Back to School

Today I am delighted to host Miriam Drori, whose non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, has recently been reissued and is currently on sale via Smashwords. Welcome, Miriam, would you like to give us a taste of your book …

Some people have found this period away from society strangely soothing. These people will find the return difficult. It might increase stress levels and reignite anxieties that have lain dormant.

Considering this in the context of my non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, I believe that those most likely to suffer from the return are schoolchildren. Here are some extracts that show why, all quotes from contributors to the book who preferred to remain anonymous:

“I got SA [social anxiety] from being bullied at school, I think. It was made worse by moving at age 14 to a new school.”

“I was bullied right the way through school; I was called names, I was picked on, I was rejected and isolated.”

“I first became aware of my blushing in early high school I think. …I was acutely aware of my blushing, and as it was school, others were delighted to point out when someone blushed, which made it far worse.”

About cutting: “At school I totally slashed my left hand up, not that anyone there noticed.”

“In primary school I was rejected socially; I was the school nerd. In secondary school I tried to be accepted and to find friends but was unsuccessful… Parents? Teachers? … No one penetrated beneath the armour that I built around me.”

“I’m still severely p*ssed off with my school for not being more help. I did basically everything they seemed to want me to, behaved myself, got good grades to push them up the league tables, didn’t cause any trouble, kept going despite the hell I was going through thanks to the other pupils, etc. And in return, I get pushed out at the end depressed and unable to cope with adult life.
Seems like if I wanted any sympathy and help I should have got myself involved in drugs and crime and failed all my exams.”

“I was very quiet in the class. I went to all the lessons. I didn’t disrupt the class. So the teachers thought I was alright. If I’d been hyperactive, for instance, they’d have sent me straight to the school counsellor. They just didn’t know about SA.”

Imagine being one of those kids. Imagine being away from that environment for a long time – much longer than a summer holiday. Finally, you’re able to relax and be alone at home, like everyone else. Imagine having to return. The moment you enter the school gates, the bullies are back, jeering and fighting. Teachers again pick on you to answer in class and your performance provides more fodder for bullying. At other times, you feel isolated, ignored, unwanted. It’s exactly as it was before, but feels so much worse because you’ve spent months away from it.

I do hope this problem will be recognised and handled properly.


Miriam Drori is an author and editor. With a degree in Maths and experience of working as a computer programmer and as a technical writer, she has been writing novels and short stories for about fifteen years.

Miriam’s latest publication is a short story in the charity anthology, Dark London. Called Gruesome in Golders Green, the story tells of an unusual encounter between two women.

Recently, Miriam has even attempted to write poetry. She eagerly awaits the publication of her first poem.

Social Anxiety Revealed is currently on sale at Smashwords. It is also available from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

The Great British Seaside

Now we are (most of us) finally able to start thinking about going on holiday again, I thought I’d share this little piece I wrote at Meltham Writers (just before lockdown), about some of the joys of the traditional British seaside resort.

****

“I wish they had some seats in that chip shop,” said Carol, “It’s far too cold and windy out here. She huddled in her coat and speared a chip with a wooden fork. Out of long habit, she blew on it before putting it in her mouth, but there was no need. The howling wind had already done that for her. The chips at the top of the bag were already lukewarm.

“Oh, I don’t know,” replied Roger. “One chip shop is pretty much like another. Why would we come all the way to the seaside to do what we can do every night of the week at home? But here on the pier we have a magnificent sea view.” He waved his arm floridly at the grey, malevolent-looking sea and the line of wind turbines on the horizon. “We have the roar of the breakers, the cry of the seagulls, the salt sea breeze …”

“Breeze?” exclamed Carol, “It’s a bloody gale!” As if to confirm what she had said, a small chip was blown off her fork and disappeared into the sea. But Roger had got into his stride now.

“This is what the British seaside is really about. It’s not about sun, or pretty postcard pictures, it’s about being on the edge of things, communing with nature at its wildest and most primeval. I love it.” As he spoke, he emphasised each point with exaggerated movements of his hands, one of which was holding a battered sausage.”

“Well, you can keep it,” said Carol. The moment I’ve finished my fish and chips I’m going back into the town to look for a café or somewhere we can shelter from this wind. I’ve had enough of this.”

