Friday, 19 October 2012

Let's Talk About Bullying

Bullying is never acceptable, ever, and yet it goes on everywhere.  And I don't just mean school, but throughout life.  Why it happens isn't really important, mostly because there are so many reasons and so many people have their own theories about that listing them all would be mostly guess work and speculation.  Only the bullies know why they do it, and sometimes even then I wonder if they do.  All that really matters is that we do something about it.

For me it started when I was at Primary School (ages 5-11), it continued when I went to Secondary School (normally 11-16), and then at Sixth Form College (16-18).  It stopped when I went to Uni for two years but I dropped out due to ill health and it continued at the college I went to (20-22).  It wasn't always the same thing, but it always had the same effect.  It made me feel like crap every time.

To make things worse, I was the only one who'd get into trouble.  One time at Secondary School I was sitting down to lunch.  I was just sitting there, probably eating sandwiches or something similar, just minding my own business.  I don't remember how it started but this other kid in my class was on me, so I threw him off as I was trying to eat.  He then yelled out that I was going psycho and that everyone should grab me.  All I wanted to do was eat, so I shook them off as best I could, but that wasn't the end of it.  This kid yelled out the same sorts of things about me being psycho, and I was jumped on, again.  It went on a few more times before I just gave up and walked out, slamming the door behind me.  It was a reinforced glass door and I broke it, the glass actually coming out the frame.  Like I said, I was the only one who ever got in trouble.  Despite not being the one who started it, despite being the victim, despite everything that lead up to that, it was only me who got in trouble.  I refused to pay for the door but it turned out later that my parents had.

When I was at college, there was another kid who found out something I wanted kept secret and he promptly shared it with his friends.  They made my remaining time there a living hell.  I wanted to get on with my work, but they would constantly berate me during class, yelling out how I was a freak and that I should be allowed at the college.  The worst thing is that they would do this with teachers present and the teachers would know it was going on and just ask them to be quiet if the teacher was speaking.
And talking of teachers, what the hell do you do if the teacher is the bully?  There is nothing you can do about it then.  They'll just persuade the other teachers that you're at fault, that you're a problem child, that you're just being difficult.  One teacher would send me home every time I forgot something, no matter how insignificant, which meant I never got the homework, so I was sent home again the next week, and so one, ad nauseum.  Another teacher straight up told me I didn't have asthma and that I was putting on an asthma attack.  Really?  After all the doctor's notes?  After all the times it had kept me home?  You really want to tell an asthmatic they don't have asthma while they're having an attack?  I could go on and on about how my Asperger's Syndrome caused problems, but I'll just say that the Secondary School spent their Special Needs budget on building repair and leave it at that.

Those are just a few incident of many.  At Primary School there was a kid picking on me.  The only friend I had was with me at the time and he stood up for me.  He stamped on the other kid's foot.  You'd think that the bully there would've been punished, but he wasn't.  It was my friend who was.  The other kid had an ingrown toenail or something and my friend was suspended.  Nothing happened to the bully, even though he was at fault and my friend was just standing up for me.

And that's the biggest problem with bullying.  Nothing ever happens to the bully.  It's always the victim who gets blamed.  It's always the victim who's punished.  It's always the victim that anything negative happens to.  What can you do when you can't trust the teachers to punish the bullies and not you?  What do you do if the teachers are the bullies?  What do you do when you're an adult and shamed into silence because 'it only happens to kids'?

I wish I knew what the answers are, but I know it's not suicide.  No matter how close I've come before, I've somehow not gone ahead with it.  I'm still here, able to play games with some good friends and write books and enjoy the bits of life that are fun.  It has gotten better for me, and if it can get better for me then it can get better for you too.

There are lots of anti-bullying songs out there.  Some deal with homophobia, some are just general.  Have a google, you'll find some, but these I like:
Hero - Superchick
Bully – Shinedown
Make It Stop – Rise Against
Jumper – Third Eye Blind
Never Too Late – Three Days Grace
To Write Love On Her Arms – Between The Trees
The Call – Matt Kennon
Don’t Laugh At Me – Mark Wills
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
Don’t Jump – Tokio Hotel
How To Save A Life – The Fray
Savin’ Me – Nickelback
Jeremy – Pearl Jam
Hold On – Good Charlotte
Happy? - Mudvayne
Last Resort - Papa Roach

 Some might seem like odd choice, but it was bands like Linking Park, Papa Roach, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson,that kept me going some days.  Hope they help you too.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Finally, an ebook!

When I first put my novel, Salisbury, up for sale I had hoped that the ebook version would go up on the same day or within a week or so.  Unfortunately, I got confused as to how to do and gave up because it was making my head hurt and was just too confusing and too much to deal with at the time.  Last night I decided that I wouldn't sleep, because I'm like that sometimes, and I decided to have another go.  It's still confusing and it still made my head hurt and I still wanted to give up, but I didn't!

That's right!  Salisbury is now available as an ebook!

I'm rather pleased with the result, even if the first line indentation is a bit small and I'm not 100% sure that all the formatting is 100% correct.  It is as close to perfect as I'm likely to get it though, because I gave up and thought 'sod it' and put it on sale anyway.

So, yes, you can buy it, now, for reals.

Here are some happy links for you:

Amazon (UK):
Amazon (US):

It is currently 'pending' for Nook and iBookstore sales and I don't know when it will be available from there.  As far as I know there won't be any reason why it'll be rejected but I'll keep you posted either way.

