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)

Creativity, mental health and standards that go both ways

Happy new year!

Except it’s not. Happy, that is.

After a couple of publication successes at the end of 2017, my muse has decided that it’s time for a break and has sodded off to parts unknown.

Actually, I don’t really believe in a muse. If writers sat around waiting for creativity to strike then I’m sure very little would get written.  Equally, though, I don’t understand how writer’s get through this, other than forcing it and churning out crap.

Which is what I’ve been doing these past twelve days.

That’s not to say I don’t have ideas, because I do. I started out the year recording lots of writing competitions I could enter, looked for inspiration on the web regarding plot ideas and now have a Dropbox full of plot lists and prompts.

But can I make a story out of any of them?

The answer is yes, of course I can. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. I just won’t do it this day. Possibly not the next day either, or the next. But I’m going to keep trying because whatever this is, it will pass.

Google ‘creativity and depression’ and the first thing you’ll see is ‘Scholarly articles for creativity and depression’. Apparently, there’s a lot of them. Next is ‘A little weird? Prone to depression? Blame your creative brain…’

Thanks, brain.

I’m sure there’s more to it than that. I know there is, but annoyingly, there’s nothing I can do but work through it the way that I always have: with patience and self-care and self-talk and mindfulness (and possibly ice cream), and knowing that I’ll come out the other side eventually. Even the little things, like reading the blogs and tweets of other sufferers has helped: Matt Haig in particular – if you don’t already follow him then do look him up, and then go out and buy his books like I did yesterday, hurrah! Some weekend reading for me! (I’ve also ordered How To Stop Time but that’s still somewhere in the bowels of Amazon – boooooo!).

20180112_114930.jpg On the subject of reading, my Goodreads challenge for 2017 came in at 53 books. I was aiming for 100, which in hindsight was possibly a tad optimistic. This year I’ve set it at 60, and I’m already 3 down. The first was a steampunk anthology, Gears of Brass, that I picked up as part of a book swap at the Bridge House event. You can read my review on Goodreads here, but basically, it wasn’t for me (more on that shortly). Then I (finally) got round to reading End of Watch by Stephen King (5 stars, as always), and last night (amidst a sea of tissues thanks to the annual winter lurgy) I finished reading Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.

I knew Sarah’s name as a fellow member of the BFS but had (shamefully) never read any of her work, so when I saw BHE as part of a BOGOHP offer in Waterstones, I didn’t hesitate to grab it.

You can tell from the cover alone that it’s going to be something along the lines of The Girl on the Train, and it is. Three main characters, their lives intertwined, and someone is hiding a sinister secret. There’s a supernatural element that sets it apart from your Flynns and Hawkins, and a really good twist at the end that I only very vaguely saw coming. On the basis of this, I will definitely be seeking out more of Sarah’s work.

Going back to the aforementioned steampunk anthology, aside from the quality of the writing, which I wasn’t too impressed with, the one thing that threw me out of the book was the poor standard of editing. There were spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in almost every story. And yes, I’m a qualified proofreader so I’m more eagle-eyed and pernickety than most, but come on! This wasn’t a self-published book. I’ve looked up the imprint and they look pretty slick and professional. Surely they owe it to the authors they publish to polish their work to the best of their abilities, not least because it makes the book look amateurish.

I’ve recently had a similar experience and have ummed and ahed whether to blog about this or not. I know that it won’t do me any favours to complain about a publisher that has printed my work so I’m not going to name them. However, I did have a contract that stated my work would be proofread – TWICE – and then sent back to me for one final check, which it was, and there weren’t any errors to begin with so nothing was changed. I have to assume that all the authors in the book had the same kind of treatment, so each and every story was (hopefully) proofread by its author, then proofread / edited twice by the publisher, then sent to the author for checking…. and STILL there were errors in the final printed book. Great big glaring ones that made me a little embarrassed to hand out copies to my friends who had purchased it.

It’s a sad state of affairs but everybody knows (or should know by now) that if you’re buying self-published work, you’re taking a gamble on quality. However, if a publisher wants nine odd quid for a book they’ve produced then I expect there to be no more than a couple of minor errors (I found one in End of Watch, so I know some slip through) and the cover design not to look amateurish (which…. *flinches*…. it did). And I may well be cutting off my nose to spite my face but I won’t be submitting further work to them because of this. I like to think I keep a certain standard with my work, and standards go both ways, don’t they?

So.

Now I’ve just got myself blacklisted by everyone everywhere, I’m off to eat ice cream and write more crap stories – or not. For anyone suffering from anxiety and depression right now, there is nothing I can say to make it easier for you, but here’s some things that have helped me fight my way through it.

  1. Self-care – do something for you without feeling guilty (within reason of course!). Read a book, take a bath, watch a film, play a musical instrument, eat that tub of Ben n Jerry’s Phish Food if you want to. Above all, be kind to yourself.
  2. Exercise – this one can be hard if it’s all you can do to get out from under the duvet for a piss break, but trust me, exercise will make you feel better. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Just going for a walk can lift your mood. Hell, you can walk on the spot if you can’t leave the house (I’ve ‘spot-walked’ my way through the entire first season of Stranger Things and hardly even noticed). Or if walking’s not your thing then what about pilates or yoga? There’s tons of videos to choose from on You Tube, so why not have a browse? You might just find your new passion.
  3. Practice mindfulness – it really does work. There’s tons of resources on the web so get Googling.
  4. Challenge your mood – sometimes we get trapped in a spiral of dark thoughts and it’s hard to break free. Online tools like Moodscope and MoodGym are excellent at helping you challenge these thoughts and to discover a new way of thinking.
  5. Communicate – try and let somebody know how you’re feeling, even if it feels like the hardest thing to do in the world, and PLEASE seek help from a doctor if you need it. They are there to help, as are the following charities:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.rethink.org/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

https://youngminds.org.uk/

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Take care of yourselves, everyone

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Bridge House book launch, a runaway wheelchair and why I don’t dance to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

Phew!

