Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Tuesday, 21 April 2015



Hey there! It's Sarah Fae here from FaeBooks.co.uk. Today I'm 

celebrating! I am celebrating not only reaching 20,000 followers, but now over 25,000 followers!

I've teamed up with a bunch of authors, crafters, bloggers and more and together we're bringing you this awesome event! Squeeee!!!!

I just want to point out that this is another INTERNATIONAL giveaway of mine. So nobody gets
excluded! Always awesome, right?

Anyway...

Welcome to the
#Fae20kGiveaway
... Oh yes, it has a hashtag!

I'm super excited right now, so let's
just get straight down to business
and tell you who the fabulous sponsors of this giveaway are.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

SPECIAL EDITION. The Rookeries: Tales from the Asylum III 'PRELUDE'

Tonight I am VERY excited to be posting a very special, 'The Rookeries: Tales From the Asylum'. One which I know quite a few of you have been waiting for.

The third tale in this blog exclusive series is called 'Prelude' and it is actually taken from the opening to Book 2 of 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' called 'Vengeance'. It is the very first sneaky peek of the book that is going to be released at the end of May.

As you may know, The Rookeries Asylum first featured in Book 1 of 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' called 'Witchcraft'. This series of stories is inspired by the creepy, now abandoned, Rookeries Hospital.

Don't forget to 'join' the blog (see sidebar widget) and 'like' my official page on Facebook (here) to keep up to date with new 'The Rookeries: Tales From the Asylum' stories and details about the new release. You can read the other stories in the series by heading over to the sidebar on your right. Here you'll find a live link menu.

I hope you enjoy.

Taken from 'Vengeance' Book 2 of 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' OUT MAY 2015

PRELUDE

WINTER 1939

 
Amongst the pine trees of Raven Wood, the screams of lunatics danced through the skeleton limbs. It was the only sound in an otherwise silent world. By the time the cries reached the village of Heargton, they had become even more pitiful in their fading fragility – like the cries of ghosts, long forgotten and long wished dead.

Paulina rocked herself backwards and forwards in an attempt to soothe herself away from the horror of it all. Even here, on the top floor of the asylum, the Maternity Ward, there was no sanctuary – no peace or maternal bliss. Here babies were ripped from their mother’s wombs and the chord that joined them, permanently severed.  By the time the drugs had worn off, the baby was nothing more than a half-remembered dream – leaving in its wake a terrible hole in the soul that no amount of tears could fill. All around the county, poor childless couples would wake to find a bundle of joy being delivered along with the milk and the post. Dreams paid for with the price of somebody else’s nightmares.

Down below, on the lower floors of this hell especially created for the still-living, unspoken terrors travelled through the cells like a roiling wave of fear and pain.

James Mason, known to the orderlies and other inmates as ‘The Creeper’, sat on his haunches in the corner of his room and tapped his finger rhythmically against the metal leg of his bolted down bed.  He whispered prayers for the salvation of his soul – only it wasn’t God he was praying to. As the passing orderly snuck a quick look through the spyhole, he sighed with relief that the perverted little sicko was apparently calm and quiet – unlike the rest of the inmates, who had been whipped up by the electrical storm raging outside: freak weather for the time of year. (Even the eldest villager had never known it to thunder, lightening and snow a driving blizzard all at the same time.)  Little did the orderly know that far from quiet, ‘The Creeper’ was busy communicating with a minion from Hell – very busy indeed.

On hearing the metal scrape of the spyhole cover, ‘The Creeper’ turned his attention momentarily to the door and listened carefully to the voice inside his head – the voice told him tonight he would become a free man: that he would at last be able to indulge in every vice his little black thoughts could conjure: that he would, at last, be able to satisfy the needs, which denied, had made him mad and weak. Only freedom didn’t ever come without a price – there were a few little things that needed to be taken care of first. Nothing much for someone of ‘The Creeper’s’ “extensive experience,” the voice assured him.

Listening to the sound of the orderlies muffled footfalls travel down the corridor, he skittered to the door and waited. He wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out – but he had been promised that all he had to do was trust in the Dark Lord and he would be delivered. And he did believe. He believed with the whole of his dark and traded soul.

All at once, the sound of the asylum alarm blared, drowning out those screams of the agitated patients. In all the years that ‘The Creeper’ had been incarcerated in those bleak walls, the only time the alarm ever went off was when one of the lunatics had managed to escape – a rare occasion. The drugs ensured little scope for initiative.

All at once, ‘The Creeper’s’ eyes were drawn to the clockwork locking system of his cell door, which was mysteriously turning of its own accord. He felt his heart leap at the miracle from the Dark Lord manifesting in front of his very eyes. The door swung open with violent force. ‘The Creeper’ stood, inert with awe for a moment, and then took a tentative step forward to the threshold of his room, which was in truth better defined as a cell. He was no fool. He knew the punishment for attempting escape was a needle through the eye and into the brain so that no such thoughts (if any thoughts) ever plagued him again.

Cautiously, he poked his head into the corridor and scanned up and down, seeing to his further amazement that the door to every cell was wide open. In the distant corridor, lunatics and orderlies chased one another around in some crazy, dangerous game of chase. Some of the patients had fashioned weapons out of various found objects, and the screams were not only those of freedom, but of pain and terror too. It was the Dark Lord’s rallying war-cry, and ‘The Creeper’ was a keen and passionate soldier.

Paulina heard the sound of the alarm and she knew that something terrible was happening – an event that would shake both this world and the worlds above and below. Paulina Chase knew about these things: she knew because once, about nine months ago, she had danced with The Devil, and as they had danced, He had whispered into her ear that the end of the world was coming: it was coming very soon. She cradled her ripe belly in her arms and felt the contractions rip through her tired, distressed body. Whatever else occurred this evening, this night in history belonged to her and the son that she would give birth to: the son that also belonged to a prince of demons. He had courted her in her dreams and danced with her under the moonlight in the meadows surrounding Coldstone House, laying her down on Chase soil – Witch Hunters’ soil – to bring together the blood, earth and seeds of Demon and Redeemer – a powerful cocktail of blood that would ensure an offspring’s power and immortality.

If her family had known this heinous truth, Paulina would already be dead. In the Chase family, the holiness of water was far thicker than blood.

‘The Creeper’ made his way up the many flights of stairs, hiding in the shadows from the orderlies. At last he arrived at the maternity ward on the very top floor of the asylum. ‘So many pretty little maidens held captive in this lofty tower,’ ‘The Creeper’ mused. He licked his lips at the thought of the fun he could have if only he didn’t have a bigger calling to attend to. He followed the sound of labor cries coming from the shadows at the end of the long, bleak ward. The rest of the floor appeared deserted; the women had been herded away earlier from the impending danger via the metal fire escape – but not this one. This one had stayed behind – because whether she knew it or not, she was waiting for him to arrive.

