the hell word again.
They’ve cleared away all my belongings; other than the bed, my little room is completely empty. Just me and the dust. Maybe that’s my fate? Maybe I’ll slowly disintegrate, molecule by molecule, until I really am part and parcel of this “institution for afflicted humanity” (that’s the officially polite way to say nut-house). The staff always told me I was becoming part of the furniture. It’s a bit creepy to think that might actually happen.
I wander around the ward, from my emptied room to the patients’ lounge; from the quiet room to the dining room. A week later, I decide to watch TV; although, because this is hell, I’m forced to watch endless repeats of Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Maybe, if I shout loudly in someone’s ear, they’ll hear me and turn over to something decent? I’m sure I saw a film where they did that; was it Ghost? Oooh, now wouldn’t it be great if Patrick Swayze were the one to come and tell me what the hell I’m supposed to be doing? (Note to self - stop using the “h”-word!)
I drift down the hallway, unseen by all, and slide into my usual seat in the corner of the television room. It’s nice to see that people are respecting my memory and choosing to sit elsewhere. Actually, a patient did try sitting here and one of the nurses actually said “That’s Stacey’s seat”, which I thought was nice. Ho hum…it’s dead in here tonight; as silent as the grave. (Jeez - even my dark sense of humour has followed me here into death.)
That’s a thought - I don’t know where my grave is. Maybe I was cremated? I should try and find out what happened to my mortal remains…
The evening passes at a dirge-like pace. By the time the clock eventually ticks round to eight o’ clock, I’m fed up watching life move on without me. It’s pretty bloody lonely being dead, let me tell you. You’re there, right in the middle of things, yet nobody includes you in a conversation. Nobody asks your opinion on the latest X-factor drop-out. Nobody offers you a sweet. Nobody asks if you want to play cards with them. Nobody asks if you’d like to go for a walk. So, however lonely it is on my own, at least I’m alone and lonely. It’s the worst feeling in the world to be alone when surrounded by people.
Slowly, I trudge back to my room. Visitors are filling the dining room with flowers, magazines and lively chatter. Nobody has come to visit me (obviously), although a visiting puppy sees me and barks. Its owner swats it over the nose and I immediately feel guilty.
I flop facedown on my bed and stare at the patterned bed-spread for a few months. I don’t bother switching the light on. What’s the point when I’m dead? Switching on lights would make me a poltergeist and I’m not ready to take that step yet…maybe in a hundred years once I get really bored.
“Are you new?”
Huh? I look up. A woman stands in the shadows of my doorway.
“It’s just that I haven’t seen you around, so I figured you must be new. I only arrived a few days ago myself.” She hovers in the doorway. I mean, she doesn’t literally hover like a…I was going to say “like a ghost”, but we’ve already established that certain ghostly behaviours are a load of codswallop. What I mean to say is, she’s standing there looking a bit uncertain about things, which is perfectly understandable because I’m still uncertain about things and I’ve been here for aeons.
I sit up. “I don’t really know how long I’ve been here; it all runs together after a while. Do you know what we’re supposed to do? I don’t know if I’m supposed to do anything or go anywhere? Nobody’s really explained what happens now.”
“Didn’t you get your orientation?” She sounds puzzled.
“No. Who gave you an orientation?” Now I’m really ticked off. I’ll definitely be making a complaint about the shoddy service I’ve received.
“Oh. Well I’m sure someone will come and see you soon. It’s best to get settled in first; let the initial shock wear off.” She leans against the doorframe. “What happened to you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Overdose,” I reply, very matter-of-factly. “I stole my husband’s bank card, hopped in a taxi, bought a load of pills and booze and booked myself into a fancy hotel for the night. I feel a bit sorry for whoever found me, but that’s the way it goes. What about you?” I’m curious as to whether this mystery woman also committed suicide, confirming my theory that this is a special hell reserved for us cowards.
“Slashed my wrists.” She holds out her arms, dispassionately. In the deepening gloom, I can make out the knobbly disfigurement of bandages. I’m impressed.
“Tried that a couple of times, but I never managed to cut deep enough. It’s a pretty overrated method, if you ask me.” I’m a bit jealous, to tell the truth. If I’d been more proficient, I could have died years ago!
“Yeah,” she agrees. “I don’t really like to talk about it though. We’re here to get better after all.”
