Tea. (Poetry)

There is a deep

ache

a lostness, a verge

upon the sea

of confusion

that solved,

has but one answer –

Tea.

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Books Are For Everyone | Save Our Libraries

Here in the UK, there has been a lot of talk of libraries closing all over the country. The party line is because they aren’t used much anymore, but I call bullshit on that one.

When I was little, my favourite part of the week was Saturday morning. Every Saturday, my mother would walk me down to the town library and let me pick as many books as I could carry. I was not unlike to Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I couldn’t get enough of what those wonderful words had to teach me.

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As a writer, I am clearly biased when it comes to books. I have spent my life in awe of, crying at, laughing with, and sometimes even screaming at the pages of, books. Books are not just pieces of paper covered in the ink symbols we call the written word, but they are the door to limitless possibilities. 

Books can take a shy, introverted child and turn them into a communicative member of society. They teach us something at every stage of our lives: how to read, how to do sums, how to split the atom, how to love, even. Should that knowledge – that soulful education only a good book can give – not be free to all? 

There was a time that only those who could pay for literature were the only ones who got to cherish its pages, its knowledge. But libraries changed all of that. They gave everyone the opportunity to learn from, and enjoy books. Are we reverting to the prior? Are we about to steal all that information from the grasps of a child whose parents can’t afford books?

Around 15 per cent, or 5.1 million adults in England, can be described as ‘functionally illiterate.’ – LiteracyTrust.Org 

Do we really want those figures to get any higher? I sure as hell don’t. We are the homeland of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JK Rowling, Charles Dickens, Stephen Fry and hundreds of incredibly influential authors. Who knows how many more beautiful words could be written and read with the help of public libraries.

Protect Library Services by signing this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228742 

To Finish or Not To Finish: a Novel in Limbo

I spend a lot of my time sat in the dark as I feed my baby, staring at a picture of a girl in a yellow dress. And now one thing for sure: her story isn’t over yet.

When I started my Master’s a year ago, I did it with the intention of using the time to work on the sequel to Searching For Katherine (r.2014), which has sat unfinished in my proverbial desk draw for the past three years.

However, three months into my course – I found out I was pregnant. Overwhelmed by work, university and now pregnancy – the novel remained unfinished.

Well now I am on maternity leave, my degree has come to an end, and I have a month-old baby boy – my time is both free and less so at the same time.

Hanging on my living room wall is the original sketch – done by an old friend of mine – of the cover for Searching For Katherine.

It is of Katherine in a torn yellow dress, walking through the forest. I always loved the drawing because it was of a pivotal moment in Katherine’s story; of limbo. She finds herself leaving one hell, with no promise of salvation or safety once she gets wherever she’s going – but she still takes the journey. And thus, I too am in limbo when it comes to this book.

But now it’s time to come out of the forest and choose a path. Do I scrap the book altogether, and take time as a sign that some books just shouldn’t be finished? Do I pick up where I left off? Or do I start the manuscript again; and embellish it with the things I have learned in life since last writing it?

I always felt a duty to Katherine to finish her story, I still intend on doing so, but perhaps not in the way I originally planned.

I think I’ll dust off the old hard drive tomorrow and see where we left off, and if there is a story yet to be salvaged.

Goals Changed For The Better | A New Chapter

We all have a plan for our lives, whether it’s short term; ‘lose five pounds’, or long term; ‘I want to have a career in XYZ by the time I’m 30’. We all also know, that life likes to get in the way of our plans.

 

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#goals graphic, created with Fotor by @melissaholden94

 

My original life plan (at 16) was as follows:

  • Do A-Levels
  • Get a job and earn money
  • Go on lots of holidays
  • Get married
  • Get a Husky called Jeff
  • Learn to drive
  • Get a big house

…And that was effectively all I wanted from life.

Then, at 18, this was my plan:

  • Go to university
  • Get a degree
  • Get a part-time job
  • Save loads of money
  • Write my first book
  • Go travelling
  • Rent a house with friends
  • Get a tattoo

I did well on some points, and not so well on others.

