Friday, 9 October 2015

We are all migrants and refugees

A while ago, I put up a FB post asking if we weren’t we all migrants in some form? I found this was an emotional topic and not everyone agreed with exactly who/ what a migrant is. When I met fellow author Jule Owen, we got to talking about this and she said that not too many people in the UK today can claim to be ‘pure’ British for most are migrants in some form. Coming from someone who I perceived as being as close to 100% British as possible, I was intrigued and asked her to write about it. This is what she said:

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about migrants and refugees, with wildly differing sentiments and opinions on how to handle the refugee crisis mainly caused by the situation in Syria, but augmented by political and environmental crises in many other countries.

London is full of migrants. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing a representation of the many faces of the world. I grew up in a white northern working class environment, which even before I understood what I really felt, I found stifling and limited. Personally, I have benefitted hugely from the melting-pot diversity of London. I have made friends who have enriched my life with their different stories of the places they grew up in, their families and their cultures, different to mine. I experience that difference as something that adds to, not detracts from my own story. But I also find a ridiculous amount of common ground, shared beliefs and experience. We all share the same basic emotions, hopes and fears and we all have the same basic needs. The difference has always been like spice to me. Homogeny is something I find at best dull and at the worst frightening.

But many people find this diversity threatening. Some people, a sizable minority it turns out, want to shut down the country to new-comers altogether.

I’m not going to debate the particular issue of the Syrian refugees here, but the issue has acted as a catalyst for a debate that was already brewing through the general election. I happened to be travelling throughout the south of England during the election and I was dismayed to see the amount of UKIP signs around. The reason for the trip was partly to start to find somewhere other than London to live. And I realised that these places, with the UKIP signs, could never be home to me. I am a white, middle class British woman, and I find UKIP Britain a foreign country. What’s more so do my other white, middle class friends. London does that to you. It changes you for life. In this particular way, I wish the whole world could be a bit more London.

This whole experience has made me really think about what is going on when people want to return Britain to being British. Do they mean return it to being “white”? UKIP doesn’t seem to like central and eastern Europeans either, from what I understand. So is it some kind of family tree thing? Do you have to have a purely British family history to avoid deportation? I have a very British family tree, but a number of my best friends are descended from German Jewish migrants, or have various Europeans in their ancestry. And how far back do we go? Four generations? Ten? Who decides?

Perhaps it’s because I have a leaning towards science and history that the notion of a “pure” Britain irritates me. There’s simply no such thing in fact. It’s nonsense. Britain is a country made up of migrants. As is every other country in the world, barring, ironically, some small communities in Africa, where people haven’t actually moved much for tens of thousands of years.

We all came out of Africa, in several waves of migration. We moved about over thousands of years. The first human settlers to Britain were Neanderthals, not Homo sapiens. The first settlers of our species relocated from what is now the coast of Spain. People buried at Stonehenge, have been DNA tested and a proportion of them came from Europe.

There was a surprisingly large amount of travel from Europe to prehistoric Britain, in varying numbers. One of these latter groups, settled only a few hundred years before the Romans came. We call them the Celts. Many of us like to think of them as the true British people. But they were migrants too.

The Romans stayed here for five hundred years, their soldiers were from all over their Empire, including, get this, Syrians. Inevitably, their soldiers stayed and married and had children with the locals. So some fine “British” people are almost certainly walking around with the blood of ancient Syrian soldiers pulsing through them.

Then there’s the Saxons from Germany, and the Angles from the small strip of land between Denmark and Germany, from where England gets it’s name and the term Anglo-Saxon comes. So our names for ourselves are even European.

Then there were the Vikings, of course, from which large numbers of people on the Eastern side of the country are actually proud to be descended even though they were slave traders, psychotic thugs, common thieves and rapists.

Then there was the Norman invasion and the language of government became French for four hundred years – hence the “English” language having over 100,000 French derived words in it. Things settled down after that, but there has always been a steady stream of incomers.

In the sixteenth century, England took in Huguenot (French protestant) and Flemish refugees, fleeing religious persecution. Their arrival caused an economic boom, as they brought superior lace making skills with them. Dutch settlers to East Anglia, brought land drainage expertise, which turned swampy ground into highly productive arable farms.

Should we have turned away Nathan Mayer Rothschild, a German Jew from Frankfurt, when he came to Manchester at the end of the eighteenth century? Not only did he start a business empire that made his family – at its peak - the richest in modern history, he also financed the Battle of Waterloo.

Last year, the CBI Director General, John Cridland, drew attention to the hard economic benefits of immigration to Britain, saying that it had actually helped keep economic recovery on course. Research from UCL shows that migrants from the EU, make a positive net contribution to the economy of £2,732 per year.