I’m a bit confused - is hell actually some sort of suicide recovery scheme? Is someone about to descend on me with a twelve-step agenda?
She fidgets in the darkness. “Where’s all your stuff? Did they take it away?”
Now I’m really confused. Hasn’t she ever heard the saying “you can’t take it with you”? I decide to humour her. She’s only recently died, after all.
“Yeah…well, it’s not like I need it anymore. I guess I’ll have to move out of here sometime soon as well.” I sigh. I couldn’t wait to leave this shitty little room, with its institution green walls and brown carpet, when I was alive. But I’ve grown attached to it in my death.
“Where would you move to?”
This is all getting a bit philosophical…and then I twig. She’s some sort of angel, sent to test me to see if I’m ready to move up to heaven. This is more like it!
I lean forward eagerly. “Well, obviously heaven would be top of the list. But how do I get there?”
“You don’t want to try again, do you?”
Try what again? Great - I’m going to miss out on heaven because I’m too dumb to pass the entrance examination. I knew I should have listened in church.
She’s backing away. “Look, never mind. It’s been nice talking to you, but I’ve got to go now. My mum’s come to visit. Do you want me to call you a nurse?”
I jump to my feet and switch on the light. She’s not an angel. She doesn’t have wings or a halo; just her bandaged wrists and a rather scared look on her face. I’ve been talking to a nutter who sees dead people. Just my luck.
“Is everything all right?” It’s Sandra; she was my named nurse when I was alive. She puts her hand on the “Sixth Sense” woman’s shoulder and then looks directly at me.
Oh shit…that’s why this is a living hell. I didn’t die.
* * * *
Margaret by Heather Gauthier
Living with Carl wasn’t the easiest thing, I’ll tell you that much. We was married 6 years ago, and I’m surprised we lasted that long. I wasn’t his first pick you see, some other girl was, but she wasn’t interested in my Carl. I thought Carl was something else. He reminded me of James Dean the way he smoked his cigarette, and wore those leathers. I was smitten with him, so when he asked me to marry him, even though I knew he was doing it out of spite, I said yes. Truth be told, I slept with him first. The real reason he asked me to marry him was because I was pregnant.
Imagine Carl’s displeasure when I lost that baby. I was 6 months, almost 7 months gone. I had to give birth to my angel, who was a boy, and I had to bury him too. Carl was so angry at me for losing this baby, called me a slut and all other types of names, but I was angry too, I mean had Carl not given me that beating the night before, I don’t think I would have lost Carl Junior at all. But Carl didn’t see it that way, he said real women know how to keep their babies, he said that Juniper Rose (his first choice) would have known how to keep her babies. Carl would-a-never hit Juniper Rose. He idolized her, in her denim jumpsuits and her flaxen blonde hair.
Carl and I lived in Smithlock trailer park. Like locksmith, only opposite. Everyone kept their lots nice and clean and cared for. There was a park in the middle for the kids to play in, and even a pool. I felt proud living there. I tried best I could to make our trailer and yard look as nice as everyone else’s. I didn’t have much money, and didn’t bring in a lot of money from working down at the Wendy’s, but I’d save some throughout the month, and buy a little something for my trailer or my yard when I had enough. Most of my money had to go to Carl; he said I had to help him pay the rent. Woo if Carl ever found out I kept a little for myself, I’d get it good. I used to keep my money hidden under our plant by the front door, but one day Carl decided that might be a good place to put his key. When he saw the money sitting there his eyes turned into something else, he grabbed the money and punched me in my face with it, then he stuffed it in his pocket, covered with my blood and all, and went down to the local bar. Now I kept my money in a jar in the toilet, I knew Carl would never go in there. Handy he wasn’t, and cleaning was women’s work. Every time I’d get something new, I’d tell him that one of the ladies in the park gave it to me, and they’d concur just in case, they didn’t like Carl.
I stayed with Carl, because you see I think Carl had a point. Maybe I wasn’t a good woman? Maybe I didn’t know how to be a good wife? My mother and father both were drug addicts, and I didn’t know either of them. I was raised in one foster home after another, until I was 14 and my foster father started having sex with me, then my foster mother called me a slut and threw me out on my ass. I tried my best, I tried to learn to cook, I was pretty good at cleaning, and sexually I agreed to try anything Carl wanted to do, but nothing ever seemed good enough for Carl. I think that if I was Juniper Rose and just sat around in my jammies all day watching soap operas; he would have liked me a lot more.