At 20, my plan looked a little like this:

  • Get a temp job in home town
  • Go do my Master’s in October 2015
  • Graduate
  • Rent a house with Ashleigh
  • Go travelling
  • Pay off my overdraft
  • Save money
  • Learn to drive
  • Write more books

20-year-old Me was ambitious and didn’t plan for other people to affect her life plan. I had to move back home to be close to an ill family member. I had to leave all my uni friends behind and get a job in Bluewater.

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What I also didn’t expect, was to have graduated my Bachelor’s degree, moved back to the home town I hate, and fall in love with my new ‘supposed-to-be-for-six-months’ job. I ended up with a good, stable job in optics, and didn’t follow the plan. I didn’t start my Master’s degree in October. Instead, I was doing training at work to improve my skill set.

I ended up with a good, stable job in optics, and didn’t follow the plan. I didn’t start my Master’s degree in October. Instead, I was doing training at work to improve my skill set. I also, 2 years in, ended up being promoted to a Team Leader position, and am loving it.

I also didn’t move in with my best friend, because she moved back home to be close to her family, and to look after herself  – cannot argue with that, really.

Now, at 22 (nearly 23), my plan looks more like this:

  • Save my Student Loans and pay off my overdraft
  • Start my Master’s in October 2017
  • Graduate in June 2018
  • Finish writing Finding Jennifer
  • Move out to my own place
  • Start looking for ‘love’
  • Spend more time with my friends and family
  • Be present in the moment
  • Be positive
  • Blog more
  • Read as many books as possible

Perhaps some of those are loftier than others, but I love all my goals and aspirations the same. I am glad that my priorities have changed because it means I have grown and developed as a person, and I’m pretty proud of that.

What are your goals in life, and have they changed over the years? 

 

Saying Farewell to my Pseudonym

The blog-fans among you will know that I have removed my pseudonym, Melody Carter, from the Internet. She’s gone now. *RIP fictional version of myself*

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I’ve waved goodbye to her website, her Facebook page, and her Twitter. I’ve exported all her churlish attempts at Children’s Fiction or bizarre tries at Adult Writing. She isn’t working well for my writing career, so, like the proverbial rose – she had to be dead-headed.

(Although the design for that website was pretty awesome, so I may have to move the typography over to another site… we will see!)

I found Melody Carter no longer had a place or standing in my writing portfolio; she had become just an extra tab on my social media to ignore and avoid during the low moments.

Any writer can tell you that this is not a fun career choice by any means – particularly as there is no money in it. So it becomes hard to justify your meager efforts when you are spread so thin across your many pen names.

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Instead, (if rather late in the day) I have decided to solely write under my own name; no pseudonyms or pretenses. Just little me and my little words on my little books.

I hope you can all get behind me on this, and as you have all been such lovely readers; I am sure you will be.

I’ll be back soon with some news about my upcoming novel, Finding Jennifer, but for now; I’m off to drink tea and ponder over Chapter 12.

Sex In Books | Not That Sexy (16+ content)

sex in books.pngEveryone loves a cheeky sex scene in a romance novel; or those secret make-out sessions in your favourite Young Adult series, but there’s a line.

With a society that is climatized to seeing sex in everything, perhaps no sex in a book is the New Sexy?

If an author tells you they have never written a salacious sex scene – they ar lying. But, ask them if it ended up in the book, and some will say no.

For my novel, Searching For Katherine, I wrote a sex scene for the night of Jennifer’s wedding – and then deleted half of it. Yes, I kept some of the build-up and the tension in, but there is no actual sex in the sex scene.

Sometimes, the idea of sex is sexier than the act itself. And sometimes, sex isn’t sexy. 

the-russian-concubineIn The Russian Concubine by Kate Furvinall, there is a sex scene between the two main characters who are roughly fifteen or sixteen years old. The boy is injured and weak, the girl tending to his wounds as she hides him the shed from her family.

It is a sweet, tender moment, but it is – naturally – a very awkward and fumbling scene. Why? Because virgin teenagers don’t know how to have sex, so it would be ridiculous for the author to have pretended otherwise. It is a beautifully written scene and one I have specially marked in my copy. I read it when I need reminding that sex isn’t always the sinners show it’s perceived to be. Sometimes, sex is communication.

