Thursday, 3 September 2015


I've been thinking about the clown car and Bernie Sanders tonight. I know very little about American politics, even at the presidential level. You all make your choices, and I have no say in that and nor should I. Reasons to vote or not vote are complex and local. They can be one issue and against that or for that and nobody knows and I hate you! But whatever way your vote goes, it's valid.

My government is currently killing people. Okay, you could argue that they might have died anyway, as if that's some kind of excuse to torment them further, but they are withdrawing benefits on the basis that some box-ticker with no medical qualifications said they should. No government that is willfully killing its own citizens has any moral right to power. Yay! Something we can hopefully agree on, because I try very hard to not make friends with sociopaths.

But I have to say this. All you No voters, you helped this to happen. Even if you don't personally agree with it, this is what you voted for. You might have thought you were voting No for greater unity, for the good of the currency, for the future of your children, for more powers, but the truth is you weren't. If you paid any attention to politics you knew that. If you didn't pay any attention, then you should have stayed the fuck home on polling day, because the politically illiterate decided our fate, and I really resent that.

Vulnerable people in Scotland are dying because you said No. We can't decide to pull drowning Syrians and Libyans out the Mediterranean and take them in because you said No. We have to pay taxes to maintain nuclear weapons because you said No. I have to watch the naked, psychopathic glee at the grinding down of the most vulnerable people in our society, because You Said No.

Yet I still don't want a UDI (unilateral declaration of independence), because I respect your democratic right. And I do and I will. But if the UK votes to leave the EU then we will have to do a UDI, because you people have tortured me enough already over things that don't even affect me. I'm not losing my worker's and human rights to you. So yes to the EU or we are really fucking done. You wouldn't be human to me anymore. Vote yes for something. Even if it's not what you should have done in the first place.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Not jonesing for Indiana

This is not my place. I'm not American. I don't fully understand America's political or electoral systems. I've never even been there. So I know, this is not my place.

What just happened in Indiana could never happen in any EU country. The European Human Rights Act ensures no one gets to be so offended by another person's skin colour, religion, or sexual orientation that they can refuse service. Because no one gets to impose their misguided ideas about What Would Jesus Do on people who are in their life for the blink of an eye and then gone again. For as long as it takes for them to hand over a coffee or a cake and take their money, can they really not stuff down their revulsion? Is it so important to them that their constructed white Jesus gets to hate the same people they do?

What bible do they read? For me, all religion goes from benign pantomime to outright force for evil depending on where the scale is sitting, but why is fundamentalist Christianity a rollicking good idea but being a fundamentalist Muslim, when both religions have far more in common than separating them, the most evilest thing in the world? Why can't they realise that adopting laws Al Qaeda would be proud of makes them just as bad? Worse even, since the media and their holy high heid yins are always trying to convince us what barbarians the Muslims are, without thinking for one moment that when the nice white Christians seek to oppress people who Aren't Like Them they're doing exactly the same thing?

Exactly the same thing.

If I was any kind of Christian I would be furious - absolutely fucking furious - about what these people are doing in the name of my religion. I left the Catholic church 20 years ago because I couldn't bear to associate with a faith that wanted half my friends to be inferior because of who they want to have sex with. We always hear about Muslims not condemning terrorism strongly enough, but Christians get a media pass if they don't condemn utter inhumanity.

I'm not saying everyone should accept gay people. Much as anyone who thought they were immoral would never be a friend of mind, I accept that attitude exists, and I don't seek to talk people out of it. But religion does not bestow a right to be a bigot. It's a cover story, a mask, an excuse. They have to feel these things without blaming God or Jesus or Allah or Jehovah or whoever they want to pass the buck to.

And I think that's what bothers me most about this law. Conservatives are always big on personal responsibility, but they're happy to let a 2,000-year-old book tell them how to behave, even when they've quite clearly read it wrong. They want responsibility up until the point they can make a dickhead governor sign a law that abdicates them from their personal feelings. They scream about their rights while campaigning to strip others of theirs. As soon as a Muslim doctor refuses to treat an alcoholic they will howl, because these rights are only intended for Christians. And no one supporting this law has a right to that name.