The laboring woman was in such agony that when ‘The Creeper’ threw open the door she didn’t even turn to note him standing there – watching her with a disgusted fascination. With one great roaring-push, a slithering mass of limbs fell between her thighs, and within seconds a sharp mewling cry came from the creature on the floor. ‘The Creeper’ stepped forward, and the woman, who looked almost still a girl, noted him for the first time since his arrival. Instinctively she flinched from him, scrabbling between her thighs to retrieve the baby in some act of maternal instinct. But before she could move, another great contraction ripped through her body and the urge to push came once more. She had no idea what was happening and she was gripped by panic, crying a cry that tunneled through the ages, far back into the dark ages and the times before, when man was little more than a mammal stalking the Earth.  The sound of it made ‘The Creeper’ want to run away but he couldn’t go back – not now, he had made a bargain and he was beginning to quickly realize that making that bargain had been like stepping into quicksand. 

As another contraction surged through Paulina, she cried out for the mercy of God; and the baby in her arms screamed as if it had been placed in scalding water. Paulina looked down into its eyes and, to her horror, she saw them flash with a bright crimson light. Her next cry was not because of physical pain but because of the anguish of her heart tearing into two. She knew she had looked directly into the eyes of the Devil. She turned her petrified gaze to the stranger at the door. She was about to ask him a question, but before she got a chance, the question was replaced with a scream that only ended when another baby expelled from her loins. She looked down on it in shock. Unlike its elder sibling, this baby was small and fragile, already wearing a crown of soft blonde ringlets. His eyes were closed peacefully and his mouth trembled with his first breaths like a perfect rose-bud in the spring breeze. A weak, sad, “Nooo!” came from her lips as she saw the perfect little baby covered in vicious bites and bruises. “Noo!”she whispered as she reached out her hand to touch its cherubic cheek. “What did he do to you?” Her body shivered with the disgust of holding something so vile. She wanted to get rid of it – to put it down on the floor and never look on it again: her heart screamed for her to, ‘Kill it!

Paulina began to weep with the horror. ‘The Creeper’ stepped forward as if to offer comfort, but comfort was an alien idea to such a monster. Paulina looked at him and croaked, “Who are you?”
     “I am no one. I serve the child in your arms and I have come to take him to his father’s people,” he replied, holding out his hands to receive the baby into his waiting arms.
     ‘Kill it! Do it now before it’s too late,’ her heart screamed.

‘The Creeper’ mistook her hesitancy for some kind of maternal bond and urged, “We don’t have much time. I need to get him away from here.”
She thrust the creature into the extended arms of the lunatic and cried, “Take it away! Just get it away from me!”

As soon as her arms were free, she scooped up the little angel from the floor and cradled it to her breast, allowing the waves of love she felt for him to wash away the stains of its abominable sibling.

At the sounds of footsteps scampering down the hallway and the voice of a female nurse bellowing through the corridors, “Miss Chase? Miss Chase, are you here? Are you here?” ‘The Creeper’ slunk back into the shadows and made his silent way through the maze of corridors and out of the asylum towards his destination.

“Oh, there you are!” the nurse said kindly. Paulina recognized her as one of few nurses who ever showed the women compassion and she sighed with relief. It was momentary. The nurse’s face contorted into a mask of confusion and disgust as she looked down on the small naked child in Paulina’s arms.
     “What have you done to him?” she asked.
Paulina looked down onto the bruised and bitten flesh of the innocent baby in her arms.
      “What have you done to him?” the nurse repeated.
Before Paulina could protest her innocence, the nurse had lunged at her and swept the baby up into her arms.
    “You evil, wicked, sinful, whore!” she said as she made the sign of the cross with her free hand. “What sort of monster are you?” she asked before kicking Paulina so hard in the stomach that she curled up into a ball on the floor with the force of it. The nurse continued to kick her, over and over as she screamed condemnations with each blow. At last, seeing Paulina huddled in a bloodied mess of pain and sorrow, the nurse ran from her, cradling the baby in her arms – leaving Paulina to faint into the dark crimson puddle of blood that spread between her legs with the parting spite of, “I hope you die and go to Hell!”

*

The heavy tolling front-door-bell of Ravenheart Hall sounded. The maid scurried to the door and opened it. She was not surprised to see the shadowy figure of a man with a bundle in his arms. She had been told to expect him – she had also been told that he was a murdering lunatic and that he shouldn’t be allowed over the threshold.

The maid extended her arms and received the bundle of rags that offered poor protection for the baby against the bitter snow-filled sky. No matter – the baby radiated an almost vicious heat. Her mistress had warned her not to look into the baby’s eyes. She was a good servant and she obeyed. She shut the door on the lunatic without saying a word.

The maid walked the bundle through the chilly corridors until eventually she entered the fire-warmed library where three sisters stood expectantly around a black clad crib, waiting the arrival of a baby.


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed and that you are excited about reading the whole novel. You can get your hands on Book one 'Witchcraft' the eBook or Paperback at Amazon worldwide or on all eBook platforms.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

iBooks

Saturday, 11 April 2015

10 TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR EDITING COSTS: Preparing your MS

This is going to be a short and sweet post because I am currently undertaking the second round of edits on 'Vengeance'. Any of you second + bookers will know how consuming this is. For you newbies, rewrites and edits take almost as long as the original writing - if not more.

Writing 'The End' at the end of your story is a bitter sweet triumph. Seven novels in, I now reserve the popping of the champagne cork for the actual publish date; instead I buy in the quality coffee, a bulk supply of Jaffa cakes and A4 plain paper.

So editing. It's a difficult beast to wrestle. Everybody I've ever spoken to in the indie publishing field agrees that a professional edit is essential to avoid public devastation in the review game. I agree absolutely. Readers have an amazing ability to spot a type error or grammar error at a hundred paces.

But here's the real pain of an edit, and it's not that someone helpfully rips apart your beloved MS, it's the cost. For a full professional edit on an 80,000 word manuscript you can pay anything between £400 and £1000.  A perfectly reasonable amount considering how many hours of somebody else's life a complete edit and commentary takes.

But...

The sad fact is, most indie published books will be lucky to sell 30  copies a month, and because of a whole other blog post of reasons, most indie books have to fight their way on the $0.99 platform, which Amazon penalises with a 30% royalty. I guess, by now, those more mathematical than me have worked out that to just cover the editing costs alone, you need to sell ..... one hell of a lot of books! I mean, you have to be selling at the same level as the blockbusters.

So what can you do? You can reduce your editing costs substantially (I pay around £200 for an 80-100 word edit) because I have proved with my editor that I'm not a big job. I ensure that my MS is in a state that makes it a relatively 'easy' job that doesn't take a lot of their time.

Here's how I do it, and as ever with my 'advice' posts, I'm still living and learning, and making those big old mistakes, so this isn't expert and I haven't perfected it all yet - not by a long way, but the more I do it, the better I get at it.

1) I PLAN and PLOT out my books carefully, minimising plot inconsistencies as much as possible.

2) I accepted my weakness in never learning formal grammar (80's empathy, write a diary entry type of English education) I purchased  a grammar book and I tried to learn it, cover to cover. I learned why we actually use commas and punctuation - and no, it's not where you naturally breathe or pause; it's all to do with clauses. LEARN YOUR CLAUSES!

3) Follow, with diligence, the their / they're / there / its / it's / you're / your checklist - every time any of these are used in a sentence, stop and double check - and then triple check. These are the MOST COMMON ERRORS, and unless you consciously attack them, they will slip through.

