The Politics of Hope

Before I get into why I’m feeling sad about today’s election results, I have a confession.

Are you ready for this? Are you braced? Okay. Here it is: ten years ago, while I was at university, I voted Conservative.

It was May 2010 (not quite a full decade ago, but close enough) and the election that saw David Cameron become Prime Minister.

Why did I vote for the Tories? Well, I thought it was the right thing to do. I, foolishly, thought the party stood up for the Christian ideals I had at the time. In short, I was naive and misinformed.

In the years since, I have come to understand more about politics as well as my own personal values. As such, I’m horrified that I played a part as a tiny cog in a big wheel that set the nation’s current situation into motion.

This morning, as I thought about the election results, I was angry. Like many, I was feeling disenfranchised. I was also feeling resigned. The thought came into my head that, if this was how people had voted, maybe they really did deserve all they got. That’s the essence of democracy, right? For better or worse.

Except, I then remembered little twenty-one year old me.

I honestly believe the Conservative Party and their policies are a bad, bad, thing for the nation as a whole, but the poorest and most vulnerable of us in particular.

Even if two-thirds of the UK voted for right-wing parties*, that other third would still deserve the funding in healthcare and education they voted for. And that’s to say nothing of the people who voted for the Tories based on misinformation or out of fear.

This has been a dirty election, and it’s easy to get mad at the people who sided with those throwing the dirt but – for the most part – I think it’s important to focus on the mudslingers themselves.

I’m actively choosing not to be resigned, today. I’m choosing to have hope that, sooner or later, we can turn this around. Because, despite everything – no matter who voted for what – humans, as a rule, need peace and justice and empathy.

Despite my own political leanings, I would have accepted a Tory majority had it been won cleanly and honestly. I would have sat down and shut up, because democracy was being done. But, since that is not the case, I will continue on arguing on behalf of the NHS and poor people, disabled people, and everyone else who will fall foul of the ramifications of this election.

I will not give up hoping, until my hopes are a reality. Will you join me?


*They didn’t, and I know that. I’m generalising here to better illustrate my point.

Writing Update – December 2019

So, NaNoWriMo is over for another year.

In the run-up to November, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to take part. I’ve consistently attempted NaNo for several years, and I wanted to try again this year, but I didn’t know if it was possible with everything else going on.

To begin with, I was starting the month in England for the annual SCBWI Conference, and I wouldn’t have my laptop with me. (There would have been no point, I didn’t have a spare minute for the whole three days.) I was also trying to keep up with my studies. But, despite this, I decided to go for it in the end anyway. I wasn’t really expecting to hit the 50,000-word goal, but I wanted to write as much as possible.

I signed up –– and then promptly got sick. (Typical, right?)

Even so, I managed 21,000 words total across thirty days.

That was:

  • 2 Poems (200 Words)
  • 5 Blog Posts (4,200 Words)
  • a 600-word story outline (for Death Girl: a project that’ll either end up as a novel or novella)
  • 16,000 Words of Fan Fiction

Going in, I thought I’d be mainly working on one project (Death Girl) but, as you can see, I actually ended up mostly writing fanfic. I’m okay with that. Given the craziness of the month, I’m happy with how I did.

Going forward, I thought some of you might be wondering what works-in-progress I have left after recently abandoning a bunch. So, here’s the breakdown of that:

Right at the top of my list is the fanfiction I was writing in November. Originally started in October, it’s now at 24,000 words and I expect it will be done at 30k. I aim to have those final six-thousand words done by Christmas.

My two main projects for the first half of 2020 are the third book in my trilogy (which I will be working on during CampNaNoWriMo in April) and a draft of Death Girl (now scheduled for CampNaNo in July). I also want to finish three short stories: Prepared, The Change, and Wingman.

Back Burner Projects:

  • A non-fiction book about my childhood
  • Short Stories: Drama Queen and Subterfuge
  • Y.A. Novels: Rain After Fire, Family Secret, and Holes
  • Adult Novels: Sasha and A Man Convinced
  • Ella and Vin – a standalone comic book
  • A random academic essay I have an idea for (not actually part of my current course)
  • The twenty-five fanfic WIPs I have ideas for, that I mentioned in part two of my ‘Idea Graveyard’ post

What writing projects are you in the middle of, dear reader? Please tell me in a comment below.

