False Friends and True – a poem

Hope in Scrabble lettersI wrote this poem around the end of 2015/beginning of 2016 and last Saturday night I read it out as part of the performance poetry entertainment at the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize Awards Ceremony. I was touched and humbled when several people came up to me to say that they enjoyed it and how much they related to the emotional journey it portrays. They asked me if it was published! They also told me that they thought other people might find it helpful.

With that in mind I am putting it on here. Please feel free to share it if you want to. Wishing you all much love and light.

FALSE FRIENDS AND TRUE

 

My friend Paranoia came round the other day

I hadn’t seen him for a while; he said he’d been away.

My new friends Joy and Self-esteem don’t like him at all

They say I change when he’s about, I’m at his beck and call.

 

Anyway, he asked me if I would let him stay

He’d nowhere else to go, he said, he’d not get in my way.

I said no to start with. He said I was a grouch.

How could I just let him sleep on someone else’s couch?

 

“It’s only for a little while,” he wheedled with a grin

I felt my resolve crumble: should I let him in?

I recalled last time he said this, and I let him stay

A few days turned to months and months, he wouldn’t go away.

 

So I said no again and then he stormed off in a huff

Self-esteem was proud of me. “I knew you’d had enough.”

Then Paranoia played his trump. He sent his best friend Guilt,

To plead his case, and at her words I couldn’t help but wilt.

 

“How can you be so mean?” she asked. “He’s always stuck by you.

He’s never, ever let you down, it’s the least that you can do.”

I can deal with Paranoia, but Guilt is hard to fight.

I gave in; he came to stay, but only for the night.

 

Supposedly…

  

Because when Paranoia’s there, Guilt hangs around as well,

And she brings along Self-loathing, who is as mean as hell.

The three of them get really loud and they give me no peace.

Then I can’t hear anything else and there is no release.

 

I realise I see less and less of Joy and Self-esteem

They pop in every now and then but I hardly know they’ve been.

Paranoia said that it’s because they never really liked me

They pretended, to be kind, but they’re better off without me.

 

Self-loathing told me that I am a really crappy friend.

“You’re lucky we put up with you, don’t bother to pretend

You’re doing us a favour by giving us house room.

No one else would bother with a nasty girl like you.”

 

“Yes, you’re lucky,” Guilt agreed. Her voice held quiet danger.

“We won’t desert you, leave you alone, let you become a stranger.

Another friend is moving in, don’t bother with your protests,

Because she’s been here all along and you haven’t even noticed.”

 

It was true; when I looked, Fear was curled up in the armchair.

I knew I couldn’t shift her now that she was settled there.

I wondered how she’d got in; through the back door, I suppose.

No matter how I try it seems impossible to close.

 

So now I was just overwhelmed and there was no escape,

I could only stand and watch my world disintegrate.

The four of them joined forces to wear away at me,

And together they are surely a formidable enemy.

 

Helpless before the onslaught I retreated to my room,

Curled small beneath the bedclothes amidst the deepening gloom.

It was then I heard it; a whisper through the air

So faint and yet I hadn’t just imagined it was there.

 

I couldn’t help but follow the almost silent call

It made me walk across the room to the mirror on the wall.

It was then that I saw Hope beside me standing strong.

I’d been so blind but now I knew he’d been there all along.

 

Somehow I’d forgotten Hope but he didn’t seem to mind.

He very gently took my hand, his touch so warm and kind.

Hope had not forsaken me but he has a quiet voice

And I just had not heard it over all the other noise.

 

I realised I felt calmer, more than I had in days

I knew that Hope would help me in so many different ways.

“We’re still here,” he told me, “Joy, Self-esteem and I.

But it’s hard to reach you when you’re with those other guys.”

 

“I’m sorry,” I said sadly, as I began to weep

“But I just don’t know what to do, I’m in far too deep.”

“You can let us help you to find your strength again.”

Hope was reassuring; I knew he saw my pain.

 

I let him lead me down the stairs and through the noisy four,

They didn’t like that he was there; I tailed him to the door.

“Open it,” he told me, “I’ve got you a surprise.”

Joy and Self-esteem were waiting on the other side.

 

“It’s really good to see you.” Words came with an embrace.

“Now let’s get this lot sorted out, and give you back your space.”

Paranoia grumbled as he left, Self-loathing raged and ranted,

Fear screamed and whimpered as she was forcibly decanted.

 

Guilt was the hardest one to shift; she went eventually.

“OK, I’m off for now,” she smirked, “but look, I’ve kept your key.”

Self-esteem just laughed at her. “The locks will all be changed.

She has true friends around her now, and you should be ashamed.”

 

Guilt was dawdling on the path; Hope turned me to the room

To Joy and Trust and Happiness and Love and Light and Truth.

Self-esteem brought Confidence, quiet and assured

And Gratitude is also here, helping me applaud.

