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.

nan

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.

wel 1

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!

mort

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 😉

Hate 1
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!

The sound of silence, goth weekend comedown, and please can I have a new shoulder?

 

“But my words, like silent raindrops, fell…”

As a scribbler who needs near-as-dammit total silence in order to write productively, I covet peace and quiet. As an introvert who values her ‘alone time’, this is doubly true.

However.

The vacuum I am currently enduring is excruciating. It’s been weeks since I subbed Chasing Shadows to a handful of carefully-selected agents and publishers, and whilst I’m aware that it’s going to take months for these crazily busy folks to get to my baby, it doesn’t make the waiting any easier. I’d like to say work has continued apace with the planning and plotting of the follow-up novel, but then I’d be lying (not through lack of ideas or enthusiasm, thankfully – other things, as you’ll see shortly, have just gotten in the way). I have written 3/4 of an Infernal Kindred short story that takes place between the first and second novels, though, and I’ve already found a market to sub this to (deadline of December so I’d better hurry up).

Speaking of subbing stories, if you haven’t already seen the update, I have a reprint of ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’ in the Halloween edition of The Siren’s Call, which you can download for free by clicking on the link. If ever you’ve fantasised about murdering a work colleague, then this may be for you. As for me, I couldn’t possibly comment 😉

Update on The Riley Pope Case Files – a friend asked me recently when no.5 was coming out, and the answer is… when I’ve written it. I know, I know, get your finger out, Lowe! The good news is that the title and the cover are pretty much sorted (but yet to be finalised), so here’s a sneaky preview:

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The story will see Riley trying to solve her latest case whilst dealing (or not, as is the case with Miss Pope) with the emotional fallout from Stepacyk’s assault in Blue Ben. I can’t promise a release date yet but I will certainly get to work on this before the end of 2018, failing body and other distractions allowing, of course.

The particular part of my failing body I speak of is my shoulder, which I damaged whilst attempting to perform some ridiculous backwards crab manoeuvre (and they say exercise is good for you) about two years ago. Something substantial tore, and when the pain and burning in my shoulder eventually subsided, the agony and limited movement in my neck began. After 6 weeks of perseverance, I accepted it wasn’t getting better on its own and went to see the doctor, who told me to give it four weeks (I had already allowed for six, don’t forget) and – I kid you not – to ‘Google some neck exercises’.

As you can imagine I was not particularly impressed with this advice and so I spent some of my meagre savings on a course of chiropractic therapy which involved stretching, massage and manipulation and, after about a month, it was a whole lot better.

But then it got slowly but progressively worse again, to the point that I can no longer look to my left without turning my entire body. I’m in constant pain, it’s impossible to get a decent night’s sleep and the only exercise I can do without wanting to cry is moderately-paced walking. Sitting at a computer all day only makes it worse, except that is what I do to pay the bills, so I have no choice in the matter. Luckily I can work on plotting the next novel (which goes by the working title of Telling Secrets) via my corkboard / sticky note system, but I can’t avoid the laptop completely. Needless to say, productivity, both writing- and reading-wise, has dropped. An NHS physiotherapy self-referral appointment is pending. They told me the waiting list was four weeks. After seven weeks of nothing I rang to politely enquire if they’d forgotten me, only to be told I was two weeks away from the top of the list. That was three weeks ago. I’d wearily shake my head if my neck would allow it.

The other distraction from writing was our recent jaunt to Whitby for the goth weekend. We arrived on a sunny Thursday and left on an equally clement Monday, and the weather inbetween was…

You remember that scene from Mary Poppins where all the other nannies are swept up and blown down the street? Well it was something like that, but with rotund men in top hats and women in varying degrees of outlandish Victorian-esque garb being blown into the Esk (the actual goths were in the pubs out of the way of it).

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This was me and the windswept better half after a particularly perilous journey from the Metropole to our cottage after attending another outstanding Marquis Masquerade on Friday night:

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Saturday evening brought the very sad news of the Leicester City helicopter tragedy. It was also the first of two Fields of the Nephilim gigs we would be attending that week, so my usual joy at witnessing my heroes play live was tinged with sadness at the loss of Khun Vichai, who made the impossible dream come true. To be amongst that insane crowd on Victoria Park is an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.

Sunday brought slightly better weather, and a shopping splurge (occult-esque earrings, Poison of Dracula plum brandy, a Nosferatu glass chopping board – because who doesn’t need one of those babies?), and then it was off to a Joy Division tribute, followed by a night of goth classics, to which we danced our little socks off.

And then we came home, and have spent the days since mourning how quickly it all went whilst chopping things on Nosferatu’s face.

Thanks to the shoulder / neck thing, I haven’t been reading as much as usual, and so my Goodreads challenge of sixty books for 2018 is starting to look somewhat unachievable. I’ve recently finished M.R. James’ collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary though, which you can download for free from Project Gutenberg, and I both thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Nobody tells a horror yarn quite like M.R. James! Currently on my ‘to be read’ pile is Brief Cases by Jim Butcher (which I’m devouring as quickly as my stupid neck will allow – man, I’ve missed Harry Dresden!), and Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Past Tense (my first author-signed book!).

