Friday, 17 November 2017

5 Point Social Media Blitz for the Time Poor.

Article also published on LinkedIn profile. https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-m-john-6b17a669/

When you're a creative, busy... creating, it's super hard to keep all the social media plates spinning. There aren't endless hours in the day, and as our visibility online grows, as we connect with new readers, investors, patrons, et al, we find ourselves joining even more social media platforms and online communities in order to create even more visibility and success.

It can be exhausting, and it can also be damaging if you let some of those platforms drift creating a footprint of earlier branding that may not fully reflect where you are now at.

In oder to keep a fresh, cohesive brand across the internet and social media world, I have created a process of consciously 'quick checking'. It can be really easy to be sucked into a sparkly new social media platform, plough all your current work, concepts, branding and time into it - but the danger is that the others lag behind and the connections you have worked so hard to build, start to grow stale.

Here is a quick 5 point check which can be done in just one or two hours of your time a month.

Before you begin, write a list of all the social-media platforms, forums and other places you have at some point made a profile for. (You'll be amazed, especially as like me, you've probably jumped on every up and coming subject related platform over the years. You may need to google yourself.)

MONTHLY:

1: YOU. Make sure all your profile pictures are a) relevant to the audience for that particular social platform, b) make it one of your more recent photos, and c) good quality, which means properly lit, properly cropped, and appropriate context. (It's really good practice to try and get photos of you taken on a regular basis and build up a folder on your desktop so you can just grab one - a good selfie has its place, too so don't be afraid to get in front of the camera) 

2: BANNERS. Don't underestimate the power of banners to be an effective advertising space. Does your banner demonstrate fully a) What you do? b) What's fresh and new in your world? c) Have either an explicit or implicit call to action depending on the platform.

3: POST. Write a single post (it can be a copy & paste on each of the platforms if time is really squeezed) but it should include where you've been, what you've been doing, what your currently excited about and will show you've not been inactive, just really creatively busy. It will also show you're still willing to engage, and your not abandoning your fan / reader / patron base. If people stumble across your page, it also shows that you aren't missing in the ether and no longer relevant.

4: ENGAGE. Spend 5 minutes engaging with 10 other people on that platform. Leave a comment on their post, ask a question, share a post - demonstrate that as well as swinging by to broadcast, you're willing to engage and connect. It gives the impression that you are a lot more active than you actually are.

5: DELETE. Ask yourself what each particular profile is doing for you. If it's not working, if you know in your heart that you don't have the time or inclination to invest in it, then delete it. It's better to have 3 or 4 really engaging, exciting, fresh and live platforms where people know where to find you than having a load of dead or dying fish in the water. Poorly managed social media platforms can do more damage than not having one in the first place.

If you do each of these 5 small tasks once a month - maybe allocated a specific day (such as the first or last of the month to make it memorable) then you'll soon find that your social media platforms are all up to date, relevant and creating more engagement. Good luck, and remember the trick with social media is little and often.

Friday, 13 October 2017

The tricky issue of disposing of a murdered body.

#OCTOBERFRIGHTS DAY 4.

Whilst writing my novel 'Beautiful Freaks' I had to undertake a serious amount of research into effective, although somewhat weird, ways of both killing people and disposing of their body. If there really is a Big Brother watching us from Cyber Space, I am possibly now a flag on the UK Intelligence radar - and after this interactive post, you may be, too.

I mean, seriously, it's only writers and murderers who look this stuff up. For example, one of my google searches involved truly understanding the effects of lyme on an enamel bath - and who knew that it needed to be heated to be truly effective? Well now you all do. 

This led to some highly inventive methods of both murder and body disposal - and let me tell you, the disposal is the trickiest part of it all. It's one thing killing someone - you can sort of take your pick from the gazillion ways you'd like to do it - a sort of personal expression of your own creativity - but trust me when I say, that disposing of the body is not only difficult, but to do it properly, is almost impossible. 

Beautiful  Freaks is currently on £0.99 / $0.99
AMAZON WORLDWIDE SALE.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009XDNKZW 
You'd be amazed a how fragile a living body can be, and how very stubborn and resilient a dead one can be. It's been the unsticking of many a genius murderer in the past. 

In Beautiful Freaks there are a range of approaches to the subject of the murdered body. Some are intent on eradicating all evidence of their crimes and others seem to take an almost aesthetic and poetic approach to displaying the bodies as a kind of statement about human vice. 

Having been an inspector involved on the fringes of the Jack the Ripper case just over a decade beforehand, William Steptree believes that he has seen the very limits of murder - that is until he discovers the murder scenes that litter the London streets like some macabre art gallery. For all the blood and guts of the Ripper case, there is something about these 'beautiful' murders that disturbs him far more - something deeply unsettling about the way that the murders are crafted into something almost profound. 

But aside from these, there is another shadowy force exercising experimentations of the dead kind, and there is no attempt to display this particular art form, in fact, it's so on the cusp of all things inhumane that there is no other desire than to eradicate the bodies completely. To remove all trace of both their fate and the man behind it. 

I have always had a fascination with the detective genre and in particular the dark psychological detective stories written by the likes of Karen Slaughter and Patricia Cornwall. In a way, Beautiful Freaks is an extension of my love for that kind of literature, if not mashed up with my own love of paranormal fantasy. I have always found it captivating to consider what the mind of a killer must be like, and how hard or easy it is to step over that moral line. I think because it is so far removed from my own life philosophy that I find it a puzzle to wonder why anybody would want to commit such destruction - and of course, most sane people do not. 

The idea that the way in which murderers both murder and dispose of bodies acts as a signature and a narrative is not only something that clearly captivates me but thousands of writers and millions of writer's too. 

So, let's take this post to the comfort zone and beyond. If you were to set about murdering someone, how would you do it and what would you do with the body? Let's really discover who you all are.... Leave your ideas in the comment box - who knows, I might even steal them for a novel and credit you in the acknowledgements. 