4) Put your MS onto 140-150% ZOOM and edit it big - I know it will look ugly and you'll want to look away, but it makes you read your MS sentence by sentence and makes smaller, minor errors like possession apostrophes and the list above, a lot more obvious. It stops you scanning, which we all inevitably lapse into.

5) Complete your primary edits AS YOU GO. At the beginning of each writing session, start by heading back over the section you read before. This will not count as a full first edit, but it is great for the first stage of snagging those pesky errors, putting you in a much better place for your first rewrites, and it is relatively painless.

6) Make a proper CHARACTER LISTS / NOTES as you go, you'd be amazed how hard it is to keep track of those minor extras. Note any details you give, such as eye colour, hair colour, tattoos - you'd be amazed how you can slip like that.

7) Get some A4 paper and after the first edits of each chapter, write out a quick set of notes on what is happening and any threads that need to go throughout the rest of the MS. UNDERLINE THREADS in red, so it makes easy reference, these threads might be symbols, objects, concepts etc. Don't write too much for each chapter; just a few lines 5-10.

8) Eradicate any non necessary words. Read sentence by sentence. Is every word needed? Can you SIMPLIFY and REORDER the sentence structure so it reads with more clarity and simplicity. This doesn't mean you should eradicate some of the longer, more poetic imagery or sentences, but use them sparingly to create the biggest impact; they're precious.

9) Check that DIALOGUE PUNCTUATION. If you're not sure then learn once and for all how punctuation works in dialogue clauses.

10) EDIT SOBER and fresh. As Hemmingway once reportedly said, 'Write drunk, edit sober'. To be honest, I try to do both sober now; it's less of a hangover in all senses. Of course when I embarked on my first novel it was the romance of the paperback writer, late nights into early mornings, bottles of red wine and glasses. Now, you're most likely to find me writing early in the morning with the fresh coffee, freshly showered and ready for 'work'. As a result, my writing is much cleaner (in all respects LOL) I now save the red-wine for the inspiration moments, the note-taking and the poetry first drafts :)

When all of this has been done, then it's time to find an editor who will be brutal and honest. If you've already been brutal and honest with yourself, then their lives will be easier and it will cost you less in all senses.
Remember, it is NOT your editor's job to take your drunken, inspired, creative outpourings and tidy them up into a novel that is readable and five-star worthy; they're there to edit, not re-write.
 Also, a small caveat, this post has not been edited, and so the errors in it go to serve my point LOL.


So, fellow writers, I'd love to know how you approach your edits? Drop your advice in the box. Feel free to disagree. Living and Learning.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Who owns your life story?


I've just had this meme flash up on my Facebook timeline and it got me thinking about something I have thought about a lot.

It's an interesting point, one for which I spent many MANY hours discussing as part of my Autobiography module on my MA Lit course; the idea that there is no absolute or fixed truth in personal history, just different perspectives, perceptions and responses to experiences, which all lead to a truth for each individual; which is still a truth even if we don't agree with it.

One of the reasons I have found this particular idea complex is because of my own personal history. At the age of thirteen my father suffered a full mental breakdown and the manifestation of serious bi-polar and personality disorders, which led to him being hospitalised on many occasions. Twenty years later he is better than he was, but he is still a very damaged and vulnerable man; and I guess on some level, all those who loved him are a little bit the same.

The meme suggests that those who might be badly portrayed should have behaved better, but so often other people's 'bad' or negative behaviour comes out of their own damage and suffering. Does this make them entirely responsible? I believe so but there are caveats. What about behaviours suffered due to addiction or abuse survival? What about behaviours conducted because of psychological illnesses? You see, it's a far more complicated issue than the meme suggests - as empowering as it is.

The experiences I lived, some of them truly horrific, at a formative time of my development, have of course influenced who I am both in my daily life and as an author. My own psychology clearly plays a part in my creative outputs.

For a long time, I didn't write anything 'public' about living with a parent with mental illness, not because I was ashamed, far from it, I believe we should all start talking about it more openly, but because although it was very much MY story, it was also the story that belonged to my father and my mother; as a result it has became the big elephant sitting on the writing desk.

How can something so significant to my own make-up be kept hidden? I've gone around in circles for years about my responsibility to share about my experiences in the hope that it might offer strength, inspiration, information and hope to other young people living with parents who don't quite fit the job description.

A few months back I wrote a short story for a Radio 4 completion titled 'Mad Dad', which was the first time I actually wrote autobiographically about this period in my life. Before submitting it, I spoke with my mother about her feelings on it. That conversation was too personal to share here, but the outcome was that I should go for it and submit it. It didn't get accepted, which I had prepared myself for as it was stated in the guidelines that they were looking for works that were lighter in their tone and I guess that mental health was a shade of darkness to far.

I have to say, that part of me is incredibly relieved. It would have been a big step to go so audibly public with such a personal story, and I'm not really sure how I would have felt hearing my world from the mouth of another. So 'Mad Dad' now sits in my trunk, waiting to be unpacked at another time in another place.

I know it isn't just me that has battled with this whole idea of life story ownership - there was a controversy over this idea of story and experience ownership in the novel, 'The Help', where those involved in the story believed that they had been exploited for financial gain; especially when the film rights were sold. Should everybody portrayed have received a cut of the money?

And on the other side of things, I guess it's interesting to think about how we might be represented if we were to be written into the autobiography of someone we knew - would we feel confident that they'd treat our behaviours, motivations and actions warmly?

Has anybody else struggled with this dilemma? I'd love to hear your stories and ideas.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Serial Killer: The Complexities of Writing Serials.

So about a eighteen months ago, I had the great idea that I'd write a seven book series. I mean, after all how hard can that be? I'd completed the Knight Trilogy, and woefully suffered the grief of ending a series that I'd lived and breathed for nearly five years. It was around a third of the way through book three of the trilogy, 'Star Fire' that I really began to regret calling it the Knight TRILOGY. Yes, I could have gone all Star Wars and ignored the fact that trilogy normally means 3, but not me - I like things in numeric order or else I fear the universe might implode.

So seven books, right? I mean the original plan was that I would bash out at least two of the series in the first year in 50,000 word sized novels and then maybe three in the next. I'd given up the day job after all - what could be the problem?

Well the problem is that the first book, 'Witchcraft' ended up being 120,000 words of carefully crafted, edited and rewritten novel - oh and it took almost a year to write. The second problem was that I fell far too in love with the characters and the world that I had built to let myself just 'bang it out' without much care.

The second book, 'Vengeance' has come in at 100,000 words, and I'm more in love than ever. Even if nobody else ever reads it, I have created a story and characters that I am pleased to spend my days living with.

Now I am in the last few thousand words of Book Two and for  some reason, those last 3,000 words are my nemesis. I mean, it's all planned - of course - but some strange, almost supernatural force is stopping me from getting on with the damned thing.

So I stopped. I realised the reason I couldn't end it was because I wasn't absolutely sure of the details of Book 3, and by that I don't really mean plot; that kind of has a way of working its way out, but I wasn't entirely sure of all my characters' motivations, emotions and relationships. I needed to see the characters as their future selves so I could fully craft their present.

