Shades of the Supernatural: Tippling Tales at @GunmakersBrum

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On the 25th February 2019, The Gunmakers Arms, Birmingham plays hosts to an evening  of story telling. With shades of the supernatural, a whole armada of local authors will be sharing their creative works.

Guess who will part of the line up!

*AA Abbott: writer of crime thrillers set in Birmingham

* Ali AElsey: Kings Heath author, singer and songwriter

* Billy Babu: Wolverhampton wordsmith who combines the magic of the east with traditional English fairytales

* Dawn Bolton: author of fantasy, suspense & romantic fiction

* Darren Di Toni: sci-fi, fantasy and horror writer * Philip Ellis: Birmingham style journalist and mesmerising short story writer

* Punam Farmah: gardener turned ghost story writer

* Pat Spence: acclaimed West Midlands writer of women’s fiction, fantasy and horror, and stand-up comedy

* Martin Tracey: proud Brummie, who weaves scenes from the second city into his stories of supernatural suspense

* Dennis Zaslona: thriller, fantasy and ghost story writer

You can get tickets here.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to A.A.Abbott, for having invited me to attend. This is my first, proper, official author event!  I will be reading from Postcards From Peace, which is scheduled for release on the 22nd March.  Postcards From Peace is a series of short stories that follows on from Retreating to Peace: A Peace Series Novella.

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Beyond that one day

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A couple of weeks ago, I was in the supermarket. There was baby stuff event and the merchandising sat next to various bits and pieces for Valentine’s day. I chuckled, there was a wonderfully funny link between the two. The Feast of Saint Valentine, the annual celebration, of all things hearts and flowers; you can’t miss it. There is merchandising as soon as Christmas is over.

There is an immense power in this run up. It can make you feel overjoyed, positively ecstatic if you are well and truly in love. There is the sadness, pain and feelings of being something of a social pariah if you aren’t. There is also being apathetic about it, not having any opinion on it. All of these perfectly valid.

However, there is an onus pick a camp and stay in it.

For years, I have had a dislike of February; a dislike of the fourteenth day, that is slap bang in the middle of month and unavoidable.  It has taken me a long time to understand why I have felt like this, how I might change that way of feeling and also accept how I really feel about what is effectively a massive great big marketing campaign entrenched in socially constructed gender politics.

This may well come across as a rant, and I guess in part it is. It is not, a woe is me, what is wrong with me, sort of diatribe. The latter, is the complete anti-thesis of my perspective.

I’ve grown up with the ideology and cultural values that by the time you’ve gone to school, you graduate, get a job and get married. Getting married, happens to everyone, you then produce kids. The notions of love, romance and relationships are manipulated and there is an expectation of everyone following a very linear, very much pre-determined path. This does mean, that by 25 and 30, you’ve been to a lot of bollywood weddings, heard in the following year that the bride is not expecting and then had eyes made at you, signalling that you are next.

But what if you’re not?

I’ve had those eyes made at me, and it is soul destroying. I’ve even been asked why I can’t find someone, what could possibly be wrong with me? Trust me, I raged for days, took it to therapy and wrestled with introjects that ares so deep-rooted within cultural norms and values, I decided enough was enough.

I’m doing my best to buck a massive trend. I should in theory, be married, have two and half kids, and be settled. I’m not trying to avoid the linear strand of expectations; no, I’m just re-arranging the tracks a little.  I’m trying to do what makes me happy, allows me to nurture my own actualising tendency, and consider my own valuing process.

Valentine is an introject, it has become an normalised part of that linear experience. That’s part of why I’ve found it all uncomfortable.

Just because everyone else is loved up, it’s okay if I’m not. I’m okay with it. I don’t need someone else to complete me, to be my better half. I don’t see why I have to dangle off someone else’s arm, or have someone else dangle off mine, to be perfectly honest. I’ve got to some level of acceptance; I’m okay with being single-don’t assume I’m alone, that’s different-the world will recognise that when it is ready.

Single woman are stigmatised for not being part of a duo; our value diminishes and is only increased when in the company of others. Our individuality, assertiveness and autonomy is considered to be defiance, to be disrespectful and contrary to the norm. As though we need a counter-weight and counterfoil to validate who we are. A single woman is a threat to the status-quo and that just won’t do.

I am enough. I have a lot about me-she types, oh so modestly-in my own right, to help me feel content. No one other person, should be needed an auxiliary or an accessory to contribute to my self concept, self image and self worth.

Yet, apparently, I need a boyfriend/husband to do what I do, to go wherever I go.

Above, you will see two images. The first, is me having a laugh; a plastic sword and an out-sized lid for a pan. One of my colleagues reckons I look a lot like a shield-maiden in that image.  Second. I am in Amsterdam, on something of an adventure and wondering where to adventure next.  The two images, in  my mind at least, sum up how I feel right now.

There has been a lot reflection to get that far.

