Welcome to what will be the final guest post for my Dreaming of Another World feature, but do stay tuned for news on a brand new guest feature coming soon! This was all inspired by a post I wrote about how lockdown forced me to pause, think and dream of another world, one I could just glimpse when we were all forced to stay still. I asked other creatives for their thoughts, feelings and experiences during this strange time and I had a wonderful response. Please welcome Adeola Sheehy to The Glorious Outsiders and enjoy her personal piece on her lockdown experience. You can find out more about Adeola at the end of the post.
When the unknown woke me from sleep in the night, I used to be able to tell the time by the activity from my window. Lying still so not to wake the baby I would listen for the vans and lorries hurrying past to signal the early hours. A few hours later the headlights of the earliest workers would slice through the blinds, sliding down the wall as the cars turned the corner and quietly began their day.
Next the encroaching daylight. How slowly the darkness lifts, as though it wants to hold you in its grasp for as long as possible. On the rare occasion I slept in I would be woken to the marching herds of school children, chattering loudly to hear themselves over the swoosh or the cars and buses, and the stomping of their own feet.
That’s just an echo now, their feet are hemmed in by walls and walk only across the soft carpet of their homes. The car engines are cold as their owners try to remember to leave them running every so often, so their batteries don’t die. How strange this static, stationery waiting. This pause.
As we huddle indoors, the news speaks of a sinister thing lurking outside. It is alive and hunting us, preying on the weakest among us. It has learnt how to travel unseen, invisible as it stalks us. We go out only in the daytime, for short periods and never altogether. The roads are quiet but even though the houses are full, they are quiet too. I hear no children in the gardens, or laughter from an open window. There is a hush, a waiting, a palpable fear.
Then in the night, I wake to darkness. There are no sounds or lights to offer me clues, only the rhythmic breathing of my dreaming family. What is it out there, prowling the streets?
I feel the presence of the fairy tale wolf prowling an isolated village in ever tighter circles. It’s come in from the dark woods, no longer in a distant far away land, it’s come to the doorstep. The village shuts their doors against the threat, but also to each other. Their once united community split into multiple tiny islands. Each fearful, focused on survival, and weakened by being alone. The wolf has the run of the town now, it can walk anywhere it likes, it has taken over a new territory and the villagers must come out sooner or later. It’s an unwinnable siege of their own making.
The shadows and the darkness have melded into one suffocating thing. My body is still and my breathing steady, as only my eyes move, tracking back and forth, searching out the presence that has my arm hair standing on end. I see the curtain twitch.
I left it open just a crack, so we could breathe a little freer. I watch it move, the delicate white lace against the dense dark. Through it a plume of white steam pushes inwards. It dissipates quickly only to be replaced by another warm breath fogging the air.
The wolf is at my door.
A home educating mother of four, Adeola’s writing has adapted and changed over the years to fit the time constraints of a full life.
From short stories, to essays and articles and with various characters nagging in her ears wanting their tales to be told, you can currently find her writing in magazines such as Roots + Wings and Juno, as well as the soon to be published Hear Our Voices collection by Conscious Dreams Publishing, and in the Fireside group at The Kindred Voice.
Lockdown seems to have broken the dam, and her pen is firmly attached to the page, so follow her on Instagram at @adeola_moonsong to see where she’ll be popping up next.
Thank you so much to Adeola and ALL of the creatives who have participated in this feature. We’ve had short stories, poems and personal pieces and they have all been amazing. I am thinking about collating these pieces into a collection at some point (subject to each author’s permission of course) but I would like to make it a really diverse and interesting one. So, for my next guest feature I would like to know how your pets helped you through lockdown, or the pandemic in general. If you are a creative with a furry friend, then please get in touch! Perhaps you even got a pet for the first time during lockdown? I’d like to know about you and your pet, how you got together, what you do together, whether they have a positive impact on your mental health and how they have helped or hindered your creative processes and your everyday life during the pandemic. Please get in touch 🙂
Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.
But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!
Bill was lying to both Pete and
Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t
know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He
couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much
more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting
entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too
obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing
He spent the rest of the week trying
to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs
like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.
Last time he had been showing off.
He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one
on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened
to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like
that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.
He’d mouthed it in silence to
begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill
smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them
down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through
Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?
Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and
The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could
lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when
he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about
But now? What now?
