A Year of Dust and Glitter

A year ago today, I was in excited anticipation of the publication of Dust and Glitter. I had been published several times before but this was the first time the collection would be entirely mine. My words alone, cover to cover (and what a beautiful cover it was).

When Clarendon House Publications first offered me the chance to publish the collection, I knew I had an uphill battle to face. My back available back catalogue was small and, even if I included previously published works, I’d come nowhere near the number of words I would need for a collection. There was also the issue that half of the stories I had were written since the beginning of 2018 and the other half ten years before when I was at university. My voice couldn’t have been more different. The stories from my university days were written by a young woman, heavily influenced by fantasy and watching the world through a pair of rose tinted glasses. The stories I had written since 2018 were by a woman, a mother, and someone who had experienced things I never would have anticipated in my days studying in Cambridge and Colchester with my dear old study buddy Laurie. There was no connection but they gave me an idea.

I decided early on that I wanted Dust and Glitter to track a path from birth to death, with stories of many genres telling paving the way. There wouldn’t be any central characters, the stories wouldn’t connect through a theme or a place, they would just be snapshots of life being lived wherever the characters found themselves.

I already knew several stories from previous publications that I couldn’t leave out of the collection. The Mystery of Lydford Gorge and The Long Road were two stories I had previously published with Clarendon House and they are by far my favourites from my back catalogue. Even with these, my university stories and several others, I still had a lot of work to do.

Luckily, along the way, I got to meet some brilliant characters who decided to visit my imagination. Arti – the story of a boy who has an accident and discovers a sinister secret about himself- was one of those magical stories that seemed to write itself in one sitting. FLTR- a dystopian look at augmented reality – came to me during a game of Pokemon Go with my brother, whilst Every Damned Second came to me on a day when my bones were not cooperating with me.

Another magical story that came from nowhere was Three Hundred Feathers – where anyone responsible for taking a life is permanently scarred by nature- to this day I have no idea what inspired it but it is one of the best things I have ever written.

Once I had all my stories together, there was still a disconnect, it needed something to tie them together. Enter the Demon – literally. One of my previous stories for Clarendon House Publications’ Literary Anthology, Vortex, was called Hey Demon, I’ll Make You a Deal and featured a women in conversation with her inner voice. Four stories later and Little Voice and Demon became by narrators through time, pulling together the last threads of Dust and Glitter.

If someone had said to me in November 2017, when I picked up my pen in the last ditch attempt at ‘becoming an author’, that in May 2020 (and in lock down) I would be looking forward to my book’s first birthday, I wouldn’t have believed you. I genuinely thought I would fall at the first hurdle but I didn’t and wow! Just wow!

I’ll forever be grateful to Grant Hudson and Clarendon House Publications for the support, advice and love I have received and still receive to this day. I truly could not have asked for a better publisher for this book. My gratitude also goes to everyone who has supported me- you know who you are- I truly couldn’t have done it without you.

There is one other person I have to thank, someone who has always been shadowed since I started this ‘author’ thing and that is Nova. Who is Nova you ask? Well, Nova (I’m not giving the full name away) is my fan fiction alter-ego and without her, the stories she wrote on so many fan sites, and the lessons she learned, Elizabeth Montague would never have been born.

So what’s next? Well, there’s Soulless, my novel which is coming on a pace and a collection featuring DCI Devlin Scott and Amanda Brent from The Mystery of Lydford Gorge to name but two projects.

Words will always feature in my life but Dust and Glitter will always be special to me and I’m happy that I had the opportunity to write it.

If you’re curious, you can find links to the book via Clarendon House Publications. I’d be so happy to hear your thoughts once you’ve read it too.

Stay tuned for more birthday celebrations tomorrow.

https://www.clarendonhousebooks.com/elizabeth-montague

The Story is All

The joys of lockdown continue here at Thistledoo. I’ve been doing the ‘day’ job safely from home (in between home schooling, changing channels, feeding the five year old – who eats like it’s going out of fashion- and doing to social distancing samba around the supermarket twice a week) for five weeks now and have managed to get into a decent rhythm but as of Monday, Hell has struck. I can’t log in and no one seems to have an answer. To say it is frustrating is an understatement. I love my job and it has given me at least a faint sense of normality in this very weird time.

