#COAWeek22 – Always the misfit: the realities of life as the child of an alcoholic

The 13th – 19th February is Children of Alcoholics Week, an event to raise awareness of the 2.6 million children in the UK affected by their parent’s drinking.

2.6 million. Just let that figure sink in for a moment.

As a child of an alcoholic myself, it wasn’t until I reached my thirties that the long-lasting effects of Mum’s drinking began to really hit me. Bouts of anxiety and depression were followed by panic attacks, the first one hitting me whilst I was on my own in the office at work. Eventually I sought out counselling and also discovered NACOA, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, whose online advice, support and guidance were pivotal in helping me to understand what I was going through and, crucially, that I wasn’t alone. This week I want to use my blog to highlight the cause and to share my own experiences of being a COA.

Children of alcoholics are caught between two worlds: the scary, unpredictable world of home, and the world outside where you desperately pretend that everything is fine. COAs don’t get to have much of a childhood. We grow up quickly through necessity, adopting the three major rules of the dysfunctional family: don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.

Don’t talk can manifest by the adults trying to rationalise their behaviour and somehow make the addiction seem ‘normal’. Other times, and this is what I experienced myself, the adults just don’t talk about the addiction full stop. This ‘nothing to see here’ mentality can translate to a child fearing they won’t be believed if they try to speak out, or even to them not knowing how to talk about their parent’s alcoholism at all. Even as an adult I became paralysed whenever I attempted to talk to Mum about her drinking – I literally couldn’t speak I was so affected.

Don’t trust comes from the lack of security a child feels in the dysfunctional household. A lack of confidence in those who are supposed to protect you breeds distrust, not just of your own parents but of adults in general. Acts of kindness are viewed with confusion and suspicion and can’t be appreciated, even when they’re genuine (I’ll give my own example of this later).

Don’t feel comes from the combination of the above. When the adults don’t talk about a behaviour that you know is wrong, when there’s no single adult in your life that you can trust, you find ways to cope, either by repressing or ignoring your feelings, or learning to just not feel anything at all.

NACOA released a two-minute short film by Alexander Kühn entitled ‘Pokerface’, the story of a teenager caught between the two worlds I mentioned above, perfectly encapsulating the life of a COA:

The thing about being a COA is that you are always a COA. The effects of parental alcoholism, like any other form of family dysfunction or abuse, last a lifetime. The term ACOA stands for ‘Adult Child of an Alcoholic’ and countless articles and books have been written on the subject. Like I experienced myself, the full effects of growing up as a COA don’t often hit a person until they’re well into their thirties. I discovered this by reading the experiences of other COAs on the NACOA website, who kindly published my own story when I reached out to them many years ago. We don’t all have the same experience – alcoholics and alcoholism come in many shapes and forms – but often we end up developing the same coping mechanisms and behaviours and can recognise and empathise with the lived experiences of other COAs. This for me, along with discovering the Six C’s, was crucial in learning to process what I was going through.

  • I didn’t cause it.
  • I can’t control it.
  • I can’t cure it.
  • I can take care of myself.
  • I can communicate my feelings.
  • I can make healthy choices.

Written beside the Six C’s on NACOA’s website are four simple but powerful words: ‘You Are Not Alone’.

I don’t want to come across dramatic but I cried when I first saw that because I’ve always felt alone. I have no brothers or sisters and I’m not close to any of my family. I don’t have what you might call a ‘best friend’ (apart from Mr Lowe who deserves a medal for putting up with me) and the friends that I do have I keep at a distance, for reasons I know not why. I could say that I’m a private person and like to keep my own company, which is true to some extent, but I know there are important connections in my life that I’m missing and will probably never have. I’ve always felt something of a misfit but I’m lucky to have found my own tribe and I’m a little more comfortable in my own skin now than I used to be.

After eighteen straight months of counselling and a lot of hard work I eventually reached the point where I was able to speak to an auntie about Mum’s drinking. I wrote her a long, rambling email explaining everything as best as I could whilst apologising if any of it was coming as a shock, particularly the fact that her sister was a lifelong alcoholic. Even in my thirties I was still caught up in the lie that nobody else knew.

But of course they did. Everybody knew, they just didn’t like to talk about it. I was told in the most well-meaning of ways that Mum’s alcoholism was an illness, but I wasn’t in a place then to accept that and I’m not sure I ever will be. Cancer is an illness. Drinking to excess is a choice. The few who I’ve asked claim not to know why Mum drank. I know that she suffered with depression and attended AA meetings. I know that my dad used to get phone calls from Mum’s workplace asking him to fetch her as she was drunk. This was all before I was born though. Why they thought bringing me into the world was a good idea, I’ll never know. I’ve always assumed I was an unfortunate accident.

I think there are a lot of clichés around the realities of living with an addict. My mum was what is called a ‘functioning alcoholic’. She rarely got blind drunk, preferring to take regular drinks throughout the day from bottles of vodka that she hid in the bedroom. She was never violent towards me, although she had a wicked temper and regularly wounded with her words, especially when hungover. I was always clean and tidy and well-dressed, my attendance at school was near-perfect, my grades as good as I could manage. My parents both worked and we went on holiday every year for a week to Weymouth. From the outside, we must’ve looked like a perfectly normal, working-class family.

Which was exactly the point. My mum was terrified of anything that might bring attention down on her. She was a master at instilling fear in me about pretty much everything: don’t do this, that or the other because people will look at you / I’ll be so ashamed / whatever will people think of you. I was trained to be terrified of other adults, to look but don’t touch, to only speak when I was spoken to. I became an intensely shy and awkward child, uncomfortable around grown-ups and authority figures, constantly trying to monitor my behaviour and the behaviour of others. This hyper-awareness is something that’s followed me into adulthood and it’s something of a blessing and a curse. It’s made me empathetic and I’m pretty good at reading the subtleties of a situation. On the flipside, I can’t stand in a crowded room without my bat-ears monitoring every conversation whilst I scan people’s body language for signs of impending trouble.

My earliest memory of life on this earth is of finding an empty bottle in Mum’s ottoman. I was probably about three years old. I remember taking it to Dad and asking him what it was. Instead of tempering his reaction until he could be on his own with Mum to discuss it, he snatched it off me and started shouting at her.