That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like
he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all,
and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like
her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk
around this cesspit with his head held high.
This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire
estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to
pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including
McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.
Bill thought about drink warming
his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall,
and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and
comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth
and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The
Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those
old soul songs.
He could sing something new he was
getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark
stuff lately which wouldn’t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went
there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for
hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.
Then there was his bloody dad.
They’d always clashed, Bill thought,
as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said
they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that.
They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved
company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the
sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his
voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could
have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to
himself. He could never be still or silent.
His dad was one of those short,
angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his
shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the
top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.
But those bastards had made him
Bill didn’t think he would ever
forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his
cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through.
Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had
not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.
And it pissed him off.
Maybe blood was thicker than water
after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing
it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think
about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks.
His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself
getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was
Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.
Something pulled at his mind then.
Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something
was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it
kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and
down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse,
something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell
into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short
choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.
He decided to sneak out anyway. He
could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned
at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin
past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his
arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to
the window, leaned out and looked around.
‘That all you got?’ he roared
without thinking. ‘Come on then!’
He regretted his outburst when his
father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have
made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the
middle of the carpet.
‘What the bleeding-hell?’
Bill pulled the window shut and
whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the
brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright
‘This just come through the
window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’
‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he
responded sulkily, pushing past him.
Andy rushed to the window where he
yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’
‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy
stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’
Bill followed him from the room.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’
Andy stopped and faced him on the
stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I
didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?’
Andy trotted down the rest of the
stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not
sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’
Bill made a noise of disgust and
walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder.
‘You’re wasting your time!’
Bill stalked around the kitchen,
shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into
the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.
‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit
in here and talk to him.’
Bill threw up his hands. ‘About
‘About everything!’ Andy growled
in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know
there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone
Bill slumped into a chair, folded
his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the
brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins
‘You’re gonna look like a dick when
whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’
‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him
again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to
believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang
decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think
about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’
Andy spun around and marched back
into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the
dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands.
Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration
through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief
glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader
‘Don’t even think about it,
Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you
PC Collins knocked on the door
twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and
his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.
‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him
saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit
Bill sighed, slumping forward
again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could
have been anyone!’
Collins flipped open his notebook
and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might
be right, but we have to consider what’s already gone on, don’t we? Now
obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage
was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’
Bill breathed out and in again,
willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’
he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’
‘No, course not, but that’s not
the point right now.’
‘What is then?’
‘The point is keeping an eye on
the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate.
Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing
when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the
whole, you see?’
Bill shook his head and glowered.
Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you
will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’
‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned
away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or
‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And
you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’
Bill thought briefly about
punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’
‘Look, can I ask you something?’
Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of
Bill scratched his head, then
pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I
thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still
wouldn’t help me, would it?’
Collins closed the notebook,
folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you
have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’
‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help,
will it? I can’t prove anything.’
‘Well, let’s say you thought you
had an idea, it would depend on why.
So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’
Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’
Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No
recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’
Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing
obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You
need actual proof, don’t you?’
Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you
do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what
their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to
search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know,
sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night,
or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’
Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would
be that stupid.’
‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’
Bill shook his head. If there had
been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would
provide alibis for each other.
‘There were four of them, you
say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means not all of those four
will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’
‘They might,’ Bill
corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are
they? You can’t promise me anything.’
‘I can protect you.’
Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you
can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’
Collins slipped his notebook into
the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’
‘Has there been any progress on
the Lewis Matthews murder?’
‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to
discuss that case with anyone.’
‘I’m not just anyone. It might
affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’
‘Why is the biggest
problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid.
Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’
‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’
Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle
we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I
can say about it to you right now, okay?’
Bill nodded, knowing the officer
had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he
reasoned. Enough for Summer.
In 2013 I released my debut Young Adult novel, The Mess Of Me. Originally, it was part of the self-publishing platform, Autharium. I then got a publishing deal with a small press and removed it from Autharium. This did not go to plan as a whole year later the small press had done nothing and not responded to my messages, so I decided to take it back and put it back with Autharium…who then closed. Since then, it has been with Pronoun, who also closed, and with Amazon. Currently, like my other books, The Mess Of Me is self-published through the indie collective Pict Publishing, and there I hope, it will stay.
