Domestic Violence in the UK

My latest book, Born Bad, features a character who is a victim of domestic violence. I therefore thought it would be useful to write a blog post on the subject in the hope that the information I’ve provided may help victims.

Domestic violence doesn’t just relate to women in heterosexual relationships. Men can become victims of domestic violence as can people in homosexual relationships and sometimes children can be involved too.

The Facts

  • A 2013/4 crime survey for England and Wales revealed that one in four women in England and Wales will become victims of domestic violence during their lifetime.

 

  • In 2001/2 81% of domestic violence victims were women and 19% were men.

 

  • A 2015 report revealed that one in three women worldwide experiences domestic violence from a male partner.

 

  • Reports from 2000 and 2002 show that the police received a call a minute relating to domestic violence yet only 35% of the incidents were reported to the police.

 

  • A 2011 report by the NSPCC stated that in the UK 20% of children have been exposed to domestic abuse.

Getting Help

If you are a woman suffering from domestic violence you can get lots of help and advice from Women’s Aid, including advice on legal action and housing. The website: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/  has further information on the types of help available.

Women’s Aid can also give you details of solicitors who specialise in domestic violence and, depending on your income, you may qualify for legal aid. You can find out more about legal aid from the Citizens Advice website.

Advice and information relating to domestic abuse is available to both women and men on the Citizens Advice website by following the link: advice.

Reporting Domestic Violence

Many people are afraid to report domestic violence because of potential repercussions. However, most police stations have specially trained officers who deal with domestic abuse. Often, domestic violence is a criminal offence and the person committing the offence can be arrested, cautioned or charged.

If the perpetrator is released on bail, the police will usually attach conditions to the granting of bail in order to protect the victim. You will be given a crime reference number which you will need to give to other agencies when you ask for further help.

You will also need to consider your future living arrangements but agencies such as Women’s Aid can provide advice with this. You can also find more information on reporting domestic violence on UK police service websites. Go to www.police.uk to find your local police service.

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Born Bad is the first book in a new gritty crime trilogy. It will be published on 1st July but you can pre-order your Kindle copy now by following the link: Born Bad.

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Excerpt from Born Bad

There’s now only a month to go until the launch of Born Bad.

So, as the exciting countdown begins, I thought I’d tempt you with an excerpt. Here goes:

As soon as Adele walked into the back garden of her home in the Manchester suburbs, she was horrified by the sight that met her. Among the overgrown bushes and weed-filled borders was an assortment of cracked and mossy flagstones that acted as a path. There, her ten-year-old brother, Peter, stood facing her. He was wielding a large twig which he had stripped bare. For him it now represented a whip; flexible enough to slash rapidly through the air, yet strong enough to inflict damage.

He chuckled as he repeatedly thrashed his whip onto the paving slabs in front of him. His target was several squirming caterpillars of differing sizes and various shades of green and brown, which he had lined up. Adele could see their tiny bodies writhing as savage blows from the hand-made weapon assailed them, causing their oozing entrails to spill out onto the path.

‘Stop it!’ she yelled.

Peter paused briefly to reply, ‘They’re only insects.’ He laughed and lashed the whip once more.

‘I don’t care. It’s cruel and disgusting,’ Adele shouted, becoming annoyed.

‘You’re stupid, you are. I’m not doing any harm. Go and mither someone else, Miss Goody-goody.’ His impish laughter had now disappeared, transforming his face into an unwelcoming sneer.

‘At least I’m not like you!’ said Adele.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked, staring at Adele while the caterpillars wriggled around on the paving slabs.

Adele could sense his change in tone but, despite her unease, she refused to give way. ‘You’re always up to no good, you are. You’re gonna get in trouble again if you don’t watch it.’

‘Oh shut up, you crybaby! Go and play with your dolls.’ And ignoring her pleas, he went back to meting out his vicious punishment.

Adele felt her stomach lurch at the sickening sight and cried out to him, ‘Peter, stop it; it’s horrible!’

Unfortunately, her cries soon reached the ears of their father who sped through the back door, pushing her aside. She noticed that he was still in his shabby vest, and knew that he hadn’t been out of bed long, even though it was midday. He was a menacing sight. The scruffy vest emphasised his bulky muscles, and his rugged features were set in a hard expression. She knew that he wouldn’t take kindly to having his Sunday disturbed.

‘What the bleedin’ hell’s going on here?’ he demanded.

Peter dropped the whip and looked up guiltily at his father. His jaw hung loose but he failed to utter any words of defence.

