Pulp Idol 2017: I’m Through To The Final!

This is my first post in many months, as life has been distracting me to no end, but I come bearing excellent news! I recently entered Pulp Idol – a local writing competition in Liverpool – and got through to the final! Can you believe it?

This was the third consecutive year that I’ve entered and I almost didn’t bother, but something compelled me to submit my novel hours before the deadline – I’m so glad now that I did!

In the competition, each of us had to read out three minutes from our opening chapter, followed by a series of questions from the panel of judges. I brought great passion and energy to my reading and enthusiastically answered the judges’ questions, sensing that my piece had been well-received, yet hardly daring to hope that I would get through to the final. As we waited for the results, I had such a strong gut feeling that I would be successful, but of course my inner critic simply dismissed this as wishful thinking.

When the judges called out my name, I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was! After all the rejection emails I’ve received from publishing houses, as well as my run-in with a vanity publisher, it was so special to hear such positive feedback about my writing. The judges said my opening chapter was well-structured, eloquently written and wasn’t drowning in too much description, with interesting characters that showed great potential – this was so affirming for me and it has restored confidence in my writing.

I’ve barely written anything these last four months, so this victory has given me a much needed confidence boost. Going forward to the final next month, there is a chance I could actually end up with a publishing contract, which is so unbelievably exciting! I dare to dream that it is possible and intend to carry forth my passionate energy to the final, letting my inner light shine as I present my work to the judges once more.

Wish me luck, my friends!

Filling Up The Creative Well

​It really is true what Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way. If you do not regularly replenish your creative well, then your creative juices will ‘dry up’ and you will stagnate. Even if you seem to be on a roll, your project will skid to a halt because you’ve burned up all of your available resources!

What Julie Cameron suggests in her book is going on something called an ‘artist’s date’, in which one devotes some time to replenishing this dried-up well with fresh inspiration and ideas. This might involve going to the local art gallery, reading a book or even going to a new restaurant and doing some people-watching! You are meant to do this completely alone so that you can fully absorb the experience.

This week, for example, I wrote lots of nursery rhymes and nonsense poetry after devouring a collection of classical nursery rhymes in one sitting! On other occasions, looking at statues or taking a stroll through the park has triggered something within me. It does not matter what you do to fill your creative well, as all art is birthed from the same creative energy that flows through us all. 

I too have had sudden droughts while writing, especially when I’ve written a lot in a short space of time. While I believe that any of us can tap into the abundant energies of the cosmos, it is important to realise that we must be proactive in exposing ourselves to life’s wonders (a beautiful piece of artwork, trees rustling in the wind, a new exciting experience etc), which act as portals to that creative energy which you seek. Make sure that you take regular “culture baths” and always be open to new inspiration and experiences to fuel your creative projects!

Good luck, my fellow creators! And much love =)

The Magic Lives On! My reflections on the latest Harry Potter book.

At first, I wasn’t that excited about The Cursed Child. Maybe that’s because I thought it was a random spin-off (much like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), but when I picked it up in the bookstore, I was instantly transported back in time and felt the same feverish excitement that I felt as a kid!

There was no mistake about it: this was the latest Harry Potter book! Yes, it might well be a screenplay, but it is still a continuation of the original saga. When I held it in my hands and saw “The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later” written on the back cover, it gave me goosebumps! I don’t even  care if this was a marketing ploy because it bloody well worked! Shut up and take my money =P

Something reawakened within me on that day. I have not felt such frenzied excitement about a franchise for a long time and The Cursed Child seemed to open up that portal to my younger self. Where did the magic go, I wonder? Why do I no longer spend hours trawling fan sites or daydreaming about Hogwarts and hobbits? 

Granted, I am in the middle of writing a fantasy novel, so I do still use my imagination quite a lot. But I cannot help but notice that my soul lacks nourishment from other sources. And it is important, I think, for a writer to fuel themselves with inspiration, otherwise they go stale and lose their mojo. 

So what’s changed? Why is it that Pokemon Go only excited me for a week? Why is it that I didn’t get excited whatsoever with the build-up to The Cursed Child‘s release? Could it be that I no longer remember the way to Platform 9 3/4?

The sad truth is that life has got in the way, as it does with so many people. I also put too much pressure on myself to be productive, forgetting to play and nourish my soul with magic. Alas, for may people let their creative flame go out entirely, but I do everything in my power to keep it burning brightly. 