Six years though! In that time I have published eight more books, had another child and started my own Community Interest Company; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. Life has indeed changed a lot.
But in many ways, Lou Carling, the 16-year-old narrator of The Mess Of Me, is still with me, perhaps increasingly so. I will perhaps explain in another blog post, another day, but for a while now I have not been feeling myself and in times when I am feeling down, Lou is the voice I hear the loudest.
Perhaps because she is the character most like me. They say that a grain of truth seeps into every work of fiction and I agree. They say that characters are often at least partially based on people we know, or on parts of ourselves, and again, I agree.
In fact, Lou is not just the character most like me. She pretty much is me. When I wrote that book, it was perhaps the most cathartic process for me. I had an idea for a plot, for characters, back story and so on, but more than all of that, I had a burning desire to just speak my thoughts through her. Everything Lou says, thinks and feels in The Mess Of Me comes from me. Me when I was a teenager, and me now. I still think of myself as a mess and I probably always will.
The issues with food are still there, just as I suspect they will always be there for Lou. It’s just that as you grow older, you work out ways to rationalise your irrational thoughts. Or as in my case, you have your own children and are determined to set a good example and not let them down.
But for me, The Mess Of Me is a voice in my head, and Lou’s voice is one I hear more than ever lately. I feel the strongest urge to write the sequel, which contains a storyline which is also something true from my own life, but at the moment there are too many other books in progress to focus on it.
Anyway, here are a few reasons why Lou is me and I am Lou;
She is obsessed with being thinner
she thinks her life will be better if she is thinner
every day she thinks and obsesses about being thinner
if she does not do anything to help her get thinner she feels like a failure
she puts all her thoughts and feelings in writing rather than actually telling people
she’s feels the pull of self-destructive behaviour and tries hard to resist
she thinks everyone else’s lives are far more interesting than her own
for this reason, despite not really liking humans too much, she is endlessly fascinated with them
she is in love with her best friend
For those of you perhaps interested in reading about Lou and Joe’s messy summer, the ebook is currently just 99p on Amazon and all other ebook platforms. Please consider leaving an honest review if you do happen to purchase the book. Many thanks!
That’s how it feels. That’s what it is. Stuck. Trapped. Held prisoner. I can’t get out. But do I really want to? Evidence would suggest not. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I have done. Created a world, created characters, used some magic and a lot of hard work, an imagination I can’t control, and there you have it, an alternative reality I can’t escape from.
I had no idea this would happen when I started writing as a child. My first attempts were hand-written stories about lost and abandoned animals, heavily influenced by my love of Watership Down and other similar books. I didn’t write my first story about real people living real lives until I was 12 years old. What happened to tear me away from my quaint tales of lost dogs and runaway bunnies? Well, weirdly, this.
Watching The Lost Boys gave me a few vital ingredients for the story that would go on to hold me prisoner for the next 28 years. It gave me the main idea, the main concept and it gave me some characters. Or at least, it inspired me to create characters who would turn out to be the kind of people I wished I knew in real life. As for Stephen King, it was around this time that I started my collection and was well on my way to becoming a truly obsessed fan. Add to that strange mix, the recent divorce of my parents, the usual teenage angst and rebellion, and I had me a story. Remember the bit in The Lost Boys when the younger brother realises his mother is dating the head vampire? That’s where the idea for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side came from. It wasn’t called that back then. It wasn’t called anything for ages. But I kept thinking…what if your mother was dating a monster? Only not the vampire kind, the real-life kind? And what if no one believed you? And what if you only had yourself and your best friends to try to battle this person? It was a weird mix of asking ‘what if’ questions, my parents’ recent divorce playing on my own fears, a dewy-eyed fascination with the actor Corey Haim, and a love of horror and fascination with the darker side of human nature that spawned this tale.
In my mind, my main character Danny, who is 13 at the start of Part 1, looked a lot like Corey Haim, who I was quite a bit in love with at that age. Once I had him in my head, his character started to grow and evolve, and I think I wrote that very early first draft pretty quickly. I remember it was my absolute obsession for a while. I hated to be away from that story. I’d rush home from school and up to my room to pick up my notebook and pen. I’d write endlessly and passionately. I suppose at the time I had no real idea of what I was doing. I was sort of trying to invent friends, I think. People I was intrigued by, people who had drama in their lives. I felt like I was a character in the book too. I was so proud when I finished it. I even started a sequel. I showed my English teacher and she read it and gave me a merit certificate I had to go up in assembly to collect. I remember being embarrassed but happy. The certificate said I had written a novel. At age 12! I don’t think I have the certificate anymore, but here’s the book.