Angela Merkel may have come across as the most compassionate politician in Europe recently, but I really don’t think her decision was just about morality and German history. I think she understands that Germany needs educated, self-motivated young people to help its economy, especially as its own population is dwindling. I think she understands migration is essential to the health of a country. Personally, I just think it’s what we do as humans. We are all migrants.

About Jule Owen
Jule Owen
Jule Owen was born in the North of England, somewhere between Snowdonia, the Irish Sea and the Pennines, and now lives in London, UK. She spent many years working in online technology, latterly in the video games industry and is fascinated by science, technology and futurology. Her books are her creative response to the exponential growth of technological innovation in the era of climate change. Find Jule Owen on her website
Buy her new scifi, time-travel novel, The Boy who fell to Earth >

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

This Authentic Life 2: New Chapters

So if you've been following this blog, you'll know I blog more in the early stages of writing a book. It's like I am greasing my palm and my brain, heating up the engine, readying for take off; aka the second half of the book.

One of the things I am worried as I write is that I am drawing on the emotions and experiences inside me and very soon I am going to be bereft of them and will need to replenish them. I don't travel much anymore. Mainly because I've moved out of the kind of jobs that would get me on the road so that I have  a routine, so I can now write. Also because I don't travel on pleasure anymore; well because my trips are largely curtailed as currently I make just enough money to pay my bills; so I can free up mindspace to write. So I make up for this lack of travel by trying to meet more interesting, new people; people,who I wouldn't normally meet in my daily life, out of my normal circle. And also by going to new places I haven't discovered yet in this city. So it's kind of trying to move out of the comfort zone, except when I am in my den writing. In which case I move into unchartered waters inside. At least I am trying to push myself a little further everyday.

So I am also living vicariously through those who travel. Like a friend who spent a year travelling around the world on a much delayed gap year. And then there's Hugh Howey, who just sailed his boat around the Cape of Good Hope and will be moving onto other adventures soon.

I have always been aware that the appeal of being an author for me is that it allows me to go on many journeys, inside and outside. But as I write I find I am stripping back layers and becoming more 'me' in everything I do. So much so that I pretend less and less as time goes on. It does mean then I am beginning to choose places where I don't have to be something else. I am choosing to be with people with whom I don't have to pretend to be something I am not. It means not being somewhere, where I don't want to be.

It's less about the 'I have to do this because' ... and more that 'I am this'

And then as I become more what I am inside, as I strip out the stuff I don't want to be, I feel lighter. And there is more space, and I want to create new experiences, new memories, new chapters for myself.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

This Authentic Life – 1: Being on the outside as I am on the inside

Over the next few months I am going to be blogging about my gradual quest/ metamorphosis/ search to leading a life that is more 'me'. It's a result of beginning to write with intent since 2012 and I seem to be headed somewhere with this; not sure where yet, but watching and studying my own evolution has been enlightening for me. Yep, that's the writer in me who seems to take perverse pleasure in watching and studying my own reactions. Sounds weird but I am sure many of us observers of human nature do this a lot. And I often find myself talking and thinking about this, so I figured I might blog about it too. Especially because I spent much of my gold dust hours this morning when I write best, vacillating between writing this blog post or writing my current novel, I figured I'd better bash this post out, so I can get on with the other story.

And this by the way is my barometer for an idea that has legs aka a theme which sticks in your gut and which you then cannot get rid off for days, weeks or months on end and then you know you just have to get it out. And therein lie the makings of a novel or a story or a post. That thing which will not rest till it has been poured out and painted into a semblance of a vision for the world to see.

A few days ago I met another Jule Owen, who's just released her first novel, an excellent climate change themed science fiction story. We got to talking about those 'aha' moments in our individual lives that had made us want to reach out for more. Largely those times when you re-discover that you are real, and your feelings exist and you have this weird, so real-it's-surreal sense of connection, painful sometimes, euphoric at others, with the world around you. Perhaps it’s a bit like being born or reborn?

 I often equal these moments to landing on Earth after a trip through space when you have been weightless, and then gravity pulls at you and you hit the cold, hard, ground and feel every single ache and pain in your body. It's all too real then, and there can be no mistake that you are alive. And you are grateful you are still here and back on Earth, and know you have to embrace it fully; that you can't shy away from the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. And you ask yourself why you've been afraid? What are you really afraid of? And that's just the start. You ask how you've lived so far and realise your own mortality and that there are but a few precious years left. And that's when you make that first conscious decision about how you want to spend the rest of your life. And for me this isn't just about the writing. Yes writing is a very important aspect of how I want to use up many of the hours in the rest of my mortal life, but it's really just a tool, a bridge to living a more authentic life.

