The Three Types of “Bad” Review That Make Me Want to Read a Book

Five stars with one of them shaded in.

It’s pretty obvious why authors live in fear of bad reviews. Not only do they bruise the ego, they also damage sales. Readers frequently check reviews before buying books, and negative reviews are bound to put some of them off.

But maybe we should worry a little less about bad reviews, because it’s not quite as simple as bad review=no sale. Now that I think about it, there are certain types of bad review that actually make me more interested in a book.

The “unlikeable female protagonist” review

She’s a bitch. She’s toxic. She’s problematic. Hooray, I love her already! Reviewers often throw these words around to describe any female character with genuine flaws, rather than the Allowable Flaws For Women which are:

  • Being chaotic (but never in a way that causes actual problems, just in a cute way)
  • Being hot-tempered (but only with people who deserve it, not genuine anger issues)
  • Swearing
  • Having messy hair and bitten nails

I feel like the era of antiheroes ended too soon, and women and minorities never got to see enough characters like us being messed up and morally questionable. I’ll take a flawed and complicated female character over a perfect angel any day.

The “pacing issues” review

Nine times out of ten, when a reviewer says a book has pacing issues, they mean it is slow-paced. This might be an issue for that particular reader, but I’m often in the mood for a leisurely, reflective read, and a slow pace will suit me just fine.

If the review praises a book’s characters but says it’s “let down by pacing”, that probably means it’s a character-focussed book rather than a plot-focussed one. I read for character rather than plot (with a few genre-related exceptions, e.g. mysteries), so I’ll be happy to read it and hang out with the characters even if they aren’t going anywhere quickly.

The “unnecessary gay characters” review

“Waaaaaah, why are there LGBTQ characters in my fantasy/sci-fi/thriller/historical fiction? It’s forced diversity and the author’s just trying to be woke. Queer people didn’t exist before the 1980s anyway so it’s historically inaccurate.”

This type of review pops up when LGBTQ characters star in books that aren’t about romance, sexuality or gender identity. It always makes me want to read the story more because I’m a queer person who rarely reads romance, but I still want to see our awesome community represented in books.   

Are there any types of “bad” review that make you more tempted to pick up the book?

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2022

I definitely read more new authors than familiar ones in 2022, and I’m planning to keep that going in 2023. Here’s my pick of the bunch…

Karen Joy Fowler

Who’s she? An American author of literary fiction, sci-fi and fantasy.

What did I read? ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ – a story about a young woman whose sister mysteriously disappeared during childhood.

What do I want to read next? I’ll probably go for her most well-known novel – ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’.

Philippa Gregory

Who’s she? Only the queen of historical fiction.

What did I read? ‘The Queen’s Fool’ – the story of a teenage girl who becomes involved in a Tudor power struggle.

What do I want to read next? ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ is her most well-known novel but I’m more drawn to ‘Tidelands’ – a novel set in 1648, about a woman suspected of being a witch.

Peter Carey

Who’s he? An award-winning Australian author. He is frequently named as Australia’s next contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

What did I read? ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ – a fictionalised account of the life of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

What do I want to read next? ‘Parrot and Olivier in America’ – strange adventures, an unlikely friendship, and an exploration of American democracy from the perspective of outsiders.

Zoraida Córdova

Who’s she? An Ecuadorian-American author, best known for her ‘Brooklyn Brujas’ series.

What did I read? ‘Labyrinth Lost’ – a YA fantasy about a young bruja who casts a spell with dire consequences and has to rescue her family from a strange world.

What do I want to read next? ‘Bruja Born’ – the next book in the ‘Brooklyn Brujas’ series.

Noel Streatfeild

Who’s she? A British author who published children’s and adults’ fiction from the 1930s to the 1970s.

What did I read? ‘Ballet Shoes’ – the story of three very different sisters who take to the stage to earn some much-needed money.

What do I want to read next? ‘Ballet Shoes’ was such a cute, feel-good story that I’d like to read another book in the series like ‘Tennis Shoes’ or ‘Party Shoes’.

Douglas Stuart

Who’s he? A Scottish-American writer (and fashion designer).

What did I read? ‘Shuggie Bain’ – a novel about a young boy growing up in Scotland, and his mother’s struggle with alcoholism.

What do I want to read next? Stuart hasn’t written many novels, but ‘Young Mungo’ – the story of a Protestant boy and a Catholic boy falling in love on a Glasgow housing estate – definitely sounds worth a read.

Rachel Klein

Who’s she? An American novelist, essayist and translator.

