Character Interviews: JJ Carson (Fortune’s Well Book 1 – Hangman’s Revenge)

It’s release day for the YA book I have co-written with Sim Sansford! We are so excited to share Hangman’s Revenge with you and can’t wait to see what you make of our protagonist’s JJ and Darcie. To kick off here is an interview with JJ Carson…

  1. Who is your best friend? Until recently I didn’t have a best friend, in fact it felt like all I had were enemies in this town. But then Darcie stood up for me, helped me fight off the bullies and since then I’ve got to know her better. I think she is my best friend. I hope so.
  2. Who is your worst enemy? Well I’ve got a few. I already told you this town hates me. There’s a group of boys who kick my arse nearly every day because they think I’m a freak and Jared Wheeler is the ring-leader, so yeah, him.
  3. What do you think people think of you? I know what most people think of me. They either pity me because my mum is locked up for killing my dad, or they fear me because they think I’m going to turn out to be as crazy as her. Or they just hate me because they think I’m weird. Yeah,, weird. They all think I’m weird.
  4. What do you wish people knew about you? Ah, I don’t really care. They can all piss off. Well, I suppose I’d like them to know that I didn’t kill my dad so I’m not crazy like my mum. But I don’t think they’d care anyway… I suppose, if I’m honest, I wish they knew how lonely I’ve been.
  5. What’s your biggest fear? Turning out like my mum. Losing the plot, turning to violence in a heartbeat, killing someone. I’m dark inside, I know I am. I’m scared it’ll get out.
  6. What’s your biggest hope? That Darcie and I become close. That she sticks by me, whatever happens. And I hope me and Uncle Henry get on better one day. That would really help a lot.
  7. What’s your biggest secret? There is a darkness inside of me and it’s getting worse. I can see it now in the form of a kind of mist. It likes it when I get angry and it can destroy… If people knew about this, they would lock me up like my mum.
  8. What is the worst thing you have done to another person? I stepped in and tried to be the hero – I tried to stand up to Jared and got caught in the middle of something else instead. He was hurting Darcie – I didn’t even really know her then, but I stopped him. Trouble is, the mist took over and now he’s in hospital…
  9. What kind of friend are you? Hard to say, seeing as how I’ve not really had any until now but I’d probably be grumpy and moody I reckon. I’m used to being on my own so I’m not used to friendship. I’m loyal though and I hate bullies, so I’d be the type of friend that would stand up for you even if it got me in trouble.
  10. What are your worst habits? Uncle Henry would say I don’t do enough around the house but I’d disagree. I do loads. I think Darcie might say I’m grumpy, maybe a bit cynical and negative at times. I’ve got a bad temper which obviously I am trying not to let out.
  11. What is one thing about yourself that you would change if you could? Ah, tricky question. I should say the mist, the darkness inside me, because if I got rid of that, I could maybe be normal. But I also don’t want to get rid of it because without it I’m helpless and lost.
  12. What is one thing about yourself that you would never change? Again, tricky. I don’t want to change the mist even though I maybe should… But also my art. I wouldn’t change that. I wouldn’t be me without art and it’s helped me so much.
  13. Where would you like to be in 5 years time? I don’t know. Not here. There is something wrong with this town and the people in it. I’d like to get away… I don’t know where. I can kind of see me and Darcie running off together and maybe travelling, maybe in a campervan or something cool like that! Other than that, I really have no idea. I don’t have a lot going for me, to be honest.
  14. What is on your bucket list? – Hmm. I guess a romance with Darcie would be top, but don’t tell her that. I’d die. Seeing my mum free again would be awesome. Getting on with Uncle Henry would be good too. I’d like to get better at art and maybe travel to some cool places with Darcie.

We hope you enjoyed meeting JJ! If you are interested in finding more, here is the buy link mybook.to/HangmansRevenge


Welcome To Fortune’s Well: Book One Hangman’s Revenge is coming soon!

Fast on the heels of my recent release The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems, this Wednesday sees the release of the first book in the YA trilogy I’ve co-written with Sim Sansford. We are both incredibly excited that the moment is finally here after a whirlwind year of writing three books via Facebook messenger! It seems incredible that we are now about to welcome you into the strange town of Fortune’s Well and introduce you to our characters, JJ and Darcie.

I still can’t quite believe that we wrote three books together in such a short space of time – with very little planning, I might add! The majority of it was discussed and thrashed out within Facebook messenger. Sim had the original idea about lonely, misunderstood teens who discover they have special abilities and we decided to each create a character and then write alternate chapters from their points of view.

