Worms, ‘Cockygate’ and Busy, Busy, Busy

Hi all,

Just a quickie to say I know I haven’t posted on here for a while but life has just grabbed me by the proverbials and run.

I’m ultra busy editing as well as trying to complete the next in my Terrible Tales series, am still shaking my head over the whole ‘Cockygate’ debacle (I’m not going to go into my views on author megalomania today – it’s been done to death already), and writing short stories for SAT practice as well as regaling you with amusing (I hope) stories from the wry side of life: https://mumispullingherhairout.wordpress.com/

In short, I’ve neglected this site. Sorry!

In the meantime, here’s the opener from Terrible Tales Book 2: Enjoy!

The Worm

(c) JM Turner

“Tequila’s gonna kill you, Terry,” I say, as I twist open the lid of the second bottle my husband has begun in as many days.

“Mind your business,” Terry snaps. He grabs for the bottle, ignoring the glass I hold out, and swigs. “You took as much notice of this house as you do of my drinking and I wouldn’t need to blur it out, would I?”

I turn away so he can’t see my involuntary eye roll and bite back any of a number of retorts that could have sprung from my lips. I walk out of the lounge and into the kitchen, click on the kettle and make myself a decaffeinated coffee, then I nod towards the French doors and Simba, my Alsatian, raises his head and chuffs.

I smile as I open the doors releasing the dog, and carry the mug out into the garden behind him. It is ten in the morning and it looks like it will be another long, hot, day spent avoiding Terry’s foul temper, although with any luck, he’ll be snoring by midday.

I perch on one of the loungers and watch the butterflies as they flitter in and around the buddleia, and then flutter around just out of reach of Simba’s attempts to catch them. Fat bumblebees buzz lazily in the heat of the summer sun, gathering pollen to take back to the hive. The sun shines its rays onto my face and arms and for the first time in a long time, I relax. I studiously ignore the empty pool with its stained and moss-strewn bottom, because every time I look at it I feel that painful lurch in my chest…

I hope that’s piqued your interest and I’ll keep you posted on when it’s up for release.

Until next time, stay well, stay safe, and stay away from cocky people!

Jill x

 

How to tell, and what to do, if your child is self-harming

In my last post, I said I was going to be talking a bit about self-harm. At this juncture, I need to make it clear that I am not a doctor, nor am I a psychologist or any other kind of mental-health expert. I’m just a mum who writes, edits and has many years’ experience within the education sector who is currently writing a novel covering this subject.

As such, I did a lot of online researching and speaking to people who could possibly help, or at least offer advice on how best to write about it without either glamorising or demonising the issue. It’s a tricky subject and I am still not entirely whether I can write the story and do it justice. By chance, I came across several people whose children/teens had either gone through this, or were going through it that time, and the overwhelming feeling I came away with was that these parents blamed themselves. They all said they must have done or said something, or not said or done something, that made their child go down this route. Ultimately, they believed they had failed as parents.

Obviously, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors (and yes, there probably are some truly awful parents out there), but these people all appeared to be stable, relatively happy, human beings who were doing their very best for their families. Yes, they had their ups and downs (as do we all), but they couldn’t shake the belief that they were to blame for what their child was doing. [See, ‘What can you do to help your child?’ below.]

So I’ve put this together in the hope that it may help you if you find yourself in the position of having a child who may be self-harming, or heading towards it:

So what are the signs to look out for? [Note: the word ‘child’ used below indicates a person under the age of 18 years.]

Firstly, it may surprise you to know that there are two types of self-harm; emotional and physical. Each is different and it’s important to note that the first does not necessarily lead to the second:

  1. Emotional signs

This is a tricky one because not all children who have emotional problems will go on to physically self-harm. Emotional problems can be hard to pinpoint because a lot of children will successfully hide their feelings – you’ll just have the sense that something is not right, or perhaps, put it down to hormonal changes. However, the following issues seem to be at the forefront of the lead into physical self-harm:

  1. Low self-esteem – a child with low self-esteem will blame themselves for everything. They may tell you they are stupid, they’re ugly, nobody likes them, they have no friends because… [insert anything here, but there will be an ultimate reason for them to blame themselves]. Some children will turn these beliefs inwards and begin hurting themselves as punishment for their ‘faults’.
  2. Isolation – a child may withdraw from people, both within the home and outside of it. Again, this can be tricky to identify because as a child matures they may naturally want to spend time alone in their rooms away from everyone else (bear in mind, they could just be interacting on social media and not want you to be privy to their chats!). But if they don’t want to spend any time with the rest of the family, or with friends, it could be that you need to have a gentle chat with them.
  3. Crying – a child can find it hard to talk about their feelings and show this by crying over seemingly ‘silly’ things. This could be because they may not have the linguistic skills to express how they feel – but in some instances, they may not know why they feel like they do. If your child is constantly welling up; if you can’t get to the bottom of it, and if it lasts for a long period of time, it may indicate depression. Adults tend to think of depression as being something which affects only adults, but how many adults have you heard saying to their kids, “What have you got to be upset about?” Children can suffer from this too, and it needs careful handling. See your GP.
  4. Anger – your child may have inexplicable bursts of anger and this anger could be directed inwardly, towards themselves, or outwardly, towards others.
  5. Gaining/losing weight – I imagine we’ve all heard about anorexia and bulimia (in some instances these issues can be caused by a child feeling they have no control over certain important aspects of their lives, whereas they can control what goes into their mouths), but the polar opposite, overeating, is also an emotional way of self-harming.
  6. Abuse of drugs or alcohol.