“I don’t know what you’re moaning about. At least it’s not raining. And this wind, it’s bracing, refreshing.”

Putting his food down on the bench, he walked forward to the railing at the very edge of the pier and leaned over it as if about to throw himself in the water.

“Listen to that pounding surf. Doesn’t it make you feel good to be alive?” As Roger turned round to see his wife’s reaction, a large wave broke and a fountain of spray surged over the edge of the pier, completely soaking him. She responded only with a smile. 

Hybrid

Today I’m pleased to welcome horror author Nick Stead, who’s sharing with us an excerpt from his novel Hybrid, the first book in a series of the same name, which is being re-released at the end of the month by Twisted Fate Publishing.

*****

Winter ravaged the land with icy fury, the air turning bitterly cold in the days leading up to the full moon. Gloom settled over the heavens, the clouds as dark as my mood. Then the first of the winter snows fell, drifting down in a gentle flurry and delicately dusting the land. At first that was all it did: powdered the fields at the back of the house and the streets at the front. It didn’t last long enough to do much else. But that turned out to be no more than the calm before the storm, the showers coming angrier and heavier the next day. I watched the flakes swarming like a plague of angry insects, invading the world around them until they’d coated everything in a dazzling blanket of pure white. Our town was transformed, no longer a concrete jungle but a landscape of cold beauty.

The nights had been growing noticeably longer, something that filled me with an even greater sense of dread. Would there be more deaths? From the memories the wolf had shown me, it seemed its hunger was insatiable.

But what was on my mind the most was not knowing which night the moon would be full – I could only guess. At least a week had gone by since I’d last glimpsed it drifting between the clouds and I had no idea how much rounder it had gotten since. It seemed the lunar calendars could only guess too; not one of them could agree on when it would reach its fullest. The uncertainty felt worse than if I’d had a definite date hanging over me, my mind constantly tormented by the unanswered question of whether it would be that night, or the one after, or the one after that. And all the while I was trying to think of a way to stop the wolf, and so far I had come up with none.

Then, on the day of the heavy snowfall, it seemed I was to face my fears.

I chose to stay behind after school and catch up on some homework, in the hope of forgetting what was still to come that month, and the inevitable bloodshed. When I grew restless, I knew what it probably meant and I took my leave.

Grey faded to black as I stepped out into the wintry wonderland, quickening my pace in fear of the oncoming darkness. Minutes later I was rushing down the drive, fumbling for my key with fingers made slow and clumsy in the cold. There was a noticeable shake to them as I stabbed at the lock, and I had to use my other hand to steady myself before it would slide in.

I looked up at the darkening sky as I opened the door, wondering if there truly was a full moon hidden behind those clouds. For the sake of the poor souls fated to become my prey that month I hoped not, though I knew it had to come sometime soon, and what difference did it really make whether it was that night or later in the week? I shivered again and went inside.

No sooner had I stepped through the doorway than the pain started. I groaned as it ravaged my stomach and headed straight for the stairs, desperate for the sanctuary of my room. What I’d do to stop the wolf when I got up there I had no idea, but it was too late for that now. The wolf was coming and there was no holding it back.

 Amy blocked my path, a lollypop poking out of her mouth and a taunting look in her eyes. She got to her feet and stretched her arms out either side of her, determined not to let me pass until I was begging her for it.

I couldn’t believe her timing. She was so bloody annoying when she wanted to be, and already I was sure I could feel things happening inside my body and I had to know, had to find out whether it was what I feared it to be.

An excerpt from @nick_stead's horror novel, Hybrid, shortly to be re-released on Twisted Fate publishing.

Hybrid is the first book in the Hybrid series – supernatural horror following the story of teenager Nick Stead as he is bitten and falls victim to the werewolf curse. But it’s not just his new predatory instincts to contend with and the transformation every full moon. An ancient order known as the Demon Slayers are closing in, and they mean to wipe out his kind, once and for all.

The first book was originally published under Wild Wolf Publishing in 2015. The second and third instalments originally launched 2016 and 2017 respectively, but a planned move to another publisher brought the series to a standstill over the next two years, when things didn’t work out as hoped.