So, not my place. But I said it anyway.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Mechanics of Crushing

Weird things abound in my head these days. Too much time to think.

I swore off love, and that's going great. Precisely no one has fallen in love with me since then, and I've avoided that too. But I have allowed myself a couple of crushes, which is like pretending to be in love without any of the work that goes with it, such as mutual attraction, or having to talk to someone.

In the barmy magazines I read when I was a teenager, crushes were harmless practise runs for when your real big love happened and you got to float down the aisle in a puffy white dress. The assumption that you'd end up married was kind of insulting really, like the prize in life was settling down to watch football every weekend and bicker in the supermarket, ten grand in debt from the wedding. I never wanted that.

I'm not wired up right. I seem to approach things differently from most people. These magazines always had advice like "If he gives you his number, don't phone him straight away." Oh no, I swear I will wait the allotted seven days, four hours and two minutes before picking up that phone. "Don't look too keen." Next time I see him I will shun him or call him names! And my overriding thoughts reading these things was "Why? WHY?! What is the purpose of dicking people around like this?"

It's supposed to be a game, I think. And maybe the build-up is part of it - the uncertainty of whether you're going to get what you want. But I hate uncertainty. I loathe it beyond all things. I drove myself to tears trying to interpret the smallest gesture. Does he like me? Doesn't he? How can I tell? I'd read more of those stupid magazines. Then when I was 16 I ended up kissing a guy I'd liked for ages, even though he'd shown none of the designated behaviours, and I decided they were a waste of time and I was going to wing it.

Since then I've had varying levels of success with men. I've never succeeded when I've planned everything to the nth degree and rehearsed what I was going to say, though. I've kissed men in fields, nightclubs, taxis, the back of a van. I've been repulsed by slobbering, and floored by intense chemistry. And none of it was ever decided on beforehand. Winging it went okay. Some of those memories are very special to me, and I wouldn't change them for the world.

I never found lasting love, so now I have short and intense crushes on men I know I can't have, either for reasons of distance or because they're so far out of my league I would never consider approaching them. The uncertainty is irrelevant because it can't happen. I can't make an arse of myself with men who live miles away, although making an arse of myself never bothered me. Anything but not knowing. I've made the first move (go equality!) and although straight men don't seem to like that as much as they think they do, it worked a couple of times.

I feel like I've had my share, and would only get involved with another man under very strict circumstances. This is my way of appeasing people who say I shouldn't give up. I can say "Well, if this very unlikely thing and this other very unlikely thing happen in this very narrow corridor of unlikeliness then - and only then - I'll consider it." They seem happy with that; I don't think they consider the logistics too much. Why would they? Nothing has ever made me as miserable as love, but before it fell apart there was some happiness there. I'm keeping that close, and throwing everything else away.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Why YA?

It feels like everyone's writing Young Adult these days.

I never felt young, so YA isn't for me. I hated being a child and couldn't wait to make my own decisions and eat ice cream for dinner or lie in bed all weekend if I wanted. To me, childhood was restrictive and suffocating and I fought against it constantly, so I have no desire at all to write about an age when I was fiercely independent with nothing to be independent about. Then I realised the 10,000-word prequel to my current WIP (work in progress) has Ariana at seventeen years old. Accidental YA. Hurrah! Except if it ever sees the light of day it'll be self-published. I'm not trying to sell it to anyone.

It's pretty discouraging when you don't write YA to find it's the big thing, or any other category that doesn't seem popular. Most agents take YA, because it sells, and far fewer take urban fantasy or magical realism or mystery or whatever the hell my WIP is. Particularly baffling is that New Adult is supposed to be university-age main characters but my research shows many writers are being told it doesn't sell. Why do people want to read about high school but not university? I suppose pretty much everyone goes to school and not necessarily higher education, but I read crime thrillers and I've never been murdered.

