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!

Author Interview; Gail Aldwin

Hello and welcome to another author interview! This time I have the pleasure of hosting Gail Aldwin, a prize-winning writer of short fiction and poetry. She has lived in Australia, Spain and Papua New Guinea and is now based in Dorset. Her new collection of short fiction Paisley Shirt is published by Chapeltown Books. You can purchase a Kindle edition on Amazon (the paperback will follow soon).

gailsbook

Can you tell us what inspired this collection of stories?

I looked for commonalities in the range of short fiction I had written over time. I noticed a thread of resilience woven through the stories and selected the best. Paisley Shirt is a collection of short fiction that tells of the obstacles encountered in life and how it is possible to overcome them.

I understand you are also working on a novel. What do you find harder? Short stories or novel writing?

All writing is a pleasure and a challenge. I like being able to work on short fiction alongside novel writing. The timescale for finishing a longer piece of work means that it’s good to have other projects on the go where there is satisfaction in knowing the story is complete.

Can you tell us about your novel? What is it about and when will it be released?

I wrote a novel called The String Games as part of studies in creative writing with the University of South Wales. It is the story of the abduction and murder of a sibling told from the older sister’s viewpoint. Rather than a crime novel, the story focuses on the legacy of loss for the protagonist, as she moves from childhood to the teenage years and into adulthood. Last year, I entered the novel into a competition and although I didn’t win and wasn’t placed, one of the judges was a literary agent and offered me representation. This was a lovely experience but it didn’t last long! My agent took maternity leave and decided not to return to work, so I continue to seek a home for this novel.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve been interested in writing for over twenty years but as I child I didn’t like books. I experienced intermittent hearing loss, which meant it was difficult to learn to read, as I couldn’t distinguish the phonic sounds. Reading was hard work and it took until my teenage years to see books as a source of pleasure and enjoyment. My interest in writing started when I lived overseas and enjoyed writing letters. This grew into a love of writing short fiction and then novels, scripts and poetry.

Do you have a day job and if so what is it?

I currently work as a visiting tutor to creative writing students at Arts University Bournemouth. I love my job! It is a joy to watch students develop new skills and confidence. I am also Chair of the Dorset Writers Network. With the steering group, I work to inspire writers across the county by connecting creative communities.

Can you describe your writing process? 

When I get an idea, I muse on it for a while, then I decide which style of writing the content is suited to. Fragments or moments lend themselves to poetry, short fiction needs a story arc, I usually work collaboratively to develop scripts and novels are a home-alone process. The first draft of anything is about getting the words on the page, then the fun begins: shaping, deepening, layering through drafting and redrafting. For the first time ever, the novel I’m currently working on has been fully plotted. This Much I Know gives a child’s eye view of the interaction between adults in a suburban community where a paedophile is housed. The trick in writing from a child’s viewpoint is to exploit the gap in understanding between the child and the actions of adults around them. It’s a lot of fun playing around with strategies and techniques to capture the voice of a young child.

Tell us about your marketing and self-promotion approach

I am new to marketing and promotion so I refer to books with practical advice on how to move forward. I’ve learnt how to write a press release, have made contacts with local press and cultivated friendships on social media. I am hoping there are others like you, Chantelle, who are willing to interview me and review Paisley Shirt.

Where to find Gail:

Email:             gailaldwin@btinternet.com

Twitter:           @gailaldwin

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Blog:              The Writer is a Lonely Hunter

Chair DWN:    http://www.dorsetwritersnetwork.co.uk

Author Interview with Joel Dennstedt

This week’s blog post comes to you a few days early and in the form of an author interview! I last chatted to indie author Joel Dennstedt around a year ago. Since then he’s been travelling, writing and professionally reviewing books. Here he is talking about his travels, and the inspiration behind his latest release, horror collection, When Dolls Talk

1) Can you tell us where in the world you are right now, and where you are heading to next?

I am back where I began: my hometown of San Diego, California. Five years non-stop trekking through Mexico and Central and South America brought me home to visit family and to re-gear up for 5 more years. I plan to visit Scotland for the Scotch/Whiskey tour, then head to Eastern Europe and across Central Asia into Southeast Asia.

2) Has your travelling inspired any of the books you have written or are working on, and if so, in what way?

Traveling inspired my SF novel,  GuanjoN, , which happens on a planet resembling the Amazon. However, I reached the Amazon after the book was written. So, maybe future thoughts prompted this eerie adventure about Earth natives endangered by indigenous aliens.

3) How has travelling changed you as a person and as a writer?

Oddly, travelling made the authentic me emerge. The true me as a writer. Travelling fulltime gave me the freedom to become myself. Transformation, while challenging, results in total liberation. And travelling is fun.

4) You have a new book out. A horror collection. How did this come about?

This doll spoke to me. Rather, a photo of this creepy doll. She wanted me to write her story. So I did. After that, they just came out of the woodwork.

5) Are you a fan of horror yourself? Who is your favourite horror writer?

Yes, I’m a fan and a follower. My style is inspired by Edgar Allen Poe with a contemporary twist. H.P. Lovecraft has a say for darkness. I worship Stephen King. I never miss a Dean Koontz debut. Overall, I prefer my horror on the literary side, and definitely with a dash of dark humor.

6) Where did the ideas come from for these stories?

Those damn dolls. Actually, I searched out individual creepy photographs to inspire each story. Then I let my fearful imagination go. I’ve posted the photographs on Facebook and in the Bonus Gift Pack that came with every pre-order.