If you've been intrigued by talk of Beautiful Freaks, you can download an eBOOK copy for just $0.99 / £0.99 here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009XDNKZW 

Happy hopping.. 

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Crow Man: Writing Feminist Horror

OCTOBER FRIGHTS #DAY 2


This blog post introduces you to my latest novel, 'The Crow Man' and there is a chance to win a signed paperback copy at the end of this post. 

This month has seen the release of my first adult horror novel, 'The Crow Man' and it marks the end of a labour of love that has seen me invest 5 years into this novel.

Horror has always been my favourite genre of literature right from my earliest reading habits; Dracula, Frankenstein, Point Horror, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lovecraft, Poe - we're all the foundations of my love of the written word.

Despite having found a comfortable flow in the writing of paranormal and occult, I had yet to make that final leap into writing a 'pure' horror novel because the responsibilities that come with writing horror are immense.

To me, good horror is one of the most moral, political vehicles there is. In my very personal opinion, for horror to be elevated from gratuitous pornography it has to have some kind of exploration of the human condition, of moral structures, and of state constructs. It is an incredible vehicle for exploring the ills of society and the wrongs of mankind - of course done in a way that excites, entices, scares, and thrills the reader.

There are conventions in horror that are long established and which work, but traditionally, mainstream horror in both literature and film have tended to be dominated by male influence and the male gaze. I knew when I finally plucked up enough courage to write a horror novel, I wanted to both work within a long tradition and to challenge some of the constructs that had been established. I wanted to write a horror from a very female point of view.

Hence the premise of The Crow Man - as most women will testify, one of the most horrific things that can happen to you as a woman is to be labelled mad or insane - to have every word and action questioned; to stand accused of crimes you have not committed and for the whole social structure to come bearing down on you.

One of the very worst nightmares I have ever had was that I had hit an intruder and that 'boy' had died. I was arrested and was facing a long time in prison. I wouldn't last two minutes in prison - or only in the way that Tyrion Lancaster might by a thread come out bruised and abused but still living. The very worst of that dream was no one believing my version of the story. Of everybody, the courts and eventually even my own husband swaying to the social constructs that surround female voice and behaviour. I woke shouting, tears streaming down my face. Never had I felt so afraid - and so the beginnings of The Crow Man were birthed.

To call it feminist horror does not mean that it is horror written for women and women alone - I would hope that  the readership of this novel is a 50 / 50 split. Just because it is a story about women doesn't mean that all horror readers can't access and enjoy it, just as I have read hundreds upon hundreds of horror books with very male focused protagonist and stories.

It was important to me with both of my female characters, Grace Waters and Camille to try and defy some of the tropes and stereotypes that female characters often fall into in horror novels - but it wasn't easy. I rewrote the ending several times as I discovered that I had fallen into established models that didn't sit right with me - but which were a form of horror convention. I wanted to move beyond those sometime two dimensional offerings of female motivation and experience that is so often portrayed in horror and offer, what I hope is a more 'real' more true conclusion to these events.

The writing  go The Crow Man took me to some pretty dark places when I was writing it. For me, there are elements that are extreme and cross my comfort zone, or at least they did when I was in the depths of writing certain scenes. Looking back, I know that by modern standards of gore horror and psychosexual horror, these scenes are perfectly within the mainstream - but in the way that a creaking door or a shadow is more terrifying than a body being carved up by a circular saw, the scenes in The Crow Man got under my skin and were a manifestation of my own worst fears.

I decided to set The Crow Man in the 50's purely because some of the issues that the women face were amplified, and because, as a form of historical piece exploring the progress of psychiatric care and practice, the 1950s were a radical time of change and advancement.

In the author notes at the beginning of The Crow Man, I have acknowledged that other great horror piece written about the pioneering advancements of the medical profession and where that placed humans and doctors in terms of gods and monsters - Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus'. Perhaps, if I were being arrogant, I could have named my novel, 'The Crow Man: The postmodern Prometheus' LOL. The Crow Man is very much in the tradition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and I hope that my humble little offering does that text and that heritage some justice.

eBOOKS
The eBook of the Crow Man is already available here on  Amazon Worldwide exclusive https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0758JMKZ1  and can be read for FREE if you are a Kindle Unlimited User or for just $2.49 / £2.99 if you are a Kindle reader.

PAPERBACKS
The paperbacks do not officially come out until January 1st 2018 but I have signed pre-release copies available for folks in the UK (And in the US if people are prepared to cover shipping costs.) To order your signed paperback for £7.99 (+ £2.00 p&p delivery before 25th October) please complete this google doc form. https://goo.gl/forms/ekj8xflMbfYTleyf1 

GIVEAWAY: UK Only I'm afraid. To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of The Crow Man, please leave a comment telling us what your worse fear is. One lucky winner will be selected and notified as a reply to their post. The winner will be announced a week today.


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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Rookeries Asylum: A real life House of Horrors.

OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP: DAY ONE


Nestled in the woods on the outskirts of a small English market town is The Rookeries Asylum - an imposing Victorian building that is a mishmash of redbrick, wood clad and concrete blocks (which came later)
complete with turrets and many unblinking soulless windows.

The drive way up to it is pretty much overgrown, meaning that the only real way to access is it is a traipse through the woods, which isn't easy when you're carrying a heavy load of paranormal investigation equipment - not that me, being a guest as part of the ghost hunting crew who charmingly call themselves Ectoplasm, had to carry anything


One of the side entrances of The Rookeries. Despite
being boarded up, people have still managed to get
in and vandalise the inside.
I'm here because of a friend of a friend who also happens to be as completely captivated by the idea of life after death and haunted spaces as I am. I'm beginning to think this is all a rather ridiculous idea, although I'm feeling smug that I have layered up and brought plenty of hot-chocolate. It's going to be a long bleak night.