If your child has any of these issues and you are afraid they are self-harming, please seek advice as soon as possible. Your GP should be your first point of contact, but be aware (UK) that any referrals offered may have a long waiting list and your child may not be offered an appointment for some months. When I asked parents what they did when they became aware of problems, nearly all said they (eventually) went to their GP as the first port of call. Some had GPs who offered appointments for the children to go to talk to them during the wait for the specialist appointment, others didn’t. Support for your child can be a hit or miss affair.

  1. Physical signs

These could be cuts*, burns*, bald patches, or bruises, and are usually delivered to the wrists, thighs, arms, chest or head. A child who is physically self-harming will [usually] try to hide the fact so they may start wearing high-neck sweaters or t-shirts with long sleeves, and will wear trousers rather than skirts.

If you do happen to spot any physical signs, the child may have a ready excuse. ‘It was an accident,’ appears to be a commonplace explanation, often accompanied by a convoluted account of how the accident happened. You need to be aware that your child will have agonised over what they will say should their self-harming become apparent, particularly if this is something they have been doing over a period of time and the explanation will, most likely, not ring true.

Okay, so now you have an idea of what can happen and the kinds of things you should be aware of. If your child is self-harming, it needs careful handling.

What can you do to help your child?

The first and most important thing to do is to stay calm. Seeing evidence that your child is harming themselves will have an enormous emotional effect on you, but losing your temper with them, or dissolving into tears, will not help them. It will simply fill them with guilt and reinforce their beliefs that they are a bad person. You must stay calm. The harsh reality is that your feelings are secondary at the time you make the discovery – your support for your child is what is paramount because you do not want the behaviour to escalate.

Something has made your child want to hurt themselves, and if you want them to be open with you, to help them work out why they are acting this way, they need to trust that they can tell you anything and that you won’t pass judgement on them or blame yourself or take it personally.

If your child wants to tell you about it, shut up and listen. Really listen. Don’t put words in their mouths – hear what they are saying.

Do not belittle what is troubling them. Their reasons could be something you consider to be unimportant. The evidence in front of your eyes shows they are not unimportant to your child.

If your child does open up to you, tell them you understand why they are doing it – even if you really don’t. Tell them you want to help. Ask if they know what triggers them to self-harm and ask them what they want you to do to help them stop. Tell them you know that when they hurt themselves it feels like it’s helping them to manage things/to cope, but tell them you want to help them with whatever is causing the problem so that they don’t need to hurt themselves, (which is better in the long run).

If they won’t talk to you, ask if they will talk to someone else.

If they still refuse, give them the ChildLine number: 0800 1111.

Find something physical they can do to let their feelings out safely when they are overwhelmed, e.g. punching a cushion, or punching/kicking a punch-bag. Tell them they can use it whenever they like with no explanation needed.

Keep a stock of ice cubes in the freezer so your child can hold one until it melts.

Get them to take a look at this site: https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/your-feelings/feelings-emotions/building-confidence-self-esteem/ as there lots of tips they may find useful.

*If your child has cut or burned themselves, you need to ensure they are cleaning the wounds properly. If they have wounds that need medical assistance, get them to hospital immediately.

This next point is one of the hardest for parents, but it is important: don’t smother them. You are going to want to be with them 24/7 to make sure they don’t do it again, but if you give them some privacy it will help build their confidence and trust.

Do not tell anybody other than the people who need to know (GP, school, college) and only then with your child’s knowledge/permission. If they tell you about it and ask you not to tell anyone and you do, any trust they held in you will disappear. They may be embarrassed, feel guilty, know that it is a stupid thing to do, and refuse to let you tell anyone else in the belief that they will think less of them. Wait until they are ready for you to do so. Close family members may pick up on things, but again, only speak to them if your child agrees.

Show them you want to help and that you will listen to whatever they have to say, even if it’s not what you want to hear.

Your reactions

You are going to react to this. I know I said above that this is not about you (and it still isn’t), but you are going to have a reaction. As I mentioned at the start, parents will inevitably blame themselves, for not seeing, for saying or doing the wrong things, for a multitude of reasons. Others are angry – with themselves, with the child, with whatever circumstances have brought them to this situation. You need to be able to react, but try not to do it in front of your child. Drive out somewhere secluded, close all the windows and scream out your grief, pain and anger where no-one can hear you.

One parent (whose child eventually received a referral after a 6-month wait) told me that at the first counselling appointment, when her child cried, tears came into her own eyes and she automatically crossed the room to her child’s chair to comfort her. The counsellor was extremely curt, told her to sit back down and said she must not react or she would heap guilt upon her child. As my friend said to me later, ‘She made me feel like I was to blame for XXX’s self-harming. XXX needed a hug. She’d just opened up for the first time since I found out, and it made us both cry. I’m not a robot – I have feelings about all this too, and I need someone to talk to, to make sense of it! And if I don’t react at all, won’t that make XXX feel like I don’t really care?”