Now does that mean I have been living a lie all these years? No, but definitely I have been influenced by my past, my conditioning to live in a certain way (and I am still living as per those rules in many ways today.) But once I started really writing from the gut, I realised I was plumbing my own sub-conscience to tap into a sea of the unsaid and unexpressed. Both due to the kind of person I am and due to the society where I grew up, where expressing what's really in your mind is not something that you take for granted. Perhaps this is why when I write and through no conscious decision I seem to want to reflect the socio-economic-political realities of my origins and of the place where I live in today. It's permission to have and express an opinion.  Something I have never felt I have had (or have even today) in real life.

And so the more I write I become what I am and feel and think and believe. A more authentic version or rather a person who is authentic and real more of the time than not. And by this I mean someone who is able to express and see and feel and think and be on the outside as I am on the inside. Is that a bit of a mind-bender or am I making sense?
Here's a little more on Jule Owen's The Boy Who Fell from the Sky, the first of a mind-twisting new YA dystopian series
The world is falling apart in 2055. Another flood has devastated London and it’s the eve of the First Space War. With the city locked down, sixteen-year-old Mathew Erlang is confined to his house with only his cat, his robot and his holographic dragons for company.
Desperate for a distraction from the chaos around him, Mathew becomes fascinated by his peculiar and reclusive neighbour, August Lestrange. Mathew begins to investigate Mr. Lestrange, turning to the virtual world of the Nexus and Blackweb for answers. But as he digs deeper, Mathew realises that Mr. Lestrange doesn’t seem quite human.
When Mathew accidentally finds himself trapped in Lestrange’s house, he opens a door and falls four hundred years into the future. Unwittingly, he starts to destabilise the course of human history.
A 1984 for a new generation, The Boy Who Fell from the Sky delves into a future where climate change and technology have transformed the world. It is the first book in The House Next Door trilogy, a young adult dystopian science fiction action adventure. Mathew’s story continues in Silverwood.
The stakes are raised for Mathew. His mother’s life is on the line. He must break into his own future to try and find an answer.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Can I weave in more serious socio-economic political themes in my YA novels and still entertain?

I met +Emily Mah Tippetts  first when she reviewed The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer and later when she came to London.  Like many of us of Asian origin, Emily has a 'first life' as a qualified lawyer. Originally from New Mexico, she has a Bachelors in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, and a juris doctorate in business law from UCLA. 

She writes as both Emily Mah (for science fiction and fantasy) and E.M. Tippetts (for chick lit). Her short stories have appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, The Black Gate, and anthologies like The Dragon and the Stars, Shanghai Steam, and The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth. Her E.M. Tippetts novels have been on the Amazon Top 100 numerous times, and her novel, Someone Else's Fairytale was semi-finalist for the Best Indie Book of the Year -  Kindle Book Review, and a runner up in Romance for the Best of the Independent Book Awards - eFestival of Words.

She's also a graduate of the Clarion West Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy and Viable Paradise Writers Workshop, and often teaches the unit on self-publishing at the Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop. What struck me about Emily was her confidence in her writing.

I remember asking her how she goes about getting her books reviewed; whether she has a strategy does she try to target a certain kind of reviewer or reader for that matter. And Emily told me that she just gets the book out there, with the quiet confidence that the book will find its readers. All delivered in that very straight, no-nonsense, yet assured voice which is so her :) Her beautifully crafted new new epic fantasy THE SKY CHARIOT SAGA series, is now out and I have read the first in the series and loved it. 

So you can imagine that it's a great honour to be interviewed by her for Black Gate Press on RUBY IYER, writing ... specifically writing dystopian fiction set in Bombay, on the INDIE publishing process and also why I can't seem to stay away from using some really important socio-economical-political themes in my writing -- they just pop up when I am not looking -- in my writing.  More here:

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

On music to write to, afterhoursDJs & self-control

Been meaning to write this post for a while. About music and writing. I can only write with earphones stuck in my ears, music playing over it to drown out all the background noise in my head. It helps me focus. These days it also means applying self-control app to my computer so I also block out all the social media, and newspaper websites and Amazon websites too. Yah, yah. I know. It’s the equivalent of being blinkered, blinded and cut off from hearing anything in the real world. That's what it takes to focus your mind. Or find a second of mindfulness in these multi-media turbulent times. But I digress. I was going to talk about music and writing.