Their father didn’t need a reply, however, as his eyes took in the revolting sight. In one stride, he was on Peter, grabbing at his shirt collar and thrusting upwards until his feet left the ground.

‘You dirty little get!’ he yelled. ‘Look at the bleedin’ state of that path.’ He released his hold, allowing Peter to drop shakily to the ground. Then, prodding his forefinger into Peter’s face, he ordered, ‘Get it cleaned up… NOW!’

Peter hung his head in shame and approached the house in search of something with which to clean up the mess.

‘Where the bleedin’ hell do you think you’re going?’ roared his father. ‘I told you to clean them up.’

‘I’m going for some newspaper to wipe them up with,’ Peter replied.

‘No you’re bleedin’ not! You weren’t bothered about newspaper when you put the bleedin’ things there, so why bother now? You can get them shifted with yer hands. And I want every bit cleared up, including that slimy shit that’s come out of ’em. That’ll teach you, you dirty little bastard!’

He turned and pushed Adele aside again as he trundled back indoors. Just before stepping into the house, he turned his head back and added, ‘And you can get your bleedin’ hands washed when you’ve finished as well.’

For a few moments, Adele stood still, her eyes fixed on Peter, awaiting his reaction.

‘What you looking at, you bitch?’ he muttered. ‘It’s all your fault! If you hadn’t started carrying on, he wouldn’t have known.’ As he murmured these few words, he made a show of wiping up the slimy mess with his fingers, as though deliberately trying to antagonise her.

Adele couldn’t take any more. She ran into the house retching, and headed straight for her bedroom where she threw herself onto the bed. But the tears didn’t come. At eleven years of age, she’d suppressed her tears so often that it had become an automatic defence mechanism that helped her get through life.

Adele felt bad. She shouldn’t have carried on so much at Peter, then her father wouldn’t have known. It was bound to annoy him, especially on a Sunday. He was always in a mood on a Sunday. In fact, he was always in a mood any day, but Sundays were particularly bad. It was only recently, as she was growing up, that Adele realised why; it was because of the skinful he had had on a Saturday night. All he wanted to do on Sundays was sleep it off. Then he would sit and pore through the papers whilst their mother, Shirley, made a pretence of cleaning the house, and cooked the traditional Sunday dinner in an effort to please him.

This was usually the first attempt at cleaning that Shirley had made all week. She spent most of her days gossiping with the neighbours, sleeping or watching TV. Her evenings were spent in a similar fashion, except for the few nights a week in which she tore herself away from the street to go and play bingo.

Adele got up off the bed and drifted towards the window. She avoided the sight of Peter but looked out instead at the other houses, watching people go about their business. Allowing her mind to drift, she contemplated, for the umpteenth time, her miserable existence.

Lately she was realising that although this way of life was commonplace within these four walls, there was a different world out there. Talking to her friends had made her understand that her circumstances weren’t the norm, and other parents were different from her own. Other children went out with their families to the cinema or country parks. They had holidays at the seaside and expensive presents for their birthdays.

The only advantage she had over other children was her freedom. Her father was hardly ever home, so that gave her and Peter a chance to roam the streets and do whatever they pleased as long as news of their mischief didn’t get back to him. Their mother scarcely showed any interest in where they were going or what time they would be back.

Adele often consoled herself by imagining that one day things would be different. When she was old enough she would get a good job and a rich husband, and she would escape her domineering father and slovenly mother. She would have a beautiful home and children who would never want for anything. It was this dream that kept her going.

Just then Adele was jolted back to reality by the sound of raised voices downstairs.

‘Don’t go, Tommy, I was gonna do you a nice dinner later,’ pleaded her mother.

‘Bugger off, I’m going for a pint. There’s nowt to stay in this bloody pigsty for. I’m sick of you, you lazy cow, and those two scruffy little gets!’

This was followed by a loud slamming of the front door and Shirley muttering something to herself. Adele couldn’t quite hear her mother’s words, but she gathered that she wasn’t happy about him going out.

Adele had had enough of home for one day, so she decided that she would go outside for a while too. She was heading downstairs when she heard the sound of the door knocker. Worried it was her father coming back, she scuttled back to the top of the stairs. It was only after her mother had answered the door that Adele realised it was her grandma, Joyce.

She entered loudly and, appearing as bumptious as ever, declared, ‘I’ve just passed His Lordship in the street. He’s got a right face on him, as usual. It took him all his time to say hello. What the bleedin’ hell’s up with him this time?’ The soft features of her plump face had tightened to form an expression of scorn.