She has a point. I don’t know if this was a particularly over-zealous counsellor but the child refused to go back to see her again because of how she treated her mum. They got over it by talking. The floodgates had been opened and her mum was able to pick her way through it without any further outside help. She told me she had no idea if she was doing it right or wrong, but that so long as her child knew she loved her and would help her and never judge her for [what she’d done], they’d wing it.

The last words on this post come from children who were brave enough to talk to me:

15-year-old, A, told me: ‘It’s nothing to do with Mum. This is about me. I know it’s a stupid thing to do but I can’t stop myself. If I don’t do it [cutting] I don’t know if I’m alive. When I hurt myself, I feel something and I know I’m real.’

‘A’ was unable to say why she felt like this.

14-year-old, K, told me that she felt angry about everything. Her parents had recently divorced and both sides were battling for her attention and bad-mouthing each other. She said: ‘I know Dad didn’t love me enough to stay with me and Mum, so why is he pretending he cares now? He was horrible when he was at home, always sarcastic at Mum and ignoring me, but now he suddenly wants me to go stay with him and buys me stuff. He doesn’t want me, he just wants to hurt Mum and I hate him for it, but I hate myself too because I want the stuff and that makes Mum upset because she can’t afford to buy it for me. So if I let him buy me something, I come home and punch myself in the head or in the stomach because then I hurt too, and it’s okay to take the stuff.’

16-year-old, B, refused to eat. He knew it was making him ill, but he liked the power it gave him over his parents: ‘Mum’s always trying to make me eat stuff. She never shuts up about it and Dad’s the same. He shouts. She cries. I’m sick of them telling me what to do all the time. It’s all, go and do your homework [B], go and do this and that and, no, you can’t go round your mate’s when you’ve got all this study to do. I know I need to study! I know I won’t get to uni if I don’t get the grades – they tell us all the time at school. I just want five minutes to be a bloody kid!’

As I said at the start, I am not an expert, so if I have made any mistakes in this please do let me know and I will happily edit any areas that need it. Your experiences may be utterly different from those I have spoken of, and if you would like to comment below to help others who may have experienced the same as you, please, please, do.

Finally, I hope the information I gathered will help, if only in a minor way, if you ever find yourself in this position.

Further help and support for relatives of self-harmers can be found here: http://www.harmless.org.uk/whoWeSupport/familyAndFriends

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/for-friends-and-family/#.WuIiCcgvzIU

http://www.hopeforhurtingparents.com/encouragement-for-parents-of-self-harmers/

 

Writing

Hi guys!

I’m hoping you are all happy, healthy and enjoying life? As you may have gathered from my previous post, apart from writing my books and short stories, I am covering some other topics – the first of which was in my last post about anxiety and panic attacks. These will be interspersed amidst other bits and pieces that cross my mind, alongside letting you know how the new books are coming along as I am aware how boring these sites can be if they only focus on the writer and their projects. (In truth, it also feels a little self-indulgent to be constantly banging on about my latest book!)

In my next post, I’ll be talking about how, as a parent, you can try to deal with things if your child self-harms. I’ve been talking to several people (all of whom have asked to remain anonymous) who have had to contend with this, some of whom coped admirably, others who fell apart.

In the meantime, if you need some advice on the subject, do take a look at the NSPCC site  and this site  also offers some practical advice.

To add to this (as if I didn’t have enough to do), I’ve also started a new blog that pokes a little fun at life in general. Take a look if you fancy a laugh. I’ve been reliably told these posts are making people literally laugh out loud, which is enough to bring a smile to my own face and gives me the impetus to continue. You can find the link here – and please, do leave me the odd comment if it makes you laugh. Feel free to share so others can find a little levity in their day.

Until next time,

Jill x

P.S: Here’s the link to Big Ted, the first in a series of Terrible Tales. It’s definitely not for kids, so don’t be fooled by the title.

12 WAYS TO LOVE AND SUPPORT SUFFERERS OF ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS

cocktail-828182_1920Have you ever had a friend who was the life and soul of every party? You know, the guy or girl who is up for anything, always bubbly and bright, always a little bit drunk before the night starts? The one who starts off on a high but either ends up ugly drunk crying or snogging someone utterly inappropriate? Yeah, we’ve all had that friend – hell, we may have even been that friend (no judgement here, folks – been there, done some of that, suffered the panic attack during the evening out…)

Or how about this person: the friend who never calls or visits you even though youphone-1889403_1920 call/visit them? The friend who, no matter how many times you make arrangements to go out, cancels at the last minute knowing you’ll understand?

Actually, the chances are that after a while you won’t understand. The chances are you’ll actually be more than a little pissed off with them if they do it more than once or twice. The chances are your friendship will dwindle…

Ever wondered why people act like that? It might surprise you to know, after reading the opening paragraphs, that today I’m writing about anxiety.

The odds are pretty strong that you’ve suffered from it yourself at some stage in your life even if only in a minor capacity – ever had sweaty palms when you met someone new, not wanted to get in a car when someone you don’t know is driving? That’s anxiety on a minor scale. Anxiety in itself is a good thing because it stops us doing things that can be harmful to us. But what if that anxiety becomes overwhelming and out of control?

stress-2902537_1920

Real, ongoing, anxiety can be life-limiting and can spring up, seemingly, out of nowhere.

