Friday, 20 November 2015

UnTamed excerpt and KINDLE giveaway

I am very excited that my short story UnTamed has been picked to be part of the UnCommon Bodies Anthology, a collection of 20 beautifully irreverent stories which blend the surreal and the mundane. Here is a short excerpt from UnTamed.

Wolf girl Leana Iyeroy, the first hybrid in her family, only ever wanted to be 100% human. An unexpected encounter with the Hugging Saint of Bombay forces Leana to face the wolf inside her. Will she finally make peace with herself? A magic-realist, coming-of-age tale.

Sept 30, 2060. 4pm
"Your stories are very amusing, old man, but now that you know who I am, I have to kill you," I pull grandmother's sword out from its sheath. Everyone in this new world has been looking for this sword and I inherited it a few weeks ago. Me, the first half-human descendant of the woman who destroyed Bombay.
Pulse racing, I rush forward, bringing the blade down on him; but he moves aside and I slide past and bang my head against the railing of the boat. I spring back to my feet and waltz around him, ready to leap.
He's looking at me, arms hanging by his sides. He seems not in the least surprised. Then, he raises a hand and beckons, one side of his lips quirking in a smile. Blood thudding in my ears, I jump towards him, and again he steps aside; only this time he puts out his foot and I stumble over it and crash, face down, right at the feet of the other two, who burst out laughing.
"You sure fight like a girl," the fisherman snickers.
What the—! Is he making fun of me?
Anger blasts through my head, filling the space behind my eyes. The hair on my forearms stands on end, bristling like spears; my nostrils quiver, leg muscles tense and I grip my sword.
"Came to learn from the master swordsman himself, did you?" the baker chuckles.
"What do you mean?" I growl, already swinging to face the old lamp seller.
"He's Aki, the best swordsman in the islands; perhaps in all of this new world. And he's been waiting for you," The fisherman replies.
"Oh! Yeah? Has he now?" I sneer and, pushing the fisherman aside, I lunge once more at the lamp seller. One step, a second, a third, and I leap through the air–Didn't see that coming did you old man?–and fall head down against the wooden floor.
The breath whooshes out of me and my nose slams against the wooden boards. I hear the sickening crunch of it breaking and pain shoots through me, screeching through my nerve endings, so I almost black out. My hands are flung out, the right gripping the sword and I scream as a heavy weight crunches on my palm, forcing me to loosen my fingers.
"No! No! No!" He's wrenched my sword from my grasp and is holding it aloft.
 "Don't you dare!" I grind out through clenched teeth.
He grins and, still looking at me, tosses the sword up in the air.
What the–? I follow the blade as it whirls around and up and up and up, ‘til it is silhouetted against the sun. It drops down, hilt up. Grabbing the sword by the blunt side, he swings the handle towards me. 
A scream boils up, then everything goes dark.

Intrigued? To read more, buy your copy of UnCommon Bodies HERE

Also we're giving away a Kindle, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi, with UCB Coverart Skin To celebrate the release. Enter the giveaway HERE

If you buy the book and like it, do leave a review on Amazon.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Never Saw It Coming

Because I'm trying my hand at short fiction ...  

Never Saw It Coming

"He spent his last £30 on a plate of oysters and a glass of champagne."
"But he's vegetarian!" I exclaim before I can stop myself.
"Is he?" Kieran frowns, "He downed the oysters in one go." He takes a swig of his pint.
Why would he lie to me? Has he been lying to me all this time? Something else niggles at the edge of mind, but the thought is gone before it's fully formed.
"I've always been vegetarian. Have vegetarian genes," I say.
"I tried to be vegetarian." He says and when I look at him, surprised, and he adds quickly, "A few years ago." 
I half nod. People always have to share their trysts with vegetarianism, with me.
"It's one reason I look younger." No, shouldn't have said that. Damn. And he of course picks up the cue.
"How old are you?" He asks.
I smile and shake my head.
"Go on, you can tell me." He opens his eyes wide, places his chin on his fist, and leans forward. I see the spots on his face, the uncombed hair hanging over his eyebrows. He's younger than I thought he was. His eagerness is a turn on, though, and I want to sleep with him. Just to taste him.
 "I'm not saying." I say sharply and his eyebrows arch in surprise.
Stop overreacting Ariana. It's just a simple question.
"I can be any age you want." It just slips out and I swear inwardly. I didn't just say that. I didn't. Forget it move on. But before I can say something more, he asks "When we meet, I'd like to spank you, is that okay?"
Ah! Well, he's changed the topic and quite neatly too.
 "Never been spanked," I say lightly. "But I'd try it. Once."
"Spanking's good for circulation" he grins. "Keeps your skin supple."
I bet!
"Where was he flying to?" I ask.
I jerk at that and stare and he clarifies, "Mongolia."
"Yeah! Yeah! I know that." Ulaanbaatar? Couldn't he have picked Rio or Bermuda? What game are you playing this time, dear husband? "No oysters in Ulaanbaatar," I mutter. "Only horse meat and porridge."
He wrinkles his nose.
"Not too bad once you add vodka to the porridge ... for dinner, of course." I add hastily.
"Of course!" Kieran smirks, then, asks, "So have you decided when?"
I look at a spot somewhere above his shoulder and mumble, "Need to plan it out."
"Much longer and my wrist will fall off."
My cheeks grow hot and my fingers slip into my bag, curling around the little bottle. "You sure he got on the flight?"
Kieran tilts his chair back and nods, "He signed off on the house, and the sale has gone through. The money should be deposited tomorrow."
Hated that place. Still it was home for a year, so guess it's okay to feel some regret.
"He took it on his chin. For a man who lost everything overnight, he was remarkably even-tempered." I hear grudging admiration in Kieran's voice.
"You did good," I tell him, "He never saw it coming."
"You didn't see me coming," He retorts.
"No" I agree, "you took me by surprise."
"A welcome surprise?" He's close enough for me to see his eyes widen. The chair legs hit the ground with a thwack, and he stretches towards me. He brushes his lips over mine, and I go rigid.
 "Relax," he runs his hand through my hair, and when his fingers touch my scalp, I shiver and pull back hastily, "You are a better con man than a PI." I sip my now-flat beer.
"Thanks to you," He raises his glass, and I watch as he chugs it down. "And now I don’t have to be either."
The glass slips from his hand, and I am already up and moving away as his head hits the table. En route to the airport I click open the just arrived e-ticket. It's for Ulaanbaatar. 
That sodding bastard.
I am about to delete the ticket, then pause. No, I'm going to go over there and get my share of the money first. Maybe even keep it all for myself. I stretch my legs out and watch the sun shine off my stockings. Time enough to plan.

If you made it this far :) here's a festive giveaway to help usher in the new year 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 to be 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:

JULE OWEN: 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 EarthAmazon US and Amazon UK

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.