Five years ago, on 26th February 2018, my first book was published. As a lifelong habitual writer, this was never something I intended to do. I never considered publishing a book and never imagined putting something so private out into the public for anyone to consume. So, why, then?
Well, motherhood made me feel responsible for sharing my honest account with other folks who may need that. The isolation of having a baby in intensive care, whose survival was uncertain hour by hour, is palpable.
Sure, there were folks you could talk to, but many well-meaning would stick a knife into your belly to say ‘the right thing’. Sometimes there was nothing to be said. The best support came from those going through it themselves, who were right there in the thick of it—the most harrowing ‘rollercoaster’ where survival is not guaranteed—nothing is.
This book needs a revisit from my side. I admit that it editorially falls significantly short. Much professional experience has been gained in the five years since publication. I came from the experience scathed, and the initial years following discharge from the unit were complex—PTSD didn’t hit immediately, but it did hit hard. I can’t go back there yet. One day I will. So for those who pick it up, be gentle—this was my first, and the experience eviscerated me.
Witches’ New Year approaches. With that, I’m Autumn cleaning, creatively speaking, at least. Washing away the dust of the summer fires, sweeping this germ-ridden circle clogged with ash. I say this with every positive intention, which in the current climate of my sick house, it’s not so simple. Some things are outwith control, but I try flow with, around, through it. (I may have recited ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ a few too many times). Starting with the writing. I’ve taken part in only a few invite-only opportunities. This year, it has been difficult to say no, but something I’ve had to learn to do fast. It’s been challenging; each opportunity offered has been for a great project, and I am profoundly grateful to be asked. Short fiction writing has been on the back burner, which was always this year’s plan to invest in my degree studies and researching/writing longer works. Moving on, a quick recap of my own books released and scheduled to tie up 2023:
There has been lots of work going on in Brazen Folk Horror, which I launched with Ruthann Jagge this year. Here we share regular updates on ‘The Making of Delevan House’. We have many plans to execute, so it’s a great space to follow. You are cordially invited! We expect you to put in some effort—get tight-lacing, break out the good cloak, your best finery, and you better buy an extravagant hat while you’re at it. It’ll be one hell of a ride! You will want to be watching for that pre-order date as soon as we announce it. In the meantime, come enjoy the brazen tease and seduction.
Well, it’s been tumultuous and stable on the homestead with no middle ground— a seesaw over starving shark-infested waters more than a rollercoaster. The pendulum never stops. My kids and I have been struggling with fresh ongoing health issues since the start of the year when we contracted that virus. It then came in for a second hit in July, which haven’t recovered from. Between chronic coughs requiring prescription medications, chronic fatigue and opportunistic germs that keep jumping on board because of compromised immune systems, it’s been a royal shitshow. With medical support services (the NHS) being abysmal. My family (I) also suffered another pregnancy loss. During the second bout of that virus, my baby’s heart stopped beating, and I gave birth four weeks later. We were (are) devastated.
Grief so intimate is a profound journey we carry with us throughout our time on the rock. Lives that were given a second chance coincided with the loss of my last baby, Averey. My family adopted a small flock of ex-commercial layers (Hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. I have shared little updates on their settling-in and shenanigans on social media. The ladies (our little Queens, as we call them. On account of naming them after Drag Queens: Jinkx Monsoon, Bimini bon boulash, Raja and Ginger Minj) are so very full of stories and have settled in as though they’ve always been part of the family. They are part of the clan. Some things are meant to be, and these Queens were never meant for slaughter.
Something about coming from 2021 into 2022 held promise and a thirst for change. More than a thirst, it was a drouth of dry agony. So many I know felt it—a need for rewiring, redirection, reinvention, or simply getting back on track. The year hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Instead, it’s been more like treading water. Trying to stay afloat, and more, fighting to survive. I guess that’s life for the most part. An ongoing battle, with Jack-in-the-box obstacles springing forth at any given moment. Damn clowns. Tomorrow will be better.
The veil is thinning as the gears continue to cycle. There’s much reflection as we dare to lift the veil and step through the shadows, opening locked doors to visit with ghosts. This season welcomes the shadows, where the light and dark dance. It’s almost Samhain. Listen… whose voice can you hear calling from the ether?
Sweep the circle, burn the candles, lay out the feast, and set out coveted photographs and letters from the dead. They’ll be here soon. )O(
Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.
Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.
Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:
My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.
I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.
I am working on my degree course too.
The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.
More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.
The stages of this ailment wracks havoc through my body.
Vexatious attempts to conquer; become me.
It began as all things do, a spring birth nipping exposed skin; testing the fragility and limits of the becoming.
Little by little tentative blooming begins.
Through kissed, bitten and hard pinched skin.
Assaults on the juvenile unrelenting.
More than hormones, chemical reactions take the blame.
Flora sprouts through the hardened dark, softening sporadic perimeters, lashed by sharp spring-sight-steeling-rays - momentarily monumentally blinding.
Once this is over, it’ll be ok.
They said I had some years to change, some precious time before it was too late.
Wild horses tear thunderous lumps through my soul; stallions each gunning for control.
Endless war rages within; the battle of self.
The therapies, the drugs and carefully selected words.
None ever any good.
The rampant rage is on, no war is without bloodshed; relieves the pressure of dismissed, displaced youth.
One must be real if they bleed; alive even in fantastical Maiden daydreams.
Suppression of the whispering thugs a delicate parity; equilibrium of what?
One cannot be sure - what if there is no cure?
Fate never waits.
Time, she keeps flowing through the bottomless glass.
Smoke without mirrors; dense, dancing swirls too black to pass.
Maidenhood ends, scar tissue thickens not mends.
Strands tangle in knots unseen through the haze of smoked days.
The Mother is one which cannot be skipped; the fear of becoming the Maiden’s own too hulking to dismiss.
Summer’s heat pelts down like the belt; sporadic lashings through which you must stand, never waver.
Fane unfeeling through the weeping welts.
So many mistakes, learning aplenty with a war thirsty wraith wailing shrieks in the ear. Overshadowing youth whispers, the memory of what was terrorising for so long, now a quiet comfort of historical storm.
The dust of the battles must eventually settle; submit, surrender.
Breathe it through; she’s coming for you.
Autumn bleeds summers setting into winters webbed ebbing.
A witch must relinquish the right to fulfil natural potential when the hourglass quickens towards inevitable expiration.
The time of the Crone dawns and with it awash with insight previously unknown.
Suddenly the wonder uncoils and monstrous ponderous mysteries are starkly revealed before the last breath is sealed.
Fate never waits.
Any one day can be the day she whispers.
The voice of all time and fate entwined;
“Dear daughter, you are too late. You’ve relinquished your fate.”
Fate never waits.
This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace. It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace. Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass! So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around. Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way. As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.
In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.