Escaping Barcelona (Mad Days of Me #1)Escaping Barcelona by Henry Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came to Henry Martin’s book following a discussion of literary fiction in the modern day. I mentioned the cult novel Trainspotting and pointed out that difficulties with the heavy Scottish dialect did not override the fact that it was totally realistic in its handling of drug addiction. Escaping Barcelona also has a form of gritty realism dealing as it does with uncomfortable and unpleasant issues like statelessness, homelessness, exploitation and homosexual rape. It is however a much more approachable book.

The quality of the writing here is excellent and it is not written in dialect or the vernacular which makes it easier for the general reader to get into. To me, the language of evocation and description is vital. One of my favourite poets, for example, is the war poet Wilfred Owen because he brings a talent for visual description to things we don’t consider poetic subjects. In this way Owen gives the horror of war a striking and vivid reality. Henry Martin, for me, achieves something similar on a smaller scale in Escaping Barcelona from the trilogy Mad Days of Me.

In an era where increasingly readers have little time for description, characterization or exposition, he allows us more than just a glimpse of his protagonist’s world. The author is not just content with what his character does and what happens to him; you feel Rudy’s initial sense of awe and excitement on arriving in Barcelona, you smell, taste and see his surroundings. Later the same skills are applied to his physical deterioration, how the fabric of his unwashed socks becomes embedded in the skin of his feet for instance.

Rudy starts out, as many young people do, by feeling trapped at home. He longs for freedom and adventure and leaves the safety and security of his home to seek that freedom on the road. Ironically his search leads to virtual imprisonment in a world where everything is reduced to the absolute basics of survival and where it is hard to trust anybody. His interactions with young women on holiday draw attention to this irony. They too seek freedom and adventure through travel, but unlike Rudy they have not been victimized; they have not lost the physical means of escape and they are still in control of their own destinies. He envies them and he fears for them too. His eventual escape is almost a very final escape, the significance of which was not lost on me.

The novel Escaping Barcelona deals with issues on the underbelly of society; issues of criminality, exploitation of the weak, powerlessness, hopelessness and the all too convenient invisibility of the poor and the homeless. Its premise that this can happen to anybody young, innocent and trusting is sadly built on truth. Your hopes rise and are dashed along with the young protagonist, you see life at its most fundamental, learning survival skills and dealing with frustration and fear along the way.

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I identify online as Liberal, Christian and LGBT. I was brought up in a very loving, very traditional military family at a time when the British Empire had been all but dismantled. There were a few anomalies here and there, but for all intents and purposes the Empire was a thing of the past and the vast majority of people thought it was no bad thing. Nevertheless, school assemblies throughout my childhood were still graced by stories of brave missionaries bringing God and good manners to the Heathen, Gladys Aylward being one example. Another, whose name I have sadly forgotten, paddled the African rivers risking being eaten by ferocious cannibals, or catching her death by malaria, to make decent Christians of those wilder colonials under Queen Victoria’s reign.

Today we focus less on these tales of individual bravery and foolhardiness or the folks whose lives were turned upside down; sometimes for the better but always at the expense of their own culture. Instead we focus more on the development of those countries, now independent, who try to make their own way forward in the world without the yoke of European oppression. Nowadays, as episcopal Christians, we may even feel that the yoke has shifted.

I was dismayed at the Church of England’s decision not to go ahead with “gay marriage” because I see it symptomatic of something more sinister – a drift to the “right”. Over my lifetime I have seen more and more good people turned off Christianity because of the cognitive dissonance generated by a loving and gentle Jesus Christ who is willing to love everyone equally and a church bent on enforcing rules that come through to us from the Old Testament via St Paul. The drift of individual spiritual fulfilment away from organised churches into Paganism, Buddhism, Humanism, Hinduism and even Atheism has caused the Church I grew up in to clutch at the receding straws of a wider communion. To allow gay marriage would be to lose the affiliation of Christians in countries that maintain penalties of torture, imprisonment and death for those guilty of “the sin of Sodom.” I think this is far to high a price to pay for church unity. The Church of England had a chance to stand up for modern liberal values and bring its LGBT flock home like a good shepherd; instead it threw them to the wolves.

