Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Eve Miracle

A Happy Christmas to all my Lovely Readers both old and new.  Thank you for sticking with me this year, for reading and commenting on my mad and eccentric posts in such a lively and informed way, for all the support you have given this blog by voting for it in the Author Blog Awards, and for general amazingness.  I'm most grateful! I'm off for a break now, but I'll be back with you in the New Year.  Meanwhile, here's a Christmas story for you. I hope you like it. 
Christmas Eve Miracle
The room was very quiet. She could hear the hushed bustle of the night nurses in the corridor outside, but she knew they wouldn’t come in. She’d had her cocoa, had her pills. They’d leave her to sleep—or not—till early morning. There was nothing else they could do for her, after all. She looked out of the window where she could just see the cross on the rounded dome of St Paul’s, outlined against the festive glow of the London sky. She found it comforting. It had been there a long time, seen every kind of suffering, survived intact. She sighed. She was not going to survive, it seemed. But she’d bloody well fight anyway.

She remembered the morning, two weeks before, when she had walked into the oncologist’s office. The children and Daniel had been outside, waiting; a solid bulwark of love. But she’d wanted to hear this news on her own.

“I’m sorry, Glorianna,” he’d said. “It’s not good. It’s spread to your lungs and liver very fast.” She wasn’t surprised, and had said so. Her breathing hadn’t felt right for a while now, and even the kids had noticed the yellow eyes. She’d joked about eating too much custard, but they weren’t stupid. Not her kids. Then he’d dropped the bombshell of hope.

“There is a new treatment. It’s very experimental—from Canada. We don’t know if it will work. But it’s your only chance. It would mean being in Bart’s over Christmas though….”

Hope is a funny thing, she thought. Without it, you have no choices, everything is grey, and you just have to get through to the inevitable end as best you can. But with it—with even a tiny drop of it—the world of possibility wakes in full colour, and you can start to dream again in a way that makes your heart beat faster with maybes. She’d discussed it briefly with Daniel and the kids, not wanting to spoil what they all knew was probably the last Christmas they’d ever have together. But Daniel had been adamant.

“Any chance is better than nothing, love. You’ve got to go for it. We’ll just bring our Christmas to the hospital, that’s all.”

So here she was. Christmas Eve. She didn’t think the experiment was working, and the new drugs had made the tiny bit of hair she had left fall out, which was a bummer, because baldness was not in fashion this year. But she had to go on trying and hoping. It was the only weapon she had. The quarter bells of St Paul’s tolled out the time. Bingbong, bingbong, bingbong. Only fifteen minutes to go, and it would be Christmas Day.

The door opened softly, and closed behind the person who had come in. She couldn’t see him properly. The room was lit only by the light from outside, and the green glow of the monitors. But it appeared to be a man, dressed in white scrubs. His name badge hung down from the breast pocket, obscured.

“Hello, Glorianna,” he said. “I thought you might like some company.” His voice was very soft, gentle, accented slightly. Middle East somewhere, she thought. He came over to the bed and sat down on the end, careful not to joggle her battered, tender body. He had longish brown hair, tied tidily into a ponytail under his theatre hat, and a short, neat beard.

“Haven’t seen you before,” she croaked. Her bloody voice was going too, then. She cleared her throat, impatient with it suddenly. “You just on for the Christmas shift?”

“Yes, just for Christmas,” he said. “I like the peace on the wards. Is there anything I can do for you while I’m here?”

“What, apart from a Christmas miracle cure?” she asked. “That would be good.” She was proud of keeping her sense of humour. She found it helped other people feel better about what was happening to her.

He laughed. It was a nice laugh, made her feel more cheerful all of a sudden.

“It’s snowing,” he said. “That’s a miracle if you like. It never snows in London at Christmas. The bookies will be furious.” She squinted over at the window and gasped with pleasure. He was right. Big, fat flakes of proper snow were falling, fluffy and white against the glass.

“Take me over there,” she said. “Let me look properly. Please.” Manners were important, even if you were dying, she thought. He got up and fetched the wheelchair from the corner. Gently, he helped her sit up, swing her legs over the edge, moved the drip so she could drop into the chair without getting tangled up. “Ooh,” she said as his hands swam past her blurry vision. “What have you done to yourself?” The backs and fronts of both were covered in square, white gauze dressings.

“Just a little accident with some nails,” he said. “Doesn’t hurt anymore, just a bit messy to look at.”

He wheeled her over to the long window. It was a first floor room with a little balcony outside. They’d let her have a room to herself—it was a lonely luxury. The snow was falling faster now, and the ground below was already nearly covered with a white rug She looked and looked. It was beautiful.

“Did you know that each flake is different?” she asked him. “God must be pretty amazing to have thought that one up, don’t you think.”

“I do,” he said. “And He is.”

Suddenly a pigeon landed on the rail, then another, then another. Fast and furious they came, wings whirling in the snowstorm, until the rail was heaving with swaying bird shapes. Glorianna opened her mouth to speak, but then shut it again. The sparrows had started to arrive now, squeezing between the pigeons, chirping and squabbling, fighting like the warriors they were. Her visitor laid his hurt hands on her shoulders. She felt their warmth, like healing honey dripping into her bones. She closed her eyes, drinking it in. Then she opened them again, as she heard a muffled miaow.

Now it was the cats’ turn. Slinking and squirming, they lined up in rows, unblinking slanted eyes trained on the man behind her. Grey ones, tabby ones, tattered ears, scars, stripes, orange, white, black, and everything in between.

“Whatever…?” she stammered. But the pressure of those warm honey hands sent her back into silence, just as the mice and rats appeared. Bootbutton eyes, twitching whiskers, a sea of intertwined tails and noses, and sharp, yellow teeth sat on the windowsill. The cats didn’t move a muscle. Glorianna strained her eyes to look at the ground below. It was now covered with fur and a general wagging which sent the snow into joyous flurries of white. A puppy let out a single high yelp, but was cuffed by its neighbour immediately into silence.

BONG! BONG! Great Tom started to sound the hour of midnight from the south-west tower of St Paul’s. As the last chime echoed into stillness, the animals bowed their heads, knelt, worshipped. Glorianna too slipped forward onto her knees. It was physically impossible for her to do so now, in her weakened state, so she must be dreaming, she thought. But it was a good dream, a dream she didn’t want to end.