What did I read? ‘The Moth Diaries’. Written in diary form, this novel explores the experiences of an intelligent, troubled teenage girl, and her obsession with Ernessa – the new girl at school who may or may not be a vampire.

What do I want to read next? As far as I can tell, ‘The Moth Diaries’ is the only novel Klein has written. Maybe I can find some of her short stories to read.

Ben Macintyre

Who’s he? A British historian and writer of non-fiction books, mostly about soldiers and spies.  

What did I read? ‘SAS: Rogue Heroes’ – the absolutely barmy story of the formation of the SAS in World War II.

What do I want to read next? It’ll have to be ‘Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle’. One of the main players from ‘SAS: Rogue heroes’ ended up in this POW camp and I want to find out what happened to him there.

Melissa Harrison

Who’s she? A British novelist and nature writer.

What did I read? ‘All Among the Barley’ – the story of a teenage girl and her rural community in the 1930s.

What do I want to read next? ‘The Stubborn Light of Things’ – a nature diary written in Harrison’s beautiful, unshowy prose sounds blissful.

Agatha Christie

Who’s she? You know who she is. Literally the world’s best-selling author of all time.

What did I read? I’m embarrassed to admit I got to my mid-thirties before reading an Agatha Christie, but at least I started with a good one. I read ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, in which detective Hercule Poirot must solve a murder on a train while the murderer is still aboard.

What do I want to read next? There are plenty of novels to choose from (Christie wrote 66) but I’m drawn to ‘Death on the Nile’ – another Hercule Poirot whodunnit.

Have you read any of these authors? If so, which of their books would you recommend?

You can find more topics for Top Ten Tuesday here.

Approaching Literary Agents – Round 2

My supernatural mystery novel, The Redmaid Witch, has been poked and prodded and trimmed and tweaked, and while I’ve no doubt it’ll need more editing before being ready for readers, I think it’s getting there.

In 2021, I had a great experience publishing my YA Contemporary novel Other People’s Butterflies with the small press Art Over Chaos. But while small presses have many advantages, the one thing they generally can’t offer is reach. To put it bluntly, a small press means a small number of sales. And with the cost-of-living crisis hitting hard, I’m once again drawn to mainstream publishing. 

I say ‘once again’ because in my twenties, I wrote my first novel and tried to get a deal with a mainstream publishing house. In the UK, this meant presses like HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House. These presses won’t accept manuscripts directly from writers, so I had to get myself an agent.

I did eventually manage to get one, and then it turned out that an agent isn’t a magical key to the kingdom of publishing but just, y’know, a human doing their job. My agent did her job of submitting my manuscript to the big publishing houses, and the big publishing houses said No.

Things I Know

At least the journey of querying agents, finding one to represent me and working with her gave me an insight into the process that will hopefully be useful now that I’m ready to give it another go. I’m sure there are plenty of other writers on this journey, or planning for it at a later date, so here is what I’ve learnt about approaching agents.

Don’t be discouraged by a slow start. Agents will generally request a synopsis of your book, along with the first three chapters or 10,000 words. If they love what you send them, they may ask for a “full request”, i.e. the whole manuscript. If they love that, they may make an offer of representation.

Usually, none of this happens. I submitted to lots of agents and waited a long time before getting a full request. But apparently agents are like buses because after that long wait, two came along at once.

I won’t pretend they were fighting over me (one was significantly more enthusiastic about my manuscript than the other) but they both wanted to meet and discuss things, which was pretty awesome.

This seems to be the way with most things in writing. You spend a small eternity waiting for something – a flash of inspiration, an acceptance from a journal, a person who actually wants to buy your book – and then the writing gods smile upon you and everything goes right all at once.

So I’m not going to give up after being ignored by a handful of agents. I’ll carefully consider their feedback (assuming they give me any) and I’ll keep beavering away.

Expect to be asked to make big changes. My agent wasted no time in asking me to add 10,000 words to my novel, change the age of one of the characters and tweak the ending to something a little more upbeat.

Traditional publishing is notoriously conservative, so agents often ask authors for changes that will boost a novel’s mainstream appeal and increase the chances of a Yes from a big publishing house.

You may be asked to change the length of your story – not because it feels rushed or flabby, but simply because it’s not the right length to be marketed as a novel. Or you may be asked to alter an aspect of the story so that it fits neatly into a category – Adult vs YA, Sci-Fi vs Fantasy, etc.