During the 6 hour round train trip from London to Paris and back again, armed with a lot of notepaper, a half bottle of champagne and a handful of hope, I plotted out the character development of Book Three, which allowed me the clarity I needed to do re-writes in Book 2 - when I've done those (Hopefully in some crazy two week binge of inspiration and creativity), I will write the epilogue.

You see, I'm a stickler for narrative details, and even more so for character development (building people is hard, both as a parent and as an author)  - and more importantly when it comes to sticklers, so are readers. Inconsistencies between books in a series are jarring and highly irritating, especially if like me, you consume a series in the space of a few days (weeks at most). This of course flags up any kind of plot or character horror that may have somehow occurred during the annals of time that it took the author to write the epic saga. 

Approaching it by creating a beautiful chaotic map of all that might happen, and more importantly why it might happen, has flagged up some serious but entirely fixable issues in the earlier part of Book 2 and I am so pleased that I have worked through them now rather than have to face them in a tangled mess of strings half way through the writing of Book Three. (There's a lot to be said about writing the whole series before pressing the publish button - but seven years is a long time not to eat!)

So, to all of you serial writers out there, I'm really interested to see how you approach the writing of a serial. Do you grow organically from one book to another? Or, do you plot out the whole epic saga on the back of a napkin? Or are you one of those gifted individuals where everything is worked out when your asleep, coming through as lucid dreams?

Drop a comment in the box and share x



Tales From The Rookeries II: The Night of The Storm.

Hello, and welcome back to the series, Tales From The Rookeries. Today's dark little tale from The Rookeries; 'Hospital for the Insane and Morally Dissolute,' is called 'The Night of The Storm.' I guess you could call it a very twisted little love story.

To find out more about this blog series of 'Tales From the Rookeries' and the original series, 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' you can read the introductory post HERE. To read more stories in the series, there is a link menu in the sidebar.

Please note that these are flash fiction pieces, designed to be playful in style and genre. They have not undergone professional edit so feel free to add constructive criticism in the comments - always learning, always growing!
 
The Night of The Storm (1854)

 
It’s been raining all day and all night. The lower floor, which sits mostly underground, has bars at the high level openings that serve as windows. Once there was glass, but it was not long before the ingenuity that comes with solitary confinement caused that to become rather a fatal problem; solved easily by not replacing the windows when they became broken. Now, the barred openings lead out onto the woodland, allowing the rain to channel down the mulchy slopes and into the building, creating muddy puddles on the brick tiled floor of the cells. The lunatics appear to accept this fate, like most others; it is just another layer of misery upon the many folds of misery they already wear.

On return from my rounds, I ask the matron if there is anything that can be done. She is a woman of God and believes that such natural discomforts are fitting for creatures who have abandoned Him. When I ask if her God would abandoned his own children, she reprimands my insolence and dismisses me to my duties with the veiled threat of permanent dismissal and a dented reputation. In my situation, as a young woman with no family and no home, it may as well be a threat on my life.

Hoping for more compassion and action, I interrupt the good Doctor Carson to inform him about the situation; he offers me a face that suggests a level of concern but no actions that might solve the situation.
    “The problem is, my dear,” he replies, “we would have to move them, and there is nowhere to move them to.”
     He gives me a kindly smile and then returns his attention to his notes. After an incredibly long minute of silence as I wait for some kind of eureka moment, I take my leave, closing the door quietly behind me.

The stormy weather does something to the lunatics; it’s as if they are mirrors to the wildness of nature; its unstable and often cruel moods are reflected in their actions as if they are turning nature’s energy into some beautiful but confused choreography. I cannot imagine the primal horror they feel when the crack of thunder and lightning splits heaven open like a wound bleeding the wrath of some angry God.

I have promised Henry that I would return within the hour, when I have found a solution to his increasingly wretched position. Unlike most of the patients housed on the subterranean floor, he is lucid, even with the weather – almost too lucid, so that you might think for a moment that it is you who is mad and that it is he who is sane. He has this way with him – a cold calmness, even on the hottest of Summer days; it’s a trick of his madness; the same madness that allowed him to savagely murder seventeen people in one weekend of night-time park prowls and then return to his work as an eminent surgeon on the Monday.

 It was not the first killing spree he had committed; although he has told me he has very little recall of the actual events of the three previous times he had mutated from calm and efficient surgeon to savage and insatiable predator.

Nevertheless, of all the patients I have responsibility for, I like Henry the most. He is always polite, and he has a gently burning fire behind his eyes that suggests amusement; in a similar way that a god might look down on earth and find his creations somewhat ludicrous.

 As I walk my rounds with my leather nurses’ boots treading echoes in the halls, the cries of the sad and desperate join in melancholy chorus with the wind. I wonder if, like them, I will ever leave this place, or whether we are all doomed to spend our lives within its grey, unkindly walls.

With the lower floor flooding, the rats are spilling up the stairs, stalking their quiet shadows against the tiled skirting. There will soon be more cries of horror as they seek sanctuary within the cells and add more lace to the patients’ fears. The drafts have blown out many of the candles that usually offer some small, reassuring light, and now as I turn on my journey towards the care-taker’s office, I am entering a dark and shadowy world, lit only by the candle that I carry.   

A scream, far away and yet close, barrels through the corridors, causing the hairs on my neck to prickle and rise. I am used to cries of sadness, of woe, and of pain, but there is something about this scream that is different to the rest; in it is a perfect clarity of understanding; like waking one morning to see the face of Satan in place of your own. I stop in my tracks, waiting for it to end. It is some moments before it finally quiets, and then the silence is almost worse than the sound of the scream. I pick up my skirts and turn towards that awesome absence of noise; my soles tap quickly on the hard floor and my candle-light flickers with the threat of extinguishing at any moment. For a while, my thoughts of Henry are gone.

When I bump into Doctor Carson, also plucked from his own purpose by the sound of such a blood-curdling scream, I almost laugh with relief.
    “You heard it too, Elizabeth?”
I nod my head and bite down on my lip. I am hoping he is going to dismiss me to my duties and spare me the investigation that he is clearly about to undertake.
   “Come then, we had better see what awaits us,” he says, unable to hide the anxiety in his voice.

I follow in his steps. I am grateful that in this part of the building, there is no need for the candlelight as it is serviced by the gas lamps on the walls. I blow out my candle and when sure that the wick is cold enough, I stick it into one of the depths of my large apron pockets. On this dark night, I want to carry the light with me.

Now that there is nothing but the eerie yawning silence, it is hard to navigate our way, but Doctor Carson, through some kind of intuition, carries on, taking turn after turn until I can hardly believe that a scream could travel so far.

We arrive at the office of the Matron. My heartbeat trips over itself as I see the spray of blood across the glass of her office door.
    “Stay here,” Doctor Carson whispers.
I notice how a light sweat has broken out on his brow. He scans the corridor hoping to see reinforcements in the form of the male orderlies. He does not want to face the scene alone, even though he is no stranger to violence or blood.

