Mental Health Matters

There’s a big thing going on in this country at present highlighting the increasing problems of mental health within the population. Let me say from the get go that this is highly commendable and I believe that anyone who suffers from a mental health issue (or any other kind of medical issue) needs to be treated in the most applicable, sensitive, way.

However, although the adverts blaze out on our screens and across the airwaves, the support required is… well, it’s not really what it’s made out to be, is it? Wait, I’ll expand on that sentence: the support required is in place – but it’s not entirely accessible.

Let me explain: there are ever-growing numbers of young adults (teens) who are presenting with problems they can’t deal with. There are support groups out there, but the waiting lists for them are long. Months-long. My point here is that if a teen has opened up enough to ask for help, they need it there and then, not months down the line.

We are in danger of overlooking the very people who need it the most; the vulnerable almost-adults who are setting forth into the big wide world and who need to make sense of it before they can do so.

We, as a nation, force our children to sit test after test after test after test – meaning that those who struggle under exam conditions (and believe me when I say that if you have sat in a room full of children aged 6 and 7 when they are taking their SATs, you would know where I am coming from with this) start off from a very young age with the underlying understanding that they may not be quite good enough. Not as good as Smart Eric who finds it easy to write things down; not as good as Clever Jenny who sails through everything (with apologies to Eric and Jenny – they were the first names that sprang to mind). Yet these kids, who the government has determined need to show their ability through sitting exams rather than through coursework and/or other ways (observation being one way I can think of, off the top of my head) go through school – their childhood – having already learned that they aren’t anything special.

The EYFS highlights the need for children’s uniqueness to be rewarded. Every child, yes, every child, has their own particular abilities. They may not be ‘good’ at Maths or English, but they are damned good at science and nature and explaining how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly (for example), or have brilliant physical ability skills. Some may not be so hot at sitting still and putting pen to paper to try to write something, but they are fantastic artists and show their learning that way. These are the very youngest students, and letting them show adults (teachers) in different ways that they do understand what they are being taught, works.

Before you all start, I know the importance of being able to read and write. I am passionate that all children should learn how to do this. A child who cannot read and write is heading for a jobless future. But do they really need to be tested on what verbs, nouns, adverbs, synonyms and antonyms (etc.) are, under exam conditions, at age 6? Really?

As has always been the case, if a child is bright, they get attention and help to achieve their best; if a child is less able, they also get attention and help. It’s the middling children who suffer; those who try their best, get solid results that aren’t either high or low, and are not rewarded for their struggles. These kids, I believe, are the ones who get lost along the way. Overlooked and pretty much ignored. Who knows how much better they would do if they, too, got the attention given to the child who causes chaos because they are trying to wriggle out of work, or the super-bright one who is always picked to give the answers because the teacher knows they have them?

I’m not having a go at teachers here. I’m really not. They are constrained by constantly changing government guidelines, increasing class sizes, mixed ability classes and endless, sodding testing. How can any teacher expect to be able to put their passion into lessons when they are having to teach to test? How can the children who need their help receive it, or be shown different ways of understanding, when at the end of it, it all comes down to passing tests?  Schools do their best – they truly do. If the funds are there they use them for the good of the students. But today, all we hear about are cuts, cuts and more cuts. Schools are expected to attain the best results possible with decreasing financial support. And I won’t even bother going into the salary debate.

Suffice it to say – nowadays we appear to be setting our children up to fail right from the start!

Which brings me back to mental health issues in young adults. I have seen (and heard of) so many youngsters who are bright, capable, young people, who are stressed so badly by schooling and exams that they no longer feel worthy of living; who self-harm as a means of coping; who either shut off their emotions or express them in inappropriate ways. Where do they go when they need help? The GP? They will give out a number for the parent/child to ring to explain the problems they are having, and then someone will ring them back for a chat. Inevitably, at the end of that, the parent/child is told they will have to wait six months or so before they can have an appointment. Six months. Minimum. And that’s if they ring them back in the first place.

How does that help the self-harmer? How does that help the anxious, withdrawn child who has finally plucked up the courage to ask for help? How does it help the child who is turning to alcohol or drugs, or prostitution? How does that stop any abusers the child is trying to expose? How is a youngster supposed to process any of this when nobody is there to help them get their fears/problems out in the open and then act on them? How do we help these young adults to feel safe, loved, worthwhile and secure?

Imagine you have been told you have an illness that needs treatment now. Then imagine how you’d feel if you were told you’d have to wait six months to see the specialist… Would you raise a stink about it?

At any age, people with mental health problems are, arguably, the most vulnerable of all because the very fact that they have a mental illness, with all the stigma attached to that, means that the sufferer is highly unlikely to be able to kick up a stink.

