Friday, 29 April 2016

Quick March!

Want to see the Fastest Military Band In The UK?

It looks like this.

And you can see them live, performing the famous 'Beating the Retreat' ceremony at Horseguard's Parade, Whitehall, on June 1st/2nd this year.  I've got a family ticket for four to give away and everyone who pledges support for my book The Glorious Dead over the Bank Holiday weekend will be entered into the prize draw.

Nearly 300 members of The Rifles will be joined by 200 other servicemen and women from around the globe to perform this visual and musical spectacle raising money for Care For Casualties

The finale of the two-hour performance will be accompanied by a firework display. Buglers will play from the rooftops of buildings surrounding Horse Guards Parade to create a unique experience for the audience. Regimental Secretary, Lt, Col. (Retd.) John Poole-Warren said:

"We're expecting over ten thousand people of all ages to join us for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will also feature The Royal Gurkha Rifles Pipes and Drums, The Gurkha Kukri Dancers, The Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry from Canada, the Rifles Fijian Choir and the Military Wives Choir. All the money raised will go to Care For Casualties an amazing charity that provides unbelievable support for Riflemen, veterans and their families, whenever it's needed."

Tickets cost £10 each or £7.50 when you buy a block of four. Tickets can be bought from: or, to enter the prize draw to win a family ticket for four, pre-order (pledge) for The Glorious Dead right here:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Linda's Book Bag

The bandwagon rolls on, and today pauses for thought at Linda's Book Bag - the excellent book blog of Linda Hill.

Linda's interview questions were certainly thought-provoking and I hope my answers do them justice. Have a read and see if you agree...

Monday, 25 April 2016

A day in the life...

Morning! I'm still out-and-about, here and there, on my promotional tour. Yesterday I spent an hour talking about my book The Glorious Dead on Endeavour FM in the company of DJ Dave Wheeler and a very pleasant hour it was too. Thanks Dave.

So, minding the shop for me today is another fellow Unbound author, Shona Kinsella. And her post hits the spot as I know there are plenty of you out there (as well as me, in here) in the same boat - the boat being writing as well as bringing up children. It's not easy. And just to prove it here's a typical day in the life of Shona Kinsella.

Monday 18/4/2016
6:20am Alarm. I hit snooze and lie in bed telling myself not to check my project page. I last until 6:30 when the alarm goes off again. I sit up in bed and check Unbound, two e-mail addresses, Facebook and Twitter. Nothing exciting happened while I slept. No new pledges.

Then it’s shower, get the kids up, fight with the 2yo who wants a “jammy day”.  I take 9yo to school then it’s round the shops, picking at plotting in my head while picking up shopping. Home by 9:30 and I’m prepping food for the slow cooker (after checking my page again of course). 2yo wants to watch Peppa Pig. I consider telling her no, that I’ll only be 5 minutes and then I’ll come and play with her but I realise that if she’s watching TV I can squeeze in some extra writing. So I put Peppa on and then mentally berate myself for being a terrible parent.

After an hour it’s story time for 2yo and getting her settled for a nap. Then washing on, phone calls and a quick tidy of the kitchen while refreshing my project page. I respond to some e-mails, check in with my writing group, work on some planning for the library event I’ll be doing next month and write a bit more.

Laptop on charge, I wake 2yo up from her nap, convince her to come downstairs and then make lunch, which she refuses to eat. Then it’s off to pick up 9yo and home for supervising homework and listening to 9yo talk about her day while trying to reconcile in my head what I need to do to transition from new material I’ve just written into the old chapters that begin the first draft of the book. 

Then it’s some more writing and editing and refreshing of the project page. No new pledges. I’m at 32% funded. I’m on track. I’m never going to make it. I e-mail one of my writing group, panicking that my main character is boring. He answers and re-assures me, but if the book is as great as he says then why hasn’t he pledged? I do recognize that this process is driving me crazy. 

Hubby comes home and it’s time for dinner and bed time routines for the kids. While 9yo is in the shower, I take the opportunity to read for 20 minutes. I want to say this is entirely relaxation but since I’ll be reviewing this book for The British Fantasy Society, I am taking notes as I go. 