The number of times I have heard the following, or words to this effect:

  1. You’re here by yourself?
  2. Where is your husband/boyfriend?
  3. Who you going with, you’re not going by yourself are you?
  4. You really should take someone with you.
  5. Oh, I’d never go by myself
  6. You should get your parents to put on your matrimonial list (This was interesting-the time of my birth, my height, my qualifications. whether I was a meat-eater, all factored in, and before I so much as got in touch with the candidate..I mean, suitor. The best response ever….We were looking for a doctor, not a teacher.)
  7. Have you tried online? (Oh, please, that’s weird window shopping and then some…swipe, swipe, swipe….)

I have also be told :

  1. It’ll happen when it is supposed to.
  2. Yeah, but being married/in a relationship, isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
  3. You’re still young!
  4. Oh, I didn’t get married until I was X, Y, Z years  old

I used the word perspective above. I do feel that this is important, given my how I’ve been raised, how I have experience the world and what I am continually learning about myself. Bend it like Beckham, East is East have a lot to flaming well answer for.

The next time, that a relative asks me, why aren’t you married, what is wrong with me, I’m not sure what I might say. I would like to have to the audacity, the bravery, to ask what this means for them, why is my relationship status so important to them? I know, that it is important for them. That in their world, we are all neatly paired up, there are babies and all is well.  For now, I will remain stoic -‘It will happen when it happens; when I find someone, what will be, will be.’ Any other response, would most likely get me labelled and ‘told off.’

The key is, knowing what I want, and how this is different. I can recognise and respect the difference. It is not up to them, how I do things, when and with whomever I might find. I might even cite Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone. Two Bollywood starlets who dared to defy convention.

I do think my animosity towards the feast of Saint Valentines has reduced somewhat. It’s cute, glittery; there are roses everywhere. I can grow my own roses, proper special ones at that, so I will shake my head at the air miles, as how they might not last more than a few days. Mine, last up to weeks, and the joy they elicits lasts longer too.

Thursday will come. I will go to work, come home, do what I do any other day of the week. The love, will be the love I have  myself; a love centred on acceptance of me being me.

Whatever you do, where ever you are and with whomever, have a good one.

Read…never mind the romance

It’s February, so the world and his wife is obsessed with hearts and flowers. With the feast of St.Valentines slap bang in the middle of the month, it’s impossible to move for commercialism.

Most years, I have an Anti-valentines plan. Something, that I can do solo, enjoy and not feel compelled to feel bad for not having a significant other. One year, there was pizza, Pinot Grigio and I think the Brit awards were on….even watched Down with Love.

Last year, I saw a live relay of Twelfth night; by far the best Valentine’s night I have ever had! This year, it is most likely to be book, blankey and junk food. Though a certain streaming service does have an Eric Bana show on that I do rather like the look of; I will watch anything with that man in. (Yet to watch love the beast, and Romulus, My father; both on the list.)

So, books. I will probably be curled up with one about the Medici’s-research, of a sort. Funnily enough, there’s romance, sex and intrigue in that too.

You know, it’s okay not to have a date on Valentine’s day. No one say’s you have to, and enjoying your own company is severely underrated. Plus, the day before and the day after-what I call the heartbreak days-are the one’s where folk’s need understanding the most.

I’ve been thinking, therefore. As cynical as I might be, I’ve written stuff with hearts and flowers in.  Despite its over arching themes of grief, loss and bereavement, Fragments is actually quite hopeful. There is romance in there; Lydia and Matthew, with Albie and Lilly are probably the most standout examples. Retreating to Peace, is a contemporary romance, with Devan Coultrie eventually being loved. Kangana, is a romance with characters of Indian ascent, but not your average Bollywood drama. It deliberately has a rainbow cover, and Arjun’s story is a thread that is really important.

In a few weeks, Retreating to Peace will be joined by it’s follow up. That you will have to keep an eye out for. There will be pre-order stuff, very soon.

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Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

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Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

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I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Postcard from Peace @Peacenovella

In Retreating to Peace, Devan Coultrie moved kit and caboodle to Montana. Before long, he was joined by Aditi Rao. Their history laid the foundations for a rosy future together. Devan now calls Peace home and his life has become eventful.

This collection of short stories sees his family visit, his romance with Aditi develop further and his dreams in Peace blossom.

Devan Coultrie’s life in Peace is a picture postcard with more to it than meets the eye.

So here we have it.

The title and cover for Book six is officially revealed. I knew that Devan Coultrie and I were far from over; there was more to him than meets the eye! It is just over a year since Retreating to Peace was published and I’ve been sitting on this ever since.

This is a series of short stories that builds on what we already know, answer some questions and also fills Devan Coultrie out a little more. There are some new faces in this book, with cameos from folks from the rest of the Peace Novella Series. I couldn’t possibly have written this book without make reference to the rest of the town.

I can confirm that Devan still has his ox-blood Dockers. They are after all, a big part of his being. He now has a job, a sense of purpose and is making Peace his home.

Then there is Aditi Rao.

If you’ve read RTP, you will know what happens as far as she is concerned.

However, hold that thought.

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And another thing.

This aint over…..