He reaches out a tentative hand and pushes open the door. I read his face, searching for the narrative; it flickers with the crisis before resettling into some kind of blank calm.
   “Find help!” he says. I note how his voice has cracked between the words.
With morbid curiosity, I try to peer around his bulk to see inside, but he has positioned himself to ‘protect’ me.
From inside the room, I hear the death groans of the matron. He mistakes my hesitation for fear.
    “Quickly child, there may be a chance we can save her,” he says as he rushes to her side. Before the door swings shut, I see him pressing his hand to a wound that is pumping out blood like some kind of macabre fountain. She needs a surgeon.

I pick my skirts up with both my hands. Adrenalin and inspiration fuel my flight through the endless corridors and down the stairs past the rats and into the darkness. I have no time to stop and light a candle. It is not the light I need. As I reach the bottom of the stone steps, I barely notice that the hems of my skirts are damp with flood waters. I have a clear purpose. I feel in my pocket for my hoop of keys, searching out the key that I should not have but which I could not resist stealing. Maybe in my heart I had always known that one day I would free him.

I am calling out his name, as if to raise him from the dead.
    “Henry! Henry!”
My feet slosh through the water and I try not to think about the human waste and the disease that is churned up in it. By the time I arrive at Henry’s cell, the last one of the row, he is waiting for me. A look of saintly calm upon his face.
   “Elizabeth?” he asks.
He should not know my name and giving it to him was perhaps the very first turn of the key that would inevitably unlock him.
   “I need your help,” I plead.
He looks at me with eyes that tell me he has been waiting for this moment. They barely flicker with surprise. Every thought I have tells me that this is a wrong choice and yet every feeling I have confirms it is right.

I place the key in the lock and turn it, springing the locking mechanism. It is surprisingly easy, as if God is condoning my actions. A boom of thunder rattles the walls. Even in the short few minutes I have been back down here, the waters have risen, and with them, the cries of the patients. As much as I feel driven to save them, I know that leaving them here to drown is equally a kindly act.

For a moment, my hand rests on the handle of his cell as if I might have a change of heart. Henry waits. I open the door.
    “We need a surgeon,” I hurriedly explain, “and it will be at least half an hour before Mr. James can get here. It’s the Matron… someone has attacked her.”
    He nods. “It’s been a while,” he says almost apologetically.

It’s been three years almost to the day. I remember the very moment he arrived.

I lead him away from the cell, past the other patients who call for rescue too. I do not fear having my back to him – although I should. He seems in no hurry and I have to urge him on.
   “Quickly, please. She’s already half-dead.”
As soon as we are free from wading the flood waters, I trip up the stone step, hidden by the swirling waters. His hand strikes out to steady me.

When we arrive, Doctor Carson flinches before proclaiming,
   “My God, Elizabeth, what have you done?”
I do not answer. Henry is already assessing the Matron’s wounds and shaking his head. He says,
   “This is not good: the wound is too deep. The weapon has caught one of the main veins; I can tell from the spray of blood on the glass. There’s nothing to be done. It’s a priest you need, not a surgeon.”

Doctor Carson has his eye fixed on Henry in the way that venison fixes on a hunter.
   “Thank you, Henry,” Doctor Carson says gently. “Perhaps, Elizabeth could escort you back to your room if there is nothing to be done.”
   “I can try to stitch it,” he says, “but I don’t hold much hope.” Then almost as an aside he whispers, 
   “She’s dead anyway.”
The blood is still pumping out from between Doctor Carson’s fingers and then, just like lightning illuminates the sky, I see that the Matron is more to Doctor Carson than a colleague. He loves her.

Doctor Carson nods, giving his permission for Henry to do whatever he can. I feel the sensation of others at my back, and turn to see two of the male orderlies crashing through the door. They are about to take hold of Henry, but Doctor Carson raises a hand and they stop. Silence fills the room as Henry works. Despite the years of confinement, the rough treatment and the pain, I watch as his hands work like the hands of an artist. I cannot imagine those same hands ripping apart bodies like they claimed.

Eventually, the blood stops to a mere trickle, but I am not sure whether this is because Henry has been successful, or because the Matron is simply empty. Then, Henry sits back on his haunches, holding her wrist in search of a pulse. I am holding my breath as we wait, and it is only when I see Henry’s shoulders rise and fall with laughter that I breathe out.
    “I can still do it,” he says. “I still am.”

With the crisis over, Doctor Carson instructs me to call for Mr. James. We all know that the Matron is far from saved. There is an awkwardness in the room. All is out of joint. This man, the lunatic, has saved her life – for the present. He is more than a creature, more than a murderer, more than a lunatic, and nobody knows how to treat him.

Finally, Doctor Carson issues the instruction for the orderlies to return the patient to his room. I begin to protest. We all know that it isn’t a room, but a cell – and tonight, it is no more than a tomb.
    “But, Doctor, surely we can…”
    “Elizabeth, please hurry with word to Mr. James.”

I am just about to leave when the room erupts. From somewhere there is a terrible yawping roar and a flash of white cottons and flesh. I try to make out the scene, but there are so many bodies. Blood splatters the walls, and floors, and faces. There seems one body too many, and as I stand somewhere between terror and fascination, I see that it is not Henry that is the painting the room red, but another patient, Joe, who has been hiding in the Matron’s office watching his crime play out like a play. There is something sharp and glinting in his hand, but I am desperate for him not to see me and so I hide behind the door frame. Dread causes my legs to turn to sculptured stone. The rich copper smell of freshly slaughtered meat.

 All at once, I am being pulled along the corridor.
    “They’re all dead, Elizabeth,” Henry says with his hand in mine. “We have to go!”
    “All?” I ask, knowing that within the last few minutes, the beast in Henry has appeared. His hands are stained with blood and his face is jewelled with blood.

As we run, I know that no matter how deeply I love him, I am holding hands with a beast that will both love and destroy me.  


Monday, 30 March 2015

How to grow bookworms. My response to, "How do you get your children to read?"

It never takes long in new company for me to be labelled a bookworm, and my book obsession has manifested in our two daughters. Rossetti age 7 (In Year 2 of Primary) and Beatrix who is nearly 3.

Stock photo from morguefile.com
It is with a mix of both intense pride and a smidge of social embarrassment that they explode into  jumping whoops of exaltation at the mention of going to the bookshop before exclaiming loudly (and a tad over-dramatically) that they LOVE the bookshop!!!!!

In the three years of school gating (yes, I've made it a verb) and parent wine nights, my past life as a secondary school English teacher and my new life as a full time author and English GCSE / A-Level tutor, has repeatedly led to me being cornered and having the following desperate pleas whispered into my ear,

"How do you get your children to read?"
"How do you enforce the school reader without a meltdown?"
"How have you got your kids so interested in books?"
"Do you think my child needs a tutor to help them catch up? Do you tutor primary?"

It's at this point, I shuffle uncomfortably. You see, the image they have is that I sit with my children night after night, dutifully enforcing our 20minute recommended school reader before filling out the reading journal with detailed National Curriculum assessment speak. They imagine that my girls are subject to their own personal English tutor and therefore, no wonder they must be 'excelling' in their reading.