Every time I return to the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, my soul is instantly nourished. Too often I have been distracted by mundane trifles, but I still believe in magic. My soul still soars when I hear the LOTR soundtrack or re-read Harry Potter, so revisiting the wizarding world and seeing what the characters were doing nineteen years later was absolutely marvellous! 

Some have said The Cursed Child feels a bit fan-fictiony, but the original magic was undeniably present  (and JK put her official stamp on it, which is good enough for me). I was surprised by the intense emotion it evoked, particularly in the scene where Harry has a heart-to-heart with Dumbledore’s painting. And that scene with the trolley lady.. kudos to the writers!

From now on, I will make a conscious effort to do more of what I love. The magic lives on within me and I refuse to let it lie dormant. Whether creating my own material or soaking up the goodness of others, I give myself to that which excites me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and meet Minerva McGonagall in Hogsmeade. There was a dispute between our owls and she wants to patch things up. Fingers crossed we can because I’m applying to be the new Professor of Astronomy, so hopefully my silly owl hasn’t messed things up!

Gods, I need an editor!

​As with any trade, the more you work at it, the better you become – and it’s the same with writing. 

Looking back now, I can see how clumsy and amateur some of the prose from my earlier work actually was. A part of me wishes I could go back and tighten up some of this – especially my first book, Pearl’s Hereafter – but I have neither the time nor the patience and want to focus on what I’m writing at the moment.  

It’s not so much that I’m embarrassed by my earlier work, as I think that it’s great story-wise, but it’s just the idea that people might have formed judgements about my writing based on its early shoddiness. I’m reassured, however, by the fact that Stephen King dismisses his first two novels as utter crap. All writers – even great ones – began from somewhere. 

It takes a while to find your writer’s voice and hone your craft. Like Stephen King, I also feel apprehensive towards my first two books (one of them hasn’t even seen the light of day yet). With my third book though – The Essence of Sunshine – the quality of my prose dramatically improved and I was very pleased with the finished piece. In fact, it is the first project that I haven’t felt the need to go back and fix. 

At the moment, I am writing a fantasy, which has yielded my best writing to date. I am excited to share this latest work and want to focus on bringing it into fruition. However, I do think that my earlier books need some TLC, so I am now considering hiring an editor for this purpose. If I can get someone on board to tighten up my earlier works, then I can carry on doing what I truly love and invest all my creative energy into my writing. 

Just put pen to paper and see what happens!

Sometimes, you might feel like you don’t have it in you to be creative. But if you don’t bother showing up to the keyboard / notepad, then how do you know for certain?

This morning, one sentence fell into my head and I immediately began to analyse it. Deeming it to be rubbish, I ignored it for a few minutes, but it kept on floating around my mind, so I decided to jot it down as a meagre starting point for later.

However, as I wrote it down, something amazing happened. What I wrote immediately transformed into something better and I channeled down more words with great ease. That is the true alchemy and wonder of creating! Often it takes just one little nudge to start an avalanche.

So if you’re struggling to be creative, then don’t lose heart, for the slightest little thing could ignite you again. Be open to anything that motivates you, especially those thoughts that are inspired. Just go with your intuition, put pen to paper, and see what happens!

Casper’s Children

Casper Walsh caused yet another media uproar at the premiere of his latest film. Stood on the red carpet, surrounded by screaming fans and flashing cameras, he announced to the world that he was going to set up his own sperm bank.

‘I just want to give something back to the fans, you know. A piece of me – something personal –’

A reporter from Showbiz Weekly ambushed him with a microphone. ‘Sounds amazing, Casper. To be a patron for such a worthwhile cause – you will be helping so many women who are struggling to have children.’

‘Absolutely,’ said Casper, as he flashed his award-winning smile. ‘But I think you’re missing the point – the only donor at the clinic will be myself –’

There was a moment of stunned silence, followed by frenzied screaming from the fans and desperate cries from photographers who were trying to get his attention. ‘Casper! Casper – over here!’

Casper stood there in his tailored suit and waited patiently for the furore to die down. His eyes were concealed beneath dark shades.

‘It will be an honour to help those struggling to conceive,’ he went on. ‘For any who are interested, my juices will be available to the public from Monday onwards – hope you enjoy the movie!’

And so the film premiere began. But all that any of the critics and other celebrities could think about as they watched the screening was the idea of Casper Walsh wanking into a test tube.

Over the following few days, the internet and news channels exploded with fierce debate over Casper’s announcement. Some thought he had completely lost his mind, while others commended his generosity and willingness to donate something so personal. Teenage girls hijacked Twitter with the hashtag #daddycasper, each of them fighting over who would get to marry him.

