Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Author of YA Fairy Tales, Horror & Paranormal Romance

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

DON'T FEEL LEFT OUT, CHAPS!

UK FOLLOWERS - YOU'RE ALL INVITED TO A VIRTUAL UtopYA and SWAG GRAB.

So my lovely British followers - as you will have seen from the blog, it's all been a bit UtopYA Nashville crazy. I make some apologies for this, but I guess it is the biggest, scariest, most exciting thing I have done in my author career so far, so please forgive me. In order to say THANK YOU for putting up with my kid-before-Christmas excitement, I am putting together something very special for you chaps.

I have been speaking with some of my fellow exhibitors at UtopYA and asked if they would be willing to take part in a virtual UK UtopYA tour on my blog during the UtopYA week and the week following. As part of this, they are donating the most AMAZING swag; paperbacks galore, bookmarks, signed postcards and many, many more goodies.

Originally I had planned on putting a single UtopYA box together, but due to the generosity of these wonderful authors, there is probably going to be enough for three pick and mix, lucky-dip boxes.
Currently they are still signing up, but as soon as I have more details I will set up the rafflecopter giveaway form and let you know.

So in the meantime, head to the right of this post and seek out the 'JOIN' button and press it. That way, you're sure to get all the updates.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Fellow UtopYA authors

I'm wanting to run a small-scale virtual con for the folks back in the UK on my author blog during the UtopYA con and the week following. I'm looking for between 5-10 authors who would like to have a virtual stand on my blog (A spotlight of their book, a little bio and a link to their sales platform) As part of this I'm planning on doing a giveaway of UtopYA swag box, which I can gather whilst I'm there, bring back to Blighty and post on from here - if possible, I'd also like to feature a selfie too smile emoticon
To make it easy and to keep track, I've created a google.doc form http://goo.gl/forms/9HR27WZXon


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Vengeance is coming...

The second book of the Meadowsweet Chronicles, 'Vengeance' is out Thursday 29th May! And it is now on Pre-order at Amazon worldwide.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XW7BEUI You can read a little more about it later on in this post.

In celebration of the release of Book 2, Here is a coupon for a FREE eBook copy of  Book One in the series, called 'Witchcraft'  - all you have to do is go to Smashwords at this link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/500895 and click the buy button. Here is the coupon code YX85B which is valid until 31st May 2015.

About 'Vengeance':

A Tale of Modern Witchcraft, 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' is an epic seven book series that blends English and American folklore.

As the Meadowsweet sisters prepare to say their final goodbye to their sister, Swan, Jeremiah Chase is left with only ghosts for company. Grappling to come to terms with the curse of his bloodline, and his feelings for Fox Meadowsweet, Jeremiah is near broken.
Then, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to make a terrible choice - one soul for
another.

With the Heargton covens officially at war, and a Witch Hunter waiting to destroy them all, it is only a matter of time before the power of darkness is invoked. Only darkness often comes in disguise: a handsome, beautiful disguise.
 


The Meadowsweet Chronicles is a contemporary YA / NA cross-over (although it follows the clean rules of YA) and is a mash-up of English, American (and Worldwide) witch-lore and folk-lore.

 Planned as a seven book series (but might be more) The Meadowsweet Chronicles is thrilling, intense play with tropes and genres found in traditional horror and ghost stories. From lunatic asylums, to spooky country houses, to ghosts & demons, from English Pagan rites, to modern day Salem, 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles is dark and fun read - with a good dash of romantic complications thrown in.


Monday, 18 May 2015

FREE BLOGGERS' GIFTBAG - UtopYA

In my world, Book bloggers are up there with air, food and water - the indie book world just wouldn't happen without them.

I can still remember exactly the first three bloggers who helped me out in the early days of my writing career. They were book bloggers who found the time and space to support my humble offerings - in a time when indie writing wasn't as widely accepted as it is now. They are Megan at Reading Away The Days (@TeamWolf1988), Kathy at I Am a Reader  (@toobusyreading) and Rachel at Fiktshun  (@Fiktshun)

Over the last five years, there have been many more fabulous, hardworking book bloggers who have extended a hand and helped spread the word about my works. Writing and maintaining a book blog is a time consuming job but it's one that as both a reader and a writer, I appreciate.