7) I understand you first posted these stories on Wattpad. How useful was that for gaining comments and a potential audience for the book?

Wattpad has a unique audience to itself. They rarely buy the final book. But they keep me encouraged to keep on writing, they offer wonderfully perceptive observations, and they often provide desperately needed Amazon Reviews.

8) Is there a message in this collection? Or in any of your books? Something you wish the world to know? Only to this extent – a

Only to this extent – a marvellous author friend made the following observation about these stories: “So much more depth to them than just scary bump in the night stuff. They’re scary all right, but more about the scary human condition and experience, parables, metaphors, etc.” That is – the real horror in life comes from us humans being human.

9) What can we expect from you next?

Lord, I wish I knew. I want to write a sequel to Guanjo. I plan to write Book 2 of these short horror stories. I need to work on my literary novel, which is still a decade in the making. And I need to keep working on my book of travel short stories based on true events.

10) Is there any genre you would never attempt to write in and if so, why?

I don’t write in genres I don’t read. I don’t read much fantasy. I don’t read hot romance. I wrote a quirky little romance called Hermit, but nothing with muscled men and naked women on the front. But I’m already in trouble with the crowd who says you must pick a genre and stick with it. I cannot do that.

11) How has your journey as an indie writer progressed since we last chatted? Any highs and lows?

It’s a roller coaster; you know that. All highs and lows. More is never enough. The next good thing makes you manic. In the end, it really, truly, MUST be all about the writing. But … it never stays that way. So, I paid my ticket. I’m on the ride. Hanging on.

12) I know you review books professionally. Please give us your top three books so far! What have you read and reviewed that we really don’t want to miss?

That is difficult to answer. I’ll give you my personal favorites, but my taste is not yours. However, I have read many great books by Indie Authors, when I did not expect to do so.

1. Decline – by Jared Kane A perfect little book, a poetic literary

style – understated post-apocalyptic

tale.

2. The Finest Hat in the Whole World – by Colleen Parkinson

Resonates with the feeling and style of

To Kill a Mockingbird. Masterful attention to the details.

3. 602 Brigade – by Musashi Miyamoto

Like Decline, a poetic literary style.

A post-apocalyptic, anti-war tale.

Thanks so much for chatting with me again, Joel!

If you’d like to find out more about Joel, his writing and his travels, here are his links;

Website: http://www.joelrdennstedt.com

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Joel-R.-Dennstedt/e/B008VJZ6RE

Independent Book Reviews: https://www.facebook.com/independentbookreviews

Short Story Problems!

Short stories have always proved problematic for me. The clue is in the word ‘short’. I’m not too good at ‘short’. But I am learning, and I am also learning how vital it is to master short stories.

Recently, an old friend was sorting out her attic and found something I had once given her. It was a short story I’d written when I was about fifteen. She brought it over and gave it to me and for a moment or two I was utterly flummoxed. Not only could I not recall writing it, but I couldn’t work out how I’d done it either. I mean, I struggle with short stories, I really do.

For a while, I gave up on them completely. I was too busy writing rather long novels, and didn’t see the point in pursuing something I didn’t think came naturally to me. Then one day someone suggested writing short stories related to my novels and releasing them as a kind of marketing tool. I have to admit, as cynical as it sounds, I liked the idea immediately. Not so much the marketing bit, but the writing short stories related to my novels bit. You see I am rather over attached to my novels, the current ones, the ones in progress, and the ones that are still just in my head. I rather see the characters as real people and it’s extremely hard to switch off from them. They kind of exist forever. They are always starting new stories, diving into new dramas and conflicts. So writing some short stories suddenly seemed like an extremely enticing and fun idea. And it was. And Bird People and Other Stories was born.

Now, I have to admit to being rather proud of this little book. I can’t say I have mastered the art of the short story, far from it. Many of the shorts in this book are character snapshots, or scenes from a different point of view than the one shown in the novel. But they were easy and fun to write, which was a massive revelation to me as a writer who had turned away from short stories for so long.

I’m now kind of addicted to them. In fact I write one once a month to be included in my author newsletter (click here if you want to sign up!)

My friend’s discovery reminded me that I had once embraced short stories before novels. Like a lot of young writers, I cut my teeth on short stories and little ‘books’ before I worked up the skills and patience to write an actual novel.

I’d just forgotten!

Reading through this particular story, I’m both embarrassed and impressed. Embarrassed by the younger me’s habit of repeating myself, a lot. I used to say the same thing in about three different ways, as if afraid of being misunderstood! But I’m impressed by my fearlessness, and that’s what young writers have in abundance. I didn’t fear the short story then, I just thought of one and got on with it. There was no ‘I can’t do this’, or ‘I’m not as good at shorts, so I won’t bother.’

If I am honest, I still find them a challenge. Some work instantly. Like magic. Others don’t. For as many finished shorts, I have unfinished, festering, niggling ones. I know what I want to say, but just can’t seem to say it.

I mean, what is the perfect short story anyway? The one that says something big in the shortest, sharpest way possible? Or is it really down to personal taste, as with novels?

The other problem I have with shorts is their annoying tendency to start developing into full blown novels! Give them an inch and they take a mile! I now have one epic novel, if not an entire series of books planned due to inspiration taken from the last two short stories I attached to my newsletter. Unexpected and brilliant, but you know, I don’t want this happening too often! There is already a backlog of books waiting to be written. (See Upcoming Books!)

So, what’s your opinion on short stories? Do you enjoy reading them? What makes the perfect short story in your opinion? And if you write them, how does the process work for you?