In my twenties, I wasn’t precious about my writing and was happy to make changes if they increased the possibility of a book deal. Now, I feel like I may be a little spoiled by the creative freedom afforded by publishing my debut novel with a small press.

If I do manage to get an agent, I’ll do my best to keep a balance. I’ll cheerfully change the length and shape of my novel, but I won’t sacrifice anything that changes the heart of it. I know The Redmaid Witch has some aspects that don’t exactly scream “mainstream appeal”, but if I’m putting a book out into the world, I want it to still feel like it’s mine.

Think long-term. When I met my agent, all I was interested in was what she could do for my first novel and I didn’t think much about any future books. Understandable, perhaps, since I’d only written one, but it turned out to be a mistake.

I didn’t get a clear picture of what categories of book she was willing to represent, and when my first novel failed to attract a publisher and my second novel was decidedly YA, her lack of interest in representing YA became an issue and we just sort of drifted apart.

Since I’m still happily genre-hopping, I’m going to consciously seek out an agent who represents a range of genres, and is interested in both Adult and YA fiction. If I can find one who also represents poetry it’ll be a dream come true!

Things I don’t know

There are many, many more things I don’t know about finding and working with a literary agent. I last queried agents almost a decade ago, and there could have been huge changes in the mainstream publishing industry that I’m still blissfully unaware of.

There are bound to be new trends and new ways of doing things that I’m not up to speed with. For the most part, I’m ignorant of Booktok and Booktube and all that scary “influencer” stuff, but there’s no doubt it has affected the publishing landscape hugely over the last several years.

What are your thoughts on literary agents? Are you hoping to snag one soon, or in the future? Or would you prefer to bypass them entirely and go for small presses or self-publishing? Are you one of those blessed creatures who has a happy, long-term relationship with an agent? If so, please share your secrets in the comments!

Nautical Fiction Reading Challenge

Happy New Year me hearties! My new year’s resolution is to read a bunch of nautical fiction, because that’s a resolution I will actually stick to. I’ve created my own reading challenge, so if you’re up for some adventures on the high seas, climb aboard.

Every book I read for this challenge will be in the nautical fiction genre, i.e. it will be set on or near the sea. If you’re playing along and find a book that ticks more than one of these boxes, feel free to count it for both.

1. Female protagonist

Nautical fiction is often a boys’ club, so challenge #1 is finding a female-centric book.

2. Set before 1500

A lot of nautical fiction is set during the “golden age of sail”, generally considered to be mid-1500s to mid-1800s. But people were navigating the seas long before this, and I’d love to read a sea story from ancient times.

3. Pirates!

Pirates are cool.

4. Diverse cast

Most of the nautical fiction I’ve read is pretty Eurocentric, so I’ll be looking for stuff that isn’t just a bunch of white dudes. LGBTQ representation is always welcome, and it would be awesome to see physically disabled characters thriving at sea.

5. Mystery

Honestly, I’m just itching to read a murder mystery set on a cruise ship.

6. Something by Patrick O’Brian

Because you can’t read nautical fiction without reading Patrick O’Brian.

7. Set during WW2

I know this period is over-done in historical fiction, but I’ve still never read any WW2-era hist fic set at sea.

8. Mermaids!

Mermaids are cool.

9. Animal magic

Sailors share the seas with fish, whales, sharks, and so many other creatures. I’d like to read a nautical story where animals are central to the plot.

10. Ships on ships

I rarely seek out romance in fiction because I tend to get much more invested in friendships and other platonic relationships. But in the spirit of exploration, I’m going to try a big swoony romance on the high seas.

Do you have any recommendations for any of these challenges?

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings this Year

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

“Cosy” isn’t usually something I look for in books, but I’m intrigued by the concept of cosy fantasy. Sometimes the world-building in fantasy novels is so tasty that I just want to hang out and people-watch in the tavern for a while rather than whizzing off on an adventure.

Das Boot by Lothar Günther Buchheim

I’ve never seen the film, but I recently watched the first series of the TV programme and damn-near chewed my nails off. So tense! I’m planning on doing a nautical fiction reading challenge in 2023, so this would be a great book to have at hand.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Yeah, it’s a bit of a dad book, but my taste in fiction is increasingly dad-ish. I think it would be a good companion to Das Boot.

Aces Wild: A Heist by Amanda Dewitt

Asexual representation is still hard to come by in books, so this is exciting. I love a good heist, and ace rep only sweetens the deal.

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

This is one of those classics I’ve been meaning to read forever and still haven’t got around to. I live in a large city but grew up in the countryside and often find myself missing it, so I love to read books with rural settings.

