A week’s writing retreat + a signed novel by Jane Johnson

A great cause, with a great prize.

Authors for Grenfell Tower: An Online Auction

hopway cottage mouseholejane johnsonITEM: A week’s writing retreat and a signed novel by Jane Johnson.

DETAILS: The winner will receive a signed copy of my novel COURT OF LIONS and a week’s accommodation for two people in our writing retreat in Mousehole, Cornwall (date to be determined according to availability). Value, depending on time of the year, between £450 and £900.

BIO:Poet Dylan Thomas called Mousehole ‘the loveliest village in England’, and he’s not wrong. Historic, picturesque, uniquely Cornish, Mousehole is a traditional fishing village that combines wonderful views with great hospitality, marvellous restaurants and cafes, two safe, sandy beaches and a climate all its own. The cottage is less than 50 yards from one of the best traditional pubs in Cornwall: the Ship Inn. Hopway Cottage Mousehole

WHO CAN BID: Worldwide, but travel costs are the responsibility of the winner. Reserve price on this item is £150.

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The Bandwagon: Silenced

Last year, I had a falling out with some family members, over what was really a misunderstanding. But, old feelings came to the top, and it boiled over. A few sharp words were exchanged, then we were all blocked. I wrote a blog post about it, and that was that.

Or so I thought.

Today, someone from their side messaged me. I’ve read your blog post, they said, almost four months after it had been published. They proceeded to tell me how I was wrong, how nasty I was, twisted, bitter, because I responded to a family member bringing up the abuse I suffered as a child, and insinuating that I’d made it all up. How I put a negative slant on everything. How it was my fault that we were abused. That my blog is bullshit, and so is my feminism.

I was told not to “air my dirty laundry” in public. I was told not to write about this attack. I was told that legal advice would be sought if I mentioned this in a public forum. I was being threatened, bullied, into keeping my mouth shut. I was being silenced.

I have removed the initial blog post, despite knowing that nobody was named in it, knowing it was vague enough that nobody who was not personally aware of the situation could have guessed who it was about. I was contacted, completely out of the blue, and attacked. It’s been hinted at that my blog is being watched. So watch this.

People need to know that they are not alone. I write about these things because we need to read about them, we need to know that it happens to others, that we are supported. I often receive messages from people, thanking me for being honest, for telling my story. I write about what has happened to me. I do not write about the people who did these things to me. I write because it is cathartic, healing. I do not write for revenge. If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. If someone recognises themselves in a vague description, then they are welcome to bring it up with me. If I overstep a line, I expect to be informed, and will remedy it immediately. But I do not expect to be attacked by multiple people – some I do not even know – and I do not expect to be shut down for speaking out. Women are silenced far too often. We cannot, and should not, stand for it. We are allowed to tell our stories. We are allowed to speak out. We should not have to suffer in silence. This attack is just another example of a man attempting to silence a woman, thinking that he has the right to attack someone he doesn’t know, and it will not work.

I want to make it clear: I will never be silent. I will never publicly “out” anyone, but my blog is my platform to tell my story. You cannot threaten or bully me into silence. I have not, will not, defame anyone, I will not besmirch anyone’s good name. I will tell the truth, my truth, and I will not be silenced. 

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Cornish Reading Challenge 2017

It’s back! You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you? We may have missed St Piran’s Day, but the Cornish Reading Challenge will still be running in 2017 – from May 13th until May 27th.

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As usual, we’ll have a host of incredible authors involved. We’ll have guest posts, book reviews, giveaways, recommendations, and many more exciting things!

On May 17th & 18th, we’ll be focusing on the West Country as a whole. This will include writers who live in the West Country, and any work set there – including my own short story collection, Weltanschauung. Grave Oversight and Only If are set in Plymouth, and I’m super excited to be getting involved as an author this year, as well as a blogger.

The Cornish Reading Challenge brings writers, readers, and bloggers together to celebrate a love of Cornwall and Cornish literature. We talk about what inspires us to write, the Cornish books that suck us in and transport us to one of the most beautiful places in England. We’ll be talking about writing in Cornwall, writing about Cornwall, and supporting Cornish authors.

Keep your eyes peeled for further information in the coming months. Get ready for two weeks of celebrating all things Cornish!

If you want to get involved, pop me an email at thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com, or tweet me, @VikkiPatis, using #CornishReadingChallenge.

Feminist February: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As part of Feminist February, I’m reading some selected texts that focus on feminism, whether that’s an obvious feminist text, or fiction depicting women as we are. You can read all about my selections here.