Shirley said nothing, but shook her head from side to side as she led her mother into the living room, leaving the door ajar. Adele would normally have raced down the stairs to greet her grandma, who she thought the world of. Although loud and opinionated, Joyce had a kind heart and was full of good intentions. But the look of resignation on her mother’s face, and the tired way she dragged her feet, stopped Adele from following them. She had guessed that they were about to have one of their chats, and overcome by curiosity, she crept down the stairs so she could listen in. She could just about see them both through the gap of the open door.

‘Jesus, Shirley love, what the bloody hell’s happened to this place? It looks like a bomb’s hit it and smells bloody awful! It’s worse than last time. I thought you were going to try and get on top of things!’

‘Oh don’t start, Mam. Don’t you think I’m sick of it? It’s not me that makes it a tip you know, and what’s the use of tidying it anyway when they only mess it up again?’

‘I’m worried about you, love. Every time I come you’ve let yourself go more. You’re just not happy, are you? Has he been at you again?’

‘Not really. It’s Peter he’s pissed off with, because he made a mess on the garden path, squashing some caterpillars or summat. I wish he’d leave him alone; he’s not a bad lad really.’

‘I don’t know, I worry about our Peter, always up to mischief and getting into fights. I’ve told you, he takes after his side of the family.’

Their conversation then became much quieter, and Adele had to strain to hear them. Without getting too close, and risking being caught out, she managed to catch snippets of her grandma’s words.

‘Bad lot… told you before… bad blood… mad… great-uncle… always fighting… ended up in an asylum.’

A few moments of silence followed until Shirley said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, Mam. I’ve no idea what our Peter will turn out like. I’m just glad our Adele’s all right.’

‘Aye, she’s a good girl,’ replied Joyce whose voice had returned to its normal level. ‘Keep encouraging her to do well at school so she can bugger off to university or summat. She’ll be bloody better off out of it.’ Joyce’s voice then adopted a sympathetic tone. ‘I do worry about you, Shirley love. You’ve changed so much over the years, ever since you met Tommy. You don’t seem to care anymore and you were never like this when you were younger. Did you go to the doctors like I told you to?’

‘Yeah, he’s given me these for the daytime on top of the ones I take at night,’ she said, passing something to her mother.

‘Let’s have a look,’ said Joyce who then tried to read the words on the bottle of pills. ‘Dia… ze… pam. What are they supposed to do?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Shirley. ‘But I feel more knackered than ever. I’ve not got the energy I was born with, honestly Mam.’

‘Well, I don’t know what the bloody hell to make of it all. I wish to God you’d never married him in the first place. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t be told. I’d take you and the kids round to my house, but I’ve just not got the room.’

‘I know that, Mam. I’ve just got to put up with it, haven’t I? Besides, I love Tommy. I just wish he wasn’t so angry all the time.’

Joyce looked exasperated, but didn’t continue. It was a topic which she had already covered many times before, so she moved onto something else. When Adele had grown tired of hearing about what Joyce’s neighbours were up to, she returned to her bedroom. There she mulled over the conversation in her young mind.

She knew her grandmother had been referring to her father and his family. She was used to her grandma Joyce talking about them, but she had never heard her mention the word ‘mad’ before. Maybe it just meant they had bad tempers. She wondered about the word asylum. It wasn’t one she was familiar with, but she decided to check it in her dictionary.

Adele took her dictionary off the row of books on the shelf. She opened it up, and scanned the words under the letter ‘a’ until she reached asylum. She found two meanings; the first of them referred to a place of refuge, but the second related to a mental institution. She wondered which of these her grandma could have been talking about but she daren’t ask.

Adele stared at the dictionary for a few moments but when the words ‘mental institution’ seemed to leap out from the page, she quickly shut it. Those words frightened her. She knew her dad had a temper, but surely that couldn’t mean he was mental. She’d heard kids at school use the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’ when they were trying to put down someone who was a bit stupid. They weren’t nice words and she didn’t like to think of them being linked to her family.

She was curious about the tablets her mother was taking as well; something called diazepam, her grandma had said. Adele opened her dictionary again and flicked over the pages, checking whether diazepam was listed, but she couldn’t find anything.

Her thoughts flitted back to the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’. Adele was confused. She couldn’t understand why her grandma would use such words about her family. Grandma Joyce didn’t usually say nasty things. Grandma Joyce was nice. So if she was saying bad things about her dad, then maybe they were true. Maybe he really was mad. And, if Peter took after their dad’s side of the family, did that mean he was mad too?