The Rookeries Asylum was a philanthropic project established by one of the local wealthy families. Built on the far edges of their grounds, it was originally established as a maternity ward and hospital to help young women of the town and neighbouring villages in 1855. Just five years later, it was completely burned out, and over 20 women and young children died. By 1865, it had been rebuilt, extended and had become a hospital for the insane and morally dissolute.

The quarters that were most likely reserved for the
Doctors and visitors is now overrun with damp and
graffiti. It's weird to think of such beautiful spaces
contrasting with the other bleaker areas of the
hospital. 
Today, there are many locals in Heargton village who testify to hearing the sounds of crying on the wind as it weaves through the imposing pine trees. There are other locals who will not set foot in the woods, not alone the old abandoned asylum for fear of either things they have witnessed with their own eyes or because of stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Some of the legends that surround the Rookeries are, aside from the usual hauntings, that there were some very dodgy medical experimentations that took place within he walls, and that as a 'private' hospital, being under the radar, it attracted several doctors who used both the quiet location and mental state of the patients to their advantage. More wild claims include the urban legend that Satanists used the newly empty building (The hospital closed in 1958, having been used as an emergency Hospital for soldiers suffering from shell shock and other mental disturbances) to create a portal to Hell.

As much as that fantasy doesn't capture my imagination, it is very easy to still sense the sorrow and loss of the many souls who were 'cared for' in this place.

Dave is our guide for the evening. He is a seasoned ghost hunter and he's been wanting to get into The Rookeries for years, although gaining permission has been a little challenging. Heargton has a very protective attitude to its town and doesn't really welcome investigations such as these, despite its other numerous haunted buildings.
Some parts of the building are truly
beautiful even though they are in
ruins. It's easy to imagine patients
being walked down this light and airy
corridor with the idea of exercising
their body and spirit. There was
a real sense of peace in this space. 

Dave is 52 and spends a large chunk of the year working in the US with an American team. He is unashamedly obsessed by paranormal investigation and has visited literally hundreds of supposedly haunted sites. It doesn't help my over active imagination any when he stops as soon he enters the building and rubs his arms vigorously. "Oh," he says. "This is going to be a good one."

I'm not sure exactly what that means - is it 'good' if we're about to be subjected to twelve hours of terrifying ghostly activity? I'm not so sure.

We start our 'hunt' by doing a little exploring. I've had to sign a disclaimer in case of personal injury. The rooms are littered with debris and other dangers. I could easily break a limb. The setting is suitably freaky and my author mind is literally going overboard. Hell, I can't wait to get home and hit the keyboard. AT this point, I will not be disappointed if nothing more supernatural than a bat appears. This whole place is fuelling my creativity.

I laugh to myself, knowing that I am literally enacting the start of a cheesy horror film - you know the kind where some really stupid people decide to to go and taunt the devil and then are surprised when he rises and disembowels them. Dave is good company as he leads me through, giving me a running commentary of all the various atmospherics and details he is recording. As we travel, he tells me how he is less about ghost hunting and more about disproving, although when I ask him if he has had inexplicable experiences, he chuckles and says, "More than explicable ones."

Other spaces felt very oppressive and there was a
definite sense of trauma and pain still residual in
the room. Remnants of equipment like this sent
shivers up my spine. It's all too easy to visualise the poor
women who stayed in this place and were subjected
to terrible indignities and painful procedures. 
Night falls fast and it's going to make taking photos more difficult. I snap away, wanting to capture as many of the spaces as I can to add to my scrap book. Little do I know at that point that many of them will disappear as a result of the files corrupting during transfer to my laptop - something that has never happened before, and hasn't happened since.

The further into the asylum, the more wild things get. It is clear that people have got in and gone wild with their own creative flair. Graffiti, tags and scrawled quotes are everywhere. Sacrilege and yet, in a way, an understandable response to such a space. There is a lot of dark humour present, although Dave is less than amused by some of the symbols and iconography that has been painted on some  of the walls. It always makes him uneasy.
People come to these places and they don't know what energy they are stirring up. They think they're being funny - some even think they are being serious - but either way, the energy in the place doesn't like to be mocked. This kind of 'play' attracts the demons.
'Demons!' I scoff in my head. In the short time I have known and spoken with Dave, I am surprised by this sudden turn in tone and subject matter. Surely Dave doesn't believe in demons?

I've done hundreds of investigations and most involve long nights of tedium, but then some places just have this really dark vibe. Several times, I have seen mysterious scratches raise on fellow investigators. It's all pretty convincing when you see those kind of marks literally emerging out of someone's skin. 
Suddenly, this little adventure doesn't seem quite so fun. I have a deep respect for the idea of positive and negative energies in the world. I guess there is part of me that believes in true evil and that it can manifest - although as for actual demons, the jury is still out.

One of our last stops before heading back to the HQ we have established in one of the old doctor's rooms, is the records office. Nobody has bothered to clear these out and archive them, and it feels criminal. This is history - real history, about people who lived and suffered. The mould and dust sets off my allergies, despite having taken an unhealthy amount of antihistamine. Rot. That's the overall word of this whole place. I leaf through a few of the remaining files, which mostly date back from the 50s and 60s. In some ways, it's amazing that they still exist. I vow to find a way to get them recovered and properly stored. It feels perhaps why I am here, doing this ridiculous thing.

Night settles and I have to admit, I am absolutely running on adrenaline. Every sound travels through me and is amplified in my imagination. As much as I want to chase after Dave as he goes around 'hunting' there is part of me that wants to stay in the relative safety of HQ.

Generally, it's a pretty quiet night, although the sudden burst of barking dogs does nothing for the health of my heart. I'm unnerved by the sound, which is clearly a pack of dogs in the woods nearby. Packs of dogs is not a neutral sound and immediately I feel very uncomfortable. Steve, the techie doesn't help matters by telling me the local tale of the ghostly hunt. Susie, who is Dave's right hand woman is quick to shut him down when she sees the look on my face. She tells me that almost all legends of ghostly hunts have been debunked.