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I downloaded a copy of We Should All Be Feminists by  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and devoured it within half an hour. It’s a short book, with an introduction explaining how it was adapted from a TEDx talk Adichie gave.

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Earlier that evening, my partner and I had been discussing those social experiments that involve a man living as a woman for a period of time, and vice versa, to see how one another’s experiences might differ based on their gender. I said that you would have to “pass”, i.e. you would have to really look like a woman if you were going to experience life as a woman. I’m sure many people have thought about what life might be like if they were the opposite gender, but I’ve never truly wanted to be a man. Sure, it might make peeing a bit easier, and women are oppressed in ways that men aren’t, but I still love being a woman. I feel my womanhood strongly. I feel a kinship to other women, that sisterhood that many feminists talk about. Despite the problems we face, I don’t want to run away from my gender, I want to embrace it, fiercely, and fight for my rights, passionately. I am a woman, I love (almost) everything about being a woman.

Adichie defines a woman as someone who can bear children, which is a problematic definition at best. Not all women can have (or want to have) children, and not all those who are able to have children are women. This cisgender definition rubs me up the wrong way, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to think Adichie will have learned better since then, because, as feminists, we are constantly learning, and doing our best to, well, do better.

Adichie also mentions being “girly”. That word always makes me cringe. As a young child, I was called a “tomboy”, because I wore tracksuit bottoms and trainers, and liked to climb trees and go out on my bike. But I still wore dresses on occasion, and, as a teenager, I’d regularly change my style to suit my mood. I wasn’t a tomboy, nor was I girly – I was simply a child. And now I’m an adult, I can’t say I’m much different. I prefer to wear men’s shirts and leggings, but I also own skirts and ballet pumps. I always wear make-up, and I have long hair, and I get my nails and eyebrows done. But that doesn’t mean I can’t roll my sleeves up and clean the bathroom (fibromyalgia permitting, of course), or break the glass ceiling. I have a degree, I have a good job, I’m a published author. And I also wear mascara and lipstick, and enjoy having my hair done.

I know a woman who is super healthy. She’s a personal trainer, and she spends a lot of time and energy on being fit, so she doesn’t, in her words, have the inclination to be “girly”. She still wears make-up (albeit minimal), and she’s great at doing hair, a talent I envy. But she still wouldn’t describe herself as “girly”. So it makes me wonder, what do we mean by the term “girly”? Why are men shamed when they spend time on personal grooming? Why is it “girly” to wear lipstick, or heels, or dresses? Am I only half “girly” because, although I wear make-up and get my nails done, I’m crap at hair and can’t walk in heels? Terms like “girly” only serve to remind us that anything remotely feminine is bad. The aim of wearing make-up, for some, is to look as if we haven’t made much of an effort. We, like in the movies, woke up looking fresh, with defined brows and sky-high lashes and rosebud lips.

A colleague told me a few weeks ago that, upon first meeting me, she never would have guessed that I was a feminist. Why not? I asked. But she couldn’t answer. Perhaps she had the idea that all feminists are ugly, bra-burning, hairy-legged man-haters (though I am hairy-legged). So, in essence, I do agree with feminists like Adichie trying to smash this idea. But I do detest the term “girly”. There’s no right way to be a feminist (in this respect), just like there’s no right way to be a woman. Love make-up? Great! Prefer to go bare-faced? Fine! Have short hair? Nice! Have long hair? Awesome! These things are superficial, and yet, women are constantly judged on how we look. You may be the smartest person in your class, you might be super ambitious and want to rise to the top of your profession, but you will still be judged on your looks. And this is something that needs to change.

In all, We Should All Be Feminists is a great read. It reaffirms a lot of things that I already knew to be true, and have spoken about before, but it was also interesting to read Adichie’s version of feminism, and how her background influences the way she views the world, and how she plans on smashing the patriarchy in her own way. Smash on, Adichie, in your heels and dress and lipgloss. Smash on.

Goodreads | Amazon UK

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

I review The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

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I am on the fence about this book. I enjoyed reading it – it was gripping and exhilarating, but it also got under my skin in quite a negative way. 1 Folgate Street is an ultra-modern, minimalist house, full of cutting edge technology. Those who want to rent the place must submit to intense questioning about their lives, and why they want to live there.

Controlling men. Why must we continue to suffer them? Edward Monkton’s display of toxic masculinity is right on point. It seems as if 50 Shades of Grey has normalised the controlling (read: abusive) relationship. [Spoiler alert] It transpires that Monkton had slept with both Emma and Jane (and probably others), embarking on casual relationships with them, before suddenly moving in, and slowly taking over their lives. The typical abuser, Monkton uses money and power to control these women.