“Please,” she prayed fiercely. “Oh God, please.” It was a formless entreaty, made many times before, but this time, with those hands on her shoulders, she knew she was being listened to. She offered up her great love for every bit of her life on this wonderful, flawed, generous earth. The long journey from Jamaica with Mam and Pop. The first cold winter, school, her marriage to Daniel, the births of Jasmyn, Dillan and Joel. She offered her cancer, her anger, her fear. She offered everything and hoped it would be enough. Because now it was Christmas Day, and she’d already seen two miracles. Surely a third wasn’t too much to ask.

When she opened her eyes again, it was nearly daylight, she was back in bed, and her friend of the night had gone. A new nurse was standing there, replacing the drip bag.

“Happy Christmas,” she said. “Look, it’s snowed!” When she’d done what needed doing and left, Glorianna cautiously eased herself out of bed. The window seemed a long way to go on her own, but she made it by leaning on the dripstand. The balcony outside was empty now, but by peering hard, she could see a few feathers and tufts of fur in the snow. The whiteness was also pocked and marked with small prints and lines where tails might have whisked through it. Glorianna pinched herself. It hurt. She was awake. It had been real. And she was going to live. She knew that as certainly as if it was written on the glass in front of her.

“Thank you,” she whispered to the cross on the dome. A man in the courtyard below stopped walking and looked up at her. He had long brown hair and a neat beard. He raised a hand to her in greeting. The palm and back of it were covered in square white dressings. Then he walked around the corner and was lost to sight.

I was asked to write this story for Cancer Research, and it was first published in the concert programme for their 2008 fundraising carol service at St Paul's Cathedral. It is dedicated to the memory of my sister, Gloria, who died of cancer in December 2001.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Great British Books Challenge 2011

Some of you may already read The Bookette's blog.  If you don't I'm delighted to introduce you. Becky, meet Scribble City Central--Scribble City Central meet Becky.  See what a polite blog I run!
Here are three crucial Bookette facts:
  1. She's a UK school librarian (librarians are FAB!)
  2. She's addicted to YA books and reading in general. (And who here isn't?)
  3. She drinks A LOT of tea.  (Tea is the Elixir of Life to us Brits).
and here she is:

And now Bookette Becky has set up a booky challenge for us booky bloggers.  I like a good challenge, so I signed up at once to her
All I have to do is read and review ONE book by a British author once a month, thus equalling 12 books in the year.  How hard can that be?  So come January, look out for the first of my reviews.  I'm going to start by considering Marcus Sedgwick's vampire book, My Swordhand is Singing,

and then move on to John Dickinson's foray into sci-fi thrillerdom, WE.  After that, you'll have to wait and see, because I don't yet know what delicious YA and children's book Britishness awaits me next year. 
It's going to be fun, and I'm hoping to have some nice surprises for you...not saying any more than that now.  Possess your souls in patience, Lovely Readers!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Library Emergency - The Unkindest Cuts of All

'Who Uses Libraries?', asks Keren David in today's excellent blogpost over on Almost True.  And then she gives a hauntingly all-encompassing list which I urge you to read for yourselves.  In case you hadn't heard or noticed, the UK's libraries are under threat again from cuts.  As Keren says, 'there are those who think that libraries are a soft target', and there are also 'Government ministers who won't protect libraries...because budgets are easier to cut than bankers' bonuses'.  These things are indeed sadly true, but we don't have to accept them as final, nor give in to apathy and despair. 


Before the General Election, our current Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey was vociferous in his support for libraries and against the library closures he called 'cost-driven vandalism'.  Only last February, in a talk to the Society of Bookmen he promised that the Tories would commit themselves to providing 'a first-class library service'.  Where is his passion for libraries now?  In Oxfordshire alone (where Vaizey's Wantage and Didcot constituency lies) no less than 20 libraries are threatened with closure, and they are not the only ones. Libraries everywhere are facing the chop. So, it seems that Vaizey's passion has metamorphosed into a sharp and two-faced cutting axe.

All over Britain, more and more authors are speaking out in public with loud and angry voices about the importance of libraries and the idiocy of closing them.  We are blogging, writing articles, writing to newspapers and MP's, signing open letters and doing all we can to raise public awareness.  Books are a lifeline, an escape, an education--easy access to them via local libraries should be a basic right for all, and most especially for the next generation. 

So I urge you now, if you are passionate about books, reading, learning, education, then join us.  Spread the word.  Make your own angry voices heard in every arena.   Join the Campaign for the Book, run by the wonderful and tireless Alan Gibbons. Because if the libraries go, they won't return.  And that would be a tragedy for all of us. 

PS: For those of you on Twitter, there's now a brand new #CFTB hashtag for Campaign for the Book, and if you wanted to let @edvaizey or @Jeremy_Hunt of the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport know how you feel directly, then please use it to do so.  Let's make this a trending topic for the UK, people. 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

SCBWI Conference 2010 - How to Sell Your Book on the Internet (Part 4)

This is what I said about Part 4 at the end of Part 3....

"It will involve the first of the social networking bits of the 'selling-your-books-and-your- author-self' platform. I know this will be terrifying for a lot of people—and I should warn you now, it will eat your soul if you let it! Mwahahaha!" (Sorry about the demonic laughter--it gets away from me sometimes.)

Are you terrified yet?  Because I'm going to take you into the scary soul-eating area that is


If I had a pound for every person who's asked me ‘what’s the point of Twitter?’ I would be able to buy myself several designer handbags, and probably outfits and shoes to go with them. From my own point of view, I can tell you that I have made more contacts, got more author gigs and generally found more useful stuff on Twitter than anywhere else on the internet. There is a whole community of reviewers, agents, authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, publishers both digital and paper, journalists, parents, and readers all in a great, glorious global mix.  Here's what my bright and cheery profile page looks like. As you can see, the background is the cover of one of my books, Hootcat Hill.  Subliminal marketing, if you like.

