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!

My 2020 Goals

It’s become a tradition for me to write down my writing goals for the year ahead and then at the end of that year, to compare the goals to the reality. Last week I examined the writing goals I set myself at the start of 2019 to see how well I had done. You can read the results here;https://chantelleatkins.com/2019/12/20/my-2019-writing-goals-vs-the-reality/

So, this is my post for 2020 setting out what I hope to achieve. You might notice the word ‘writing’ is missing from the title, and that is because this time, my goals are not all writing or work related. Other things are just as important, sometimes more so. My list is a little different this time around because my life is a little different and because I feel a lot different. I have blogged about the perimenopause and how it’s affecting me here and I am sure I will blog about it again, as it’s dominating my life so much at the moment. I’m not going to go into it too much now but I will say that my goals this year are different because of it.

  1. Achieve a successful, well-stocked, functional vegetable garden! Okay, might sound strange, but this is linked to my current state of mind. Being outside, doing dirty, outdoorsy things in the fresh air, especially things that have a positive impact are very, very good for me right now. The best thing I can do when I feel down is get outside. I’ve had a vegetable patch since we moved here ten years ago. Over the years it had got bigger and better and some years I have been very successful with daily harvests in the summer months and it has been great. The last few years have been a lot less productive for various reasons, but this year it’s my top goal. Weird I know, but more than any writing or work related goal, this is what I want to achieve the most. I’m not sure why other than that I know it does me good to be outside, I know I can do it because I’ve done it before and it might be a wise move what with all the Brexshit uncertainty! It just seems really important for some reason. I will be starting in January. Making plans and buying seeds and starting some off and weeding. I can’t wait. This really is going to be my top priority.
  2. Learn to play the guitar! Another goal not related to writing or work! But another one that suddenly feels very important. Perhaps because I’m increasingly aware of life passing me by, of running out of time and chances. Perhaps because I have always wanted to try. Perhaps because I so admire anyone that can play an instrument. Perhaps because my characters in the Holds End trilogy are playing instruments and writing their own music and it would also be research? Perhaps because my daughter has agreed to teach me and it will be a good thing to do together. I don’t know why. I just know it’s important and I am really excited about trying it.
  3. Release Emily’s Baby in the Spring – Doable. Emily’s Baby is the follow-up to A Song For Bill Robinson, the second book in the Holds End trilogy. It’s having a final round with beta readers at the moment and will have another few rounds of edits/proofreads with me after that but I anticipate a Spring release, perhaps April.
  4. Finish The Search For Summer – Doable. I am currently writing the first draft of this in a notebook and I’m three quarters through. It’s going well. I should easily finish the first draft by early 2020 and will then start the next million drafts and aim to release it towards end of 2020 or perhaps the start of 2021.
  5. Finish Parts Five and Six of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – These books are currently at draft number four. Next will be a read through on my Kindle, followed by another edit, and then it’s beta reader time. I’d like to think I will release them in 2020 but I think that’s too ambitious so I will just aim to finish them and be happy with them and plan a 2021 release for both books at the same time. It might be wise to finish the Holds End series first and get that promoted and then turn my attention back to this one.
  6. Finish the first draft of the YA series I was working on… – This refers to the post-apocalyptic YA series I started some time ago. The first draft was going very well for the first in a four book series but it got side-lined by The Boy series and the Holds End series…I hope to at least finish the first draft of book one in 2020.
  7. Do a second draft of YA novel We Hate The cool Kids – This was a book that jumped the queue in 2019. I wrote the first draft in a notebook pretty quickly but the ending troubled me. I don’t have any immediate plans to release this but I do think aiming for a second draft and a tied up ending would be good for 2020 depending on how things go.
  8. Continue working hard with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – No specific goals this year for my little company. I have three new clubs starting after Christmas and this will keep me busy enough. Long term, I would like to get more writers on board to help deliver my ambition of encouraging children and adults to write and keep writing. I hope to get a community project off the ground finally but life is so busy and the after-school clubs take a lot of time and prep, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself here. Just keeping it all going is enough of a goal
  9. Keep adding stories and poems to a collection – I’m not putting a time scale on this next collection of short stories and poems, but I will try to keep adding to it and working on it when I feel the need!
  10. Slow down, enjoy life, breathe, cry, listen to more music, be outside as much as possible, be honest about my feelings and keep writing them down – a little jumble of goals and aims to end on, but perhaps these are what will make the others achievable. I’m only at the start of this perimenopause fun, and it’s knocked me for six. It’s brought back emotions, thoughts and anxieties I thought I had long walked away from. Sometimes it is genuinely exhausting getting through a normal day. Moods shift and change with no warning. Some days I feel totally normal. Other days I sit in the car and cry. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just got to remember to talk about it, write about it and just allow it. It is what it is.

So, that’s my list for 2020. Longer than last years, but a bit less writing/work related. I feel like it’s more about just surviving!! How about you? Have you got anything you particularly want to achieve in 2020? Please feel free to comment and share!

Poem-The Battle

The battle started when I was ten

Though I didn’t know it then

A line was drawn upon the sand

When you slipped free and took my hand

I did not know, I did not see

You’d always be a piece of me

What were the words that set you free?

That helped shape my identity?

You’re a big girl, the biggest in class

That can’t really be all your arse

Fat cow, puppy fat, kind of chunky

Are you my best friend? Or worst enemy?

Now we hold hands forever more

Across the line of an eternal war

Dark little girl, with me endlessly

Claws in my back, I carry you with me

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Poem; Fine Wine

I need time for fine wine

Actually, it’s pretty cheap

Long as is doesn’t taste like vinegar, I’m good

And I refuse guilt

On a Friday, having survived

Because that’s what life is

A bloody fight and you know it

Like I know it

And we laugh about it and mostly

We swear fucking loads about it

And that makes us laugh more

Reveals the tension, the underlying strung out, pain and regret and

Anger

Licking lips, shaking heads, shaking it all away, we say

All you can do is laugh

All you can do is fuck it

Because life is short!

Fine wine, at the right time

Is never, ever enough

It lifts you up, lifts you out

The glass in hand, the bubbles glistening

The tall thin stem

The fragility of glass, like human pain

Human potential and blood

Your mouth rejects then consumes it

Your body likes it, your mind craves it

Music gets louder, means more

Touches you, nodding

You are gloriously amplified

Even, alone, typing, thinking, feeling, smiling

Taking lost selfies

You are smiling, with your fine wine

Your reward, your reward for the fight

And what does it mean

Except, anything can happen, anything will

Probably, you will roll into bed and sleep with

A smile on your face

But you don’t know that for sure when you start the fine wine

You feel the possibilities then

Of words unspoken, of laughter, light, danger

It’s all a ball of reckless desire and needing to be seen

It propels and laughs slyly

Trips many a fine human up

Ties them in knots

But not you

You know, fine wine, cheap wine

But only on a Friday

It is a caged beast, after all