Both Emma and Jane are troubled, having suffered from some kind of trauma. All is not as it seems, and I won’t delve too far into this side of The Girl Before, but it’s definitely intriguing, and the twist surprised me. I’m just a bit fed up with reading about men taking advantage of women, especially when it’s romanticised.

Also, a very good point has been made about books with the word “girl” in the title. The Girl On The Train, Gone Girl, Girls On Fire… while all of these are great works of fiction, the use of the word “girl” when really they mean “woman” (maybe not in the last one) is an example of the denigration of women. Reducing us to girls strips us of our adulthood.

I gave The Girl Before 3 stars, because I really can’t make my mind up whether I loved it or not. The story was thrilling, but aspects were really disappointing, and, at time, infuriating. Read it and make up your own mind, if you can.

Ask The Author: Theresa Braun

Author Theresa Braun chats to The Bandwagon about her writing process.

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. Oh, and she likes to guest blog about writing, television shows, movies, and books, mostly in the horror genre. Her short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Hindered Souls, and “Dead over Heels” is soon to be published by Frith Books.

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What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always had a creative streak. Whether it be pencil drawing, painting, or crafting stories, I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating something. It’s one of the things that drives me and makes me feel alive. Being an English teacher and reading all kinds of fiction has helped me to connect with writing even more. Now when a story idea comes to me, I jot it down in the notes on my phone and can’t wait to delve into it, making it come to life. I’ve learned to face my fears about the writing process. It can be really daunting having thoughts about whether or not I can finish the piece and make it as good as it can be. The whole process is rather exciting.

What do you wish you’d known about the publishing process?

I wish I’d known how difficult it can be to market your writing. It’s almost as much work as creating the stories. Luckily, I tend to get motivated to do it. It comes in waves and I know that I have to ride that wave when it hits. And, then I go back to working on another story.

Which authors do you look to for inspiration?

I’m a big Stephen King fan. At the moment I’ve been looking at several modern writers to see what is new in the horror genre. I find that horror anthologies can be a great way to get exposed to a number of authors. This past year, I’ve read quite a few anthologies: Fright Mare, Killing It Softly, Fresh Fear, and Once upon a Scream, to name a few.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My advice is to find a fantastic editor that you can trust to help you polish your work. I find that I have to have an instinct for whether or not a story is done. To get unstuck, I have a couple of editors that I know I can send the piece to for them to see what I can’t see. Sometimes writers can get a kind of tunnel vision and we need someone not so close to the work to look at it. It took me awhile to realize that lots of writers do this and that it can be helpful in getting the story to that next level. And, always, always, let someone proof your work for grammar. I consider myself rather skilled in that area, but another set of eyes is always key. Get someone who is superior in this area. I’ve read through books that have had several errors in them and when I mention it to the author, he or she often tells me it has been professionally proofed. Don’t skimp on the editing—ever, ever. My last piece of advice is to network with other writers. It’s helpful to talk shop to get through ruts or writer’s block, etc.

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Tell us more about your book.

“Dead over Heels” started as a quick sketch several years ago. It sat on my computer until one day I decided to revise it. I was inspired by some of the local ghost lore in Ft. Lauderdale, having been on the ghost tour downtown and also having had worked in the area when I was younger. I infused a bit of online dating frustration into the story—knowing from experience that it can be somewhat horrific and soul-crushing. So, I wanted to mix the paranormal with the lives of two people who meet and think that they have a chance at true love. However, since relationships always have their challenges, they must face their pasts. They find that they have more than a romantic connection. Their lives are tangled in ways that they can’t even imagine—and, it’s supernatural to boot. The story is about how they confront this and whether or not they can get out alive.

What are you currently reading?

I just loaded Nicole Cushing’s The Sadist’s Bible and Hunter Shea’s The Jersey Devil onto my Kindle. They were listed as some of the best horror of 2016.

What’s next for you?

I just submitted my latest tale to a vampire anthology. And, I have several unfinished stories that I’m working on. I’ll be tackling a sort of time travel into another dimension in one. Another story involves a group of satanic teens and what happens when they invite evil into their lives. Eventually, I’ll tackle finishing a novel or two, but at the moment I’m having too much fun working on shorter stories.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter @tbraun_author

Author Interview: Vikki Patis — Observant Raven Book Reviews

Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. Vikki dropped by to talk about her new short story collection, Weltanschauung. What inspired you to start writing? This is the typical answer, I know, […]

via Author Interview: Vikki Patis — Observant Raven Book Reviews