I bought a bird house on a pole for my front lawn. It was so pretty, I couldn’t resist it. It was white, with a white picket fence, and pink and purple flowers painted all over the bottom. This little bird house would have been my dream house had it been big enough. I smiled every time I looked at it. While Carl was at work that morning I put it out, and stood on the drive to admire how it looked in my yard. It was a little brightness, and I thought just what my yard needed. Trouble is, I was so excited about this bird house, and spent so much time making sure I had its pole far enough in the ground, that I forgot to hide my Wal-mart bag, and receipt.
I was still outside when Carl came home. I had stew in the crock-pot ready for him, I felt good. The house was clean, the dinner was made, and well my birdhouse looked wonderful. I must have been outside for all of 3 minutes when I heard Carl hissing my name, at least that’s how it sounded to me. “Maaargaretttt come in the house for a minute would ya?” In a sweet syrupy voice he would, and that always meant trouble. When things were going well, Carl just wouldn’t talk to me at all. What could it be I had wondered? What could I have done now? Did he find my jar in the toilet? My heart raced, I could feel the sweat across my brow, if it was something bad, I knew what was coming next.
I don’t think I got two feet in the door before he plowed me in the head with his fist. I think I blacked out he hit me so hard, and then he threw me on the floor. I just lay there, I knew better than to move. In a few seconds he was standing over me with my Wal-Mart bag, and my receipt. I tried to tell him it was a gift from one of the ladies in the park, but the receipt was date stamped for today, and he knew it was me, there was no way around my lying he said. I lay there while he hit me, over and over. Eventually I couldn’t feel anything. He hit me with his fists, with his belt, and with the metal spoon I had sitting beside the crock pot. I could see my own blood, but I was too tired to scream anymore, so I just laid there quiet.
I lay there all night I think. I had a pounding in my head that would not go away. I must have fallen asleep for awhile, because when I woke up Carl was watching The Price is Right, and eating my stew. I sure hoped he liked the stew, I couldn’t handle another beating tonight. He was laughing and happy, so the stew must have been good. He must have been drinking too because he kept saying “Margy…you’re the next contestant on the Price is Right! Come on Down!” I tried to smile, but I don’t think I did.
The next morning I was still on the floor, Carl must have left for work already. I had a blanket over me though, and for a second thought Carl must have felt bad for leaving me there like that. I got up and moved around a little bit. My face was a wreck, I thought I probably should go to the hospital, but how would I explain it to them? I was naked too, from the waist down, so I thought Carl must have gotten frisky last night while I was sleeping, it wouldn’t have been the first time.
I could do nothing. I ached so bad. I just sat on the couch and cried for myself. I watched a little of the TV, because Carl hadn’t turned it off. I don’t know how long I was there when I noticed the police cars pull up to the front of the trailer. My first thought was to hide, I didn’t want to have to explain why I looked the way I did. My second thought was “What had he done now”, my Carl was always getting into some kind of trouble with someone.
I felt a little panicky when they started knocking on my door. There was four of them I could see through the slit window. I couldn’t get up to let them in fast enough, and they was mad. They were pounding on that door, I tried crying out to them that I was coming, but my voice was horse from not talking for so long. I made it onto my feet, but not before they busted down my door. They didn’t even look at me when they stormed in, didn’t even make eye contact with me. Here they gone broke down my front door, and they can’t even look at me, tell me what they’re there for? They just walked all around the trailer, shouting things at each other. They looked through my bedroom, my closets, even my deep freeze. They found my blood from the night before all over the front floor, and that’s when I noticed that my rug was missing. My dusty rose rug that I had for so long in front of our TV. There was blood all around were the rug used to be though, and they was looking at that. I tried to tell them I was fine, thinking that maybe one of the ladies from the park told them what had happened the night before, but they weren’t listening to me. They didn’t answer me when I asked if something happened to Carl, they didn’t seem to care when I told them I hurt myself, and that’s why there was all this blood around. I was still naked from the waist down, but my shirt was long enough to cover…but I tried explaining that too, that I just woke up, and apologized for my nakedness. They didn’t pay me no mind. They just went about their business. Carl must have done something big this time I remembered thinking. I was still standing on my feet, it was getting a little easier to move, and I was feeling a little less like I was hit by a truck.
