Saturday, 16 May 2020

An Ode To An English Teacher...

Well, I've just had an interesting few evenings. For a little while now, I've been thinking about some of my old pieces of writing... and when I say old, I mean my real early work.

For those who don't know, I started writing at around the age of 7 or 8. I started off with few short stories, my very first, I remember, being about how my dad gave me a time machine for my birthday and how I travelled back in time and rescued a baby triceratops from a hungry T-rex. I brought him back home and kept him as a pet. I wrote my first 'novel' when I was 10. A 76 page, hand-written, fully illustrated fantasy. And have been writing novels ever since.

However, the story I had an itching to revisit was the first story I wrote on my first computer. It was a Commadore 600 I think. Don't know if that means anything to anyone. So, with eager fingers and at the sweet age of 13/14, I sat down and wrote 'Love you to Death', a tale about a girl who moves to a newly built area, meets lots of new friends only to find them being picked off one-by-one by a serial killer. Did I say I was sweet at the age of 14??

So I dug out this story, printed on an old early 1990's (possibly even 80's) printer, kept in an a4 manila envelope. The paper is so thin and brittle I felt like I was reading off ancient scrolls.

Yeah...I'm not sure whether I'm proud or ashamed. I am proud, merely for the fact I managed to write what felt like, at the time, this grown up story. And it was fully typed and everything!! BUT... having read it for the first time in around 25 years, its awful! Cringe-worthy! Its full of teenage hormones looking for their first love among the shadow of a killer. "My best friend has just been murdered!!" "Oh well, let's go for a romantic walk. That'll cheer you up!"

And the worst part?? I proudly gave this to my English teacher to read. She corrected a few typos and errors in pencil for the first few chapters, then her notes dwindled and vanished completely. I remember her praising it when she handed it back, but now I can't help but think did she actually make it to the end? Did she really persevere or was it too painful and she never had the heart to tell me? Bless her. Looking back now, I don't know whether I was hardened enough to take the criticism it needed, and hearing it may have destroyed any love of writing I had back then, so I'm thankful for what she said, whether they were lies or whether she did read the entire thing. I can only apologise now for asking her to ever read it.

It really was awful!

Actually, who am I kidding! I was 13!! I friggin love it!!!

The secret envelope

The front cover

The prologue

 

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

IWSG - May 2020


This month's IWSG post
Created by the great Alex J. Cavanaugh 
and co-hosted by 

This month's question:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

Urgh! What is going on with the world at the moment? With everything going on, life has become pretty hectic, hence why I haven't posted for a while, but I do hope you are all doing okay.

For those who need reminding, I work two part time jobs, making up full time hours. Both are in online retail. I've been furloughed from one job at the moment, which, I thought, would suddenly give me a load more spare time to finish editing my WIP...but no. Work for job#2 has exploded, and even though it's not, it still feels like it's taking up all my time. But I'm not complaining. I'm counting my lucky stars I still have a job at all. My husband is still working. He's a lorry driver, bringing back NHS equipment from Europe so he's pretty flat out at the moment too.

Plus, my parents have just moved 200 miles from Devon to be closer to us. Their moving in day was literally the day the UK went into lockdown. The removals agreed to work one last day for them otherwise they'd have a new but empty house as all their belongings would have been held in storage until the lockdown lifts. As it was, we got them in, and then I disappeared to let them self-isolate and get settled in - which was easier said than done. I do all I can but I so wish I can do more to help get them settled.

Even though the lockdown is still in force, I do find myself finally getting into some kind of routine. Work is still hectic but I have managed to find some time recently to write, and I feel it's coming on really well. Of course, that nagging self doubt will rise its head at some point as it always does, but until then, my rituals to help get into the Zone:

Chores done
House empty (other half working)
Coffee by the side of me
Cats settled
Comfy position on the sofa
Laptop at the ready
Headphones untangled or Bluetooth speaker on
Music options selected (I use my phone)
Deep breath
Press play
Commence

That about does it for me. No burning incense or ritual incantations. I spend most of the day thinking about writing when I can't write so theoretically come writing time, I know what to write. I say theoretically...

What about you guys?

Anyway, keep safe everyone. Can't reiterate that enough.