I started rewriting it after that. I had invested in an electronic word processor. It was the most exciting machine in the world to me! I could sit there and tap away and watch my words appear on this mini screen, before hitting print and then holding typed pages in my hands. What also happened to me at that age was that the story crept inside my brain. It kept me awake at night. It was company. I was never, ever bored. I’d look forward to bedtime because I knew I could lie there and think about my story before I fell asleep. I watched the scenes in my head like a movie. I heard them talking and arguing. Inevitably I came up with new ideas and extra bits, but mostly I just let them play it all out, and most of those imagined scenes have never made it into any of the books. It was just me, a fly on the wall of a made-up world, watching them live.
Here’s one of the many pictures I drew of the characters. Only some of these made it into the final version.
I rewrote that book again at aged 16. I’d started and not finished tons of other stories in that time. The book had opened a floodgate, forging a lifelong addiction to writing. But that one story, I couldn’t ever let it go. I rewrote it again at 19. I thought about it constantly during the non-writing years of balancing early motherhood with self-employment. The same story, the same characters always in my head, coming back to me night after night. I was 34 before I finally returned to it. I started writing in notebooks again, just like when I was a kid. Snatching spare moments, writing before bed, suddenly entirely addicted all over again, but this time it had to come out, it had to be finished.
I finally released it in 2013. The Mess Of Me snuck in and was released first because The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was so long and needed so much work. But finally, it was out. A real book I could hold in my hands! I’d done it. So now they would fall quiet, surely? I’d stop thinking about them. I’d stop playing out more scenes.
Well, no, not exactly. Before I knew it I’d penned a sequel, This Is The Day and released that too. That should have been the end of it it, but yet, it still wasn’t. The story itself was so enticing to me, and I was so invested in it, I couldn’t stop imagining other endings, and I guess, truth be told, in my head I did not want it to be over. So the stories went on. Every night, hi guys. What’s happening now?
I wrote an alternative ending in 2016 and included it in Bird People and Other Stories.That was supposed to draw a line under it, but it only made things worse. Now I couldn’t get the thought of other endings out of my head! What if this happened instead? What if? What if? For the fun of it, I started writing a screenplay in a notebook. Brand new material that led on from the original ending of book one, slotting in and delaying the ending, but finishing up before This Is The Day. This was only supposed to be for fun. To get it out of my system. To indulge myself even more than I already had. What the hell, what did it matter? It was for fun. I didn’t have to explain that to anyone!
Except now I do. Because that screenplay became a total obsession. I carried that notebook around with me everywhere. I grabbed every spare moment I had to write into it, getting this new story out. I absolutely loved it. I was so excited about it. I just couldn’t put it down. So eventually, after a lot of thinking and plotting, I came to a decision. I would do it. I would split the book back into two parts and this new material would be part three. Part Four would be This Is The day but it would need some reworking. Then suddenly, parts five and six emerged…
I’ve now accepted the truth. And that is that this story and these characters will never let me go. They are part of me and part of my life and I’m going to leave each book open, just in case I want to revisit it again.
There are new characters introduced in Parts Five and Six, and these also get their own spin-off book or possibly series with characters from both appearing in the others. So, as you can see… this thing could run and run.
So, if you are interested in reading this story, which began when I was 12, followed me through my life and has now evolved into at least a six-part series, you can start with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part One which is available for pre-order on Amazon now and is released on 9th November. This is a reworked, revised edition. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Two is also available for pre-order now and is also released on 9th November. Both at the special introductory price of 99p.
I plan to release the brand new Part Three in January an Part Four in February. By then I hope to be into the second or third draft of Part Five…
And the weird thing about this story is that I wrote it purely for myself, I indulged myself entirely, became utterly lost and absorbed and have still been unable to climb free from it. So I don’t really expect anyone to buy it, and I don’t really mind if they don’t. It feels weird to even try to plug it if I’m honest. Like this one is just for me. Like this is my mind, my imagination, my daydreams and to imagine anyone else wandering around in there is almost unsettling. And if it holds me prisoner for another 28 years? I think I’m okay with that…