We all talk about our children being the future – isn’t it time we put our money where our mouths are and invest in them? If there’s a six-month waiting list – open new centres. Reduce the lists. Give our children the knowledge and understanding that someone will listen to them, before it’s too late and the self-harm becomes accidental suicide, or the drugs and alcohol lead to overdose.

AHOW Blog Tour Cont’d – Suanne Kim

Today, author Suanne Kim is talking about her short story, “Objects in Motion,” which appears in the anthology A Haunting of Words, which also includes my brand new short story, “Joe”.

Blurb: The last fours years have been difficult for Miles. In a stroke of luck, he finds love under the most unlikely circumstances–while rescuing strangers in a subway station. Mattie is everything he’s ever wanted: witty, beautiful, intelligent. Or is she?

What inspired you to write this story? I had no intention of submitting. I was engrossed working on my novel, “Prism.” But the sheer challenge of writing about a haunting called to me. And I liked the supportive camaraderie of the Fiction Writing group so I decided to throw my hat into the ring last minute.

How long have you been writing? Like most writers, forever.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing? I write mostly poetry, lit fic, women’s lit, crime fic and romance. But like my many of my main characters, I enjoy a challenge so I don’t limit myself to genres or styles. I’m always up for trying new things.

What are you working on right now? I’m working on a novel called “Prism” about a woman who wakes up in a hospital and has no memory of being viciously attacked along with her boyfriend. The man who calls 911 for help disappears and the detective tries to piece together the mystery surrounding the event. Is the caller the culprit, accomplice, witness or another victim? I’m also working on a short story about a Korean woman–a former thief and assassin–who’s out for revenge.

What else do you have available/published? I’ve had poems published with Newtown Literary and Nomad’s Choir.

What advice do you give to new writers? Hone your craft, keep reading, and develop a thick skin when asking for critiques. All are lifelong endeavors.

List links where people can find your work.
www.facebook.com/SuanneKim.author

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.

AHOW Blog Tour Cont’d – Laura Ings Self

Today I’m chatting to the rather wonderful author, Laura Ings Self, about her short story, “Home,” that appears in the anthology A Haunting of Words, alongside my own brand new short story, “Joe”.

Synopsis:

After losing the love of her life in a car accident, Nicky can’t bring herself to leave the flat they shared together. She is convinced she still sees flashes of her lost love, but lately the sightings are becoming less frequent.

What inspired me to write this? 

I find the best ideas come when I’m not looking for them. I was focusing on other projects, although I was aware of the open submissions for AHOW, when the idea of Nicky and her traumatic bereavement just took root in the back of my mind. The story came to me pretty much fully formed and I wrote it in just a few hours.

How long have I been writing? I wrote my first “book” aged 7 and have dabbled on and off my entire life, blogging and attempting novels and short stories, but I didn’t really throw myself into it until 2012, when I figured I would write a children’s novel during my maternity leave (hahahahaha!) and eventually finished that book in 2015. I have since written another novel and am working on getting both published.

What genres do I most associate with my writing?

Primarily drama/realism. I like exploring psychology and the human condition. I like writing flawed protagonists.

What am I working on right now?

I have put my novels to one side so I can approach them with fresh eyes at some point in the near future. Currently, I am working on a stage play called ‘Fear Itself’ about a team of security guards working the night shift at a pharmaceutical company and an as yet untitled ‘Black Mirror’-esque short story that I hope to submit for ACOW involving a reality TV show.

What else do I have published/available?

‘Home’ is my first published work.

What advice do I give to new writers?

Find a decent editor and a good group of beta readers/critical partners. There is so much more to writing a good story than telling it efficiently and with good grammar (although those things help!). I thought I knew what made a good book (I can certainly point out what makes an awful book) but I have learned so much from people in the Fiction Writing group and Facebook pages like The Writers’ Circle as well as feedback I have received from editors and agents.

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.

AHOW Blog Tour cont’d – Dawn Taylor

Today author Dawn Taylor talks about her short story, “Pepe,” appearing in the anthology A Haunting of Words, which also includes my brand new short story, “Joe”.

Blurb:

Diane accepts an internship at a law firm. Shortly after settling into her new apartment, a clown appears under her bed disturbing her sleep. Who is he? What does he want? Will Diane have the strength to conquer her tormentor before he destroys her sanity?

What inspired you to write this story?

I have always had a fear of clowns. They emit an eerie presence and must never be trusted. The thought of one hiding under my bed, waiting to torment me is a nightmare.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing as a child, but my first short story titled “The Double Nickel Tour,” was published in 2016 in Scout Media’s A Journey of Words.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing?