The Idea Graveyard Part Three

A non-exhaustive list of story ideas I’ve given up on:

  • The ten fanfic works in progress I mentioned in part two of this series that went on to have better lives as story challenges for other people.
  • The Worlds of Day and Night. This was to be a speculative novel in which society is divided into two main groups: diurnal people (who are awake during the day) and their nocturnal counterparts. I gave up on this for two reasons.
    • One: I didn’t have much of the story figured out beyond the actual concept as I’ve just explained it, and–
    • Two: I discovered that there is a book called Plus One by Elizabeth Fama that has done something very similar.
  • Matter. A story about a trans character and her lesbian girlfriend that I really want to read but am absolutely not the right person to write.
  • Sidekick. The story of a guy who has always been ‘friend-zoned’ and his long-suffering romantic interest who is trying to explain to him why he’s an entitled prick. A fairly thinly veiled feminist rant.
  • Tears at the Kitchen Sink. A really dark domestic thriller that I might resurrect one day but simply do not have the skills (or the emotional fortitude) to do justice to as of right now.
  • Woodwork. As above.
  • Fairytale Smashed. As above, but not so original.
  • Following the Wind. A concept novel set in a contemporary world the same as ours with one main difference: family means nothing. You’re born and whoever wants you, raises you, but – for the most part – you’re on your own.
  • Untitled. A vampire novel I hadn’t fully thought through and can now see is just full of overdone tropes.
  • The Widow’s Window. A horror novel that I’ve abandoned because I don’t actually like horror. Do not ask me where I got the idea from, because I have no idea!
  • Dark as Day. A short story about a man who is convinced the sun has stopped shining. (Yeah, it’s a little weird. Not sure where I was going with that.)
  • The Spirit that was Intended. About a ghost who’s also a groom. Not so much a story idea as a terrible pun.
  • The Spoon Thief. A children’s story based around spoon theory.

I’m aware this is a really weird mix. Some of these I’ve had in the back of my head for almost ten years. Needless to say, my brain can be a bit of an odd place.

The Idea Graveyard Part Two

I get a lot of story ideas. In the past, I’ve talked about how I deal with them all: metaphorically, by making them queue up and wait their turn, and practically via the use of lists and spreadsheets. But even with this mindset and those tools, it can still be a lot to manage. Sometimes – and it breaks my heart to say this – it is best to just let an idea go.

I was greedy for a long time, so obsessed with fears of ‘the one that got away’, that I tried to not give up on any idea. Ever. No matter how much it didn’t work. But that, as I’m sure you can guess, is unsustainable.

Once upon a time, I had a long list of maybe twenty or more blog posts I wanted to write, forty poems, and dozens of short stories. It stressed me out because, deep down, I know my output wasn’t big enough and that the backlog was only going to grow. Not only that, but all the blog posts, poems, and short stories were keeping me from the novels I wanted to write.

To save myself from the insanity, I’ve had to learn to prioritise even more; not just making the stories queue up and wait their turn, but actually turning some of them away. It’s been difficult, but my master list of works in progress is finally starting to look manageable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not entirely where I want it to be, but substantial progress has definitely been made. This has taken literal years. I used to have three blogs instead of just this one. When I merged two of them and scrapped the other one entirely, that was a big step. As of right now, I have ideas for three future blog posts. Three is a number I’m comfortable with.

In place of my list of forty-plus poems I wanted to write, I easily have forty poems. The backlog on those is completely cleared to the point that if I get a poem idea, I can write it then and there without wondering to myself if I should finish a different one first. Continue reading

Future Study Plans

This is a follow-up to my ‘School Days‘ blog post. In re-reading it in preparation for writing part two, I realised I’d left out bits and pieces. I suppose that’s expected when you’re trying to summarise three decades in a thousand words.

There are short courses I’ve done that I completely forgot to mention, and that’s fine, at this point it doesn’t really matter except to further illustrate in a more general sense how much I’ve been trying to educate myself since I left high school.

I have spent most of my thirty years engaged in some kind of formal or semi-formal education, which I think is a good thing but, at the same time, that only makes me feel worse about the fact that I still feel like an academic screw up.

Part of the problem was, I couldn’t find the right path for myself. I didn’t know what to study, so I tried a little bit of everything: vocational courses, science subjects, the humanities. For a very long time, I had it in my head that true success lay in doing ALL OF THE THINGS(!) and doing them perfectly.