What a weekend.

My usual Saturday goes pretty much like this:

Crawl out of bed > Watch a lot of sport > Do the grocery shopping > Pub > Bed

Saturday 2nd December was more like:

Crawl out of bed > Drive from Leicester to High Barnet station > Take train to Chalk Farm > Bridge House book launch > Journey in reverse back to Leicester > Wash and change > Nan’s 90th birthday party > Pub > Watch the Ashes > Bed

It began around 7am. Not the time I had intended to wake considering I’d only gone to bed a few hours before, but anxiety stuck two fingers up to that.

I was out of bed at 10am and ready to leave just before 11. Our plan (mine and the hubby’s, my designated driver / carer for the day), was to drive down the M1 and head to High Barnet, park at the station and then take the Northern Line to Chalk Farm.

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It all went remarkably smoothly. There were no delays on either the motorway or on the tube. We did have a small delay outside Chalk Farm station when I couldn’t figure out which direction to go in, so we just walked up and down the same bit of pavement like the out-and-proud weirdos that we are until we found Bridge Approach, a lovely old pedestrianised railway bridge that I would’ve liked to take a closer look at had we had the spare time.

Bridge App

A short walk later through a very nice neighbourhood reminiscent of Cherry Tree Lane in Mary Poppins (and if you didn’t just read ‘Mary Poppins’ in Dick Van Dyke’s shit accent then go back again and do it properly), we found ourselves outside the Princess of Wales where the Bridge House book launch / celebration was held.

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The event began at 2pm, and we walked through the doors at 1.57pm, which I thought wasn’t bad after a three hour journey by road and rail and foot. The pub was very nice, very busy, very expensive. £5.50 for a pint of lager and freshly-squeezed lime that was tart enough to strip the upper layers of skin from the inside of my mouth. Whilst waiting to be served said drink, I got chatting to a lovely American lady. I have no idea what we talked about since I couldn’t hear her voice above the din, and I think she was a tiny bit drunk. I smiled a lot and nodded, and then I said goodbye and we headed up the stairs.

I had, by this point, reached the zenith of my anxiety. I was about to walk into a room full of strangers, take part in some kind of speed-dating thing where I’d actually have to talk about myself to other people, hence my mind wasn’t on the job of climbing stairs, hence I walked straight into a giant ornate mirror and almost tore my arm off at the shoulder.

Ouch.

I still have the bruise and I cannot lie in bed on my left without crying. This was not to be my only injury of the day, but I’ll get to that later.

As for the Bridge House event, it was brilliant. Everyone was lovely and welcoming, the speed-dating task, whilst nerve-wracking at first, was a great opportunity to meet some very nice, very talented people and to talk about something we all shared a love of. After the speed-dating, Gill (James) and Debz (Hobbs-Wyatt) of Bridge House Publishing both did a speech and a little promotion of some of their books and authors (you can read my story ‘A Very Unseelie Act’ in Glit-er-ary by Bridge House here, out now in paperback and ebook!), and then many of the authors in attendance (bravely) did a reading of their work.

Sadly, we had to make a very swift exit. It was 4.35pm and my Nan’s 90th birthday party (back in Leicestershire) was due to start at 7pm. My Nan is the most important woman in the world to me and there was no way I was missing that party. She’s also what we colloquially call a ‘whittler’ (probably where I get it from), and whilst she never said anything to me, I knew that she’d be worrying that we’d get stuck in London and wouldn’t make the party.

So off we headed back through the Cherry Tree Lane-esque neighbourhood, back across the lovely old bridge to the tube station, back to High Barnet and then up the M1. It was all going smoothly. We met no hold-ups on the tube or the motorway. We even ended up following Dara O’Briain through Northamptonshire:

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And then I got an email.

It was 6.17pm and the DJ was outside the venue of the party, which was locked and in darkness and apparently empty.

I emailed straight back and said I’d find out what was happening, then I sent a text to the lady who’d booked the room to see if she knew what time they opened. I didn’t get a reply so I tried to call the DJ, who didn’t answer his phone. Then I tried the venue, who didn’t answer their phone.

I tried the DJ again, who answered on my second try, but then I couldn’t hear him so I hung up and tried again and still couldn’t hear him. Third time lucky and it was crisis over: someone was there now, along with the guest of honour, who was demanding to know where I was, which told me she was most definitely whittling that I wouldn’t make the party.

We made it home at half past seven. A quick shower and change and we made it to the party at half past eight, by which time I was just as stressed as ever and had developed a raging headache, possibly from the travelling, possibly from an irrational but deep-seated belief that I have to be where everybody wants me to be when they tell me they want me to be there, regardless of whether that suits me or not.

So we walk into the dimly-lit function room. Tables to the left. Bar to the right. Dancefloor front and centre, where my Dad was taking full advantage of the karaoke and belting out one of his go-to songs, the name of which escapes me.

I look around the room for my Nan but can’t see her. Then several things happen all at once.