I like to write psychological horror and stories with a twist ending.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I have written a debut novel, which I hope to publish by the end of the year.

What else do you have available/published?

I have published a few short stories. In addition to “Pepe” and “The Double Nickel Tour,” I have published “Katey,” “Dirty Gypsy Girl,” and “The Price of Admission.”

What advice do you give to new writers?

My advice to new writers is to study the craft. Learn grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and all the necessities of writing, and then allow your imagination to soar.

I can be found at
https://www.facebook.com/authordawntaylor/
http://www.dawnmtaylor.com

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.

AHOW Blog Tour cont’d – Patricia Stover

Today’s A Haunting Of Words interview is with Patricia Stover.

Title and synopsis/blurb of your AHOW story:
Plastic Boy
After the death of her husband, Linda struggles to keep her difficult son happy. When he insists on a strange toy castle for his birthday, she watches her son’s defiance grow into obsession with terrifying results.

What inspired you to write this story?
It was just one of those things that pops into your head when daydreaming I guess. I can’t tell you what inspires most of my stories, they just sort of happen most of the time. I think everything in life inspires a writer. I do know that after I finished the story there were some similarities to Jimmy’s stick horse and hat and my son’s. So I guess I pulled pieces of my life into the story without knowing it.

How long have you been writing?
I was around 24 and attending college when I found my love for writing. I was attending MSC working on my basics for nursing. I took a writing course as one of my required arts. The class was asked to write a short screen play, around two or three pages I believe. Seven pages later my screen play was still unfinished. I handed in the assignment, positive it would receive an F since unfinished. The professor loved the story and suggested I take a creative writing course. I never thought writing would be something I would enjoy before that. I took the creative writing course and several literature courses. I fell in love with writing and literature. I looked forward to attending my classes. I had been a nurse aide for years before that and thought being a Nurse was my calling. It had never occurred to me I could be a creative person. Once I finished my Associates degree I went on to try for my Bachelors in English and Writing. I met my husband, got married and pregnant, so school went on hold. After I had my son I stayed at home with my son. I was thirty two when he was born. An idea for a horror novel hit me while driving one day and I thought, “I’m going to sit down and write this book.” I wrote day and night and three months later I had the first draft of “Hitchhiking with the Devil” written. Somewhere along the way I joined a writing group, Fiction Writing. I wanted to learn more about writing, and since I wasn’t in school I thought the best way would be to research it on the internet. An article I read suggested joining a writer’s group. The “A Journey of Words” anthology was open to submissions. I had one written that fit the theme, so I polished it and had it edited and it was accepted into the anthology.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing?
I write horror, dark fiction/weird fiction, although I hope to expand into other genres.

What are you working on right now?
I just finished a short story titled, Night of the Eye. Also I am still working on my first horror novel, Hitchhiking with the Devil.

What else do you have available/published?
My short story, Creepers, is featured in Scout Media’s, “A Journey of Words” anthology. It is about a greedy and bitter old woman who will stop at nothing to win a gardening contest. She stumbles across an unusual green house. Violet purchases seed that will give her what she “needs”.

What advice do you give to new writers?
Read and write a lot. It takes time and practice. Watch out for vanity publishers, and hire a professional editor.

List links where people can find your work:
www.PatriciaStover.wix.com/PatriciaStover
www.facebook.com/authorjkenedy
www.Scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-journey-of-words
www.Scoutmeiabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words

AHOW Blog Tour Cont’d – Brian Paone

On we go with the blog tour of the A Haunting Of Words anthology. Today’s author is Brian Paone with his story ‘Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys)’. Take it away, Brian…!

Blurb for “Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys)”

A disenchanted-youth ghost story, with a cat named Bonnie, a restraining order, lovers on the rocks, and a hanging teenager, swinging from the trees near the train tracks by the lake.

What inspired you to write this story?

It’s a rock-fiction adaptation of Porcupine Tree’s “Fear of a Blank Planet” concept album.

How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story, “The Night is Young,” in 1988 but, my first novel, “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” wasn’t published until 2007.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing?

I write in a genre called rock fiction—which is a sub-genre of musical fiction—where a single song, an entire album, or the span of a band/artist’s complete work is novelized, using the literal lyrics to directly create the plotline and story arc, and usually the title of the book/story is taken directly from the song/album that the work is an adaptation of. But what makes it special, is being able to write a story or novel where the reader doesn’t even need to have ever heard the songs/album to understand and enjoy the work. These novels and stories, although adaptations of albums or songs, are also stand-alone books. Just like you don’t have to have read a book to enjoy or understand the movie adaptation, you don’t need to have heard the album (or even need to have ever heard OF the band before) to understand or love a rock-fiction novel. Rock-fiction novels are unique in the sense that they already have two built-in audiences right out of the gate: the fan base of whatever band’s album is being adapted, and the fan base of the genre the book is written in. It’s not a prerequisite to know the album to read a rock-fiction novel. In fact, I bet most people read a rock-fiction novel purely based on its blurb and have no idea it is an album adaptation. That’s the beauty of rock fiction.