Wednesday, 4 March 2020

IWSG - March 2020


This month's IWSG post
Created by the great Alex J. Cavanaugh 
and co-hosted by 

This month's question:
Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Hmm...I did have to think about this one. Have I? Obvious answer would be no. We don't really have any family traditions. Sounds kinda sad, but it's true. The family did get together every New Year's Eve though and saw the year out with a bang when I was younger. That's about as far as family tradition went. Have I included that in my writing? No.

However, one thing I could add is that I write under my maiden name - Cartwright. Why have I done this? To honour my father's family name, I guess. I'm the youngest of three daughters, and all of us are married. I just felt sad that my family name ended with me so decided a long while ago that if I published, it would be under Cartwright, not my married name. 

I treated my dad to a DNA kit for Christmas a year ago, and have since connected with family across the country as well as in Australia. I've discovered that my grandad didn't just have the two siblings I originally thought, but SEVEN. My family has grown extensively and it's been an interesting journey this past year.

So the decision to write under Cartwright is something I'm happy and proud to continue with...






Thursday, 13 February 2020

A Visit to Fairfields Lunatic Asylum . . .

Not that I needed to visit a lunatic asylum - although there would be others who disagree...

I didn't know Fairfields Lunatic Asyum existed - and only within 30 miles of where I live. The place opened in 1860 and closed its doors in 1999. I don't know whether the place did some good for its patients, but like most asylums, it holds a dark past.

Fairfields Lunatic asylum - or otherwise known as Three Counties Hospital - served the counties of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire (a shire now redundant) here in the UK. It was designed in a Gothic Romantic style by George Fowler Jones, but there was nothing romantic about the place. Testimonials are filled with stories of vile mistreatment and abuse, mentally, physically and sexually. The name 'Fairfields' alone was enough to spark fear in those who knew of the place. One testimonial tells of the story of a patient falling to his death from a window. This has always struck him as suspisious considering all the windows were fastened tight for security reasons. Patients were needlessly jabbed with needles just to make them cry, and people were drugged and kept tied to chairs. Another tale tells of a rape victim who fell pregnant and was sent there to have her child. Once the child was old enough to eat solids, it as sent to an orphanage but the mother was kept there. Needless to say, she eventually went crazy. It was a place of horror.

The place had more than it's fair share of strange deaths too, from a patient found with his throat cut after trying to escape (Jury ruled suicide), an asylum brewer found dead in a vat of beer, the brutal rape and murder of a local nurse, and the numourous escapees who ran to a nearby lake, known as the Blue Lagoon, to drown themselves.

It also comes with its own collection of ghost stories, including screams of 'let me out' from locked, empty rooms and figures disappearing in front of staff.

But the saddest part of this place are the mass graves. Just off to the side sit two graveyards, a small one littered with gravestones, and another following a line of trees. This line of trees marks the mass graves where thousands of patients were buried, paupers who couldn't afford proper burials, or those abandoned by ashamed families. There are odd markers in the trees, each dotting a plot of twenty or so bodies, but the surrounding grounds are so uneaven that it's obviously been disturbed over the years, indicating to a lot more graves than is lead to believe. And I reiterate - thousands. A sobering thought.

Now, any one who knows me knows of my love of the paranormal. This place would make for the ultimate location for a ghost hunt, but would you believe the building itself, since the closure of the hospital, has been converted into luxury apartments. It would take a special kind of person to want to live there...and that would be me! I would love a place there. Unfortunately the apartments don't come cheap, and on top of that, residents are billed an extra £900 every three months to go towards the mainenance of the actual building. All in all, a little out of my price range. There is also a luxury spa where you can go and be pampered. And guess where they've placed the swimming pool - in the old morgue.

You can still walk around the grounds which are actually rather stunning and filled with black squirrals - also something I had never seen. They've also extended the area into a beautiful picturesque village - Fairfields Park. Even though the buildings are modern new builds, they still hold a hint of the gothic architecture that comes from the main building. It seriously is like walking into a Dickens novel.

Anyway, here a few photos I took so you can see the place for itself. The photos don't do it justice. It's not until you're standing in front of it that you can sense the dark ominous feeling from its past.