I refuse however to be broken down by it and instead have put on my other hat and turned my attention back to my current collection of detective stories. I have ummed and ahhed as to whether I should address the coronavirus pandemic in the stories as they are meant to be read as current but it would severely hamper the scope of the plot if I did cover it. I raised the point with some writer friends Grant Hudson, the publisher of Dust and Glitter, gave me a really good phrase I think I need to apply to all my work.

The story is ALL.

So with that in mind, Devlin and Amanda are going to remain in the world we once knew and their adventures are going to continue to involve lots of people and plenty of interesting places. I’m looking forward to getting out there with them, even when I am stuck at home and cursing my internet connection!!

 

Inspiration from the past.

Before we took up permanent residence at Thistledoo, we spent three years as tenants in the my grandparents’ house. As my lovely Grandad was living in a old folks home, he asked us to look after my late Grandma’ ‘treasures’.

We made many happy memories in that house and, over the years, our possessions got mixed up with theirs. When Grandad dies and we moved to our new home, we took our things and left theirs so they could be sorted and distributed properly but, as was bound to happen, I forgot some things and spent a lot of time going back and forth picking them up until we had everything of ours at the new house. This apparent absent-mindedness though prompted my Dad to deliver an aged Sainsbury’s carrier bag to our house one day with the words ‘you forgot this’.

I took the bag without querying it and only looked inside days later to find an old embroidery that I’d never owned in my life. I realised it was a project my Grandma has started before dementia and old age has taken the hobby away.

As I looked down at the half finished piece, I decided I would complete it- a part of her mixed with a part of me that I could keep forever.

As always though, it has put me in mind for a story so, as I stitch, I’m going to plot and plan and tell myself the story this inspires before I get it down on paper.

My pen name was part of my Grandma’s name, so it seems fitting that I should have a story inspired by her.

World Book Day 2020 – This Is Me!

So today my good friend David Bowmore, author of The Magic of Debden Market, tagged me on facebook in a post encouraging writers to come out from behind their books. It was a bit of fun for World Book Day 2020 and I duly popped up a picture of me in all my lockdown glory – bedhead and zero make up included for free- and tagged some of my other writer friends to carry on the fun.

In order to take the picture, I had to pull my copy of Dust and Glitter off the shelf and I realised how long it has been since I last picked it up. This collection which had been my dream for so long, that I worked at for weeks on end, agonising over what to include, how I wanted my ‘author’ voice to come across, the subjects I wanted to tackle within its pages, was just sat on my shelf alongside the other books I had been part of and I felt sad. It felt as though I had abandoned it, left to collect dust (fitting) as I moved on with my life. Ok, so I know the stories like the back of my hand, backwards and possibly in Latin, but why had I left it alone for so long?

Well you see, I have been scared of this book since it came out. I was properly new to the world of publishing when I was offered the chance to produce the collection and naively thought my writing (the bit I was confident in) was all it would take. I’ve written before of my struggles with marketing. I’ve read all the books, followed the advice and had amazing support from my publisher but marketing just isn’t me. I struggle with the thought of selling the book that I know contains some of my best work because how do I wrap it up in a few short lines?

If I was selling a novel, I’d have a central theme, but Dust and Glitter is a collection of short stories of many different genres and so immediately gives me a difficult choice as to who I should market it to. I can’t summarise space exploration, the dangers of AI, reflections on disability, fantasy quests and a comedic buddy cop style drama (to name but a few) in a few short lines. I also find it difficult to sell the stories that mean so much more to me personally without sounding all woe is me- which is not going to sell a thing.

In putting my hands on that glorious cover (designed by the amazing Grant Hudson at Clarendon House Publications) and flicking through the pages, seeing the words I had spent so long writing, I realised that I love my book and I owe it so much more than I have given it. I need to celebrate the success that my words are out in the world, I need to remember that I wrote those words to challenge and to change. Dust and Glitter deserves so much from me and so here I go, I’m going to try and try and try (and I will fail and get back up again) to get this book out further afield, to show the world how much I believe in it. Perhaps then, other people will too. Maybe even you.