Are so many authors writing YA because it's where their interests lie, or because it sells? You can't move for YA writers, in all categories, or agents looking to represent them. Romance and erotica sell too but they lean more towards e-publishing - if you want books on shelves it feels like you've got to write YA. Anyone writing well or commercially enough to get published is doing great, and I have no desire to denigrate YA or those who write it, but I hated pretty much everyone I went to school with and can't think of anything more hideous than having to rehash it.

Who's reading all this YA? I know there was an article written about how adults buying YA is shameful or something and I think people should read whatever they fucking want so I'm not saying anything against that, but it can't all be thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds. There aren't enough of them. I'm sure other people have far fonder memories of school and first love than I do. The concept of me having to choose between two boys when I was fifteen is so outrageous it makes me laugh. I was no more attractive then than I am now.

But as ever current trends elude me as I slide into fuddy-duddydom. (It's on the map next to crazy cat ladydom.) If I'm ever fashionable it's an accident. I'm sure by the time my WIP is finished the trends will have moved on again, and agents will be hanging up signs saying "No witches!". Then what? I don't know. Maybe 60,000 words about high school and first love. In my case it'd be horror rather than YA, though. Horror's a tough sell too.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


Things No voters may never complain about in my hearing again. Which won't be for long because I'll go deaf soon.

- Loss of the NHS, including not being able to afford to go to the doctor, pay for prescriptions, or having to sell your house/flat to pay for medical treatment. Because you did read this, didn't you? Didn't you?

- Tories


- Labour

- Liberal Democrats

- Foodbanks

- Poverty, including child poverty

- Trident

- Getting Westminster governments you didn't vote for

- Inhumane and degrading disability assessments. I hope you don't need them, but if you do, tough

- Falling ill and being sacked then treated like scum by the DWP. Again, I don't wish it on you, but will have no sympathy if it happens

- Petrol prices

- Energy prices

- Elderly people dying of hypothermia in winter

- The Bedroom Tax

- Loss of free personal care

- Big businesses paying no tax

- The minimum wage

- Workfare

So that leaves the weather. Nice talking to you.

Friday, 15 August 2014

My first chapter

I'm reproducing the first chapter of my novel here. Bear in mind this is mine, and all mine, and if you choose to steal a rough first draft of some dipshit's unpublished work I will know. I will.

Yeah. But anyway. All comments welcome.

The clock behind me thudded off seconds, mocking my wasted time.

The man in front of me was well-dressed, handsome in a vacant kind of way, and had no useful information for me whatsoever. His girlfriend was missing and he couldn’t think of one single relevant fact. I took my time with him but his monosyllabic answers were getting on my nerves. Judging by the pacing I could hear in the adjoining room, he was annoying my business partner too. I thought of Nico using his favourite method for extracting information – punching – and cheered up.

I tried to be encouraging and sympathetic to the nervous man, but being nice isn’t one of my natural talents. He’d asked me to call him Mr Smith. I get a lot of Smiths. By the time they arrive at Kennedy & King they’ve realised the benefits of disguise and anonymity, something they sadly lacked when they got into the mess they want me to sort out.

The people who come to me either regard me with dumb awe or complete contempt. This guy was the dumb awe type. He found his voice and said his girlfriend went to meet some shady guy she met on the internet. That wasn’t much to go on. I’ve never dealt with anyone who isn’t shady, myself included. My stomach dropped at the thought of explaining why I couldn’t find his girlfriend. I didn’t care. Go find someone who does. But who else in Glasgow tracks down the mystically dodgy? My unique selling point is also my curse, and bad witches like me know all about curses.
          I asked him what protection she’d carried and his eyes widened to the point where I could hardly stand the stupid.

“You mean like a gun?”

I make it my policy not to mock the afflicted so I didn’t laugh in his face, and adopted the tone I use when I’m trying to be patient with bratty children. I’d meant an amulet, charm, demon, spirit guide, witch, sorcerer, maybe even a vampire. A gun would get you nowhere, except possibly shot yourself. Where would she get a gun in Glasgow anyway? Stabbing is preferred – it’s so much more interactive. I fielded more questions but he could tell me little of use.

“So can you find her?” The man’s voice was high and pleading.