This apparently used to be a ramp leading down to a set of
doors belonging to the morgue, allowing them to wheel 
gurneys in and out.
The asylum's old church, now closed for conversion.

Field looking across towards Fairfields Park

Fantastically odd tree

BLACK SQUIRRAL!!!

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

IWSG - February 2020

First Month taking part in IWSG. This month's prompt:



Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?



Hosted by:





So, first month taking part and I almost forgot. I'm useless. Really, I am. Now it's past my bed time on a school night and I'm sitting in bed with my laptop on my knees and a persistent cat on my chest purring into my face and making it difficult to see the keys on the keyboard. There is also my other cat sitting on the end of the bed plotting some kind of jealous revenge because he wants to be sitting here but he won't share with his brother and he won't fight him off either. He just sulks instead. Oh the drama.!!

Luckily, I have a cheat plan, which is just as well as I'm not sure how much longer I can keep straining my neck. Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? The answer is yes, and I have a past post from quite a while back with a short story and the piece of art work that inspired it.

If you didn't read it first time round, enjoy :)

Anchored

And so this was how it was to end. There was to be no fairytale romance for me; no riding off into the sunset with the man I loved. Instead here I was, bound and waiting for death. His blood churned with the water that surrounded me, like smoke in open air – only this was red. It danced in the currents, taunting me and reminding me of its intentions. It was calling on the waves; calling to any willing to listen; any that was willing to bring about my death. I prayed that none would come, but I knew it was inevitable. The smell of blood on the open currents carried for miles. Something would be coming soon to answer those calls.

I closed my eyes against the swaying sight in front of me. I didn’t want to look upon the horrific scene anymore. It wrenched at my broken heart. I felt the gentle shift of the sand against my tail, a contrast compared to the rough feel of the iron anchor against my back. Every little movement caused it to grate against my skin, and I should have been reeling in pain but my sorrow numbed me to it. Instead I had no choice but to accepted it – and wait.

I recalled the events that brought me to this situation, this final hour. They had started off so promising, and I was hopeful that there was going to be a happy ending. I didn’t know how it was going work, but I knew we’d be together. Then things went wrong. We were caught and we were punished – by both our people.

Man and mermaids were forbidden to meet.

At least that was the law under the waves – a law that I chose to disobey. But it wasn’t my intention. I couldn’t just stay back and watch as nature claimed the life of this man. He had been thrown overboard from the galleon ship that he crewed during a storm. He would have died had I not taken hold of him and carried him back to shore. As I lay on the sand watching over him, I had no idea what was happening to his ship. I didn’t know that the storm was to claim it, that the seas were going to drag it down and state it as its own. How could I?

I was too preoccupied staring at the man I had just rescued, mesmerized by his beauty and innocence. And when he opened his eyes and stared upon me, we were both hooked.

I knew it was wrong, but my heart couldn’t deny what I felt. My love for him continued to grow, and he felt exactly the same. We’d meet in a nearby cove where no one ventured, and we’d share our love – but one day we were caught, and our relationship wasn’t just frowned upon, it was revolted against. His people were sickened and claimed that it had been me who had taken down their ship. I had been the cause of all those deaths, despite the fact that I saved one and was nowhere near the ship when it went down.

They sentenced my love to death.

Horrified, I sought help from my own, hoping that they could help, that they could somehow rescue him, but they shunned me. Our law of never meeting with man was because of this exact scenario. Men believed mermaids to be a bad omen, and because of their beliefs, they were cruel and cold hearted. They believed me that I had nothing to do with the taking down of their ship, but my being there at that time was bad luck.

They wouldn’t help, and they turned me away.

In the end I had no choice but to go back and try to plead with the men, but they chose to use me as an example instead. They wanted to send a message beneath the waves that they were not people to toy with. If we took lives, then so would they. Where their beliefs came from, I didn’t know, and I certainly didn’t understand. We had never hurt anyone, but still I found myself captive and brought back out to sea. I was forced against their anchor and bound, the crew jeering and taunting. My love could only cry as he watched, his eyes telling me how sorry he was.

And then the anchor was dropped overboard.

What they hoped to achieve with this, I didn’t know. Didn’t they understand that I couldn’t drown? That I lived in these salty waters? But as I registered the splash above me, I knew what they meant to do.