Now a new breed of the Hybrid series is coming. This is the first book like you’ve never seen it before. Revised and extended, the manuscript has gone through a transformation all of its own, ready for a re-release July 31st.

The second edition will be published under Twisted Fate Publishing. You can pre-order the Kindle edition now, and there will be a paperback edition soon to follow – https://bit.ly/Hybrid2ndEdition

For more information about Nick the author and his other works:

Web: nick-stead.co.uk

hybridseries.co.uk

FB: https://www.facebook.com/officialnickstead/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nick_stead

Latest News

A few bits of miscellaneous news today.

Firstly, a date for your diary. The Poetry I-D anthology, 2020 Vision, which I mentioned here a few weeks ago (for more info see earlier post from 3 June: https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/03/some-poetry-news/) is being launched online at 7.30 pm on 23 July. I’m not sure what platform will be used yet – watch this space and my Facebook author page for further details.

Secondly, I was pleased to hear that my story, The Cold Callers, has been shortlisted in the National Association of Writers’ Groups Ghost Story competition. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Finally, I’m excited to be involved in another anthology project – this time of speculative fiction (including horror, sci-fi and fantasy) on the theme of Darkness, with a group of published writers glorying in the name of The Sons of Twisted Fate (https://twistedfatepublishing.com/sonsoftwistedfate/). The anthology is expected to be launched in October, in aid of a mental health charity. This will be the first outing in print of a story from the (very) slow-burning sci-fi project that I’ve mentioned a couple of times here (see https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/a-first-taste/).

The Wait

Today I am delighted to host speculative fiction author CM Angus, who shares with us a teaser for his novel Overstrike.

The Wait

LONDON  1948

How had it come to this?

Captain Joseph Howard stood amongst them, packed into the tunnel of the Westminster cabinet-bunker. Around him, solemn faces housed eyes focused-resolutely into middle-distance.

The silent weight of a hundred unspoken fears hung heavy in the air.

Was this fate?

There were no cheery words left to say; no songs left to sing.

But for now, they, at least, were beneath fifteen feet of concrete: Under the slab.

Not like some.

Not like most.

As before, and as ever, what sounded like distant thunder could be felt through the floor.

Trails of dust fell, and glowing filaments briefly flickered in electric lights.

The tear running down the face of a nameless woman caught his attention.

Around her, men fidgeted-nervously and looked away.

Joseph searched for words to say but found his thoughts strangled by his own rising tide of unease.

What use were words anyway?

There was no way that Stalin would accept surrender after what Churchill, and they, had done in ’45.

They were all already dead.

Without my intervention, thought Joseph, Only God can save them now,

And even then, traversing the RIFT this long after…

His thoughts were interrupted by the clanking of a bolt being withdrawn behind the heavy door at the end of the tunnel.

“Captain Howard: They’re ready. The Prime Minister will see you now.”

C M Angus

Overstrike is volume I of Fixpoint, a trilogy about a family who discover their inherited ability to manipulate reality. It enables them to effect changes in order to safeguard themselves and all that they hold dear. But even seemingly small changes in a timeline can have unforeseen and far-reaching consequences. Follow the stories of the Howards, on a journey exploring reality, time and our own sense of self.

Touching on themes of retro-causality, ethics and free will, and exploring ideas of cause, effect and retribution, it follows the path of Matt Howard, whose child, Ethan, is at risk, as he, his father and grandfather attempt to use their own abilities to manipulate reality in order to discover and prevent whoever is threatening Ethan.

Overstrike is published by Elsewhen Press and is available from the usual places.

CM Angus has also provided a couple of videos of his teaser, which is set just before Overstrike opens.

Teaser performed by the awesome Sam Dewhurst-Phillipshttps://youtu.be/DczM3B1wZc4  
CM Angus performing this teaser at the Halifax Festival of Wordshttps://youtu.be/sqi7ZSsyR6w  

All Terrain

I’m delighted to host a short sci fi tale today from Owen Townend, fellow member of Kirklees Author Forum Exchange (and also fellow contributor to a forthcoming anthology – watch this space for info in due course). Owen was recently shortlisted in the Dinesh Allirajah prize for short fiction.