Dave returns and he's so pale, he looks as if he has seen a ghost - which he tells us he has; well sort of. He's out of breath and it's clear that he has been running from something.
There's some dark shit out there, guys. A lot of bad energy.

There are a few remaining relics of its days as a
hospital and there is something about their decay that
makes them inherently terrifying and full of possibility. 
He tells us how he was lying on one of the old hospital beds (as you would) and he felt something pressing down on him and then a growl in his ear. Steve's attention is suddenly captured by the site of a nasty red mark on Dave's neck. He investigates, pulling the neck of Dave's t-shirt down. Sure enough, three red scratches run down his skin. Part of me is sad that I missed this incident, the other isn't, which is why I'm not sure what I should do when Suzie and Dave both agreed that they need to head back to the same room and spend more time there. My instinct says no, but nevertheless, I find myself travelling behind them. It's the same room I took a photo of earlier.

I sit on the edge of the bed, encouraged by Dave. I refuse to lie down - I'm not crazy. I can hear the reassuring breaths of both Dave and Suzie. This is why I'm here. To face my own fears, to discover and experience for myself. Nothing happens for about twenty minutes and we're about to go when strong hands push me back and I find myself on my back, a terrible weight over me. I hear Dave and Suzie shout out to me but it's honestly as if they are a whole world away. There's a voice at my ear. I can't move. It's a deep voice, full of menace and I am in no doubt that I am in serious danger - although from what exactly, I can't tell. I'm trying to scream but nothing is coming out.

In that moment, seriously, there's a belief that I might die. Suddenly from the other side of the room, there is a deep barrelling voice that travels across the room. There is no doubt in my mind that it is not the voice of a human.  "I'm right here," it growls before this whooshing sweeps right over me and finally, the scream can escape. Whatever it is, it's gone and the whole atmosphere changes. I'm shaking and laughing and crying all at the same time.

Suzie has me wrapped in her arms, reassuring me that I'm safe and that this wasn't an unusual incident for an investigation. I had come looking for a paranormal experience and I'd had one. Perhaps the moral of this story is be careful what you wish for.



TRICK OR TREAT?

Welcome to the anual OCTOBERFRIGHTS BLOGSHOP. I'm so very pleased that you have stopped by to take part in day one of the October Frights Blogshop and I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my experiences of being on a ghost hunt at The Rookeries Hospital. It's now that I get to tell you that the whole article was a dastardly Halloween trick - a playful creative exploration of a world that  I built as part of The Meadowsweet Chronicles. I'm sorry to have tricked you but I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it fuelled your imagination. The line between reality and fantasy is such  a thin one when you're an author of the paranormal.

So that was your dastardly Trick bit but now I have some lovely treats for you. Firstly, during the course of the 5 day blog hop, all the authors have got together to organise a fabulous rafflecopter giveaway with some really lovely prizes. You can enter that here below. (Just scroll down)

Also to fill your halloween treat bag, here is the link for a FREE eBOOK DOWNLOAD of Book 1 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles, 'Witchcraft' - the series in which The Rookeries Hospital features. It's planned to be a 7 book series and book 4 is coming out spring of 2018.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY BY CLICKING THIS LINK https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NG5CLTE

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HOP ON OVER TO THE OTHER BLOGS in this fabulous OCTOBERFRIGHTS BLOG HOP.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

HORROR AUTHORS BLOG HOP SIGN UP.

THE ANUAL OCTOBER FRIGHTS BLOG HOP SIGN UP IS HERE



For those who have followed this blog over the years, you'll know that every year at this time of the year, I sign up to the October Frights Blog Hop. It is something I have done for many many years and every time it comes around again, it fills me with a genuine joy.

I have known this horror crowd for years and I love the hop as it's a chance for me to catch up with the work they have done over the year, any releases I may have missed, and to generally hang out with folks I have an affection for.

This year October Frights starts on the 10th of October and ends on the 15th. In that time, there are a whole host of posts from short stories, to extracts, to poems, to articles, to giveaways, fun games and competitions. It's an old school hop and that's what I really love about it.

FELLOW AUTHORS OF HORROR - if you would like to join in the October Frights Blog Hop then please head over to the sign up page here

Inlinkz
Signup Has Begun!
I believe participants will have to join the site to use the signup, but they don’t bite.
You can find the Inlinkz site here: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/
Where to find the signup form:
Or: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=735017

YOU CAN ALSO JOIN UP by adding yourself to this LINKZ list

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Crow Man Chapter One. Exclusive Pre-Release viewing.

The Crow Man, my adult horror novel, comes out on October 3rd 2017. 5 Years in the writing, it has been a labour of love and torment. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

It can be pre-ordered on Amazon
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0758JMKZ1
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0758JMKZ1

In the meantime, if you're curious about this project, here is the blurb and the first part of Chapter One.

BLURB


When your worst fear is your own mind.
Grace Waters lost a baby and now stands amidst the ruins of her marriage. Trapped within the loneliness of grief, her perfect and beautiful life as a GP’s wife begins to quickly unravel around her. With her husband increasingly concerned about her state of mind, she begins to doubt her own sanity – especially when she begins to see the terrifying figure of The Crow Man.

Referred to psychiatrist, Doctor Daniel Rose, Grace dares to hope for healing and recovery, but what she finds is an unending nightmare in which those pretending to be the voice of reason are the most dangerously insane of them all. 

Doctor Rose believes he has found the cure for insanity, for fixing the broken. And in his noble and ambitious mind, it doesn't matter that the methods are barbaric because the result is something perfect. 

A terrifying Frankenstein of the psychological age. An exploration into the dark recesses of the human mind and the terrifying psychological experimentations of the 1950s.

Readers' Note:
This is a horror novel with strong themes of female disempowerment and empowerment. It contains scenes that are violent and sinister. Some readers may find these distressing and triggering. It is recommended 18+ reading. 



