Sometime next year, this will be out and about.
I am more than a bit fed up. Fed up of seeing half naked people on the covers of books. In the last few weeks I have seen lots of new releases with covers that have left me wondering if the cover models are a bit cold. I must add the caveat that these are covers used by Indie authors. When I go through a library, look at the shelves, nearly all of the people on cover image are dressed. Even the Mills and Boon’s/Harlequin cover people are dressed. There is a very clear line in the sand really.
So what is my bug bear?
It was a timeline full of naked blokes, that was the straw that broke the camels back. Book blogs and tours, blitzes and things, are carrying the same images. Torsos and a V. Then there were the lingerie clad women.
The latter, would fall very much in to objectification. I think the former does too. We just don’t admit it; we can ogle and objectify women, but doing that to a bloke…well, Diet Coke break makes it okay but not objectification.
On a deeper, more intellectual and academic level, what do these covers say about societal perception of the genders?
Recently, the concept of toxic masculinity has been risen as well as what does it mean to be a male in modern society? Leading to how are men represented in media and the written word, what is it it we expect from the modern man. There is some element of men being charicatured by the covers and the content of books. Arrogant, well-built millionaires who sweep a gasping, well-endowed damsel off her feet. I’m genuinely cheesed off for the male of species; we build ’em up, we break ’em down, shift the goal posts. If you don’t match the dude on the cover, inside the book, the one in our imagination then you must be a bit wrong….
The damsel. The one that appears on the cover, half dressed with come to bed eyes. The damsel, that needs rescuing, might be up the duff and fights with her internal tension as to should she, should she not sleep with the tall, dark and brooding shipping magnate? (Yeah, how many shipping magnate, tycoons and billionaires are on the covers….with all that money, they might have posed in a suit… ) The damsel couldn’t possibly be dressed, we might not recognise her with her kit on and we don’t need to have three dimensional characters. She must be attractive, pouting, and good for one, two, maybe three things. What messages does this give to other women? If you are not like this, then you don’t fit, we don’t want you and neither does anyone else. You know you have to comply to a checklist and disclose your vital statistics, yes?
The representation of women on covers is equally heavy-weight.
(Another thing; I didn’t see many-if any-cover images of characters from BAME groups. That is another aspect of debate.)
The bigger picture question remains the same.
Why do it in the first instance?
I get it, if the book in question is centred around mature/adult content, then sure it reflects what goes on between the leaves and the sheets as it were.
Can you imagine, if Dicken’s was rebranded in the same way? George Eliot for that matter. You have Madam Bovary, Lolita, and Lady Chatterley’s lover too. The content is the crux, with a very sobre front cover. I really don’t want to see bits and pieces on the cover. I’m sure that until the print presses started steaming, most covers were plain.
You know, the answer is simple. Sex and Salaciousness sell.
Leaving nothing to the imagination, immediate rather than delayed gratification grabs and garners attention. It gets people talking, gets people writing blog posts. It get’s people saying ooh-er missis.
So far, only one out of four books has people on the cover.
My challenge was to whether or not I wanted a human being on the cover, never mind two. Whether or not they would dressed, that never crossed my mind. When it did, the thought made me feel altogether uncomfortable. Somehow, being half naked in Montana, might give these two frost bite.
It is also, not as easy you would think, to find BAME people for covers.
I like my cover; the designer is a legend and made it exactly how I wanted it to be. I could not have imagined a half-naked Aditi or Devan on the front cover; that is left for the inside. That is the bit, in my mind at least, matters the most. In comparison then to other covers, it is modest, muted and doesn’t hit you between the eyes. I would rather the content tugged at the heart strings and fired up your imagination, to be perfectly honest.
If you do want to ‘see’ a half naked Devan, he does exist.
Inside the book.
Apologies for not being around. There has been a lot going on, not bad, I assure you! This has made gardening and writing a bit more challenging. The next few months are shaping up to be both interesting and busy, but I am still around, not disappearing or dropping off the proverbial radar.
