Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Poem for Shakespeare

One night I was suffering with writer’s block,
As I sat down at my desk.
Every idea dashed on the rocks,
Like the Marie Celeste.

At 2 a.m I couldn't sleep,
So went out for a drive.
I thought that maybe it would keep,
My writing muse alive.

I parked up in a lovely town,
On the banks of the Avon.
Instinctively, I headed down,
To the place that was a haven.

The house that birthed an icon,
Stood there in front of me,
I pressed my hand against the stone,
And prayed for ingenuity.

I felt a tap upon my back,
 And a voice said, ‘Beg your pardon.’
And then I turned and saw him,
The son of Mary Arden.

His skin was ghostly pale,
Under the Stratford moon,
And he smelled like ancient ale,
Served in an old saloon.

‘If thou hast any sound,’ I said,
‘Speak to me, dear ghost.’
He replied, ‘Indeed I am dead,
And now I am your host.’

‘I can tell that thou art wrestling,
With the written word tonight.
And I’m thinking that the best thing,
Would be to let me help your plight.’

Shakily I handed him,
My latest manuscript,
 And with his ghostly hands so grim,
He flipped and flipped and flipped.

He looked at me when he was done,
And said, ‘I guess it's fine.
And while it might be a bit of fun,
It's not a patch on mine.

Your writing style, well it's OK,
I mean, it isn't bad.
But if you want punters to pay,
You'd better make it sad.’

I must have looked at him askance,
And in a confused state.
Because then he took a rapping stance,
And went on to elaborate.

He said, ‘My sad plays bring all the boys to the Bard,
And Hamlet? It's better than yours.
King Lear? It's better than yours.
I could teach you,
But I'd have to charge.’

‘Charge? I said. ‘How much do you want?
To teach me all your tips?
I'd pay a lot to hear that gold,
Spilling from your lips.’

He said, ‘I'm down from Heaven for the night,
And soon must return to it.
I don't want to make your wallet light,
So I reckon a tenner should do it.’

Eagerly I handed him,
His bargain of a fee.
Then he yelled, ‘Look behind you!’
And ran away from me.

I chased him right across the town,
And into a shop he flew,
Where he bought a bottle of Newky Brown,
And a tin of Special Brew.

It was then that I stopped in the yard,
And really had a think.
‘Who'd have thought the Immortal Bard,
Was that keen on a drink?’

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Goodbye to Joe

Well, it's been a long and emotional ride, but this is it for Joe Cowley. Straight Outta Nerdsville is the final book of the Cowley Quadrilogy. (I don't think that's technically a word, but I'm trying to make it a thing.)

I've loved writing these books. Of course, at times it's been frustrating and maddening, but it's mostly been fun. Joe is an extension of me and it has become worryingly easy to slip into his voice time and time a-cocking-gain. I'll miss writing him.

And it's not just Joe, I'll miss Natalie and Harry and Ad and even Joe's ridiculous dad. Heck, even Mad Morris was fun to write.

The best thing about me being lucky enough to put these stories and characters out into the world is the interactions I've had with readers. When the first book came out, I quickly realised that it was never going to be a fashionable series. It wasn't going to win tons of awards and get loads of hype on blogs, or anything like that. But through those interactions, I've discovered that it has been really popular with kids who never got into reading before, and I'm not being disingenuous when I say I'm much happier with that.

I've had emails from parents saying they couldn't get their kids to put down the XBox controller and pick up a book until they discovered Joe Cowley. Some have gone on to be voracious readers and even set up their own book blogs. I heard from so-called 'geeky' kids who said the books made them feel less alone, and from LGBT kids who related to Greeny's struggle. I heard from a mum who said her son's dyslexia meant he found books too frustrating to get into, but in Joe Cowley, he found books he could love. And I hope I'm not being a sappy old git when I say that's worth more than a thousand awards.

When Nerdsville came out, the first review it received on Amazon called it 'drivel' and said it wasn't believable or even readable and that it was as if it had been written by an eight year old. The worst part was how it dismissively referred to the 'reluctant readers' who make up such a large portion of Joe's fans. Now, of course, that stung. When you put your heart and soul and countless hours, days, weeks and months of effort and care into something only to be told it's rubbish, it always will. But thankfully, the response from the die-hard Joe fans, the ones who identified with the characters and did find them believable and were invested in their journeys, has been infinitely better. And that is all that matters.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read Joe Cowley. There are so many amazing books out there, I'm flattered you gave mine a chance. A big thanks should also go to my agent Penny Holroyde who was instrumental in shaping the very first book and has been my rock throughout. (I mean this both in the emotional support sense and in the sense that she's not afraid to layeth the smacketh down.) And of course to my publishers, OUP. I know it's my name on the cover, but there are SO many people that work on a book, you wouldn't believe it. Editors, designers, marketers, probably other people I don't even know about. Also, thanks to Mike Lowery, who I've never met in person, but seems like a cool dude. We're going to collaborate on other stuff after this, too. Oh, and thanks to my family for putting up with me and at least pretending to like the books!

I'm going to write more books, which I hope you'll enjoy, and I'm sure I can sneak the occasional Joe Cowley short story out from time-to-time as well.

If you'd like to get in touch, my inbox is always open at my website or my Facebook page.

Thanks again, old beans. It's been loads of cocking fun.