When I discovered Forensic Science & Criminology wasn’t working out for me, I dropped the forensics and tried to do Criminology on its own. When that didn’t work, I tried to switch to English Lit (but couldn’t). I sat for ages debating with myself what was my true passion and thought that maybe I’d like to study Social Work, or Youth Work, or Counselling. I had interest in these subjects and still do, but going back a step to pursue them was a path that was blocked to me due to already having used my funding for the failed Forensics course.

I briefly did study Youth Ministry through my church job in Oxford, and for a while I wondered if studying through the church here in Northern Ireland was perhaps a way forward. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Having written all that, maybe what I should be taking away from all this isn’t that I’ve repeatedly failed but that I’ve tried again and again and haven’t given up. As I said in part one, I don’t think I’ll be happy until I finally finish my formal education. (Side note, but I’m a big believer in life-long learning, even once formal education is done – at whatever age that is.) Continue reading

Surprised by Joy

On Saturday the 23rd of November, I’ll be taking part in this year’s C.S. Lewis Festival alongside other Women Aloud NI members. A couple of years ago when I took part, the theme was ‘Surprised by Joy’, for which I wrote the following flash fiction piece. I hope you like it!


It was a terrible, miserable, frozen, windy, brown-grey day; the sky the embodiment of ‘bah humbug.’

Jasper just wanted to sleep through it, but circumstance wouldn’t allow. There were presents to buy, food to arrange, parties to go to, decorations to put up – all the rest.

It wasn’t that he hated Christmas, it was just that he was exhausted and the holiday always poked at him, knowing just where his insecurities lay.

“Haven’t you settled down yet?” one great-aunt or another would invariably ask, only for all the other family members to pile in and spend no less than a half-hour discussing the intricacies of his love life, or lack thereof.

There would be advice – “You’ve just got to put yourself out there, you know?” – and there would be teasing – “Look, Jasper, even the cat has a girlfriend!” – and it would be miserable. All of it.

Jasper had tried to find someone, he really had, but there was nothing for it – no one out there for him. He was alone, and he was lonely. That was just the way things were.

Dragging himself around shop after shop to get everything sorted, Jasper’s mind wondered as his mood lowered still. It took someone calling his name three times before he blinked and looked up, coming back to himself.

There she was. He had to blink again to make sure he was imagining things. Joy Pringle – Jasper’s childhood sweetheart, who had moved away when they were twelve and, in all honesty, he had never gotten over.

“Joy!” he exclaimed. “I’ve found you!”

She laughed, the sound like jingle bells. “I found you, more like. I’ve been looking for you for years. You aren’t on Facebook.”

“Ah, well,” Jasper stammered, cursing his previous negative attitude towards the site. “I– I’ll sign up now.”

Joy smiled at him, the sun rising in her cheeks. “Oh, no. Not now. I’m about to meet some friends for a drink. Do you want to come?”

“Yes,” said Jasper, glad he pulled himself out of bed for such a glorious day.

SCBWI Con 2019: A Comedy of Errors

Sketch by Imogen Foxell

This past weekend was The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual British Isles conference. Having won one of SCBWI’s Margaret Carey scholarships, I got to attend with all expenses paid. And wow, was it one heck of an experience, even if it didn’t quite go to plan.

Having studied in England for University, I’ve travelled back and forth there a lot of times over the years and it was not uncommon at all for me to return with tales of a wacky adventure and/or a war wound. This past weekend was a bit of a return to that.

I should start by saying that, before I even left, I’d been sick for about a week. Really, really sick. To the degree that, I spent most of that week wondering if I was going to make it at all. But I pushed through, packed my bag, and got on a plane.

Minor inconvenience number one (aside from being sick): a short delay taking off. This in itself would barely be worth mentioning if it weren’t the first of many, many things that went awry. How many things can go awry in three days? WELL!

Things kinda started off on the back foot for another reason: I was going entirely broke. Our rent went out the day I set off, the very start of the month, which means our bank account was empty. Over empty, in fact. Even our overdraft was gone. (October was a hard month, you guys.) But anyways, this shouldn’t have been too much of a problem because of the ‘all expenses paid’ bit. My travel was free, my accommodation was free, and of course the conference fee itself was covered. What I also had was £5 on a gift card leftover from my birthday that should work in a long list of places. I double-checked the balance and the list of places before I left, and I planned to get myself a bottle of water in the airport WH Smith once I’d gotten through security. Sounds simple enough, right? Except it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. The person at the till conjectured it was probably because an airport WH Smith probably doesn’t count as a normal WH Smith.

