A short story I penned especially for Hallowe’en…
A short story I penned especially for Hallowe’en…
If you were following my ‘THOSE PHOTOS’ posts over on my author page, then you will already know this story, or the background to it at least. For those of you who missed them, or this one in particular, here is the story behind my second tattoo, plus a little bit extra!
You can see the tattoo in ‘THOSE PHOTOS’, but also in all its colourful glory. It is a symbol that marks a turning point in my life – my rebirth.
In June 2012, I was sitting on a clifftop in a park on Victoria Island in Canada, staring down at the waves crashing on the rocks below me. I had never been so depressed.
My manager was bullying me mercilessly, to the point I couldn’t face going in, I couldn’t leave as I was financially tied to the job by a huge mortgage that felt like a noose ever tightening, and I was in an abusive relationship that I was too scared to leave.
I could only see one way out as I stared into those waves, hypnotised, believing no one would care, that no one would miss me, that it was best all round.
What stopped me? A tiny voice inside that would not let me give up, would not let those men destroy me and my life.
Instead, I got up and bought a notebook and pen, sat underneath a tree and wrote a list of what I wanted to do. And, do you know what? Without thinking about it, I have done it; I have turned my life around – sold my house, quit my job, ended the relationship, gone self-employed, published my books, qualified as a yoga teacher.
It is possible to change your life if you truly desire it; I know because I have done it.
To symbolise my rebirth, I decided to have my second tattoo – my beautiful butterfly ❤
I found the image I wanted on the internet and took it down to the tattoo parlour in Victoria. A huge bear of a man faced me as I handed over the image. He stared at it for a few moments and then shook his head, saying he wouldn’t do it. I was crestfallen and turned to leave, but his big meaty paw stopped me.
‘I know what you want,’ he said. ‘I’ll design one for you, just for you. Come back tomorrow.’
When I returned the next day, he presented me with this gorgeous image, ever so proud of himself. I was both stunned and shocked – stunned by its beauty, but shocked by the size of his design (it would have spanned my whole back).
‘I love it,’ I said, ‘but there’s no way you’re doing it that size!’
He was crestfallen, but he got over it. It turned out that as well as being a tattoo artist, he made intricate and decorative cakes for a living!
Never judge a book, as they say 😉
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
’Til next time.
I am, but that doesn’t mean the Dark Shadow doesn’t come to try to draw me away from time to time, to tempt me with the sweet sense of calm, of oblivion, of nothingness.
For weeks now, the Dark Shadow has been stalking me, reaching its tendrils out to latch onto me and drag me ever closer to the edge. I’ve resisted, as I always do, but for the first time in a very long time, I have stared over the edge, into the abyss. Last night, in fact, I leaned over.
Sitting in the bath, Bat Out of Hell II playing in the background, tears coursing down my cheeks, the voices urging me on; I stared into the water, my face millimetres from the surface, and I wanted desperately to know what it would feel like to inhale that lavender-scented water into my lungs. Would it be painful, as they say? Would my body reject it or, would it do as it was told and yield? To quieten the voices, to calm the storm, to close the doors on the world – this is what the Dark Shadow was offering me.
But as my nose disappeared beneath the surface, a tiny voice whispered, ‘help me’. This voice grew stronger and stronger until I realised it wasn’t inside my head. I was speaking. I was uttering those two life-altering words out loud. I was finally asking the universe for help. I was acknowledging that I couldn’t defeat the Dark Shadow alone.
I cannot predict when or, largely, why the Dark Shadow comes, but I have, over the years, learned to recognise its presence. It’s a weight in my chest, a veil over my eyes, a cloud blocking my thoughts. But, more than anything, it’s the voices in my head; not the ones who craft my stories, but the ones who want to remind me of my station – you’re not good enough, your writing is crap, you have no talent, you’re getting old, you’re ugly, you’ve got no boobs, you’ll get fat if you eat that, no one loves you, no one will miss you, what’s the point in you. These were the voices forcing my face under the water, these were the voices who very nearly won this time, but for that voice that spoke out, that inner strength of which I am most proud, and asked for help.
I cannot tell you exactly how long it took following my plea, but I do know that before I went to bed, I felt a little lighter, and when I woke up this morning, I saw a sliver of light through the darkness.