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I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If it has made you want to read more, you can check out the book at Amazon by following the link: Born Bad.

I’ll be keeping you up to date soon with news of my blog tour. Until then, bye for now.

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The Power of Dreams

I often feature dreams in my books and have done so in my latest novel, Born Bad. I find that dreams can be an effective way to add drama or to convey the emotional turmoil being experienced by a certain character.

What are Dreams and why do we have them?

Nobody is really sure as to the real purpose of dreams although several theories have been put forward as to why we have them.

Sigmund Freud’s theory was that dreams are, “…disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.” He suggested that the conscious mind does not allow us to express certain aggressive and sexual desires. These are therefore expressed through the subconscious mind in the form of dreams.

Carl Jung, on the other hand, believed that every dream has a meaning behind it and that we are all able to interpret our own dreams.

Analysing Dreams

Many theorists believe that analysing your dreams enables you to understand yourself better. There is a lot of literature on the subject, which is far too vast to cover in a blog post. However, much of the literature contains tips on how to remember your dreams, details of the common types of dreams and an interpretation of what various types of dreams mean. Here are some links if you wish to find out more on the subject:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-analyze-your-dreams-and-why-its-important/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-transformative-power-of-dreams/

http://www.dreamdictionary.org/dreaming/meaning-of-dreams/

http://www.dreamdictionary.org/dreaming/

Dreams in Literature

Over the centuries dreams have been used to good effect in literature. Some examples spring to mind straightaway, such as:

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare

1984 by George Orwell

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

But, of course, there are many others that you might be familiar with. Here’s an example of my own taken from my latest book, Born Bad, which is due to launch on 1st July:

“Adele’s sleep was sporadic and strange thoughts raced around in her head. She pictured the faces of the judge and members of the jury. Then they would fade and be replaced by others; her school teacher speaking to her. ‘I want that essay handed in in six months. Six months, Adele. You’ve got six months,’ he kept repeating. And her classmates sat around her and gasped.

Then a disturbance broke her sleep. In her semi-conscious state she heard the sound of raised voices. Her heart was racing. She sat bolt upright listening for other sounds. Her father yelling. Her mother pleading. Then nothing. Still semi-conscious, she drifted back off to sleep. Back to the nightmares. Prisons. People scowling at her. And her mother in tears.”

As I get nearer to the 1st July launch date of my latest novel, Born Bad, I’ll be sharing excerpts and details of my blog tour. In the meantime, bye for now and sweet dreams.

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Growing up in 70s Gorton

1970s Gorton is the setting for the first part of book one in my new gritty crime trilogy. Gorton is a suburb of East Manchester, and is also the place where I was born and raised until the age of 13.

Book one of the trilogy is called Born Bad and the first part of the novel describes Adele and Peter’s tough upbringing with a drunken, violent father and a slovenly, beaten mother. The remainder of the book tells the story of how that upbringing affects them into adulthood.

I have chosen 1970s Gorton for the setting of ‘Born Bad’ part one because, by doing so, I have drawn on many childhood memories. However, I wish to add as a disclaimer that although I draw on the characteristics of many people when creating my characters, none of the characters in the book are intended to depict any real people, either living or deceased.

Gorton has changed very much in recent years with rising unemployment and an increase in violent crime. However, the Gorton that I remember was very different from the Gorton that is now portrayed in the media. It was a working class area where most people worked for a living or, as was the custom in those days, the husband worked and the wife stayed at home to look after the children.

What is Gorton Famous For?

Belle Vue – formerly a zoological gardens, which opened in 1836 as well as a speedway stadium, amusement park and amusement hall complex. Belle Vue hosted many sporting events including wrestling, boxing and rugby.

Sadly the zoo closed in 1977 and the amusement park in 1980 followed by the speedway in 1987. Nowadays all that is left of Belle Vue is the Greyhound Racing Stadium and a snooker hall although that part of Gorton is still often referred to by locals as Belle Vue.

Shameless – Although the programme featured the fictitious Chatsworth estate, it was actually filmed on the council estate in West Gorton.

Gorton Monastery

Picture by Mikey – originally posted to Flickr as Gorton Monastery, Gorton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8010571.

The monastery is grade II listed and has been included amongst the 100 most endangered sites in the world alongside the ancient ruins of Pompeii and the Taj Mahal. It was designed by Edward Pugin and built by Franciscan monks between 1863 and 1872.

The Franciscans left the monastery in 1989 and it fell into disrepair as well as being ravaged by dry rot. It was also prey to vandalism and theft, and many of the artefacts disappeared.