“I don’t know. It depends who he is and what he’s done with her. Did you bring her laptop and mobile like I asked?”

He nodded, set the laptop on my desk and fumbled in his pocket for the phone. 

“He told her not to bring any communication devices. It was stupid of her not to take her phone, though, wasn’t it?”

“Not if he’d told her not to.” He could have responded with decapitation, electrocution, combustion. All the fun stuff I used to enjoy. I jolted myself from happy memories and smiled at Mr Smith.

“It never left her side,” he said, with something approaching pride, and slid the mobile across the desk. Another person who ran their life with a little beeping box. He read my name slowly from the business card I gave him.

“Ariana Kennedy. Like that Greek myth chick.” His eyes wandered to the charms suspended over the desk and he stared at them, mouth agape. My patience left the building.

“That was Ariadne,” I corrected, as politely as I could through my gritted teeth. “Thank you, Mr Smith. I’ll be in touch.” He’d signed the forms with a name that looked nothing like Smith, but as long as his credit card worked he could call himself Bozo the Clown for all I cared.

Nico, my demon partner in the agency, wouldn’t come out until the client had gone. Nearly seven feet of rippling muscle, with neon flame-red dreadlocks and a smile that could make your day or ruin your life, he’s even less of a people person than I am. We decided I’m a better actor, so I went up front. He appeared from the small side room as soon as he heard the door slam, eating chocolate as usual.

“He’s still a bit shell-shocked,” I explained, with no empathy whatsoever, after removing the pen from my mouth. No one can ever quite believe they need the services of a disgraced witch and a powerless fire demon. Well, powerless is not quite true. He can still make water boil instantly, which has a few practical uses, but it’s not the jaw-dropping, show-stopping pizzazz he’s used to. After our disgrace, Nico was power-stripped of anything useful. My situation is a little more complicated. 

Nico shoved the last of his chocolate in his mouth and asked what we should do. It was late, and I was reluctant to wander round the Ancient Quarter at that hour, because it might mean talking to the landlady. The Ancient Quarter is protected with a perception filter, and ordinary people shouldn’t be able to find it. I voiced this to Nico and he shrugged.

“Everyone can find something if they’re desperate enough. Pass me the laptop and I’ll hack her email.”

Demons are far more practical than witches.

“Whaddya you get from the phone?” 

I turned it on, and found a few messages from relatives and friends, but no texts more than two days old. The call log had been wiped. She was trying to hide something. Nico tapped away on the laptop and I tried to think.

“I wonder if the boyfriend is in the habit of checking her phone. Either that or whatever she was going to see is very touchy about secrecy. Who can we ask in the AQ?”

“Carlos,” said Nico, in his rumbling Californian drawl. “But he’s pretty sparked out on liquor these days. I don’t think he’d sense a kick to the face. Greta might be able to help.”

Greta is a sorceress who specialises more in glossy firework tricks than any solid magic. She’s incredibly sharp but acts dumb, which means a hell of a lot of information comes her way. I didn’t know where she was but at that time of day it was one of three places, all involving alcohol. I can do as much magic as I have to on behalf of our clients, but nothing that benefits me without potential consequences, so a locator spell was out.

Nico turned the laptop screen so I could see it.

“She deleted all her emails but I should be able to recover ‘em.” The blue light from the screen in our dim basement office made Nico look spooky. “Here we go. She responded to some spam email about karma.”

“People really respond to spam emails?”

“They must do or the spammers wouldn’t bother. Gimme her phone. No point making ourselves traceable.” 

Nico hit some buttons. I heard a tinny but sibilant voice say little. Nico stared at the phone, confused. 

“He don’t talk to demons.” 

I tried, but got a recorded message saying the number was unobtainable. 

“Well, looks like I can do the locator spell for Greta. If that thing can tell you’re a demon just from talking to you it must be pretty powerful.”

Friday, 8 August 2014

Why I'm voting Yes

The referendum on Scottish independence is on the 18th of September. I'm passionately hoping for a Yes, and here are some of the reasons why, and what some of the reasons aren't.