The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’Brian

Obviously I want the next (eighth) book in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. Jack and Stephen own my heart and their adventures never disappoint.

Port Royal by Peter Smalley

Another book from a nautical series. This is only the second book in Peter Smalley’s series, but the first one impressed me with its subtle examination of friendship across a class divide, and its fearless portrayal of trauma.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

I’ll admit it’s mostly the hype that’s got me curious about this one. Also, I recently read Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova and it got me in the mood for brujas and brujos!

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve been reading this series since I was 14, so it’s an automatic purchase. Yet somehow this book has been out for over a year and I still don’t have it.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I want to read this before the movie adaptation arrives!

***

So what’s on your Christmas list this year? And have you read any of these books?

Find more Top Ten Tuesday topics here.

2022 Wrap-up

Another year almost done and dusted. This one actually felt pretty… normal? I know the Covid pandemic has changed things in so many dramatic and complex ways, but here in the UK we’ve had no lockdowns at all this year, and things like hybrid working and optional masking have become a part of everyday life.

As for me, I moved out of shared housing and into my own flat that I only share with the rats in the walls (Bristol housing for the win). As someone who’s spent most of her adult life living alone, I really feel the need for my own space. But yeah, this place is not ideal. Gonna pretend I’m a writer in the olden days, wasting away from consumption in a mouldy garret.

Which brings us to…

Publication

I got two things published this year.

VOCSS is my first attempt at a proper horror story, and I managed to get it published in Electric Spec. Give it a read if you’re in the mood for vampires.

My poetry chapbook 16 Flavours of Ghost was published by Lapwing Publications. If you’re in the mood for ghosts, have a UK address and a spare £8 (postage included) I’d love to send you a copy. Just message me on Twitter @corastillwrites or Instagram @badfanartforgoodbooks.

Writing

I spent most of 2022 working on the first draft of my supernatural mystery novel The Redmaid Witch. I had that completed by November, so instead of doing NaNoWriMo, I did NaNoEdMo and spent the month doing some much-needed edits.

I’ve now handed it over to some beta readers and am anxiously awaiting their feedback. My first beta reader already got back to me and gave the story a big thumbs up, so I just need to hang on to that when the others give me a mile-long list of things that need fixing.

Alongside The Redmaid Witch, I managed to squeeze in three short stories. I was clearly in a Fantasy mood, because two of them involve characters travelling to fairy realms to retrieve stolen items/people. The third one took a slight departure and involves a young woman dealing with the fact that her dad is a serial killer.

Reading

I’ve read 26 books this year, exceeding my modest target of 24. A large chunk of my reading consisted of historical fiction, and a large chunk of that consisted of nautical fiction. I’m thinking of creating my own nautical fiction reading challenge for 2023, so if you like adventures on the high seas, watch this space…

***

I’d love to hear about your writing and reading shenanigans this year. Favourite book? Least favourite? Wrote some poetry? Got anything published? Read 60 books and want to brag about it? Tell me in the comments!

The Most Harmful Book I’ve Ever Read

I like to think I’m a well-read person. I read broadly, across most if not all genres, and I don’t avoid controversial books. So what is the most harmful book I’ve ever read?

Yep. I can say confidently that the middle grade novel The Exiles at Home by Hilary McKay is the most harmful book I’ve ever read, because it’s the only one that directly caused me to harm another person.

In The Exiles at Home, young Phoebe Conroy wants to be a zookeeper. She practises by making her own zoo and putting a picture of her sister Rachel in it, with a sign saying “Beware of the Roaring Pig”. Eight-year-old me thought this was both creative and hilarious, so I did the same thing to my own sister. Obviously she was upset and angry, and I got a proper telling-off.

My point here is that there is no such thing as a “safe” book. Books can be harmful by presenting shitty behaviour as funny (or just normal), perpetuating damaging stereotypes or narratives, glorifying violence, romanticising abuse, or pretending truly dangerous things are safe. There are a million different ways a book could potentially cause harm.

Ban all the books!

So what to do about it? Should we keep a gimlet eye on every book that’s published, getting ready to ban it at a moment’s notice? For me, it’s a clear No. If you are old enough to read, you are old enough to think for yourself and decide what to do with a book’s messages.

Banning books – whether it’s the government, organisations or individuals removing books from libraries, schools or bookshops – is blatant censorship. Depriving people of the right to access books of their own choosing is straight out of 1984 – a book that has, of course, been banned repeatedly for “obscenity” and supposedly pro-communist passages.

