Books, Writing

Ignorance and Fear

According to Pen America, there are currently more than 1,100 titles banned or facing a ban across the USA.

Let’s be clear on this. Not only is it a reprehensible move by the far right to censor childrens’ and young peoples’ education, but it holds a mirror up to their own twisted ideology. The idea that censoring material because it will “corrupt” young minds is a smokescreen for the real purpose: To push an ideological view of America shaped by ultra-conservative views of bigotry, hate, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and Christian zealotry.

What are the most commonly cited reasons for censorship?

  • Race – obviously, racism shouldn’t be encouraged, but a book that shines a light on racism and its wider impact should be considered essential reading. For that reason, I can thoroughly recommend The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
  • Witchcraft/The Occult – massively misunderstood (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?) practises with both good and bad elements. Books such as the Harry Potter series are seen as promoting occult practises and attacking religion.
  • Sex – in particular, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, sexual abuse, anything on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Do these censors honestly believe a book can turn a straight child gay or question their gender? I’ve got news for them, kids already are. I’ve read loads of LGBTQ+ stories, a particular favourite is The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. It’s absolutely beautiful.
  • Sociopolitical – challenging the political system, encouraging rebellion, anti-capitalist, drug use, violence, poverty, profanity. If a book makes you think about the unfairness of the current system, question the divide between rich and poor, spotlights the destructive consequences of drug use, then those are good things.

I have a question for those in favour of censorship: What on Earth is it that you are so scared of?

Because this is what it boils down to – fear.

To quote Yoda – Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

I would go one further, and add that ignorance feeds the fear to begin with. By not educating themselves on issues that many of these books address, the censors are perpetuating this myth that kids will become corrupt, that they’ll turn gay, trans, take drugs, paint pentagrams on the floor, etc.

If that was the case, I and many others have been doomed for a long time. Next year, I turn 50, and I have read horror, fantasy fiction, sci-fi, classics, chick lit, LGBTQ+, thrillers, dystopia and general fiction. Books are my most favourite thing in the world, I love them, I love reading. I love diving into stories, and going on amazing adventures. Books have fed and continue to feed my imagination. They have saved me during dark times, comforted me, made me cry, made me laugh, kept me on the edge of my seat, or up until the small hours.

Banned books I have read:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Not exhaustive, and may not be outright banned countrywide, but I wouldn’t say that these were corrupting. I actually found 1984 to be a boring and labourious read!

My advice to anyone reading this, concerned about the book ban is to defy it. Read those banned books, let your kids read them, let them make up their own minds. Kids are not stupid, and they deserve better than to have a bunch of narrow minded adults censoring their education. THAT is what will corrupt them. Not books.

Life, Mental Health, Writing

2021 So Far, So…

If 2020 was the annus horribilis, then 2021 is shaping up to be the annus phaulia (courtesy of Google translate, forgive any etymological oversight).

If you’ve kept up with my blog, you’ll remember back in January, I had a breakdown, resulting in me taking almost two months off work, popping the happy pills, and signing up to an online CBT course.

I returned to work full time a few weeks ago, the pills seem to be working their magic, and the CBT course is proving to be very useful. There was, it turned out, light at the end of the tunnel after all. I am in a much happier place, and feeling a lot better. I must mention the fantastic care I’ve received from the NHS’ Mental Health services (severely underfunded and understaffed). If it wasn’t for having access to the service, I’d be in a straitjacket . We in the U.K. have a responsibility to fight tooth and nail for our wonderful NHS.

I digress…

My writing mojo made a reappearance! After months of languishing in the doldrums, my half hearted attempts at editing Horizon Skies almost put paid to me ever getting the damn thing back out there. During the last few weeks of my sick leave, I not only started editing properly again, but came up with some new ideas for the novel. I have worked out more backstory for book two, added in some interludes, put more detail in around the magic system, and tightened up elements of the plot. I’m really happy with the latest progress, and my aim now is to send the second round of queries out in the first week of May.

On a sorrowful note, my boyfriend lost his father to leukaemia on the 18th March. Pete’s dad fought a long, hard battle with the disease, and never truly let on to us the extent to which he was suffering. He was 79 when he died, which is a great age, but there is still a sense that he was robbed of a full life. He was robust, active, and always cheerful; were it not for the illness, I believe he would have had another good 10 years in him.

Grief is a strange emotion, and we all process it in different ways. With the difficulty of the last few weeks behind us, we can now start to move on, and work on healing. I’m enthusiastic about my writing, and have tried to do as much as I can so I can put the final draft of Horizon Skies together.

I’ve also given Instagram a second chance. I could never get on with it before; too many ads, spam messages from profiles I wasn’t interested in, and the inability to share posts a lá Twitter. However Twitter has become incredibly toxic, and I’m tired of seeing so many negative trends and events. I’ve discovered with Instagram, that I can avoid all that as my account is geared purely towards my passion for books. It is quite difficult to gain followers though, and takes a bit more work (hashtag the hell out of every post!), but quality over quantity is more important.

Watch this space!

Books, Writing

Progress on Horizon Skies

The other day, I reached something of a milestone in the progress of my novel Horizon Skies.

Chapter 20.

Ok, I realise some of you will be thinking, “how is that a milestone?”

For anyone who has known me throughout my life, they will know that as I’ve been writing on and off for decades with nothing to show for it this is indeed, a momentous achievement. It means that for the first time in realising one of my ambitions I am actually sticking to the plan and getting it done.