But the real question you want me to answer here is:
does Twitter sell your books? 
Well, just think about this for a moment:
My Twitter account puts me in contact with people in all areas of the book world and beyond including those all important book buyers
That's a selling tool with pretty amazing potential, I reckon. 
So how can you capitalise on that as an author? There are really only two important rules to remember as far as selling your books on Twitter is concerned:
  • What Twitter is NOT is a direct marketing tool. So you can’t go putting ‘Buy my books Buy my books’ on it every day—the ‘me me me’ author is an absolute no no—you will alienate follower people immediately by doing that. So don't.
  • What Twitter is is a place for mentioning stuff casually, as in a conversation. I’ve bought lots and lots of books through Twitter recommendations or links—and I know I’ve sold many many copies of my own (including in markets like America and Australia where I’m not yet directly published with my current series) through just those casual mentions of something that I’ve been doing, or a review link, or a link to this blog, or just because someone is interested in me as an author. And for every person who has told me directly that they’ve bought a book, you can be sure there are others who are doing and not saying. Also, if you've liked another author's book, why not say so?  Goodwill generates goodwill...I'm a great believer that casting your bread upon the Twitter waters will return it to you a thousand-fold.
If you want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how Twitter actually works, I suggest you look at my Writing 101 Production about Twitter Wisdom, which has useful links for the techy stuff (like explaining why you should use Tweetdeck). And if you are a Twitter neophyte and want to start following some bookie people, you could do a lot worse than the lovely people who were on the SCBWI panel with me...

That's from left to right: @ninadouglas (who is hiding out of shot because she's shy like that), @MayhewJ @jabberworks  and (of course), me @lucycoats

Next up will be that sink of time-wasting, Facebook!  Betcha can't wait!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Help! This is a BlogSplash for The Hating Game!

Today I'm joining a big BlogSplash experiment and helping Talli Roland's brilliant new debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word to all my lovely Scribble City Central readers. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers, so if you fancy reading it, please click on the links.  It's already at No 27!
If you haven't got a Kindle, you can download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.
If you'd like to find out more about Talli, she's at

And here's all you need to know about THE HATING GAME:
When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Small YouTube Experiment

Someone took a couple of tiny videos of me answering questions at the recent Bath Festival of Children's Literature.  I thought I'd do a small experimental upload to YouTube.  It seems to have worked.  So here I am talking about how long it takes me to write a book, and giving some tips on how to be a writer to the kids at Kingswood Prep. It never ceases to amaze me that I can sound both quite squeaky and quite posh all at the same time.  Enjoy!  You may throw eggs if you wish. 

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Mythic Faery Interview - Seth MacGregor, Red-Hot Faery Boy

Since I interviewed Seth MacGregor's 'Boss', Gillian Philip, on Scribble City Central back in July, Seth has taken an unsuspecting world by storm.  I described the first part of Seth's memoirs, Firebrand (published by Strident and now in its second printing), as 'rare, new and infinitely exciting', and it seems I am not the only one to be so seduced.  Amanda Craig of The Times has made his book her Top Fantasy Novel of 2010 (Oh! How I agree with you, Amanda!), and Mary Hoffman of The Guardian has just described Seth as 'red-hot' and Firebrand as 'stark and brutal but with moments of heartbreaking beauty'. As of last night (Sunday) Firebrand was at #16 in Fantasy Books on Amazon and at #559 overall.  Cor! And just look at Seth on the cover--who wouldn't want a piece of THAT? *let's all take a moment for fanning purposes here*
Since Seth sneaked onto Twitter (quite against the express wishes of 'The Boss', but then that's our bad, disobedient, authority-defying faery boy all over), he and I have been having some...I shall use the word 'interesting' here (make of that what you will)...conversations. He's given at least two excellent interviews in other places, but for this one I wanted go with the Scribble City tradition by tapping into Seth's mythical faery heritage and trying to delve deeper into the intriguing world behind the Veil.  So without further ado, let's plunge into what I think is a fascinating conversation with the wickedly alluring (and appallingly flirty)...

                                           SETH MacGREGOR

So, Seth...let's begin with 'Faery tales’. That conjures up nice sparkly Thumbelina stuff for little children. But faery tales originate in a much deeper darker space, don’t they? Faery tales first began in the fiery heart of story where the old myths full of blood and ancient magic live. How far back into the mists of myth do your Sithe records go? Who are your lorekeepers? (Or do you not even keep records?)

Yes, blood and ancient magic. I like your style. Faery tales weren’t for children, not to begin with; they were the soap opera of the ancients, told for adults, full of truths and hard reality. And you and I know that however they’ve twisted and turned with the centuries, however they’ve changed, they began in that reality.

Our records go back as far as yours, I think... the further back you go, the more obscured they are by time. We keep the same stories, but like any myth or fairytale, we have our own take on them, our own filter. Full-mortals feature in our tales, but in not quite the same light as they do in yours. Your reputation with us is as mixed as ours with you. And like you, we have books, songs, oral history... there’s always a Shenachie to tell tales on a dark night when everyone’s had more than enough to drink*.
* That'll be pretty much every night, then?

Your brother, Conal is described as ‘heroic’, but you’ve been called ‘half-feral, a bastard boy full of hatred.’ I think that only shows the surly outer armoured skin you have presented to the world so far. There’s someone much more complex underneath all the angry posturing of your younger self, and I’d like to know more about how you would describe yourself nowadays, as compared to in your childhood. Do you, perhaps, see yourself as a kind of mythic hero (or indeed antihero) figure akin to all those butch Greek demigods like Achilles, or do you feel more comfortable closer to home, with heroes like Fionn mac Cumhaill and Cúchulainn—or do you feel like none of them?

I’m blushing** at the very thought of Achilles and Cuchulainn. Hell, I’m not the legendary type, though I love those heroes. They always seem so much larger than life, Lucy, and I’m just... life-sized. I know they had their human frailties, and it’s true I can throw a temper with the best of them, and have been known to sulk in my metaphorical tent... but consorting with gods isn’t for me. Fionn is a little different, isn’t he? He’s closer to us all, more man than demigod, and I like that he had wits as well as strength. More Odysseus than Achilles. I can also vouch for his existence, since Griogair knew him (Aonghas and Reultan named their daughter after him). Needless to say, I only heard the stories with the rest of the clann. My father never talked to me about him.

As for how I see myself nowadays? I’ve mellowed, or I think I have. I hope I’m smarter and wiser. The Boss says I still have a sizeable chip on my shoulder. Hah! She may know me pretty well, but even she doesn’t understand all my motives, not all the time.
** YES! I made Seth blush! This may be a first....

You and I share a love of animals, Seth.  If you had to choose two mythical creatures from any culture to go into battle with and to guard your left and right sides, who would they be, and why?