One morning when I was getting ready for school, my Mum tried to make me wear a blouse which I didn’t want to wear as the buttons were always coming open, and even though I was only five I found it incredibly embarrassing. Mum insisted I wear it and I got so angry that I shouted at her. She burst into tears, walked out of the house and left me on my own. I don’t know where she went as I couldn’t find her. She came back eventually. Needless to say, I wore the damned blouse.

Dad used to work in a brick factory doing eleven-hour shifts, which meant that during school holidays it was just me and Mum alone in the house. After we’d eaten lunch she would go to bed for a couple of hours ‘for a nap’. She would leave me instructions to wake her up at such-and-such a time, so she would be up in time to cook Dad’s dinner before he got home (playing the dutiful wife was all part of the ‘nothing to see here’ routine, something my dad was happy to buy into for a quiet life). One day I went to wake her up and she was completely unresponsive. I kept on trying until I started to cry, assuming she was dead. I went round to a neighbour and told her what had happened. She told me to stay put whilst she went to check on Mum. Of course she wasn’t dead, just dead drunk. Somehow the neighbour managed to rouse her and I was delivered back home to the inevitable telling off. Apparently she felt ashamed and it was all my fault.

I remember that my breakfast of a morning used to be a small bowl of Alphabites. If you’ve never seen them before, they’re small, potato-based and shaped into letters of the alphabet. I used to get about six in a bowl with a bit of tomato sauce on. This was supposed to get me though the day until lunchtime, where I could eat my packed lunch, usually a jam or lemon curd sandwich and a yoghurt. When I got home from school, my dinner would be either a bitesize cheese and tomato pizza and two potato waffles, or a sausage burger and two potato waffles – anything cheap and sold in bulk at Farmfoods basically. I was very often hungry and developed hypoglycaemic migraines from the age of eight. (Not that anybody knew this was the cause, not even when I ended up in hospital having nearly fallen into a coma through low blood sugar). We had cake and biscuits in the cupboard but I’d often get told off for eating those as ‘they were for Dad’. Mum only worked part time as a cleaner in the evenings so the bulk of the housekeeping money was given to her by Dad. If he knew she was spending most of that money on vodka instead of feeding me, I don’t know. I’m not sure he cared as long as nobody was making a fuss about it. I remember when I left school at sixteen I weighed just over eight stone. Two months later, having been earning my own money on an apprenticeship scheme, I had put two stone on just through being able to buy my own food.

(This one’s a bit gross so you might want to skip it – you have been warned!) It’s hard enough being a teenager. Try being a teenager with headlice. I’d had them before as a young child: there were regular outbreaks at school and I inevitably caught them ‘because I always had such clean hair and nits liked clean hair’ according to Mum, who would also go on to tell anyone who would listen how embarrassed she was about it. I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I realised I’d caught them again. I had no money of my own to buy lotion so I had to tell Mum – who looked through my hair and told me she couldn’t see anything. I insisted they were there but she just wouldn’t listen. I was always a bit weird about stuff like that with my Dad, so there was no way I was going to tell him. I ended up just living with them. I don’t know how long it went on for but it must have been well over a year. I remember lying in bed at night pulling the eggs out of my hair (I told you it was gross). In the end there must have been so many of them that it was visually obvious. I remember my friends taking me to one side on the school playing field and telling me I had nits. That I must know I had nits. I denied it, which in hindsight was ridiculous. They said they couldn’t spend time with me until I got it fixed, as they didn’t want to catch them. That was true shame right then. I remember walking away from them, my cheeks burning and tears streaming down my face. I went home that night and told Mum what had happened. This time she listened, bought me the lotion and I got rid of them.

Earlier I talked about the suspicion that COAs can feel over acts of kindness, even genuine ones. At the start of the school holidays I used to spend a week at my auntie’s house with my three cousins. They lived on a farm in the countryside, a far cry from our backstreet terraced in an ex-mining town, and I used to look forwards to going every year. I remember one evening my auntie and uncle ordered a Chinese takeaway for our evening meal. We all sat around their big kitchen table and the food was all placed in the centre for everyone to help themselves. The problem was that I’d never seen Chinese food before and didn’t know what any of it was! Furthermore, they were all eating with chopsticks, something else I had no experience of. Of course I was too shy to speak up because what would they think of me (my mum’s voice was ever constant in my head). I remember nibbling on a couple of sticky ribs and trying desperately to shovel a little rice into my mouth with the wretched chopsticks! Anyway, my cousins were all girls and one morning my auntie sat with each of them in turn to plait their hair. Then she called me in! I was absolutely baffled. Mum had never spent time doing anything with my hair except brush it in a morning. My auntie sat me down in front of her and spent time braiding my hair into a French plait. There was absolutely no reason for it, we weren’t going anywhere special, but here was this kind lady taking time out of her day to do something only for me. I look back on that memory now with gratitude but I remember very clearly thinking ‘Why is she doing this?’

There are so many more memories that I could share here but I just wanted to show a little of what life can be like for a COA. I feel sad for that child that I used to be. She’s still here inside me and I try to show her the kindness and compassion that I didn’t always get when I was young. My mum passed away a couple of years ago, which I’ve covered in other blog posts, so I won’t go into that here. I know that she’d hate for me to be sharing my story so publicly but I also know that reading the experiences of other COAs can be healing in itself, and if this helps just one person then it’s worth the sense of betrayal I’ll no doubt feel when I hit ‘Publish’. I’m sorry for whatever it was that Mum never managed to deal with. Despite spending much of my life resenting her I’d give anything now to have just one more day with her.

If you are, or have been, affected by a parent’s drinking then help is out there for you. Remember: You Are Not Alone.

NACOA

Samaritans

NSPCC

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow. Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand. You can find her online at www.kateloweauthor.co.uk

Tiny tales of horror, the perils of book reviews & getting over COVID-19

So I’m a little late to the party in promoting this (for reasons I’ll get to) but ‘666’, a Dark Drabbles anthology by Black Hare Press was released at the end of August. Lurking amongst the pages is my story ‘Mourning Son’ (yes, I did borrow the title from a Neph track). It’s available from that evil Amazon place or direct from the publisher. Inside you’ll find hundreds of tiny but perfectly-formed tales of horror, and myself, my fellow authors and the publishers would all be delighted should you wish to make a purchase.

