Sunday, 30 September 2012

Diazepam for Sale

With mere weeks before the publication of my first novel, Diazepam for Sale, I thought it wise to include a blurb and extract in this blog. I'm so excited that I might just explode... I hope you enjoy it.

Emma used to be happy; now she looks as if life has fallen on her from a twelfth-floor window and she forgot to put out her arms to catch it. She used to be creative but now she can barely imagine a sunny day in the rain. She is young, beautiful and engulfed in the creative vibes of Brighton, but she divides her time between sitting on her own private pebble indentation on the beach and watching the dregs of afternoon TV – chewing gum for the mind.

With her doctor refusing to offer her a prescription for anything other than condescension, she is offered an unusual cure for her depression from a man who promises to help her wear life like a pair of loosely fitting loungey pants. And so begins her bizarre journey into a past that belongs to someone else and a present that she wishes didn’t belong to her. And the future? If only she could get off the merry-go-round and start again it might just be okay.
Chapter 1
Emma wasn’t crying when she arrived at the doctor’s surgery, but it was here that the sadness really hit her. It was as if someone had switched her off at the mains or replaced her endorphins with Marmite. She tried to form the words to tell the receptionist about her eleven-thirty appointment with Doctor Hue and all she could manage was a shaky murmur. The woman behind the desk raised one eyebrow, asked her name and processed her with all the enthusiasm and compassion of a shop girl swiping a sweaty lettuce over a bleeping scanner. She handed her a wooden tag with the number three pressed into it, pointed her in the direction of the waiting room and quickly turned her flawed attention to a suspiciously orangey man who had queued behind.
Emma still wasn’t crying when she sat down in the waiting room, but whether the tears were on the inside or flowing for the whole world to see really made no difference to her as she lowered herself into an uncomfortable chair and tried to make sense of her surroundings. At a glance, the brightly decorated room inspired hope and was a tranquil greenroom to warm up for the doctor/patient show. But it was a ruse. The posters pinned to every available scrap of wall space told her that everything remotely fun, tasty or indulgent was bad for her and used a range of colourful characters to convey the sombre message. A small notice by the door told that twenty people had missed their pre-booked appointments this week and a new policy was being put in place to put this time-wasting to an end (maybe including the use of some kind of corporal punishment), and all of the other signs informed patients of misery classes they could attend to get them through a soul-destroying life. A problem shared is a problem halved, but with misery’s penchant for company, Emma pictured the distress of the cancer and rape victims, the co-dependants and the alcoholics, dividing and multiplying and taking on a life of its own to form a kind of hyper-misery to inject back into the world.
She picked up a battered copy of Hello magazine, with a smiley face sketched in the O in biro, and pretended to read the taglines. The tears, however, were now lurking just under her lids and would burst out at any point, so she had to concentrate hard.
The old woman sitting opposite her was also concentrating hard. She was an antique with very little hope for restoration; her skin had a recycled quality to it, her ankles were bound in frayed bandages so that her toes were blue and puffy, the fat around her calves spilling over like poorly executed soufflé, and her head moved at intervals of its own volition. An aware onlooker would doubt that she could even pull herself out of her chair without some part of her falling off, but Emma was not an aware onlooker. She didn’t even notice the old woman until the smiley face in the O frowned and raised an eyebrow in her direction – at least that was what the blur in front of her looked like after staring intently for ten minutes.
Slowly, she pulled her head heavily from its slump, swept a parting in her lank hair and felt a jolt of terror and embarrassment to see that the old woman was staring not only right at her, with eye balls that no longer fit their sockets, but she was looking on with such an expression of pity that Emma could feel it landing on her cheeks and transforming them into glowing radishes.
The old woman’s fingers twisted into painful sausages and the stress of age and illness was contorting her features, blending her seamlessly into the glum-making posters behind, but still there was pity for Emma. It was as if the depression inside of Emma was oozing from every pore and encasing her in a sticky gloom, hiding everything that the woman should be seeing, should envy – the vibrancy of youth; delicate features which when ignited by delight illuminated a room; fiery red hair that no amount of hair dye could imitate, luscious and rich; a smile, which when not transforming her lips lived coyly in her eyes. None of it was visible through the gloom. Her eyes were dead, her hair greasy and even her uncomfortable posture compromised the youth. The smile, which had been a trophy of hers for so long, she kept in a cupboard at home in case of emergencies.
Despite the excruciating creaking of her bones, the old woman eased her body forward and reached out to touch Emma’s leg. As her face came closer, Emma’s instinct was to look or run away, but there was a softness and wisdom that held her gaze.
Very slowly, the old woman’s shaky mouth opened, preparing to offer advice or wisdom or a recipe for chicken soup, or any number of things that Emma would never find out because the number three flashed behind her and with the buzz, the woman’s mouth slammed shut and the hand was pulled away.
‘I have to…’ Emma finally said and held up the number three tag to finish the sentence. She then slowly backed towards the door and half-curtseying out of the room.
And then came the tears.
Maybe it was the name on the door – Doctor Hue – in solid, impenetrable, gold lettering. She tried to compose herself and raised her tear-drenched hand to knock on the door, but the voice beyond boomed, ‘Come!’ before she even made contact.
She dragged both hands across her face, cleared her throat and patted her summery skirt to free it of creases (or maybe to rid it of the little flowers that she never really liked), and slowly pushed through the heavy door.