 

So next time Paranoia knocks, I’ll have the strength to fight.

Next time I will be saying no. I’m claiming back my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Publication Day!

Today is a very exciting day. My second novel, Three Words is officially published and it’s a thrilling feeling. For an avid reader who as a child ate books for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and decided aged 9 that she wanted to write them, to have one novel published was a dream come true. To have another one out seems nothing short of miraculous. I’ve written on here about the magic of books before but I think it’s worth revisiting.

open book with mermaid

From the reader’s perspective, each book we open is an adventure, a journey into another world full of new people and situations. As we read, that world becomes real in our minds; we see and feel it, become part of it, if only for a few hours or days. When we finish the book and put it back on the shelf, the real world is just that little bit altered by the experience that we have had.

From the writer’s perspective, a story just needs to escape from the head onto the page. All writers work differently so I can only speak for myself, but my characters are very insistent that their stories are told. Their world becomes as real to me as my own; I can see them, hear them, I know what they’re thinking and feeling. Somehow I have to get that down on paper or screen. It doesn’t always go to plan, it’s not always easy, but I owe it to them to complete the tale, to give them their freedom.

And when those thoughts and ideas then become an actual physical entity, a real book, that’s extraordinary. That’s magic.

I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote from the scientist and author Carl Sagan:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Three Words

Three Words coverOn 14th February 2017 my second book will be making its way into the big wide world. It took me two years to write Three Words and get it to the point where I was happy to submit it to my publishers, Magic Oxygen. They’ve also put a lot of time, effort and love into it, from the editing to the amazing cover photography and much more besides. A big thank you is due.

It’s a romance at heart, exploring love and those things that pretend to be love but are very far from it; possessiveness, manipulation, guilt etc. It also encompasses love and relationships in the wider sense of friendship and family.

And of course there’s a magical element – because how could there not be? It’s very (and I do mean VERY) loosely based on The Little Mermaid, but the fairy tale rather than the film.

If you want to read the blurb on the back cover, click on the picture above. For now, here’s an excerpt to hopefully whet your appetite.

 

Tia and Serena left the cavern and swam through the wild ocean in silence, overawed. Tia was the first to speak.

“Did it hurt?” she asked. “When you gave up your magic?”

“A little,” Serena said. “I feel empty now, hollow. Room for a soul, no doubt.”

“Are you afraid?” Tia’s eyes were worried.

“Yes,” Serena confessed. “But I know this is the right thing to do. The only thing to do, for me. I’ll never meet the expectations of the mer, I’ll always be found wanting. At least this way I have a chance. I know you understand.”

“I will miss you,” said Tia.

“And I you,” Serena replied. “But I will always remember, all of you but especially you, Tia. I think you’re the only one that’s really ever understood me. Don’t think that some of the love I hope to find over there won’t be held for you.”

Tia said nothing but she didn’t have to. The crystal tears that slipped from her eyes told their own tale.

MOLP – The Literary Prize That Changes Lives

MOLP 3The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize (MOLP as it’s more familiarly known) opened for the third time on the 1st September 2016. Previously attracting entries from over 20 countries, it offers a generous prize fund for each of its two categories, poems of up to 50 lines and short stories of up to 4,000 words. Winning and shortlisted entries are published in an anthology. It’s always exciting for a writer to see their work in print – but these are not the only lives that have been changed by this competition.

Since its inception, MOLP has planted a tree for EVERY entry received in the competition, creating the Word Forest which is now 11 times the size of Wembley Stadium.  This has been planted in Bore, Kenya, an area that had previously been massively deforested; the project has been led by international forestry expert Ru Hartwell. Not only does this benefit the planet in terms of long term CO2 capture but it helps the community of Bore, as the trees will also provide them with food, medicines, shelter and protection from the elements and reintroduce biodiversity. In time, it could generate an income for them too.

Children at Kundeni Primary SchoolMOLP has also funded a second classroom at Kundeni Primary School in Bore, which was completed this year. Previously, the 300 students had only had one classroom and so many had had to study outside in the heat.

Magic Oxygen Publishing remain committed to supporting the Word Forest and the community of Bore. The literary prize AND the Word Forest continue to grow. Be a part of it – pick up your pen and start writing your entry now. You’ve got until midnight on the 31st December to get your story or poem in and become a part of something truly life changing.

For more details, please visit http://www.magicoxygen.co.uk/molp/

Earth Pathways

Earth Pathways Diary

Cover image by Ruth Gray

I am very proud to say that I have had a poem accepted and published in the 2017 Earth Pathways Diary. If you haven’t come across this wonderful diary, produced by a small cooperative of friends in the most sustainable and earth friendly way possible, please go and have a look at their website.

https://www.earthpathwaysdiary.uk/

It’s a beautiful thing and a joy to open each day, with gorgeous artwork and uplifting thoughts. Treat yourself and enjoy!