Not sure quite what gardening or when it will occur. In the mean time, the ink pens are in action and writing projects are happening.
Just wanted to remind you, of the books and there are quite a few now! If you wanted a bit of advice and guidance beyond the blog, there is the ‘yellow one’ and the ‘little green book’ that will help make things a little less confusing.
And if you fancied something completely different and not in the least bit gardening related, there is Fragments and also Retreating to Peace. Links to your right.
All of the books are available in both paperback and ebook.
And so it begins.
Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?
I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.
My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.
Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.
Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.
Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.
My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.
Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.
As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.
Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.
So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.
I think my allotment and I are broken, and I’d quite like to fix both.
I couldn’t tell you the last time that I took a walk down and did something. So much so, that my soul feels a bit less colourful and very much frayed at the edges. As I countdown to the end of February, I am feeling this quite a bit. Over the last eight weeks, thoughts of the allotment have been shadows at the back of my mind. The allotment has been a spectre, hanging in my awareness as something that I need to make a return to; something that has been a big part of me, who I am and what I do over the last five years.
It is a sorry confession, but the relationship between my allotment and I has lapsed some what. We have become estranged, as life makes demands on the time we spend with each other.
2018, wasn’t a good year for the plot and I. It was a very busy year, as I managed working, training and writing. Writing was a big focus, and I spent less time outside. I spent a lot of time inside, writing and displacing the allotment. There were a lot of plates spinning with lots of different demands. Working part time and being a trainee counsellor has proven to be a challenging combination. I enjoy doing both, but have forgotten to look after myself in the process. In January last year, my poly tunnel was damaged by winter storms and it was basically downhill from there. My life became a tempest of tornadoes, and the plot didn’t get the attention it deserved and needed.
January this year offered a new start and the potential to get things going. I still have a busy life; my week is jam packed with my weekends being the windows for R&R. The windows are not big, so I do need to make the most of them, use them effectively. What I need to do, is to remember how the plot is and was a big part of that R&R. Getting my hands dirty, the exercise and the impact of it all on mental health, feels like a distant memory. A memory that as mentioned before, is a shadow.
Only the shadow is morphing. It is morphing into a fuzzy-faced gremlin. A gremlin that is poking me to take a walk down to the plot.
I need to make the time, the space, to go back to the plot. I am tired of chaos, tired of things going up, down and pear-shaped. Tired of not being able to pause and colour my soul. I need to reconnect with my plot, remember why I enjoy it and how it is has helped me the woman that I am. It’s funny, but the growth and nurturing aspects of having an allotment have actually been a big part of personal therapy.
So I have come to some conclusions.
There are no plans to publish any writing. I am still writing, but I am not pushing to be in print this year. I need to step away from the kitchen table, and use it only for writing coursework. Coursework still needs to be done, with training not due to finish before the Autumn. Writing is officially on a slow-burning back hob.
Don’t worry about produce and preserves. Tidy up, create a blank slate. The plot has evolved over the years and at 200sqm, it is massive. Start again. Get the infrastructure, raised beds and things cleared. Cover the fallow area. Go back to basics.
Don’t rush. Take your time. I have come too far, the plot has come too far to be abandoned. It would break my heart to walk away from that patch of land, and I have thought about it. I have thought about it a lot over the last few weeks. (Okay, there’s a running joke that if I ever got married, it would end. Even that fills me with dread.) It might not look like it, but I have nurtured that plot and the plot has in turn nurtured me. This is not a relationship that I wish to end. It is not done yet.
Not all seeds need to be sown, you’ll get there. I had sown chilli seeds. There were three seedlings, and now I only have one. I did plan to sow some tomatoes at some point. Something is telling me to hold off.
Something is telling me to go back to the beginning.
Let people talk. Let them look at me and the plot, tut and shake their heads as the plot looks a bit forlorn. Yeah, it peeves me off and makes me feel about three inches high. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that was a Empire that had welly despite the harbingers. I remember the flowers, the fruit and the sheer joy that the plot has given me. I’ll get there again, and in spite of the pity, the huffs and the puffs.