Hubby, who has made it to the bar, asks what I’d like to drink. At the same time I hear a familiar voice to my left, and turn to see Mum asking how it went in London. Before I can answer either one of them, I then hear another voice and here’s the guest of honour in her wheelchair, who promptly grabs my arm and pulls me down and towards her for a hug, except she nuts me instead and then smears my black lipstick across her face and mine, and then she promptly bursts into tears because she thought I wasn’t coming.

So now I’m just bent there awkward and lippy-smeared and smarting from the headbutt, and then I see my Dad walking over now he’s finished with Amarillo or whatever he was singing, and he’s got a bloody hole in his head!

I extract myself from the lot of them and go to the bathroom to mop up the damage. I’m accosted on my way back and told to tell the DJ the buffet is ready, so I go and do that, and then I find my way back to hubby and a much-needed beer. I’m lifting said beer to my lips when I’m accosted again to be told that the buffet isn’t ready and the cling film’s still on. My Dad is still there with the hole in his head but I go and take care of the cling film crisis because suddenly I’m in charge of catering as well as public service announcements, despite the fact I only just got there.

So I wrestle off the cling film to make sure my extended family don’t starve, which is not a simple task when you’re wearing this blouse and it’s dangling in the creamed-cheese sandwiches:

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Catering rescued, I go and find my beer and then finally get to find out why Dad has a hole in his head.

“Tripped up the stairs,” he says. “Banged it on the skirting board. Wouldn’t stop bleeding!”

This doesn’t surprise me, seeing as he’s on Warfarin. “Are you feeling all right?” I ask. “It looks pretty nasty.”

But he tells me he’s okay and then gets swept up in the Great Dash for the Buffet, so I finally get to tell Mum how it went in London, and then me and the hubby find a quiet spot to hide whilst my blood pressure settles.

It isn’t very long before I’m summoned once more, because now I am needed for the cake-cutting ceremony.

The lights go up. We all sing Happy Birthday. My Nan sits ready with the knife in her hand, wielding it just like a hoodie on the rob. I help her cut the cake. It is large and rectangular and far too big. We’ll be eating it for months.

And then I take the cake into the buffet room, which apparently signals I am now in charge of cutting it and serving it.

I’ve had enough by this point, and maybe it shows because someone suggests that I just cut the cake up and then tell folk to help themselves. Not party etiquette, apparently, so someone who I won’t see for years whinges later.

By this time I’m hungry. My total sum of food for the day has been a protein bar and one slice of pizza. I pick over the remains of the buffet to see if there’s anything veggie, and return with a slimy wedge of cheese and onion quiche and a wilting stick of celery. I’ve just finished eating when I’m told that Nan is tired and going home. Her niece, Susan, is the designated driver, but can I follow in my car and bring her back to the party so she can have a drink?

We get to the car park outside Nan’s bungalow. Susan gets Nan into the wheelchair then asks if I can help her take the cards and the flowers and the presents from the back of the car.

So Susan is leaning in one side of the car, and I’m leaning in from the other side, and then Nan’s neighbour who caught a lift back with us shrieks and shouts, “Margaret’s off!”

We both look around to see the neighbour running after my Nan, who is sitting quite serenely in her wheelchair as it rolls down the car park, oblivious to the fact that there is no one at the helm.

Thankfully, the neighbour catches up with her, and then we all fall around laughing, and my Nan, who is still utterly oblivious to what’s happened, doesn’t know what the joke is, which makes it even funnier.

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So we settle Nan in home and then we head back to the party. Hubby’s looking bored and Dad’s got the mike again. Family parties aren’t our favourite pastime, but we bear it past eleven PM and then it’s time to go.

Parents unloaded at home, we head to our local, the Vic Bikers Pub, to finish off the night (the same Vic Bikers Pub featured on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed last week – click the link and head to episode 37 to see all the fun).

It’s a fairly busy evening in the main room, but the bar is quiet so we sit ourselves down with a couple of friends and do our best to unwind after what has been a hectic day.

All is going well, until a gentleman approaches the table. He tells us we look like an interesting bunch and can he sit with us and talk to us. We’ve never seen the guy before but he seems very pleasant and we’re a friendly lot anyway so we say yes, of course.

We learn that he’s from Northumberland and is down here visiting friends, who are in the other room. Eventually one of these friends comes through to ask our guest if he’s okay. He seems quite surprised by the question and says yes, he is. She then leans towards him and I hear her say, “I know what you’re up to.”

Up to? As far as we’re concerned he’s just a friendly bloke looking for a sit down and a chat. Anyway, she wanders off, and soon our guest does to.

It’s getting quite late now and I’m ready to suggest we leave when our guest reappears with his friends – three of them – who sit down at our table, and when I say sit down I mean surround us, because that’s what it soon came to feel like.

Northumberland is sitting to my left. His friend, a forty-five year old bespectacled bloke in a waistcoat and skinny jeans – he looks like a cross between a hipster and steampunk – sits opposite. My husband is on my right, and to his right is the woman of the ‘I know what you’re up to’ comment. Next to her is someone else, a guy I think, but can’t be sure. There are two others in the group but they come and go and don’t have much to do with us.

At this point the bloke sitting opposite me – we’ll call him ‘Mr Pretentious’ – asks a very odd question. Odd because I didn’t know who he was and had to figure out what he was talking about. Then I remembered.

