Really pleased to see the close of shorts season still connecting with readers!
Delighted be publishing these dystopian short stories over at Fly on the Wall Press!
How exciting that my first book of short fiction, Snapshots of the Apocalypse, is being published by Fly on the Wall Press in January 2022. It’s now on preorder from my lovely publisher here.
‘In these dark, witty short stories, Katy Wimhurst creates off-kilter worlds which illuminate our own. Here, knitting might cancel Armageddon. A winged being yearns to be an archaeologist. Readers are sucked into a post-apocalyptic London where the different rains are named after former politicians. An enchanted garden grows in a rented flat. Magical realism meets dystopia, with a refreshing twist.’
An iridescent, compelling collection. Darkly magical in all the right ways.’- Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch and Speak Gigantular
‘Tales of the unexpected… a refreshing and humorous collection illuminating the author’s vast imagination and gift for merging people, place and politics in well crafted stories. Wimhurst’s cultural allusions and social commentary might…
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It has been a pleasure to run the blog tour for Dr Robin Harwick’s Young Adult novella this week! This is a novella with a deep empathy and social conscience at its heart, so I wanted to interview Harwick about the book to close our tour.
To start, the blurb!
Paperback – 25 Jun. 2021
£7.28 (UK) Available internationally
My Sorrow. Mi Libertad. shares the story of fifteen-year-old Didi, whose world is turned upside down when she is placed in foster care while her mother battles heroin addiction and after her father is deported. The story is set in the United States amidst the opioid epidemic and at a time when many families are being separated due to US immigration policies. My Sorrow. Mi Libertad exposes the suffering Didi and other youths in care experience, but more importantly, it reveals their resilience. It is a story of strength, determination, and hope as the young characters learn to take control of their destinies.
Thinking of how the novel came about, I wondered: did you start with your main character, Didi, or did the general themes of the novel come to you first?
The general theme of My Sorrow. Mi Libertad came from my research about the transition to adulthood for young adults who experienced the foster care system. I wanted to create a story that demonstrates these young people’s struggles, their resilience, and the possibilities for better futures. Didi is a composite of the many young people who have shared their life histories with me during my professional career because they hoped doing so would help others in the system.
The book focuses on USA foster care – do you see any progression today in how the system is run? What do you feel the system needs, in order to provide better care for children?
Unfortunately, children in the foster care system still face the same issues as the characters in My Sorrow. Mi Libertad. We know that long-term outcomes for kids that “age out” of the system are not good. They disproportionately experience homelessness, low employment rates, and less access to higher education. We need interventions and healing for the entire family to break the intergenerational cycles of trauma, abuse, and substance use disorders. Parents currently involved in the child welfare system are frequently the people who did not get the help and healing they needed when they were children.
To break this cycle, we need to provide services and resources designed to keep families together whenever possible. If children must enter out-of-home care, then long-term positive relationships; coordinated services including education, mental/physical health care, disability services (as needed); and adequately trained social workers are essential. Additionally, if young people transition directly out of care to adulthood, they need a safety net created by the system to replace the one that many young people have, such as safe housing, access to money and mental/physical healthcare, help with college/job applications, etc. Currently, many of these services are lost when young people leave the system at age 18.
Were there any difficult moments in the editing of your novel? If so, how did you overcome them?
There were many difficult moments when editing My Sorrow. Mi Libertad.
I wanted the novel to be a short read that was easily accessible to young people who have experienced the system. I also want it to reflect their lived experiences. It is my greatest hope that by reading Didi’s story, they become more optimistic about their futures and learn ways to make the system work for them.
I also want Didi’s story to generate compassion in social workers, teachers, and other professionals who serve families involved with the system. Trying to find a voice that can reach these two distinctive audiences was frequently a challenge and on my mind.