So, presuming you value these people, what can you do to help? I’m actually speaking as a former sufferer of panic attacks, and no, I’ve never admitted it before. There’s (in my head, at least) always been a kind of stigma around them – that sense that non-sufferers will think less of me for it. They hit me in my twenties after I witnessed my mother die unexpectedly, and stopped within a year or so – but I’ve suffered from anxiety ever since to one degree or another.

These are the things I wish I, and my surrounding friends and family, had known then (particularly number 10). I hope they help.

  1. Take a step back and ask yourself why your friend is acting like this. Have they been like it since you first met them or has their behaviour changed over time? Could it be that the problem they told you about six months ago that you dismissed as trivial, wasn’t? If you can come up with a tangible reason, you can wait for a calm moment and carefully and kindly ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. If you can’t come up with a reason (and it’s a friendship you value), go and see them and gently ask if something’s wrong. They may not tell you, of course. They may not know what the problem is. They may just know that everything is too overwhelming and they’re not coping and expect nobody to understand. Even you.
  2. Understand that they are not doing it deliberately. They don’t deliberately set out to annoy/upset you. Their emotions are all over the place and they’re not thinking clearly so they try to cover it up – sometimes, in inappropriate ways.
  3. Be kind. Believe me when I say that anxious people do not like feeling anxious. They are not attention-seeking. They very often spend vast amounts of time beating themselves up without you adding to it. An anxious person will struggle with their emotions every single day and it’s not something they can control. Hell, if they could control it, they would! Who wants to feel afraid and panicky all the time? *** So what do you do if the anxiety escalates into full-blown panic attacks?
  4. Panic attacks are very real things. If you’ve ever had one, you’ll know the sensation that washes over you – the racing heart, the sweating, the chest pains, the inescapable belief that you are going to either faint or vomit, or worse – die. So if you witness a friend or family member having a panic attack, do not ask them if they’re okay (they aren’t) and do not tell them to snap out of it. At the height of a panic attack, they are not in control of themselves and they are not capable of logical thinking. Have you ever been out of control with anger? Has someone telling you to snap out of it ever worked? There you go. They already know it’s irrational but they can’t help themselves at that moment so don’t talk down to them.
  5. With an adult, sit with them patiently as they go through the attack. In silence, if need be. Let them hold on to you if they need to – it could just be that holding their hand helps to ground their feelings, even if you’re not a hand-holding kind of person. Remember to put aside any irritation you may feel. Let them be if they don’t want to be touched but reassure them, in low measured tones, that it’s a panic attack and they’re not going to die if that’s what they’re scared of in that moment.
  6. If it’s your child who is suffering, hold them, even if they are pushing you away. Contain your emotions – they’re struggling with their own so don’t make them feel guilty for making you sad – you can cry when they’re not around. Let them rant and rail at you if need be, but hold them so that they know you love them and are in control (even if you don’t think you are)! They need to know that however they are feeling inside, someone will always love them despite what their emotions are telling them and despite their current behaviour.
  7. Act counter-intuitively. Tell them it’s okay to let the feelings wash over them. Give the sufferer permission to be out of control without making them feel silly. Tell them they’re safe with you and you won’t let anything bad happen. Remember, panic attacks do not kill, even though the sufferer may feel like they’re dying. Sometimes, simply getting through it and knowing nothing terrible happened can lessen the effect of further attacks or even stop them occurring.
  8. They won’t expect you to understand what they’re feeling. Hell, they don’t understand what they’re feeling! But they’ll appreciate it if you try to understand. Without judgment, please, so no telling them not to be so silly – that won’t help!
  9. Don’t panic when you see them panicking – it will fuel their anxieties. Even if you feel helpless, or inadequate, remember that they don’t need to be worrying about your reactions and you don’t need to show them! Stay calm.
  10. A person in the throes of a panic attack is out of control. Don’t fuel it by making it about you. Find a paper bag (brown is the seemingly best kind, but any will do – don’t try it with plastic!) and have them breathe into it. As their breathing rate slows (it’ll be super-fast in the throes of an attack), remove the bag and ask them to inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of ten. Panic is fuelled by oxygen and taking in their own exhaled breath (carbon dioxide) from the bag lowers oxygen intake and therefore lowers the fuel. Another trick is to have them focus on a particular object or spot on the wall and ask them to describe it. Have them hold something and describe what they can feel. If they have bare feet, have them plant them firmly on the floor and tell you how that feels – this technique is called grounding as it gives the sufferer something else to think about. Or have them think about the most beautiful place they can. Ask them to close their eyes and see it in their mind’s eye and then put themselves into it. Something that worked for me (don’t laugh) was to lie in bed (I was a total insomniac at the time) on my back and make my body ramrod rigid. Then, working from my toes, I stiffened them even harder, imagined a warm wave washing over them with a long inhalation, and relaxed them on the exhale. With the next inhale, the warm wave washed up to my shins and I relaxed my lower leg, then my knees, thighs, hips, fingers, lower arms – you get the picture – all the way up to the top of my head. After the first couple of attempts, I was asleep, properly asleep, before I got to my chest. If you sleep well, you’re more in control the following day. Yes, you’ll feel stupid doing it, but proper sleep is necessary to function. (I still do this now if I’ve had a stressful day – it still works!)
  11. When they are over the attack and calmer, (probably best on a day where an attack has not occurred) suggest mindfulness classes, or yoga, and go with them. Physically collect them if you can so they can’t back out.
  12. Suggest they see their GP. Doctors have a variety of things they can do to help nowadays, from prescription drugs to CBT.