I have good friends, and good fighting comrades, but there’s no-one I trust more in battle than Branndair***. I know his head and he knows mine: we’re like extensions of each other. So if I was going to choose two mythical heroes instead, I’d take Bran and Sceolan, Fionn’s hounds, the ones with the hearts of men.
*** Branndair is Seth's wolf companion
 I trust you know the cautionary kelpie tale ‘Myself is Myself’+, Seth? It’s said in most of our old Scots legends that the waterhorses can shapeshift. Is this true of your own roan kelpie, or has something got skewed in the story as it travelled across the Veil? We mortals are easily confused about such things!
+ If any of you Lovely Blog Readers don't know it, it can be found in my Coll the Storyteller's Tales of Enchantment

You’re not the only ones. A lot of stories have got skewed and tangled. There are tales of shapeshifting creatures, and I don’t know if they’re true or not, but my horse isn’t a thing that can mutate. I’ve heard people say that water horses and kelpies are two different things, that kelpies are shapeshifting spirits; but we have always called our horses kelpies (and not all the Sithe can ride them). And then there’s the Brollachan, another shapeshifter that’s been known to take the form of a horse.

You ask me, I think tales shapeshift more easily than creatures. I’m not sure you have stories about the Lammyr, do you? Yet there are plenty of them over in your world, taking protégés all the time. Perhaps you notice them even less than you notice us.

In the shamanic tradition it is taught that everyone has a spirit animal (mine is a bear) with which they share affinities. Your true name, Murlainn, as well as symbolising the swift and deadly falcon spirit within you, set off all sorts of mythological echoes for me, being, of course, the same as the great Arthurian wizard of my own culture. Do you think that that Merlin too might have had Sithe blood, or even been a Sithe? Is he someone the Sithe know about?

A bear? That’s lovely. It suits you, because you’re beautiful and have a soft exterior+++, but you can be fierce. I like my true name well enough; it could have been worse. I’ve overheard bitchy comments in the dun before now, like the tosser who said he’d no idea there wasn’t a Gaelic word for ‘snake’. Breaking his nose was a satisfying moment.

And yes, I’ve had full-mortal friends who mistook my name for the wizard’s, and that has sometimes been helpful. I don’t doubt the man had Sithe blood, though I don’t think he was all Sithe: there’s definitely something else there. Didn’t he live backwards through time? Some of his abilities were undoubtedly Sithe, and he had plenty to do with us, or so I hear.

I don’t like the Sidhe of your BBC Merlin. They’re nothing like us. I spend Saturday nights shouting at the Boss’s TV. She gets cross and tells me to shut up, because all she wants to do is drool over Arthur and his knights^ – even though they’re terribly slow with a blade.
+++The less said about how Seth knows this, the better.
 ^You're very mean, Seth. 'The Boss' needs her downtime, just like the rest of us.  If she wants to drool over slow knights, let her (there's even a  free BBC picture below specially to distract her).  The rest of us will drool over slow nights with a certain faery...Oops! didn't mean to say that. Delete delete delete!

When I wrote my own book of Celtic myths and legends, my storyteller set off from the stone circle at Callanish on the the Isle of Lewis (Eilean Leodhas). There are so many stones and circles in Scotland, and they’re pretty much all associated with the Otherworld in some way—generally with mortals wandering through and then coming back tens or hundreds of years later (as you know, to your cost). You’ve told us that there are rings of ancient stones in the Sithe lands too. Do they equate exactly with the ones in the mortal landscape? Is the Veil thinner or somehow more penetrable around them—and if so, why?

Oh, I’m sure that’s true, that the Veil is thinner in those places. You can feel it, can’t you? And not just in the stone circles – there are other rocks, streams, caverns where the other world seems very close. I think of places like Colonsay, or Gigha, or Tomnahurich Hill in Inverness, or the older places of Edinburgh. And I know, for instance, that the Veil is denser and less penetrable around duns and fortresses, so why wouldn’t it work the other way?

Still, full-mortals can’t just wander through, say, a watergate – you’d need someone of Sithe blood with you. That’s why there are all those tales of musicians or knights or midwives enticed through by some unscrupulous Sithe with a few coins or a convincing story.

Some of those stones have equivalents in the full-mortal world, some don’t. I suppose it depends on whether they have been moved or destroyed, or preserved, and why they were built in the first place – some were put there as markers for weak places in the Veil, which makes sense when you think of their atmosphere.

There are a few stone circles in your world I have special affection for. The place my sons are buried, for one. And another where – well. That’s a story for another time^^.
^^You're very good--I had hoped to tempt you into some revelations, but you're too canny for that

You faeries are burdened with the hideous Lammyr (which, incidentally, creep the flesh off my bones). They’re obviously pretty hard to get rid of, and I certainly wouldn’t want to meet one on a dark or any other night. We mortals think about a lot of scary things in our spare time—including vampires and werewolves. Do the Sithe have any experience of those—and if you yourself met either one, how would you deal with them?

I suppose our closest equivalent to your seductive bloodsucking destroyers would be our dear Queen. And I’d like to say the Lammyr are undead creatures, and alien to the Sithe, but unfortunately they live and breathe and we are related. At some point in the past we have to accept responsibility for them. Maybe they creep the flesh off their own bones, who knows? It would explain the way they look.

But werewolves – now, we don’t have shapeshifters, but I know that the Sithe have always had a close relationship with our wolves, just as we have with the ravens. (And of course, wolves and ravens have always had a symbiotic relationship, too, even in your world.) Not that I’m fond of my stepmother’s ghastly bird, I might add; that thing’s got it in for me.

Perhaps the werewolf legends came about in the same way the centaur ones did? A full-mortal sees a Sithe and a wolf working together, just as the ancients saw a man on a horse, and.... ah, but on the other hand, there’s every chance werewolves and centaurs are as real as the Sithe, isn’t there? We don’t know everything of every world.^^^
^^^ Interesting.  So you admit there ARE other worlds....

In these modern times, we mortals have started seeing a lot of what are known to us as ‘urban faery tales’—stories about the Sithe, taken down by people probably not unlike The Boss. Many of them are set in the United States, and feature what seem to be some of your very distantly related kinfolk. Would you ever get on an aeroplane and travel across the Atlantic—or would you prefer to take a boat instead? Can you yourself go very far from the Veil—or can you get back to Sithe lands from anywhere in the mortal world?