1.

It was the kind of hour, in the kind of day, where the sky bled grey into the ground. The mist circled the base of the tree trunks. The grasses of the fields beyond the garden, looked like shards of cruel glass spiking the earth. From behind her, Grace heard the ticking of the kitchen clock. It was a heavy sound for a heavy time of year. Aside from this, the house appeared silent, although she knew it was only a trick of distance. Two stories up, the twins were playing in the attic playroom. It would be far from quiet there.

She paid little attention to the dishes she was washing in the sink. She was too busy staring out onto the grey swirling light. It reminded her of her marriage. The bare trees like the skeletal bones of affection she now held for her husband. She sighed heavily and broke her stare away from the distant fields to take the tumbler of gin and tonic from the worktop. She allowed herself ‘just the one’ at lunch time, although the measures had been getting more generous of late.

By the time her eyes travelled back to the space beyond the garden, the figure was there, standing ominously under the ancient oak tree. The glass slipped from her hand, either from shock, or from the soap suds on her hand. Her chest heaved. She blinked, hoping the sight of the freakish figure was nothing more than a figment of her imagination.

He still stood there.

Instinctively, she glanced towards the back door, praying it was locked. She wasn't sure she'd make it in time if it wasn't. There was a supernatural quality to the figure that made her think all efforts to out-run him would be futile.

The figure was a tall man, dressed in a well-tailored suit. Even though he was far away, she could see the cut of the suit was well tailored – sharp and expensive. The kind her husband, Doctor Paul Waters, wore. The figure was neither tall nor short. Neither fat nor thin. He was entirely non-descript; except for his head, which was covered by an old hessian sack, tied at the neck by a piece of worsted thread. Eye-holes had been cut crudely into it, giving the impression of two gapping mouths instead of eyes. The contrast between the rough-cut sack and the suit was startling. Fear beat hard wings in Grace’s chest and she thought for a moment that she might faint.

“Muuuum,” James called as he ran towards her, “I'm hungry!”

Momentarily, she turned, automatically responding, “Just a minute, sweetie.” By the time she looked back towards the monster in the garden, it was gone. Instinct told her that just because she couldn't see him, it didn't mean he wasn't there. Her breath was ragged and sharp in her throat.

He was hiding. Amongst the shadows. In the folds of the mist. Watching.

She wiped a stray piece of her straight, greying-blonde hair from her forehead with the back of her hand. She'd like to cry but her husband had told her it was damaging for the children to see her in an emotional state. Crying was poor form.

She retrieved the pieces of crystal tumbler from the bowl of washing-up water, half-hoping a glass slither might find its way onto her husband's dinner plate, and then his stomach. It was an unusually horrid thought for such a gentle woman. She'd been brought up to believe gentility was a strength, but there were a lot of things about her up-bringing she had started to question. The bin-lid clanged unnaturally loudly in the otherwise quiet house.

Satisfied the tumbler had only cracked into three, she drained the bowl and wiped her hands on her wool A-line skirt. She'd chosen it to go with the beige cashmere roll-neck her husband had brought her for Christmas. She hated it, it reminded her of his mother. Wearing it was a silent act of revenge against him.

“Do you want me to make you some toast?” she asked James, who was hopping from foot to foot with excited energy.

“Yes, please. Can I have jam?”

She smiled and ruffled his hair. “Yes, you can have jam,” she said bending over and whispering conspiratorially. “Just don't tell daddy. You know how he disapproves of sweet things. Does your brother want some?”

James shrugged as if the needs of his brother were the furthest care from his mind. As she watched James run around the kitchen doing an impression of a fighter plane, she smiled, suddenly feeling very foolish she should have let her imagination get the better of her.

At this time of year, the isolated landscape joined hands with the eerie weather and made her prone to flights of fancy. She had always had a vivid imagination. In another life, she might have been an artist. But art was too messy for their perfect existence; too full of feelings and chaos.

When they had moved into the Old Vicarage, she had sworn the house was haunted. An idea Paul had told her was, “Quite ludicrous.” Of course, he had been right. He was always right, she thought bitterly. The spooky banging and clattering had been the antiquated hot water system. The cold draughts of air on the stairs, the fault of a loose window latch. The sound of a baby crying in the night ... her grief at having lost her infant daughter. Never their grief, but hers.

A botched job of the after-care ensured there was no hope of Grace Waters ever having a daughter. The knowledge was like a constant blade in her heart, which dug a little deeper each time she walked. 

She busied herself making toast for her two blond-haired, blue-eyed boys. They were handsome and wholesome. Peas in a pod. Even she had difficulty telling them apart, and they constantly took great delight in playing tricks on their relatives, swapping jumpers and names. From the day they were born, they had been happy children. Grace knew she was blessed, and she knew she should be more grateful for what she had. But sometimes, the human heart doesn’t understand that as it should.

Grace opened the state-of-the-art refrigerator, (a Christmas gift from Paul) and pulled out the home-made jam. Her mother-in-law, Millicent, continually scorned this 'modern' approach to food storage, and the last time she had visited, there had almost been blood-shed over Millicent's precious jam being held prisoner by such a wicked contraption. The memory of it made Grace smile. Millicent was a total bitch but at least she made decent jam.

Catching the toast just in time before it welded itself to the AGA, she proceeded to spread butter and jam like the automaton mother she had become. George, the eldest by five minutes, came galloping into the kitchen on the back of his hobby horse and Grace startled. He was wearing a pillow case as an impromptu helmet, and looked unnervingly reminiscent of the figure she'd conjured in her mind just quarter of an hour before. She pushed the haunted feeling aside and cheerily handed out the plates of hot buttery, jammy toast. The smell of it was enticing. It would be easy enough to make another couple of slices, but instead, she reached for her silver cigarette case and lit one of the French menthol cigarettes. Paul Waters hated overweight women in a way only a true chauvinist pig could.