I started GYO and allotmenteering as life was going wonky. The here and now is a similar wonky. So a return to the early days, is somewhat logical.
This is not going to be easy. I have an idea as to how physically demanding it will be. There will have to be time made-with the laws of physics-at the weekends. I am isolating weekends, with not all of Sunday being School-work Sunday. I do feel that it is possible and realise that there might be challenges.
The deal is this.
Let’s start again.
Ordinarily, I don’t like Valentine’s day. It’s all very much commercialized hearts and flowers; I would be at home, in a sulk and watching box sets.
Not this year.
I decided to stop with the sulking, fly solo and indulge in one of the many things that make me happy. I went to see Shakespeare.
Not just your average Shakespeare show, either. I saw a live relay of Twelfth Night. (MAC Birmingham, you are awesome as always; spending my childhood there, this was a welcome return visit.)
I am no stranger to Stratford-upon-Avon, and over the last three years I’ve watched quite a bit of the canon. Greg Doran et al have done a cracking good job. Sadly, I was a bit slow off the mark getting tickets for Twelfth Night in Stratford; so when news broke that it would be relayed live, I might have jumped a bit. Putting my membership of Sgt.Pepper’s lonely hearts club to one side, I forgot that it was booked for Valentines night.
The fact that Ade Edmondson was part of it, did rather make me smile. I grew up with re-runs of ‘The Young Ones’ and know of Bottom and Hotel Paradiso. I had intrigue as to how he might tread the boards. Beyond that, I went to the show with an open mind.
Thank goodness, I did!
I didn’t realise the Indian aspect of the production and the late Victorian setting. Two universes don’t collide per se, but merge and combine beautifully. The director and the costume designers have married these two concepts in a really rich, vibrant and effective way.
Then there is the cast.
In the last few years, there has been much said about the lack of BAME actors in theatre, in adaptations/productions of Shakespeare. This cast, was epic. I’ve yet to see an RSC production that isn’t diverse, doesn’t include BAME actors and doesn’t celebrate diversity. This production is more than Ade Edmonson’s Malvolio-he is truly extraodinary, though-there is a lady of Asian Ascent in a lead role-has been done before in midsummer’s night dream. The fool-Beruce Khan-is cracking good comic relief. Belch and Aguecheek need their own sitcom.
Twelfth night really is about love turning the world upside down. The themes of falling in love with the wrong person, the wrong person being in love with you, being wronged by love when people quite literally mess with your head-Poor Malvolio-then there is gender, identity and sexuality. Shakespeare toyed with topics that four hundred years later are still in debate.
Watching this show, I laughed; I forgot that it was Valentines day. Remembered, that I love Shakespeare, that it reflects the world that I live in. This was wonderfully crafted, yet simple and effective production. I’m glad that I saw it, I’m glad that the cast was diverse. Dinita Gohil is great as the disguised Viola and a true inspiration with Beruce Khan, who wouldn’t be out of place in a Bollywood GOT. These two cast members really stood out for me as inspiration for future generations of BAME actors who want a place on the Shakespearean Stage.
Twelfth night really was a cracking good show. Strongly recommend you watch it. That you love, laugh and live it.
One episode of Shakespeare down, two more to go.
You’ll have seen lots of recipes being experimented with on the blog, and the subsequent book. So playing with allotment produce is nothing new!
The fabulous folks at Waltons are looking for the most creative, most edible recipes of allotment recipes. Having harvested lots of courgettes, beans, raspberries and currants, Petal and I are glad to be of help.
Nothing quite like a competition to get those alloment produce juices flowing. Closing at 5pm on the 28th, why not enter, make a contribution? The prize is a garden storage unit worth £149, just like the one here: https://www.waltons.co.uk/4×3-overlap-osb-roof-floor and there are some great runners up prizes, too.