Oh, I have travelled across the Atlantic, many times. I was in Antigua only recently #...but again, that’s a story for another time. To be honest, I prefer boats to planes, but I’m not as frightened of flying as the Boss is.

The Sithe certainly have kin in the United States, but then we have family everywhere – I’ve known Sithe from Germany, Belgium, Norway, Chile, South Africa and Pakistan. Some of those have different names, of course, but we’re all one race. Watergates exist in all countries; the Sithe world exists alongside yours in its entirety. I can go any distance from the Veil, any of us can – but I would never want to be too far from a watergate. You know how homesick I get.
# and there you go again with the enticing hints....

Now, finally (and this is a complete indulgence on my part), I just have to know the answer to this: 'The Boss' apparently has huge trouble controlling you and your urges, or so she tells me. You’re a kind of mega-flirt legend on Twitter already, and you have hordes of swooning female fans already (of whom I am obviously Most Important Number One, whoever might dispute that fact). So tell us, what would be your ideal night out with a lady in the mortal world of today (no expense spared)? Details, man, details!

All the details? Are you sure, Lucy? I’m not sure the Boss would allow that...!##

OK, but seriously... it would involve music, live music. And dancing. And down to the beach afterwards, to ride my horse together by moonlight and (probably) sober up. And then – oh, don’t talk to me about sand. It gets everywhere.

## I have a nasty feeling 'The Boss' has had her red censor pen out when she was transcribing this.  She has a very Puritan Streak when it comes to your extracurricular activities, does Gillian. *sigh*.
Well, that's all we have time for right now.  Thanks to the gorgeous Seth, (and to Gillian 'The Boss' Philip) for transcribing Seth's messy notes.  I'm just off for a cold shower and a lie down. 

You’re a wonderful interviewer as well as lovely, Lucy. Thank you!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

SCBWI Conference 2010 - How to Sell Your Book on the Internet (Part 3)

I promised you secret London meetings at the end of my last post (and yes, I know this is a day late and I've kept you all in horrible suspense.  Sorry.  I was busy doing Noble Things.  I might even tell you about those too later in the month). Anyway, back to those meetings....

First, there was Tea. And Cake. Oh, all right. And Wine.

With Werewolves. And a couple of tasty humans to gnaw on for afters.  But I'd better say no more than that or we'll have to come after you at the next full moon and rend you limb from limb. 

After that there was an extension to the SCBWI conference in the form of a very convivial authory dinner in London. We'd all had such fun in Winchester, we couldn't bear to let it go--and besides there were a couple of people who'd missed out. Never say we SCBWI-ites don't share.  Here we all are:

Now, that's quite enough socialising.  Put your serious hats back on and let's talk about your next authory booksale generating tool, which is:

An Author Blog

You're here already, so you know what this particular author blog looks like--but the million dollar question is: why should you have one? and more importantly for the purposes of this post, how does it 'sell' books?

• An author blog reinforces your ‘Author ID’, which you've already started establishing on your website.

• You can design it to complement your books—I did a very successful series of ‘Mythic Friday Interviews’ earlier this year to promote my ‘Greek Beasts and Heroes’ books. I also run a slightly eccentric but useful writing tips series called 'Writing 101 Productions' in which I talk about how I cope with various aspects of the writer's craft. I can also comment on current events like the ‘Speak Loudly’ campaign against book-banning and other items of book news, as well as sharing exciting things that happen in my writing life.  Short blog posts are just fine, by the way!

• You can run competitions and book giveaways which will all generate interest in you and your books. Often your publisher will be happy to provide free books with which to do this.

• You can publish ‘teasers’ from new work, put up poetry (I have a 'Scribble City Central Poetry Page'), use your blog as a campaigning platform—whatever floats your boat.

• But...
How will it sell actual books? Again, you can ‘monetize’ (that really is a HORRIBLE word) your blog by linking to Amazon Associates and having your titles up on a widget (look at the top of this page if you don't know what that is) and available to buy at the click of a button. The more places your books are visible on the internet, the better. Other than that, it’s about people getting to know you—keeping yourself present and current in the media stream.

Part 4 (coming soon) will involve the first of the social networking bits of the 'selling-your-books-and-your- author-self' platform.  I know this will be terrifying for a lot of people—and I should warn you now, it will eat your soul if you let it! Mwahahaha!


Sunday, 14 November 2010

SCBWI Conference 2010 - How to Sell Your Book on the Internet (Part 2)

You'll naturally want to know about the canapes and fizz first, before we get down to the next part of this selling business.  Well, I have to say, the canapes were a disappointment.  There weren't any, due to a canape cock-up of major proportions.  However, there were balloons. Magnificent balloons, some of which did amazing sparkly things (though maybe that was a result of  some slightly overenthusiastic imbibing of fizz on my part). There was a string quartet too, plus bow ties, long frocks and at least one tiara.  Never say children's writers don't know how to have a good time.  We are so rarely allowed out that any party has to be Made To Count. 

There was also cake.  Pretty fabulous cake.  But I will leave the cake till later, because it's time for the first ingredient in your authory internet bookselling armoury.  Yes.  I know that's a slightly mixed metaphor.  I have a hangover and can't think straight.  Pass the Alka-Seltzer please.

Last time, I left you wondering about author websites.  I’m not going to go into any detail here about how you build one, because, frankly, I got the excellent Pedalo to do mine—but advice and help are easily obtained from many internet sources if you don’t know where to begin.  Mine looks like this at the moment, but I'm about to do a major overhaul. Websites date horribly quickly--and there's always new technology coming along which will let you do all sorts of freshly-minted internet wizardry.

A good author website will:

Tell people who you are as an author—you can include biographical material, writing tips, useful information about what you offer schools and libraries in the way of visits, contact details and also that vital FAQ page, where you give answers to all those questions people ask over and over, like ‘when did you start writing’ and ‘what is your favourite book’.

Tell people about your books. This is the place to have all your covers and books and to plug your forthcoming titles. You can put up links to Amazon by each in-print title so that people can click and buy them direct. This might earn you some useful referral fees and it's definitely worth setting up an Amazon Associates account so you can take advantage of that.

Plug your most wonderful reviews from both press and internet, (which will obviously make people want to buy your books)!