What are you working on right now?

My upcoming 4th novel, “Moonlight City Drive,”  is currently being sent to my editor this week. It has a November, 3 release date (the novel’s book release party is scheduled at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland during a two-day concert event featuring Dog Fashion Disco and Chuck Mosley, of Faith No More). It’s a supernatural crime-noir thriller set in a Dick Tracy meets Sin City atmosphere. The story follows a detective on the trail of a Jack-the-Ripper-style killer, who he starts to admire and has to decide if he should continue the cat-and-mouse chase, or join the killer and his cult of ghouls in his cleansing of society.

What else do you have available/published?

My novels:
“Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts” is about what it would be like to befriend a rock star who becomes a drug addict, and the trials and tribulations of having a friend who’s dealing with fame, drug addiction, depression, social anxiety, and the throes of the music business.

“Welcome to Parkview” is a cerebral-horror novel where the town itself is the main character, and the stories of the residents and how the town starts to eat away at the fabric of their lives. (One reviewer described it as early Stephen King meets The Twilight Zone.)

“Yours Truly, 2095” is a time-travel romance novel about a man who wakes up 114 years in the future. A future that has many opportunities for a new start from a past that is shrouded in a failing marriage and a deceased daughter. And he has to decide whether he wants to stay forever in his life in 2095, or go back and try to reconcile and repair the life he left behind in 1981.

My short stories:
“Outside of Heaven” (which appears in “A Matter of Words”) is a rapture-monster, post-apocalyptic story that deals with a group of strangers at a motel, who have to survive the night of the rapture, and the monsters who are sent to fulfill its prophecy.

“The Whaler’s Dues” (which appears in “A Journey of Words”) is a modern-day, mythological-romance story about a man who falls in love with a stripper who is not what she appears to be. And the adventure that ensues.

The third story is my A Haunting of Words story discussed above.

What advice do you give to new writers?

Sleep is for the weak.

List links where people can find your work:

http://www.BrianPaone.com

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.

AHOW Blog Tour Cont’d – K.N. Johnson

Today marks the tenth author interview for ‘A Haunting of Words’ – and this time the author is K.N. Johnson.

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Title:

The Blue Amberol Turns Again

Blurb:

Two families, two eras, one house, and one haunted music cylinder. Does it foretell the future or just replay the past?

What inspired you to write this story?

I love to roam antique shops. In a particularly cool shop in Louisville, KY, I discovered loads of phonographs, including an old Amberola and a box of dusty cylinders. And that’s when I remembered my trip to the Thomas Edison house where I learned Edison recorded music on wax cylinders before records were invented. The scratchy melody coming from these things is eerie – like a voice scratching its way out from the past.

How long have you been writing?

As a child, I’d create family newspapers, children’s books in scribble pads. My sisters still remember me forcing them to act in my plays. In middle school, my best friend and I wrote a paranormal YA book for fun. I was the high school newspaper editor, but also churned out handwritten pages of a soap opera for a few close friends. When my twins were toddlers, I wrote a screenplay with my husband. Miramax passed on it and I haven’t tried romantic comedy again. I worked as a reporter and email marketer for years before finally giving time to my pile of short story ideas.

What genre do you associate most within your writing?

In general, I write horror. But it’s not the slasher gore most people consider horror. It’s more cerebral, strange, unsettling. I’ve been drawn to Folk Horror recently. I think the combination of woodlands and religious elements reminds me of my childhood.

What are you working on now?

I had a Netflix marathon of reality forensic shows about young kids who committed murder. Really disturbing stuff about the Slenderman murder and other cases. This inspired a story about a psychopathic teen who manipulates another into helping her commit murder. They get away with it and head their separate ways. But paranoia sets in. Each begins to wonder if the other will rat them out and if one more murder is necessary to keep their secret from ever coming to light.

What else do you have published?

My dark science fiction story “Regolith” will appear in the upcoming anthology Terra Nullius later this year. My dark story “Frigid” won Mythraeum’s Pygmalion contest and is available to read on their website:http://mythraeum.com/story-pygmalion-contest-winner-frigid

What advice would you offer to new writers?

Read writers you love and try to figure out why you love their stories. Then, make time to write. Write absolute rubbish just to get your story down. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write, write, write.

List links where people can find your writing:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/knjohnsonauthor/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/K.N.-Johnson/e/B01KUNOBP6

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.