What pulled me back from the edge? Did the universe intervene, and my guides stop me? Did my own willpower suddenly cause me to dig in my heels to prevent my fall? Or, was it a combination of both? Whatever, or whoever, it was, I am grateful.
I believe it is some of the traits that are good about me that make me vulnerable to the Dark Shadow. My compassion, my empathy, and my vivid imagination, all contribute to my greatest weakness. The state of the world right now – climate change, wildfires, animals in peril, the farce that is Brexit, the hatred, disrespect and vileness of the human race – have all been too much. And, once the chink in my armour is exposed, the voices begin. Where do those voices come from, though?
For me, the voices come from inside, fed and nurtured by my interactions with the world, filtered through my fragile confidence, to become something more than they initially were.
Listening as I am told I should wear makeup and dress up more, that a real writer writes every day and sells thousands of books, that I should write romance or erotic fiction not that rubbish you write, that I shouldn’t watch the films and shows I do, that I should socialise more, that I shouldn’t fall in love so easily, that I shouldn’t pin my future on a pipe dream, that I shouldn’t be interested in the stuff I am as it means something is wrong with me, mentally.
Hearing that I am not good enough, that I am not pretty enough, that no one will love me, that I’m not worth being with, that I am a failure, that my writing is rubbish and I am wasting my time, that my creativity is a joke, that my dreams are a delusion, that no one will want someone like me, that I am broken.
Listening vs hearing – a daily battle that I know isn’t unique to me. Most of the time, I can block out the voices, but sometimes they take over, and occasionally, like last night, they almost win.
But on this, for me, most auspicious of full moons, it is time for me to ignore the voices and to shout out those things of which I am most proud, for Aries is insisting that I do just that.
I salute my resilience, my tenacity, and my strength, for they have helped me battle the abuse, the heartbreak, and the misfortunes life has thrown my way, and have made me the strong, determined, independent woman I am today.
I worship at the altar of my creativity, for allowing my dark imagination to run wild, to create memorable worlds and unforgettable characters, to share my dark tales with the world, to help troubled souls find hope, and to keep me out of jail.
I relinquish my soul to my compassion and empathy, to that part of me which cares about the planet and the wildlife upon it, that carries the guilt and shame of generations for what mankind has done.
I am humbled by my bravery as I stand up to those who hurt me, and to take the steps I need to, to see myself as others do – my body for its beauty, my mind for its fascinating capabilities – to change my life on nothing but self-belief, to forge ahead, alone, in this uncertain world.
It is through these traits, and by recognising when I need help and accepting it, that I have created this wonderful life, for which I feel very blessed. I own my own home, I run my own business, I am a successful author, I am a respected yoga teacher, I am a DJ, I rely on no one but myself, and I have people who care about me. I write dark and twisted stories and I believe in the dark and twisted fairy tales. One day, my prince will come. Until then, I will continue to live.
To sit here and write these positive things about myself has been extremely difficult, especially with the Dark Shadow still hovering, and there are things I didn’t write, as I felt they sounded conceited, which I am not. But, as Aries rules this October full moon, it is my duty to shout out about myself, because if I don’t or can’t do it, how will anyone else?
For those of you with your own Dark Shadow, like me, know you are not alone, and believe that when you ask for help, you will receive it; just be open to it.
May fear protect you when the darkness come.
’Til next time.
Check out my interview with John Durrant on The Train, talking about my books, my influences, and my beliefs. Paranormal, supernatural, vampires, werewolves, demons, angels; we covered everything!
You can find John at www.myspirituallink.com
For those of you following my photos over on my Facebook author page, you will remember me promising to tell you the story behind my Taz tattoo. Well, here it is.
Many many moons ago (1996) I was travelling the USA on a Trek America style holiday, and our tour had landed in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Let loose for the day, my friend and I did the one thing neither of us should ever do… we went sunbathing. Both tending towards the milk bottle glow, we knew very well that it was a fine line between white and lobster, but we didn’t care; three weeks on the road cooped up in a van with a bunch of strangers can do that to you.
Promising not to be gone too long, my friend disappeared to find us some lunch. Four hours later she returned to find me sound asleep on the beach, the back of my body a beautiful shade of ruby.
Now, you may wonder what this has to do with Taz, but bear with me, all will be revealed.