Shameless self-promotion over with, what else have I been up to? Unwittingly upsetting other authors, apparently. Oh, and catching Covid, which was all kinds of fun.

I tend to leave book reviews on about 95% of the books I read, since I know authors, agents and publishers are keen for readers to leave them as it helps with book sales, bumps books into special promotional areas of Amazon etc. The 5% I don’t leave reviews for are usually books I DNF or persevere with despite not enjoying them because…

Anyhow, I was scrolling absentmindedly through Twatter (not a typo) the other evening and came across a Tweet that a publisher I follow had liked. The Tweeter (Twitterer???) in question was an author. I wish I could show you a screen-grab but after what transpired she deleted said Tweet and so I’m working from memory. It was something along the lines of how she wished readers would understand that characters’ opinions don’t reflect those of the author, whilst bemoaning a review she had read whereby the reviewer complained about ‘goths of all things!’ This was complete with a face-palm emoji and was accompanied by dozens of comments by fellow authors giving her some shoulder pats and telling her how utterly stupid this moron was.

It was very clear to me that the review in question was the one that I had left some months before. I toddled off to Goodreads just to refresh my memory and found that whilst I hadn’t really enjoyed the book (I’d only bought it to support an indie press), I had stated very clearly at the start of my review that there was some great writing there and the author had a real talent (she’d somehow failed to Tweet about that though). Further down my review, I did have a bit of a rant about the mention of a ‘doom-obsessed goth’ and went on to point out that this is a very annoying stereotype and that we’re mostly really happy people despite all the black clothes and melancholy music.

She clearly had a very valid point though. There was no reason for my having said this in a review, since this had come from the mouth of a character and not the author. I didn’t realise at the time of leaving the review that I’d been triggered by this phrase and went somewhat off-piste when I used it as a reason to deduct a star from my rating. I absolutely hold my paws up to this. My bad, and I will be wise to this in future. The author could have also chosen to contact me directly and privately via Goodreads to discuss the matter with me, instead of publicly airing her views on social media, but maybe, like me on the day I left the review, she was having a particularly difficult day.

Anyhow, I couldn’t not respond, so I politely informed her this was clearly me she was referring to and that whilst I apologised for the goth-related comments I mistakenly made, that I had also left some very positive comments on her writing that she’d failed to communicate to her audience (I chose not to include a face-palm emoji here). I signed off by apologising if I’d upset her and left it at that. A short period of silence followed. Then, about twenty minutes later, I got a response.

She said that I hadn’t upset her (I think I clearly had as she’d taken to Twitter to rant about it) but reiterated that authors weren’t their characters and that ‘she used to be a goth once too’. I responded by stating that, as I’d been writing for over 20 years myself, I was saddened that she felt the need to explain that to me (and boy was I annoyed with myself for even doing it). Just as I hit send, I got a message saying the Tweet was no longer available. Then she Tweeted a short while later that she had deleted the last one as she thought it made her come across like a bit of a bitch (not her words but I forget what she actually wrote) and that was very much not like her at all. I suspect if I’d not replied to her original Tweet, she would’ve happily left it up there, along with all the pointing-and-mocking of her fellow authors. She has certainly since shared similar tweets from other authors about readers confusing authors’ views with those of their characters.

Anyhow, I’ve since deleted my entire review of her novel along with my ill-judged comment, and I will certainly be thinking very carefully before writing any future reviews of anyone’s work!

In other news, guess who caught Covid?

After 18 months of working through the pandemic, shopping as normal, going out to pubs and clubs when they were open, going on holiday and generally trying to carry on as usual whilst socially-distancing and wearing muzzles when required, me and the other half were convinced we must have had asymptomatic cases and were just two of the lucky ones. Also, we were both double-jabbed so we’d done all we could to protect ourselves and others.

Then Myk came home from work with a cough and sore throat. He didn’t think it was that bad but I made him do a lateral flow test, which was positive. We did a second. Also positive. I had no symptoms at this point but we isolated and off he went to get a PCR test the next day, which confirmed he had Covid. A day later and my nose began to run. I kept testing negative on the lateral flows but I got a PCR and that too was positive.

Long story short, we both got through it OK and only had what we considered mild symptoms. Myk had a cough and a slight temperature for a few hours, and I had a runny nose and sneezing. My resting heart rate went up dramatically for a few days but then came back down, and now I’m unusually fatigued and keep falling asleep like a person of advanced years in a staring window. I also lost my sense of smell and taste for a few days but those are both coming back now. We still don’t know where we caught it from as all of our contacts tested negative, so it’s just going to be another one of life’s endless mysteries.

Book-wise, I’m currently reading my 60th book of the year, which will complete my Goodreads challenge with 3 months to spare (it’s been that kind of year, right?). I recently discovered John Bude via the British Library Crime Classics series, whose 1930s detective stories I really enjoyed, and am now working my way through this little pile of beauties that I picked up on my first trip out post-quarantine to a local charity shop. ‘Ghostly Companions’ by Vivien Alcock is a masterclass in short story writing.

And that’s about all folks. I’m off to have a nap before I get up to eat my mostly-tasteless dinner and then I might have another nap before I go to bed.

Thanks for reading and stay safe all!

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow. Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand. You can find her online at www.kateloweauthor.co.uk

Spring cleaning, a joint venture and ever-shrinking opportunities

Okay, so I know it’s technically summer but I’ve just carried out a little overdue spring cleaning and removed my self-published Riley Pope novelettes from Smashwords. They’ve languished there for years, the first four installments of what I imagined to be a twelve book series that I’d eventually self-publish in one volume.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

The books were all free and had around 100 downloads each, give or take. The first iteration of Strange Weather (The Case of Walutahanga) made it to number 15 in the Amazon UK Urban Fantasy charts, which I was quite proud of at the time, although I’ve since discovered via other authors just how few purchases / downloads you really need to make it into those charts (a large group of willing friends and writing acquaintances really makes a difference it would seem).

At various intervals I’ve attempted to resurrect the series by penning book five, but could never get further than the first few pages. I’ve now admitted to myself that I’ve moved on in terms of what I want to write about and, to be brutally honest, have lost interest in the character and the story I was trying to tell. So goodbye for now, Riley Pope. Who knows, you may yet make a return one day.