Doctor Hue’s office was a true testament to his success. Everything gleamed as if it was polished three times a day: the desk, the books, the sports trophies that proved just how healthy he was, even the leather armchair, which Emma opted against sitting on through fear that she would slide off and land in the sea. She seated herself shakily on an uncomfortable chair opposite his colossal desk and felt suddenly intoxicated by a sickly sweet aroma, the origins of which were unclear. Doctor Hue, however, was very comfortably seated, although he always seemed to sit unfeasibly upright in his chair. He was either very proud in posture or was being operated by a puppeteer with an extremely long arm. If, indeed, this was the case, the puppeteer operated with immense subtlety; Doctor Hue’s hands moved only to tap on the keyboard in front of him or push his thin-rimmed glasses back into place; his head moved by slim, slow degrees as if he had originally been a puppet in a horror spoof, and his expression was fixed in a kind of faraway wonder that could be easily interpreted as boredom. None of this changed to welcome his patient into the room or put her at ease.
‘Miss… Crown,’ he offered without taking his eyes off his computer screen. ‘What can I do for you today?’
‘Well,’ Emma began then the tears came again and for a moment she couldn’t speak.
Doctor Hue either didn’t notice or was offering a po-faced decoy as he Googled what to do when patients cry.
‘It’s the same as last week and the week before,’ she told him. ‘You must remember me.’
‘Of course,’ he lied, still refusing to look at her.
‘You told me to come back if things didn’t improve.’
‘Have they?’ he asked, pushing his glasses further up his nose, his eyes now furiously scanning his monitor (or as furiously as his mysterious puppeteer would allow) to catch up with her symptoms. Then he stopped and did look at her. Something in his stare made Emma feel that the room, the chair and the doctor himself had suddenly grown and she was now a mucky dot on the furniture, something that his emphatic cleaner had missed and as a consequence, would later reap an almighty punishment. His face was devoid of compassion, sympathy, empathy. In fact, his eyebrows raised and his eyes glazed over as if she had already been in seventeen times that morning and he was no longer enjoying her company.
‘I really don’t know what more you expect us to do for you, Miss…’ This time he didn’t consult his screen for her name.
‘But I still can’t sleep. I’m breaking into tears all the time.’ She was crying as she spoke, not by way of demonstration or to prompt humility into his rigid, upright, never-needed-help-before face, but because she really couldn’t help it. ‘And the panic attacks; I’m still having panic attacks.’ She wanted to stop – the tears and the words – but both were relentless: a watery plea to a man who would move her along as soon as he could get a word in. ‘The locum gave me Diazepam a few months ago. It really helped, but nothing else does. Look at me. This isn’t normal. This isn’t how I’m supposed to be feeling.’
Then a new expression came to his face, one that she would never have predicted – a smile. ‘Diazepam,’ he repeated and grinned at the suggestion.
She felt smaller still, as if the furniture was now somehow ingested her. ‘Yeah. It helped. I didn’t –’
‘And what would you do with this Diazepam?’ he asked, emphasising the name of the drug to give it a meaning that Emma couldn’t quite comprehend.
‘I –’
‘No, no, no!’ he smiled and shook his head in time with the words. Then he didn’t say anything at all; he just stared, challenging her to speak, but the moment she found the courage to open her mouth he interrupted. ‘You do realise that Diazepam is highly addictive.’
‘Yeah, but –’
‘And you’re obviously aware that Diazepam has quite a street value these days.’
‘What are you trying to say?’
‘No, no, no! I really think, Miss...’
Emma summoned all her strength to fight him. ‘Crown! My bloody name is Crown!’ But he didn’t even look up at her attempt at an outburst. The puppeteer pulled hard on his eyebrows and folded his arms, showing Emma that her defiance had confirmed her status as an unstable addict and dealer. She wanted to say so much. The old Emma would never have allowed herself to be treated like this, but the old Emma would never be in a doctor’s office asking for Diazepam. She was a high-flyer, an artist, a creative who thrived on life. She would have told him what to do with his Diazepam and told him to ram his condescending, ugly, fat head up his arse. She would have cut the puppet strings and watched him flail on the floor like a dry fish sucking useless oxygen then stomped on the carcass. This Emma, however, cried openly and relentlessly, the world disappearing around her. As the room returned and her intense sobs became sad whimpers, she saw that Doctor Hue was staring at her, still smiling then he looked down at his watch. She took a deep breath and dragged her hand across her face. There was nothing more to say. She grabbed around for a little dignity and found just enough to stand up, turn away from the doctor and leave the room.
‘Come and see me if things don’t improve,’ she heard him say on the way out and she completed her turn on the conveyer belt, followed closely by the half-dead wise woman who she was sure would be packed off with a prescription for Paracetamol and a ‘Come back when your head falls off’.