Peri-menopause (or, WTF is happening?)

This is a piece I wrote some years back – I came across it and thought it may make you smile.

The perimenopause.

Sounds like a high-class drink doesn’t it? Something sparkly, light and refreshing?

“What’s your tipple?”

“Oh! A bottle of Peri-menopause, please. On ice.”

peri-menopause

If only.

It started innocuously enough with what I thought was a touch of flu. I woke up in the small hours having apparently decided to go for a swim in my sleep without bothering to change out of my jim-jams. I was freezing cold yet simultaneously, boiling hot. Flu. Obviously. I went for a quick shower, changed the bedsheets and went back to sleep after tossing and turning until, oh, roughly ten minutes before I was due to get up when I dropped into a coma that was only broken by my daughter’s screeching that I’d slept through the alarm and she was late for school.

For flu, I felt surprisingly chipper during the next day. Life carried on as usual. Apart, that is, from the overwhelming desire to either commit homicide if someone looked at me the wrong way or to burst into tears for the same reason. I put it down to the lack of sleep and promised myself an early night.

Dinner over with, five-year-old daughter in bed snoring sweetly, I had a bath and, book in hand, toddled off to get some much-needed sleep. I was exhausted. But sleep was not my friend that night. As soon as my head hit the pillow and my eyelids closed everything that had ever gone wrong in my life (and, like most people’s lives, that’s quite a lot) put in an appearance and said, ‘hello, bitch!’. Memories danced around my head like evil fairies and became, in those wee small hours, devastating indictments of me. I was a horrible person! I sobbed myself to sleep feeling utterly worthless. And I woke about an hour and a half later having been swimming again.

After a week of this, I knew it wasn’t the flu. As I stood in the shower (my neighbours must have wondered what the hell I was doing every night) rinsing the salt from my body, I knew there was more to it. All sorts of things went through my head, ranging from cancer to HIV (nothing simple, obviously, never mind the fact that I’d not had sex with anyone since my divorce – and I’d been with my ex for fourteen years and this was two years later – so that was not the likeliest of scenarios).

I went to see my GP who listened to me intently, laughed at my self-diagnosis, and announced that I was depressed. Considering that my ex had moved our family from one end of the country to the other (where we knew nobody) and then walked out to go and live back with his mother less than a year later, leaving me to deal with the people he owed money to turning up on my doorstep with regular monotony, and the very real threat of losing my home, I thought she may have a point. Not knowing any better, I presumed that depression came with night sweats and feeling like shit. She prescribed me Paroxetine.

Three weeks later I was back to see her again. Although I appreciate that it probably works well for the vast majority of others, Paroxetine made me feel seriously suicidal – by this time, what with the nightly swimming sessions and lack of sleep, I was ready to jump off a bridge. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to check out the side-effects and realised what was happening. I stopped taking them. The (alarmed) doctor agreed and suggested yoga as exercise helps with depression.

The only classes I could find were held at night and, as a single parent living in the arse-end of nowhere with a five-year-old and no babysitter, were never going to happen. I started exercising on my own after I’d put my daughter to bed. I got fitter, but the night sweats got worse. They started to happen twice or three times a night. Every night. I’d fall asleep, wake up dripping, eventually go off again and reawaken an hour or so later, wet again.

It made me scared to go to bed. So, late one night, with sleep apparently having become my worst enemy, Google became my new best friend. I typed in my symptoms and hit return. It was narrowed down to three things: TB, cancer or the menopause.

I went back to my GP and she said, “Of course! You’re in the perimenopause!”

I was only in my mid-forties. Surely that didn’t happen to women until they got to their fifties or sixties? “Oh,” she said, “it’ll probably be over within the next couple of years; unless you’re one of the unlucky ones – it can hang around for decades for some people.”

Fuck me sideways! Decades?!? Decades of changing the bed every day? Decades of absolutely no control over the horrifying thoughts plaguing me daily? I’d always wondered why my mum said she was coming back as a man. If I could have grown fruit and two veg, at that point I’d have happily changed sex.

I thought about the word ‘perimenopause’. I compared it to that sparkly, light, refreshing bottle of something chilled. And I laughed.

Sparkly? I suppose the rivers of sweat that trickle down my sodden neck could sparkle in the right light.

Light? I felt so dull and dim-witted it was like my brain had taken a vacation.

Refreshing? Well, having become surgically attached to the shower every night was quite refreshing at the time, I suppose.

Thank God it only happened at night…

Fast forward a decade:

It didn’t only happen at night – but more on that at a later date…

Terrible Tales

Hello all!

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I last blogged  – snow, work and other commitments have prevailed and for that, I apologise.

I’ve been editing, writing and completing the day job ever since the New Year. Consequently, I now look like a member of the Walking Dead, the bags under my eyes have their own suitcases and any social life I once had flew out of the window long ago. I can’t see it coming back anytime soon, either.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned to write a selection of short stories that will be used countrywide for children’s SAT revision and testing and I am thoroughly enjoying writing them.