In other news, I’m currently working on a project with my good friend John Commons, occasional TV star (Al Murray’s Happy Hour, Four in a Bed etc) and landlord of the Vic Bikers Pub in Coalville, Leicestershire.

Over the past few years John has been writing a memoir about his life prior to, and after taking over, the Victoria, and the first draft is now with me for editing and proofreading. I’ve never written or worked on non-fiction before so it’s quite the learning curve, particularly because we’ll be self-publishing so it won’t be going under the noses of a legal team! It’s certainly a challenge but has also been a joy to read. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in so many places but also touches on grief and loss. It’s going to take a while to get it shipshape but we’re both looking forwards to getting this as-yet-untitled memoir into the hands of the thousands of friends and patrons of this legendary venue.

As for the WIP, I’m still plodding on. I don’t mind admitting that the pandemic and the stress that has come with it has made writing (along with many other things) a challenge. I have, however, been making steady progress and I still enjoy writing it, so that must be a good sign. One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is this horribly divisive, virtue-signalling world we appear to be living in right now. For whatever reasons, be they well-intentioned or otherwise, certain organisations and individuals seem to be bending over backwards to accommodate particular groups to the detriment of everybody else.

Take for example the UK publishing market. There are hundreds of competitions and they used to be open to all, encouraging submissions from under-represented backgrounds, and rightly so. In the past year though, something has changed. I see ever more comps and opportunities stating they are only looking for submissions from (insert the current in-vogue label). It’s hard enough already to break into the market. Celebrities dominate, with contracts handed out to household names before they’ve even put fingertip to keyboard. Seeing them humble-brag all over Twitter when they’re not-yet-in-bookshops debut has just topped the bestseller list (Yvette Fielding comes to mind, although I still think she’s awesome) makes me want to take a massive sledgehammer to my laptop. It’s disheartening, but we trudge on, because we’re writers and this is what we do.

But it is getting harder. Harder to pick myself up mentally when what I see from the market I’m trying to break into, and the wider world in general, is that nobody wants to read a story from a person like me: white; straight; a nobody from nowhere. If they do, then why am I being excluded from writing competitions and agent’s query windows just because of the colour of my skin or my sexual preference (which is my damned business anyway)? And I’m not saying the publishing industry hasn’t shown prejudice in the past because I’m damn sure it has. It’s certainly unwelcoming to working-class writers, though some indie presses are working their bums off to change that (at least this is one ‘label’ I have going for me!)

In writing this, I hope I don’t come across as bitter or prejudiced, but undoubtedly there will be some who take my words and twist them to suit their own narrative: that is, unfortunately, the world we’re now living in – I may even be cancelled, and if I am then so be it. I just find it really, really sad that in our efforts to promote diversity, we’re actually marginalising whole groups of people, stifling their right to express an opinion and ultimately breeding resentment.

So anyway.

Allow me a moment to slink from my soap box…

BOOKS!

I’m currently reading my 40th and 41st books of the year, One for Sorrow – A book of old-fashioned lore by Chloe Rhodes, and Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist. I’ve never read any of Feist’s work before and am enjoying it so far, although inevitably it does feel quite dated. One for Sorrow is a fascinating book about the history behind some of our most popular sayings. Me and the better half were discussing what a clout was the other day, as in the traditional saying, ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’, and now I know – a clout in Old English was a piece of cloth, and evolved to mean a piece of clothing, so the saying means ‘keep your winter clothes on until June’. Which, in the maddeningly unpredictable UK climate, is a damned good piece of advice!

I’ve recently also finished The Ritual by Adam Nevill (well-written but I preferred the film – the book is like two novels in one and felt like it got a bit silly with the death metallers at the end. Why does everyone think us alternative lot are Satan-worshipping nut jobs???); A Stranger In Town by Kelley Armstong (not my favourite installment in the Rockton series, it felt a bit confused with all the various groups in play, but I still enjoyed it); and various non-fiction works of fortean interest covering ghosts, werewolves, strange ancient laws of England and the sinister side of old Nottingham.

Photo by Kevin Escate on Unsplash

So that’s all from me for now. On one final note, if you’ve read my previous blog post about Erwin Saunders and his quest to find the Morsu pixies, he’s recently posted some new videos! Enjoy!

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand. You can find her online at www.kateloweauthor.co.uk

Synchronicity, road ghosts, and my own experience of the paranormal

Synchronicity is a strange beast. The more you investigate the concept, the more you seem to notice it. Could that mean I’m assigning deeper meanings to mere coincidences? Maybe. Or maybe the Universe is tipping me a wink just to say that I’m on the right track.

There are various forms of synchronicity: seeing repeated numbers or symbols, dreaming about people or events then encountering them on waking, thinking about something then having it happen. The latter happened to me over the course of the last month, beginning with edition 401 of the Fortean Times arriving through my letterbox.

One of the featured articles by Rob Gandy was about Lincolnshire road ghosts, entitled ‘The Ruskington Horror’. It happened to catch my eye because of a thread I’m developing in my WIP that involves an apparition appearing on a road and causing a fatal accident. The driver didn’t even have a walk-on part in the story to begin with. Now my stupid writer brain has decided that the trucker was so affected by his experience that he gave up driving and became a paranormal investigator (as you do), finding fame and fortune whilst simultaneously bombarding my protagonist with ‘evidence’ of his version of events that day, which she doesn’t want to hear. I realised as I was developing this idea that I’d need to gen up on my road ghosts. This is the kind of research I enjoy, since Forteana is one of my passions. I’ve shelves of books on ghosts and the paranormal, but I soon came to realise that poring through each on the off-chance I’d happen on a road ghost would take me forever.

Yes, I did draw a moustache on Eeyore

I’d just decided to hunt down a book written specifically about road ghosts when FT401 arrived and there was Gandy’s article. After devouring the magazine cover to cover, I did do a cursory eBay search in the used books section for just such an item but couldn’t find anything close to what I needed, so I shelved the idea since I wasn’t writing that particular part of the story at the time and could always come back to it.

