Category Archives: books

The Surrogates Release Day!

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Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered this book and supported me so far on my author journey! Today is release day, and for anyone who pre-ordered, your copy should have arrived to you by now. To celebrate it being my release day, I would love to share chapter one with you all!

The Surrogates Cover 2

Chapter 1

“Why do you look so glum? This is meant to be an exciting day for you.” My mother’s voice is far warmer than the cold morning air as we walk across town, our arms linked.

“I know, Mum, I’m just nervous.”

“About what?” She stops and takes my hands in hers, staring up at me. Even though I’m only fifteen, I’m already a whole head taller than her. “You know you can talk to me, right, Jeremy?” Her long, black hair is wrapped around her neck to protect her from the day’s chill, like some sort of silk scarf.

I nod. “I’m just not sure I’m ready for this.”

“I’m sure the others all felt like this too their first time. But remember, you’re doing this for our people. We rely on men like you to survive.”

We continue across the cobbled streets and stop once we reach a row of huts as small as sheds.

Mike steps out from under a gazebo with a checklist in hand when he sees us. “Ah, Jeremy, Lill, nice to see you both.” He turns to me. “Happy birthday, mate. Was going to say ‘young ‘un’, but guess you’re not so young anymore, are you?” He winks and ruffles my hair. “Got your eye on any woman in particular?”

I look at the pictures on each hut, each one showing a portrait of a woman, and I shake my head.

“That’s fine. Ummm… how about Gloria? She’s been at it for years now, proven herself reliable many times.” He licks his thumb and flicks through the pages of a document lying on the table next to him, until he finds a page with Gloria scrawled across the top in big letters. “Ah, wait, I forgot, she’s not taking on anyone new right now, plus she’s your… surrogate. Maybe not her then.”

My breath catches in my throat a little as I process what Mike just said. It’s not a shock or news to me that one of these women would have carried me for nine months, but I never knew or even thought of asking which one it was before now. Lill’s always been my mum. An amazing, loving one at that.

My eyes flit from picture to picture as I look for Gloria, and I find her, fifth hut from the right. Her picture shows that she has a cleft palate and for some reason—maybe her forward-facing angle—I can’t see any ears. But I quickly look away when I notice her slightly too-far-apart green eyes that look very similar to mine, before reality can hit me even harder than it already just has.

Mike bites the inside of his cheek and continues scanning his checklist. “Hmmm. How about Sandy? She’s new. You’d be her first. She’s been looked over by Fliss and we know she’s capable of carrying a child and has extremely healthy eggs, so there shouldn’t be any issues there.”

“Yeah, sure, Sandy will do.”

“Great.” Mike smiles and places his hand on my back, leading me over to a hut with Sandy written on the front in thick, black pen. There is no photo of her on the door yet. I wonder if we’ve finally run out of ink for our printers, or if she’s just so badly mutated that they don’t want to scare me off in advance.

But Mike soon confirms it’s not the second of the two when he leans over and whispers, “You’ve really got lucky with this one, and not even in a best of a bad bunch way. She’s beautiful, as in seriously beautiful, if you can overlook the no legs situation, of course… plus the fact she doesn’t talk. Or, at least, I haven’t heard a word from her yet.” He laughs before continuing, “You know, I don’t even think she’s mutated. More… disabled. But when you’ve got her brother wheeling her up to the front gate, wanting just some live chickens in exchange, you’re hardly going to decline, are you?” He winks at me as he opens the hut door. “Now just remember to enjoy yourself, you lucky boy.”

I walk into the hut and Mike immediately closes the door, locking it behind me. I wonder whether it’s to keep her from escaping, or to stop me from backing out of my duty. Probably the second one as straight away I’m feeling completely trapped and in over my head.

Sandy is sitting in a wheelchair, turned away from me, gazing out of the only window in here. It just so happens to face away from our town. I wonder what she’s thinking; if she’s missing her home. Her dark blonde hair that’s bordering brown is pulled into a neat French braid that finishes at her waist, hanging over the back of her wheelchair. She doesn’t greet me, or even acknowledge that I’ve entered.