First of all, the majority of Scots do not hate the English. There are some that do, but we pay no more attention to them than any other prejudiced lunatic.

My main reason is social justice. I don't want to live in a country where sick and disabled people are hounded to get jobs that don't exist. It's an employers' market right now - how many are going to employ someone who needs a lot of time off? Or shows any kind of frailty at all really. When I worked in call centres it was common a few years ago to ask for permission to access your medical records. Of course you could refuse, but then they'd find a reason not to give you the job. Employers are no longer allowed to ask health questions, for which I'm thankful, but they've just rephrased it as "Explain in detail any gaps in your employment". With my hearing problems and history of depression I'm worried, and I'm not even especially badly-off at the moment in terms of illness.

The stupider amongst us are always willing to believe tabloid rubbish about how the most vulnerable people at the bottom are causing all the UK's problems. "Look!" says the government, "Look at those poor people! While we snout in our troughs and rip you off for millions in expenses! Haha!" The government judges everyone else by their own standards, and since so many of them are venal crooks they assume everyone else is too.

And I have no faith in Labour fixing anything. No faith at all. Scottish Labour are tanking because they treat Holyrood like a Westminster waiting room, and don't even bother pretending to care what's going on around them. While I have no animosity towards Ed Miliband, there are some very unpleasant Blairites still lurking in Westminster, and I can't see how he would get anything done.

Rachel Reeves in particular scares me half to death - removing benefits for 18-24-year-olds. Yeah, because everyone has a loving family prepared to keep their children at home forever when they can't contribute financially. There are no parents out there knocking their pans in to keep a roof over their heads and simply cannot afford to support working-age children. Nobody ever kicks their kids out because the kids are gay, or difficult, or have mental health problems or addictions. It's not always as clear cut as that either - plenty of people can't live at home for one reason or another. It's another attempt to trap young people in misery. No matter how hard they work they can never afford to buy a house in London, the great black hole that sucks young people towards it, because everything is for, about and in London.

Iain Duncan Smith. I don't think any more needs to be said about that.

Sweet as the Let's Stay Together letter was, it does nothing to address why Scots might want to leave. I think the well-off people who signed that letter, some of whom no doubt vote Tory, would do better to campaign against the ConDem policies ripping the throat out of services the poor, sick, disabled and unemployed rely on. The demonisation of the poor while the UK's wealth is shovelled ever upwards. The backdoor demolition of England's NHS. There's a strong sense of social justice in Scotland, although I have noticed some becoming more vindictive and compassionless.

Compassion is a strength, not a weakness. Clinging to things that YOU have, while not wanting anyone else to have them because they "don't deserve it" is the weakness. As for those who can tell people "aren't really sick!" just by looking at them, sickness doesn't have to be visible to exist. Unless you're a doctor with someone's complete medical history, or some kind of nasty psychic, keep your opinions to yourself.

And can the No vote shut the hell up about Sean bloody Connery? As if celebrities who are either English or not residents of Scotland signing a letter has any more impact on us than a Scotsman so devoted to us he has neither lived nor paid tax here for 50 years. Nobody cares what he thinks at all, and anyone voting either way because a famous person told them to should probably be stripped from the electoral roll with indecent haste.

I'm under no illusions that in the event of a Yes vote Scotland will become some kind of social justice utopia overnight. It'll take time, and effort, and energy, but I believe enough of us have that to make this work. If it's a No I'm passionate about democracy and I'll have to accept that, of course, but I'll be bitterly disappointed. If you think things might get worse after a Yes vote, then they may well might, but they will never get better with Westminster. We can't be the lion that squeaked.

One question for the No voters. It doesn't even require an answer, just a bit of thought. When the Tories have one MP in Scotland, the Lib Dem vote has collapsed UK-wide, and Scottish Government voters are even rejecting Labour for heaven's sake, why do they want to keep us? Think of David Cameron, and all the misery his government has inflicted on people all across the UK, and how he's quite happy to let the English press portray us as whining subsidy junkies, and ask yourself why. A government that only values money and believes someone's entire worth as a person is based on how much they earn. Why?

Let's be the little country that could. Yes.