‘It’s what we’re here for, you know – to spread our seed and procreate,’ said Casper, during a follow-up interview. ‘I want an army of little Caspers running around, writing emails to their famous daddy, fighting over my millions once I’m gone. Won’t that be amazing?’

Casper’s insemination clinic allegedly received over ten thousand applications in the first forty-eight hours. Some critics wondered whether Casper could keep up with the demand.

‘Oh, you don’t need to worry about that – I have plenty to give!’ Casper assured everyone. ‘I’ve been hard at work so that my clinic will be well-stocked.’

Women of all ages camped outside the insemination clinic, waiting for the doors to open, hopeful that they could jump ahead on the waiting list. Some were confident that they could cut out the middle-man entirely and convince Casper Walsh to impregnate them through direct means.

‘This is just the beginning,’ one young girl told Channel 6 News. ‘Once I give birth to Casper Junior, I’ll take him to meet his daddy and then he’ll propose to me and it’ll be so romantic. This is all I’ve ever wanted.’

‘My biological clock’s ticking,’ remarked a woman in her late forties. ‘And there’s no man on the scene either, so the thought of having that gorgeous hunk as the father of my child – it sends shivers right through me!’

Such was the hysteria of these fans that there were genuine concerns that they might try to steal the specimen jars.

‘Yeah, we’ve had to step up security,’ Casper admitted, on the eve of the grand opening. ‘But everyone will just have to wait their turn. We have a system, you know. There’s a plan – a natural order that we must follow –’

When Monday morning came, the doors of the clinic opened and the first set of women were inseminated. The crowd of fans outside the building were disappointed to find that they could not jump the queue, but they began screaming when Casper Walsh showed up.

‘The first seeds have been sown!’ he declared. ‘Do not lose heart, for you shall all bear my fruit! Make sure you’ve booked an appointment and you will be invited to the clinic as soon we can fit you in.’

The doctors in the clinic worked diligently over the next few weeks, slowly getting through their long list of appointments. At one point, they had to turn away a man who disguised himself as a female.

‘Please – just try it!’ he begged. ‘Casper is my idol – it might actually work! Humour me, will you?’

The oldest woman to be inseminated was seventy-two, while the youngest had just turned eighteen on the very morning of her appointment. The receptionists made sure to triple-check the identification of the younger girls, for fear that they were underage and carried fake documents. At the end of the first month, five hundred women had been inseminated, with many more scheduled appointments to follow.

‘They’ll make a movie about it one day,’ said Casper dreamily, as he lounged in an armchair during a late-night TV show. ‘Casper’s children – the greatest bunch of kids that America’s ever seen. And the world will be a better place for it. Such paradise – such joy – won’t it be wonderful?’

Rod Rage

The No. 53 bus shunted along as a young boy crouched on all fours, sifting through a pile of crumpled tickets, with tears leaking from his eyes. Rod the bus driver watched him with a rush of satisfaction.

‘Have you found it yet?’ he called out. ‘Can’t stay on without your ticket – shouldn’t have thrown it in the bin, should you?’

‘But you saw me buy one!’ the young boy piped up.

‘Doesn’t matter. Could lose my job if an inspector comes on,’ Rod retorted. ‘Now find your bloody ticket or get off my bus.’ 

Making the young boy search for his discarded ticket gave Rod an untold amount of enjoyment. He drove along and whistled to himself, ignoring the general sense of hostility that radiated from some of his passengers. New people coming on to the bus were baffled at the sight of the young boy sniffling beside the ticket bin.

Eventually, the young lad presented him with a crumpled ticket, confident that he had found the right one. Rod snatched it from his hand and examined it at great length. ‘That’s not it – you got on three minutes after this –’

‘Oh, for God’s sake – you cruel man!’ someone exclaimed. An elderly woman shuffled up to Rod’s cabin and glowered at him as she reached into her purse. ‘I’ll get him a new one – you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.’

Rod took the money from her, annoyed that she had brought an end to his fun. As she went to sit down, followed by the young boy, Rod sped up the bus so that they both stumbled. To his delight, the old woman lost her footing and fell over. 

A few minutes later, a spotty teenager stepped onto the bus with an out-of-date bus pass. Rod swiped it from the boy’s unsuspecting hands. ‘Aha! This is two days out of date!’

‘I was on my way to renew it –’

‘Yeah – likely story,’ said Rod, as he pocketed the confiscated pass. ‘You know, it’s folk like you that are the scourge of our society. These bus passes put food on my family’s table, you know.’  