About the time I thought they were going to leave, I saw them pulling some of that yellow crime tape out of the trunk of one of their cars. They looped that tape all around my blue trailer. I went out on my porch, to see if maybe I should leave? Maybe they didn’t want me here for their investigation into whatever it was they was investigating. I even went out as far as my front yard, but they just kept walking past me. I was getting quite upset about it all; it made me so anxious and nervous. All I wanted to know was what was going on. When I got outside I noticed my lovely bird house first. It was ruined. Carl had taken an axe to it, and it sat in pieces. I just cried and cried. That birdhouse meant more to me that it just being a birdhouse you know? I mean it brought me joy, and there it was, all over my yard, all my joy.
I followed them around a bit, keeping my distance. They seemed so angry, I didn’t want to get in their way, but I needed to know what they was doing. I followed them out to the back of the trailer, not really a back yard, just a slit between our yard and the next trailer. They started pulling off the lattice that was around the bottom. I was upset about this; it had only been a few months ago that I painted that lattice white to match the trim on my blue trailer. But there they was, just pulling it off, with no cares. One of the officers climbed underneath, and shouted to his buddies that he’d found something. I waited, I wanted to know. Had Carl been hiding drugs down there? It wouldn’t have surprised me, not a bit. I waited for what seemed like forever. Some more people came, and they did a whole bunch of stuff there under my trailer. I couldn’t see, so I didn’t know, I sat on the grass and waited. These guys still never even looked at me, and neither did the new guys that showed up. My eyes must have been welled up with tears that whole day; about dinner time they were finally ready to pull out what they found. Three guys went under with rubber gloves on, and started to pull the stuff out. I was astonished to see them pull out my dusty rose rug. What the heck was it doing under there? I don’t get mad often, but right then I was mad at Carl. That rug was one of my favorite things, and it had cost me a lot of money and a lot of favors for Carl.
When they got it out on the grass I noticed how dirty it was, brown and rusty looking. But there was something in it, something big. The officers started to unroll my rug, and I saw that there was a body in there. It was something awful it was. I couldn’t look at it for a minute. All I could see was the feet hanging out the bottom. They left the carpet open, and then went to their cars. I think they was taking a break or something because they just left me there beside this body in my dusty rose rug. I could hear them talking in the front, I could smell one of them at least, was having a smoke.
That’s when I decided I had to look at the body. All day I wondered what was going on, but would have never guessed it was someone dead, under my trailer. I started at the toes, and made my way slowly up the shins, to the knees, when I saw the pole for my birdhouse shoved up this poor ladies cooter. I was sick, and I vomited. When I was done I just got up and started walking. You see that poor lady was me. My Carl had finally done me in. I walked until I felt peaceful, and I did, for the first time in my life. There was no bright light that I followed, no long hallway, just the laughter of my Carl Junior. I took his hand and together we walked, I realized I’d been dead my whole life and now I could finally live.
* * * *
I'm Yours by Brogan Bowie
I felt the train coming closer and closer to where I stood and watched its power shift the snow off of the tracks. I closed my eyes, took my foot off the platform ground and began to step forward. Suddenly I felt a hand wrap round my arm and pull me back onto the platform. I opened my eyes in confusion to find myself looking at the most beautiful human being I’d ever seen.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, slowly letting his grip loosen on my arm and eventually letting his hand fall down to his side. I found myself speechless and I had to make an effort to say something.
“Well..,” I paused thinking of a clever reply I could say back to him, “you’re not me, are you?” He laughed gently at my comment and nodded his head.
“That’s right, I’m not you, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t do something like that,” he smiled. The snow began to softly fall on both of us and I found myself gently smiling back to him. The train doors opened at this point in time and before I knew it the stunning human being was making his way towards the train. I followed him with my eyes as he stepped onto the train and turned around to face me. “You fancy coming?” he asked, his eyes containing a cheeky sparkle in them.
“I don’t have a ticket,” I said quietly, disappointment showing in my face. He stepped off the train with one foot, leaned forward towards me and held out his hand.
“Neither do I.”
During the train journey we learnt so much about each other. I explained to him that I was a boring normal sixteen year old who hated school, hated her life and was called Crystal. Jack (the name suited him perfectly) told me that he was a seventeen year old who thought life was too short to spend going through daily life routines and that he made everyday an adventure.