Beauty

In the very near future Nixa, the story teller that you met here last Halloween, will have her own page of stories. In the meantime, here’s a poem.

mandala

Image by elena-botoeva

BEAUTY

Sculpt me in marble, carve me in wood

Play me on strings and drums

Sing me aloud

I am all around

Let me catch you by surprise

Unveil your eyes

Show you wonders in the everyday

I am anywhere, everywhere

In swaying corn and storm clouds

City streets and kindness

The centre of a flower

The edge of the world

I am in moonlight and

The warm touch of the sun

Or one hand in another

Beauty

You will find me when you learn to see

A Fairy Tale

drawing of cottageOnce upon a time, in a land far away, there was an old lady who lived in a little cottage in the woods. One day, when she was out collecting sticks for her fire, she noticed a baby, wrapped up and left under a shelter of leaves by the stream. The woman looked around but could see no one, so she went over and picked the baby up. He was a strange looking child with a wide face, big teeth and wild hair. His right eye was blue and his left eye was green and she realised that he was a troll. But he smiled happily up at her and waved his chubby arms and she thought that he was lovely. She waited with him for a long time but nobody came, so she took him home with her and looked after him from then on.

Continue reading

Dandelion Clocks

dandelion clockI like to mark time with dandelion clocks. They have no need for cogs and wheels, springs and tension. They require no winding up; there are no numbered faces around which hands are driven, ticking and tocking the minutes away with relentless inevitability. No hands even, especially not the straight, black, rigid sort, the ones that chase us through the day, constantly reminding us of all the things that we still haven’t done.

Mechanical clocks; a pulse without a heart, beating away our lives.

No.

Give me the soft sway of the dandelion clocks, soft filigree glimmering in the sun, ethereal filaments floating and dancing on the whim of the breeze. Let me measure my day by sunshine and shadows, the opening of flowers and the rising of the stars. Let me enjoy the moments instead of counting the minutes and let my eyes always be open to wonders everywhere.

Corvidae

Late spring and the crows are stark against the pale sky. They skim the church and oak, chasing each other with harsh throated cries and stealing morsels from the ground. I am glad to see them. I thought they had forsaken us, the bell tower and me.

 

crows flying

 

Every year they build their nests up there above the bells and compose a discordant summer symphony as their hatchlings grow. Calls, old to young, young to old, a different peal, corvid campanology. The cycle completes as the fledglings fly, still babies but with ancient knowing in their eyes.

 

 

 

 

A Birthday

picture of moon over seaIt is a year today that my first book Dreaming the Moon was officially released in paperback. It was launched with titles from six other authors at a fantastic event in Lyme Regis organised by Magic Oxygen Publishing, which also incorporated the announcement of the winners of the first Magic Oxygen Literary Prize. It was a wonderful day, both an honour and very humbling to be surrounded by so much creativity and talent.

 

So Happy Birthday to my book and here’s a little excerpt from it:

There was a sharp stinging sensation on her left calf. Instinctively she reached down and rubbed it, thinking that she had been stung. Several seconds later, there was another on her hip, more of a blow this time, and then again on her shoulder. Robyn began to walk but the strikes continued and she noticed that small pebbles were falling all around her. There was a chittering in the scrubby grass and gorse either side of the path, high pitched spiteful laughter, leaves rustling and twigs snapping despite the stillness of the air. Robyn broke into a jog then a run as the stones became a hailstorm. She could just make out creatures in the grass, small twiggy limbed figures with long noses and angry eyes. There seemed to be a lot of them. And then the first one leapt onto her back, its gnarly fingers yanking at her hair.

“Get off me,” she shrieked, grabbing frantically behind her and flinging it away by its spindly arm. Another one had attached itself to her leg. Stones were still raining down on her, dust rising around her as she ran. Panic was nearly choking her now as she felt more of them grabbing at her, leaping in front of her, trying to trip her and bring her down. She stumbled, twisting her ankle but managing to keep her footing, slowing under the onslaught of pinching and scratching and stones. Just as she felt that she couldn’t go on, she heard Fiona’s voice, a memory in her head. “There are charms that will protect you from the fey, should you need it. Salt’s one, iron’s another, they’re the strongest. But red thread, bells and chimes, even turning your clothes inside out will work.”

Robyn grabbed the bottom of her T-shirt and wrenched it over her head, dislodging several of the little demons and sending them flying. Slowing momentarily, she flung it back on inside out, immediately relieved to find that the rest of them fell away. The storm of pebbles continued however and she accelerated back up to a run despite the pain in her ankle, not slowing until she reached the garden at the back of the shop. She fumbled desperately for her key, struggling to get it into the lock with her shaking hands, and flung herself through the kitchen door, collapsing onto one of the chairs as her knees gave way.

Jim was standing by the counter waiting for the kettle to boil.

You can check out my titles and those of the other Magic Oxygen authors using the link at the top of the page.