The Vic Bikers Pub is a rock bar. The disco plays rock music, mainly – AC/DC, Metallica, Motorhead, that kind of thing – so to hear any goth, unless you request it, is a rarity.

About six months ago, hubby and I were chatting in the bar when we heard a Sisters of Mercy track and happily went to dance. There were two other people on the dance floor at the time, and this was the couple who had requested the Sisters. They also asked for Killing Joke, Fields of the Nephilim and others I can’t remember.

This, as I was about to find out, had been Mr Pretentious and his partner.

“You like the Sisters of Mercy, right?” he asks.

“Of course we do,” I say.

He nods. “Right. So why did you sit down when (insert song name I can’t remember) by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry came on?”

“I beg your pardon?” (Or words to that effect).

“When you were dancing last time. (Random song I don’t remember) came on and you went and sat down. Why?” His tone is more interrogatory than enquiring and I’m not sure I like it.

“Because I don’t like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry,” I tell him.

“What? You’re kidding? But I thought you two were goths!”

“We are.”

“Then what bands do you listen to? Nephilim, Sisters?”

“Yes, amongst others.” I mention The Cult, Siouxsie, The Mission…

“I love The Mission! What about Bauhaus?”

“I don’t like Bauhaus either,” I tell him.

“What?!” Indignant now. “How can you be goth and not like Bauhaus?”

Because I don’t like every goth band ever and their entire back catalogue, I think but don’t say. Pretending I do in an effort to make out I’m more goth than you would be pretentious, I think but don’t say. Prick. I probably should’ve said that.

I have never met a fellow goth who’s tried to play the ‘I’m more goth than you’ game. That’s because we’re generally pleasant, inclusive people who recognize and embrace the fact that ‘goth’ means different things to different people. Take this helpful diagram for instance:

goth

As a rule, I’m usually a mixture of romantic, fetish and victorian. However, I was once told by a non-goth friend that I wasn’t ‘a proper goth’ because I didn’t look like Black Friday (a well-known goth blogger who takes hours over her hair, make-up and clothes everyday and is more of a trad goth – more power to her elbow, but I don’t have the patience or the time to maintain that kind of look, and I don’t think I’d suit it if I tried).

Anyway, I very quickly tuned the guy out and settled into resting bitch face mode in the hope that someone would notice and swiftly take me home. Nobody did, and then Northumberland got chatty again. I don’t remember much of the conversation, only the parts where he kept telling me he was a weirdo, delivered in a way that suggested there was some hidden meaning in his words that I couldn’t quite grasp.

At which point I figured it was definitely time to leave!

So that was my Saturday. May I never have another one like it!

Don’t forget to check out Glit-er-ary, £9.00 via Amazon in paperback which is a perfect size for a stocking (hint hint!) and is chock-full of stories with sparkle and glitter. Ebook is £2.28, or free with Kindle Unlimited.  

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Cainsville, holidays and lots of reading

I’ve had a few holidays since my last post.

One wasn’t really a ‘holiday’ but a two-week break from the day job so that I could concentrate on writing, (with a few days out in between). It went far too quickly and it’s already a distant memory, but I did get a little bit further through the endless WIP edit. The other ‘holiday’ was a three day break up to Whitby Goth Weekend which was thoroughly enjoyable and went far too quickly 😦

The trouble with spending an intense period of time on the WIP is having to go back to reality; for the first few weeks I really struggled to get any further with it. Not for want of trying, and, to be fair, I edited and submitted that paranormal romance I mentioned previously in between times, so I wasn’t totally barren in the writing department (after 8 weeks of silence from the publisher, having promised a reply in 5 weeks, I’ve decided to submit elsewhere – life’s too short to wait, right?). As for the WIP, I set myself a goal of writing for 1 hour each day between 6pm – 7pm weekdays. This allowed two hours after work in which I could feed the cats, tidy up, feed the cats some more, do some exercise, clean up the mess that the cats left, and for my eyes to get some rest from a computer screen (I pay the bills by spending eight hours a day stuck in front of one).

And it worked. Invariably, I went straight through the hour and was still tapping away hours later. I’m now in the final third, which requires the least editing (I hope!) so fingers crossed I’ll reach my target of having the damned thing finished by the end of the year (I’m pretty sure when you’re this sick and tired of a piece of work, it’s a sign that it’s about as ready as it will ever get).

In other news, I’ve finished Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series. Anyone who’s read my blog knows that Kelley is my favourite author and I’m loathe to even suggest anything negative about her work… but I’m soooooooooooo disappointed how this series ended…

(SPOILERS BELOW)

The whole premise of the series was that Liv / Eden was going to have to choose a side between the Tylwyth Teg and Cwn Annwn, Gabriel or Ricky. I figured Liv would always end up with Gabriel as that was clearly where the books were heading. Ricky, unfortunately, became a bit of a one-dimensional afterthought near the end which was a shame, but as a ‘Team Gabriel’ lady, I wasn’t going to complain!

But then came the end… and Liv didn’t choose! Her final choice was NO CHOICE! She REFUSED to choose! She’d FIND A WAY AROUND IT somehow!

Well I’m sorry but that’s just cheating! Hopefully Kelley has left the series open-ended so she can continue with it someday, and aside from the ending/not-ending, the writing, as usual, was spot on. Now I’m faced with a very long wait for the final Rockton book, boo!

Since finishing the Cainsville series, I’ve read Lee Child’s Tripwire, Patricia Briggs’ Iron Kissed (see my in-depth review on Goodreads) and a mammoth book of short stories called 65 Tales of the Supernatural, which is possibly the best charity shop find I ever made.