I clear my throat. “Uh, hi there.”

I wait a while, but she doesn’t turn around, and I wonder if she’s deaf as well as mute.

“Soooo…” I bite my lip as I consider what to say next. No point asking her how she is—her brother just sold her to us for some chickens; she’s hardly going to be feeling pleased. Sandy’s bed creaks as I perch myself at the end of it. Her mattress is hard, unlike the one I’m used to at home. “Do you enjoy reading?” I ask, trying to break the ice. Once again, I wait for a response and receive no indication she’s even listening. “I know a lot of people think it’s boring, and books should belong in the past, but I rather like them. I think if I was born before the war, I would have been a writer.” I smile to myself, my head in a different era. “Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back to when there were libraries. I heard some libraries even had cafes in them. My mum swaps some of our food for books every now and again when the traders come to visit; not that they often bring books. I could bring you something to read, if you’d like? I have horror books, picture books, fairy tales… well, I have a bit of everything to be honest.”

I’m still staring at Sandy, but she hasn’t even adjusted her sitting position since my arrival, and I know I’m overtalking to try and cover the awkwardness.

I sigh and lean back on her bed. I’m used to pillows that have been filled with chicken feathers, but her pillow clearly has been stuffed with rags and is lumpy and uncomfortable.

I look up at the ceiling, at the spiders that hang in most of the corners, and wonder how she can sleep with them just above her head each night. I’ve always had a fear that if a spider is above me, it will come down on its web once I’ve fallen asleep and crawl all over my face. I count the legs of each spider—some have three legs, others four, others six. I have a book at home from before that teaches you all about English insects and it says in there that all spiders have eight legs. I’ve seen spiders with any number of legs, but none with as many as eight. I can’t even begin to think about how much scarier the spiders must have been back then. Hopefully the spiders now have less eyes too, because I’ve seen close-ups of their eyes in that book and ended up with nightmares for weeks. There’s no way I could get close enough to a spider to count their eyes though.

Sighing, I turn my attention back to Sandy. I know I’m meant to have sex with this girl, but there’s no way I’m feeling up for it, especially after memorising each and every spider here. Or maybe, deep down, that’s just my excuse. Next time, I tell myself.

I get up from the bed and knock on the hut door to be let out.

Mike opens it. “That was quick.”

I don’t know what to say, so I just nod.

To read the rest, click here!

Lonesome Train

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Lonesome Train

I’ve had a few acceptances for my writing lately, but Lonesome Train is the biggest accomplishment of them all! The reason for this is because it’s my first published prose poem. This is a massive deal for me because I studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa university for three years and while I received a lot of praise for my fiction writing, my poetry lecturer never once praised me. With my poetry, she either didn’t understand it or didn’t like it. She made it pretty clear many times that my poetry isn’t of publishable quality.

I believed her for years and I stopped writing poetry. But I had a big folder of poems that were just sat on my laptop and I didn’t want them to go to waste. An anthology popped up that was accepting stories and poetry based on trains and I had a prose poem called Creep that fit the theme perfectly. I sent it in without any high hopes, but I heard back within a couple of days that my poem had been accepted! Within one submission, I’d proved my lecturer wrong.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because one person doesn’t like your style of writing, it doesn’t make it bad. My lecturer didn’t take to my writing and made me feel like everything I put forward was terrible, but I now know that’s not the case and it just wasn’t for her. Don’t write yourself off based on the opinion of one person. You can never please everyone.

Lonesome Train: Do you hear that train a-comin’? Comin’ round the bend…? Our authors did! Step into an anthology filled with demonic trains and disastrous encounters. Ghosts, time travel, giant spiders, wagon trains, space-transport–whatever you are interested in, we’ve got you covered. Sit right back and enjoy the ride.