Plus, Waltons plan to publish an ebook of recipes, with all authors being credited. Sounds fab to me, have a go!
Click on the link below to enter.
You’ve not slept well; you’ve tossed and turned, the alarm goes off but you smack it very quickly. You get up, think about breakfast and the day you have ahead. The lessons are planned, you’ve taken your time doing so. You can do your job, you’ve been doing it ages, and you’re not that bad at it.
Only there is as spikey knot forming in your gut, your heart is racing and you’ve been walking around like Quasimodo as your body’s stress response gnarls at your back and shoulders. Sometimes it hurts to breath, but you are stubborn and soldier on. You want to eat, you have to eat; yet your appetite has disappared, and nothing quite hits the spot.
You feel sick, anxious and things just keep coming. It takes a supreme effort to take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, to get out the door and onto the road. No idea how you will get through the day, but lots of tea will help.
All the time, you think about this being done, that being done; not wanting to ask for help, not knowing who to ask, and things aren’t just grey, but black, brown and swirly. There are very few rays of sunshine, fleeting ones at that. When you get sunshine, you hold onto it, prize every single drop.
I now know when my smile begins to fade, I can recognise the quasimodo contortion that comes from tense muscles and being unable to breath as it hurts. I know the difference between my sloping walk and my purposeful James Bond swagger. I have slowly but surely, figured out my stress response and how anxiety can impact upon me. I refuse to let it all hold me down. There are rainbows to chase.
My allotment has helped, as has writing. Then there is the whole trained listener and trainee counselor thing too. Jigsaw pieces that over time, have started to fall together and helped me better understand my own mental health and that of others. There is just something about standing on the plot, drinking a cuppa as I smell the roses. The allotment has nurtured me, as much as I have nurtured it. I write, as it is a creative outlet; there is therapy too, to sit alongside all of this. It takes time, all of it, but I have found support, found the things that give my life colour to reduce strands of grey.
The statistic, is that one in four of us, will experience some form of poor mental health. There are further numbers about the difference in male and female health. These aren’t just numbers, these are frightening numbers.
Then there the social and cultural stigma. In some communities, the South Asian community being one of the, mental health is a taboo, swept under the carpet and talked about in hushed tones. This rather annoys me, angers me, that Mental health is not supported in a similar vein to physical health. Annoys me, that we have such negative, perjorative attitudes with blaming and shaming. It angers me, that there is a veil of both silence and ignorance.
Time to talk is making an effort to help turn this tide, there is also Head together. There needs to be further action, an increased awareness of Mental Health concerns. This is not a one-da job, this is going to take time. What we need is an impetus, a movement, of people talking, supporting one another and coming together with a common aim.
Mental health is difficult to put into a box, we all experiene it differently. It’s not easy to talk about, and makes people uncomfortable.
For futher information on the campaign.
It is live, and has been for two days.
I spent the week leading up to release day, pacing up and down, trying to keep sane. This is the fourth book that I have self-published in four years, but the anxiety doesn’t get any less with each one. There are two other occasions I have felt this nervous. The first, when I paced up and down the night before my A-level Philosophy and Ethics exams. The second, when in 2012, Mama had emergency surgery. Previously, I have stated how this book is different compared to what I have written before, and it felt different writing it.
With that process, I am embracing the different. You wouldn’t believe it, but even Alan Titchmarh et al don’t write exclusively about gardening.
If we all had the same book list, shelf or idea, there’d be nothing to make us sit up and pay attention. There would be a monotonous sense of status quo, that didn’t offer development, growth and rather inhibited any sense of adventure.
There will be no spoilers about the book, we have had teasers. If you want to know about Devan Coultrie, how he ends up in Peace, you will have to go find him. In Great Britain, that will cost you less than a pound. Across the globe, it is in equivalent currencies.
Devan Coultrie is one of Peace, Montana’s newest residents. He lives, slap bang, in the middle someplace.
