Like a Pop Song in my Head

I hope that guy who sang Cheerleader ends his singing career now. I mean, he’s done his job. A big, summer tune with meaningless lyrics that manifests itself within all our brains and repeats on a loop.

It’s a thought that entered my mind when I was in Islington on Sunday afternoon in a small bookshop, the melody of said Cheerleader ringing through the street, played on panpipes and tin drums.

There’s nothing wrong with a catchy pop song, but it has to be good. And definitely not played on panpipes and tin drums.

source: comicvine.com
source: comicvine.com

My problem is that I constantly have a song stuck in my skull, reverberating around my head, occasionally pouring out of my mouth without me realising. Sporadic singing is an unfortunate habit of mine. And it’s not so much a problem for me as it for those around me.

I mean, sometimes it is impossible to have a conversation with me because I will connect your words to lyrics and start warbling at you.

Friend: “I’m leaving.”

Me: “On a jet plane, don’t know when… Sorry.”

Friend: “Question,”

Me: “Tell me what you think about me… Sorry.”

Friend: “No-one told me!”

Me: “Life was gonna be this way *clap clap clap clap*”

Girlfriend: “Kiss me…”

Me: “UNDER THE LIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS!”

Not to mention that everything is horrendously out-of-tune. I just can’t help it. It’s a disease – Lyricitis. And I’m not the only sufferer.

Because it’s contagious. I guarantee, you start hanging around with me on a regular basis, you will also start randomly bursting into song. Shout out to my ex-colleague who joined me in a rendition of Jolene every time we saw the name Maureen (which was more often than you might think).

source: pinterest
source: pinterest

I’m not a musical person, but my life distinctly revolves around music. There’s a song for every moment, person, memory and idea.

When I need motivation, my one solution when writing or working, is to be in near-silence so I can concentrate properly. But if I have to get in a certain ‘zone’, music is a great help. If I’m in a good mood and have to write about something sad, I use certain songs to evoke sadness. Vice versa. When I write about a character being angry, My Chemical Romance are ideal for bringing out all my repressed teenage angst.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter what your views on certain genres, artists or songs are – music will have played a major part in your life at some point, and it will continue to do so: Nursery rhymes helped you to sleep once upon a time, hymns were sung in school assemblies (is this still a thing?), Christmas carols and songs induce Christmas spirit and festivity, one song will always be remembered as your first dance at your wedding… Even funerals are heavily focused around music.

source: pinterest
source: pinterest

Everyone has a soundtrack to their life.

For me, it is any song catchy enough for my mind to remember some of the melody, at least three words, and not written or performed by Coldplay.

What’s yours?

Dan x.

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Like a Pop Song in my Head

Writing from memory.

I have, since March, been working on a new novel.

As The Whisper That Rose Through Darkness ticks over in the background, this other book has somehow taken over. I feel immensely guilty.

Anyway, I thought I would start using this blog for more than just a few poems and the odd short story (let’s pretend it hasn’t been months since I uploaded either). Escape from Reality will also become a platform for me to just talk. About things. And stuff. You’ll see.

So, this new story.

It is boy meets girl, without the middle part. It is two young people in London, experiencing life. One is kind of famous, and the other is swallowed up in his own angst.

I want it to be funny and moving but, most importantly, truthful.

When I look back at being eighteen, I think of myself as a mess. I drank way too much way too frequently. I learned how to be selfish and put myself first in most situations. I made stupid decisions and shunned responsibility and somehow blagged my way through my first year at university.

I also remember how much I cared about, well, everything. Homesickness was a constant nag in my mind. Proving myself as intelligent was imperative to my happiness, to the point that I regretted studying French (foreign languages not a natural talent of mine) and almost resented having attended comprehensive school (although this was also a side-effect of studying alongside several privately educated peers). Most of all, though, I wanted everyone to like me. I wanted to please everyone and just fit in.

I even started speaking posh.

There was also a General Election during my first year at university and I was so passionate, so hell-bent on making sure all my friends and even some strangers in bars shared my political opinions, that the eventual result devastated me.

How times change.

Do I still care what people think of me? Hell no. Am I still passionate about the political party I support? Not really. Am I still selfish? Nope. Do I continue to resent the schools I attended? Not even a tiny bit.

I do still enjoy the occasional alcohol binge, though.

So writing in the perspective of eighteen-year-olds is challenging. It means I have to think back, dig into memory, and emulate those emotions. And there were a lot of those.

Remember how we all resented going to school and then, after one week of full-time employment, wished that we were back in the confines of educational institutions. The taunts of classmates, in hind-sight, more bearable than the mundanity of nine-to-five. The school holidays a distant memory after your first night shift. (I mean, some people miss it so much that they even grow up to be teachers!)