I went first and wrote the introductory chapter and my character JJ made his somewhat solemn entrance. At this point, we were not entirely sure where the story would lead us but we didn’t have to worry because the characters knew! Once they were fully alive, they just seemed to lead the way. What happened next was really a crazy whirlwind of messages and chapters flying back and forth between us.

Normally, I like to plan a book a bit before I start and then have a planning notebook running alongside the story as it unfolds, but our approach was a lot more haphazard than that. Yet it worked! I’ve never co-written anything before so this was a really interesting process and experience for me. I’ve always believed that talking about writing makes you want to write. It gets you excited, gets the ideas sparking and the passion running high. I often see this happening in the writing groups I run – people are unsure or hesitant or suffering from a block or a loss of confidence, and then all the talk and discussion and floating of ideas suddenly gets it all going again.

I think this is what happened with us and these books and it really felt quite magical. I mean, writing is magical anyway, it really is – ideas become stronger, characters become real people, plots develop and twist and turn and it all ignites together to create a story. A world.

With these books we had an idea, a concept about teens with powers hidden within them and that led us to the creation of Fortune’s Well and a far darker, twistier, grippping story than we had ever imagined. The town itself (based loosely on Sim’s home town of Dorchester) became a bigger part of the story than we first anticipated, opening up the possibility of prequels and sequels based there.

Whatever happens next, Sim and I have had the best time ever creating these stories. It was never supposed to be a trilogy, but it just kept going and I know we haven’t seen the last of these characters.

The book comes out on Wednesday 25th May and you can preorder via the link below if you are interested in finding out about what lies within Fortune’s Well and inside our our two teen protagonists.https://books2read.com/HangmansRevenge

Here is the blurb!

In the town of Fortuneโ€™s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out.

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood. Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within.

Why is this happening?
Where has it come from?

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?

The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems is out today!!

It’s always exciting when months, if not years of hard work, revisions, edits, proofreads and more edits lead finally to the release of a brand new book. The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems is released today in ebook and paperback on Amazon. It will be on other platforms very soon. Here is the short link if you feel like checking it out! mybook.to/TheOldFriend

This book in particular was a long time coming. Some of the short stories in here go back at least a decade whereas some are very recent. The same goes for the poetry and the blog-style musings you will find scattered throughout the book. I don’t write poetry very often, for example, sometimes only a few times a year, so you can imagine why it took so long to get enough content for this collection.

I am really pleased with it though. It’s a dark, gritty little thing full of musings on life, death, birth, motherhood, nature, society and more. It’s probably the most personal thing I have ever released, particularly the poems, and some of the musings are about real people in my life, real experiences, thoughts and fears and so on.

Of course, many of the short stories are pure fiction. Before release, I wrangled with the idea of adding a page in the book where I explain the background or inspiration for each piece. In the end, I decided to leave it up to the reader’s imagination. But just for fun and to celebrate release day, here is a list of the pieces in the work along with the stories and inspiration behind them;

Murder – This was a poem that climbed intside my head about 5 or 6 years ago when I was jogging down my lane. The crows were absolutely furious. So noisy it was deafening. Quite eerie, and I really did wonder what was wrong with them. Then I thought about how the local gamekeeper shoots them to protect the pheasants they raise for people to shoot for fun and thought yeah, probably that.

The Old Friend – At one point, I thought my book The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was complete. It was a large book in two parts and had a sequel. Then I started getting new ideas. New ideas that meant moving the ending further back and slotting in a load of new content. The only way to do this was to make it into a series, dividing the big book into two, adding a brand new book three, using the sequel as book four and then inevitably that led to a brand new book five. This short story was written around the time I was writing book three. In book three the main character Danny goes through an even harder time than he had previously and I couldn’t help feeling guilty, almost as if I were doing it to a real person! So, I explored this guilt in this story.

A Mother’s Story – essentially a prelude or teaser to my upcoming YA series The Day The Earth Turned, I wrote this from the point of view of Mother Nature.

Leaf – an old story I wrote years ago about a boy and his imaginary friend. This was based on some truth; my nephew had an imaginary friend called Leaf when he was little!

The Writer Woman – A Cautionary Tale – This also goes back a few years and just popped in my head one day. It might even have appeared on this blog at the time. It’s a little nod to the years I spent not writing because I didn’t think I had time and because so many people try to deter you from following creative pursuits. It’s a bit of an over-exaggeration of what could happen if those ideas aren’t let out regularly!

Child’s Eye – Another old story, I can’t quite remember where this idea came from!

