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Poetry

If we are ignored

The grass is grey, crisp bones poking through.

Buttercups, they are, dandelion clocks

chiming the century after the forests fell.

The echoes fertilise their corms, pushing to flower

at every survivor who stumbles across

holding up their torn petal-banners to give their voices

to the voiceless. Broken, worn, silenced before

by those who did not live to regret their iron fists, those who

choked on their black nectar as they feasted from golden mugs,

no-one left to mourn.

Poetry

The knife in the dark

Soft. I hear the toes spread, carpet fibres fill the spaces.

Weight gently shifted, one step as even as the next.

The air ripples along to where I am. The scent of blood, or is it merely iron?

My legs want to bolt, give away my position. I cannot let them.

Else the sharp will find the soft, and not even the dark can stop it.

Short Stories, Uncategorized

Local Halloween Short Story Competition Entry – Tumbleweed

During October, my local library ran a short story competition on the theme of Halloween. Having had the beginnings of a ghost story on my laptop for over a year, I decided to work on it some more and enter it into the competition. It was just a bit of fun while I’m in the throws of editing, and having never won a writing competition before (I’ve always been runner-up), I never thought I’d win. So I was very surprised when I actually did.

I have very mixed feelings about winning, as I know most people who enter only write as a hobby, and because I’m technically an author, I had the sudden thought that entering was unfair to everyone else, as really, writing is something I’m supposed to be good at. Yet I am also delighted, as I don’t usually write ghost stories or much aimed at adults, so winning did give my imposter syndrome a much-needed kick.

I also wish there were more people in attendance when the winners were announced on Halloween night, as the library had obviously gone through a lot of trouble to make it a fun event – all the staff were dressed up and they read out all the winning and running up entries for everyone to listen to, before giving out prizes (my own was a lovely notebook and quill set). My favourite story was actually the winner of the children’s category, which featured creepy porcelain dolls.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my entry here for anyone interested. It’s rather silly, being inspired partly by The Frighteners and Stardust, but I had fun with it:

Tumbleweed

‘I think this one might have a chance.’

‘Oh?’ Alphonse said, glancing at his brother. ‘Looks like an idiot to me. No different from the others.’ He shifted his buttocks into a more comfortable groove on top of the bookshelf, staring down at the rest of the detective’s office.

The detective himself was busy reading through pages of notes about the case, oblivious to Alphonse and Wesley watching his every move. They were hardly there by choice, though. For some reason, they couldn’t leave the block where they’d died, so it was either observe the investigation or float around aimlessly in the hope that the gateway would open again. Which they knew it wouldn’t, until their murderer was found, and they had even less of an idea of who it was than the police did. Which was saying something.

So far, all the detectives put on the case had gone crazy after only a few days, regardless of how determined or level-headed they’d appeared to be. Word around the department was that the case was cursed.

Still, this detective had taken the case without so much as a tremble.

‘I think this guy’s strange in the head. He doesn’t look like a detective – if it wasn’t for the badge on his desk, I’d have thought he was nothing but a nosy caretaker. He’s even wearing overalls,’ Alphonse complained.

A knock sounded at the door, startling the man so much his flailing hand caught a cup of half-drunk coffee and sent it cascading across the desk, soaking every sheet of paper it could.

The sergeant who appeared a second later was hit with a barrage of profanities and scarpered before she’d uttered a word.

‘You know, brother, I’m not sure I even know the meaning of some of those,’ Wesley said, scratching his translucent chin with an equally translucent hand.

‘Well, you were always naïve. I doubt having your head chopped off improved things much,’ Alphonse jibed.

‘I was trying to save you. It was the right thing to do.’

‘The stupid thing, more like. I was already dying when you got there. You had every available chance to get away. But no, you decided to stay and play hero. Now look at you.’

‘At least I died wearing trousers,’ Wesley pointed out.

Alphonse glanced self-consciously at the strawberry-print boxer shorts he was sporting. ‘Had I have known some maniac would plant an axe in my spine while I was in bed, I would have dressed for the occasion,’ he countered. ‘And as I recall, you were done in from behind without even a glimpse of our attacker. No use at all!’

‘Shh!’ Wesley said as the detective stopped mopping up the mess on his desk and turned to stare right at them.

‘Relax, you know Bloods can’t see us.’

‘What about psychics?’

‘What about psychics? They’re notorious for making up nonsense. Praying on the bereaved and tricking them into emptying their pockets. There’s not an ounce of supernatural ability among them.’

‘Are you sure?’ Wesley pressed. ‘This guy is certainly acting odd for someone who can’t see us.’

The detective was now moving towards them, his expression curious but reserved. Standing next to the bookshelf, level with their legs, he jumped up and plunged his arm straight through Wesley’s stomach.

‘Ha, so that’s where you were hiding all this time!’ he declared, holding a thick file triumphantly in his hand. He returned to his desk to flick through it.

Shaken, Wesley vomited ectoplasm into the air. Alphonse wafted bits of it away in disgust. ‘Can’t you control yourself?’ he snapped.

Wesley jerked as if he was about to vomit again, but clapped his hand to his mouth just in time. There was a pause in which he made a thick swallowing sound while tears grew in the corners of his eyes, then replied, ‘I’m sorry, but he just violated me! It felt—’ another judder ran through him, and Alphonse floated away through the wall before more ectoplasm could assault him.

Wesley slumped over. Losing ectoplasm was a tiring experience. ‘Why does it always happen to me?’ he murmured, putting his head in his hands.

From the desk came a thump as the detective suddenly collapsed onto it, followed by a whitish haze leaving his body and vanishing.