If you want to find out more about Dust and Glitter (let me know if you do!) you can do so here

Also please check out my amazing publisher, Clarendon House Publications, and my super author friend David Bowmore

Oh- and this is me!

This is Me

The Magic Place

I’ve found I’m really missing my little home from home at the theatre I work at so thought I’d share a short piece I wrote last year in honour of the most magical of all places.¬† xx

Darkness, almost. There’s a faint glimmer from the lights beneath, the world of the mechanics rather than the magic place she waits in. The air is chilled and she stretches well-used muscles to keep them warm, movements slow and careful. Even in the dark she knows she can be seen, black on black, a figure that they’re looking for. Sometimes they want to spoil the magic, see the trick first.

The smell is so familiar, sweat and powder and paint. The smell that lingers in her memory from the first day she walked into the magic place, a child with wide eyes and huge dreams. She never once thought those dreams would be real though but there she lies, in the dark of the magic place. Waiting.

She runs a finger over the floor, seeing the pattern in the gloom. So many have gone this way before her, waited in the same place for the same moment. She knows some of their names, they are heroes to her. She wonders if her name will be remembered, if she will be a hero to some wide eyed child who comes to the magic place for the first time.

She hears their voices now, loud in the silence of the waiting. They have light while she waits in the dark but they will swap soon. Soon she will have the light and they will have the dark, drawing them into the spell of the magic place. The doors let her know the time is near, she hears them closing even over the noise of the watchers. The voices grow a little quieter but they are not silent yet, no that comes in a moment when the spell begins.

She stretches out long limbs in her secret space, giving herself a moment to breathe, to think, to anticipate, for this moment will never come again. She will be in the same place night after night, follow the same ritual but it will never be the first, not like now. The now is the most special of moments in the magic place.

Darkness, complete. The watchers fall silent, waiting and the spell begins, not with words but with music. The great crash startles some but it thrills her, tells her that the moment is coming. Then the light returns but now it is theirs, the watchers now in darkness, but the light is not singular, it is many, twinkling and flashing against floor and ceiling and the wonders of the mechanical. It is summoning them, running through limb and mind and heart, prompting them to prepare. It speeds to a crescendo and then it is time.

She rolls into the light, into the magic place and looks out on the watchers obscured in their darkness as she is bathed in the light.

Opening night in the magic place.

pexels-photo-220072

Come To Call (100 word drabble)

Silence.

It always starts with silence. Such a peculiar kind, as though the world is holding its breath. The stillness before the storm.

Most run from it but it calls to her. She breaks the silence with the rasp of her breath, the knock on each door like a rumble of thunder.

Silence answers until one door swings open. The pale face grows white as they see her. Sightless black eyes, a snout rather than a face. They’ve not seen one like her before.

She knows at a glance that they won’t see one again.

The doctor come to call.

person in black coat and hat with plague doctor mask
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

The Ups and Downs of #Lockdown

They say it takes three weeks to form a habit and as I go into week four of lock down, I’m certainly getting used to being home more than I ever was before. We’ve found a rhythm and we’re really enjoying the time it gives us as a family. In terms of creativity though it has been a real up and down time.

A week or so ago I managed to produce three short stories in just under a week, all of them up to a standard where I would be happy to send them on to publishers. I’ve not produced work in that frequency since I was working on Dust and Glitter so it was a with a distinct sense of euphoria that I sat down at the keys again this weekend only to find nothing! My brain refuses to give me more than a handful of sentences.

Perhaps the stories I wrote, two of which were very dark and the other nostalgic for the theatre which I am still missing like crazy, we’re a necessary catharsis for the pent up emotions I have been fighting with. Whatever caused it though seems to have ebbed and I will need to wait it out. I’ve got a couple of submission calls that I am looking into so hopefully that will inspire something in me, one of them being about the C-19 pandemic so definitely living in the midst of inspiration there.

Fingers crossed this won’t be a significant period of writer’s block, especially as even my fan fiction (which is usually a go to when the writing brain isn’t functioning) is suffering for it.