My First Big Upset

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I wrote this a couple of months ago. I wasn’t sure whether to post it or not, but I’ve decided to go ahead:

I’ve been pretty lucky so far with my writing – I’ve submitted short stories to quite a few different places and have only received one rejection so far. I’ve made many author friends along the way who have been such a huge help to me. I’ve edited for many different people and only ever been met by huge thank yous and appreciation for my time and detail.

But for the first time today, I’ve actually been left in tears. I sent a short story over to someone, specified I didn’t want any proofreading/editing done, just purely wanted an opinion on whether I should keep or delete the epilogue.

I received a message from them pretty soon after, nothing about the epilogue at all, but a big paragraph on basically why they didn’t like my story.

Now, if I was asking for a critique, or an opinion, then fair enough. But my story has been edited to publishing standards over a period of time using more than one editor, the cover is finished and I’ve been working on a pre-order schedule ready for its release at the end of March/early April.

And all of a sudden I was sat here crying, questioning everything. I’ve been so excited about this release – the first time it’s my own book and not as part of an anthology. I’ve been putting everything in place and in the next moment, I was ready to delete my entire story.

It wasn’t what I asked for. It wasn’t what I expected. I wasn’t asking for a book review.

And the worst part? Everything is personal preference. He doesn’t agree that my character is so forgiving. He felt a sense of Stockholm syndrome in my story. Why can’t my character be forgiving just because he’s not that sort of person? Even if there is Stockholm syndrome in my story, what’s wrong with that? Stockholm syndrome is a very, very real thing! My mum compared it to me writing about a character breaking their leg and someone telling me that my character should have stubbed their toe instead.

As I said before, if this was a review and a reader posted this, that’s their right. But I wanted ONE question answered by him.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

I thought he had given up 15 minutes out of his day to be nice and helpful to a stranger, but I was wrong. In response to reading and tearing up my story of just under 10,000 words, he wants me to edit his entire novel of 200,000 words, and also hinted that if I have time, he wouldn’t mind me editing his 135,000 word one either…

Two questions…

If my story is that bad, why would you let me anywhere near your writing and trust my editing skills?

Is 15 minutes of your time, purely reading and not editing a short story, a fair exchange for expecting me to edit 335,000 words for you?

I think in the future I will be sticking to my close circle of author friends.

The Mutation Chronicles

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Two months ago, three authors planned out a book series together online in a group chat. One of those authors was me. Today, the first three books in this series of short reads have been edited over and over again, and are finally up for pre-order!

Closer to the date of each release, I will publish the first chapter of that particular book. Until then, I will leave you with this picture of all three book covers and their release dates!

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Pre-order The Faceless People by Natalie Rix here.

Pre-order Contagion by Lozzi Counsell (me) here.

Pre-order Exiles by Alanah Andrews here.

(Aff links)

A special thanks for me in SOCIAL by L.J.P. McIntyre

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I’ve been proofreading/editing books for other authors a while now, including this book by Jimmy Mcintyre. I was so excited and overwhelmed that he added my name to the ‘a special thanks to’ section in his book. This is the first time an author has done this for me and I’m literally over the moon.

I thought this was a big deal for him to do, but he has since spoken out to other authors urging them to do the same. In his words it’s a little thing that costs the author nothing to do and is the least that can be done for someone who’s given you their time and help.

My Interview for A Flash of Words

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Here’s my interview for my story ‘The Consequences of Grief’ featured in the ‘A flash of words’ anthology

What was the inspiration for your story?
When I was studying creative writing at uni, a fellow author (can’t remember who unfortunately) came to give a talk. We practised an exercise where we shut our eyes and Imagined ourselves led down. Where are you led? What’s the weather like? Take notice of your surroundings. I imagined myself in a dark field at night.

After taking notice of your surroundings (eyes still shut), turn your head to the left, there is a shadow approaching. Wait for it to get closer. What or whom is it? When they reach you, what do they want? I imagined my cat who had died years back approaching me.

From this I came up with an idea about going to a field to visit my dead cat every night because I couldn’t let her go. The cat soon became a child and ended up as the basis behind my story.

