The Mess Of Me Now

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!

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5 Ways This Crazy World Helps My Writing

I could also have titled this post; ‘5 Ways Writing Helps Me Deal With This Crazy World’, because it works both ways. Writing helps me cope with this world and everything going on in it, and the world helps my writing by providing so much inspiration and material! Win win, if you want to put a positive spin on it. I could also have called this post; ‘How The Hell Do Non-Writers Even Survive?’, because seriously, I have no idea. If I didn’t have writing, I don’t know how would I cope. Anyway, here goes. The world is a messed up place but I don’t let any of it go to waste;

  1. Anxiety– I use the mess in my stomach and pretend I’m one of my characters. I play out the scene. I feel the churn and the dread weighing me down. That tightness in my chest. Like it’s hard to breathe. Like you don’t want to think about anything for too long or you might start crying and never stop. I take all that and put it into my characters. I become them. I play act. I change my worries and fears to theirs. I make use of it.
  2. I explore darkness – through my characters. Their stories are nearly all ones I have stood on the edge of. I’ve stood there and peered into the darkness. I’ve wondered about it and thought about it and been tempted by so many things inside the dark. But I have my characters and I explore it through them. I don’t have to go into the darkness, because I do it through them instead.
  3. I leave behind a legacy – For someone who is not religious, I’m not particularly scared of dying, but I do think about death a lot. Because the world is so messed up, and humans so delightfully flawed, I sometimes like to think of my books as my legacy. I’m leaving my thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears and hopes inside my books and these will live on after I do. My response to this world and this life is my writing. All my books, all my stories, my characters are all little bits of me, all part of me and who I am and when I die, my ancestors will be able to know me better than anyone, by reading it all.
  4. I weave the craziness into my stories – I make sense of the world and politics and social issues by writing about them. Anything that angers, upsets or confuses me is woven into my stories. My books all deal with social issues and I love delving into gritty subjects in this way. It gives me a chance to sort through my own thoughts and beliefs, and this dying world gives me a lot of material.
  5. People watching for material -It’s weird being a writer because on the one side you are naturally introverted and shy, but on the other, you are constantly baring your fragile soul to the world. You often distrust people and try to avoid them, yet they are endlessly fascinating to you and provide juicy material for characters and stories. It’s great though because you can go out into the world, soak up all the messy people then come home and expel it all through words.

So, there you have it. I don’t like this world or the people in it a lot of the time. I’m terrified of where we are all heading. But at least I’m getting the constant urge to write! What do you think, folks? Please feel free to comment and/or share. Does writing help you deal with the state of the world right now, or the worries in your own life? Or is the world happily providing you with enough material for a lifetime?

 

How My Books Are All Linked Up

With the imminent release of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Part Three, (released February 22nd, available for pre-order now!) I thought I would write a post about how all of my books are linked to each other.

Some of the links are quite obvious, but others are more subtle so you might have missed them. Let’s start with my first release, YA novel, The Mess Of Me.

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The Mess Of Me is linked to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, by location. Lou and her best friend Joe live on an estate on one side of a bypass and have to cross over the bypass via a bridge to reach their school on the Somerley estate. In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Danny and his friends attend Somerley school in the first two books. Danny is also mentioned in The Mess Of Me, by Joe, who is angry with his stepfather and issues a vague threat about doing what Danny Bryans did in the 90’s. The narrator Lou explains to the reader that Danny Bryans was imprisoned for knifing his stepfather to death, and that his is a well-known and notorious story in their area. She also mentioned his name is engraved on a bench near where he used to live.

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The Boy With The Thorn In His Side will later on in the series, have links to two as yet unreleased books. A Song For Bill Robinson, which I hope to release later this year, and a book which has the working title of The Lane Brothers. The Lane brothers appear in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts 5 and 6, which are not out yet. Danny will also appear in their spin-off book.

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This Is Nowhere is linked to Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature by location. This Is Nowhere is set almost entirely in my home village, Hurn. All of my books contain real locations, but I usually fictionalise them and change the names of towns and streets. In this book, I kept everything real. The character of Jake returns home to Hurn after running away as a teenager, and the house he lives in is my actual house now. In Elliot Pie, I have fictionalised some of the locations, but kept Hurn real. Elliot cycles out to Hurn when exploring new places and befriends a lady called Sandra. Sandra lives next door to Jake and May. They are not mentioned by name, but eagle-eyed readers might have picked up on her mentions of the neighbours, and the fact she dislikes the long-legged lurcher type dogs they keep. Both books contain scenes set on the beautiful Sopley Common, a real place, and probably my favourite place in the world.