Ultimately, I chose to include as many direct quotes as possible from my interviews with young people who experienced care. People who read the drafts frequently remarked on how authentic the dialogue was – before knowing much of it is direct quotes. I also wanted to make sure the Spanish used throughout was accurate for the region Didi’s family is from – luckily, my publisher is from the same area, and he reviewed each word. I guess I overcame the difficult moments by focusing on authenticity and my commitment to supporting youth in care.
What do you hope a young adult reader will take away from your novel?
Whilst reading My Sorrow. Mi Libertad, I hope readers find inspiration and the courage to go after their dreams. For those currently struggling, I want them to be able to see a clearer path out of their suffering – even it is not immediate. I want them to advocate for what they want, to keep asking until they find the right people to support them, and most of all, I want them not to give up.
Do you think you will write for a young adult audience in future?
I’m not sure. I am currently working on a hybrid-fiction book about my experience recovering from being hit by a drunk driver and escaping from domestic violence. However, as the founder and director of The Pearl Remote Democratic High School, I spend my days with teens – so even if I am not currently planning another YA novel, teens have a way of inspiring me to write!
Thanks so much for chatting with me today Robin!
If you enjoyed this interview, do go read My Sorrow. Mi Libertad , or recommend it to your loved ones!
Learn more on Amazon:
So I thought I should take some of my own medicine: Isabelle, you need to get blogging about books. In particular, about 6 octopuses I released into the world last month.
It started off a silly short story which I read to my writing group on monday nights – and everyone seemed to enjoy the individual personalities of the six coding octopuses, and the clueless computer coder who had been put in charge of them.
About Andy and the octopuses:
In a world of Elevated Intelligence, where Octopuses are bred as computer-coding slaves, there are three types of people: the ignorant, the complacent and the activists. Couch-bum Andy has received a promotion and a wriggling mass of tentacles as his new team. Suddenly, Andy is a bread-winner for six hungry mouths whose intelligence intimidates his own. He’d rather run from this new-found responsibility, than look into their watery pupils directly…
I decided not to let the story fester on my laptop forever and get it out into the world! Since then, I’ve received some lovely reader feedback, and even an octopus card in the post (the best kind of post, I reckon). And as is often the way with stories, it has taken on a world of its own. People are finding deeper meanings of animal exploitation and starting to care about the octopuses as if they were people (and hey, if we did that with all animals, wouldn’t the world be a better place? If we were kind to humans in the first place, anyway.)
Nikki Dudley, Author of Volta, was kind enough to interview me about the title…
Q: What inspired your short story?
My partner is a software engineer and he started a new job in lockdown last year, without meeting anyone. He was using a software called, Octopus Deploy. I’m sure it is a very boring, functional system, but I made a joke about deploying the octopuses, and I started writing a silly flash fiction piece from that idea, which I went onto read for my writing group ‘Monday Night Group’. The octopuses started to take on a life of their own, as everyone talked about how they could all have individual quirks – a bit like the 7 dwarves in Snow White! It started to become a fully fledged short story, which I read in bits each week.
You can read the full interview with Nikki here!
I was absolutely chuffed to be sipping my morning coffee the other day when this review by Bookphace popped up on my social media…
‘This is a wonderfully surreal and amusing short story that somehow encapsulates much of what is both right and wrong in our Internet driven age. There’s something wonderfully hapless about Andy who gets where he is by not necessarily adhering to the whole truth and nothing but the truth! And for his sins he ends up with a team of six octopuses. No! I’d never read anything like it before either! But it’s just such fun. And yet interwoven within this uncanny storyline is an altruism from the protagonist that again touches on aspects of our contemporary life and the need to revere and nurture the natural world. The narrative is so convincing that you end up not finding it too weird to be conversing with octopuses and considering their physical and emotional needs as deeply as you do your own!
Short, easy to read but a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s an absolute delight. ‘
Totally surreal story about Andy and six coding octopuses! A gem!!