Link to your other internet tools such as a blog (either external or integrated), Twitter, Facebook fan page, YouTube and podcasts (if you do them), all of which tie in to your books and you.

Link to external sites such as SCBWI, Society of Authors and others which may be relevant to your books—and you can persuade them to link back to you, thus generating a wider promotional base for you and your books.

Provide content for kids. You can incllude puzzles, games and downloadable art linked to your books if you want to. Because I have younger readers,  I have a kids’ page with all those things, plus an interactive map of Greece and some black-and-white line drawings of cut-out-and-colour Greek monster masks. Teachers all tell me that this is a hugely useful resource, but it depends what age group you are writing for. You want to get kids interested in you and your books--then they'll pester their parents to buy them!

So, to sum up...
How will an author website sell books?
  1. Your website will generate interest in you as a writer and establish you as a 'brand'.
  2. It will (hopefully) hook in teachers and librarians and festival organisers as well as parents/readers, which will in turn generate sales.
  3. It will direct visitors to Amazon (more sales).
  4. It will excite visitors about new books (potential future sales).
Now, I believe I promised you cake.  Tell me you don't want a slice of THIS bookie delight...(trust me, it was yummy).

You'll have to wait till Tuesday for Part 3 of my SCBWI talk, because I am having a couple of Top Secret assignations in London tomorrow (and no, I'm not telling unless you ask REALLY nicely).  But I'll give you a clue about Part 3 instead.  It involves An Author Blog.  Bet you can't wait.  

Saturday, 13 November 2010

SCBWI Conference 2010 - How to Sell Your Book on the Internet (Part 1)

Scary things, panels.  They make you stand up and talk about stuff as if you're an expert.  And you have to exude some kind of zen calm while you're doing it, and try not to sound like an idiot.  Anyway, today I am at the 10th SCBWI UK conference in a dampish Winchester.  And I talked about how, as an author you can sell yourself and your books on the internet.  I think it went well (people said nice things, anyway).  So, for those of you who couldn't be there, I'm going to put up my talk here in 6 easy-to-digest parts over the next few days. And for those of you who were there and didn't bother to take notes--well shame on you, and here it is again. 

But first, some badges...SCBWI do a great line in badges.  My favourite is top left.  Because children's writing IS a proper job. to the serious stuff:

Listen up, authory and aspiring authory people. In the modern technoworld we live in,, having an internet presence is essential. It’s not like the old days when authors were basically cut off from everyone except local booksellers, a few schools and their publisher’s publicist, (who was the one everyone had to go through to get to you). Now we are all as accessible as we want ourselves to be—the internet has brought authors both freedom and burdens, and publishers are now actively encouraging authors to have what is known as an ‘author platform’ which looks kinda like this.

Let me be very clear about this: it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sell a million books or even a hundred books as a direct result of anything you put out on the internet unless you say or do something which gets you on the front page of all the newspapers (streaking at a Manchester United match waving a copy of your latest title will work nicely) or your book trailer (see part 6 later in the week) goes viral on YouTube. It is virtually impossible to give you a quantifiable link between internet presence and books sold— but that doesn't mean you should ignore all this digital stuff.  For me the author platform is about building an internet presence, so that people are more likely to buy my newest book when it comes because they feel they ‘know’ a bit about me and what I am offering to my readership.

It has to be you who establishes your internet presence in the first instance because it is unlikely that your publisher will have the budget or staff resources to do so.
So where do you start building your potential book-selling ‘author platform?

Well--I started with a website...(it's a very good place to start).  But you'll have to wait till tomorrow to find out my pearls of wisdom about how having one sells books for you.  I have a mass book launch to attend.  There will be champagne.

and canapes.

I'm sure you understand...this panel stuff is hungry and thirsty work. The Inner Author must be fed and watered....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Writing 101 Production - Part 13: The Vital Desk Equation

I'm sure you are all familiar with the idea of feng shui (if not, take a quick 101 via the link). You may see it as superstitious oriental claptrappery, or New Age scammery--or on the other hand you may be someone who has had your house feng shuied by an expert for a shedload of cash.

But--what on earth has it got to do with writing? I hear you ask.
Lovely Blog Readers, you may mock me and jeer at me as much as you like, but for what it's worth, I think that at least one of the basic principles of feng shui can indeed be
a useful tool in the writer's armoury and it's on my mind right now at this very moment. (Warning: there will now be a shocking confession and at least one image of a distressing nature).

Lots of writers work in a sea of mess and clutter.  I am no exception, and am definitely NOT a naturally tidy person.  But from long and painful experience, I find that if I de-clutter my environment then I am much more productive.  It makes sense (to me anyway). Take a look at the picture below, forinstance. Untidy, eh? I'm not sure how my desk got like this, but let's blame a combination of 'I'll definitely do it tomorrow', too much interference from external factors and not enough time spent writing for now.  Does that sound vaguely plausible, or should I just bundle it all under that shameful P-word*?
What do you see? OK, OK, I'll save you the trouble of peering at your screen and tell you. Piles of Cluttery Stuff--a mixture of Vital Notes For Novel and several other writing projects, School notices (probably unread), books used for reference or quotes and then flung aside, magazines, dictionaries, files, unpaid bills, old chequebooks, invoices, receipts, accounting bits, empty mobile phone boxes, chocolate and biscuit wrappers, a CD that enough confession and distressment for the moment (hey, at least I moved the 5 coffee cups)? So what vital feng shui ingredient am I missing?  Yes, Lovely Blog Readers, you've got it in one.
Clear Space.
What I need to do now is to spend half a day tidying and sorting to produce a Harmonious Writing Environment Conducive to Creativity. It makes me feel horribly tired to contemplate doing it. But I know that if I don't, the pile to my left (and the pile to my right, but I'm not showing you that--there is a limit to how much cluttery sluttishness I will expose voluntarily), will niggle at me and prevent me from concentrating properly.   So here's that vital feng shui desk equation:

De-Cluttering=Clean Desk Energy=Creative Flow

Trust me--it really does work, even if I should probably have couched it in terms of 5 jade lotus flowers or something.  Now, excuse me while I sort myself out and find the polish.  I have a novel to write and I can't do it with my desk in this state of anarchy.

* P for P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N, the curse of all writers.

Monday, 1 November 2010

NaNoWriMo or Creative Hibernation?