ALL TERRAIN

Byter could sense its surrounding parameters, even while offline. It knew the precise measurements down to a decimal point, compensating for predictable alterations in environment. This was its terrain and Byter was bored of it.

The men did not believe that a mere machine had the capacity to be bored, at least not without irrefutable evidence. Even so Byter thought differently. It had an algorithmic irregularity comparable to ‘fantasy’.

            This ‘fantasy’ was of a bigger space. There were new angles here, numerous environmental variables. Even a curve. A perfect curve in a new terrain.

            During downtime, Byter thought of crossing this distance: a perfect 40,000 metres in all directions. The right became jagged 50 metres from southeast to northeast while the left developed bumps with a circumference of 14.67 metres. The floor beneath Byter’s ten tiny legs rose with a one-millimetre incline per kilometre.

            Byter could feel itself veering in the damp conditions, scrabbling against slick textures. And yet the temperature remained a consistent 5°C. The fact that this was a temperature too low for the men to comfortably tolerate was inconsequential.

            Alone, Byter would scuttle across this multi-faceted terrain; struggling in parts, gliding in others. This dream terrain proved a challenge with a suitable amount of consistency, something that would retain Byter’s full focus far better than any manmade obstacles in the limited 3D space that it had long since mapped out.

            When time came to be switched on, its initial thoughts remained set on the fantasy. Only when it was fully operational did Byter store this away and return to present conditions.

            Except it now had trouble with the definition of memory. A memory was usually of an existent physical space. Nevertheless, the dream terrain resembled a memory just as much as Byter’s immediate environment. Not only did it feel real now, it inexplicably had the potential for actual reality.

            Byter intended to pursue this concept further but the men had commanded it navigate a newly-constructed maze. It fully examined this labyrinth with minimal cognition. Byter found the end within seconds and let out a tinny noise that resembled a grunt.

            The men did not congratulate Byter, they merely told it to stop. It was to wait for further instruction which it would but the response time would not be as they expected. While the men ran through their tedious calculations, Byter would be exploring a far more expansive and challenging design than they could ever create.

            Deep in its CPU, Byter would be ‘roaming’.

*****

Owen Townend is a short story writer who has recently been published by Comma Press as part of The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2020. He writes speculative fiction in his hometown of Huddersfield and is Secretary of the Huddersfield Authors’ Circle.

You can read Owen’s story ‘The Problem Unit’ in this Comma Press collection: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dinesh-Allirajah-Prize-Short-Fiction-ebook/dp/B085S922PM/

Some Poetry News

A couple of bits of poetry news today. First, I’m delighted to have four poems in this fine anthology, just published by Poetry-ID, the North Hertfordshire Stanza of the Poetry Society.

I thought I’d share one of the poems here:

These Hills
 
They are at the root of me
as once I was of them,
when as a child I rushed laughing
through their valleys, like a stream.
Indulgent, they looked on, their solid bulk
the silent backdrop of those half-remembered scenes
that crowd the dusty basement of my mind.
Still, I come back to them
to hear their loving whispers
through the leaves of stunted trees
and feel beneath my feet
the old green blanket they unfold for me,
fragrant with that mossy smell, of home.  

Copies of the anthology are available for £5 plus postage: contact David Smith on djsapt@gmail.com. More information is available on the Poetry-ID website.

I’m also very pleased to have a couple of poems in the Poetry Kit online anthology, Poetry in the Plague Year. You can read them – and lots of other great poems – here

The anthology is an ongoing project and is still open for submissions – so why not try your hand? See the Poetry Kit site for submission details.

Postcard from the Future

A guest piece today from Sally Brown, published poet and fellow member of Holmfirth Writers’ Group and Holme Valley Poets. How will we look back on this extraordinary time? ….