That’s how I feel right now. If I could be eighteen again, I probably would. Okay, I never could decide if I was ecstatic, content and happy, or miserable, lonely and desolate. But man, life was good.

So, the point of this blog post? I’m not sure there is one. Except, sometimes it’s healthy to remember how it was to be young. It’s even okay to wish you were back there, living it all again.

But also it’s important to appreciate that, and this will go for, like, 95% of people, you are a better person now than you were when you were eighteen. If nothing else, you are more you.

Anyway, after 600 words of procrastination, I’d better get back to writing this new novel.

Laters,

Dan x.

Writing got me like

Writing from memory.

Dear Nan.

Do I possess the words
And manifest the language
To express my thoughts today?

It’s been ten years and I don’t know
What grace there is in healing.
Time is the guaranteed cure,
But how much time is needed?

Ten years ago we lost you, Nan,
And still, inside, I’m bleeding.
Sometimes, when I’m lost or hurt,
I find it’s you I’m needing.
And when I think about you,
The first thought that springs to mind
Is not from my choice of good memories,
But of the day we said goodbye.
I was younger than I remember,
And I probably didn’t understand
Completely that our last goodbye
Would be the last time I’d hold your hand.

You were somewhere in your seventies,
At the time I thought that old,
But now when I think about old age
Resentment takes it’s hold.

I know it’s selfish of me to say,
And I cherish our fifteen years,
But I’m adamant it was premature,
And it sparked some deep, dense fears.

And I don’t blame you for a second,
When bitterness sweeps around me,
I just find it hard to comprehend,
Losing the heart of our family.

Sometimes when I think about
The reasons people cry
I tell myself to get a grip
We expect grandparents to die.
But I never did. That’s it right there.
The bitter taste on my tongue.
I thought you were invincible, immortal, always here.

Above me sits a dark, grey cloud,
It’s shrunk as time has passed,
Mostly I have sunny spells,
But when it rains, it’s fast.
Today it’s raining heavily,
It always does in June,
Fond memories, though, replace the last,
Finally, I grieve in tune.

IMG_1480

Dear Nan.

Seven Days Of You

On the first day, we were young,
And free to do as we wished.
Our friendship blossomed into fun,
My insecurities vanished.

On day two, we shared a kiss,
A surprise to me and you.
A day apart was one to miss,
As our love for each other grew.

The third day came and we were wed,
In front of all our friends.
That evening we first shared a bed,
Knowing not all that’s good ends.

On the fourth, I held him in my arms,
Our baby, small and weak.
I swore to you he’d see no harm,
As you left me in your sleep.

I don’t recall day number five,
Existence hard to bear.
I could hardly believe I was alive,
Life no longer yours to share.

The sixth day came and our little boy left,
University called his name.
All alone, I felt bereft,
Life is one sick game.

But on day seven something altered,
A light came shining through.
My heart, its beating long since faltered,
Remembered life with you.

Seven Days Of You

Why I Wrote My Novel

People have been asking me why I decided to write a novel, or where I found inspiration for that particular story. So, I thought I would do what I do best and write a blog post to answer these questions. In my usual manner, I’ll be as honest as I like.

Let me tell you about the last two-and-a-half years of my life.

October 2011. The sun beamed down on a school playground, the children laughing and shouting and generally being kids. I was in my bedroom, which had once been the school’s medical room but had since been hurriedly transformed in order to accommodate a 20 year-old, British student on his third year abroad (i.e. they put curtains up). I had been living and working in a small French village for nigh on a month, teaching teenagers my mother tongue.

I had had a particularly bad day. The pupils didn’t care about learning English (and why should they? Cast your memory back to your own language classes at school – no doubt they were spent smuggling sweets or throwing balls of paper at the back of some other kid’s head). Equally, I did not care about teaching English. I was there because I had to be. It was part of my university course – a course that, at that time, I regretted applying for.

And so, as I listened to the excited buzz of a school playground from my hollow bedroom, staring at the anti-bullying posters pinned to my walls, trapped within four walls with no internet, no television, nobody to talk to – no distraction from self-pity – I broke.

Long story short – I was on the verge of coming home, quitting France, and quitting my degree. I would have booked a flight home there and then… but I had no internet, which I now realise was a good thing. Because I slept on it and a few days later found a room to let in a nearby town. I picked myself up, pulled it together, and decided to stick it out. Of course I did, because that was my only logical option.

And then I remembered something that I had ashamedly allowed myself to forget. I wanted to be an author. I always did, ever since I was a child and used to turn sheets of A4 paper into mini-books. But the thing is, education got in my way. I went to school and sat my GCSEs, AS Levels, A Levels which all permitted me access to university and more learning, exams and essays. Sure, I could have done a course in Creative Writing or something, but my passion for French was fast-fading and I was relieved that my love for literature remained.