But all of those assumptions are rubbish; including the 'excelling' part - because after all how is it really measurable? (Despite incredibly complicated government matrixes that try to give the belief that it is.) The truth is, what I do to get and enforce my children to read is NOTHING.

In fact, we go for weeks and weeks and weeks without ever getting the school reader out of the school bag. The reading journal is filled in sporadically; perhaps an entry every three or so months: In fact we're still only on our second journal (when most others are on their fourth) and that's only because we lost one.

BUT THIS IS HOW WE HAVE NURTURED A LOVE OF BOOKS...
  1. We ignored the school's insistence on phonic decoding of sounds, and waited patiently for sight reading to flourish, knowing in our hearts that decoding is NOT reading. (There's a full blog post coming on this soon)

  2. We paid no attention to our daughter's reading level in Reception and Year 1 or Year 2 except to celebrate and encourage when she went up a level (because she'd been made to believe it mattered and we love a celebration in our house.)

  3. We reassured Rossetti repeatedly in her moments of tearful frustration that the reading would come and told her she mustn't force it. We told her to leave it and go and play for a while.

  4. We didn't over-correct her when she misread a word. We let her get to the end of the sentence and figure that out for herself; there was usually chocolate minstrels around or biscuits and hot-chocolate, because when you're starting to read, it takes a lot of energy.

  5. If she wanted to read her school reader and do a 'formal' reading session, we always made the time - even though I'd rather spoon out my own eyeballs.

  6. We take our children in to the bookshop at every opportunity - and when funds are tight, this means the FARA charity bookstore, where you can pick up a children's book for little more than a bar of chocolate or a soft drink. There's also the amazing facility of the library - but there is something about the total possession of a book that makes it even more special, especially if you want them to access their own home library on a whim.

  7.  We allow them to choose free reign in the children's section, without interference, any book they take a fancy to, whether that is fiction, non-fiction, comic books, or in Rossetti's case, a science book. (The girl is crazy about science and apparently unicorns are "scientifically improbable!" - a hard thing for a fairy tale writing mummy to accept. )

  8. We constantly challenge comments about gendered books and give sadly required 'permission' for my daughters to select what they want to read rather than what they believe they 'should'.

  9. We provide huge book baskets for their rooms, which sit alongside their toy box - and when they get full, we get another. There is no notion of 'Too Many Books'.

  10. We fill our days with telling stories, writing them, and drawing them. We watch films and T.V and talk about characters, and allegory, and symbolism. We snigger naughtily at rude words and high five 'big' words - we value the idea of stories and why we need them in all forms.

  11. Our home is full of books and they see us reading in bed, on the bus, in the park, in the cafe - it's just what we do. It's now just what they do. How do you expect your child to see the value of reading when you don't model it yourself?
Rossetti is not the 'best' reader in her class, in that she has not yet attained her longed for goal of being a FREE READER, like some of the other kids. But at home A FREE READER is exactly what she and her sister are - and what they've always been.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Tales from The Rookeries Asylum I - New Nurse

Welcome to the first posting of  Tales from The Asylum, a blog #FlashFiction project of short stories, all less than 2000 words (a 5-10max read). The stories are inspired by location of The Rookeries Asylum, which features in The Meadowsweet Chronicles. I hope you enjoy this short little read. It's called 'New Nurse'. Don't forget to sign up to the blog for updates on the stories to follow. You can read about this blog project in the introductory post, and you can find in the right sidebar a live-link table to other stories in the series as they appear.

Tales from The Asylum I: New Nurse
(1951)

The bus dropped me off in the village of Heargton. The Asylum, I had been told, was just a short ten minute walk through the village on the East Road. The Matron had neglected to inform me that the way would be little more than a mud track through a creepy wood. I looked down at my once pristine white nurses’ shoes and sighed. Mud-spattered was not the first impression I had intended to make. I hoped she would put it down to youthful ignorance rather than carelessness.

My mother had cried when I’d left for my first day in my new job. She’d had noble and romantic notions of me being a modern day Florence Nightingale; falling for some heroic soldier who I helped heal in both body and soul, not spending my days tending to the violent and criminally insane.

I shivered with the quiet fear that was unravelling in my stomach. The wind wound its way through the trunks of the tall Scots Pines creating an eerie, mournful moan. As I walked, it became a chorus of other pitiful cries – those of human relics. I looked at my watch, knowing exactly what time it was. I had planned my journey meticulously. But there was something in the shadowy gloom that made me question momentarily if I hadn’t somehow been tricked. It read two p.m.

The Rookeries grew from some haunted looking dolls’ house into a Victorian redbrick monstrosity. Gothic revival in style, the whole thing was decorated like an over the top wedding cake, as if somehow they could hide the ugliness incarcerated within from the outside world. I wasn’t fooled. There was something sinister about the florid stone floristry – as if it might contain a hundred deadly vipers.

I rang the bell and waited. I didn’t have to wait for long. It was opened by a squat woman with a sour mouth. Her eyes coldly and slowly appraised me from head to toe. Her lips twisted at the sight of my shoes. There was something in her look that made me feel naked, as if I were little more than meat on a butcher’s counter.
   “You’re late,” she said by way of welcome.
I glanced down at my watch. It was three minutes past two.
   “I’m sorry,” I said doing my best to hide my irritation with a look of contrition.
   “Well, you’d better come in. Doctor Mappin is waiting for you,” she said, turning her back on me and leading me into the cave-like hallway.

I scanned the room, taking in the heavy oak furniture and black and white tiles. It looked like the hallway of a country house, rather than an asylum, although I was soon to learn that like everything else I had seen of the place so far, it was a front to the inner horror.

A scream came from somewhere deep inside the hospital and startled me. As if the nurse had eyes in the back of her head, she said,
  “You get used to the noises after a time.” She led me up the sweeping staircase and along a corridor of glass windowed offices. Some of them had a row of sorry little metal chairs outside, which I guessed were for waiting relatives. I was instructed to take one of them outside an office which had the title of MATRON painted in gold on its window. The nurse walked further down the corridor before knocking on what I presumed must be the office of Doctor Mappin. ‘Strange’ I thought, that I should not have been asked to sit on one of the chairs outside of his office.

*

“The girl has finally arrived.”
Doctor Mappin peered over his papers. His half-moon glasses glinted in the afternoon grey winter light.  
   “Good, good.” He nodded.
Nurse Mary waited for the doctor to enquire more, but his attention was clearly drawn to whatever reading material he was holding.
   “She seems quite perfect. I’m sure that she will meet his specific requirements,” Mary said, trying to engage the doctor.
He flicked her a look, and Mary thought she saw the slightest shudder run through his shoulders. Doctor Mappin was essentially a good man, although The Rookeries Asylum was a world within a world in which the usual laws of good and bad were somewhat skewed. He was certainly, of the four doctors that worked here, the best of them. Mary had heard the rumours amongst the patients and other nurses; she’d walked past the locked rooms. No signs instructed, ‘No Entry’ but the keys could never be found.
   “Quite,” he said dismissively, although Mary knew that it was not disinterest but an unwillingness to be too deeply involved in the dark matter.
   “So shall I call her in?”
   “No. Take her straight down to him.”
Mary’s forehead crumpled. “But won’t she find that… strange, doctor?”
  “I really think that is the least of her problems, don’t you?”
Mary nodded and padded silently out of the room.