For many “Chapter and Verse Christians”, the chapter and verses they adhere to most vociferously are not the words of Jesus himself but usually those passages from the Old Testament and Acts that reinforce hatred and division. It is my feeling that very often the verses quoted condemn the “wickedness” of others and exhort them to change or be flung into the fire. I think we should be concerned not with the wickedness of others but with our own core faith and compassion. It may surprise some of my friends to know I do often read the Bible at night. In that time, I confess, I often find some comfort in reading the Gospels and revisiting stories of Jesus that were so familiar to me as a child. It resonates with me that Jesus emphasized faith and love; that he mixed with working people and forgave sinners; that he valued the widow’s two brass coins above all the pomp and show of the wealthy; that he valued the innocence of children above the esteemed religious leaders; that he healed the sick and raised the dead on the Sabbath when it was forbidden and risked life and freedom to do so. Jesus was a rebel, a liberal, a man who loved humanity and felt his own humanity deeply. He was one who knew the Law but was more interested in interpreting his Father’s will than observing traditions laid down by the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. He could quote Chapter and Verse when he had to but gave free rein to his own words when he preached the Good News.

Now on the other hand, I wrestle with St Paul and find him contradictory and obsessed. It may be that I will go to Hell for it, but I really do believe that he was mentally ill. Time after time, he rambles incoherently about whether or not women should wear hats or men should be circumcized. He berates people for following the Law and berates them for NOT following the Law. To me, he reminds me of an ex-smoker having to deal with a room full of smokers lighting up. He is verbose and he has lost none of his zeal for condemnation on the road to Damascus – and yet in Paul we find some of the most quotable and common sense quotes in Christianity. It is this dichotomy I believe that has led Catholics to burn Protestants, Protestants to burn Witches, the inquisition to torture heretics, the faithful to murder and persecute both Jews and Muslims. Is this what Jesus really wanted? For us to condemn others, excuse ourselves and act like tyrants using the Bible as an excuse for the basest human behaviour?

It is for this reason that I personally cannot bring myself to quote chapter and verse; I find it to be a red flag that urges me to be cautious of those who do.

india-adams

India R. Adams is author of Serenity (Forever Book 1) and this week I was privileged to meet up with her online and to ask a few questions about her work and ambitions.

Please tell us a little about your background, hobbies and homelife.

I used to be a professional dancer who never had any intentions on writing. Then I became a drama instructor with children, which was a lot of fun. Kids rock. They really do. My first marriage was not the “dream come true” so I had to relearn some things. And as I aged, my childhood past kept creeping up on me. Trying to move past it and grow, brought me to writing, healing my past and loving the future. Now I am remarried with three kids, a loving true dream husband, and I am reaching others—victims—through stories of understanding and compassion because I understand, I’ve been there.

How long have you been writing?

Over nine years but February 2017 is my one-year anniversary of being a “published” author. I started with writing Serenity, the first novel in the Forever series. Oddly enough, it was my last release last year. I released 6 books in 6 months. Fun, but CRAZY!

How many books have you published so far?

I will be having my seventh release, Destiny, the second novel in the Forever series, in April 2017, so six.

Are you a multi-genre author or do you specialise?

Multi and then some! Hahaha… YA and NA. Contemporary/Paranormal/Fantasy/Metaphysical and the list goes on… I even have a MC book in the works.

What do you think is best, and why, to be a published author or an independent?

I’ve only been under my own publishing company but, from what I hear, being traditionally published you lose some of the freedom I have now. I love my job, and it would take a decent offer for me to change over to another publisher.

What projects do you have in the pipeline for the future?