That’s when Max was re-born. Max was the character I always wanted to write about but whose story I had never decided. Spider-diagrams and mind-maps and pages and pages of notes later, I finally had a story to write. Well. half a story. I had the fantasy: a made-up world with invented politics, magic and mystery, relationships and history. But I wanted to write something modern, something truly up-to-date that teenagers right now would be able to relate to.

That’s when I invented Light on the Landing. The boyband that I plonked smack bang in the middle of a fantastical tale of good versus not-so-good. And the rest of my time in France I dedicated to these five fictional musicians, running a secret Twitter account that allowed me insight into popular culture, social media, fangirls, fanboys and fanfiction, shipping and otps, parodies and fakes… you name it.

The following year, I wrote dribs and drabs, planning out plot twists and character developments, while preparing to finish my degree for that piece of paper and an extra few lines on my CV (or at least that’s what it felt like, because all I wanted to do was finish my bloody book!). I was almost half-way through, although I didn’t know that at the time, when I graduated.

Since then, I have had two full-time jobs in shops. Which was kind of my plan. I wanted to get any job I could so that I would have time to write and complete my first book, not having to worry about moving away from Salisbury or training for a new career. And I did finish.

A month or two ago, I wrote the final word (Time). A few weeks ago, I edited and formatted and basically did all the stuff that I had been avoiding. Draft 2 became The Lighter That Shone Like A Star. One week and four days ago, whilst really hungover due to me pre-celebrating, I published my novel onto Kindle.

 

lighter cover

 

Best feeling ever. Best day ever. (Hangover aside).

And so, there it is. The inspiration for writing a fantasy novel? Escapism. It was my escape from France, from the pressure of university, from reality. It quickly became the centre of my universe – and it still is. I know my characters better than I know myself, and I could write about them forever. The five lands – Hurburt, Terexe, Salmont, Rysked and Naegis, are like five other homes. I have obsessed over every aspect of the story, because it is one that I have been waiting a long time to tell.

As for the sequel, I have started it and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

My degree felt like an obstacle, but if I had never studied French, I would never have lived in France and I would have never had the time or despair to begin my book.

So, check it out. My Facebook page, Twitter account, and the listing on Amazon.

Thank you,

Dan

 

Lighter Selfie

Why I Wrote My Novel

No Love, No Good, No Better – A poem written in song titles.

Here is a poem, written using song titles from my iTunes.

Full list of artists below, try seeing how many you can get before looking!

***

Hello, Ho Hey, Say Something

Give Me Love, Stand By Me, Sing

My Girl Livin’ On A Prayer

Baby, Fall, I Know You Care

 

All I Got, it’s Sad But True

I Wish, I Want, Only You.

We Are Young, Larger Than Life

You Ain’t The First, Laserlight

 

Chasing Pavements, Chasing Cars

Stay You, Just The Way You Are.

No Matter What I’m Me, I’m Yours

Feel The Love, Hurt, Human – Flaws.

 

Teenage Dream, Climb On Board

Jizz In My Pants, Rock Me, Roar

Pump Up The Jam, Praise You, Shout

Paradise City, Pass Out

 

Wake Me Up, Grow Old With Me

I Will Wait Tik Tok Happy

Without You I’m Half A Heart

Fly Away Encore Une Fois

 

Goodbye To You, Let It Go

I Knew You Were Trouble, Low

 

Internet Friends Under Pressure

No Love, No Good, and No Better.

 

***

LIST OF ARTISTS:

 

Martin Solveig & Dragonette, The Lumineers, Great Big World & Christina Aguilera

Ed Sheeran, Ben. E. King, Travis

The Temptations, Bon Jovi

Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding

 

Newton Faulkner, Metallica

One Direction, One Direction, Ellie Goulding

Fun., Backstreet Boys

Guns n’ Roses, David Guetta feat. Jessie J

 

Adele, Snow Patrol

Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko, Ed Sheeran + Wiley, Bruno Mars

Boyzone, Lil’ Wayne, Jason Mraz

Rudimental, Johnny Cash, The Killers, Bastille

 

Katy Perry, Labrinth

The Lonely Island, One Direction, Katy Perry

Technotronic ft. Felly, Fatboy Slim, Lulu

Guns n’ Roses, Tinie Tempah

 

Avicii, Tom Odell

Mumford & Sons, Ke$ha, Pharell

David Guetta feat. Usher, One Direction,

Lenny Kravitz, Sash!