“So, you just hang around train stations everyday?” I asked staring right into his eyes. His eyes were amazing, dazzling brown with an added scar of blue in his left one. Whenever he spoke to me, I found it hard to make eye contact with him as I answered because all that did was make me forget my answer completely and feel like I was slowly being hypnotised.
“No,” he smiled, “I just happened to be there at the right time for you,” he explained, looking out of the train window. “So, tell me, why were you,” he paused, thinking of the best possible way to say it, “giving up on life?”
I looked straight up at him, trying not to feel embarrassed.
“Everything seems to be crumbling away in my life. Anything I do, it doesn’t go right. My mum and dad have split up and no longer speak, my brother not long died in a car accident and, I just feel like it’s not worth it anymore. I’m not a quitter, believe me, I’m not, but right now, I feel,” I took a breath of air and looked down at my hands, “I feel like I’ve got nothing left living for.” Jack sat there in silence for a few seconds until he finally opened his mouth and said one sentence that made my heart flutter.
“Well, you’ve just found something worth living for,” he said reaching over and taking my hands into his, “me!”
Suddenly the train slowly began to stop moving and Jack stood up walking towards the door.
“Jack, wait,” I said, turning in my seat, not even bothering to stand up. He turned his head towards me and waited for me to speak. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here!” I laughed nervously, shaking my head. Jack gave off a small smile and walked towards me. He knelt down in front of me and looked up at straight into my eyes.
“I’m going on an adventure Crystal, I was kind of hoping you’d come with me.”
Joining Jack on his life adventure was one of the best decisions I’d ever made in my life. Of course there was that small voice in the back of my head that sometimes interrupted my thoughts, asking me what the hell I was doing and advising me that I should go back home. But Jack always helped me get rid of that voice and assured me that everything was fine. When we got off the train he took my hand and he seemed to know where he was going. After nearly twenty minutes of walking the apprehensive part of me crept in and forced me to ask him where we were heading for.
“I’ve got this little place just up this hill, it’s nothing special but I thought it’d do.”
“Jack, I don’t even know where we are,” I said, looking around me, trying to see if I recognised anything.
“We’re in a small village called Darnick.” I nodded my head, I’d heard of the place, never visited though. We stopped suddenly and I just managed to stop myself before bumping into the back of him. Once I found my bearings I realised we were standing in front of a small blue door. Jack put his hand in the small hanging basket and found what he was looking for, the key to get inside.
“Well, that’s safe,” I said sarcastically following him into the building and closing the door behind me. Jack was right, the flat wasn’t anything special but it was dainty and had enough space for the two of us.
The first evening I spent with Jack we talked for hours, learning more about each other as each hour went by. Finally I felt my eyes getting heavy and I found it hard to concentrate on what Jack was saying to me.
“I think we should maybe head off to bed now,” he said, getting up off his chair and taking the plates that we’d eaten our Chinese takeaway on. I nodded my head and then felt my face turn red.
“Jack, where are you sleeping?” I asked, realising that this flat only had one bedroom.
“I’ll be sleeping on the sofa, you take the bed,” he chuckled coming back through to where I was sitting.
“Ok,” I said shrugging my shoulders, “night then.”
He took hold of my wrist gently as I stood up and brought his face closer to mine. His face being in touching distance was dangerous, I could feel myself breathing faster and I had to focus on not letting my knees collapse.
“Night, C.” He let go of my wrist and started making himself a bed on the sofa. That night I lay wide awake wondering why I was, living if you like, with a semi-stranger and also, how he could afford this flat and everything in it. When we’d been having our ‘get to know you’ chat he’d explained that he didn’t believe in boring nine to five jobs. Don’t tell me he was one of those that claimed benefits and didn’t really need them, mum was always complaining about people like that. But I don’t know why, I somehow managed to put those doubts to the back of my mind, locked away in a drawer and whenever that drawer popped open, I just walked over and closed it.
Everyday of my life when I was with Jack, he kept his promise to me. Each and everyday was an adventure to me, new memories that I knew I would never forget were always being made. Being in love with Jack was like flying, I felt that when I was with him I was free to do anything I wanted.
One of the most special memories was our first kiss together.
“Get your coat,” he said, opening the door and waiting for me.
“Where are we going?” I asked, following him towards the door.