Postcard from the future

Dear world – in 2020 you took a break,  a dry run for retirement.  You slowed and the earth turned at a different pace.  The air was cleaner, brighter, more crisp on the tongue.  People moved with uncertainty but in the knowledge that, in some ways, things were better.  You stopped pumping toxic gas and chemicals into the air.  Blue skies returned to Delhi.  Mountain ranges in Pakistan were viewed in the distance for the first time in 30 years.  Aeroplanes stopped flying.  It felt like a miracle.  And yet on the other side of the abyss, people were dying, gasping for breath. Not for them the endless horizon but the horror of hospital ventilators.  Not for them the bright song of a wren, the crazy cry of a curlew, the frantic mating dance of spring hares.  Only the tangled wires of intensive care treading a fine, suffocating line between life and death.  This unstoppable virus kept us behind closed doors, prevented loved ones from holding hands.  Stopped the last words of the dying from being heard.  It was as if the world  was carved in two – between the bliss of simply being and the horror of dying alone.   But in the midst of horror there was hope. Voices sang from balconies, dance classes were conducted from rooftops.  We checked in with each other.  Communities rallied and supported.  The kind became even kinder.  And this slowing of the earth, this taking time out, became a way of life.  We learned to live as we should.  We learned the beauty of compassion and caring and we carried on.

About Sally:

I’m a creative writer based in the Pennine market town of Holmfirth in West Yorkshire.  My preference is for writing poetry and my writing is influenced by the stunning landscape of the Peak District which is  right on my doorstep.  I’m also a member of the incredibly supportive Holmfirth Writers Group and Marketing Director for Huddersfield Literature Festival.  To date I have had my poetry and prose published in various anthologies and on the poetry website Snakeskin.

Open for Visitors

Back in March, I encouraged readers to use the enforced restrictions of coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to write (see Keep Calm and Carry on Writing). I’m thinking it’s about time to see whether that bore fruit by inviting people to share pieces they’ve written on this blog.

I’d welcome poems, stories or extracts of longer pieces, or just your ruminations on the present situation. Maximum 500 words, please – plus a few words about yourself and if you wish, a few about any book or event you would like to mention, and any links you’d like included (up to 150 additional words). It would be good to send a picture to go with the piece as well, if possible. You can e-mail them to me on tim.e.taylor@talk21.com.

I’m happy to host up to two of these a month – first come, first served – and to have a waiting list if necessary.

I look forward to hearing from you!

The Outside people

Thought I’d share this piece I wrote at virtual Holmfirth Writers Group (which now meets via Zoom) on Monday: imagining life in year 5 of lockdown and explaining things to children who have known nothing else.

The Outside People

Where are Outside people, Mummy?

They are in all sorts of places, dear, all over the world. But the ones we know are mostly in this country, in towns and cities very much like ours, living in houses quite similar to this one.

Then why are they so different from us, then?

Different? Why do you think they are different? They talk very much like we do, don’t they? And they talk about the same things we talk about. You talk to Miranda and Chelsea and Zoe almost every day, don’t you. Don’t they like the same sort of things as you?

Well, Zoe has a mouse that she likes, that I don’t like at all. But I suppose we all like drawing, and dressing up, and playing games and things.

There you go, then. And it’s the same with me and Daddy. The Outside people we like to talk to have similar interests to us, so we’ve always got something to talk about. That’s why they’re our friends. Aren’t Miranda and Chelsea and Zoe your friends too.

Oh yes, they’re my friends, but they are still different.

How are they different? Aren’t they just the same as us?

Well, you’re always telling me that I can never go Outside because it’s not safe. But my friends are Outside – that’s why I can’t be where they are. So they must be different if they can be Outside but we can’t.

No, dear, that’s not right. They are not really Outside – they are inside, in houses, just like ours, like I said. It’s just that those houses are in different places to ours, and between their houses and ours there is real Outside, where we can’t go. And our friends can’t go there either. So for them, we are Outside people too.  So do you understand now why they are not really different from us.

So … they are really Inside, but a different Inside, with Outside between their Inside and ours?

Yes, well done, you’ve got it!

But they are still different, though.

Why? In what way are they different?

Well, Inside people, here in this house, they have a smell. And they feel like something.  Look, when I touch your cheek it feels soft. But when I touch the faces of my Outside friends, they just feel hard, like plastic. And they have no smell.  And your face is round and … knobbly, but their faces are just flat. So you see, Mummy, Outside people really are different. Why is that?

[ pic (c) Dennis Hamilton 2007. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license ]