She smiled at the girl, whose name escaped her. It didn’t matter. In some ways it was better for her not to know. The Matron would take care of contacting her parents; informing them that she hadn’t turned up for her appointment and that her job offer had been withdrawn. They might contact the police and trace her steps as far as the bus station but that would be it. The Rookeries was owned and protected very powerful people.


*

The nurse came out of the office and smiled at me. It was the first time she had smiled since we’d met. I preferred her scowl; there was something over sweet about her smile, as if her teeth were fashioned of sugar cubes. She apologised on behalf of the doctor, who was ‘very busy’ and had requested that she show me around. She informed me that I was to work primarily with one of their patients; the son of a very wealthy family, although he was not, as he would no doubt claim in his conversations, a prince.
  “No, no, no – imagine the scandal!” she exclaimed in such a way that I immediately suspected that the man may be a prince. “The poor man suffers from delusions of grandeur – he’s very convincing.”

I nodded sagely, hoping that my inexperience and excited curiosity was not too obvious. “Why is he here?”
She flinched, and I wondered what horrible malady the man must suffer to make even an experienced psychiatric nurse recoil.
   “He has…” she struggled with her words, clearly not wanting to tell me and yet feeling compelled to answer a question she’d been asked. “Perhaps it would be an interesting exercise to see what your own assessment is after you meet him.”
Excitement flared. “But he’s,” I cleared my throat, “he’s safe for me to work with, yes?”
   “Aubery is a perfect gentleman,” she reassured.

She pushed open the door and we stepped into the twisted soul of the building. It was a soul made of iron bars, soiled stiff calico and tears – some silent, some screaming. I couldn’t help but look in at the wretched creatures held in their cells. Regardless of their crimes, there was something inhumane and cruel about their plight. My presence caused a ripple of eerie catcalls and outpourings of desperation. As if sensing my horror, the nurse explained,
   “This ward is for the most criminally insane. They are here because their crimes are so awful that Satan himself would have reservations over allowing them in to Hell. Don’t let them move you to pity. If you knew their stories, you’d feel entirely different. Female nurses never work in here. Only the Matron and I are allowed access so that we might tend to Aubery.”

My instincts started a quiet warning. Questions whispered in my mind. Why was I ‘allowed’ here? ‘Why was Aubery so close to such monsters if he wasn’t a monster too?’ My nerves jangled and I felt small the small prickle of sweat on my palms.

At last, we reached the end of the corridor and the nurse rummaged her chatelaine of keys before inserting a large metal key into the lock of the barred door. One through, she locked it behind her, adding to my mounting paranoia. Here, the corridor was flanked either side with wooden doors that were still clearly cells but which offered more privacy than the ones in the previous section. She guided me down to the end and I wondered how often I would have to make this journey before it became part of normal. Here there was silence behind the doors, and I wondered if in fact they were inhabited at all. I wasn’t sure what was worse – to be locked away surrounded by the cries of the tormented mad, or to be cocooned in silence.

The nurse knocked on the door and I was surprised to see that on invite she simply turned the handle and entered: the patient apparently free to enter and leave his room as he pleased.
   “Mary,” he greeted with a voice like a velvet ribbon. “How nice of you to call.”
I smiled inwardly. At last I knew the nurse’s name, and she had been right about his gentlemanly sense of delusion. I stepped into the room behind her and saw how it was far more like an apartment than the cold brick cells I had seen on my journey so far. There were heavy velvet drapes at the barred window, which even at this time of the day, were drawn against the sombre afternoon light. The man, who was unnervingly handsome, was reclined on a threadbare chaise and dressed as if he had raided the clothes rail of the local amateur dramatics society.

Mary turned to me, beckoning me forward and I saw his eyes swivel towards me, giving the unnerving impression of a lizard. He smiled approvingly, and it seemed simple good manners to hold my hand out in greeting, even though it was the very last thing that nursing protocol demanded. I sensed Mary moving towards the door and looked to her for clarification as to what it was I was meant to be doing.

She was already half way out – her body slinking through the closing gap of the door.
   “Enjoy your meal, Aubery,” she said as the door clicked behind her.
I looked to the man and saw him smile. We had not brought a tray of food with us and as I scanned the room, I could see no other lunch set out. I backed towards the door, not taking my eyes off the man on the chaise. His impossibly pointed teeth bit down onto the cushion of his lips, and a flare of hunger flashed through his eyes.
   “Come, little lamb,” he crooned, swinging his legs off the chaise and patting the seat next to him. “Let me tell you a story before I dine.”

The realisation of my fate struck me so hard that I felt physically winded. I tried the door handle, but it simply rattled in my hand, stubbornly refusing to turn. I pummelled the door with my fists until they burned, crying out for Mary – but Mary was gone, and with her, all my hope.

Tales from the Asylum. A collection of short stories exclusive to the blog.

For those of you who have read 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' you will be aware of a sinister little building tucked away deep in Raven's Wood, called 'The Rookeries'.

Built by the wealthy and powerful Ravenheart family as a hospital for the local village of Heargton, it caught mysteriously alight just a few years after its completion in 1879. Rebuilt, it became an 'Institution For the Criminal Insane and the Morally Dissolute; housing highly dangerous criminals in the basement floors, the wretched figures of the mentally ill and deranged on the lower floors, and a maternity suite on the top floor.

Through ages of cutting edge experimental psychiatric medical and psychological experimentation, 'The Rookeries' became stained with the sadness and sorrow of many souls. The Rookeries, a literal Hell on Earth, was made worse by the evil and wickedness of the doctors and staff, who turned a blind eye, or actively indulged, in strange paranormal practices that unleashed dark and evil forces within its many walls.

Now, in the twenty first century, it is said that the ghostly cries of the patients can still be heard winding through the skeletal pine-trees, despite The Rookeries being nothing more than a ruinous ramble of rooms and long forgotten relics.

Today sees the very first post in a series of short stories (each no more than 2,000 words and taking no longer than 5-10minutes to read) based on tales from The Rookeries Asylum of Heargton. They are #FlashFiction pieces; experimental outpourings of creativity that might one day, in one form or another find themselves woven into the Meadowsweet Chronicles, but more than likely wont.

Today's tale is called 'New Nurse' and you can read it here.

If dark and suspenseful horror is your thing, then hopefully you will enjoy this little series. Don't forget to drop a comment in the box and sign up to the blog so you don't miss out on any of the series.


You can find out more about the Meadowsweet Chronicles at the official website www.katiemjohn.com

Friday, 27 March 2015

My Hope For You Is, Love.















For my daughters, Rossetti & Beatrix


My hope for you is, love.

Love, which when your hold your arms out wide,

Cannot be contained between two palms,

But which can be pressed between two hands.

Love, which when you look to the sky,

Cannot be seen in the clouds,

But which is the air of each breath you breathe.

Love, which when you watch them sleeping,

Cannot be blind to the imperfections,

But sees in them perfection.