After one of the tour guides thought it funny to advise me to take a ‘hot’ shower to ease my sunburn (don’t ask), I stiffly accompanied everyone out for an evening at the fair.
Being of the ‘unable to resist’ a dare variety, I jumped at the chance to do something wild; the options being bungee jump or tattoo.
Well, this choice wasn’t difficult. As I valued my brain and didn’t want to compress it doing something stupid, I opted for tattoo.
Picture it: midnight in a tattoo parlour in Panama City Beach, my first tattoo option (a butterfly on my tummy) turned down by the artist (he didn’t tattoo women on their stomach as pregnancy distorted them permanebtly) I was left to browse the hundreds of options.
Cue an idea! I was frequently called ‘Taz’ around this time, for my ability to go from calm and serene to cataclysmic in seconds, and so I hunted down the Taz pictures and found the perfect one. Taz with a halo – a contradiction. I couldn’t have hoped for a more apt representation of myself.
Pleased, I presented my choice to the Tattooist who smirked before asking where I wanted it. ‘See the white bit amongst all the red,’ I said, indicating my expanse of raw skin. He flinched before nodding. ‘Put him there.’ The Tattooist asked me why and I replied, ‘Because my dad will never see it!’
Side bar in my tale – my dad did see it. Unavoidable really when you get married on the beach and take your parents as witnesses – to your nuptials AND the change in bikini fashion!
Anyway, back to the Tale of Taz. I was told to straddle what reminded me of an upright bench press and was given a pillow to “bite down on”. Now, I was a little alarmed by the news that I would need to bite down on something, but a dare was a dare.
The Tattooist went to work and I could feel a tickling sensation on my lower back and after a few minutes he showed me the result. Although much larger than the picture I’d given him, I was impressed and gave him the pillow back, surmising that most of his clients must have a really low pain threshold. I started to get up, when he asked me where I was going. I looked at him, puzzled, and said, ‘Haven’t you finished?’, to which he erupted in laughter and pushed me back down. ‘I haven’t even started,’ he replied.
Apparently, all that could be heard in the waiting room was, ‘Ow, ow, that f***ing hurts’ over and over, until I ran out to show my friends the results of my dare. That the waiting area was packed with people I didn’t know, people who got a full on view, not only of my lovely Florida suntan but also of my ass, still makes me shudder!
Once my embarrassment was over – no amount of blushing could rival my posterior chain! – I was sent away with strict instructions to clean my new friend in a couple of hours. There were two issues with this – firstly, it was now 1am and I would need to stay awake (didn’t go so well for me earlier in the day), and secondly, I was on a campsite.
Being the good little Girl Guide I once was, I managed to stay awake and at 3am precisely took myself off to the less than clean bathrooms on the campsite. Naïve is probably the best way to describe my expectation as I peeled away the covering over my brightly coloured devil. Expecting to see a pristine tattoo, I was not prepared for the amount of blood that covered him.
Horror writer or not, I passed out cold on the grubby tiled floor of that bathroom, shorts halfway down. Lucky for me, one of the girls I was on the trip with came in half an hour later otherwise who knows when I’d have woken up!
You’ll be pleased to know my second tattoo went much more smoothly.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
’Til next time.
Yesterday was my first Indie Litfest, held at the Kala Sangam Centre in a very wet Bradford. I had a fantastic day, meeting fans and new readers, and catching up with other indie authors.
These kinds of events are perfect for authors, whether you have an established fan base or not, as it enables you to market your books to new readers.
These readers will one day, hopefully, become fans, and your fans are your greatest weapon in spreading the work about your writing.
The hardest thing about being an indie author is marketing myself. Unless I am constantly promoting, the sales merely trickle in. By attending events like Indie Litfest, I am able to increase my visibility, interact with people – some of whom buy a book – and pick up tips and advice from other authors. Sharing what works and what doesn’t is invaluable to us indies.
Props and an attractive table are vital tools in helping attract customers to come and take a look at my books. It is up to the covers to entice a potential reader to pick up the book for a closer look. I then talk to them about the book, answer their questions and hopefully close a sale.