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Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is linked to A Song For Bill Robinson, a YA book I hope to release later this year. Both characters live on Hoppers Close, on the Holds End estate. In Elliot Pie, he longs to escape this small world and frequently cycles away from the area to make new friends. At the start of the book, he mentioned the other people who live on Hoppers Close (based on a close I used to live on as a teenager) and tells the reader a bit about the Robinson family. He also spots Bill Robinson walking across the close with his guitar on his back. A Song For Bill Robinson is set almost exclusively on the Holds End estate. It’s a fictionalised version of a council estate named Townsend, which is where I grew up.

And as I have already mentioned, A Song For Bill Robinson links to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in particular, the last three books, where Danny is an adult and running his own nightclub. Indie nightclub Chaos features heavily in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, and in the later books is a place up and coming bands can audition for regular slots. At the end of A Song For Bill Robinson, he and his band secure such an audition at Chaos, and Danny Bryans is mentioned. He may even appear briefly in the sequel to A Song For Bill Robinson, Emily’s Baby.

The only book not obviously linked to the others is The Tree Of Rebels, because it is set in the future. In my mind however, the location is a future version of the places I have already fictionalised in my other books.

I’m not sure why I like to link my books up. It sort of happened naturally and has become a habit. It’s easy to do because I tend to use the same real and fictionalised locations and my characters tend to be similar in class and background. Plus, it’s fun. It means I never really have to say goodbye to anyone!

My 2018 Goals Vs The Reality

So, this has become a bit of a tradition for me. Every New Year I set myself some writing-related goals and then at the end of the year I compare the goals with what actually happened. I find it helps to keep track of things and it can also be encouraging to realise how many I did achieve. So, here we go. The goals I set myself at the start of 2018 and what actually happened…

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  1. Release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature – This was a goal for 2016 and 2017 but finally, I achieved it in 2018! After attempting to find a publisher and getting pretty close a few times, Elliot pie found a home with the all-women indie collective Pict Publishing. Elliot Pie was released at the start of October 2018. Phew!!
  2. Continue To Work on My YA Trilogy – This time a year ago my YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson was at 4th draft stage and I had penned a sequel and started the third book. All did not go to plan, however. I ran out of steam on the third book and decided to change the ending of the second and blend the two, making it two books, not three. I have not had a chance to attempt this yet, but Bill Robinson, the first book, is basically ready. I need a bit more feedback from beta readers, and at least a few more edits and proofreads, and then I will try the publisher route again, whilst also looking at possible front covers. I hope to release a Song For Bill Robinson in 2019 and finish the sequel too.
  3. Kickstart My New Company Into Action – A year ago, I was feeling very nervous indeed. My writing business, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group had just become a Community Interest Company. I was full of fear about this! I have to admit, I still am. But 2018 did see some progress. I secured three separate grants for the company, and I kickstarted my community writing project, with so far, three free kids workshops, and two school visits. It doesn’t feel like enough. I have felt constantly torn between excitement and passion, and total regret for ever doing this. I have achieved the goal though. I’ve started the community project and applied for funding for the school project. I’ve not been successful yet but I keep trying. I also have a new idea in the planning stages for a long-term project. As scary as it is, I will keep going in 2019.
  4. Apply For Funding For a School Project – see above! I have done this several times and I’m waiting for the result of my most recent bid. I do have two lots of funding for the community project and a small amount in place for the school, so we have made progress and I have learned a lot !
  5. Apply For More Funding For Community Writing Project – Yes, I’ve achieved this, and fingers crossed, there will be a partnership happening in 2019 which will enable me to access more money, advertising and reputation. If this comes off, it will really make the project a success which I feel will have major positive outcomes for my CIC in the long-run.
  6. Get Wheels In Motion For Two More Projects – One, yes, which involves writing, children and nature. I have started planning this and looking at possible funding available. The other project, no. It’s something I’d like to do but will be kept on the back burner for now.
  7. Push Forward With Pop-Up Book Shop Idea – I’ve had this idea for ages, but alas, this did not gain any traction in 2018 and I’m not sure I will have time for it in 2019. I might look into it again and it’s certainly something I want to pursue.

All in all, then, I didn’t do too badly! Mind you, I only set myself 7 and most were related to my CIC! One thing that wasn’t on there was revising and re-releasing The Boy With The Thorn in His Side as a six book series, but somehow I managed to fit that into 2018 despite it not being on the goals list! It just sort of happened and has taken over quite a large chunk of 2018! More about that on next week’s blog, My Writing Goals For 2019!!

How about you? Did you set yourself any goals for 2018, and if so, how did you do? Please feel free to comment and share!