Big Ted

Added on to this is the new series of novelettes I have begun which is in direct opposition to the SAT children’s stories. This is a dark, twisted and somewhat warped series only for adults, coming under the series title of ‘Terrible Tales’. The first, ‘Big Ted’, is due for release very, very soon and don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the cover.

It’s the first book I’ve written that necessitates a trigger warning as the subject matter in this first story is somewhat sensitive. I’ll be sharing the link as soon as it is released, but you have been warned!

In the meantime, here’s a link to the latest book I edited:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/MARCO-OBSESSION-BAD-BILLIONAIRE-Book-ebook/dp/B07BR4VYJG

If you like a decent bad boy, enjoy a damned good storyline and don’t mind a bit of rumpy-pumpy, you’ll be blown away by this book. I loved working on it!

So, until Big Ted is released, I’m hoping by the next time I write on here Spring will have well and truly sprung.

I am so over snow!

Jill x

Little Writer…

Valid points made here – we don’t need to rush.

Through The Gateway

It’s been a while since I actually got over to this blog to write anything. Christmas break with several children to entertain kept me from having very much (if any) time to myself. Then the New Year hit and the temperature dropped to a level so low that my brain was forced into hibernation. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

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Advice for Writers for 2018

I bet you’re expecting this post to be full of fantastic ideas as to how you can improve your writing, or create a cover, or market your book?

You’d be wrong.

So if that’s what you’re after, stop reading now because it’s the antithesis of that.

Put your hand up if you’re sick of reading other people’s advice.

Every time I open any form of social media I am confronted with ‘helpful’ ideas as to how to do all the things I cite above; i.e. writing, producing the perfect cover, constructing the perfect ad, learning how to market your work, etc., etc., and at the end of all the waffle to hook you in, I get to the crux of the post and read: ‘I can help you do this for the very low price of…’ (or a variant thereof).

The bit that comes next is aimed mostly at new writers, so if that’s you, read it carefully and try to remember that this is just my opinion: I’m a member of several writing groups on social media, and I’ve seen posts by more new writers than I can count asking how they should do all of the above things before they’ve ever picked up a pen (or switched on a laptop and opened whichever writing program they have chosen) and actually written anything. I’ve seen them post pictures of the cover they’ve chosen, seen them angst over whether or not to have their own author website or whether they should be paying for this course or that.

Look, there are people out there who will take advantage of you. Probably not intentionally, but if you run a business (for example) creating beautiful book covers and someone approaches you, wouldn’t you try to sell them something? So what if the cover they buy doesn’t actually end up relevant to the book they eventually write – it’s not their problem, right?

If you haven’t even begun to write, that fantastic, all singing, all dancing, marketing course you signed up for won’t be relevant by the time you need to use it. Social media rules regarding advertising change all the time! What works now (and saturates the market) probably won’t be working by the time you need it to. As an example, FB changes its rules with regularity and is making life difficult for authors at the moment by only delivering their posts to a fraction of the people who follow them unless they pay for that visibility; it’s also banning certain ads that it regards as spam, and actually, that’s fair enough, they’re running a business and they’re entitled to run it as they see fit. The point I am trying to make is that by the time you’ve actually written your book, the rules will have changed again – probably several times. So why throw money at something that will be redundant by the time you need to use it?

Some of the people running these courses (caveat: please note I said some – they’re not all the same and some are worth their weight in gold – when you take them at the right time) must be laughing in their sleep. They don’t count sheep to drop off – they count dollars, or pounds, or whatever the currency is where they come from. And you know what? I don’t blame them! If people are silly enough to chuck money at them in the hope of becoming rich and famous before they’ve even put pen to paper, I’d be rubbing my hands together in glee, too.

Make 2018 the year you actually write something – and make it the best writing you have in you. Celebrate it! And let me know when you’ve written it because it will call for a toast to you!

Wishing you all an amazingly happy New Year – may all your dreams come true!

Jill

Interview with Rachel Davidson, author of ‘The Point of Me’.

rdf headshopt july 2017 cropped

Hi guys!

Today I’m chatting with the lovely Rachel Davidson, the author of a wonderfully uplifting spiritual book. Read on to see what she had to say:

Me: Firstly, welcome Rachel, it’s lovely to have you featured here and I have several questions for you, the first being how long have you been writing and what made you decide to write this particular book?

Rachel: In truth I have been writing my whole life, but I have only been taking it ‘seriously’ – by which I mean pursuing particular story-ideas and crafting them into novel-sized adventures – since September 2014. I am the typical cliché of a newbie author! Hearing that well-worn phrase of ‘everyone has at least one book in them’ and thinking ‘oh yes that is me!’ but not actually settling down to write it and test that postulation. I guess I just got diverted by everyday life, like many people do. The lure of a ‘safer’ life working in business was strong and none of the careers officers at school were promoting author as an option.

But like I say, that changed in September 2014. I know the exact point at which I made the decision to get on with it and indeed why I wrote this particular book ‘The Point of Me’.

I know this because I was having a Soul-Purpose Reading – and during the meditations that this involved, I was told that I would write a story about a unicorn. Well I was rather irked about that. I didn’t want to write about rainbows and fairy sparkle unicorns! But my husband challenged me to think about what my unicorn would look and feel like. Five minutes later I had sketched out the story of the book that was published last summer. It took me 3 years to write and it felt like a return to home.