I've heard there are a lot of book bloggers who attend UtopYA and I think it is as good a time as any to show some blogger appreciation. So if you are a book blogger and would like one of the special Bloggers Only gift bags putting by for you, then scroll through the pre-order form and tick the box. Included in the very special Bloggers Only gift bag, handmade from pages of The Forest of Adventures,  is:

Handmade felt flower corsage with beadwork that proudly spells out 'Blogger'
Signed postcard of The Knight Trilogy
Tibetan Silver & semi-precious stone bookmark
A Wishing Stone
A handmade and signed collage bookmark
Cadbury's chocolate

There's no obligation to purchase anything. I just need you to fill in the form so I can make enough gift bags and so that I have your name so I can label it up and have it waiting for you.

I am really looking forward to meeting you at UtopYA so stop by, say "Hi!", grab some Cadbury's chocolate and your goodie bag.

Kate x

 UtopYA Pre-order form. Tick the bloggers section to reserve your gift bag.



UtopYA update: 1 month to go


COVER MAKEOVERS

The idea a few months ago was to write several posts counting down to UtopYA and the preparations involved - well, that became an #epicfail due to the fact that I have been SO busy prepping for UtopYA that I've barely had time to eat and sleep, not alone write countdown posts LOL.

However, it is with a huge sigh of relief that I am now in a position I can update you - and the reason for that is, I have completed my completely bat-shit-crazy project of recovering and resizing ALL my books!

YES, this seemed like a great idea four weeks ago. Well if you're going to do something completely impulsive then I always find it a good idea to leave it until it's right near the deadline - not!

However, UtopYA has really forced me to look at my books (and brand) with fresh, new and excited eyes. There are going to be a LOT of very beautiful books by very talented authors at UtopYA - and I'd love to be a position where I feel proud to stand alongside them.

So here are my beautiful book babies, all ready in their gorgeous matt wrap-around covers, and in 5x8 format.

And now that is done, it's time to get all creative with the glue-gun and sparkles - I'm intending on spoiling all my lovely supporters, readers and bloggers rotten.

There are EXTRA SPECIAL gift bags for all those lovely UtopYA attendees who pre-order using the pre-order form below (You don't have to pay now, you can pay on the day) but it really helps me plan the number of books, and coming all the way from London, I'm undertaking serious packing logistics.



Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Demons that come in the night: My true-life experiences of sleep hauntings.

Today's blog post is a little different, it is inspired by the situation of my final read through of Book 2 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles, and the reading of a scene which is actually based on  my very real experiences of Sleep Paralysis (Sleep Haunting)

They are experiences that have truly led me to question my understanding of the scientific world. They have led me to question my own belief that demons don't actually exist - because part of me thinks maybe they do. Don't believe in such nonsense, then read on and see if I can change your mind.

The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli 1781 - a painting that
conveys my experiences with unnerving similarity.
I know so many of my posts on here are fictional works, but not this one. This is the account of three very real events in my life, which I hope by sharing may bring comfort to some that they are not alone, and for others, offer some curiosity.

BACKGROUND.

My mother had always told me that she dreamed differently to other people; she would recount tales of waking in the night to look out of her window across the familiar landscape outside her window. She'd feel a sense of calm and wonder, and then something curious and beautiful would catch her eye - she'd turn around to tell my father of it, and discover that her body was still in bed alongside him- sleeping. She would walk up to herself and watch for a while - knowing she was neither asleep or awake, but somehow she had slipped through the dimensions of consciousness into some in-between place. On other nights, she would 'float' through the house, happily.

She informed me she had looked it up on the internet, and discovered after all these years that she has Sleep Paralysis, but she wasn't worried because she liked the episodes, there was something restful about them, and she'd always had them.