Kids in bed, I sit down to watch some TV with hubby but I end up only half-watching as I refresh my project page and monitor Facebook and Twitter.

In bed, I think of a new scene that makes perfect sense slotted into the section I’m editing. I make a note on my phone to look at it in the morning. 

Sound familiar? It does to me and I'm sure it will for many of you, too. You can find out more about Shona's book as well as pledge support for the project here: and if you're in the area, you can hear her reading extracts and talking about the project at the Alexandria Library, Gilmour Street, Alexandria (that's Scotland rather than Egypt!) on Thursday, May 26th at 7.30pm.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Don't keep depression under your hat...

I think I was vaguely aware through social media that this was National Depression Awareness Week,  just as I've been vaguely aware of similar days or weeks for years, and vaguely aware of the growing media interest in mental health issues generally.

Vaguely aware because - in spite of having written a novel about depression - I've never really felt able to acknowledge or face my own feelings on the subject. (Even the novel was written in the voice of a teenage girl in a pathetic attempt to avoid embarrassing questions!)

The truth is I suffered from depression - was hospitalised with it - in my teens. For six long months of medical intervention I gradually improved to the point where I could function. But it was years before I actually felt 'better'.

Why am I telling you this now? Two reasons. One, a harrowing report on the Today Programme yesterday morning about what it's like to be a nine-year-old with depression, Two, an article I read by Tim Lott in The Guardian, in which, among other things, he said:

I have a suspicion that society, in its heart of hearts, despises depressives because it knows they have a point: the recognition that life is finite and sad and frightening.

Actually, there's a third reason, too. A conversation with my wife over supper about a pupil she teaches who is currently being treated but who - get this - since turning 18 and being moved to 'adult services' is marooned on an island of medical isolation while the school (which, of course, has a statutory duty of care) is blanked by the agencies that have suddenly taken over this person's welfare.

I don't know quite why this combination of factors finally made a difference. I do know why I've been reluctant until now to talk about it. There are people I know who still regard depression and similar afflictions as a sign of moral weakness. (Mind you, the same people sometimes regard physical illness in a similar fashion.)

So what I'd like to contribute to the debate is this:

Depression is erosion, slow erosion, wearing you to nothing. Depression leaves you nothing but a shell - not even ill. It’s not an illness – can’t be. If you’re ill then there’s a ‘you’ that is ill. But when depression strikes you haven’t got a chance. There is no ‘you’. You’re dead already: finished; empty. No-one knows that - nobody. 

Those are my words. I wrote them. I put them into the mouth of my protagonist in Writing Therapy. But they're based on my experience. Anyone who assumes depression is anything remotely akin to feeling 'sad' or 'miserable' or even 'depressed' hasn't got a clue. Depression isn't anything you feel. It's the complete and utter absence of feeling, of all feeling necessary to function.

Sometimes people say they feel depressed in the same way some people with the common cold claim to have had the 'flu. The key word here is 'feel'. If you feel anything, you're not depressed. Not really. Depression takes you over, hollows you out and leaves you with nothing but an aching, hurting, cold black void.

But that contradiction lies at the heart of the matter. Because whether depression is organic, to be cured by balancing brain chemistry, or behavioural, to be treated psychologically, it's real.

And yet its reality is fundamentally a denial of all that is real.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Blog hop, stop three...

Stop three on the virtual tour (late to the party? Catch the first couple of posts here and here) sees me With the British Army in Flanders (or, more specifically, the excellent blog of the same name) being interviewed about my book, The Glorious Dead. Do take a look:

In other news, said book (currently crowdfunding on Unbound) is now 30% funded and beginning to feel real at last. But it still needs your support. If you haven't pledged yet, please consider doing so.

You'll be helping an important book about a forgotten piece of Great War history get published in time for the centenary of the Armistice. Lest we forget not only those who fought and died, but also those who spent months and years burying their fallen comrades.

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