Whooee! I have four releases planned this year. Destiny, Scar Me, River, and Red Waters. I might squeeze one more in (they are all mostly written) but may just wipe my brow and say, “Enough, girl. Stop the madness!”

Next year I plan on releasing the rest of the Forever series, which be four more novels, Mercy, Liberty, Hope, Trinity. I know, I’m a bit insane to be in editing with so many at once. Then I will get back to finishing my other series, A Stranger in the Woods, Haunted Roads, My Wolf and Me, Tainted Waters, then I will finish other books in the works. There is approximately twenty so far. For eight years I wrote 12 hours a day. My imagination insisted on it! My poor kids starved, haha.


Serenity (Forever Book 1)

An Interview with Serenity

I asked India for an interview with Serenity Dowell so that we can get to know this interesting character more closely.

• Tell me a little about your family and what it is like at home.

Oh gosh, my home life? Well, I usually don’t talk about it. I don’t want my friends to worry because they’re young too. If the adults in my life can’t protect me, how can other high schoolers? Ya know? But, this is a special occasion so I will try to give you a little insight. My mom is what you call a binge drinker, a type of alcoholic where, when she drinks, she doesn’t stop—drinks right through the night and day. She has a good heart, she really does, it just has been lost somewhere along the way. My Dad? He’s more complicated. He used to be great. That is why, what he has become now, is so incredibly painful for me.

• Is there someone special in your life and if so what attracted you to them?

Yes, Ma’am. Dereck Hamilton. And what attracted me to him was our past lives. There have been many, and with each one he has been what I can only describe as a dream. And this life? He’s fighting for mine, with all his heart.

• What do you do for a living and what is your ultimate ambition?

My only job at the present is high school, and it works me plenty, hahaha…

• What are you most proud of?

I would have to say surviving. No matter what, I somehow keep pushing forward and not giving up.

• What, if anything, would you change about your life?

If you asked me this a year ago, I would have said my home life. But, now I’m starting to see that it has made me stronger. Was it worth it? I think so. And it’s my life, and life goes on, right?

• What do you like to do to relax?

There is a spring behind my house, in the woods, and it calms my soul. Let’s me escape till the sun goes down…

• What do you dread most in the world?

This question is easy. I’ve had to witness Dereck die before… It was… awful. Something I fear, daily.

• Do you have any pets?

Nope. I’m still working on taking care of myself, hahaha.

• If you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you take as a luxury?

As someone who has lived without such things, I have no idea how to answer that. Monetary objects seem to hold no value for me. If it’s an okay answer, I would like to pick my journal. May not be worth much to others but to me, it is my link to the woman I get to visit in my dreams. Her heart is all the gold I need.

LINKS TO INDIA AND HER WORK

Serenity (Forever Book 1)
India’s Blog
India R. Adams on Author Central – See all her books here
India R.Adams on Goodreads
Follow India on Twitter
Keep up with India on Facebook

There is a dubious mindset that winning is all, to the victor come all the spoils, that it doesn’t matter how you win so long as you do and all the world loves a winner. That way lies madness. A certain billionaire has just found to his cost that while money can buy prestige and position and incitement to hatred can win votes it can only bring a Pyrrhic victory. One billionaire is much the same as another in my book and you can’t force people to love and respect you in this life but I have to confess to feeling just a little bit sorry for this one. I’m sure it wasn’t what he was promised by his backers nor did he expect such a huge reaction against his victory. Here is a man who wants to be adored by millions and yet the streets are empty for his biggest ever moment and full of pussy power demonstrators the day after.

I am also saddened by the way some people I thought I knew have embraced a philosophy of hating those who disagree. Of course those people are not presently marching in protest. I don’t know if they would be marching had the outcome been different and I don’t think they will ever understand why millions are. To call everyone who disagrees with his method of winning or with the madness of hatred a “loser” or a “dangerous leftist” and maintain that you despise “leftists” loses sight of the fact that many of these people are not adherents of the left wing at all. They may be disillusioned conservatives, some are even Republicans; they may be Democrats who feel that what amounts to an act of treason robbed their own candidate of victory; finally, they might even be centrists appalled by unholy alliances of religion and politics on both sides.