With the anniversary of Dust and Glitter coming up, I’m hoping the memory of release day will awaken the creativity that carried me through that creation and some new stories will be forthcoming for me to share with you. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to stay safe at home, teach the small person, tell Himself what needs doing in the house and enjoy being able to have some quality family time.

There are many ups and downs yet to come but I’m ready to face them.

A Supernatural Week

Well, it’s week 2 in lock down here in the UK and it’s been a busy one. Firstly I found out that my real world job was keeping me on to work from home which was brilliant news but also meant some very quick thinking of how to fit in the 24 hours (mainly customer focused so no ability to work after Small’s bedtime) around home school and general child wrangling. Luckily I have some fantastic colleagues staying on with me and we’re finding our rhythm working together. Focusing on work helps me think of the future as well, rather than languishing in the worries of now.

Home schooling has proved interesting. Luckily the small person is only 5 so we’re not having to be majorly academic but this week was brought to us with a refusal to do anything that doesn’t involve smashing the keys on my laptop. We’re not pushing anything on her, this worldwide trauma is not going to be her trauma if I can stop it, but at the same time I want her to have a little focus. Cue Mr M with a tablet and a new subscription to a certain new streaming service featuring a certain chilly princess. Rule now is that one piece of school work completed properly results in access to one movie etc etc. It is amazing how focused she suddenly is. Hey, it’s not A+ parenting but I’m not looking for an award. She’s happy, we’re happy, and the world can go to hell in a hand basket outside the walls of Thistledoo.

In writing terms, I’ve had a pretty successful week. My poor fanfic has run aground for a bit, I need to build up my confidence for the big battle scene so instead I’ve been focusing on submission pieces. One was inspired by having to leave my lovely theatre in mothballs for the time being and the legend of leaving on a ghost light to signal that the performers will return. The other was in response to a call to write a dark tale of witches where I took inspiration from the history of Matthew Hopkins and the witch hunts in England in the 1600s. The first has already gone to a publisher and the second will be on route once I’ve done¬† a wee bit of editing.

All in all, I’m feeling a lot more focused and excited about the prospects this isolation affords us. The world may be in pain but I’m striving to see the light where I can.

When Inspiration Strikes

Goodness but it feels good when you can sit down and actually write something you like at the end of it. Though I’ve been plodding along with my continuation of The Mystery of Lydford Gorge, as with all long projects it is hard to feel any sort of instant gratification other than the occasional paragraph that reminds me that I may have a wee bit of talent.

I have been umming and ahhing over the last few days as to whether I should enter The Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge again (I got to the first round last year) but the turnaround was tight and I have the added pressures right now of working from home as well as trying to educate and look after my five year old as we’re still in lock down in the UK. I had an idea in my head but, with a 500 word limit, I wondered if it was something that I could condense and do justice to without it feeling truncated. This evening though something clicked and I bashed out those five hundred words in under an hour and it felt so good! Finally feel like I’m getting my writing mojo back.

I’ve sent it to my writing group for a bit of reviewing (hopefully they’ll like it) and then off it will go. I don’t know how far it will get, I know some of the authors I am likely to be up against and they are all amazing competition but I can but try.

Watch this space for news x

Corona Conundrum

Ugh! Corona Corona! The things you do.

Currently is quasi-lockdown in the UK and I honestly thought (when the mild Holy Mother the world might end panic had gone) that I would have time to write. Ok so I knew I would have the small person home but I thought that would be ok, I can work writing around her.

I then found out that I would be able to work from home. Bonus! Work equals pay and job security. I can work that in too.

What I didn’t account for was the stress of the juggling match. Keeping the child happy and making sure my work was done properly as well as managing my home (hubby is a key worker so he is taking the lion’s share of work time) is tough enough but when your brain is short circuiting because you are used to being out in the fresh air and walking ALL THE TIME it doesn’t take long for things to press down hard. Add to that the anxiety of wondering whether the necessary trip to the supermarket might bring this dreadful virus into my home and my creativity has fled!

I know it will get better, I know I will get better as I get used to this new normal.

I just hope it happens quickly. There are stories to write.