Also, have you seen which books get banned these days? It’s basically any book where teenage characters have horny feelings, and that picture book about two male penguins adopting an egg.

Cancel all the books!

Maybe we should stick to “cancelling” books that we consider harmful instead. This is a more complex issue, because when people talk about cancelling books they are usually talking about de-platforming – basically, boycotting a book or author, and encouraging others to do the same.

The discourse around cancelling books can get ugly, but boycotts are a completely legitimate tool of social change. So, do I agree with the cancellation of books that readers consider harmful? Mostly, no.

Reason number one – I believe cancel culture in the book world is harmful to marginalised authors and likely to result in less diversity in publishing. Feel free to disagree with me on this point, but be aware you are disagreeing with a marginalised author.

One or two high profile cases have given the impression that cancelling books is all about holding rich, white men (and rich, white Harry Potter creators*) accountable to their audience. In reality, you can’t cancel these mainstream authors because they have readers all across the political spectrum.

The same can’t be said of marginalised authors who write about marginalised characters. We get our foothold amongst readers who actively seek diversity in their reading and regularly engage with social issues. Sorry to use the w-word, but our readers are way more likely to be “woke”.

That’s all fine and dandy, but God forbid we don’t live up to their standards of progressive literature. One slip-up – anything from cultural appropriation to writing too casually about suicide – can end a career before it even begins.

We’re not allowed to make mistakes, learn and grow like mainstream authors, and we’re certainly not allowed unpopular opinions. Cancel culture tells marginalised authors “You’re not allowed to be an artist or an entertainer – that’s for straight, white dudes. You must be a safe space.”

Reason number two – I believe cancel culture in the book world makes traditional publishing an even more risk-averse place. It’s already conservative as hell, avoiding anything that is less likely to turn a profit due to being the wrong style, the wrong length, not fitting neatly into an established genre, etc. Now, books also need to be as inoffensive as possible.

A book can get cancelled for many reasons, but it generally begins with “This book makes me uncomfortable”. Since books that are provocative or challenging frequently make people uncomfortable, publishers are more likely to avoid them in favour of books that are “wholesome”, “comforting”, or “like a big, warm hug”.

This brings me back to The Exiles at Home, which I still think is a brilliant book. One of the best things about it is that the characters act like real sisters, and real people. The constant labelling of books as “problematic” for featuring flawed characters who do bad things makes me think that this type of character depth is actively discouraged.

It also links in with my first point about marginalised authors being under more scrutiny. As a queer author, I often hear other queer authors lamenting that their characters have to be perfect (and have perfect relationships) to be considered unproblematic. It’s unfair, and it’s boring as f*ck.

OK, rant over

Thanks for reading. If you still feel that cancelling books is a good and necessary thing to do, that’s OK. I know this comes from a genuine, caring place of wanting to prevent harm. My thinking is that books will never be harmless. They are not inert little scraps of paper, but living things that interact with our minds in brilliant, terrifying, and sometimes unforeseeable ways.

I would ask you to be brave, and to boost twice as many books as you boycott. Particularly those written by marginalised authors, or about risky topics that make mainstream publishers squirm.

Happy reading!

***

* People are actually trying to cancel J.K. Rowling for her transphobia rather than anything to do with her books, but the whole “Can you separate art and artist?” thing is beyond the scope of this post.

A Playlist for ‘Other People’s Butterflies’

I’ve stolen this idea from Sara Flower Kjeldsen’s blog, but I couldn’t resist! It’s a lot of fun to make a playlist for a coming-of-age story, because there are so many great songs that really capture the turbulent emotions of being a teen. Here’s my selection for Other People’s Butterflies. Have a listen, and have a read!

This is What Makes Us Girls by Lana del Rey

 The Calculation by Regina Spektor

Keep Your Head by The Ting Tings


All My Girls Like To Fight by Hope Tala

Hunger by Florence and the Machine

 What Can I Say? by Skinny Lister

Best of Friends by Palma Violets

The FRIENDS Book Tag

Forgive me, I couldn’t resist!

Monica

A book based on a game or competition

In Throne of Glass, a bunch of assassins and thieves compete for a chance to be the King’s Champion. A daft-but-fun YA read with plenty of action.

Organisation queen – How do you organise your books?

Err, I don’t. They’re shoved in my bookshelves every which way and kept in piles on the floor.

Rachel

A book you read for the hype

I bought Song of Achilles because I’d heard so many people speak highly of it, but I just couldn’t get into it. Not to sound like a straight dude (because I’m neither straight nor a dude) but I was hoping for a bit less romance and a bit more fighting the Trojans.