That’s right, many of them are centrists like me; conservatives with a little “c”, liberals with a small “l”. In my country the word liberal is not yet an insult although I will happily wear the insult “Libtard” as a badge of honour because it means I reject the politics of hatred and division. We have a fine liberal tradition in Britain dating back centuries and we are justifiably proud of it. We are also proud that we have stood up to hatred and racism in the past – as the underdogs and on our own for several years I might add – and we don’t want to see the sacrifices of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents forgotten. Many of them suffered or even died to maintain Europe’s freedom from a Third Reich that thrived on hatred. We honour them for it. That does not make us “leftists” or “losers”.

I think there are so many emotionally charged issues that any incumbent lawmaker needs to address and for any one political party to lay claim to personal moral viewpoints is simply WRONG. It doesn’t happen here. Maybe it would if we were a nation of proselytising evangelicals, but we are not. We respect freedom; we do not take arms up against people whose morals we might find lacking or whose religion is different from ours. We do not take away choice from desperate women – whatever our personal views – because we know the alternative to choice is something far worse for society; criminal behaviour, neglect, death and people in abject poverty. There are a lot of things wrong in this world, but they will not be changed by screaming abuse or sanctioning violence and exclusion of whole groups of people different from ourselves in some way.

I could go on and on but I won’t because it saddens me too much to see people sinking to such depths of anger. All I ask is that we just pause for a minute and think about the refugee crisis and terrorism. Where does the money come from for terrorists? Where do the arms come from that they buy with this money? Who suffers most in any war? Who profits most from war and division? Why are there so many refugees? Why are civilians consistently being bombed? Who stirred up a hornet’s nest by declaring a war on terrorism in the first place? What is that one word that is at the root of the West’s obsession with the Middle East? Can we actually do without it? If not, why not?

I want to finish by directing you to an article written April 29th 2013 by Janice Harper Ph.D. in Psychology Today:

The Fertility and Futility of Hatred – When hatred fills our hearts, it grows, but to what end?

Please read it, whichever side of the divide you stand on. It might persuade you to drop that hot stone before it burns your hand badly…

The other day one of my readers said:
“I enjoyed The Wings to Fly but there’s a lot about flying in it, isn’t there?”
“Yes, there is.” I said.
“It’s different. It’s not often you read a historical romance with much history in these days. They tend to about the chase and the catch and the good sex at the end.”
“Well, that’s your standard romance isn’t it? Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, things happen, boy gets girl back, happy ever after?”
“Yours isn’t like that though.”
“Why? What do you mean? Apart from the girls of course…”
She went on to explain that she felt this was more about a group of people, real people and their lives. Romance was a strong element but not the main one and there were boy/girl romances everywhere, plus a couple of girl/girl ones and not too much action between the sheets. I asked her if she was OK with that.
“Isn’t that what life’s like? It’s not just about two people between the sheets, it’s about all of us, our friends and what happens around us,” she replied.

I had to admit that was true; that we don’t all fit into convenient pigeon holes anymore than The Wings to Fly fits into a convenient genre. Life is full of awakenings, discoveries, disappointments, tragedies and, in time, true happiness when we eventually find love.

“But what about the flying? Why was that so important to you?”
“I suppose it was the flying that brought the whole thing about. The book I mean. Without feeling the inspiration of those early aviation pioneers, the tragedy of war and the heroism of combat and ferry pilots I confess I’d just have finished my second vampire novel instead.”
“I’m glad you didn’t, I’m not too keen on horror, but that enthusiasm certainly comes through in The Wings to Fly . I really wanted to be up in the air with Midge in the Tiger Moth – and touch the clouds with John Magee in his Spitfire – I loved Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart. I could almost feel the wind in my hair in that biplane.”
“Really? That is just what I wanted. I can think of nothing more wonderful than flying a plane like that. Not a big commercial plane though. To me that’s like being on a bus in the air and it’s a little scary being out of control. But to feel the response of a Spitfire or the lightness of a Tiger Moth in the wind? Now that’s the romance of flight, that overwhelming sensation of freedom most of us only get when we do truly fall in love.”