 

Speaking of shops, we made a trip over to Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire coast a few months ago. We ate chips and ice cream, played the arcades, walked on the beach and paddled in the sea. We also paid a visit to Sue’s Curios which is the most amazing antiques shop I think I’ve ever been in. It’s so chock-full of stuff you could spend a week in there and not see everything! There’s even a car in there! Anyway, I found this little treasure in there for the princely sum of £5 and I can’t wait to read it (I do love old books). And although Trusthorpe is right next door to Mablethorpe, which doesn’t have the most exciting reputation, it does have an amazing and often deserted beach.

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Riley Pope news: I’m 6K words into book #4 and only on Chapter 2… think it’s going to be a long one! And Helen the Cat, who starred in The Case of Walutahanga made the local news recently and you can read all about her right here.

Others news: Gliterary Tales, the upcoming anthology from Bridge House Publishing which will feature my story ‘A Very Unseelie Act’ is out in the next few weeks, eek! Check back soon for purchase / download details.

And finally, a big hello to my recent visitors from Canada!

Take care all and keep reading! X

Am I on a train or in the Tri Cities?

I’ve just had a pretty mad weekend of reading – it’s rare that I have (or find) the time to spend an entire day reading, but yesterday, apart from a bit of housework, I essentially sat on my arse and power read.

First, I finished the second half of the Mercy Thompson book, Blood Bound. Then I started The Girl on the Train… and by midnight I’d finished it.

Like I say, it’s rare for me to spend so long immersed in a book, so I wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did this morning, which was weirdly disconnected and just not ‘with it’.

I can’t put it down to anything obvious. I don’t feel ill and there’s nothing beyond the usual on my mind, I’m not drunk and I’ve never taken anything stronger than a paracetamol in my life, so I can only put this weird disconnected feeling down to the fact that I spent a good eight hours emersed in the worlds of Patricia Briggs’ Tri Cities werewolves and then Paula Hawkins’ screwed-up trio of Rachel, Megs and Anna.

Does anyone else suffer this or is it just me? What can we call it? A book hangover?

Anyway, I did something unusual and reviewed both books on Goodreads (check out my feed to see what I thought, and don’t forget to follow me!). I don’t normally leave reviews because I tend to forget half the good stuff but always remember the bad, so for my next book I’ve decided to make notes as I go along and see what I end up with, because I’m sad like that.

Writing-wise, I’ve just written a 7500 word paranormal romance (it wasn’t meant to be a PR but the story just took me in that direction) so I’ll get it polished then see if I can place it somewhere. The WIP is still being pulled into shape and I’m picking up the 4th Riley Pope tomorrow. I have 9 days to go in the day job before I have a fortnight off and two blissful weeks of solid writing, which can’t come soon enough. I’ve also swallowed my nerves and booked the tickets for the Bridge House author event. I’ve no idea what to expect but I guess I’ll worry (excessively) about that in December!

(And don’t forget, my urban fantasy series The Riley Pope Case Files is free to download from Smashwords and ebook stockists everywhere!)

X

Walking to Whitby, submission success and an urban fantasy series that I really should’ve read a long time ago

I did it!

I completed my Walk to Whitby! Well actually, I did it a month ago but thought I should mention it here since the last update I provided stopped at Day 12 and you may or may not have been wondering if I’d been figuratively mown down somewhere on the M1 motorway. Final total raised was £205 which is far more than I ever expected to raise for this very worthwhile cause. It’s time we kicked cancer’s arse for good, don’t you think?

In other news, I received a lovely email the other day. ‘Your submission has been successful’ said the title. Woo hoo! My short story A Very Unseelie Act will be included in Gliterary Tales and published by Bridge House Publishing this November. It’s been a few years since my last published story (Night Shift – you can read it online here) so it was very nice to be able to jump up from my chair and do the happy dance again (writers, you know the one I’m talking about). The story is in epistolary format and is written as an email exchange between a disgruntled fairy and a totally inept customer service department, of which we’ve all had experience at some time or other.  I wrote the story about four years ago and initially submitted it to a Writing Magazine competition, for which it was shortlisted. It then sat around on my hard drive until I saw the call for submissions from Bridge House Publishing for stories with glitter or sparkle. I’ve since had an email inviting me and a plus one to Bridge House’s annual celebration event in December, which I’m umming and ahing over but probably shouldn’t be because I know authors should never turn down an opportunity to network.

Buuuuuut…

Firstly, I’ve never been to one of these events before so I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m a total introvert and not very sociable, so the mention of ‘author speed dating’ had me coming out in a cold sweat. That alone is not a reason to avoid it though, and nor would the hubster (or my inner writer) let me. Secondly and more importantly, the event is in London (why does EVERYTHING have to be in London?) and it also falls on the day of my Nan’s 90th birthday party. The train isn’t an option as I don’t live anywhere near a station, so a simple train journey for most would actually be a taxi-train-tube-tube-train-taxi journey. So how much is this going to cost me three weeks before Christmas, when money will already be tight??? It means we’re going to have to drive from Leicester to London and back, on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas. The event is 2pm-5pm, and the birthday party starts at 7pm. Even if I leave early, I’m still not guaranteed to get back on time. In light of my first point I feel like I’m making excuses, but I only have one Nan and she’s only going to be 90 once so there’s no competition. I’m still not sure what to do, so I might reserve the tickets and then just figure it out nearer the time.