Shopping addict – What makes you buy a book?

Oh damn, so many things. But lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more indie books, so I’m more likely to buy something self-published or published by a small/independent press.

Ross

A science fiction book

Let’s go with Klara and the Sun. If you’re a fan of the Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, this is a must-read.

On a break – Which books have you put down to pick up later?

I started reading The Amber Spyglass at 15 but didn’t get around to finishing it until I was 19. I feel like those four years made a difference to my understanding of it.

Chandler

A book that made you laugh out loud

I rarely laugh out loud at books but OMG, that scene with the tin of pineapple! Three Men in a Boat is possibly the funniest book I’ve read and it was published in 1889. It just goes to show that some things are timelessly funny: slapstick, crap holidays, and young guys being very bad at adulting.

That time at space mountain – Are there any books you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve read?

Ahem, I think you’ll find it was Ross who had the embarrassing incident on space mountain. I don’t see the point in being embarrassed about reading something you enjoy, but I have read some stereotypically “guilty pleasure” books, such as…

Joey

A scary book you’d keep in the freezer

Don’t laugh! I doubt any book will ever scare me quite as much as this one did when I was a kid.

V is for encyclopaedia – As an adult, have you read any books with words you had to look up to understand?

I’m sure I have, but can’t think of any in particular.

Phoebe

A book with a spiritual or supernatural theme

This one is about the Norse gods, doing very spiritual things like fighting, playing tricks on each other, and tying their genitals to a goat (that last one is Loki in case you hadn’t guessed).

Janice

A book with an “Oh My God!” twist

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Emily

A British classic

You can’t beat a good Dickens.

Gunther

A book nobody seems to be talking about

All the indie books! I’m going to take this opportunity to shout out the Inverbrudock trilogy by Katherine Highland, particularly A Lattice of Scenes and Seasons as it’s my fave. These three #ownvoices books centre autistic women and girls as they navigate the joys and challenges of everyday life in Scotland.

Carol and Susan

An LGBTQ+ author and book

This list needs some poetry, so who better to add than Carol Ann Duffy? I love her Selected Poems, which contains work from five of her books. Some of her poems explore her experiences as a gay woman, while others take vastly different points of view. All are vivid, sharp, and full of feeling.  

Mike

Romance novel

I don’t usually read traditional romance novels. I need to be tricked into reading romance by disguising it as another genre like historical fiction.

If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged! Unless you’ve already done the FRIENDS tag, which is entirely possible since it’s about four years old.

Three Poems

OK, here we have some aromantic feels, some accidental sexiness, and a poem that is just a little scrap of weird. Enjoy!

***

Here is What I Know of Boyfriends

They are mostly called Dave.

They start out small and badge-shaped

but grow like Japanese knotweed.

They wrap around you like vines, wrist-thick,

tendril-slender, sticky as ivy.

They take you places.

Restaurants. IKEA.

Their kisses are cigarettes and brandy.

They are very important.

They have very important eyes.

***

Chaperone

Did you know that if you snip the stem of a small, white rosebud, it will bounce on the hard ground like a marble? You can’t kill those soft, sweet things – they only harden in a blink, turn the texture of teeth, take on the lustre of pearls like they were born to it. A thwarted flower is worth a baker’s dozen bouquets and that is God’s honest truth my girl.

***

Old Heat New Thunder

We sleep and we don’t sleep on the deck

under an unfaithful sky.

My wideawake hands seek hipbone

whalebone

scrimshaw.

They are a bunch of thumbs, all idle.

I could dip below deck, catch us some rum.

I could dip below sea like a ladle,

pour the waves on your hot feet.

I feel like the inside of a seed.

I feel like the bit of air that lightning runs through.

I feel like the itch sealed up inside a mermaid’s tail.

I feel okay, all things considered.

The sail fills right up and the heat breaks

loud enough to wake the whole ocean.

***

Comments are welcome! I know people get shy about commenting on poetry because there’s a misconception you’re supposed to say things like “Oh, I enjoyed the classical pastoral imagery in the second stanza but found the excessive use of assonance a little grating”. It’s a myth! Poetry is for everyone, regardless of how familiar you are with it.

If you enjoyed these poems, I have poetry for sale here and here. If you have a UK address and would like a paper copy of my chapbook 16 Flavours of Ghost, message me on Twitter @corastillwrites. It’s on special offer throughout the month of October, so it’s yours for just £3.65 (postage included).