Perhaps it would be useful at this point to explain a little about what the book is about. The main character in ‘The Point of Me’, James, is a young man who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. As well as facing his own mortality, he also has to cope with his family, who are falling apart under the strain. When James meets Marcham, a mystical beast who takes him on a series of powerful spiritual journeys, he begins to understand the meaning of life, death and family.

So, on the face of it, the book is about a teenager coming to terms with death. But don’t let that put you off! It is actually a very uplifting story! The point of it is not the fact that death is inevitable, but that the manner in which we choose to live our lives, and especially so when the prospect of death looms closer (and in James’ case abnormally early on in his young life) is the most important point of being alive.

The book is heavily influenced and inspired by the worlds of Shamanism and Spiritual Healing. I’ve tried to weave elements of these belief structures into what I hope is a compelling message of how a life full of empathy, love and acceptance will be a good life and provide a meaningful death. The story also features some fantastically magical trips into wonderful spiritual planes – I promise it is not a depressing story!

I wanted it to be full of both light and shade. I wanted to explore how in the midst of the most terrible, darkest moments of a person’s life they might find the greatest light and peace, together with an acceptance of why, as spiritual splinters of the creator’s light we are sent to experience a human existence upon a giant rock spinning through the cosmos!

Me: I think you managed to send that message beautifully.  How long did it take to write ‘The Point of Me’, were there any setbacks or did it flow?

Rachel: It took me 3 years, practically to the day, to go from the first word being written to being published and available to buy. But the vast majority of the writing took place in the last 9 months or so (the symbolism of that particular last phase being equal to a pregnancy was not lost on me! Writing a book is a bit similar to giving birth!).

In the beginning I wrote the story in a relatively piecemeal fashion – having got the preface and chapter one written first I didn’t necessarily follow the chronological timeline that the final book has. I wrote passages and chapters as and when ideas grabbed me, when I felt able to explore particular emotions and themes. I suppose it came together like a quilt does – each piece of writing being stitched together with the next to form the overall. I feel I suffered very few setbacks and ‘dry’ periods because I took exactly this approach. I followed my instincts, went with the flow and trusted that the detail of the story would arrive and that in the end, the full pathway of the tale would be clear and obvious. I always knew the big picture of the story’s emotional arc and everything was guided and controlled by that – like a sailor navigating by the north-star I suppose, I always had that as my reference point from which every writing ‘journey’ would lead from and back to.

Me: As you’ve already said, and I concur, this is a rather wonderful and spiritual tale – did you set out to write it this way, or did it evolve as you wrote?

Rachel: Thank you for the compliment. I’m thrilled that you liked it.

Well, as I mentioned previously, the start of the book began with the spiritual activity of a Soul-Purpose reading and contains many themes and tokens of shamanic and spiritual healing practices. So, I cannot deny that the whole piece has the general theme of spirituality woven through it. Although I don’t remember consciously thinking “I will write a spiritual fantasy story”, I am really interested in this area and exploring the human condition.

In my writing, and through my writing, I want to explore the big issues and questions. I want to investigate my own emotions and purposes – I try to face my own fears. Actually, I think potentially all writers are exploring their inner-workings in this manner to a greater or lesser degree.

If I look into the face of my own fears and terrors and find responses to them through the trials and adversities that I make my characters live through, then I have a good chance of writing an interesting story that will hopefully resonate with other people.

Me: What was your inspiration?

Rachel: Inspiration for my writing comes from lots of places. My husband Steve is a particularly good ‘resource’ as he is a powerful Spiritual Healer and Shaman. His work with Spirit and energy is particularly inspiring. But I also gain a lot of inspiration from the natural world (animals, plants, weather) and by generally observing the human-condition and wondering about people’s hidden, internal dialogues.

For this particular story, knowing that I absolutely did not want to write about a ‘typical’ rainbow and sparkle unicorn was also a good inspiration point. I felt sure that unicorns are much darker, earthier and deeply elemental creatures, and it is true to say that my version is very different to the more usual depiction of these magical beasts.

Ideas or feelings about things such as this arrive in my mind, the trick is to hear them, definitely before they head off to find somebody else who might hear them quicker than you! Ideas are given to you. I believe that is ‘inspiration’ – being ‘in spirit’. To be inspired you simply need to be looking and listening.

Me: How has it been received?

Rachel: Firstly, I want to just acknowledge what a massive leap of faith it is for any artist to put their creativity out into the world. It is a big thing to have strangers reading and reviewing something that one has poured one’s heart into. It’s scary and risky. But the thought of writing the story and then putting it into a dusty drawer to eventually forget about it was definitely the much more horrifying prospect.

My gamble seems to have paid off, in that I have had some very lovely comments and compliments. The book has been described by one reviewer as a “tender fantasy about learning to love yourself despite the tragedy surrounding you”. Another reviewer said that I had painted “… an iridescent portrait filled with sorrow and hope, … [detailing] one boy’s struggles in learning to live in a life of cruelties”. A third review described me as a “talented, exceptional writer who knows how to make her reader feel a host of different emotions, her words are eloquent and beautifully descriptive” – a comment that I still have to pinch myself about when I read it!