Looking up I saw as my love, bound and tied to iron weights, sunk to the seabed before me. He withered against his ties, the oxygen in his lungs running out, and I screamed and fought against my own ties, wanting to help him, wanting to prevent him from downing.

But I couldn’t help.

I watched with shame as he stopped moving and stared at me one last time, and then as he died before my eyes. I had wept then, cried and wailed. I fought some more against the rope that bound me to the anchor, but I couldn’t move.

My heart was broken.

And then I noticed the blood.

I understood then how they were intending to kill me. They had slit my loves arms, wanting his blood to be taken by the surrounding currents. They wanted to call the beasts that lurked in the deep, wanted them to smell the blood and come with hunger in their minds. They wanted to have our flesh ripped from our very bones. And me being tied to the anchor, I couldn’t hide. But then why would I? I had lost the one person I loved, been shunned from my very people because of it, and I couldn’t live with the grief and guilt that it had been I who had done this to him, I who had caused his death.

No, I decided. Let the men win. Let the beasts come.


Monday, 6 January 2020

Happy New Year . . .

Ugh...what a crazy few months! Glad we're now in 2020.

My last post (aside from the one where I shamelessly plugged my free book offer, and about UK tornadoes) was about my plans for Nano. Yes, that same nano that started back on November 1st. All that time ago. So, how did I get on, you ask?

Well...

Started off great. I actually managed to write just short of 20k words. This was within the first 2 weeks. Then everything kicked off. Work went crazy, I've had a few health issues, helping the parents plan a house move. Then arrived Christmas, more CRAZY workness seeing almost 12 hr days, more moving plans, the husband shifting jobs. I actually had 2 weeks off over Christmas and New Year and planned to do something pro-creative during that time. But did that happen? Did it b***cks.

So, my Nano piece, Rose Black, made it to 20k words. It' no 50k but it's a big chunk into it and it won't end there though. I'll pick up the pace again and continue with it at leisure now that things are starting to settle down again.

Why did they choose November to be National Novel Writing Month? It's more like National No Time To Write Your Novel As You're Too Busy With All Other Crap Leading Up To Christmas Month. February would be more suitable - or March (50k in 28 days? 29 in a leap year? I'll take the extra few days in March...) Hell, there are 10 other months to choose from that would be more ideal!

Still, moan over, lesson learnt, moving on.

In other news, my good friend, Simon Walker, actually published his first novel on Amazon. It's a dark science fiction based in an alternate London. It's a good read. Sounds like your sort of thing? Go check it out :) (the link is for Amazon UK but it's also available on .com)

Battlebridge by Simon J Walker - 



Happy New Year folks :)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Grab Your Copy Of Tunnel for FREE . . .

Free, I tell ye. FREE

We all love a freebee and seeing as it's coming up to one of my favourite times of the year, I thought I'd allow you all a chance to sit back with a pillow and be suitably scared with a free copy of my short ebook, Tunnel. What more could you want for Halloween? It has lots of darkness, zombies, blood and claustraphobia, the perfect recipe for the perfect chillfest.

It will be free to download for the next 5 days (click here) so get in quick while you can. And remember, whether you loved it, hated it, was traumatised by it, would love a sequal or never want to read anything from me ever again, leave a review. Mucho Gracias :)




The London Underground, a convenient way to commute, with miles of tunnels weaving their way beneath the city – but with many of these tunnels now unused and abandoned, a whole new world unknown to the people above has evolved below the streets. 

Mike travels the Underground every day for work, battling rush hour crowds all taking the same journey day in day out. He follows the unspoken underground etiquette every time, with his music playing in his ears and the avoidance of eye contact, and no one says a word as they routinely travel the tedious path life has given them. 

An evening of working late means Mike misses these rush hour crowds. The platform at nine o'clock in the evening is sparse of people, and the train car he boards offers plenty of seats. He settles down, listening to his music and preparing to travel the same journey taken hundreds of times before, only this time the journey offers something different, and as the train stops, trapping everyone beneath the streets, he realises they are not alone. Something else, something terrifying, is lingering in the shadows of the Tunnel…