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So that’s all for now folks. Have a great weekend. I’ll leave you with a video from (in my humble opinion) the best damned goth band of all time, Fields of the Nephilim. Take it away, Carl McCoy…

Halloween reprint news, pantsers v plotters, and why you can’t be a writer if you don’t bloody love it

Hello everyone and Happy Gothtober!

It’s only 17 more sleeps (I’m not counting, honest) until me and the better half make our biannual trek up to Whitby for the goth weekend, and I’m ever so a little bit excited, not least because my all-time-favourite band Fields of the Nephilim are playing, and also because I get to stay in a cottage with THIS view:

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If you follow me at all on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed THIS post:

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Yes, I have finally done it. After slogging away at the never-ending WIP and finally deciding that the industry just doesn’t want vampire novels at the moment, I returned to a previous project, finished it, redrafted it, edited it, proofread it, polished it to within an inch of its life, and now it is sitting in the inboxes of five agents / publishers awaiting their verdict.

I cannot describe to you how amazing it feels to finally be working on a new project. Not one I’ve rewritten umpteen times, not one I started to write years ago and put to one side, but a BRAND NEW NOVEL!

I’m taking a risk, since it’s the second in the series to the first, and if I can’t find an agent / publisher for that one then I don’t really know where that leaves me. On the other hand, I believe in my characters and the world I’ve built for them and I want to keep on telling their stories, so I’m just going to carry on regardless and hope that somebody out there believes in them too.

Novelists tend to be pantsers or plotters, and some of us occupy the space inbetween. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants: they don’t have a structured plot before they start, just a vague idea of characters and possibly a germ of an idea and they run with it and see where it takes them. Plotters are their opposites: they carry out meticulous planning beforehand, make up character sheets, map out story arcs, major and minor plotlines, and know before they even write a word of the MS what will happen in every chapter, and possibly every scene.

I used to be a pantser (hence the many manuscripts filling up my hard drive). Chasing Shadows, the aforementioned submitted novel, was written as part of a writing course, so there was some element of planning involved and that’s probably how I made it to the end with all (I hope) of the necessary ingredients in place.

I don’t consider the time I’ve spent pantsing through novels as wasted. Aside from courses and how-to books, and reading both widely and incessantly, I sincerely believe that the best way to learn how to write well is to just sit down and do it. Write badly. Write angry. Write tired. Write rubbish. Write stuff that the world will never see. But eventually, through practice and a lot of trial and error and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of words, your writer’s voice WILL start to emerge. You’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t, the things that you’re good at and those that you need to pay a little more attention to. You might, like me, discover plotting doesn’t stifle creativity (like I thought it might) but actually makes the writing process a helluva a lot easier.

My Scrivener project for this second novel currently has character sketches for all major and minor characters, separate location descriptions for all the main places in the novel, a list of major and minor plotlines with notes on how they develop and are resolved, and I’ve broken down the novel into chapters and the chapters into scenes. If this all sounds terribly tedious and boring, let me assure you that I’m having the time of my life with it. Seriously! I’ve never been able to keep all the strands of a novel in my head, but doing it this way gives me a visual map to work to, and knowing I have all the necessary nuts, bolts and pulleys in place means I can just get on and do the best bit, which is write it.

The opening scenes for the third novel are already in place (and a Scrivener project is going for that too), along with several plots for short stories and novellas to compliment the series. Now I just need to win the lottery so I can give up the day job and get it all written.

In others news, the latest anthology from Smoking Pen Press A Kiss and a Promise, is available now from Amazon. Featuring my story ‘Made to be Broken’, a paranormal romance about a vampire hunter’s quest to fulfil a family legacy, it’s available both in paperback format and as an ebook download, and you can find them both here. (Don’t forget to leave a review! They’re an author’s bread and butter!)

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I also received some great news from Sirens Call Publications last week. My short story ‘A Dish Best Served Cold’, originally published in 2011 by Spikethecat Ltd, will be included in the Halloween edition of the Siren’s Call ezine. Purveyors of horror and dark fiction, their bi-monthly zines contain short fiction, flash fiction and poetry and are completely free to download and enjoy. The link will be added to my Short Fiction page as soon as it’s available.

So that’s all for now folks. I’m off to check my emails for the 104th time today.

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Shameless plug alert… A Kiss and a Promise – OUT NOW!

Hey everyone

Just a quick post to tell you that the new anthology from Smoking Pen Press, A Kiss and a Promise, is now available to download from Amazon!

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Featuring my paranormal romance story Made to be Broken, the ebook version is just £3.05 with the paperback to follow in October. Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

The six romances included in this anthology have quirky characters, or quirky locations, or quirky situations.  You’ll find a ghost and a new homeowner, a spaceship captain and her cartographer, a window designer and high school beau, a banker and a baker, two vampire hunters, and some supernatural beings.  You’ll find yourself in two different restaurants, and on another planet. You’ll find deception, intrigue, and old memories.  You’ll find Happily-Ever-Afters, and you’ll find Happy-for-Nows.
But most of all, you’ll find true romance.  You’ll find kisses, and you’ll find promises.

Vampire hunters? Romance? How can you resist??? Download the anthology here and don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads (authors love reviews!) and share, share, share with your family and friends.

Thanks all!

)o(  Love and Light  )o(

(Image and blurb text courtesy of Smoking Pen Press)