Gah. There are worse problems to have, right?

And finally, on the book front, I’ve just read Lee Child’s Persuader (his seventh – I think – Jack Reacher) and also Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called, her first book in the Mercy Thompson series. Lee Child aside (Persuader, I felt, was probably the best Jack Reacher I’ve read in terms of plot and overall writing), I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading Patricia Briggs considering my love of urban fantasy and all things vampire, witch and werewolf. Saying that, I can’t help but compare it to Bitten, Kelley Armstrong’s first book in the Otherworld series, and in terms of the plot I found it a bit thin and a whole lot confusing when it all came to a head. Otherwise, I really enjoyed her style and I like the character of Mercy – she’s not some cliched femme fatale kick-ass in leather (which is what put me off Kim Harrison’s books) but an average girl who lives in a trailer, works as a mechanic and just happens to possess the ability to shift into a coyote. I like the coyote twist and how Briggs has woven it into the general werewolf pack concept, and I’m looking forward to reading more Mercy Thompson (which I intend to do when I get home with book two in the series.) Oh, and Cainsville #4 has just come out in paperback in the UK this week, so that will no doubt be winging its way to me from Amazon some time in the not-too-distant future.

As for the WIP, I’m still plugging away at it and pleased with how it’s going. It’s still following the general plotline but with lots of new or revised scenes. I’m also working on the fourth Riley Pope and another long-short story about a vampire hunter on a mission to flush out a strigoi-trafficking dhampir. Also in the pipeline is a short story in the form of a memoir that I intend to submit to Writing Magazine for an upcoming comp. I imagine that’s going to take me about 5 minutes to write, and 5 days to get over, but then there’s always chocolate!

Have a blessed Lammas all

X

lammas

 

Barry Scott from the Cillit Bang ads is not Barry Scott, and other things I have learned this week

I’m currently reading Dave Gorman’s ‘Too Much Information… or Can Everyone Just Shut Up For A Moment, Some Of Us Are Trying To Think’. If you’re not aware of Dave Gorman then I suggest you look him up, because he’s a very funny man. If you are aware of Dave Gorman then you may well have seen his show on Dave, ‘Modern Life is Goodish’, and this book is written in a similar vein to the ‘Goodish’ shows.

I actually came across this book in a charity shop, along with several other gems, all of which I purchased for the modest sum of £9.00:

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I come across a lot of these kinds of books in charity shops; books that can really only be read once, because once you’ve digested the facts and laughed at the jokes, it’s not quite the same the second time around. But I’m glad I came across this one, because if I hadn’t then I would not now know that Barry Scott is not a real person.

You know who Barry Scott is, right? The wooden, unconvincing star of the Cillit Bang ads, whose acting is so awful that you’re instantly convinced that he must be the inventor and insisted, against his marketing department’s advice, on being in the ads because he is the guy with the brains and the money and you do as he says or he’ll fire you .

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But no! This is not the case at all! According to Mr Gorman, Barry Scott is actually Neil Burgess, an actor who has also appeared as ‘Male Paramedic’ in Waking The Dead and ‘Removals Man’ in Life Begins.

Why does this matter? Well… it doesn’t. But it does go to prove the point that Mr Gorman is trying to make in his book: that we’re so bombarded with information these days ‘that we’ve taught ourselves not to pay too much attention’, let alone pause to question what we’re seeing.

Or maybe it’s just me that’s astounded at the lie Cillit Bang have been peddling for years (it is true that I don’t get out much). Type ‘Barry Scott’ into Google and the very first result is a website excerpt informing you that Barry Scott is played by actor Neil Burgess. The headline of the article is ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott following his advertising exit’, which is just the kind of click bait nonsense Mr Gorman berates in his book. So instead of just breezing past it, I’ve clicked on the link and here are the ‘fun facts’ presented:

1. Barry Scott is actually portrayed by... yeah yeah, I’ve covered that. I’m not sure how this is ‘fun’ though. Personally, I’m still mildly irritated at being deceived so easily by a household cleaning product, but never mind. On to fact two…

2. Scott’s first demonstrative campaigns began to appear in 2005 featuring the catchphrase “Bang! And the dirt is gone!” OK. It’s a fact, but is it ‘fun’ though?

3. A hardcore dance track was added to a remix of a Barry Scott ad – it has had nearly 1.5m hits on YouTube at the time of writing. Interesting, if you’re into hardcore dance. If I stretch my imagination I might be able to muster some mild amusement.

4. After being ‘rested’ the character of Scott returned in 2013, although the first campaign was then banned by the Advertising Standards Authority due to exaggerating claims that the cleaning product Cillit Bang Limescale & Shine with Turbo Power removed stains instantly. Nope. Still not a twitch on the fun-o-meter.

5. In 2014, a student website called Oxygen.IE reported the death of Scott. Now I’m confused. Did they report the death of a fictional character, knowing he was fictional, or did they report the death of Barry Scott, thinking Neil Burgess the actor was dead, but not knowing he was Neil Burgess the actor, or did they think Neil Burgess was dead? Or did they just not think at all?

6. The report received so many views that the editor, Simon Griffin wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Scott to discuss his success and congregate Scott on becoming a public figure. To this day it is not thought that the letter has received a response from either the character or the brand. Now this is cheating. Not only is it not a new fact, being an extension of the previous one, but it’s also not fun. It’s also very badly written and pretty poor journalism. A guy wrote a letter. ‘It is not thought that’ the letter received a reply. Who is it doing the not-thinking? The author of the article? The public in general? (And if I’m anything to go by, some of us don’t even know he isn’t real, let alone if he’s dead or not!) So it’s not a fact at all, it’s an extension of a fact with a little ambiguity tagged on the end.