So, after much anticipation, Devan Coultrie exists as a proper fictional character and not just as a figment of my imagination. He is no longer a series of inky, black, purple and green paragraphs; the back to back cups of tea and assorted versions of ‘Jolene’ have done their thing. Honestly, ‘Jolene’ is the de-facto theme tune to this book. I had Dolly and Pentatonix on loop for every single step. Right now, Cyndi Lauper and ‘At last’ is bouncing across the kitchen tiles and feels rather apt.
You can now await with eagerness, the next two titles. They are both fabulous, and allow Peace to blossom even more.
As you can see, the town of Peace is growing with a very interesting set of denizens milling about it’s boardwalk. I guess that in the same way you have Pokemon, you might want to catch them all. These series will continue to swell until the late summer; there is still lots in store for readers. Something for everyone, would describe this series really well.
So what does this mean for my future writing endeavours?
I do have things to write, two things have my focus and will occupy my for the rest of 2018. There will also be a return to gardening, I have three baby chillies on the window sill.
In three days time, Retreating to Peace goes live. My contribution to the Peace Series of Novellas will finally be out there, and available to be read. Over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on the whys, wherefores, whathaveyou’s of having written it.
When first undertaking this writing project, it was a case of why not, what have I possibly got to lose? This could be a really useful learning experience, you might actually get something out of this. I had finished Fragments, and I felt a little listless; I needed to write something else to fill the void left behind.
Having never written a romance before, this was taking a plunge and then some.
In being accepted to participate, I had to then come up with something; I needed an idea! There had be something, that would be plausible with the premise of a fictional town called Peace in Montana.
I had to think about my own perceptions, experiences, my understanding of fiction, and also the genre of contemporary fiction.What immediately struck me, was how about writing a character that had an Indian background, or a part Indian background. I don’t recall reading a romance, where there was character from a BAME background.
There is BAME literature; it is rich, vibrant and under-rated. It can be found, and it offers a really good insight into realms within literature that are otherwise undiscovered. I dare you to read something by Meera Syal, by Satnam Sanghera, go find Benjamin Zephaniah; read something you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t.
Writing this novella, was about extending horizons, creating awareness and sharing. Sharing and also celebrating diversity. There was also some rebellion in there, in not wanting to write something of a Bollywood drama.
With Retreating to Peace, I have resisted the urge to call it a Bollywood drama. This book is nothing like the telenovellas with all of the Levi Strauss token characters, interesting camera angles and doof doof soundtrack. It does, however, borrow cultural elements that I am aware, that I have experienced within my universe. Even the short-stories that have been Seasonal Peace Spin offs, have had some Indian cultural element in them. I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwali story, and sharing what Diwali means to me, to the characters that I have developed.
What I didn’t want, was to write a novella that echoed what is expected, thought of as being in a Bollywood movie. Whilst writing, I read ‘Devdas’, and recall wanting to throttle the characters whilst trying to process the social, historical and cultural issues raised. I have seen the film, the one with Shah Rukh Khan and not one of the other 13 versions made by Bollywood. I had wanted to read this for years, and it was a real eye opener to eventually do so.
I convinced myself, and felt quite vehement; I didn’t want to write a Bollywood movie in a book. There are no dance numbers or sparkles in this book, sorry, but but no.
When looking at the cover, I remember trawling through images trying to find something, trying to find someone that corresponded to the description and presence of Devan Coultrie and Aditi Rao. (This really was a challenge, and already strained my view of not putting people on the cover.) I found myself re-thinking, questioning what my perception and understanding was of diversity. A process that I had already gone through to some extent when developing Fragments, only it was a bit more focused this time. Diversity in writing, reflecting real life and the society that I live in, matters to me and in turn impacts upon what I produce.
I was really quite glad when the marketing team came up with a teaser that rather made me smile! Looks altogether quite glamorous really.
I enjoyed writing and developing Retreating to Peace, and truly appreciative of being accepted into the project. I did want to write something different, and this is definitely different compared to the gardening books and also Fragments.
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