“No questions just follow me,” he said, shutting the door behind us and getting into the car that was waiting for us outside. It had been two months exactly since the day we’d met and I still hadn’t asked him how he could afford everything. I guess I just predicted that a family member had left money behind for him which meant he didn’t have to work. We drove for a while until he turned off and drove up a small countryside lane. We got out of the car and we talked as I followed him. I loved it when he took me places, it was like being a kid all over again, giving me that feeling of Christmas morning, finding out what Santa had brought you! We came to a big poppy field and he walked to the middle of it until he sat down and asked me to sit down beside him.
“We just need to wait a minute, it should be soon,” he said, taking my hand in his. I gazed around me and realised we were on quite a high hill. I could see the village below us and when I looked further, it triggered what we were waiting for, the sun set. The sky’s colours were breathtaking; I’d never seen anything quite like it.
“It’s beautiful,” I whispered, feeling the warm glow of the sun on my cheeks.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. I realised he was looking at me and not the sky. He moved closer to me until his lips were finally touching mine. That was the moment I fell in love with Jack Marcelo.
We were both a soppy little couple, we’d made up our own little anniversary which we called “I Know You Anniversary’, which basically meant an annual celebration of when we met. I walked out of the small corner shop near our road. I’d been out all day so I felt really guilty for leaving him on our third “I Know You Anniversary” which made me buy him an extra big slab of chocolate. The wind blew in my face sending shivers all along my body but I didn’t care, I just couldn’t wait until Jack had his arms around me. I got my key out thinking about this day three years ago when I’d been standing at that train station. I went to put my key in the lock but the wind blew the door open.
“Why is the door open?” I mumbled to myself. I closed it behind me and walked along the small corridor. “Hello?” I called, a smile forming on my face. I was so excited to see him which made me search for him faster. I walked through to the living room to find it empty. It was then I noticed the glass coffee table was broken, smashed to pieces all over the floor.
“Jack?” I shouted, my heart beat picking up slightly, concern running through my voice. I laid the card and chocolates down and looked around the flat. A picture of Jack and I that had been taken in the poppy field was lying face down on the floor. I picked it up and suddenly my breathing started to get heavier. There was a small note clipped to the frame, written in someone’s handwriting that I didn’t recognise. The note said ‘It had to be done.’ I carefully placed the photo on top of the fireplace where it belonged and walked towards the bedroom, my thoughts struggling to make sense of what was happening. The door was closed and as I turned the handle my mind began to go crazy. Was this some sick joke of his? Why was he doing this to me? I opened the bedroom door and walked in to find the love of my life on the white sheets of the bed, covered in blood. His eyes were closed, his hair a mess. His clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in years and his face was swollen. I heard someone screaming and crying and then realised it was me.
“Jack!” I screamed, running over to him. His face was even worse close up, all bruised and scarred. I lifted his top to find his chest was badly bruised too.
“Jack.” I whispered, tears running down my cheeks and falling onto him. I started to shake, my hands were uncontrollable. My eyes were sore from crying and my voice ached from screaming. Suddenly my heart began to beat even faster. I ran to the phone and quickly dialled the emergency services. I threw the phone down and went back to him. He hadn’t moved an inch, I wanted him to sit up and tell me everything was okay.
“Jack, please wake up. Just talk to me,” I said quietly, my hands cupping his face. I heard the door being slammed down and a group of people came into the bedroom. I realised they were the ambulance team. They’d told me on the phone they would be at least fifteen minutes, how long had I been sitting here for? I tried to explain everything to them, unable to stop my tears interfering as I watched them communicate quickly to each other and listen to me at the same time.
On our third anniversary, eighteenth of October at 19:08, I was told that Jack was dead. At that moment, I couldn’t breathe properly. My hands began to sweat and I felt myself feel dizzy. I didn’t believe them and ran to the Doctor telling him that he was wrong and that my Jack was going to live forever, with me.
And here I am now, telling my story to the wind as I sit in front of a gravestone that reads ‘Jack Marcelo, the love of my life. Died 18th October 2010, aged 20. You found me, saved me and loved me. I am yours, Forever.’
Jack only had a small funeral, I did try to trace his family, but I couldn’t find anyone. His death had never been explained and neither had the note that was attached to the photo. I pressed my fingers against my lips and laid them on the gravestone.
“Jack, I love you,” I whispered. It had been two months since his death and before today I thought he’d left me with nothing, but I was wrong. I lifted my hand that Jack had held so many times and laid it gently on my stomach. The snow began to fall and I smiled softly at the sky.
* * * *