As you can see from the photos, I have an array of marketing materials. For the Bonds series, I have the wooden box in which Becca finds the spells she needs to stop Antony, bookmarks and themed pencils. For The Misfits, I have the physical mascots of the characters, which I didn’t make myself, plus bookmarks and themed pencils. For Tales From a Scarygirl, I also have themed pencils made.
My biggest change in my marketing has been to market me as a brand. As such, I’ve had a T-shirt, hoodie, mugs and bags made up, with my logo on one side and my Photologo signature on the other. If you zoom in on the mugs you will see, but I’ll post some photos of my new branding soon!
Having just returned from the annual Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, I decided to start a series of mini blogs, charting my adventures as an author. Maybe I should have started this earlier in the year, or even last year, but better late than never, as the saying goes.
The festival is a four day event, but I only bought a ticket for one day this year – I have booked for the full event next year though! My reasoning was two-fold – I hadn’t been before and so didn’t know if I would enjoy it, and, more importantly, I only had eyes for James Patterson.
Now, you may be wondering why a horror writer could possibly want to go to a Crime Festival. Well, the short answer is that I love crime. I read it and watch it all of the time, though I have only dipped my toe into it as an author. I do have a plan to branch out into crime writing once the Bonds Series is complete, and what better way to discover the life of a crime author than by going and mixing with them.
The great thing about this event is that there is a fabulous mix of authors, from the very well-known right down to the debut. It’s a chance to rub shoulders with your idols, make new friends, listen to interesting talks, and make useful contacts for your own writing.
As I sat and chatted with my new bunch of friends, they told me that despite what they write, crime writers are a friendly bunch, and I have to agree. I recognised people whom I’d seen at Crimefest earlier in the year, and even plucked up the courage to say “Hi”. My new friends told me that the same faces attend every year and so you soon become part of a wider circle who will never let you sit there on your own – which was my biggest fear.
Now, back to the reason for my visit – Mr James Patterson. I have been a major fan of JP for many years, with the Alex Cross series and The Women’s Murder Club series being my favourites. I also subscribe to his writing Masterclass and drew an immense amount of inspiration from his words, glowing as I discovered that we have a similar approach to writing novels. So, when I saw he was one of the headliners, I just had to go.
My plan was to ask him how I apply for the chance to co-author with him, and one of my friends suggested I take a sample of my writing with me, to give to him. This was a week before! I was in a panic as I hadn’t written any crime yet, and then I remembered that I had, many years ago. As such, I dusted off that old short story, read through it, cringing as I did so, before attacking it with my trusty red editing pen, forming a cohesive crime story from it.
Despite my gin intake the previous day, I was there bright and early to listen to his talk – he is very entertaining – before standing in line with my books for him to sign, my story clutched in my hand. I was a nervous wreck! My hands were shaking and, when I eventually had my chance, my words came out in a fangirl tumble. I did manage to cohesively get across what I needed to, and his publisher was only too happy to accept my short story. Right now, everything is crossed in the hope that he, and she, read it, and that it wasn’t confined to the recycling.
The point is, I took an opportunity that I was presented with and went for it. Who knows where it may lead!
Well, as you can imagine, I needed to lie down with a cold flannel on my head after all that, but alas, I was not staying at the Old Swan. Instead I made a beeline for the coffee shop and a well deserved latte. Whilst I was making my way there, I thought I saw another of my heroes, Ian Rankin, heading in the same direction. Sure enough, as I entered the coffee shop, I saw the esteemed Mr Rankin grabbing a corner table to relax and do his crossword.
I purchased my coffee and then went to occupy a table close to him, and sat for a while pondering whether I could and should disturb him.
In the end, I adopted my usual take on things and went over and introdcued myself. I must say,
I was far more articulate than I had been with JP, and we sat and chatted for a short time before I left him to his crossword and departed with a much treasured autograph.
Sitting back at my table and sipping my coffee, I realised I had missed an opportunity and again, after much pondering, I broke into his crossword time once more to broach the subject of a photo. He was more than happy to oblige and took it himself!
I thought I’d peaked for the day, but as I was walking through the bar, Ian Rankin was coming towards me and, recognising me, he told me he loved the photo of us that I’d posted on Twitter. I was made up. Oh, and he did manage to finish his crossword… in the end!
By the way, how many people can pick up their phone to take a photo and say “Ian Rankin had this last, and I don’t know how to take it off selfie mode”?!!
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