7. Scott’s enthusiastic presenting style was parodied in Peter Sarafinowicz’s BBC2 comedy show in a sketch dubbed ‘Kitchen Gun’. Finally, some fun! Except the author of the article (Stephen Lepitak, editor of The Drum, no less) couldn’t even be bothered to get Peter’s surname right, despite having had eighteen months since the article was published to correct it.

And that is the end of ‘Some fun facts about Cillit Bang’s cult ambassador Barry Scott’, of which there were six, not seven, and none were what I would call amusing.

With Mr Gorman’s book still fresh in my mind, I arrived at my work desk this morning determined to look at the web with a critical eye. Not that I should’ve been looking at the web but with everything that’s happened in Manchester recently, I wanted to see what the latest was (threat level ‘critical’, troops on the streets of Britain – a thing I never hoped to see in my lifetime). Eventually I scrolled down the page to other news, and in the ‘Health’ section of Google News there were two articles, one atop the other:

Just half a glass of wine a day may increase breast cancer risk

Six bars of chocolate a week could cut risk of common heart condition

Now I’m not in the habit of believing everything I read (although I am in the habit of believing cleaning product hawkers when they say they’re Barry Scott) and I know to take these kinds of stories with a large pinch of salt, to the point of being utterly apathetic about them. What worries me is that there are people out there — probably lots of them — that take this shit seriously. There will be people out there who are forcing themselves to eat six chocolate bars a week (the little martyrs, them) without actually clicking through to the article and reading the facts, which are far more in depth than a headline will allow (like women only need to eat one portion to get the benefits, not six, and a ‘portion’ is 30g, not the 850g whopper that my teenage self once got through in one sitting.)

And what of those who have vowed to never drink red wine again on the basis of one sensationalistic headline? Click through to the article and you will find that:

Further evidence has emerged of the link between alcohol consumption in women and an increased risk of breast cancer.

According to a report from the World Cancer Research Fund, half a glass of wine or a small beer a day increases the risk of breast cancer.

It also backs up research showing that regular intensive exercise can reduce the risk of the disease.

But is it really that simple?

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women in the UK with one in eight women developing the disease during their lifetime.

But scientists say they can’t explain why the cancer occurs in some people and not in others.

There are numerous causes and lots of factors to take into account, including lifestyle, hormone levels and other medical conditions.

Basically, it’s a complex picture and there’s no point focusing on one factor only.

Read that last line again. Now pour yourself a glass of wine, grab yourself a square or three of chocolate, and relax in the knowledge that we’re all going to die of something some day, so let’s just enjoy life whilst we can. If this week has reminded us of anything, it’s that life is precious and we should cherish every second, not spend it worrying over infinite details.

Like the fact that Barry Scott is not really Barry Scott.

X

Love Manchester

Shane Ritchie, Reader’s Neck and the usefulness of other author’s reviews

Hello! I’m still here. Working hard on the perpetual WIP (I was struggling with the sheer length of it, and so was Word, so I’m now using Scrivener – not sure now how I ever managed without it!). Two short stories currently in for submission, pending a decision some time after June, and plotting the next Riley Pope tale, ‘The Case of Blue Ben’. Waaaaaaay behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge so in a frantic effort to catch up I’ve developed Reader’s Neck – don’t know if that’s an actual medical complaint but it should be because it bloody well hurts. I’m currently alternating between Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. I’m not exactly a fan of this genre of fiction, but I got into the Jack Reacher series after reading a Lee Child interview in Writing Magazine, an excerpt of which can be found here.  The particular paragraph that resonated was this one:

• How do you feel about breaking writing rules?
In general writers, especially beginner writers, are very nervous and insecure. People have a clear idea of what they want to do and there are rules that aren’t rules – they’re just advice, and sometimes bad advice. Showing not telling is one face of bad advice. There is no reason why you can’t tell something in a plain, declarative style. Classic post-war thriller writers just sat down and told a story, and the idea that you should not is very twisted and forces people to pass on information in a very weird way. My main point is always to avoid advice. Books only work if they are vivid and organic and have one imagination in charge.

Always avoid advice?! Unpublished writers are bombarded with advice, and a lot of it is useful and we couldn’t do without it. There’s also advice that’s confusing, conflicting, biased, or just plain unhelpful. Also, if we’re to avoid advice, then do we avoid Mr Child’s advice to avoid advice???

But anyway, I picked up a few Jack Reacher’s on my charity shop rounds and have been steadily collecting them ever since. I’ve struggled with a few – I’d advise anyone to give ‘Nothing To Lose’ a very wide berth – but mostly I’ve enjoyed them, mainly because of the simple, pared-back way in which Lee Child writes; he can conjure the most vivid scene using four or five carefully chosen words, whereas another author (me, for example) might use a paragraph to say the same thing. I’m currently reading ‘The Visitor’ and enjoying it very muchly – I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out who the killer is already but I don’t know how she’s doing it, other than by hypnosis. I’ll add this to my notes on ‘interesting ways to kill people’, just as I added superglue to my list of ‘interesting ways to subdue folk’. I’m pretty sure my PC must be flagged to every law enforcement agency in the country by now.