Grace watched her boys eat and bicker, and play games they didn't think she could see. She smoked the cigarette and crushed the tip into the heavy glass ash-tray. She looked at the clock. It was four o'clock in the afternoon. It was a long time until bed – longer still until Paul would arrive home after a day at the surgery. She ought to start preparing his dinner. She ought to hoover the rug in the hallway, and refresh the vase of flowers, but increasingly, these things didn’t seem to matter, especially as Paul often arrived late and too drink-soft to notice such details. 

Grace put it down to the stresses of being a GP. People now waited until the evening before calling for the doctor. It was a sign of the times. Or at least this was what Grace reasoned in order to stop the wild and dangerous allegations of him possibly having an affair.

She knew in her heart that he was; but she wasn't going to admit it. What would be the point? She could hardly leave him. She had nowhere to go. She owned nothing. It was all his. She had no home to return to. As Paul often reminded her, he had dragged her from some dump of an industrial town and made her into, “The lady you are today. A woman fit to be a doctor's wife.”

He had given her a clothes allowance, furnished their home with solid wood furniture, and all the latest technology. She wore enough diamonds to remind her of his respect for her as the mother of his children (although he failed to mention the word, “love”) and he allowed her to pursue her own hobbies, as long as they didn't interfere in the smooth running of the household or make a mess.

'Yes, I am truly blessed,' she said sharply inside her head.

The boys requested their leave from the table with mouths still stuffed with toast and jam. She smiled and waved them away, hoping she might get at least a half-hour nap on the settee before one of them tried to grievously harm the other. If she could get some rest, she might be able to face the horror of the bath and bedtime routine without the need for another stiff gin.

She walked over to the sink and slipped the plates into the water. Part of her was curious to look back over the garden towards the grey space of fantasy where her mind had conjured such a terrifying figure, and part of her feared the monster might still be standing there.

The grey had inked to a darker light, making it impossible to make reality out from the distant shadows. Her view was further distorted by the emerging reflection in the window of a once very beautiful woman who, over the course of six cruel months, had morphed into the very mask of sorrow.

“Something needs to change,” she whispered. “Or else I'll go mad.”

*

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A Wattpad Reader & Me Project.

I want to keep my writing fun, positive and interactive. 

As is my nature, I want to push against the tide of broadcast authoring and writing in order to chase the $$ and I want to write because I LOVE writing. 



This is why I'm about to invest huge amounts of time and fun into a Reader & Me project. I'm wanting to get back to the days of growing meaningful, joyful relationships between our entwining stories.

Next week sees the launch of my Wattpad project 'Hotel Palmera'. This is how it's going to work.

I will post 3 short chapters establishing world and premise. They will be released one a day. At the end of those chapters you will be asked a series of questions as to which direction the next chapter takes.

Think those choose your own adventure books when you were a kid.

It's an iPhone project. Spontaneous. Flash fiction (there may be type errors lol) - it's going to run until it ends.

Here's the premise:

On the beautiful, remote island of Comino off the coast of Malta is a luxury hotel. Not quite as many tourists leave as arrive. But what mysteries does the hotel conceal? What dark characters roam its corridors? And what exactly goes on on the 13th floor? Is the Hotel Palmera a place where romance can flourish, where dreams come true, where nightmares manifest?

What happens? You decide.

The MC narrative voice is 22 year old Natasha Klein. Recently split from her boyfriend and embarking on a gap year funded by inheritance.
Who will she meet? You decide.

Sounds fun right? A great way to spend five minutes of your daily social media time?

More details and official launch announcement later this week.
Here is my Wattpad handle. I'll see you there. Fire up your imaginations, it's going to be an epic ride. http://my.w.tt/UiNb/Zs94CVkmWD

Thursday, 8 June 2017

FEAR OF FLYING. What it taught me about my author journey.

The fear of flying is a common fear, but when you're the one with the fear, you can't imagine how anybody else can possibly feel as bad about it. You truly believe the world is spinning around you, there's no way out. The constricting chest, the heat, the sickness, the general feeling that everything is just not right. 

This was me three years ago. I hadn't been on a plane in over ten years because, well, if you pretend you don't need to fly then you don't have to face the fear, right? Yep, easier to stay home, keep safe, not look at those crazy metal birds flying up there in the clouds, pretend they don't even exist, because, well... who wants to jet off to far flung exotic, exciting places anyway? 

It's a bit like this with our creative ambitions. I've spent a lot of time listening to people over these last three years and I became to see some parallels with my fear of flying  and their fear of starting their creative journey, and in turn, mine. 

How did I tackle my fear of flying? I got on a plane - and then I got on a plane again, and again, and I keep getting on planes. Now, I'm not saying I'm completely cured, there are moments where I will get hit by a literal wave of panic. The slightest hint of turbulence can set about those old stress responses - but I have developed the skills to recognise that panic for what it is and to wrestle it back in the box because it's not useful, it's not beneficial, and it's pointless. 

I didn't get on the plane alone. I had a best friend help me, and they continue to help me, sitting by my side, just being there. That's why community is important. It's a known that facing a fear with somebody else makes that fear a lot less monstrous. 

My experience of overcoming my fear of flying is a direct parallel to the creative journey that I have been undertaking in the last three years, too. There's no coincidence that I began to tackle my fear of flying at the same time I began my new life. 

You get on the plane, again and again and
again until you get used to it. After 10 years
of no flying I've flown to Prague, Nashville x2
Copenhagen x2, Barcelona, Malta, Glasgow.
I'm flying to Nashville again in a couple of
weeks and New York in September. 
I threw in the day job to pursue my creative life, but rather than being faced with a landscape of rainbows and unicorns, the whole landscape was full of monsters and big knives, and bear pits, and a million other terrifying fear walls; was my work good enough? Were my stories acceptable? Was I good enough? What will people think? 