A month later and FT402 arrives with part 2 of ‘The Ruskington Horror’ feature. Included in the article is a reference to a book by Peter A. McCue, ‘Paranormal Encounters on Britain’s Roads’, which is EXACTLY the kind of book I was looking for! And here’s my nice shiny copy, which landed a couple of days ago (if you fancy your own copy, and why wouldn’t you, you can help support independent book shops by buying via the bookshop.org)

So was it coincidence that just such an article was written at the exact same time as my need for information on road ghosts? Quite possibly. Was it also a coincidence that Part 2 of the article should feature the exact kind of book I was looking for, and had previously been unable to find? Maybe. But then, if you want to believe in synchronicity, it gets even stranger.

The first chapter of the book is entitled ‘Fundamentals’, which is essentially a definition of the various terms that are commonly used by those engaged in psychical research. The very first entry concerns itself with ESP, or Extrasensory Perception. One of my protagonist’s main struggles is with her extrasensory abilities, so now I have a book that quite unexpectedly covers two distinct topics that closely affect my protagonist.

Now you could argue that this is just a case of my interests crossing paths: I’m writing a paranormal mystery novel and I read publications such as the Fortean Times, so it’s quite natural that I’m going to come across similar themes and phenomena. But the timing intrigues me. Is the Universe giving me a subtle little thumbs-up for developing this particular story thread? I certainly like to think so.

One of my favourite features in the Fortean Times is ‘It Happened To Me’. This is where readers send in their own accounts of their experiences with the paranormal, and I’m particularly intrigued by this because it’s not something that’s ever really happened to me (or so I’ve always considered!)

First- and second-hand accounts of phenomena experienced are also often used in the various published features. In this month’s Ghostwatch column, Alan Murdie writes about the haunted property market (yes, apparently it’s a thing!). I was particularly intrigued by the story of real estate agent Joy Sushinsky, who related various paranormal experiences that she’d encountered in her very own home, such as her cat yowling at and watching things that weren’t there, and doors slamming and opening and closing by themselves. This was then followed by the account from radio & TV presenter Zoe Ball that her son kept insisting he could hear their recently deceased cat miaowing in their house.

If you follow my blog then you may remember that I lost my beautiful boy Welford last year.

Myself and the better half were devastated, and I’ve gone through my fair share of grief the past few years to know that it does some very strange things to you. On the second morning after Welford’s passing, I woke with a start having heard a very loud miaow outside of our bedroom door. I sat up immediately and listened, although I was certain it had probably just been the tail end of a dream. At the exact same moment my better half sat up and looked at me. “Did you just hear that?” he asked me.

“Welford?” I answered.

He nodded.

We both scrambled out of bed and went out onto the landing, where of course Welford wasn’t since we’d buried his body in the garden two days earlier. We do have another cat, but as you crazy cat people will know, a cat’s miaow is like a person’s voice: no two are ever the same, and Welford and Voldemort have/had very different ones. Also, Voldemort rarely goes upstairs, as that was Welford’s favoured domain. Nonetheless, we padded downstairs just to check, and lo and behold, there was Voldemort fast asleep on the sofa in the living room. Even if she’d miaowed in her sleep, the sound would not have carried that far and as loudly as we had heard it.

So was it my boy come to tell us goodbye, or that he was still there with us? I really like to believe so, as that wouldn’t make me quite as potty for walking around the house talking to him as I do most days. The only other hypothesis I can offer is that Better Half and I had a shared auditory hallucination, manifested, perhaps, by the power of our combined grief.

All of this got me to thinking in some depth about whether I’d had any more potentially paranormal experiences that I’d either forgotten or brushed off with some mundane explanation. As I mentioned above, I’ve always considered that I’ve (sadly) never come into contact with much unusual phenomena, either directly or via friends & family. So I sat and made a list, and I realised I’ve had far more weird shit happen than I think.

  1. Mummy / Blob apparition: When I was very little, probably about three years old, I woke up to find a mummy, about six feet tall, walking into my bedroom. I remember it very clearly, it was wrapped head to toe in white bandages, was walking quite rigidly in a side-to-side rocking motion with its arms held out, and was wearing a yellowish tweed jacket (of all things!). As it rounded the bed, it morphed into a purple blob, about four feet tall and the approximate shape of a Walnut Whip. I tried to scream but no sound would come out, and I found myself completely paralysed. Unable to move or to call out for my parents, I either fainted or fell back to sleep. At the time it felt that I’d blacked out through sheer terror. Could’ve been a very nasty dream. Who knows.
  2. Invisible animals: Like a lot of only children, I had two imaginary friends when I was young. Mine, however, were not human but animal. Sandy and Tom were a dog and a cat, and I remember them vividly. Sandy was a golden retriever puppy like the Andrex dog, and Tom was a black and white cat. I don’t remember how long I ‘saw’ them for, but they were such a part of my reality that Mum would put out plates of ‘food’ for them at dinnertime. Alas she’s no longer here for me to ask her about it. Imaginary friends are often explained away as the concepts of lonely children, but children are also said to be extremely receptive to the paranormal. I certainly know that I ‘saw’ those animals as solidly as any real human.
  3. Sightings of the recently deceased: Both my better half and my late Nan have seen their recently deceased loves ones. My Nan once told me that not long after my grandad died, she walked into the lounge from the kitchen and saw him sitting on the sofa watching the television ‘as real as if he’d really been there’. She would never be drawn on whether she believed it was his ghost or just a side effect of her grief. My better half reports having seen his mum in their kitchen not long after she died. Again, he can’t explain this, but tends towards the explanation that he was seeing what he wanted to see, ie. his mum, who had died very suddenly when he was just a young man.
  4. The door that opened on its own / footsteps on the stairs / wonky clock: Shortly after moving in to my current house, I began to notice something very strange: the door of the cupboard under the stairs kept opening on its own. It would be closed when I left the house, and open when I returned. It’s not the kind of door that can accidentally open on its own. It has what I believe is called a mortice lock. You have to turn the handle to release the latch bolt and so it can’t just ‘open’.

I also began to notice that a pendulum wall clock I had inherited from the previous owner would be hanging slant on the wall when I returned home. It wasn’t just slightly slant, it was tilted to a degree that you couldn’t explain away by traffic vibrations or the slamming of doors. We do have a quarry about two miles down the road, so the regular blasting could have caused both the clock to move and the door to open – except nothing else on the wall was ever affected.