Diazepam for Sale is available from 15 October.
For more information, visit Whoosh Books 

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Monday, 17 September 2012


Very quick blog because it’s Monday and I have a mountain of proper, grown-up work to do. But there I was watching Downton Abbey last night and enjoying wonderful lines like, ‘I say, have you done something jolly with your hair?’ and then came the adverts and the planned dash to the loo and kettle. But there was to be no wee and tea; I couldn’t move for the Fifty Shades of Grey: The Soundtrackness of it all. It’s a book and it’s a soundtrack. Am I missing something? It’s a book and it’s a soundtrack? It’s not music lifted from a film. It’s a book and it’s a soundtrack.

My first thought was that E.L. James can’t possibly have big enough pockets to hold all of the cash that this latest housewife masturbation aid is going to rake in for her. Then I got to thinking that this is über-cool. This is a book that’s so big that it can sell an album. Reading is huge at the moment. People are swallowing books like M&Ms (admittedly, this one is more like S&Ms) and are still hungry for more. Books are taking over the world one at a time and where there are ideas there is music. So, if it’s good enough for E.L. James, it’s good enough for me. Ahead of my first novel release, here is the soundtrack:

Diazepam for Sale: The Musical

Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam... Nirvana
Fugitive Motel... Elbow
The Importance of Being Idle... Oasis
Grey Gardens... Rufus Wainright
Creep... Radiohead
I am the Walrus... The Beatles
I Want to be a Hippy... Technohead
I Could Be Happy... Altered Image
Twisted... Skunk Anansie
Anarchy in the UK... Sex Pistols
Oh! You Pretty Thing... David Bowie
Uprising... Muse
Run Baby Run... Sheryl Crow
Lazy Sunday... The Small Faces
212... Azealia Banks
Chop Suey... System of a Down
I Hate You So Much Right Now... Kelis
Jesus Doesn’t Want me for a sunbeam (again!)... Nirvana

Love it!

If you’ve got a book, give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Now, back to work!

Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....  

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Sunday, 16 September 2012

How to Rule the World from your Sofa

Picture the scene: a woman is meditating with her husband. This has become regular practice for them since they visited a spiritual guide who told them that they were gifted and would be introduced to their own spirit guide in another realm. They’re just getting their trance on and suddenly, the woman’s head starts to shift about the place in sharp tics as if a swarm of bees has found its way in through her ear. Her head’s really going for it and might spin off at any second, but her husband, rather than trying to wake her or calling an ambulance, grabs a pen and paper and starts to write. Yes, it’s all okay; she’s obviously just spelling out words from another realm with her nose. Who wouldn’t spot that?! And so begins their communication with ‘Abraham’, their guide to all worldly knowledge via the medium of the nose.