 

Ed Sheeran + Dot Rotten, Idina Menzel (Frozen OST)

Taylor Swift, Flo Rida

Knife Party, Queen

Eminem feat. Lil’ Wayne, The Prodigy, Lorde

 

(I just wrote what I had on my iTunes so if I’ve missed any featured artists or have listed a cover version well, stop being pedantic.)

No Love, No Good, No Better – A poem written in song titles.

A Tidy Mess (Part Four)

Part one

Part two

Part three

***

 

Katherine felt sick as she looked upon her aunty and uncle’s house. Her dad had died inside those walls. Her father’s death was a memory that she did not hold and yet, in that moment, she was reliving it.

 

Harriett was shocked when she answered the door to her niece whom she had not seen for over a year. Wordlessly, she welcomed the surprise visitor into her home and offered her a comforting embrace.

 

‘Darling, I am so sorry,’ said Harriett.

Katherine looked up into her aunt’s dark green eyes. They were almost identical to her father’s.

‘Wh-where?’ Katherine stuttered.

‘Where what, darling?’

‘Where did you… where was he?’

Harriett sighed, gazing at the broken girl standing before her. She looked over her shoulder towards the bottom of the stairs. Katherine walked slowly over to the spot where her father had taken his last breaths just one week ago. She fell to her knees and began to cry.

 

It had been the slowest week of Katherine’s life. The police were no closer to finding out who had murdered her father and she was growing more frustrated each day. It did not help that nobody else seemed to care. Her mother tried to comfort her with effortless hugs and meaningless ‘I understand’s while Rob seemed to be avoiding her completely.

 

The police had questioned Rob, Katherine knew that, but she did not know what he had told them. He must have had an alibi to keep them from suspecting him and yet Katherine still could not trust her brother. The murder investigation had consumed Katherine to the point where she could not distinguish between her grief for her dead father and her anger towards the mystery murderer.

 

That was why she had decided to visit the place where Tim had died.

 

Harriett did not want to see Katherine and so when she had turned up uninvited on her doorstep, she was annoyed. She knew that her niece would ask questions, and Harriett was fed up of giving the same answers.

 

She had been the one to find her brother’s  lifeless, bloody corpse early on Monday morning. Her husband, Martin, was paying the taxi driver when he heard her scream. The pair stood in the doorway, unable to fully open the door blocked by Tim’s body, struck by devastation as they realised instantly that Tim was dead. Martin phoned the police immediately and their nightmare began.

 

They had been due home from holiday late Sunday night but due to a ‘technical fault’ their flight had been delayed. When the police first confirmed Tim’s approximate time of death Harriett and Martin could only wonder whether, if their flight had been on time, they would have been home before the incident. Would Tim still be alive or would they have still been too late?

 

When they were finally allowed back in their house, nothing was out of place. It was exactly how they knew Tim would have left it: immaculately clean and tidy with everything in it’s place. The rug had been straightened, all doors had been shut, and the cream carpet was clear from any traces of dirt. Nobody knew exactly what had been used to kill Tim, either: the ornament of the violinist was on the window sill, cleaned from Tim’s blood.

 

Harriett and Martin were the only people, aside from Katherine, who felt truly saddened by Tim’s passing. Living in the house had become almost unbearable; they expected him to arrive home from work every evening, Harriett still laid three places at the table, and they felt uneasy all the time. Somebody had broken into their house without leaving a single trace, and that worried them more than anything. They changed their alarm and their locks, they triple-checked that everything was locked even when they were inside their house. And yet, none of their extra security measures helped.

 

Katherine left a few hours after arriving, emotionally drained yet feeling somehow less anguished. Harriett began to prepare the dinner, ready for when her husband arrived home from work. She turned on the radio to distract her from her thoughts, and hummed along as she peeled, chopped and sautéed. Her mood lifted slightly after an emotional afternoon.

 

As Harriett plated up two hearty meals, she accidentally splashed her  chest with the boiling hot sauce. She tore off her top and splashed cool water on her burning skin. Annoyed, she made her way upstairs to change into something else. She looked into the mirror on her wardrobe door and realised how tired she looked. Sighing, she opened the door and pulled out a dress and her make-up bag. She wriggled out of her skinny jeans and donned the flowery purple dress.

 

Harriett closed the door and glanced back into the mirror. Two reflections stared back. She went to scream, but a hand clasped over her mouth to prevent any noise from escaping. She struggled and kicked her legs back, but her attacker was too strong. A hand slipped down from her mouth to around her neck, the thumb pressing forcefully against her windpipe. She looked in the mirror to see her attacker grinning maniacally, both of them watching as she lost her grip on the world.

 

Harriett’s limp body fell to the floor. Her murderer looked down upon their victim and admired their work.

 

‘Two down, one to go.’ 

A Tidy Mess (Part Four)