On the subject of Cainsville, I’m also very much enjoying it. It is, of course, written by my favourite author, so go figure. It wasn’t until I finished #3 in the series and read a few reviews on Goodreads that something was pointed out to me, and verified by a lot of other readers – that love triangles occur in pretty much every Kelley Armstrong series. I hadn’t noticed this myself, but there is certainly a love triangle in Cainsville with Eden/Olivia, Gabriel/Gwynn and Ricky/Arawn, and then there’s the love triangle between Nadia, Jack and the guy whose name I forget in the Nadia Stafford series, and then there’s a potential love triangle issue waiting in the wings in the Rockton series between Casey, Eric and her ex-lover who she left behind when she went into hiding, and may reappear in the third installment to shake things up. The only love triangle I recall in the Otherworld series was in Bitten, when Elena was still living with (Philip?) whilst still in love with Clay and was caught between the two. I haven’t read any of her YA stuff so I can’t personally comment, but I’m led to believe there are more… you guessed it…. love triangles.

Apparently this is something of an overused plot device in YA, but it’s probably overused because it’s popular with teens and tweens. Furthermore I am in NOOOOO position to be criticising anyone, and certainly not the good lady herself. I was more interested in reader’s reactions to the use of a love triangle in urban fantasy – and the overwhelming majority were tired of seeing this and wanted something different. It also chimed with something I’d read the previous week about relationships in TV serial dramas – Shane Ritchie pointed out that it had taken over a year for Kat and Alfie to have their first kiss, yet nowadays, TV is all about instant gratification, and drawn-out will-they/ won’t-they scenarios are few and far between.

I don’t currently have a love triangle in my WIP – there is a love interest that kindles during the novel, but also complications that would make a relationship difficult. As it’s currently written, there’s a kiss between the two about 3/4 of the way through the book, just before the beginning of the climax where the protag. and love interest/hero are torn apart on separate quests. On the back of the advice I read from other urban fantasy readers (and also, who’d have thunk it, Shane Ritchie!) I will now remove that kiss and follow the Kat and Alfie formula instead – gaining myself a subplot for the next few books that could go all manner of interesting ways.

And speaking of TV, two points to mention:

  1. The hubster and I have been binging on The Man in The High Castle and I can highly recommend it. Nazis, kempeitai, alternative history… and now something very ‘Fringe’ is going on! TV GOLD!
  2. Well…. I can’t say. Due to the TV channel wanting to be all secretive, I’ve had to remove what point 2 said…. but all will become clear eventually.

A final note about the Riley Pope series – they’re all now FREE on Smashwords, and always will be. The reason? Well, because they’re not traditionally published, and whilst they’ve been properly proofread by myself, they haven’t been under the eyes of an editor or anyone else with a professional eye, like traditionally published books are, so viewing this from the eyes of the reader, I decided it would only be right to now offer them for free.

So that’s it folks. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Smashwords – hell, I’m like dog s**t!

Until next time

X

Available NOW! Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files!

Woohoo! I’m officially a published (indie) author!

Books 1 – 3 of The Riley Pope Case Files are now available to download exclusively from Amazon, or if you’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited you can read them all for FREE! I’ll be running a free book promotion on ‘The Case of Walutahanga’ from tomorrow which lasts for five days, so please spread the word and drop me a review, good, bad or indifferent. Here’s a little overview…

The Case of Walutahanga

Riley Pope inherited her talent for cryptozoology from her father. As for her penchant for vice and a weakness for dangerous men, well, she can’t blame that on him. Now that Riley is young, free and single, she’s determined to clean up her life and make amends for the sins of her past; if her past will let her.

When a small English town is beset by unusual weather, Riley’s employers, the enigmatic Firm, despatch her to investigate. She soon discovers that a cryptid is involved, but the creatures holding it hostage won’t give it up without a fight, and thanks to a charming but deadly fallen angel, Riley isn’t sure how much fight she has left…

 

The Case of Ahuizotl

Riley Pope has seen some strange things in her life – as a cryptozoologist, it comes with the territory – but this could be her strangest case yet.

When the bodies of two naked men wash ashore on the sands of Whitby harbour – both missing parts of their anatomies – Riley is despatched to investigate. The only scrap of evidence of cryptid involvement is the drunken account of a local trawlerman – who quickly disappears.

Riley finds herself in a race against time to identify the cryptid and save it from the murderous intentions of The Firm’s hired kill squad, but Agent Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, has other ideas, putting Riley in the kind of danger she’s been trying to avoid since escaping from her fallen angel lover. Bastien Cort is never far from Riley’s thoughts; but this time he might be even closer than she fears…

The Case of the Brollachan

Cryptozoologist Riley Pope is used to tracking down otherworldly creatures: from serpents to shapeshifters, boggarts to Bigfoot, she’s pretty much dealt with them all. But this time, it isn’t a cryptid she’s hunting…

Riley’s employers, the clandestine Firm, have received reports of terrifying creatures frightening the children of Castlebay, Scotland. Sent to investigate, Riley confirms the presence of a malevolent spirit of the otherkind that preys on its victim’s worst fears… and Riley has a lot to be scared of.

Out of her depth and in fear of what’s lurking in the hills beyond Castlebay, Riley does her best to contain the situation – only to draw the attention of Mulhoon, commander of Alpha team, who ends up putting his life and that of his team in mortal danger. Faced with leaving the reckless Mulhoon to his fate, or confronting her own private fears, Riley must make a decision… whatever the consequence.