As a teen, studying for my various exams, I had to listen to hard rock. That was it. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppellin, AC/DC, Bulletboys, Deep Purple. Yah, you get the drift. That was my bad girl, rebel, I hate the world, get out of my way before I run over you phase. Coming to think of it. I'm still in that phase. I just know how to hide it better

These days when I write it has to be electronica. Ideally mixed by Dutch or Detroit based DJs. Weird. Where did that come from right? But I find electronica in all its forms, especially techno and house, really help drown out the ambient noise in my head. It's beats and no lyrics. So no distracting voices in my head. ... other than the ones I hear when I write. Ha! Ha! Now you’re probably thinking I'm a bit schizophrenic which I probably am.

This one here by the Chemical Brothers (Hey Girl. Hey Boy), is my warm up track. Cannot. Explain. Why. But it gets me going, gets me to fire up the keyboard and kick off the words. Yes, it's a well known track, wish I could pick out a more obscure one, but hey, no telling for taste is there? Like books which catch the readers' fancy, some tunes too just stick in your head

My favourite radio channel right now, is this underground radio station called These DJs from the Netherlands, Poland and Detroit have kept me company on many a night. Do visit them. They are a great bunch.

Also over the years I've compiled a go-to, fail-safe, music to write to list on Spotify. And sharing it makes me feel almost as naked as sharing my books. Your music taste can tell a lot about you don't you think? Also sheds so much light about your background and influences and what you are really, really thinking inside. So here's my spotify playlist ... Don't judge me too harshly.

From the author:

The THIRD book in the RUBY IYER Series launches this month. To celebrate the launch of the FIRST LIFE OF VIKRAM ROY I am giving away a $30 gift card/ paypal cash. Enter HERE. Winner will be drawn, Oct 1, 2015, and announced in my next newsletter.

RUBY IYER's won a few awards over the past month ^^ 2015 Readers' Favorite (Bronze) YA Action| YA Finalist 2015 IAN Book of the Year Award. Finalist 9th Annual Indie Excellence Awards.

You may have noticed a lot of media chatter around the fate of the Syrian refugees, esp the children, trying to find their way to a safer place. Over the past year I have often wanted to set up a channel to donate a portion of the lifelong earnings from the RUBY IYER series to the cause of the girl child in India. But the events of the last few days have spurred me on to do something, NOW. 

So, all SEPTEMBER earnings from the RUBY IYER SERIES will be donated to SAVE THE CHILDREN: SUPPORT CHILD REFUGEES OF SYRIA. All the RUBY IYER books with their brand new covers, are on SALE all this month at 99p/c & Rs 69/49. Click HERE to buy them. 

YOU can also donate to SAVE THE CHILDREN directly HERE 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Water races down

It's been 40 days, 10 hours ... uh 13 seconds since my last post. I haven't blogged because I was trying to get stuff right in my head, and because when the sun shines outside in London, I feel duty bound to be out and about soaking it up. Also because this year I am not heading to India on my end-of-year meet the parents trip, heading to the States instead. So it's going to be a while before I am dropped head first into a vat of burning sunshine, and so had to store up as much heat as possible in my cells to tide over the next few months. No, it's not as bad as that, but I have to say it.

Truth is I actually prefer autumn and winter. I like the low hanging clouds in the grey london sky, I like shivering a little, so I can walk everywhere and not get hot and tired. I like the nights drawing in early, because the discontent of a half finished day strikes a chord with my gut and helps me tap hidden emotions inside; the stuff I can never admit to myself, which is why I write. It's easier to be true to the computer screen than to myself.

The last few weeks have also been different, because of a close encounter of a different kind. One where I touched a forgotten hunger. A reminder of what it means to feel extreme emotions, the tightly leashed kind, the secret ones which you'll never tell anyone about. Of what it feels to be hungry ... yes that's it. Hungry enough to throw caution to the winds, to chase after a feeling which you know will be there only in the moment and gone if you closed your eyes.

Like being in the middle of one of my action scenes, poised on the edge of this long, long slide down, just waiting, not breathing, on tip-toes, and then bending down, you're about to throw yourself headlong down this slide.  Or do you? Yah, that kinda feeling.

And the inevitable low that follows. You know, just as you are soaring up, really in the moment, adrenaline pumping and you know, you just know that when you reach high enough, close enough to the sun, the heat is going to melt the wax holding your feathers together and then you are going to plunge straight down never to recover ... not for a while atleast. But hey the flight was exhilarating enough to last you a while. You think. You try to convince yourself. But the doubts still crowd in. And it's too late, because you've already taken off.