Who Turned Out The Lights? – I wrote this one a few years ago after our writing group were talking about horror stories for Halloween. I wrote it around that time and possibly shared it to Wattpad or this blog. We are prone to power cuts where we live and sometimes when the lights go out suddenly, you automatically reach for the nearest hand…

Snotgoblin – This piece appeared on my blog about 8 years ago when my youngest child was approaching his first birthday. Someone on Facebook joked about calling children of this age snotgoblins and I thought it was brilliant. He was a little sticky mess at that age and the piece just flowed from that. It’s a little nostalgic piece about the untamed wildness of very young children.

Reuben’s Race – I wrote this as a short story or possible chapter for my YA series The Day The Earth Turned. At the time I was busy with other books, but if I got a really strong idea I would write a bit for this series. This story eventually ended up as a chapter in the book!

The Puddle -This is another old one and it comes from the memory of my oldest daughter being quite obsessed with puddles as a young child. She would often say there were other worlds inside them…

Stan – A piece that appeared on this blog a long time ago about my late step-grandfather, Stan. He was a very tall, very quiet man who I didn’t feel I ever got to know. But I have so many good memories of him.

Getting There – A few years back I was going through a low period and most of the poetry in this collection comes from that time. For some reason, I can only write poems when I’m feeling really dark! This one is a reference to what me and my husband often say to each other. You Ok? Yeah, you ok? Getting there. It just kind of means we are hanging on.

7 Minutes – Wrote a few years ago after a chat with my eldest daughter. She had read somewhere that after death your brain is still alive for 7 minutes. I started wondering what those 7 minutes might be like.

Slug – Quite an old one written about my ridiculous but genuine fear of slugs!

Crushed By A Number – Another one written during a dark time. I have always struggled with my body image.

The Rubbish Man – wrote a few years ago. I got the idea when feeling really angry about the amount of litter and fly-tipping that goes on where I live.

Fine Wine – I do like to reward myself with a glass of wine on a Friday after a busy week!

Monday Morning – wrote a few years ago after watching my older kids leave home and try to cross the road to their school bus stop. It was a miserable Monday and none of us wanted it.

Outside – I wrote this after the first lockdown, when restrictions were starting to lift. During the strict early days, it was so quiet everywhere, it almost felt like the world had ended. This is from the point of view of a woman who doesn’t want the world to go back to normal…

Nothing – another fairly dark poem from a dark time

Grief – This one is fairly recent. I was feeling so sad about the state of the world, climate change, the decimation and extinction of wildlife…

Moonlit Shadow – This has a story behind it. I got up one morning about two summer ago and walked blearily into the bathroom. I was sure I saw a shadow move across the floor and when I sat on the loo I got a really strong feeling of loss accompanied with lyrics to a song I couldn’t recall the name of. I associated it with my sister, though I still have no idea why! I ended up googling the lyrics until I found the song. It was Moonlit Shadow by Mike Oldfield. I still have no clue why it made me think about my sister!

Bug – small, strange poem about me accidentally killing a bug. I hate accidentally killing things.

Smokey Sneak – a little poem about the stresses and strains of modern life

Zombies – a poem I wrote during a recent election.

The Shed – This story was my son’s idea! It was during the first lockdown when he was 12 and he told me he had a story idea but didn’t want to write it, so I did.

Dark Little Girl – another dark poem from a darker time!

What If… – a poem that expresses concern about the point of life

Friends List – a poem about Facebook!

Mother Pt 1 – just a little one I wrote one day when tired. I remembered my mum always saying there was no point her sitting down, and I felt the same!

Fried Eggs For Breakfast – The idea for this came when I was cooking eggs and wondering what I would do if something unexpected came out of one…

Tired – a poem that crept in my head when I was still dog-walking for a job as well as running writing clubs. I was really, really tired!

All These Thoughts of Dying – a bit of a grim one, but I find it really hard not to think about death when I am driving!

The Forest – a recent poem I wrote after a walk in my favourite woods. I wondered what it would be like to just lie down and sink into the earth.

Things You Don’t Want To Do – A poem I wrote a while back when feeling a bit overwhelmed. Sometimes life is just full of things you don’t want to do….

Driving The Bends – this one evolved in my head during my constant journeys up a certain narrow, twisty road where I live. It’s one of those roads that is just begging for an accident to happen and it only takes one idiot…

Dylan’s Dream – another idea from my teenage son. He had a bizarre dream and described it to us in great detail. I said that sounds like a weird story. He didn’t want to write it down, so I did.

Read Now, Die Later – I got the idea for this one when dog-walking. I was on a narrow, gravelled path and I kept thinking I could hear footsteps behind me, crunching the gravel. Whenever I turned, no one was there. I soon realised it was the loose gravel flying out behind me when I walked and scattering further back. But by the time I felt safe, I had devised this whole story in my head!