It is a beautifully written scene and one I have specially marked in my copy. I read it when I need reminding that sex isn’t always the sinners show it’s perceived to be. Sometimes, sex is communication.

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It’s difficult to write an article about sex in books without mentioning the elephant in the room: Fifty Shades of Grey. Originally written as a sexy Twilight fan-fic, and quickly tidied up when the website when crazy and was picked up by a publishing house; Fifty Shades is the perfect example of Sex Overload in fiction.

I won’t waste too much time talking about this series, but if memory serves me right; there’s a lot of pretty ridiculous sex in this book series. They have sex anywhere and everywhere, several times a day and it some strange positions and situations. I think Mr .Grey needs to see a therapist because he just can’t keep it in his pants.

The sex is completely unrealistic – however, it also proves that sometimes there is only one way to write a sex scene: badly. E.L James repeats the same phrases and rhythms throughout the book, giving all the scenes a very samey vibe. But, she is an international best-selling author; so she must have gotten something right!

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Perhaps sex scenes in books scene somewhat ridiculous because they are a little bit more real than we’re used to.

Most adults have watch pornography at some time or another, and we’ve all seen those perfect six-pack muscle men with engorged penises and perfect bodies. They give women expectations of what a man should look like in bed, and I’m afraid to say that not every man is built like Superman. Nor, should they be!

And for the men, those poor bastards are relentlessly shown swimwear models with tidy, toned bodies and tiny waists. None of these women have scars or stretch marks, none have bore children and they certainly don’t look like the women we see in the high street doing their shopping.

Why is porn so popular? Because we like to fantasize. Why does sex suck in books? Because sometimes… you’ve just got to use your imagination – and the only references most of us have are porn sites and some embarrassing sex stories of our own.

And because reading the word penis is never going to be as sexy as seeing one! 

So maybe next time you read an awkward sex scene in a book; remember that sometimes it’s better in real life than it is on the page; give the author the benefit of the doubt. And, if it’s really bad, just skip it.

Got an opinion? Share it in the comments! 

John Green: From Loathe To Love

When I first heard about John Green, it was in 2012 when The Fault In Our Stars was released, and I immediately hated him. Let me explain before you stone me.

I was always on the lookout for young adult books that weren’t vampires, because vampires were getting boring, fast. So here comes this decent author with a book about kids with cancer, and I thought ‘hey, if it’s a good story and it raises awareness, this is going on my to-read list.’

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So with my brand new copy of The Fault In Our Stars, I settle down in my communal living room to start reading, tea in hand and then I hear a screech from my wonderfully-vocal Italian housemate and best friend. I then spent the next two hours receiving a lecture from her about how John Green was profiting from cancer and that the medical aspects of the book were completely outrageous. So the book went on my shelf and hasn’t been opened since.

So four years pass, I get a degree, move back to my home town, get a job, blah blah blah, and then I hear about this edgy indie book with a bad-ass female lead with a weird name and an amazing metaphor: Paper Towns. Three guesses who it’s by, *drum roll* John Green.

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In the four years, I had pretty much forgotten about my hatred for John Green, as I had since learned that my loud friend’s opinion of TFiOS was just that, an opinion. But still with this ingrained fear of reading the book, I skipped it altogether and dove head first into Paper Towns. I finished it in less than a week.

Safe to say that since then, I’ve been pretty happy to hear about John Green’s work, particularly when I realised he is the older brother to Hank Green, and that they co-created YouTube channel vlogbrothers, the world of Nerdfighteria, and are ultra nerds that are so cool and the human embodiment of tumblr.com.

I now spend nearly all of my spare time attempting to catch up on the 10 years of vlogbrothers videos, and am eagerly awaiting payday so I can buy all of John Green’s book and add them to my copies of Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars. I’m also desperately searching for a copy of John Green reading TFiOS audiobook.

I have officially become a fan, and I wish I had had the balls to stand up for The Fault In Our Stars when I first bought it all those years ago… and I shall be reading it tonight!

So, I have one thing to say to you John Green and other members of Nerdfighteria (if you’ll forgive my stupidity): Don’t forget to be awesome!