Kind of like this video -- not exactly like this, not quite, but almost. For when I get that high and then crash this is the song I listen to, and somehow it's poignant on many levels. Mainly because it feels like he is tearing his heart out. And I often wonder how far do I have to dig  to get to the kernel hidden inside.

Friday, 17 July 2015

An incident

Run along then in your little box.
The one you created.
And set about lining with velvet on the inside. Iron on the outside.
That deep, un-penetrable wall. And a raindrop gets in.
Eases in.
Teases itself in.
Worms itself into your ear.
Lodges in your brain.
Grows till it fills your every waking hour.
And screams at night.
So you can't ignore it any more.
And a sudden flash of insight. A spotlight on yourself
Of what you were. What you have now become.
That cocoon you created. Comfortable. Soft.
Spun so tight, it fits you just right. Like a little black leather dress
That chokes you so hard, you can't breathe
So, you have to hold yourself up, straight, suck in your stomach, put on a face
And somewhere along the way, you've become just that. That face.
The one you saw fleeting glimpses of.
The one you swore you'd never be.
And then you wake up and you just are.
That face.
Yet, you ask. If one little drop could create such havoc
If it could dispel the story with a touch
Then, what are you now?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

“ the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him. ”

So by now you must have seen True Detective, season 1 and the episodes of season 2 out already. Today I read a piece about it's writer & creator - Nic Pizzolatto. I read it all in one go, this long article. And at the end of it all I could think was, boy, there was so much in this I really identified with. And I had to analyse why. So here it is. (Link to the Vanity Fair article is at the very end of the post) quotes from the story and then me doing my shrink thing on myself.

“the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him.”

--> Don't we all search and search and the answers are all within us.

... in Nic’s conception, every character is driven by a particular engine. Well, maybe this was why. Maybe Nic himself is driven by some early trauma. 

--> Yes. This is it. This is what I have found to be true in my writing. My characters are driven by something. And normally I don't find the motivations, the reason for their actions in my first draft. No I have to go back and ask. Go back and pull aside the actions, the physicality that I fill my first draft with. Dig inside to find out why. Why did she/ he do that? What makes her/ him they way they are. Perhaps it's because in real life too, I act first on instinct. And then later have to analyse my actions to understand why I did that thing I did.

"I tend to be influenced by places as much as anything,” he said. “You look around and notice details and it starts to form a world and then you find characters to inhabit this world.”

--->Yes. Geography dictates what you are, what you become. Geography and location are characters in my writing. They influence my characters' reactions.

The [characters] inhabit a poisoned dystopia. It’s literally toxic…. These stories take place in areas where the revelation has already happened. The apocalypse has come and gone, and no one’s quite woken up to that fact.”

--> Ah! Here it is. Dystopia is here. Today. Now. I believe. Too.

Then this person wakes up in the morning, what’s the first feeling they’re having?

--> And you? What do you feel? Do I feel, you ask? 

It helped it starred Colin Farrell too

Here is the link to the original Vanity Fair piece

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

That hundred year old feeling

Over the past few weeks I have found that I am very tired.
Really tired.
Bone weary, drop dead tired. Like a meteor slammed into me. It's one of the following reasons
1) The final, final (final I hope) re-edit of Many Lives kicked me in
2) The writing of The First Life of Vikram Roy. Okay that's done. But then then the thought of starting on its edit is like totally killing me.
3) Am getting old
4) Not getting out enough
5)Too addicted to social media for all the wrong reasons
6) All of the above
Obviously all of the above. So I did the only thing a lonely, social-media friendly author with no real world friends any more would do. I took a selfie of my sorry old self. And then Instagrammed the hell out of it (below) So I looked kinda decent.

My FB friends have been kind enough to say, they have seen worse. 
Some reminded me of their own personal issues ... Many grappling with life and death situations far worse than what I am going through.
And I realized, yet again, how I've gone into my teeny-tiny shell and been too focussed on MY own problems.
So then, enough self pity. Take a break. Enjoy the flowers. Then get back to finishing the edits.
And here are the hydrangeas in full bloom in my garden. 
Life's never that bad. It really isn't.
Not even when you feel a hundred years old.

Ever felt a hundred years old too? When? Do write and tell me.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Finding one new reader a day

This is where I realise it's about-
 Staying in the race for the long run.
Finding one new reader a day
Those who get you
Who read you
Who see what you can see
Who also see what you don't see
This is my new life
Coming Soon - The FIRST LIFE of Vikram Roy, (Ruby Iyer Series, Book 3)
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 The RUBY IYER DIARIES (Ruby Iyer Series, Book 1)

Thanks Ritesh, Josh & Amy