The spotty teenager was horrified. ‘Honestly, I was going to –’

‘Clear off!’ Rod yelled. ‘You’re a criminal and nothing less!’

The teenager cursed and slunk away. Rod shook his head and put his foot down on the accelerator, grumbling to himself as he drove off.

Later on that day, Rod’s bus was caught in terrible traffic and his mood blackened considerably. He ended up beeping his horn at every red light, as if each one was deliberately trying to ruin his day.

‘Bloody traffic,’ he grumbled. ‘Shouldn’t be allowed – shouldn’t be legal!’

He then encountered a very unwelcome sight in Harris Street’s bus bay. To his utmost horror, he saw that a taxi was parked there.

‘I don’t believe this,’ he muttered, slowing down the bus as he approached the bay. He hammered his horn, but the taxi did not move.

‘Get out the way!’

The taxi driver was busy helping someone take their shopping out of his boot. He completely ignored Rod’s demands. 

Rod gritted his teeth and snarled. His hands gripped the steering wheel and red hot anger rose within him. He hated it when people got in his way.

‘Right,’ he growled. ‘I’ve had it!’

Leaping out of his cockpit, he marched over to the taxi driver and gestured at the troublesome vehicle with animated exasperation.

‘Can’t park here, you idiot! What the hell are you playing at?’

The taxi driver chuckled. ‘All right, baldie. Calm down.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Rod fumed. He took a step closer to the taxi driver and puffed up his chest, but the taxi driver was at least a foot taller than him. ‘You’d better move, or else I’ll – I’ll smash your bloody face in!’

To Rod’s bemusement, half of his passengers were clearly laughing at him. The taxi driver shared in their humour.

‘Get out my hair, baldie. No need to cause a kerfuffle – I’ll get moving now.’

‘Yeah, you better had do!’

The taxi driver threw back his head and guffawed, not in the least bit threatened by Rod. He cooly climbed into his taxi and cruised out of the bus bay, leaving Rod as red as a lobster. 

After that, every little thing irritated Rod and he drove like an absolute lunatic. His passengers held on for dear life as the bus thundered along, fuelled by his uncontrollable rage.

‘Sorry about this,’ he called out to his passengers. ‘I’m doing this for your safety – there’s some right idiots on the road!’

A large car cut in front of him and he beeped his horn. He caught up with the vehicle at some traffic lights and wound down his window, shouting down to a mother and her two startled children.

‘You silly cow! Are you crazy? Do you realise you’ve just endangered the lives of my passengers?’

‘And do you realise that you’re upsetting my children?’ the woman retorted.

Rod was so outraged that he slammed down on the accelerator and drove straight through a red light, going well beyond the speed limit. Some of his passengers began to scream.

‘Oy – can you slow down a bit, mate?’

‘Excuse me, driver – you’re going too fast!’

Rod slammed on the brakes and brought the bus to an abrupt halt. ‘Everyone get off! I’ve had enough!’

The shocked passengers took a moment to register. Slowly, they began to stand up and exit the bus. Most of them were a delicate shade of green. 

‘I’m suing for whiplash,’ a frail old woman complained.

‘Yeah, you do that, love.’

Once all the passengers had disembarked, Rod continued on his way, driving aimlessly around the streets of his dull town. He caught the eye of several people who were clearly confused as to why the No. 53 had gone rogue.

Before long, Rod realised that he was being pursued by two police cars. They indicated for him to pull over the vehicle, but Rod was too afraid to do so.

‘What do they want?’ he cried. ‘I haven’t done owt wrong, have I?’

As he sped up the bus, he pondered bitterly over the day’s events. It seemed that everyone had been out to get him.

Loud sirens pierced his thoughts. ‘Christ, I can’t have any peace!’

Rod was driving so fast that he did not have time to slow down at the upcoming roundabout and hurtled straight across the grassy island. He heard cars screech and collide in his wake, yet the police cars still pursued him. Up above, a helicopter joined the hunt.

‘What the devil will Shirley think of me?’ Rod wondered, giving some thought to his wife. A grim smile crept across his face. ‘She won’t be best pleased, the silly old –’

Something splattered across the windscreen. Rod yelped, fumbling with the steering wheel as he tried to see through the explosion of white feathers. He slammed on the brakes and attempted to regain control of his vehicle, but it crashed through a hedgerow and capsized, skidding through a ploughed field and spewing up great clods of earth, finally coming to a jerky halt.