*deep breath* It was gonna be one of those days. Continue reading

School Days

During the intro session to my most recent round of counselling, I was asked (amongst other things) what my experience at school had been like. Terrible, I said.

In a previous blog post, I described a little of what happened around the implosion of my time at university. Elsewhere, I made reference to not being diagnosed with things (mainly, dyslexia and a sleep disorder) until much later that also definitely had a part to play in the terribleness of way back when.

Then, most recently, I listed ‘studying’ as something I wanted to in my autumn goals.

I have not, thus far, went into any of that in any great detail or brought all of those threads together to tell the full story of my failed studies and my plan for (hopefully) successful studies going forward. Today, that’s what I want to blog about. Or definitely that first part, because I don’t want this thing to be a million words long. I’ll tell you about my academic history here, and then I’ll come back and detail my future study plan in a separate post. Sound good? Good.

Okay, so… *takes deep breath* where to begin? Being a March baby, I was always one of the younger ones in my classes, starting school at age four. As far as I can remember (which isn’t very far at all), I had one year of playschool before Primary One.

In Northern Ireland, primary school is seven years (P1-7), high/secondary school is five years (1st to 5th form), and then sixth-form (two years: lower sixth and upper sixth) can optionally be studied at that same high school or at a college or “tech.”

I did three years at one primary school before my parents decided to move me to a different one for P4-7. This was a really great move and one I’m very thankful for. As I’ve said already, I don’t remember a lot of my early childhood, but I do know that I hated that first primary school. I vaguely recall getting in trouble a few times and struggling a lot with my reading and writing. In hindsight, struggling with reading and writing was probably a big reason why I got into trouble.

I still had my issues with reading and writing in my second primary school (I had them all the way up until university, in fact), but the environment of that second school was entirely different. I stopped being yelled at by teachers for being a kid and I started to thrive. I wasn’t very well-liked by the other school kids, but I was too oblivious to actually realise it at the time.

I was ignorant. It was blissful. I look back on those four years with affection.

Then high school happened. Continue reading

Nightmares in Bliss

Today I’d like to share a blog exclusive: an older piece of flash fiction by myself that’s never been seen before. It’s written exclusively in dialogue, but I like how it turned out. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section.

“I spy with my little eye…”

“Do we have to play this?”

“…something beginning with M.”

“You’re just gonna ignore me, then? What if I play the silence game instead of your stupid–”

“It’s a mouse.”

“What?”

“A mouse.”

“Where? No, don’t just shrug at me! Are you serious? Macie, if there is mouse I’m gonna scream, I swear.”

“Relax.”

“Oh, you relax! Were you making that up?”

“Maybe.”

“I can’t believe you! All your stupid games and pranks. Why did you bring me up here, anyway? I’m cold.”

“Here.”

“No, I don’t want your jacket. Take me home.”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I was just trying to lighten the mood. Take the coat, please.”

“Well, okay. But you have to tell me why we’re here. It looks like it’s going to rain, and we’re miles from anywhere.”

“This is where it started.”

“Here we go. Where what started?”

“Us.”

“Mace–”

“Okay, okay, hear me out.”

“Fine. What is it?”

“This, my darling, is the place I was sitting when I first saw your face.”

“Here?”

“Yip.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I’d run away. This is always where I came.” Continue reading

DeptCon Adventures in Dublin

Last Friday and Saturday, I was in Dublin for the fifth annual DeptCon: Ireland’s Biggest Young Adult Book Convention.

It was super fun and I’m now, almost a week later, almost recovered. Let me give you a rundown:

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I tried but, like so many other nights, just couldn’t manage it. So I caught the 10.35am train from Belfast on thirty minutes rest, fueled by tea and enthusiasm.

On the journey down, I finished reading Savannah Brown’s poetry collection and started reading her novel. I had them with me anyway so I could get them signed.

Savannah is someone I’ve been watching on YouTube for years. I’ve been meaning to get to her books since they came out, so this was the perfect opportunity to bump them off my TBR.

Once arrived at Connolly Station, I made the forty-minute trek to my hotel. It was in the north of the city: somewhere I’d never stayed before, but I’d charted the route via Google Maps in advance and found it easily enough. I had just enough time to pick up my key and dump some things out of my heavy rucksack onto my comically sized bed (more on that later) before walking forty-minutes back into the centre of town for event registration and panel number one: Natália Gomes, Savannah Brown, and Connie Glynn. Continue reading