And Marie Isabel said…
“I sometimes wonder what my dog would say if it could talk. Now, Andy, the hero of @isabellekenyonpoetry ‘s ‘Andy and the Octopuses’ doesn’t get to speak to dogs, but to his new tentacled, coding teammates, and what they are telling him will change his life as well as theirs.
This is a fun story, well written, and exactly the right thing if you need a bit of a literary pick-me-up. It’s the first of the @flyonthewall_poetry shorts 2021 I’ve read, and it’s made me want to go back for more.”
So maybe you want that literary pick up too!
You can grab a copy with a signed post card here from me
Or from Kindle here.
Or maybe you just want to bookmark it for future?
Add Andy and the Octopuses to your ‘To Read’ lists on Goodreads here.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of organising a blog tour for author Matt Cook and Lendal Press with the wonderful debut novel that is ‘Life on Other Planets’, in all its dark humour and glory!
Before we look at what our fantastic bloggers thought this week, let’s look at the blurb…
When I was fourteen, my family had a nervous breakdown…
It is 1997. To himself, Benjamin Carter is a thing drifted somehow out of its orbit. With the news that Great Aunt Pearl is dead, his summer is looking like yet another non-starter. There’s his summons to the clearance of her ramshackle house. His dad’s awkward pep talks. A toxic cocktail of over-zealous aunts and uncles. And then there’s the Church of the Holy Heavens―the space cult that’s been wooing Pearl for all she’s worth.
It was supposed to be simple: grieve, junk, funeral, home. But from the sidelines, Ben can see the cracks starting to show. When the search for a will goes off-beam, the Carters find themselves under siege by the property they all crave. Alone in the house together, the Carters’ lives lock into something unrecognisable and their pursuit of Aunt Pearl’s not-quite-worldly goods entirely consumes them. As Ben comes face-to-face with death, a new person emerges: curious, uninhibited, free-falling. In Life on Other Planets, Matt Cook has created a startling portrait of a young man caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Comedies of English manners have rarely been darker.
About the Author
Matthew Cook was born in 1979 in Chelmsford, Essex.
He studied Psychology at the University of Manchester before becoming a freelance writer.
His short and non-fiction has been shortlisted for Writing on the Wall’s Pulp Idol and the Cambridge Short Story Prize, and he has featured in The Stockholm Review, Oblong Magazine, Number Eleven, Spelk, The Pygmy Giant, Boneshaker, Tusk, Small Doggies and Imbroglio.
Life on Other Planets is his first novel. He lives in Liverpool with his family.
So what did this week bring?
First we opened the tour with Bookphace Gill, who said:
“Matt Cook has struck an almost perfect balance between the poignant and the lighter hearted.
The characters are accessible and believable despite their eccentricities and the author is a perceptive observer of human behaviour. Not only that, he can use those perceptions to create people we care about no matter how questionable their behaviour is because he is able to identify what is hidden beneath peoples’ veneers and tease our hidden empathies towards those people.” Read her full review here
“The longing for the will & the keenness from the family to find out if they will be getting “their” share felt quite realistic – sadly too many deaths seem to move from grief to “what’s in it for me” quickly these days.” – Intensive Gassing About Books
“…the ins and outs of a family… You get drawn in by the descriptions this author has beautifully written to the point you feel like you are there with them. Definitely recommend this book to everyone.” @HanLovesToRead
“This book was nothing like anything I have read before! With drama, mystery & sci-fi mixed together, it was the perfect read to keep me on my toes. I adored the specific descriptions of each family member with their chaotic tendencies.”
“The house looks to be a mess of trinkets and oddities; the will is missing; the family members can’t get on…
So begins a beautifully told narrative, tied together with cosmic threads and wild belief systems. I read this novel compulsively across two sittings and it honestly pained me to put it down, so invested had I become in the journey of this family. Told largely through Ben’s viewpoint—Ben being the lost and wandering teenager of the group—I was getting Holden Caulfield vibes from the off thanks to his rich voice, which was carried brilliantly throughout. The strategic use of letters was also a nice touch not only in breaking Ben’s narrative but also in providing the reader with gentle asides, that the main characters would never be privy to—right through to the end.”