The Wings to Fly is available on Kindle and in paperback and you can read it free with Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. I hope you will and that you will enjoy it.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I always have. Twitter has an intellectual beauty and simplicity that speaks to me and has none of the artificial, ad revenue induced limitations of Facebook. If you want your content to reach a lot of people then judicious use of hashtags and pinned tweets will do just that. It is also annoyingly possible for people to list you and read content without having to follow anybody at all. This one-sidedness of Twitter seems a little hard-bitten to me. Usually if somebody follows me, I will follow them back if they seem reasonable. I don’t then un-follow them. Having said that, there are some folks who can’t abide clutter and a busy Twitter stream can appear very cluttered indeed. There are those people who don’t follow anyone at all, yet seem to have followers and do frequently re-tweet what you post. They achieve that using their own curated lists and hashtags in case you wondered. I follow a lot of people because I consider it common courtesy to follow back but I don’t follow everybody and in today’s blog post I want to deal with that first; in other words, when a follow on Twitter is not appropriate, when to mute and when to block.

Let’s take the no follow option first. I see increasingly numbers of people with an “egg” for a profile picture, no personal details and no tweets displayed on their profile. There are two main reasons for this. The first and most innocent reason is that they are new to Twitter – and we were all newbies once so you will see 5-10% follow-back on these profiles. The second reason (and the reason I will now not follow an empty or light profile) is that some of these people are scammers operating below the radar using lists and direct messages. Follow them and you will immediately receive a message asking you for an action that involves sharing something. Whether that something is money, assistance or information, these empty profiles are on the make. This is the realm of the beggar, the hacker or the 419 scam. I avoid them.

Some people will post an attractive picture, possibly of themselves but usually of a model or minor celeb, then they attract followers by posting and reposting the useless “trash” that clutters timelines. These posts are usually click-bait, badly spun articles on interesting themes that send you away to ads that often refuse to switch off. You are downloading malware at that point. This is a good point at which to use the “mute” function. You can mute someone who posts trashy or suspect content that clogs up the flow but there will always be someone else who innocently reposts it because it looks fun. That is the nature of click-bait and here is where the “block” function is very useful. Just please make sure you are blocking the right account or you will continue to receive trashy posts from other friends and followers. It is the original person you need to block, even if you are not following them, because you are getting the rubbish second-hand.

There is a much more annoying use of the “block” function. Some people on Twitter are plainly self-important, rude and selfish. They will follow you, then un-follow when you follow back. You may not know unless you use an un-follower app like who.unfollowed.me on Twitter. If you do and you un-follow then re-follow them thinking they made a mistake they will block you. I know, somebody in my circle of friends has done that to me years ago. I have never had an unpleasant dialogue with him and in fact I have no idea why he should have blocked me all those years ago except that I re-followed him. What a gutless thing to do! There was never a cross word exchanged, no spam involved and it is a total mystery to me, but he does have a LOT of followers. How do I know about this unreasonable action? You are notified if someone has blocked you if you ever visit their profile. That means you can’t read their stuff and they don’t have to see yours. It is a blunt but savage weapon that some “people collectors” use freely. They are important celebrities in their own little bubble and you are not. Annoy them with a re-follow and they will sting you hard using a function that is meant to protect. I know, and I am not impressed, in fact I blocked him back only this week.