The first thing I had to do was learn to call myself an author, and silence those chattering voices that told me I was an imposter, a fraud, a hobby writer, deluded... and like the plane situation, I did that by doing it over and over again. When people asked me what I did for a living, I told them 'I'm an author' - even though it sounded ludicrous in my mind. 

I then had to navigate all the fears that come with putting yourself out there, of daring to not conform, of daring to sell my work, my talent, my skill. It was all dares. None of it came easily - and it still doesn't, even though it is 'easier' 
- just like getting on a plane is still a dare to myself. 

Facing fears head on is no easier for one person that it is another. It's about choice. You choose to be afraid, and because it's a choice, you can choose not to be afraid. It's easy to delegate our fears to natural human behaviour and instincts, an instinctive response to threat - and of course that's where they start; biology is a powerful force. All those chemicals whirling around, all those physical responses that feel out of our control, but they're not entirely out of control and you can negotiate with them. 

How to negotiate with your physical fear. 
  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Force yourself to slow down. 
  • Tap your leg or your hand in rhythm, silently count the rhythm, so it overrides your thoughts. 
  • Envisage where you are going and think of the reasons you want to be there. 
  • Imagine all the beautiful things you are going to see when you arrive at your destination. 
  • Think of all the other people you know who are already up in the sky, flying happily away. 
  • Slowly open your eyes and challenge yourself to do small things that will establish a routine and a pattern (in the case of flying, order a drink, open a book) convince yourself that this is your new normal.
  • Take charge of your situation. Self care. Make a
    scary or unpleasant experience as nice as you can.
    Convince yourself that it is a different reality to what
    your fear is telling you. Role play out the character
    you really want to be in the narrative. Make your
    own reality. Choose how you want to view it.
    This is me on the plane - pretending everything is
    totally dandy. 
  • Accept that you are not always going to be in control, but there are people who are qualified and skilled who are in charge and they are going to look after you.
Now apply these to your creative ambitions that you're not facing because of the fears. 

  • Take time. Slow down. Make space for your project. 
  • Develop patterns and routines for your creative project which normalise it and make it an embedded part of your daily life. 
  • Envisage where you want to be in a year, two years, eventually and think about why you want to be there. Ensure that you do this often because these things change.
  • Get to know people who are already out there doing what you want, who inspire, encourage and support you, who demonstrate in their daily life that this is a norm and it can be your norm. 
  • Challenge yourself to do small things every day, constantly push against that comfort zone. Be conscious that that's what you're doing and be gentle with yourself but firm. 
  • Accept that you're not going to be able to do all of it yourself, outsource, hire professionals and trust they are going to look after you. 
Before you know it, you'll be on your umpteenth flight and wondering why you ever wasted so much negative energy worrying, why you stopped it from travelling to all the wonderful and exciting places. 

In two weeks time, I am flying solo to Nashville from London. Three years ago, I would never have thought that possible. I could never envisage me doing that - and now I am, just like three years ago, I never would have thought it possible that my new creative life could fund and enable that trip, or that the reason I would be going is as an author up for an award. 

What is it you want to do? What is it that's stopping you? What are your greatest fears about starting your creative path?





Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Writers' Block. What is it? How do I cure it?

Writers' Block... we'll it's a funny old thing isn't it? For some it's a complete blank space of ideas every time they go to sit down and write something. For others, it's a million ideas but somehow, there just isn't any inclination or determination to sit down and write them.
I literally have a drawer full of theses and still haven't
been able to sit down and 'properly' write for months.

Personally, it's the second form of writers' block that I suffer from. I have a notebook crammed with novel outlines (about 9 fun novels plotted) and yet, in over a year, I have managed to actually complete just one short novella for a publisher.

Not bad going, you might say. It's better than some folks - in fact, probably better than most - but the problem for me is, I'm a full time writer. Yeah, it's my actual job, and when writing is meant to fill every 9-5 and bring in a salary, then it's quite a pressure - Imagine the freak out I should be having about writers' block.

And make no mistakes, I am not lazy. In fact, most folks laughingly joke that I'm one of the busiest, self-disciplined creatives they know - no, lie. But.... still the overwhelming feelings of self-adequacy and self-doubt, of imposter syndrome crowd down when I acknowledge that I'm suffering, for whatever reason, the dreaded writers' block syndrome.

Actually, that last sentence is utter rubbish, I don't feel any anxiety about it at all, and that's what my post today is about.
Sometimes, just gathering up your
notes and ideas and putting them away
for a few days, allowing yourself the
freedom to do something else, can
be  a quick trigger. 

Those feelings of frustration, inadequacy, self-doubt, imposter syndrome, anger, disappointment are all what we are taught to feel in traditional production society. We are taught from day one that the 'AMOUNT' of work is almost secondary to the QUALITY of the work, and goodness forbid anybody ever suggested in the traditional production / capitalist society that you actually got pleasure, fulfilment, soul-enriching experiences from what you were producing.

Increasingly, in the indie authoring scene, there is a production line ethos. If I get offered one more freaking course on 'How to Write For Market' or 'How to Increase Your Productivity' or 'Write a Gazillion Books to Make a 6 Figure Income' then I might just.... well, I don't know what but it would be something notable.

Now, let me make it clear right here and right now that if that works for you - if you are naturally incredibly prolific and, or you love the challenge of writing for market, then good for you. You are a rockstar and I love that you're happy and fulfilled. Seriously, I have some super good friends who are just amazing at sitting down and writing everyday and getting beautiful stories out into the world, every one of them bloody brilliant - This article is NOT about bashing folks for writing quickly or prolifically. There are people who can write quickly, copiously and it still be fabulous quality. No, this article is about NOT feeling bad if you're not doing that.

It's taken me some real reflection time on this matter. Those of you who follow this blog know that this topic rears its head a little every now and then. But finally, I feel I am in a happy place.