Samhain, Hallowe'en--whatever you call it, it is a signal that winter is upon us, and that darkness is rising towards its December peak.  Today is All Souls--and also the start of NaNoWriMo.  Now I've never done NaNoWriMo, but I did consider it this year, having a novel to write myself.  But I just can't bring myself to do it.  The days of winter, for me, are a time of going inward,  a time of hibernation in which to do my creative dreaming. So in keeping with the season in which I become the writer-bear, I give you a poem to celebrate those of us who prefer to take things a little more slowly.

Into the Shaman’s Cave
Dark: descending dark, and my hand in dense fur.
Black dark, night dark as the Bear devours.
Flesh first, stripped bone bare on the cave floor.
Eyes last, vision quenched,
a delicacy licked out by a Bear's hungry tongue.
Blood to earth, thirsty earth,
then silence.
Now and now and now and now
the red cave beckons.
I know Mother's secrets now,
For I am the Bear.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Writing 101 Production - Part 12: Twitter Wisdom

Here's the thing.  I've been promising you Lovely Blog Readers a useful 101 post about Twitter since sometime before the fish crawled out of the sea and grew little stumpy legs.  Only now I find that all the nice technical authory bits I was going to say have already been said much better than I ever could.  I have, in fact, been gazumped and beaten to the wire by none other than the Crabbit Old Bat herself (that's @nicolamorgan for those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure...). So it is with much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair that I point you in her direction.  Her Help! I Need A Publisher blog is pretty much the best advice a writer can get, and her Twitter for Authors Parts 1-6 (look in the posts for August and September 2010) is a model of excellence which is impossible to better.  Damn but she's good!
No two authory experiences of anything are ever exactly the same, so I'm going to give you my own slightly more eccentric brand of Twitter wisdom anyway. Variety is the spice of life and all that, Lovely Readers.
So here's me answering 8 of your Really Important Random Questions about Twitter
(Yes. I know I'm interviewing myself.  It's fun.  You should try it sometime. No.  I am not delusional. Whatever made you think that?)
  • Why did you start tweeting? I'll be honest.  It was an idle moment.  I was bored.  This Twitter thing was starting to be talked about a lot (though far less than it is now--I joined up 18 months ago), so I thought I'd give it a go. I shut my eyes, held my breath and plunged in with both left feet. There was no Grand Authory Plan to Take Over the World via Tweets then. I'd like to make that clear at the start. (There is now, of course. And no. I'm still not delusional. Mwahahaha!) 
  • How did that work out, then?  Confusing at first, but I soon got the hang of it by just doing it. Thing is, loads of writers are not very techy and are quite scared of the big bad internet infecting them with Something Nasty, or crashing their computers and eating the manuscript which has taken them 10 years to write. I'm not very techy either, but I am quite willing to experiment and give things a go. I've talked about the importance of firewalls and backing up in Writing 101 Production Part 4 and I know that if things do go pear-shaped, I have done all I can to cover my (fairly ample) behind. I have to say I found things a lot easier once I'd discovered TweetDeck, and could organise TwitStuff how I wanted it.
  •  Hunh? TwitStuff? What are you on about?  Well, I found it hard to keep up with all the tweets for a start, once I'd started following people, not to mention the @ mentions and my own new followers.  Don't be under any illusions.  Twitter is a continuous cascade of information.  Something every second.  So getting organised was pretty important, otherwise I would have drowned.  TweetDeck allows you to make nifty little columns which you can name as public (everyone can see) or private (only you know they exist) lists and 'drag' people into (kicking and screaming if necessary).  I have, forinstance, a private 'bookies' column where I can skim through all the book tweets, another for 'friends'--and others for 'vampires' and 'mad tweeters'.  The latter are a source of much amusement to me, and include a lewd nun and several very eccentric wordsmiths. I can also keep track of hashtags in their own columns too (#SpeakLoudly let me watch all the tweets around this fantastic campaign without having to follow everyone who joined in).  
  • Talking of #hashtags and all that...explain--and what about those double asterisky things?  Now look, I told you.  Nicola Morgan explains all this techy Twitstuff in a fine and brisk manner.  There's a whole post from her on hashtags and other fascinating Twittery bits, so go and look. All I will add on the hashtag subject is that I like making up silly ones to enhance my tweets.  Such as #notwritingbecauseampissingaboutontwitter. As for the asterisky things, well, I might tweet something like "I don't understand this whole Twitter business *confused*"  It's a way of indicating mood or state of mind--like an emoticon (please tell me you know what an emoticon is?  PLEEEASE?).
  • So--what have you got out of it?  It's a strange creature, Twitter. I like it more and more.  I have fast and frantic conversations on it with actual-friends-I've-met and also with tweeters who I've never met, but who are soon bona-fide Twitter friends.  I jump into other people's conversations without a qualm (even quite famous people's conversations)--something I would never do in real life because I would consider it rude (and anyway, it would be hard for me to butt into a conversation that was taking place in America.  I'm versatile--but not that versatile!). I learn crucial bookish news via links and tweets from others.  I share my own book and blog news (but never as a hard sell--that's fatal, see below) and stuff I find interesting (might be a blog, or a book I've loved, or a fascinating piece of useless information, or a review). I've done some successful #bookgiveaways and competitions. I chat to booksellers, librarians, parents, industry pros, agents, publishers and lots more, including a load of delightfully bloodthirsty vampires and one extremely baaad faery boy, @sethmacgregor if you're interested--but hands off, he's MINE! I find it's a fantastically rich community which gives me more important information, quicker, than any of the other social media.
  • Does it sell books, though? Well, do blogging or Facebook fan pages or author websites sell books?   It's all a bit unquantifiable.  I have indubitably (one of my favourite words btw) sold some of my books via Twitter, because people have told me they've bought them--all the way from Australia in one case.  But Twitter is NOT about hard sell--if there's one thing you take away from this piece it should be that.  If you are trumpet-blowingly shouty and me me me, wonderful me buy my fabulous book all the time, it will put people off in droves.  I'm even doubtful about the value of tweeting your own blogpost links more than a couple of times, to be honest. I think that if you can get people to like you by being interesting/funny/interested in others, then by definition if you mention that you have a new book out, then some are likely to be more prone to buying it.  But for me the value of Twitter is more about building up relationships with nice people who like children's books than in hard selling. 
  • Do you follow everyone who follows you? And if not, then why? I don't follow absolutely everyone who follows me, no.  But if someone bothers to have a conversation with me, or RT's one of my posts, or engages with me, then I am much more likely to follow them back.  I also thank people for RTing and mentioning me in #FF (Follow Friday) or #WW (Writer Wednesday).  I'm all about the good Twitter manners, me.  I do delete and block obvious spammers and pornofollowers and 'bots.  Except the Custard Cream bot, obviously.   
  • Finally and most importantly, do you spend too much time on Twitter?  That's debatable.  If you believe that author platforms are important, as I do, then no (I tweet in short 2-15 minute bursts through the day, if I have time or during a coffee break).  According to my family, yes.  I leave you therefore with the graffiti Lovely Daughter affixed to my computer yesterday.  Chip off the old block, eh? (So proud!)  Now back to the 'super keyboard of might' for some more attack tweeting. Bye for now, Lovely Blog Readers--and if you pluck up the courage to join Twitter, do come and say hello to @lucycoats!