This always bemused me, you see I rarely recall my dreams. In fact I'm not sure I dream at all - mostly. I can probably recall the only five dreams I can ever remember having. When I put the sleep monitoring app on my phone, I discovered I hit 'deep' sleep - as in right at the bottom of the scale - within several minutes of getting into bed, and I pretty much stay there, down at the bottom like a river trout, pretty much flat-lining until the alarm wakes me.

This is much to the annoyance of my light sleeping husband, who has undertaken years of milk runs to the babies.

But when I was pregnant with my first child, the most horrendous event happened, one which still haunts me to this day. To call it a dream - even a nightmare, is an inadequate name for what happened.

Understand that in my daily life I am a great pragmatist - I am an evolutionist, I am a curious atheist who calls themselves a Christian because I believe that the values of Christ were a good model to pin my humanity on. I have an amateur interest in science, and in another life, I would love to have studied Quantum Physics. I have an understanding of human psychology and transference and trauma responses. I am a lazy fair-weather follower of Plato - I value reason, science and rationalisation - and yet...

In all three incidences of what they call Sleep Paralysis, I can not fully accept that I wasn't truly visited by a demon.

The impact of these three events over my life have been unsettling to say the least. They are truly the material of a terrifying psychological horror film - indeed, when I watched the film 'Insidious' I could not shake the frightening level of shared experience and understanding it conveyed.

What is really fascinating about this type of Sleep Paralysis is that when you go onto the worldwide forums, regardless of apparent cultural influences, there are startling similarities in people's experiences. In some cases, the accounts state exactly the same words being spoken, and physical properties of the manifestation. Strange don't you think?


EPISODE 1.

I was eight months pregnant. I had not been sleeping as well (a new experience)  and I became aware of being awake - but not yet with eyes open. I felt  a presence at the side of my bed - bodily warmth, some living being - and then large firm hands pushing in from the side between the mattress and my back. They were firm hands, real hands - man's hands. I opened my eyes and saw my husband sleeping soundly beside me. I daren't look around to face my assailant.

All at once I was lifted into the air by incredibly strong arms, the cold winter air rushing in under my back. My husband becoming further away. I neared the ceiling. I began to cry out - but no sound would come out. I was turned ninety degrees and then hurled with full force towards the far wall of our bedroom - I braced myself, wrapping my arms around my baby bump - knowing that when the contact was made with the wall, the baby would be harmed.

I didn't make the wall - I landed in a crumpled heap at the end of the bed - limbs, hair and tears in one big knot.

I tried to orientate myself and pull myself back up the bed - only there was somebody asleep in my space. I rocked back on my heels and watched myself asleep in bed.

In that moment, I had no idea how I was ever going to get 'back inside' my own body. Sensing my disturbance the hubby called out my name, and I opened my eyes to be suffering a near panic attack - tears streaming down my face.

For days afterwards, I was dazed by the event. It was no different in my head to having been violently assaulted in reality.

Six years passed and thankfully, there were no other incidences. I put it down to hormones and latent fears etc.

EPISODE 2

We were staying in an old fisherman's cottage. The bed was aligned with the door so I could see right down the hallway from my pillow. Our daughter was two years old and in the room at the bottom of the hall. I woke in the night, thinking I had been disturbed by our daughter. I lay there, completely awake, watching the hallway, convinced that there was somebody standing in the night gloom but not able to actually make out a full form. I sensed a female presence.

I shivered. It was freezing cold, but it was February and the house was old. I sensed a grey movement. I started to worry. I went to get out of bed and couldn't - I was too heavy, as if made of lead. I turned to my husband. A horrible pressure filled the room, like when it's about to break a thunder storm.

My chest began to tighten and I couldn't breathe. It was as if my lungs had simply decided to give up working.

Then she manifested. This old crone dressed in black. She pressed her hand down onto my chest, squeezing the air out of my chest. Laughing.

In her other hand, she held a gleaming syringe, which I knew contained a heart-stopping poison. The weight on my chest was crushing, and I felt my self go dizzy, and then the tip of the syringe pricked my heart space and I woke screaming and sobbing.