‘Well, that was the quickest ascension I’ve ever seen. He must’ve been in a hurry,’ Wesley said, hopping down to take a better look. As he got closer, Alphonse’s head popped out of the detective’s back. Wesley swore. ‘Please tell me you didn’t?’

‘Didn’t what?’ Alphonse said innocently, stepping out of the body altogether and shaking himself off. ‘I only spoke to his soul, that was all. Apparently, he’d bored the poor thing to a husk of itself, it was only too happy for me to help it get away. Besides, the idiot was getting on my nerves. He’d never have solved it. We’re better off doing it ourselves.’

‘We already tried that. You ran into a paranormal investigator and got caught on film, and I ended up being shredded by a lawnmower when you pushed me out of the way as he was running after you. We’re not doing that again.’

‘Spoilsport,’ Alphonse replied. ‘At least we can watch the rest of the Bloods scramble in and panic. It’s always fun to watch them make fools of themselves.’

‘Oh, yes. Terribly fun,’ Wesley said, pinching his nose as the body released an enormous amount of gas.

books, Uncategorized

Flight Anthology Cover Reveal!

I don’t think I mentioned this in any previous blogs, but one of my short stories was selected by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press to be in their upcoming ‘Flight’ anthology, which will feature a multitude of authors from various parts of the globe.

Elephant’s Bookshelf Press has been publishing great books and anthologies since 2012, and I believe Flight will be its fourteenth book (or thereabouts – don’t quote me on that). They’re a small but enthusiastic team that love getting new and established authors onboard, and from my personal experience, they’re a joy to work with.

Flight is currently scheduled for release in mid-November, and I’m very happy to be able to share its fantastic cover with you:

Flight ebook complete

Look out for updates, as I’ll be posting order links as soon as they’re ready!

Uncategorized

A note on rejection

Every writer gets rejected at some point. Whether it’s by peers or beta readers, agents or publishers, it’s always going to happen no matter how good your writing is or how many times you’ve meticulously edited your manuscript.

When I was teaching a workshop at a school the other day, one of the students asked me if I’ve ever been rejected. When I said yes, and that I’ve been rejected around a hundred times for each different project I’ve worked on, she and the rest of the class were pretty shocked. And as it wasn’t something I’ve really thought about that cumulatively, I was surprised too.

I then told the class what I always say about rejection: it doesn’t matter how many “no”s you get, as all it takes to change things is a single “yes”.

Which is true for all of my published works. But I think it’s important to note that sometimes those “no”s are worth listening to, not to make you give up on a project, but to take another look at it to see if it needs to be revised. Now, if you’ve already spent a long time trying to perfect your manuscript, this is hard advice to follow. I’m no exception, it takes a lot of willpower for me to revisit something that I’ve already poured so much time and energy into. I hate it, and I put it off as long as I can. Especially when all the rejections I’ve received have been form rejections or complete silence, as I don’t know where the problem is.

However, the one thing about those kind of rejections is that for me, I think they hurt less. Whereas a rejection with feedback included is like a punch to the stomach that doesn’t disappear for days. I had one such rejection last week, and I’m still not fully over it. The feedback was quite specific, and left me wondering whether to implement it or not, a question to which I still don’t have an answer.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your point of view) the manuscript was actually one I sent out when I knew it wasn’t really ready, but wanted to see if the idea might catch some attention, so I’m actually in the process of revising it anyway. One thing that rejection made me realise is that the manuscript is more plot driven than character driven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that I might have to do some more research to make sure that when I do send it out properly, I’m sending it to people who enjoy that style of storytelling — if I choose to keep that side of the book as it is. That’s not to say I’ll be neglecting my characters, either. Far from it, in fact.

Anyway, there’s no real moral to this post (other than don’t send your manuscript out early like I just did!). I think I just wanted to share some of my rejection experience, so that anyone else in the query trenches knows they’re not alone.

Uncategorized

My first author visit at a school

This may be a brief post as I’m so worn out I can barely stay awake, as my energy was taken up entirely by the day – and by the absurd levels of anxiety I’ve had for the past few weeks leading up to today – but it was a great experience and so I wanted to share a bit about it.

So, in partnership with the Isle of Wight Literary Festival Story Festival, which will take place in February 2020, I was invited to go into two schools and visit years 4-6. Lots of other children’s authors were invited to do the same, both local and from the mainland, and everyone I spoke to about it was very excited.

I was too, but as my anxiety runs riot with anything new that’s going on, and knowing my energy often gets spent very quickly when around people, I was terrified. To help ease some of that terror, I ended up scripting out what I wanted to do (even my introduction of who I am) and rehearsing it in my living room a few times until I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t forget any of the major points I wanted to make. I also made sure I had a copy of said script with me in case I lost my train of thought or my words decided to cease up.

I was very pleased with myself when neither of those actually happened, and I didn’t have to refer to my script once. And though I was nervous at the start of every class (I met with a total of five classes), as I got into what I was saying and my reading, my confidence came back. I also taught a mini workshop on where to get story ideas and how to progress them, and I was blown away by the level of creativity the students had, along with their enthusiasm.

I had a lot of fun, and the day really enforced the reason for why I write –  to share my stories and inspire people as other authors have inspired me.

Now, I may not be able to leave the house for a few days while I recover, but I have to say that all that anxiety and uncertainty was worth it, and I hope I get the chance to do it again next year.

Poetry

Lesson

I crave it. The knowledge

you have, the hours of practice you’ve put it.

I want to gain it for myself, I’m not afraid of putting in the work

but how can I train, how can I improve

when being observed

freezes up every thought I have?

The frustration at myself builds.

The explanations are clear, so why do I misunderstand?

There must be a way around it. Trust that I won’t be judged

when my work needs correcting.

Trust

that I don’t have to be perfect

from the start.