And that doesn’t explain the sound of footsteps on the staircase and landing when I was in the house on my own! All of this occurred within the first few months of me moving in and I was extremely spooked by it all! I actually knew the guy I’d bought the house from and saw him in our local one night. I happened to mention the strange goings-on and he was not remotely surprised, informing me that his ex-partner had brought in a priest to bless the house because of similar experiences that were frightening their children. I had no reason to disbelieve him and he appeared truly genuine in his account. I was told the phenomena ceased after the blessing, and I wondered whether the upheaval of the exchange in owners had somehow ‘reawakened’ whatever was present. I decided to address it directly, standing on the stairs whilst I introduced myself, reassuring them I meant no harm and that whoever or whatever was present was quite welcome to live alongside me. I haven’t experienced anything untoward since. The door hasn’t opened on its own, there have been no footsteps on the stairs and the clock ceased to tilt on the wall. Voldemort occasionally sits and ‘watches’ things cross the living room, always in the same place, always from the kitchen to the hallway where the phenomena took place. Maybe she’s seeing what I can’t, or maybe she’s just being a cat, because they’re like that.

So that’s my paranormal experiences to date. I’d love to hear about yours if you’d care to share in the comments. If the supernormal is your thing and you don’t already read it, check out the Fortean Times for your monthly dose of strange phenomena. Now I’m off to read another chapter of my book and partake of a beverage or three. Friday nights in lockdown. What fun, eh?

Stay safe & strong all.

)o( Love & Light )o(

Kate Lowe is a speculative fiction author from Leicestershire, UK. Her short fiction has won first place in two competitions & has appeared in various zines, magazines & anthologies. Her story The Wolf Runs in the Barley received an Honourable Mention in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Kate is a goth, a keen Fortean and a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Tigers Rugby. Her favourite band is Fields of the Nephilim, she loves silver jewellery, hunting for antiques and is usually to be found with a book in her hand.

Drabble success, a competition longlist and 2020 part 2: what a f***ing year

It’s been a while since I last checked in so thought I’d drop a quick update. As per most people everywhere, 2020 has been a quiet, if not also horrendous, year. Whitby Goth Weekend was again cancelled so no holidays for us this year, the nightclubs and venues were closed so no Spellbound goth nights in Leicester or gigs at Nottingham Rock City, and the pubs, for the most part of this year, have been closed, so no weekends out with our friends at the local biker pub. All of this has made me realise how much I, and we as the human race, value social contact. Fingers crossed that next year will be a better one in so many ways for all of us.

On the writing front, I’ve had a horror drabble, ‘Mourning Son’, accepted for Black Hare Press’s upcoming anthology entitled 666. More news on that when available, but please click here to find out more about Black Hare Press and their brilliant range of speculative fiction. I also submitted a page of my novel-in-progress to Louise Walters Books Page 100 competition, and couldn’t believe it when While The City Sleeps made the longlist! I’ve since received the following feedback from Louise, which I hope she won’t mind me posting (as I’m over the moon with it and just have to share! Hurrah!)

“I really enjoyed your Page 100; it almost made the shortlist, so I hope that’s encouraging. There’s a no-nonsense crispness to your writing and story-telling. There’s humour here, and I think vulnerability? I warmed to the narrator and wondered quite a lot about her, curious about her story and what has led up to this page, and what may come after. There was a definite sense of a three-dimensional character here. not just words on a page. Great.”

Louise runs a fantastic indie press with a great selection of authors and books, so please have a gander at her website here and help support our brilliant indie presses in these difficult times. She is also running the Page 100 comp in June 2021, a good one to add to your writing calendar.

I’m currently reading my 69th book of the year, Sue Grafton’s P is for Peril, (which I’m technically re-reading, but it all still counts). I’ve also just finished Lee & Andrew Child’s The Sentinel, the latest Jack Reacher instalment, which was ace and is highly recommended. Non-fiction wise, I’ve recently finished David Wilcock’s eye-opening The Synchronicity Key and Deepak Chopra’s thought-provoking The Book of Secrets. I find myself very much in a spiritually-enquiring frame of mind at the moment, which is probably not surprising given the last eighteen months. Times are hard for all right now but I honestly feel that we’re on the home stretch. Stay safe, stay strong, be kind to yourself and others. We will get through this.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy festive season

Love and light

)o(

Grief, little folk and 2020: a brief history so far

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, I remember saying that the new year couldn’t be any worse than the last.

Ha bloody ha. If only I had known, eh?

So the bad stuff first:

Just a month after my last blog post, and almost a year to the day since losing my Mum, we lost my beautiful Nan to pneumonia.

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She’d been ill for months and her quality of life was non-existent, reliant on carers to do everything for her – I know that she absolutely hated it. The last time I saw her was a few weeks before she passed, as we had been instructed to shield the vulnerable at that point, and the only contact we had with her after that was via telephone. She was taken into Leicester Royal Infirmary on the Sunday afternoon and died a few hours later, with no family by her side as Covid restrictions meant no-one could go with her. It took almost two weeks for the death certificate to be issued, with a doctor apologetically informing me via telephone that Covid-19 was being put on the certificate, even though she never had symptoms and tested negative for it at the hospital (don’t get me started).

As per my experience when Mum died, those who could have assisted chose not to, and I was left to administer the estate and organise the funeral on my own. We were only allowed to have ten people at her funeral, which was a bizarre socially-distanced affair at the local crematorium. I can only imagine what she’d have thought of it!

Meanwhile, in the world of the day job, myself and my only remaining colleague were dismantling the fixtures and fittings & closing accounts ahead of the company’s relocation two hundred miles north. We had been made aware of the move around Christmas but it all got very real when colleagues I had worked with for years found new jobs and the building started emptying around me. All this during lockdown too (we’re classed as an essential service). What fun, eh?

Along came June and another blow: my beloved cat Welford, who had been poorly for some time, became so ill that I took him to the vet for the very last time. Blood tests suggested leukemia and the vet advised it would be the kindest thing to let him go (oh man, I’m crying as I write this!) He went to sleep on June 18th and is buried in the garden beneath a plaque that bears his name.

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I go out to see him every day and say hello, and I still haven’t stopped expecting to see him when I get up in a morning. Maybe I never will. Love you Mr Man! Until we meet again.