EPISODE 3

About six months ago (and no, I wasn't pregnant) I found myself waking in the night. My eyes were open (of that I was convinced) Our bedroom was exactly as it is. I was awake. I cursed, thinking how irritating it was to wake in the night and feel 'perky'. I was just about to swing my legs out of bed when I discovered that I couldn't.

Quickly I discovered that despite being awake, I was entirely paralysed. My heart rate burst into a rapid staccato. I tried desperately to move my fingers. I began to panic, thinking that maybe I had had a terrible stroke in my sleep. I slid my eyes to see the hubby asleep.

A terrible pressure started to mount in my chest. Something had entered the room. Something dark  - something seriously malevolent - something that wanted me to die. I tried to call out my hubby's name, but my voice just wouldn't work, I couldn't even croak.

I knew that from the corner of the room, that something was watching me.

I began to feel tears sliding down my cheek. I knew it was approaching me.

I screamed silently - begging the hubby to hear me, desperate to move my hand to alert him.

Then all at once, there was something by the side of my bed. I can not express in words the sense of dread I felt. I honestly believed my heart was going to stop.

Slowly, I slid my eyes to the left (I sleep on the left) and there was a form, a mass of white face and blood red lips, of dark black eyes, but deformed, just as if an oil-painter had streaked their fingers through a portrait whilst the oils were still wet.

It was only a momentary glance, but I knew she, for I was certain it was a woman, was truly a demon from some other world. There was a great whooshing sound as she flew up over my body and disappeared.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief - began to feel the movement in  my fingers return. Then from the corner of the room came a voice - a voice not human - a voice not of the real world, but something earthly, elemental, primitive. It travelled from the shadows towards me.

"I'M. RIGHT. HERE!" it growled.

I shot upright in bed, soaked in sweat - realising that I had not been awake at all - but I hadn't been asleep either.

I had been trapped between two worlds.

I woke the next morning, feeling literally traumatised. The sound of the voice, the words 'it' had spoken refused to leave. It was like they had stained me - they have ever since.








Wednesday, 13 May 2015

UtopYA Update: Pre-order books for Swag & Gift Bags

UtopYA update. I can't believe it is only just over a month to go until I'm heading on a plane with my lovely hubby and bro-in-law to head over to Nashville for the UtopYA readers and authors convention.

As well as being bonkers busy finalising the publication of Book 2 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles in time for its release (to coincide with UtopYA) I am literally drowning in glue-sticks, sequins, beads and other gorgeous craft stuff, putting together swag and gift bags.

Obviously, when I signed up for this crazy cat idea, I hadn't really considered the logistics (blame it on my arty-side of the brain) and so it is going to be a tour de force of planning and packing.

I am only cramming a certain amount of books between our three suitcases, so to be sure of securing your signed paperback editions at special UtopYA prices and your thank you goodie bags crammed full of swag then please fill in the pre-order form below.

Your beautiful be-ribboned pink paper tote will be all stuffed, labelled and ready for collection on the day.

I have put together some VERY special UtopYA bundle and gift packages, which include wrap bracelets, watches, handmade collaged bookmarks, bead book charms and a whole host of other gorgeous swag goodies.

Ideally, to make life a lot easier, I'd kindly ask you to pay via PayPal on pre-order, but if you'd rather bring cash on the day that's cool. If you've got cell phone access, you can do a PayPal transfer on the day, but I'm not guaranteeing that will definitely work.

See you there!


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Heads Up - Little Bird Bookstore $0.99 May Sale titles

Each month, my lovely publisher, Little Bird Books (Find them at www.thelittlebirdbookstore.com) put a selection of their books on $0.99 /£0.80 SALE.

It's a great chance to invest a little money into trying out a new writer, or the first book of a new series.

Today I'm sharing the May selection of Little Bird Books that are on Kindle SALE across the worldwide platforms. I've helpfully included the U.S and U.K links below each spotlight.