The Universe – I like this one, it’s one of my favourites. For a long time, my husband had to start work at 4am and as we only have one car, I’d wake up too and drop him there. Sometimes on the drive back, the sun would just be rising and everything would seem very peaceful and calm, and if a perfect song came on the radio and if all the traffic lights stayed green, I would cruise safely home feeling that the universe was on my side.

The Death of You – another poem about death. I often get fearful about driving especially when I see the remains of animals on the roads, but then I started thinking about all the other ways you could easily die at any time…

2020 – one I wrote during the first lockdown! 2020 was certainly a memorable year.

The Black Van – This short story arrived unexpectedly when I was driving home one day. The lights were red and a black van was in front of me. Just then an identical black van pulled up behind me and I was sandwiched between them. It was early morning with no other cars about. The lights seemed to take forever to change and I started imagining what would happen if the vans contained bad people with sinister intentions! By the time I got home I had the story idea and wrote it later that day. It just flowed! It then became a novel idea which I intend to co-write with Sim Sansford soon, now that we have finished our trilogy together!

Mother Pt 2 – I think a lot about motherhood. Being a mother makes you realise things about your own mother. I think it gives you a clearer idea of what she did for you and what she sacrificed. Thinking about how much kids are attached to you as little ones but then leave home and don’t look back made me think about my own mother and my experiences as a mother.

A Woman Of A certain age – I wrote this in the kitchen one Friday night after a stressful week when my perimenopausal hormones had really battered me. I had a drink on the go and music from my youth playing.

My Golden Son – I wrote this quite a few years ago when my oldest son was about ten or so. We were walking down the lane which is very beautiful, sheltered by oak trees and enjoying the wildflowers and the hedgerows full of birds, and then I got suddenly very depressed by the litter and the prospect of climate change and I just felt awful for him, having to grow up in such uncertain times

These Streets – Another one that popped into my head during an early morning drive home after dropping my husband at work. He works in a fairly run down area and it was these details I was noticing as I drove.

Black Hare Valley – A few years ago I had a vague idea to write a horror story about a group of kids living in a very sinister town. I started a few character bios and loose ideas and then created a huge map for the fictional town of Black Hare Valley. It was a lot of fun and my son helped me. I couldn’t write the book at that point but I wrote this prologue or teaser for it instead. I am now writing the book!

We Write – The newest poem in the collection. I am obsessed with writing, as you probably know. I love it so much. I think it is pure magic and these are just some of the reasons we feel compelled to write.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these brief stories behind the pieces in this new collection!

Disconnected (everything is a bit shit…)

I would apologise for the sweary title but I’m afraid I’m not going to. If you’ve read any of my books you probably don’t have a problem with swearing, and if swearing offends you, you obviously won’t read this post. It makes me laugh when people say swear words show a lack of vocabulary. That is missing the point entirely. Swear words exist for impact. An ‘oh dear’ is just not going to cut it sometimes. A ‘damn’ or a ‘for goodness sake’ is just not going to help. Have you seen the world lately? I rest my case. It’s not just bad, unfortunate, problematic or sad… it’s shit. Very, shit. With that out of the way this is a post about our recent long break from power and WiFi…

On the day Storm Eunice was due to hit I made all the necessary preparations. I made sure everything was secure in the garden, moved anything that might get knocked over and tied things down. Inside the house I charged up our phones, laptops and our battery pack. I made sure we had wood for the log-burner and dug out our supply of candles. We knew, living here, that we would get a power cut. And we did. Before it even got really windy, our power went out on Friday morning.

Image by khaase from Pixabay

We expected maybe a 24 hour cut, maybe something a little longer as the storm continue to batter the country, quickly followed by two more, but we ended up without power for 5 full days. Most of the village was affected and by day 4 the Salvation Army had set up a tent in the area to provide people with hot food and drink.

We were more fortunate than others as we have a gas oven so could boil pans of water for hot drinks and were still able to cook our food. Plus we had the log burner to keep warm. It was half-term though so the kids were home from school and were definitely struggling by day 5 without the technology they have got so used to.

The hardest part for me was the lack of light. Workwise I didn’t have any clubs that week anyway. I couldn’t market my books, blog or do anything much on social media unless I paid for more phone data. I kept myself busy by starting to write a new book. I have a few ongoing WIPS but they are all on the laptop so I had to start something new and it really kept me sane. I picked up a notebook where I had ideas, character bios and a map for a future story and just started writing it. It soon became an addiction and I’ve almost written half a book now! I felt I was better able to cope than the kids as I am old enough to remember the world without social media, phones and Netflix. I read and I wrote a lot but that got hard after dark. It doesn’t matter how many battery operated fairy lights you string up or how many candles you light, you still can’t see well. I ended up writing with fairy lights around my shoulders to light up my page!