Copyright 2015 Katie M John. www.katiemjohn.com All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Help! Everybody Is Doing Better Than Me! #Authorchat

You know those days - you're trying desperately to focus down on your WIP, the deadline is looming, it's the next book in the series and you've been trying to crack on with it, but you find yourself constantly heading over to Facebook and Twitter, where you're assaulted with all the brilliance of your author friends.

You're pleased for them, genuinely you are, but it makes you question yourself even more. You look longingly at their Facebook posts; citing new glittering 5 star reviews, becoming finalists in The Best Indie Book on The Planet; there are pictures of them at signings and conventions, and in the local press, and you....

...well you feel like you're treading through mud. You've worked just as hard, just as smart. You've done everything that every writing and publishing blog has told you to do - but the sales are quiet, the reviewers all see completely buried under TBR piles and, worse of all, you're plagued by thoughts of quitting.

Well don't - don't ever give up, because 90%* of success is down to sheer bloody mindedness.

TOP 7 TIPS FOR BREAKING THE CYCLE OF GLOOM - (because 5 wasn't enough and it's not as complicated as 10!)

1. STALK (clearly in a non threatening or creepy way) your author buddies by visiting ALL of their social media platforms; maybe they are doing something that you aren't - it's easy to be standing so close to the trees that you fail to see the forest. Maybe you're missing something really obvious - like not properly engaging with your readers. (Make notes! I'm serious, this is like homework.)

2. REVAMP your blog, your website - create a logo, update your bio: remember you are a professional and maybe your 'tiredness' is being reflected in the state of your social media platforms. Who wants to visit and engage in a blog that hasn't been updated in a month, or a website where everything seems so static?

3. PLAN; make it pretty and use coloured pens. It doesn't matter if you never look at it again, but it will help you focus on your end goals and remind you of all that marketing stuff you already know but aren't putting into practice.

4. RECONNECT with your fan-base, your author community, your FB page followers. It can be really difficult when your esteem is low to keep a public face. Many of my author buddies are introverts - myself included, and one of the recurring patterns I see is a negative self-fulfilling cycle of disconnection. Because we feel that we aren't as shiny and glittery as our fellow authors, we retreat.

5. ADMIT it, you know there are flaws in some aspect of your publications; it maybe the blurb, cover, ending, you've never quite been happy with. Change it. Simples!

6. GIVE to others and the karmic nature of the universe will come full circle. If you don't feel that you have much to shout about your own work, then showcase and spotlight your buddies. Cheerlead and support them. Become a totally engaged member of the author community and watch as the love is returned.

7. WRITE your WIP. A lot of the most successful indie writers out there are doing so well because they have momentum. By writing a lot, and getting more publications out there, they've got more to talk about, there's more energy, more excitement for potential readers to engage with. It keeps their marketing profile fresh and energised. It also keeps readers invested.

Now these tips are not coming from some kind of sanctimonious self-appointed expertise, (heck, I've even made some of the stats* up) but they come from my own broken ego. It's hard, and the longer you've been doing it, the harder it becomes in some way. It can be hard to maintain the youthful optimism of when you started out, and things are getting tougher.

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love it if you shared your own tips for pulling yourself out of the inadequacy doldrums. Let's connect and engage :) x

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Spotlight on Alison Clarke: Author of 'The Sisterhood'

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Alison Clarke and her Midgrade / YA novel, 'Sisterhood'. I had the privilege of working as part of Alison's editorial team at Little Bird Publishing House and I wanted to tell you why I think this book is so special.

'The Sisterhood' is an epic style fantasy, designed for younger teens. It's not this in itself that makes it special, but it's the beautifully unique take that Alison has taken on such an established and institutional genre.

I love fantasy, I always have - anything with dragons and fae is my thing. What I love about Alison's novel is how she challenges so many of the long established norms. Oppie is not only a great role model in that she is a girl with a big heart and a lot of courage, but she is also from a cultural and ethnic background that is sadly under-represented in the fantasy genre. The whole story, as the title suggests, is about the importance and power of female friendships regardless of age, colour or ethnicity, a message conveyed by the fabulous range of different mythical creatures who come together to overthrow a fearsome oppressive force.

This book is a beautiful read because if offers such optimism. Through the use of established and newly invented myth structures, Alison manages to tell a tale that is both inspiring and thought provoking.

"It is exactly the kind of book that deserves to be read snuggled up in bed with our daughters at bedtime."


Oppie and Aurie (Oppie's best friend who happens to be a dragon) are a beautiful example of true friendship. Their quest to over throw evil is a powerful metaphor for the darkness that our daughters face in the modern world.

It is available on all eBook platforms and also in paperback.

Kindle and Paperback links
U.K Amazon link http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00SCJPSSU
U.S. Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SCJPSSU

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Cover Reveal & Giveaway


COVER REVEAL




ABOUT THE MEADOWSWEET CHRONICLES

The Meadowsweet Chronicles is planned to be seven book series (insert nervous giggle here) although it might end up being more. I wanted to write about the things that I love; folklore, ghosts, witches and all kinds of paranormal activity. By planning a seven book series, it allowed for the scope needed to mash up all those important influences; from 1970’s classic occult films and novels like ‘The Wicca Man’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and Herbet’s ‘The Cottage’, to a childhood full of Scooby Doo and later a teenage obsession with the whole American Gothic – one I am pleased to say I have not outgrown.

In this way, The Meadowsweet Chronicles is a complete homage to all I love about the horror genre. Primarily set in a small sleepy English village and centring around two warring covens, (The Meadowsweets and The Ravenhearts), the arrival of the quintessential American heartthrob and naughty New York party boy brings a delicious opportunity to mix up English country folklore and fairytales with the good old American horror vibe.

It’s an ambitious task, which is why each book is probably topping the 100,000 word mark, making them ‘truly’ epic in scale – but despite originally planning for each one to be around half that size and written in half the time, the weaving of such respected folklore and genre tropes has taken a lot more wordage than originally anticipated.

The series sits somewhere between Young Adult and New Adult. The youngest character in the book is sixteen, but most of the characters are at that really complex age of eighteen and nineteen, when they have fully emerged from childhood but not quite into adulthood. There is a strong undertone of romance running through the books, because primarily that is what adult human relationships are about – trying to find a connection with somebody. In each of their own ways, the characters of the series are searching for this connection.


BETA readers are currently requested for 'Vengeance' - Special BETA reader present / swag packs will be gifted for book lovers who are prepared to read and comment (as well as pick out type-errors and other horrors missed by the editor) I am looking for 10 BETA readers who will each receive an eBook edition of Book One 'Witchcraft' beforehand. International.
 
 
GIVEAWAY

For a chance to win 1 of 5 beautiful handmade, Tibetan silver and semi-precious stone bookmarks and signed postcards, all you have to do is copy and paste the following Tweet on to your twitter timeline.

Giveaway & Cover Reveal  'Vengeance' (#2 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles) Katie M John @Knight Trilogy www.katiemjohn.blogspot.com #YA #giveaway

(International - snail mail - winners picked at random next week and notified via Twitter and in comment box here)

(Added 23/03/2015) BTW - if you don't have a Twitter account, and would still like a chance to get your hands on one, then drop a comment in the comment box below.