How wonderful! I love a good yarn. But this is not fantasy; this is the opening chapter of Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks. In fact, this is the only section of the book that is written by the pair; the rest comes directly from Abraham who takes control of Esther’s laptop hands to deliver his message to the world.

As you can see from my telling of the story, I’m a little cynical, but the wonderful thing about this book is that it doesn’t matter whether you think they’ve misplaced their marbles or you believe every word; the imparted wisdom is life-changing, exciting, liberating and – above all – realistic.

Let me take a step back from Ask and It Is Given to give you a bit of background. I’ve become a little jaded in my experience of Law of Attraction books, mostly because they make me believe that I’m superwoman and when I try to fly out of the window I inevitably hit the ground. Take The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for example; I have the DVD and the book and I do actually think that the teachings are quite wonderful. If you’re not familiar, the Law of Attraction teaches us that we can have or be anything in the universe that we can possibly imagine – you are in complete control of your life, ask and it shall be delivered, you can run the world from your sofa, etc. etc. Draw a load of noughts on a £10 note, look at it every day, visualise your hands gripping the steering wheel of your new car and the universe will fill your order. Picture yourself as a rockstar and Simon Cowell will randomly knock on your door if you focus on him enough. Wonderful! I’m not saying that any of this is wrong. I 100% believe in the Law of Attraction, but I also believe that some of us have a resistance to receiving. It’s the ‘I can’t do that’, ‘I’m not worthy’, ‘I’ll never have that’. We all have self-defeating behaviours and thoughts, and as wonderfully zingy as The Secret is, it doesn’t cover this in enough depth.

The idea is that we are all energy; everything has a vibration and we need to vibrate at the same frequency as the things we desire to receive them, as if we’re all radios setting ourselves to the right channel. The challenge, as I see it, is that if you’ve spent your whole life broadcasting on ‘Can’t-afford-my-bus-fare-this morning-Hope-there’s-a-special-at-McDonalds-for-lunch FM’, it’s not that easy to switch to ‘fuck-the-bus-Caviar-for-dinner FM’. If you’re a gloomfest of depression, it’s unlikely that you can paint a smile on your chops and suddenly see yourself running through the daisies.

So, back to our friend Abraham. He knows that most of us have had a go at being superheroes and have given up when our tights split. He knows that we believe in the theory and have seen examples of the universe acting on our whim and he wants to help us harness that, gradually and realistically. So, he offers an emotional scale so you can see where you are and where you would like to be and you can take the steps to advance up the levels. You can travel up through ‘Things-are-kind-of-okay FM’ onto ‘Actually-the-world-looks-pretty-amazing-this-morning FM’ until you’re transmitting on the exact frequency of your heart’s innermost desires.  

For me, personally, I’m a ridiculously positive person and usually walk around with a stupid grin on my face, but my life circumstances haven’t quite caught up with the inner joy that I naturally have. It’s amazing that I still feel the glowy warmth of just being me after a year that could diplomatically be labelled ‘interesting’. But there are things that I want (more business, writing success, filthy wodges of cash, a leg that moves without quite as much persuasion, smiles for my dad, good times with my friends, to see amazing sights around the world, a beautiful home, a narrowboat, to always have great ideas). The exercises in the book make me feel that these things are possible for me. We don’t need to drive at full speed towards our desires only to give up when we hit a tree of resistance. We can remove the trees before we start out and then go spinning off into the sunset. My problem has always been that I’m too content and chilled out. If I’ve got a few quid in my pocket and a roof over my head then you’ll probably see me smiling, but there is more out there for me and that wierdie, Abraham, is holding my hand now. I’m expanding every day, ready to receive what is rightfully mine. I can have it all and be all of the things that I want to be. I can do anything, go anywhere, live any life I choose and one day – *rubs hands together in a way that is a little sinister* – I will rule the world from my sofa.

Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....  

Tell your friends by clicking one of the sharey icons below. 
Enjoyed the blog enough to get some sheep action going? 
Follow me on FACEBOOK and TWITTER