We got by by playing a lot of The Walking Dead monopoly, and by listening to the radio. They were both life-savers, as was the power pack that charged our phones up a few more times before it died. The frustrating thing was the lack of action getting us connected. We could see that a tree had split on the bridge near our house and all the cables for internet and power were dangling in the river, but days went by before anyone arrived to assess it. We had no communication from the power companies either so we had no way of knowing when it would be fixed. By day 5 I really had had enough and when it came back on, we all jumped for joy. Then we realised that fixing the internet was another whole problem…

We ended up having 2 weeks without the internet. Lots of neighbours were back on but three of us were affected by the cables in the river and nothing seemed to get done about it. It was tough because all the kids have homework set online these days and my daughter is in the final stint of her A-Levels so was getting stressed about lack of access. They had to go to other people’s houses to work and I even spent one morning at a neighbours house catching up on emails, banking and so on. I also had to cancel my Zoom clubs for that week. A lot of us in the area were appalled by the lack of communication and action from the companies involved. It’s very complicated to even work out what company owns what lines or what bit of pavement. One company kept telling us there was a not a fault, even though we had no power, and this was apparently because another company had not told them there was a fault. They blamed each other and we couldn’t seem to get anywhere! See? Shit! And just try getting through to a human on the phone… It doesn’t matter what or who you are phoning these days, you’ve got to be on hold for at least 20 minutes and then talk to automated voices. The whole thing was incredibly frustrating and cost us a lot of money.

During that time I felt so disconnected from the rest of the world. We have become so used to having the world and any information we require at our fingertips, the answer to any question within our phone, any movie or TV show or song right there whenever we want one. The radio really was a blessing – being able to listen to the news, as horrible and heartbreaking as it was, made us feel a bit more connected. It also made us feel fortunate. We might have had some time without power and WiFi but we were safe in our homes, with food, with jobs and cars, with each other, and without the fear of being invaded or bombed.

All I can say right now, is what a world! It just seems to go from bad to worse… Everything feels so fragile. The cost of living crisis, the spiralling costs of fuel and gas and food. We are grateful for so much but we are also reminded that nothing is easy anymore. In fact, everything feels a bit shit. Just as we were figuring out how to cut back more, stretch things over to meet the rising costs of petrol and heating, our landlords decided to put our rent up by almost ยฃ300 a month. We are currently trying to negotiate this and come up with a way to cover it. It just seems like pure greed. At a time like this, you would hope people would be kind but it seems many just want to be sure their own incomes are not affected. We are looking at options to move but that is not easy as the kids are all settled in schools/college etc and there is nothing else we can afford locally. I just keep thinking, there has to be an answer somewhere. There has to be some hope…

When I was offline I didn’t miss my phone that much. I felt like I was getting a break from the onslaught of bad news and negativity. To some extent, it was nice not knowing what was going on out there. I also realised just how much time I waste scrolling through my phone. Okay, I do use my phone for work related stuff, for making graphics for my books and for emailing parents for my clubs and so on, but I am also guilty of mindlessly scrolling down my news feed on Facebook or Google. It’s a sort of addiction, I suppose. Once you start rolling its hard to stop, hard to know how to break free.

Without WiFi, I realised how much I ‘check’ my phone. I kept picking it up and looking at it, only to remember there was nothing to look at. I honestly did this so often! And with that out of the equation I got so much more writing done.

The book I started writing (Black Hare Valley – more on that another day!) became my Netflix replacement. I wrote in it whenever I could during the day but the fun part was taking it up to bed with me and writing it when I would normally be watching Netflix. Now that I have Netflix back, I’m not sure I want it. They too have just announced another price hike. Maybe that is the next thing to cut back on. As we pay our TV licence, we can watch via apps on our phones, such as BBC iplayer, My5 and All4. We are also both trying to get more work to cover the rent increase, which makes me feel quite resentful. We won’t see the benefit of the extra work and stress – it will just go in the landlord’s pocket.

Everything is a bit shit. There is just no escaping it. Maybe we are heading to some kind of tipping point. Sometimes I think that things have to get much worse before they can get better. Eventually, something has to give. So many people are suffering at the moment while the rich just get richer. I think we need a big fundamental change. We need a fairer society, that’s for sure. At the moment, its the people with the least money who are taking the hardest hits, and that cannot be fair.

Feeling disconnected was a good thing and a bad. I got a break from the troubles of this world and I got to escape to a world of my own creation. I wish I could do that for good.