A couple of other readers’ comments have focused upon the shamanic and spiritual-healing aspects that have inspired much of the story’s basis and how the characters’ various afflictions are carried energetically before manifesting physically (a lesson to us all, perhaps). Others have remarked upon the powerful messages about the purpose of life – the book is called ‘The Point of Me’ because the main character is searching for the answer to that question. Happily, despite the potentially weighty subject of the book, most readers have observed that they felt peaceful and uplifted by the end of it! And all the Amazon reviews so far have been 5-star. Phew!

Me: That’s fantastic! Most people don’t realise just how much work is involved in marketing your work once it’s completed. Writing a book is hard in and of itself – how have you got on with the marketing side of things? Do you have any tips for others?

Rachel: I couldn’t agree with you more! The writing is definitely the fun bit! It doesn’t feel a jot like hard work, despite it taking a lot of time and thought and struggle. The marketing of the book afterwards is most definitely a mission! But if you want your book to be read then you absolutely have to work at making it visible.

As a self-published author, I’m responsible for all the publishing, distribution, marketing and promotion of the book. I am just one voice in a massive market of thousands, nay millions, of other authors and stories. It is a daunting prospect, to be honest. My main ‘tip’ is to do some promotional work every day, hunting down every opportunity to talk about the book and to make contact with as many potential readers as possible. It’s why I’m very grateful for this opportunity Jill.

I think I read about a marketing theory that goes something along the lines of purchasers needing to be made aware of a ‘product’ at least seven times, on average, before they will finally make the purchase. I try to bear this idea in mind when I am working on promotional content. People need to get intrigued and also comfortable with the idea of what your book is and who you, as the author, are.

Finally, I would just like to say that in the face of this problem I reassure myself with my belief and faith that if I remain authentic to the truth of the story I feel called to write, then the readership will find it no matter what. It might take a long time of course, but ultimately the story will find its own way (me working like a mad whirling dervish in the background also helps!)

Me: Are you writing anything else at present?

Rachel: I am indeed! I am beginning to write a new story – one that I hope will take a number of characters featured in ‘The Point of Me’ forward so that I can explore how they react to the outcome of the first book. A few readers of the book asked me such interesting questions about these characters and what I thought their lives would be like after the conclusion of ‘The Point of Me’, frankly it got me feeling curious about them too.

So, if ‘The Point of Me’ was mainly about exploring how someone may face death, I plan to make the next book an exploration of how someone may face life. I hope it is going to be another tale full of magical experiences and spiritual symbolism – I have been researching the magical meaning of crows for instance!

Q8: Ooh, now that’s piqued my interest! When do you envisage publication of this?

Rachel: Well I hope that it isn’t going to take me another 3 years to write the next book. If I could have it published by this time next year then I would be very, very pleased with myself. I have to juggle full-time work and family life around my writing so there can be many pressures on my time! It is a case of me being very disciplined and sitting down every day to write something. If I can achieve that, then I hope the next book will be ‘birthed’ much quicker than the first!

Me: Lastly, what words of advice do you have for new writers? Is there anything you wish you’d known at the start of the process that would have helped you?

I was lucky to be introduced to you Jill, and you had some great tips and pointers (such as using the online graphic design package Canva to assist in cover design). So that would be my first advice – connect with other authors and writers and pick their brains. My second tip would be to find a great proof-reader (that’s where you come into the picture again Jill, as your work on my manuscript was invaluable to me).

The first thing about the writing process is that you do need to write! Well, the solution to this is firstly about having the discipline to sit my butt down on the chair daily and write! There’s a quote by Louis L’ Amour which goes, “Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on”. So, I get my writing environment set up (inspirational music on, comfy seat, my little dog snuggled next to me if she’s in the mood and the incense burning) and I simply write. I don’t worry too much about crafting the ‘perfect’ sentence or do too much self-editing or reading back over what I’m doing as I type along. I try to just concentrate on the emotion that I’m taking the character(s) through and keep pushing towards that emotion. There’s another quote (this one by the great and esteemed Ernest Hemingway) which is “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” That’s what I try to aim for – finding the detail of the emotion’s ‘truth’ and writing in as much ‘colour’ and light as I can to illuminate it.

Oh, and lastly; never, ever worry about the ‘reader’ as you’re writing your story. Write it for yourself. Once you are very happy with it and feel you can improve it no further, publish it and then, and only then, start to worry about the ‘reader’. It sounds counterintuitive to most of the business advice of working out who your target market is for products first. But writing is art, and art isn’t about writing for a demographic! Writing is about putting a truth into words. And that truth can only be the one that is in your, the writer’s, heart. Write that 😊

Me: Thank you so much for agreeing to be featured on here, and I hope that my followers have enjoyed learning about you and your book. It was a pleasure to proofread it for you, by the way. 

If you’d like to find out more about ‘The Point of Me’ or Rachel’s writing then please register your email on her website www.racheldavidsonauthor.com, follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Author, or like and follow her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/RachelDavidsonAuthor

‘The Point of Me’ is for sale on Amazon in both e-book and paperback formats: tinyurl.com/thepointofme 

Her Amazon Author Profile is: tinyurl.com/RachelDavidsonAuthor.

The book is also available on Smashwords (tinyurl.com/y7zrjqgu) and with Apple iBooks.