This years key focus word for me was TEND, which admittedly, a lot of folks in my sisterhood didn't quite get when I said it, but now, 6 months in, they do because they are seeing the results of it.

There's an old saying that sometimes, you have to go backwards to go forwards. That's me. I spent the last six months going backwards, and now, I'm ready to move forwards on the right path, in the right way - in a way that makes me... *gasp* HAPPY.

I have learned the most important thing for me as a writer / author is NOT FREAKING OUT when a week, a month, hell, even three months (*coughs and side-eyes* six months) have gone by and I haven't actually written anything.

Times like these are feeding your creativity.
Learn to embrace the times you think
you're doing nothing when actually
your Creativity is playing and learning hard.
The reason I don't freak out is because I KNOW with certainty (now) that the time I'm not physically writing is a time when something truly magical is happening. And I've learned to trust that.

Creativity isn't always an outward expression, the creation of 'something'. Creativity is often a thought process, a conscious journeying inward. It doesn't need to be helicopter parented. It's absolutely fine and dandy all by itself. It doesn't need you to navel gaze and wonder 'What is my Creativity doing today?', 'Let me set some goals for my Creativity', 'Let me bullet journal my Creative's To Do List'.

Creativity is your inner child. It's perfectly content playing imaginary games and role play all by itself, it doesn't need you to come along with your big scary notebook and your good intentions and start stamping on its parade, trying to organise it into some kind of narrative, and plot.

LEAVE THE POOR CHILD ALONE. Like all children, it will come home of its own accord when its hungry. That's when you sit it down at a table and ask it about its day. That's when you make notes and take an interest in its story.

I've learned to take my hands off the neck of my creativity. I've learned that my creativity LOVES adventure and new things, so I make sure that I do as much as that as possible. I travel, I explore, I take wonder in the world - the exotic and the everyday. Instagram has become the travel journal of my Creativity. You should head there and see the adventures that we have. Me and my Creativity love hanging out together, now I've stopped making demands on it.

However, my Creativity has expensive tastes, travel, experiences, indulgences don't come cheap, so like any good parent, I have to find a way of funding its needs, which is why I no longer consider myself a full time writer, but a part time writer and part time other something or other job title; editor, publisher, event planner. I work to feed my creativity - oh, and my real children ;)

Yes, it's not all the Facebook and Instagram face - there's a lot of hard work and slog, and late nights and long days behind it all to ensure my life, house, kids are in order, like the other 99% of the world, I work hard and long.
Go exploring. This place is just 8 miles away from our
suburban London home. See the world through the lens
of a camera. Not only does this help your Creativity
secure the image but you can also print out your pics
and stick them in scrap books for future projects. 

And the beauty of the day job is that it gives you healthy time apart. Like any relationship, a period of separation is a good thing; strengthens appreciation, care and love. Never begrudge your day job - unless you really hate it (which I came to the point of) and then in that instance, get a different one. Seriously, get an exit plan - a 1 year, 3 year, 5 year plan, but get one.

WHAT TO DO.


  • RELAX -- recharge. 
  • PLAY -- have fun. Do silly things. Fall in love again. Date your spouse. Play with your kids. 
  • TRAVEL -- even if it's down a road in your neighbourhood you've never been to, or a cafe you've never had a coffee in, a bus route you've never taken. Pretend you're an alien and it's all new to you.
  • EXPLORE -- especially in places / situations that are familiar to you. 
  • WORK -- distract yourself, pull an extra shift knowing that money is for one of the above. 
  • EDUCATE -- take a course - it might be part of your job exit plan;) 
  • FIND A NEW HOBBY -- it might become your future day job, it might introduce you to a whole new friendship (character) circle. 
WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Freak out
  • Get grumpy
  • Get angry
  • Chase down your creativity into submission
  • Get lazy and disaffected

Good luck everybody. Live your stories! (unless like me you write some horror, and then that wouldn't be a nice thing at all... )

Thanks for stopping by. Please, please share your tips about overcoming Writers' Block in the comment box below. Let's start a conversation.


Monday, 5 June 2017

A Romeo & Juliet for our Times

I am Delighted to share with you the next chapter in the story of my stand alone Upper YA Contemporary Romance novel, 'I Defy You, Stars'

It has been enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and to celebrate, it has a whole new look.


This Romeo  and  Juliet Contemporary Romance is the perfect read for the summer season. A story of love, tragedy and hope, it promises you all the feels.

You can get your Kindle Unlimited FREE copy or your $2.99 copy here at Amazon
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GKEP0WM
USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GKEP0WM

Here's the latest review in
 5 STARS "A gritty retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Katie John has her finger on the pulse of London's youth and weaves a beautiful tale of art, love, family and betrayal, showing us how Shakespeare's classic tragedy is timeless. I couldn't put it down."

Here's a little more about it.

A Romeo and Juliet tale for our times. A bitter-sweet, romantic tragedy for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and E. Lockhart. A story of broken families, bullying, street art, social anarchy, poetry, and Shakespeare. 

What would you do if were accused of trying to murder your best friend? 

For sixteen-year-old Juliet, all the certainties of the world collapse when she is accused of murdering her best friend. For as long as Juliet can remember, Amber has been in her life; the sister she never had, the only friend she could truly trust – but with Amber’s accident comes a devastating revelation, which might just be motive enough for Juliet to want Amber dead. 

With her family and college life breaking down around her, Juliet turns to Rafe; the boy she met at a party just a few weeks ago. Together, they brave the turbulence of the encroaching adult world, finding love amongst the broken pieces of their lives. 

However, the cruel twists and turns of fate, soon call time on their budding romance, forcing both of them to make decisions they’ll come to regret. 

“Get the tissues ready, I guarantee this novel will punch you in the gut and make you cry.”

“The lives of Juliet and Rafe are like an unfolding car crash, which you just can’t pull your eyes away from.”

“Woven throughout all the sadness, there is this ribbon of hope that keeps you reading through the night.”