Fortunately, a £6 million fundraising campaign enabled the monastery to be restored, and many of the artefacts were returned. It now functions as a conference and events centre.

I’m pleased to say that I visited the interior of the monastery in the early 70s when the monks were still in residence and before many of the artefacts disappeared. It’s a stunning building. I’m also old enough to remember the monks in their brown habits walking in and out of the building when I passed the monastery on the bus to Manchester.

My Memories of Gorton

Belle Vue – In those days its main attraction was the well-known zoo with an accompanying fun fair. We used to love visiting Belle Vue in the school holidays.

When I was a teenager I moved out of Gorton but still lived within easy reach of Belle Vue, which also ran the Zoo Bi Doo disco. It was very popular amongst teenagers and was great fun, a precursor to the clubbing days of my 20s. Many of the kids who went to Zoo B Doo also went to the same secondary school as me.

I also remember attending the East Area Athletics championships at Belle Vue, where I represented my school in the 200 metres sprint. No, I didn’t win. I came third out of four runners.

Gorton Cross Street – This was the place where parents went for their weekly food shop but, as well as supermarkets, it had many other shops including clothes shops, haberdashers, toy shops etc. It was rare for our parents to venture into central Manchester in those days because of the expense, even though it is only a few miles away. Therefore, most things would be bought at Gorton Cross Street. There is still a thriving shopping centre in Gorton but the street has been renamed and most of the shops have changed.

The Corner Shop – We had one at the top of our street and many others dotted about the surrounding streets. I have vivid recollections of women standing in the shop gossiping, often wearing hair rollers and turbans. Women would also gossip on their doorsteps and I remember that a trip to Gorton Cross Street with my mother would take an age as she would stop to chat to many people on the way.

The Red Rec – This was where many of the older boys went to play football. It was also the place where most of the surrounding streets had their bonfires on Bonfire Night. Back in the 70s, the abundance of fireworks from people attending a dozen or more bonfires used to frighten the living daylights out of me. It’s a pity I can’t see it again nowadays because it must have been quite a spectacle.

Although I was nervous of the fireworks, I still have fond memories of all the mothers mucking in with Jacket potatoes baked on the bonfire, homemade treacle toffee and Parkin.

The Local Park/Playground – Although we referred to it as the park, it was actually a playground next to the Red Rec with some fields off to the side. From what I recall, I don’t think the park even had a name; it was just ‘the park’ as far as we were concerned. I have based the playground in ‘Born Bad’ on our local park.

As kids, when we felt a little more adventurous we would take ourselves off to one of the ‘proper’ parks, the ones that had names, such as Sunny Brow Park, Peter Pan Park or Debdale Park.

Playing out in the Street – At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged bore – those were definitely the days when we didn’t need games consoles and mobile phones to entertain us. We knew how to entertain ourselves and would play out for hours.

Here are some of the games I remember from the 60s and 70s:

Skipping – when the mothers would often come out to hold the ends of the rope.

Two and three a ball against the wall to chants such as Pontius Pilot the king of the Jews bought his wife a pair of shoes etc.

Handstands against the wall.

Paper chase, where we tucked bits of paper into wall crevices etc. and each piece of paper would have a clue as to where to find the next one.

Knock a door run – when we were feeling a bit devilish.

Please Mr Fisherman.

Statues.

Ticky It – still played by children nowadays but I think it’s changed its name.

Hide n Seek.

 

 

Check out those street urchins – I’m the skinny one second from the right.

Black and White TV – Yes, I still remember our first rented black and white TV. Most of the sets we rented used to jump and we would have to change the position of the indoor aerial to get the picture right. When it became impossible to adjust we would send to the rental shop for a replacement.

School Sports Days – Back in the days when winning was celebrated (and not just the taking part). I remember taking my giant sized prize bars of chocolate home and being ordered to share them with my brothers. Having brothers in school had its advantages though as it meant that half the school would be cheering for me whenever I entered a race. Yes, believe it or not, I used to be quite an athlete back in the day. I don’t think my arthritic knees could cope with it nowadays though.

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‘Born Bad’ now Available for Pre-order

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XGY9YHG, priced at only £2.48. It has changed its title from the working title of ‘Bad Brother and I’ to ‘Born Bad’. The novel will also be available to purchase from other eBook retailers.