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July arrives. We hand over the keys to the office building and I am now officially working from home on a permanent basis. It has its pros and cons but I’m making the most of it. Meanwhile, my other cat Voldemort (Mort, Mortus Tortoise, Morty-Fa-Torty, Fatty, Fat Bum, Fluff Mort, Grump Mort, Pasty Cat – she is a cat of many names but answers to none lol) had been losing weight for no obvious reason. Blood tests diagnosed an overactive thyroid, which we’re managing now with medication and she’s back to her roly-poly self, if not quite so hyperactive!

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August brought us more awful news. My better half’s sister-in-law passed away after a brief battle with cancer. We then discovered that his brother in the US had contracted Covid, although I’m glad to say he appears to be over the worst of it, if not thoroughly exhausted.

Oh, and I qualified as an Achology Counselling Practitioner at some point in all of this!

So that’s my year so far. I’ve somehow managed to keep on writing through it, editing / revising / rewriting the WIP when the mind and body would allow. I’ve tried to write a couple of short stories in between but I’m sorry to say I didn’t get very far. Thanks to the lockdown, I went without my maintenance massage for my dodgy neck / shoulder for nearly five months and ended up in permanent pain again. Life has gotten back to some semblance of normal, and two treatments in I’m getting better and am able to spend more time at the laptop.

According to Goodreads I’ve read nearly 50 books this year so far! I’ve recently been reading up on Leicestershire folklore and legend. I’ve just finished Stephen King’s Elevation (still not sure what to make of it tbh), with The Institute and If It Bleeds to follow. Bill Bryson’s The Body is also on my TBR pile, along with a couple of occult titles on spells and witchcraft.

Speaking of esoterica, there was a wonderful article in a recent copy of the Fortean Times on the pixie-hunting videos of Edwin Saunders. Nobody knows who Edwin is, why he made the videos or where he is now, but they’re utterly fascinating and I can’t urge you enough to watch them! Here’s a link to the first one. Enjoy!

Keep on keeping on, folks, and remember: don’t look back because you’re not going that way.

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Dark drabbles, small victories and trying to stay positive

Kinsey Millhone meets a working-class Discovery of Witches, minus the unnecessary yoga.

If it sounds like the kind of book you might like to read, I’m with you. Please bear with me as I try to get it finished. Current working title: Conspiracy of Silence. This will undoubtedly change another two-dozen times before I’m ready to submit again, possibly in the year 2040 when we’ll all be driving hover cars, which is what we should have been doing in 2020, but instead we’re all learning how to wash our hands whilst singing Happy Birthday, twice.

In brighter news.

Success! In my last (quite a while ago) blog post, I mentioned I’d tried my hand at drabbles (drabble: a short work of fiction a hundred words in length, which are harder to write than they sound). I submitted two of them to Black Hare Press and one of them, ‘Cybele’s Lament’, has been selected for publication in their upcoming anthology Hate: Dark Drabbles, which is available now in paperback for £12.99 or in ebook format on 17th March for £2.99. You can order / pre-order by clicking the shiny links above 😉

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Dark tales of hate and revenge in bite-sized chunks!

This will represent my first and only published work of 2020, my output over the past twelve months having slowed considerably for reasons previously blogged about. I’m seeing this as my small victory and am going to attempt to write some more, alongside plodding on with the WIP.

Reading-wise, I’m on my sixteenth book of 2020. Stand-outs to mention are Blue Moon by Lee Child (a vintage Jack Reacher story and one of Child’s best), Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (one that will stay with you for a long time), Anthony Horowitz’s Daniel Hawthorne series (this man never writes a bad book) and No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. I’m new to Adam Nevill, and the only reason I haven’t snapped up more of his work is that No One Gets Out Alive terrified me more than any horror I’ve ever seen or read and I’m not sure I need more terror at the moment given what’s going on in the world right now.

Stay safe everyone. Be kind.

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Breaking radio silence

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MISERY

I felt the need to break radio silence as it’s been a while since my last blog post. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to write anything.

The novel I completed last October got a handful of rejections from agents & publishers, most of them generic, a couple with feedback that I ought to try elsewhere. I contemplated sending it out to more agents as it was, but realised that if it wasn’t even generating the tiniest spark of enthusiasm from any of the six that I’d selected then I ought to revisit it and see what needed polishing.

Soon after making said decision, and as per my last post, I lost my Mum to cancer. The days and weeks that followed were a learning curve, an endless stream of form-filling, phone calls and funeral plans. Already both mentally and physically exhausted, I had to pick up her things from the hospital, sign my name in triplicate on this form and that form, dig out her proof of ID so I could register the death, let a million different government organisations know, make an appointment with the bank to close her bank account, visit the funeral home and pick out some flowers and a coffin and a gown and some words for the notice in the paper and some twee little anecdotes the lay preacher could recount at the funeral…

When all you really want is five minutes where you don’t have to think about what happened, in the absence of a person who is willing to share the load, you’re not allowed to think about a single thing else.

I didn’t have a clue how I would make it through the funeral, not because of how I would be feeling on the day but I hate being (excuse the crass phrasing) the ‘centre of attention’. To sit in the back of a big flashy car and have to walk behind Mum’s coffin into a church full of people, to do the same again at the crematorium and then have to be sociable at the funeral… it really was all my worst nightmares combined.  I’m sure that my Mum, being just as shy as me, would’ve sympathised.

It’s weird when the funeral of a loved one is over. You’re glad you got through it, but then, what happens next? Well you go back to living life as normal, apparently. You work and you eat and you sleep and you don’t ever talk about THE THING because it’s over now, isn’t it, and nobody wants you to talk about THE THING because it makes them uncomfortable.

I’ve discovered this is common to the recently bereaved, that you’re more than aware that there’s nothing can be done, no words to be said that can make it all better, so you go out of your way to make sure that other people aren’t uncomfortable around you. It’s bizarre!

A few weeks after the funeral, another immediate family member fell ill and was taken into hospital. Between then and now they have been in and out of various hospitals three times for different reasons. All have been extended stays, all have required regular visits. For weeks on end I was getting up early, doing an eight hour shift at a job that is doing nothing to help my mental health AT ALL, then driving an hour-or-more round trip to whichever hospital they were in. I was getting little time to myself. I was stressed. I was exhausted. I was worried about said relative. Every time I approached the hospital, I started to feel panicky. A hospital was the last place I wanted to be so soon after losing Mum, but there was no way of avoiding it. Even in the short periods when they were back at home, we were receiving regular calls for assistance. They are now at home and doing much better but I’m constantly on edge and I dread the phone ringing. Add to this the various stages of grief that I’m trying to process.