My problem in the past has always been developing the story beyond its initial beginning. The ideas are always there, I can picture it in my mind’s eye but developing it on paper had always been difficult. I would find the story unravelling, like watching a thread pulled loose in a piece of fabric. My characters would meander, I could never work out how to weave elements together and this would always lead to me abandoning the manuscript and forgetting about it until I felt inspiration strike again.

This time, however, I have noticed a definite trend in a lot of books I have read which I believe has really helped me with my writing.

The dedication of a chapter per character is a brilliant writing skill. Not only does that character develop entirely within their own universe but there’s room for their back story and room for them to breathe within the pages. I’ve noticed it with a lot of writers (Morgan Rhodes and Trudi Canavan for example) and I find it provides a definitive line between each character’s story until such time as their destinies bring them together.

This is the approach I’ve taken with my story. I have five central characters, two of whom are thrown together fairly early on but it’s not until I’ve reached this final part of the story that I’m now at the stage of being able to bring them together which will move the story towards its finale and set the scene for the sequel.

I’m very excited about this; I look back through my scribblings and notes, little doodles in my notebook and feel I’ve done myself proud. When the book is finished I can get to editing and fine tuning and then take the next step on my journey as a writer 🙂


Books Books Books

One of the reasons I love writing is because I love reading and I want to be able to get all the fantasy residing in my head down onto paper and share it with the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a professional writer, I am not published and so far only have this blog and one short story to show for my efforts but that doesn’t stop me from pursuing this most rewarding of pastimes.

I say pastime because to do all the things I want to do, I am not yet in the position to be able to give up my 9-5 and live the life of an accomplished writer.

Books to me are like paintings to an art lover. They are objects of abject beauty and deep mystery. It is through the written word that we can explore life through the eyes of another from the comfort of our favourite squishy armchair. Is there anything better than sitting inside on a cold, wet day; cup of coffee in hand, a cat snoozing on the sofa next to you and some old black and white movie on in the background as you read your latest treasured novel? I absolutely love days like that!

I currently have four books on my bedside table. The Shepherd’s Crown by the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas, Game of Thrones by George RR Martin and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by the wonderful Patrick Ness. So many words, all the time in the world.

If I can ever come close to producing anything as good as the books on my bookshelves I will be a happy woman. I have those writers and so many more from childhood who have taught me so much and taken me to places that can only exist courtesy of an imagination so rich that to not go there would be to miss out on an exquisite experience.


Bittersweet Gifts

On the 12th March, 2015, my literary hero, Sir Terry Pratchett succumbed to the Alzheimers which had been slowly leeching his life away since his first diagnosis some years earlier.

I honestly believed; as I’m sure so many others did, that Sir Terry would be around for a lot longer. I dreaded the day he would no longer be able to write. The idea of him actually dying was something I couldn’t really get to grips with and six months on, I’m still mourning his loss.

My first foray into Discworld was around the age of 16. My dad, always a keen supporter of our local library, one day brought home The Colour of Magic. Unable to get on with the writing style, the book was passed to me and so, a new Pratchett fan was born. It was 1989, the year Pyramids and Guards! Guards! were published. I had a lot to catch up on.

I’ve always loved how Sir Terry could take a modern world phenomenon, event or catastrophe and adapt a story to it. Parodying anything and everything from football (Unseen Academicals) to the movies (Moving Pictures) opera music (Maskerade) and even the discovery of a new country (The Last Continent).

His characters represent so many aspects of the human psyche, cleverly disguised as witches, wizards, money men, police, Igors, Golems; even that monstrously clever dictator of Ankh-Morpork Lord Vetinari, but the writing is so sublime that the parallels are subtle.

Sir Terry was able to provide a viewpoint without ramming it down the reader’s throat.

Yesterday, my copy of the Shepherd’s Crown arrived in the post. A new Pratchett always used to be an exciting time for me, I behold his books with such reverence that to finally have the very last book caused tears to spring forth and by the time I read the dedication, I was a mess.

Writing this now brings a lump to my throat.

I’ve never been one for things like conventions and fandom get togethers but now I really do wish I’d gone to at least one to connect with other fans who love Sir Terry as much as I do.

I was very lucky to meet him once, at a book signing in my old hometown Southampton. The bookshop itself no longer exists but after queuing for hours, down the stairs he came. Dressed in a safari suit and minus his now famous hat, Sir Terry was smaller than I imagined but exuded oodles of personality,  was well spoken and articulate. He reminded me of a dotty professor type from some dusty university somewhere and probably would have fit in very well at Unseen University itself.

“Grace, the Turtle moves!” he wrote and signed “Terry Pratchett” with a flourish.

I must admit to being rather shy and speechless at the signing, pausing only to speak my name whereas others were engaging him in conversation and getting him to sign not only books but Discworld mementos, figurines and suchlike.

And so it is now, that with the last ever Discworld offering in my hands that I embark on the final story and say goodbye to so many beloved characters. I cannot name them all but if it weren’t for Rincewind, the Luggage, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Sam Vimes, Death, Captain Carrot, Lord Vetinari, Tiffany Aching as well as non-Discworld characters such as Johnny, Maurice, Dodger and Mau I would have missed out on an incredible journey that has enriched my life and taken me to places I could never otherwise visit.

For that, I only have one thing left to say.


xGranny WeatherwaxShepherd's Crown