I’m really pleased with the cover that my publishers, Aria Fiction, have produced. The image of my protagonist, Adele, is just how I pictured her in my mind, and I love the tagline that Aria have added. Here is the cover:

The book blurb has changed too and I’m really happy with the new blurb that my publishers have written. Here it is:

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. Afterall, blood is thicker than water…

I hope you agree that it really pulls readers in and makes them want to find out more.

Big thanks to Aria fiction for a sterling job so far. My publication date for ‘Born Bad’ is 1st July and as the date draws nearer I’ll be taking part in my first blog tour, organised by Aria. I’ll keep you up-to-date with links to blog posts, interviews etc. once I have the details.

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Channelling my Inner Angst

During much of the writing of my current WIP I was going through a lot of personal trauma. Last year I went through a divorce after 23 years of marriage so things were never going to be easy.

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While it would have been easier to hide away somewhere till the black cloud had passed, I had no choice but to continue writing. Firstly, I have a publishing deal to fulfil and, secondly, I had to think about my future income. At times I felt frustrated as my writing wasn’t flowing as easily as normal; I was too preoccupied with other matters and it made it really hard work.

With all this in mind I was dreading the edits, feeling that I might read through the book and think, ‘what a load of rubbish’ or words to that effect. However, I’ve now reached the editing stage and I’m glad to say that I’m pleasantly surprised. It seems that I have channelled my inner angst.

There’s no doubt that the writing of this book, more than any others, has been cathartic. It’s fortunate that I write gritty crime rather than syrupy romance as I think it would have been difficult to write anything sickly sweet given my frame of mind throughout much of the writing process.

I’m happy with the book’s content and feel that it’s my best yet although some may view it as my worst in terms of the level of brutality. As I enter a new year and the next chapter in my life it’s a relief to know that I have produced something that I’m not only proud of but that I also feel is marketable, especially as my writing now provides the bulk of my income.

So here’s to a better year ahead. This will be the year when my first book through my new publisher hits the market so I’m very excited about that. I’m also hoping to push ahead in my personal life too with just the small matter of moving home to attend to and sorting out my finances. Although I expect moving house to be a stressful process I’m viewing it as the start of a new phase in my life.

Here’s to new beginnings:

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Writer’s High

There’s a feeling that many authors are probably familiar with. I like to think of it as ‘writer’s high’ but others refer to it as having the muse. I also call it being ‘in the zone’. It’s that wonderful feeling when you enter one of those writing phases during which you’re on a roll and the ideas are spilling from you quicker than you can type them up.

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Unfortunately, it isn’t always like that. Sometimes it’s an uphill struggle, especially with a new novel, and it can take a while before you really connect with a piece of work and with the characters. You’ve got your basic premise for the novel and may have drawn up an outline but it feels a bit like painting by numbers as you try to fit each of the scenes into an overall framework. However, you’re not feeling a real spark and your writing isn’t exciting you.

Then, all of a sudden, something kicks in – one idea leads to another, scenes come alive in your imagination, characters become animated and you’re typing like the clappers, before you forget everything. You stop to make the dinner, you think of something else. You go for a walk, another scene comes to mind. You go to bed and the ideas still keep spilling out of you. By the morning you’ve got pages of handwritten notes ready to type up the following day. Your mind is alive with the thrill of it and you can’t wait to commit it all to the PC before you lose the feeling. Does that sound familiar?

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It can take over your life – a bit like a drug and, although it’s a good feeling, it can get in the way of so much. When I’m ‘In the Zone’ ideas usually come to me when I’m trying to relax so it can be while I’m trying to sleep, when I’m out for a walk or even when I’m taking a shower. I find it useful to have a notepad by my bedside and another in my handbag so that I can jot down ideas whenever they come to mind. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I find it difficult to concentrate on a film as my mind wanders. That’s the reason I watch a lot of trash TV; because I don’t need to concentrate too much. (That’s my excuse anyway.)

With my current WIP it was an uphill struggle for part of it but mostly because I was going through emotional upheaval in my personal life. However, I’m now in a much better place and back ‘in the zone’. This novel has two timelines running through it and, in order to write the later timeline, I had to recap on a lot of what had happened in the previous timeline. I was relieved to find that it read quite well. Perhaps my personal struggles helped me in dealing with much of the conflict in the book.

I’m almost ready to give the novel a good edit and hope to send it off to my publisher in a few weeks’ time. It’s been a challenge as it’s the most I’ve ever written for a novel, in accordance with my publisher’s guidelines. But this story has a lot of depth to it so I was confident of reaching the word count without any unnecessary padding. I’ll be keeping you updated as I progress further with the novel.