I'm actually quite excited now that it's on sale.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

I have something a bit special for my blog.  Today I am going to do a review of 'The Assassin's Curse' by Cassandra Rose Clarke.  And if that wasn't enough, I have an interview with her too!  Exciting stuff, no?

First thing first:

The Review

So a few months ago, Strange Chemistry were giving away some advance copies of 'The Assassin's Curse' on their twitter.  I was the lucky winner of one copy and I waited impatiently for it to arrive.  When it arrived I saw the cover and thought it looked very Arabian Nights-esque, with the swirly title about an Arabian Nights type skyline silhouette.  A theme very appropriate to the setting of the novel.

The story is about a pirate girl who runs out on an arranged marriage and meets an assassin, activates a curse on him, and then has to follow him around while they try and cure it.  There's also magic involved, which is not the ordinary kind.  It's interesting to see how it does work, and I'd like to see more of it.

While I love the book, I find it hard to say why, mostly because there's a lot to love about it.  I really like that it's written in first person and is written with Ananna's accent.  I think it adds depth to the character and the novel.  There's also a lot that isn't explained, and in a good way.  There's enough information to understand what's going on and not be confused, but there's also more that could be said.  It's a fine balance between too much information and not enough, and this is pretty much perfect.

The plot is well pace, intriguing, gripping to the end, and the ending left me wanting more, so I was thrilled when I found out there's a sequel on the way.

The Interview

(Questions in italics, answers in bold)
Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Houston, Texas, where I work as a college English instructor — when I’m not writing, of course! I have two cats, one of which I adopted after his mother brought him and his siblings into my mom’s back yard. I love to draw and paint and cook, and I love going to the movies, too. I’ll see pretty much any movie in a theater, but I don’t really like watching DVDs all that much. Weird, I know.

So, The Assassin's Curse is out in October, the sequel is out next year, and you have a sci-fi novel, The Mad Scientist's Daughter, out in January.  You must be very excited.  Just how excited are you?
I’m extremely excited! Like hands-shaking-just-won-the-lottery excited! A year ago I had only just signed with Angry Robot, and now one of my books is out in the world. It’s mind-blowing. I’m definitely looking forward to going to every book store in the city to see if they have copies of The Assassin’s Curse.

Could you tell us a bit more about Ananna and her world?  Preferably something non-spoiler-y?
Well, Ananna and her family are part of a vague governing body called the Pirate’s Confederation. It’s made up of a bunch of pirate clans, each with their own ship or collection of ships.  Ananna’s father heads up the Tanarau clan, which is why Tanarau is both Ananna’s surname and the name of her father’s ship. Ships and crew pass from father to son, so if Ananna ever wants her own ship, she would have to go outside the Confederation. Their loss!

If you had to sum up The Assassin's Curse in just one tweet (140 characters), what would you say about it?
A runaway pirate girl gets entangled with a magic-wielding assassin; adventures (and maybe romance) follow.

With a sequel already confirmed for The Assassin's Curse I have to ask, will there be more?
Well, the sequel, The Pirate’s Wish wraps up Naji and Ananna’s story. Right now there isn’t anything officially planned, but I would love to continue writing stories set in the world. I’ve already got some ideas cooking.

With one book out with Strange Chemistry and another with Angry Robot, how do you feel the YA differs from other fiction?  How do you feel it differs from the reader's perspective?  And how does it differ from the writer's perspective?
YA is interesting because it’s a target age group that gets treated like a genre.  All YA books used to be thrown together on the same shelf and that meant there was a lot more freedom to blend genres, which was one of the things I liked about it. Unfortunately, Barnes and Nobel has started dividing their YA shelves up into Adventure Fantasy and Paranormal Romance and so forth, so I’m wondering if YA will keep genre-bending, or if genre-bending will pass over to adult novels (which seems to happening somewhat and which makes me sad).

Actually, I feel like the biggest difference between YA and adult is one of voice and distance. YA tends to be a much more immediate reading experience, whereas adult fiction, even when it’s narrated by a teenager, inserts distance between the narrator and the reader.  A portion of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which is an adult book, does take place when the main character is a teenager, but the voice I used is a completely different sort than what I would have employed had I been writing a YA novel about the same character and situations. In adult fiction, I feel like the narrator is always speaking from a place of adulthood (again, even if she isn’t an adult), whereas in YA, a narrator speaks from a place of teenagehood.  It’s a difficult concept pin down, though, and it’s not something I’m necessarily consciously thinking about when I write.

A recent study showed that most people who buy YA books aren't 12-17 and most of those buy it for themselves.  Do find this surprising?  Is it a good thing?  And why?
I don’t find it surprising at all, since I know so many adults who read YA. Plus, think back on some of the big literary hits of the last few years: Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games were all YA. It wasn’t just kids or teenagers turning those books into bestsellers. And even Fifty Shades of Grey evolved out of Twilight, so although it’s far from being a YA novel itself, that connection is still there.  I don’t really see it as good or bad, although I do think it’s interesting and wonder about the reasons behind it. I’ve heard a theory that adult fiction tends to be too dreary and dismal, working as it often does on the flawed assumption that a downer ending makes a work more worthwhile, whereas YA typically has happier endings.  There may be something to that, there may not be. I couldn’t say! (I actually like both sorts of ending myself).

Any last words?
Thanks for having me on your blog! I hope your readers enjoy The Assassin’s Curse!