Was there a time when writing where you had to sit back stunned at what just happened? If so, what was it?
The ending. It wasn’t what I was originally going to go with, but I thought it would give the most emotional impact.

What do you think is the key to writing a compelling flash story?
For me it would be not too many characters. I sometimes get a bit lost when someone has a lot of characters, but especially in flash fiction there’s just not enough time to learn who each and every character is if there’s too many of them.

Apart from writing, what do you do for fun?
I’m very crafty and am always making things. Painting is an especially big hobby of mine — mostly watercolour animals.

Can you relate to any of the characters in your flash fiction story?
Yes, I really relate to the MC. I am not a parent myself, but I still know what it’s like to grieve.

If you were on death row, what would you want your last meal to be?
Easy. A chicken chaat from my local Indian restaurant as a starter. Afterwards, an Oreo crunch waffle from Kaspa’s and also Kinder Bueno cookie dough. For drinks, a Coke Zero, Oreo milkshake and Snickers milkshake.

Pick up a copy of “A Flash of Words” in paperback or eBook at any book retailer worldwide, including Amazon! (aff link)

Official Author

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I am so excited to announce that my story The Consequences of Grief is now out for sale on Amazon as a Kindle book, (featured in the anthology A Flash of Words). Paperback copies are also going to be available soon — I’m patiently waiting for those!

But not only is the fact I’m finally published an achievement in my writing career, it also FINALLY means that I’m a Goodreads author!

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And not only that, I am officially an Amazon author too!
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Here is a sneak preview of my story The Consequences of Grief from the anthology A Flash Of Words:

‘The wind is cold against my body, as I reach into my pocket and twiddle the small pill between my fingers. The stars are twinkling up above, although their brightness is only dim. It doesn’t matter though because I know my way to this part of the field, whether I am led by sunlight or moonlight.

I lie down, flattening the grass beneath me — there are daisies, buttercups and even tulips here.

I slide the pill out of my pocket and hold it in my wrinkly palm. Doctors call it the Final Goodbye Pill. Known as the biggest breakthrough in science for many years, it allows grieving individuals the chance to say goodbye after a loss, by bringing back the spirit of their loved one for a short time. But as everyone knows, all pills have side effects.’

If you would like to read the rest, then purchase the anthology here where my story sits alongside those from 48 other wonderful authors. (aff link.)

Cover Reveal for A Flash Of Words

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Yes, I know I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit and to be honest I’ve been neglecting writing too, but I have been editing A LOT of novels for other people lately.

You may remember me saying that I have been accepted for publication in the anthology ‘A Flash Of Words’. Well, it’s hopefully coming out NEXT MONTH and I have also received an image of the cover that’s going to be used. Unfortunately my name didn’t make it onto the front, but I guess my story being inside is what matters most!

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Stop calling me lazy!!!

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So I guess as anyone would realise a massive part of taking a writing based university course is a heck of a lot of reading. Sat in bed this morning with a story I have to read up on my laptop and my mum comes into my room shouting about how I’m lazy and disgusting and spend all day lounging around. Shouting about how I’m just sat watching TV shows… Well I’m definitely reading a book and not listening to an audio book so there is no sound at all and I definitely watch TV shows with the volume ON. 

I told her, no, I’m reading for university and next I get a massive rant about how she bets I have the perfect life just sat on my ass all day, yet since I’ve been born I have never once seen a book in her hand and she always tells me she doesn’t enjoy reading, so how she thinks it’s the ‘perfect life’ I have no idea. 

I tell her maybe she should try it sometime if she thinks sitting down and reading set books for hours on end is any kind of fun at all. Thought that would shut her up but instead she tells me that I should quit university and get a ‘real job’ and stop complaining. Well, I wasn’t complaining until she came into my room and made it perfectly clear she had a problem!

I have now stopped doing any form of reading and tidied my whole room. I bet she still won’t be happy though. Next she will have a go at me for not focusing on my university course!