Anyway, and probably inevitably, I’ve become ill myself and have been referred for tests. The doctor thinks it’s stress-related (surprise surprise) but the tests are to rule out other nasties that I can’t even begin to think about. I’m tired, uncomfortable, on the verge of tears ALL THE F***ING TIME and quite royally fed up. I’ve forgotten what happy and healthy feels like. I keep seeing all of these productive writers sharing their stories and successes on Twitter and it makes me want to scream. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write!  My current output is one evening a week spent editing the never-ending WIP, I spend the rest of my free time sleeping or reading (at least I’m keeping up with that — Kinsey Millhone is my new fictional heroine!). In an attempt to complete a piece of writing, I composed a few drabbles last week and submitted them to the good people at Black Hare Press for anthology consideration (yet to get any feedback so watch this space). I have never written a drabble in my life and to be honest, I don’t enjoy reading them myself, so I’ve no idea if they’re any good or not. I think I managed to convey an idea / concept in each, so fingers crossed. On the plus side, the tablets I’ve been put on seem to be helping and it’s been weeks since I’ve thrown something across the house in a rage or curled into a ball and sobbed. It’s also Gothtober and Whitby beckons, hurrah!

So that’s where I’m at. I hope normal service will resume shortly. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Tom Hardy overprinted with some well-meaning words.

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Writing on in spite of it all

It’s fair to say this has possibly been the worst month of my life.

My previous blog post began with some ramblings about this being a year of change. Little did I know how much it would change for me when on April 11th I lost my Mum to cancer.

She had been feeling ill for a few weeks but only received her cancer diagnosis 6 days before she passed away. It’s an understatement to say it was a shock and it all still feels surreal to me. Due to reasons I shan’t go in to, I have had to (again) be the responsible, level-headed one of my very small family, balancing the grief of watching Mum slip away with the handling of the practical arrangements that follow a sudden death.

We are now in the lull between the death and the funeral, in which time me and the better half are going on our pre-planned holiday to Whitby for the Tomorrow’s Ghost Spring Goth Festival. I am of course looking forwards to the break and to catch up with friends but as the main point of contact for everyone, from family to funeral directors, I will no doubt be called (or called upon) at some point over the extended weekend to answer some question or finalise some detail or other. Needless to say, my writing effort over this period has dwindled.

I did find time to do a little editing over the weekend and am pleased with the rewrite of what was previously called Chasing Shadows (new title pending, shortlist being compiled as inspiration strikes me). I also received a rejection from Jo Fletcher Books but they did include an encouraging note that the market was tough at the moment and that I may find success with other publishers. In between this post and the last one I have written and submitted a short story to Writing Magazine for their character-driven short story competition, and I’ve also done a lot of reading (and some reluctant savaging of bestsellers on Goodreads – if A Discovery of Witches can sell in the millions then there’s hope for us all!)

Prior to April descending on my head like a ton of bricks, I had started work on a writing-related non-fiction project that I’ll be self-publishing later in the year. I’m also currently studying to become a certified Counselling Practitioner, partly because I’ve a massive interest in psychology and counselling, but also because the protagonist in my Hexen series (of which not-called-Chasing-Shadows-anymore will be the first novel) will eventually be going down that route herself.

So that’s it for now folks. I shall endeavour to enjoy my break in Whitby (weather forecast: rain and wind for the entire time we’re there – surprise), and tackle my writing afresh next month.

TTFN     )O(

Decisions, revisions & rejections, oh my!

Good evening all, and a happy belated new year.

It appears 2019 is going to be a year of change for me, whether I like it or not! I don’t deal well with change, especially when it’s forced on me, but developments in the day job mean more responsibility and a great big stumble beyond my comfort zone.

Oh the joys.

In other news, I’ve had my first rejections on the novel. Three, to be exact. Generic and uninspiring. After careful consideration, I’m afraid that Chasing Shadows isn’t for us / doesn’t fit with our publishing schedule / is a steaming pile of horse shit.

OK. So nobody said it was shit, but generic responses are not what I’m looking for.

I could just press on and find another six agents / publishers to sub to, but what’s the point in that? Another round of rejections and another set of people that I can’t re-submit to.

I know from reading others’ experiences that if an MS shows promise then some form of encouragement is usually included in the response from the agent, even if it’s still a rejection.

I thought about paying for a literary consultancy to assess Chasing Shadows, but what’s the point if I’m already having doubts that my MS isn’t all it needs to be?

So instead of forking out for an assessment, I’ve invested a small sum of money in a book on the editing process, written by the owner of a leading literary consultancy. I’ve read the book cover to cover, and whilst it’s not a cure-all and a surefire way to make my MS a bestseller, I can now see Chasing Shadows wasn’t even close to being sent out to agents.

#FML

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So first things first, I’ve gotten rid of the prologue. Apparently, prologues put a lot of agents off, as it looks like you haven’t got a strong enough opening. Also, my prologue was written from a secondary character’s POV and not my protagonist. Also it was basically just backstory. Also… well, there was a lot of things wrong with it and removing it hasn’t detracted from the novel.

Secondly, my protagonist’s emotional arc needs a lot more development. The issues she deals with are personal to me and I suppose I’ve been frightened to ‘bleed onto the page’ so to speak. But if I want her experience to sound authentic, if I want my potential readers to sympathise and pull for her, then I have to put my fears aside and tell it how it is.

Thirdly, although I believed I had a handle on the infamous Show Don’t Tell thing…. I really, really hadn’t. I tend to write naturally in first person viewpoint, and whilst Chasing Shadows was written in multiple close third person (by necessity of the plot), I’ve used the opportunity, subconsciously, for my characters to provide a running commentary on proceedings by way of their thoughts, instead of being subtle and using the way they interact within the scenes to simply hint at their thoughts and emotions, allowing the reader to fill in the rest.

So I have much revising to do. Starting with a total rewrite of at least the first two chapters.

Have I already said FML???

The only thing keeping me sane is that I’m confident my plotting is sound. Until I decide that it isn’t.

FML!