“From the very first page of the novel, I was completely absorbed by the story of Ben and his peculiar family. I had no idea what to expect in regards to how the story would unravel and end but I was not disappointed in the slightest. The novel explored grief extremely well, showcasing how strange and complex of an emotion it is. The descriptions of Ben not knowing how to act at the funeral and trying to be appropriate but his every action feeling unnatural, really resonated with me as I find that this is exactly how I feel at funerals. The novel also explored familial relationships and I found it intriguing to observe the way Aunt Pearl’s house brought the family together but at the same time separated them.” – Silvxr Lifestyle and Entertainment
Brown Flopsy shared an extract from the opening of the novel here
But the most important thing is where to pick yourself up a copy!
You can do so from any of the following links:
For all the Mancunians out there!
Today dear readers I am reviewing Muscle and Mouth (Published 11th June 2021) By Louise Finnigan. A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.
This short story is a part of The Fly on the Wall shorts season. Every two months for a year starting from February 26th 2021 they are publishing a short story with a social message to be found in each one. Find out more details here.
Muscle and Mouth
Jade is prepping an A-Level assignment, all her sights set on Durham University. She’s told she has to ‘prove herself’ and keep her away from the unsavoury types she calls her best friends. Yet Jade is reluctant to shun her corner of Manchester, where she finds the land rich, ‘dark with energy’.
About The Author
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Zoe Brooks is a talented poet, well worth checking out ‘Owl Unbound’!
they shall inherit the earth.
Until this time
they have been living
on borrowed land.”
Owl Unbound, by Zoe Brooks, is a poetry collection that explores big issues man often ruminates over – life, death, disappointment, expectations. The author winds her thoughts around the wonder that is nature, where such things happen but are accepted as a cycle. Modern living demands control and sanitisation. There is a disconnect with wider existence – oft ignored interconnections that affect wellbeing.
Where love is mentioned it is as a search for something personally fulfilling, or as a loss.
“Our love is without sap,
like the flayed ash”
There is a loneliness in relationships referenced.
“I stole the moon for you,
but you did not even notice”
Many of the topics explored are presented with a degree of bitterness, but there is also humour in the musings.
As well as nature, history…
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Delighted to be closing the blog tour for Virginia Prize winning thriller, ‘Volta’ by the talented Nikki Dudley.
Let’s take a peek at the blurb…
When Briony Campbell confesses to killing her boyfriend, a straightforward crime of passion soon turns into a baffling mystery.
Haunted by demons from his past, lawyer S.J. Robin is assigned to the case. But as confusion – and the body count – rises, he’s forced to question who is guilty and who is innocent.
Can he see justice served and hold on to the woman he loves?
It’s fair to say this a twist on a contemporary thriller or crime drama! Nikki has done extensive research into crime interview procedures and that research shows. There is also a well-considered romance between the victim(!?)’s lawyer and her counsellor, which causes havoc…Everyone I have spoken to read this in just a few days – and I feel like with summer upon us, this just has to be in your bag for an intense reading experience!
Reviewers this week said…
Emma Rowson was hooked by Dudley’s main character:
“Talking of S.J., he is a fantastic character. Scarred in everyway possible, we’re told from the off that he is dealing (or not, as they case actually is) with something in his past, and as time goes on, the full extent of his trauma is revealed, with the aforementioned parallels drawing him to Briony and her to him, leading to plenty of drama as the novel unfolds.” – Full review by Emma R here
Sharon found a new favourite author…
“The characters are all so well developed, really interesting and colourful, each with their voices. Briony really made me wonder; Nikki Dudley has so skilfully written her that I was as bad as the other three on whether I believed her claim or not. I hopped from one side to the other constantly. I loved getting to know these four and was sorry when I had finished the book.