When Rod came to his senses, he realised that he was in the middle of a potato field. His body ached all over and he tried to climb out of his overturned cockpit, but he could not find the strength to lift himself out. His concentration was shattered by the shrill sound of approaching police sirens.

Several patrol cars raced onto the field and circled around the capsized bus. The police officers sprang forth from their vehicles and approached with great caution, but they soon realised that Rod posed no threat. To Rod’s embarrassment, they tried and failed to extricate him from the bus, and eventually had to summon the fire brigade. Once he had been hoisted out, he was handcuffed by a stony-faced policeman.

‘It’s been a terrible day, officers – you’ve got to believe me –’

‘Save it for the station, sir. You’ve got a lot to answer for.’

And so Rod ended up in prison for dangerous driving and also had his license revoked. He often grumbled to the other inmates about how his passengers and fellow motorists had pushed him to one moment of madness, but never – not for one second – did he think that he was to blame for any of it.

The Subtle Language of the Cosmos

Struggling to find inspiration? Just take a look all around you! There are so many things going on that can fuel your creative cogs. Life is unfolding and manifesting in a countless number of ways, so learn to read the subtle language of the cosmos.

Sometimes, it is almost as if the universe is speaking directly to you. Not with words, but through signs and circumstances, using a language that deeply resonates with your soul. Keep a lookout for these cosmic messages.

Whether it be the way a person smiles, getting caught out in the rain or seeing a piece of rubbish blow across the street, there is a whole multitude of different things that might speak to you. Creative people pay attention to such things and are often keen observers of the world around them, watching the strange dance of life as they express themselves through it. Everyone reads things in a different way and that’s what gives each of us our own unique expression.

I’m a firm believer that we channel down our creativity from somewhere higher – from somewhere beyond the mind. Creating is effortless when you surrender to the flow of life, as opposed to trying to create things forcefully. The creation process is so much more enjoyable when you have fun with it and let the magic unfold quite organically.

So learn to speak fluently in the subtle language of the cosmos. Watch life with a keen eye and you may be surprised by what is revealed to you! Good luck, my fellow creators. May it be that you successfully tune in to the cosmic radio station and receive its bountiful transmission!

Infinite Choices, One path

Have you ever shouted across the chasm of time
And begged yourself to take another path?
Wondering what might have been,
Tormented by hindsight’s clarity.
Whether you walk this way or that,
Some seeds will never come to be,
Flowers will wither
And doors will close.

Some choices are made in good faith,
Others clouded with fear and desperation,
Infinite choices,
Only one path.
No going back now.
You stand at a fork in the road,
Many paths lie ahead,
Choosing one will sacrifice the others,
But choose you must.

That’s beauty of it, you see.
Each of us has a blank canvas
And a multitude of different  colours.
Each person’s painting is unique,
Manifested from infinite potential,
Defined by the paints that are not used
Just as much as the ones that are.

How will you paint yours?

Coming Up With Memorable Names

Coming up with names for your characters is so important. You want these namesakes to stand out and embody the very essence of your characters. Of course, there are some genres that tend to use common everyday names, but a lot of writers seize the opportunity to use more flamboyant names like Phillius McFlinn – because why not? You want your characters to be memorable!

At the moment, I’m writing a fantasy novel, so I’ve been running wild with names for the places, characters and creatures that inhabit my world. Coming up with names can be a challenge, especially when you think about it too hard. The best names usually come to me quite instinctively through some sort of divine eureka moment.

If you’re having trouble naming your creations, then don’t worry. The beauty of naming things is that names are interchangeable and altering the names of your characters can be literally the last thing you do when redrafting. So if you’re struggling to find a name for Sergeant Grim-face, then just call him Sergeant Grim-face while writing – or Bob – until you find a name that fits.

There are thousands of name generators out there, whether it be for fantasy, sci-fi or any other genre. There are also baby name websites that have an untold amount of name options for you to peruse, which is probably why kids nowadays are called names like Neveah and Atticus. Let’s not even mention Khaleesi..

What I also do is keep a list of any interesting names I come across, as well as those that I ‘invent’, because one of them might end up being the perfect name for Sergeant Grim-face! Having a stockpile of awesome names on standby can save you a lot of pondering when it comes to naming things.

So have fun with naming your babies! You don’t have to worry about your literary children getting bullied for their outlandish name (unless that’s part of the plot) – name them whatever you bloody well like! Seize your creative liberty and revel in playing God!