Two of them are my titles, each the first book of my two series; The Forest of Adventures, which is Book One of The Knight Trilogy, and 'Witchcraft', which is Book One of The Meadowsweet Chronicles.


THE GLOW by Helen Whapshott

A delightful Mid-Grade cross over YA story with a whole host of magical and gifted characters set in the real world. A story of friendship and growing up.

When Megan is forced to move to a weird little country village, she is less than impressed. She's even less impressed by the gloomy hotel that is to be her new home, but then she meets Daisy, and she comes to learn that she's exactly where she needs to be in order to embrace her gifts.

U.S AMAZON.COM       U.K AMAZON     


DUST by Sarah Daltry

A YA Fantasy novel with a lot of adventure and a dash of romance. Written by the highly talented Sarah Daltry, this action packed tale of a princess who is forced to cast off her gowns and become a warrior in order to protect her people and restore the Kingdom. As she sets on a quest to recover ancient secrets that will help her overthrow an evil force, she discovers that not everything is as she believed.

US AMAZON.COM        UK AMAZON       


THE FOREST OF ADVENTURES by Katie M John (That's Me!)

 The first book in The Knight Trilogy series, it tells the story of seventeen year old college girl, Mina Singer. When a mysterious new boy, Blake Beldevier, arrives at college, her whole world and reality are thrown into question.
Blake introduces Mina to a world she believed only existed between the pages of fairytales; but not all fairytales end happily ever after and where there is light, there is also darkness, manifesting in the form of the beautiful but deadly Morgan Le Fay. As Mina is increasingly pulled into the Arthurian world of The Realm, her 'real' life set in a Cornish Sixth form, threatens to destruct.

US AMAZON.COM     UK AMAZON


 A HOLE IN THE ICE by McCallum J Morgan

 A Hole in The Ice is a gorgeous, decadent, luxuriant Adventure and exploration tale that has a good dash of romance, coming of age and ... mermaids. McCallum's writing style is completely spell binding and his attention to historical details allows the reader to completely immerse themselves in this rip-roaring, dramatic  epic style fantasy.
Personally, I love this story and I felt in the hands of a master storyteller.

US AMAZON.COM     UK AMAZON


WITCHCRAFT by Katie M John

700 years on, Heargton Village still holds dark secrets, and when one of the village girls falls victim to a terrible ritual killing, the old superstitions resurface.

At the heart of these whispers are the Meadowsweet sisters. All beautiful, all charming, all eccentric, but it is the middle daughter, seventeen-year-old Fox, who captures the imagination of American newcomer Jeremiah Chase; a deviant New York playboy sent to live with his Aunt in the Chase ancestral home of Coldstone Hall. A place that has its own grisly history.

But, as Jeremiah discovers the history of the Meadowsweet Sisters, the Chase family history is also unearthed, leading Jeremiah to understand that good and evil are not always on opposing sides.

A tale of witchcraft, demons and ghosts, blending traditional English folklore with the American Gothic.

US AMAZON.COM    UK AMAZON

Sunday, 3 May 2015

All Standing in a Row....

So just updated the Facebook banner to include the new edition to the Katie M John library. Back in 2010 I could never have imagined finishing the Knight Trilogy, not alone completing a further two novels of a new series and a few little stand alones in between.

 It's a really moving thing to see the last five years work all laid out like a very pretty deck of cards. I can honestly say hand on heart, that I love each and every one of these books.

 It's very much like having ...your first child and wondering how on earth you could ever love another with the same sense of depth and awe - but you do. You love them each differently, but you love them each the same. Mina and Blake, Sam and Delta of 'The Knight Trilogy', Evangeline and Kaspian of 'Beautiful Freaks', and Fox, Will, Jeremiah and the Meadowsweet sisters of 'The Meadowsweet Chronicles' are my book babies. 

 I write the stories I wish to read; full of magic, love, loss, with a good dose of beauty, horror and suspense.


 I have yet to write a book with dragons - but there's time yet. It rather looks from my banner that this whole writing thing isn't just a phase.


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.