A crime thriller that refuses to be a run of the mill book and stands out with the fabulous characters that Nikki Dudley has created. I would easily recommend Volta to anyone…in fact, I have already!” – Sharon Beyond The Books
Want a sneak peak inside? Leyla Mehmet has shared an extract from Chapter Seven with us here...
Or you can watch the book trailer here!
Where can you get a copy?
From Aurora Metro Books here or any major book retailer! You could even order from your local bookshop.
About the Author
Nikki Dudley studied for her BA and MA at Roehampton University. Published work includes: the thriller, Ellipsis, (2010); her chapbook, exits/origins (2010) and poetry collection, Hope Alt Delete (2017). One of Nikki’s poems was also featured in The Blackpool Illuminations (2016).
Awards: -Novel, Volta, winner of the Virginia Prize for Fiction.
Shortlisted in the London Writers’ Competition in 2003 for poetry.
Won the Promise Prize for poetry in the London Writers’ Competition 2005.
Novel, Ellipsis, shortlisted for the Ideastap Inspires programme in 2014.
Nikki is Managing Editor of streetcake magazine, which she started with Trini Decombe in 2008. streetcake publishes an online issue every 2-3 months and in 2019, launched the streetcake experimental writing prize, supported by the Arts Council England. She also runs Mumwrite.com, a writing community for mothers.
She grew up in inner city London and attended state school in Camden. Nikki has been in love with words since she wrote short stories in her scrapbook at primary school and discovered what a metaphor was.
Running a blog tour for Sally-Anne Lomas and Story Machines this week, check it out!
When fifteen year-old Pen Flowers climbs out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets, she ignites a flame in herself that will change everything.
There is something about this book that captured me in and I really struggled to put it down. Penny “Pen” is one of those quiet types who only has 2 friends in school and isn’t part of the popular crowd. Don’t worry Penny that was me at school too. But when Penny did some emotive dancing during dance class which came out of nowhere by the way it changed everything for Penny and has given her something to strive for. This book is an excellent piece of young adult and it really gets your emotions going.
Thank you so much Isabelle from Fly on the Wall for letting me take part in the blog…
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Delighted to be taking part in this blog tour for the award-winning poet, Victoria Bennett, celebrating her new Indigo Dreams Publishing pamphlet!
Let’s meet Victoria…
Victoria Bennett is a writer, poet, and founder of Wild Women Press. Her latest poetry pamphlet, To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her memoir, All My Wild Mothers, was long-listed for the Nan Shepherd Prize (2019) and the Penguin #WriteNow Programme 2020. Her writing has won a Northern Debut Award, Northern Promise Award, the Waterhouse Award for Poetry and The Mother’s Milk Non-Fiction Prize. She lives in Cumbria with her husband and son. The owner of unruly genes and a rebellious body, she juggles chronic illness with being a carer, mother and writer. When not juggling, she can be found howling with her Wild Women tribe.
During the tour we have been privy to personal expressions of raw grief. Through reviews, interviews and poetry, we have remembered Victoria’s late mother, and been amazed by Victoria’s ability to make us feel alongside her.
These poems are an intimate meditation on love and loss, told by a daughter as she cares for her mother through terminal mesothelioma. The poet invites the reader to be witness to the private moments of dying, from the physical reality of caregiving through to the alchemy of death, telling the story of a relationship between women that is transformed through grief. Honest, unsentimental, and quietly uplifting.
After The War, The Battle Comes
Those who walk away
travel as time-travellers do,
slightly out of synch, somewhere
between the living and the dead.
Wounds heal but the shadows
are stitched in. It takes time
to learn to move in this strange skin.
Buy a copy for £6.00 from Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd here
“Bennett’s poetry is controlled, spare and with the particular magic of inviting the reader in right-up-close. An agonisingly beautiful, closely observed and compassionate love letter and leave-taking for a much loved mother.”
Poet, Editor and Founder of The Poetry Pharmacy