You can find all my other eccentric and useful Writing 101 Productions right HERE

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Over at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure Today!

I'm writing about Hubris and the Art of Good Behaviour over at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure today.  If you'd like to discover why I think some author behaviour is beyond the pale, hop on over and have a read. If you disagree (or indeed agree) please leave a comment at AABBA. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Cheltenham Literary Festival or As I Walked Out One Autumn Afternoon

I've decided I love literary festivals.  Not that I have that much experience--but three pretty big ones in three months must count for something.  I've written here about my Edinburgh experiences in August, and my September day at Bath Festival doing two school events was huge fun.  But this week was Cheltenham Festival, and it started off well with a slight diversion to have lunch (with excellent cider) at Laurie Lee's local, the Woolpack Inn in Slad, Gloucestershire. Cider With Rosie was always one of my favourite books, and I can tell you the Woolpack hasn't changed much (at least in decor) since Rosie's day.  It's a really proper pub, with plenty of local colour, good food--and best of all it's owned by a local artist now and not some faceless brewery, so the link to creativity is maintained.  But now, on to Cheltenham....

The efficiency and friendliness of Cheltenham Literary Festival is legendary.  A few weeks ago I went to the launch party in London, met lovely organisers Nicola Tuxworth and Jane Churchill--and was given a goodie bag containing, among other useful things such as a memory stick and throat pastilles, a whole big box of chocolate biscuits.  What author wouldn't be well-disposed to a festival which provides much-needed chocolatey sustenance plus endless champagne before you even arrive?  I got to the Writers' Room in good time--rather too good, as it was empty and echoey and much scarier than the Edinburgh yurt.  But soon enough I was whisked away to be fitted with the sort of microphone worn by famous popstars--you know the kind--has a little flesh-coloured thingy beside your mouth (and, I now know, backwards NHS metal glasses fixtures to go over the ears).  Then, to not-nearly but almost popstar applause, I was on.  Once I'd worked out the vagaries of the clicky thing (always good for a bit of laughter when this goes wrong, which it invariably does) the hour passed in a flash, and then I was into a signing frenzy, with even a queue.  I don't generally expect queues. 

But the nicest thing of all happened at the end.  I knew some kids had had a problem with their bus, and would be late (they crept in so quietly I hardly noticed).  So after the signing I sat and talked to them for a bit (they all asked mega-intelligent questions).  There was one boy at the back who was anxious to know whether I'd got the Fates and the Furies in my books--and whether I'd got in 'the bit about the copper tower.'  I recognised a child who knew his stuff on Greek myths--and I can't tell you what a thrill it gave me to know that the tales of long ago which I love so much can still light an answering passionate flame in a twenty-first century child. 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

5 Favourite Poems for National Poetry Day

#NationalPoetryDay is even trending on Twitter today.  That's how important poetry is.  So, to celebrate,  here are five of the first verses from my favourite poems of all time (and a link in case you want to read on).

1.  The Heart's Desire is Full of Sleep - Ruth Pitter

The heart's desire is full of sleep,
For men who have their will
Have gained a good they cannot keep,
And must go down the hill

Where I found it: I first read this one in Ruth Pitter's Daily Telegraph obituary notice, and at once I got that kick in the stomach which good poetry gives. 
What I like: that you have to work for the meaning of it, and that it doesn't say what you think it does at first reading.  This is the one I keep in my wallet and will have read at my funeral. I am with her "true emperors of desire, true heirs to all regret..."

2. The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage - Sir Walter Raleigh

GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage ;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

Where I found it: I first read this as a teenager in Elizabeth Goudge's Towers in the Mist (one of my all time favourite books). Raleigh appears in it as a student at Oxford University.
What I like: Raleigh the courtier, the bringer of tobacco, the adventurer--these are the usual pictures we have of him.  But Raleigh the yearning, passionate man of faith? Poetry reveals things about the poet and this showed me a man who felt the beauty of the soul at the deepest level and was prepared to sacrifice himself for his beliefs. 
3. The Lake Isle of Innisfree - William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

Where I found it: surprisingly, I first came across this as a song, performing it with the school choir, so that's how I hear it in my head.
What I like: As a writer, I often want to get away from it all, live alone, concentrate on nothing but words and lapping waters and the song of bees.  This poem sums up that unattainable desire perfectly.

4. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Where I found it: I was in a dusty classroom, at the front, on the left when I read this for the first time--it was part of my 'O' level English literature syllabus.  I cried then.  I do now.

What I like: My own father was a man who fought against many things--his family, the expectations of society, illness and disability.  So it reminds me of him.  But this was the first of Thomas's poems I read.  The way he used language made poetry real and relevant for the first time in my life.  I felt as if I wanted to lick his poems, to gobble them up, to rub myself against them.  I still do.

5. To Be Called a Bear - Robert Graves

Bears gash the forest trees
To mark the bounds
Of their own hunting grounds;
They follow the wild bees
Point by point home
For love of honeycomb;
They browse on blueberries.

Where I found it: in a shiatsu practitioner's treatment room. 

What I like: in my shamanic life, my totem animal is bear.  This poem sums up that part of my character beautifully--sometimes I am 'unkept and surly with a sweet tooth'.  Graves is one of my favourite writers anyway--I refer to him on an almost daily basis for mythological knowledge. 

That's just five of my poetry loves--I have many more.  I hope you enjoy these. Happy reading! Happy National Poetry Day!

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