So when should you use “block”? I use it on empty profiles that I find frightening. I am not prepared to elaborate on that one much, but I don’t want to be listed and possibly stalked by people whose tweets I can’t read. There are some dangerous groups out there. You will know them by their followers and possibly who else they are following – I always check it out. I also use “block” on people who spread hardcore porn on unconnected hashtags. I don’t usually see much porn in my stream and what I do see I generally just ignore, but there are a lot of apparently Russian porn accounts set up with English sounding names. These routinely tag “adult” pictures with proven successful hashtags that guarantee RTs – often from groups of writers, musicians, sportsmen and artists who use automatic programs to grow a following. Of course you also have the choice to report but the report options are limited and the nearest to hashtag abuse is “spam”.

The other use I make of “block” is for foul language related to hate speech and incitement to violence. I don’t mind people who disagree with me, I will interact with anyone politely, but when I see rudeness, disrespect or hate speech I hit the “block” button. I don’t use it too much because it can lead to account reviews and suspension of an individual. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean they deserve a ban but nor do you have to endure viciousness. How you use Twitter is your own affair. It is a valuable tool for communication and, let’s face it, that’s why we all sign up. If you choose to be interactive you can make lots of friends and enjoy the experience. Thank you for reading. Have fun but be safe!

Well the easy answer is because that is her nature. Life as a writer would be infinitely more easy if our characters were less complex. If Midge were heterosexual that would throw open a much larger readership for me for a start. Schools and Christian readers would not be taken aback by her love for another women for example. Yet she would blend unseen into the infinitely large pile of boy meets girl romances. If she were to be a lesbian on the other hand that would make her life much less complicated for her and for my novel too. There would be a ready made niche audience of lesfic fans who I suspect would be somehow much more comfortable with her sexuality. There would be fewer triggers in the story although, for me, it would be less true to life and less interesting. Midge is neither gay nor straight and that shapes her life in unexpected ways. Although she is obviously drawn to women emotionally she enjoys the company of men as likeable human beings and has a strong sex drive which is modified by the era in which she was born. There will be those readers who say she always was a lesbian and just had to discover her true self; there will be some who castigate her for marrying a man just as there will be those who condemn her for being unfaithful to Richard. So why did I write her this way? Was I trying to be trendy?

In answer to the first, my writing tends to be character driven. I believe that our characters exist in some hidden dimension of space or time waiting to speak to those who will be most attentive to their needs. Maybe some will see that as paranormal; I think it more likely that it is a product of our own psyche, our conscious beliefs and our unconscious dreams. When a character like Midge is “born” she takes over the writing of the story and leads it down paths a little different possibly from those we had planned. I could no more force Midge to be gay or straight than I could force myself to eat melted blue cheese on cornflakes! She has a voice of her own and her scenes were almost dictated to me, as distinct from scenes I wrote for other characters after in depth historical research.

Was I trying to be trendy? Absolutely not. The concept of “bisexual being trendy” is really limited in my experience to the young and famous. For most honestly bisexual individuals it is not an easy label to take on or live with. The ideas many people have about bisexuals derive from sources that have a strong agenda. I won’t go into that now, but I will reference a superb book that addresses many of the misconceptions about bisexuals. This comes from my review of Purple Prose on Goodreads:

“Bisexual is not a “one size fits all” label. Being bisexual is not about being confused, trendy, greedy or dishonest. Bi-phobia and bi-erasure are institutionalised everywhere. Bisexuals are often, but not always, monogamous. They might identify as straight or gay/lesbian their entire lives but they know they have romantic feelings towards both genders and indeed sometimes to people whose gender falls outside the binary norm. A bisexual friend once said to me “I love a person, not a gender.” For those individuals who fall into the “monosexual” category gender assumes an overwhelming significance in partner choice. For bisexuals it does not – a person is loved for more than their intimate parts, their masculinity or femininity. This should be liberating. Often it is not.”

So I was not trying to be trendy and by being honest rather than reductionist in my writing I was probably always going to limit my book’s audience but if one person reads The Wings to Fly and says “I know that girl, she is like me” or “she is like my friend” then it will have been worthwhile. Sometimes life does not fit into convenient pigeonholes and neither do heroines in fiction.