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Lately I feel this rotating bubble of energy inside. Filled with possibility. I want to say I can to everything instead of I can’t. I can’t implies weakness; my body maybe weak but my aspiration to become a successful author is strong. It’s ironic that at this point in time my balance, walking, neck pain, headache, fibromyaligia strikes so haphazardly that embarking on anything is a risk…but I don’t care. I’m taking my chances…and a cocktail of painkillers. I know the side effects of all my different tablets but I’m fifty two this year, ridiculously healthy other than my spine’s crumbling like Flake, so I need to embrace life now. God. Yes. Take the drugs. I need to live my best life now. Just typing these words evokes a thrill…a flicker of a future beyond my four walls.
Like last Saturday was Book Club. The consensus was, I should stay put the day before, the day of, the day after. I couldn’t. This restlessness that has a hold of me had me heading to the local tanning shop. For the first time in thirty years the buzz of bed three flashing on, heating my skin, warming my bones, browning the pale skin of my wasted muscles was medicinal. I can’t describe how peaceful and content I felt for five minutes. My son bought me a course and I’ve been three times now; skin cancer is the least of my worries. For a while I was in this vortex of negativity; the sunbed is a form of self care. Something I need a lot more of. I’m off to the House of Lords on Tuesday, to a reception for Myelopathy.org the charity supporting my condition. So that day I’m getting my nails done, it’s a luxury, but essential to my well being. It’s going to be a tough day travelling to Westminster, standing around, turning my head to talk to people, getting home but I need to be with others with my condition, I’ve not met anyone else like me todate. I’m excited to meet those that had the determination to create first the facebook group myelopathy.support then the charity. It goes without saying I hope there is champagne and canapies.
Book club was great fun. It’s very sociable; nibbles, dinner, alcohol, pudding, Jeffrey Archer. I love it. I’ve made new friends, there’s catching up with old buddies, everyone is so considerate of my condition, the book chit chat is topical and indepth. The charity https://myelopathy.org/ is supported by the group; I deposited £18 yesterday.
Once Random Attachment takes off a little more I’ll be putting a percentage toward Myelopathy.org. Once I cover the printing cost of paperbacks, paid Amazon their share, there is hardly anything to put toward promotions. I’m trying giveaways in return for a review should the person enjoy the book, Instragram promotions, Random Attachment merchandise for photos. Published authors tell you it’s near impossible to self promote, you need professionals and I agree but I’m not in that financial position. It’s fun though…coming up with mad ideas, arranging random items for a photo. I think at the beginning I exhausted myself, I’ve taken a step back. That’s why I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a while. I have to avoid dips in my energy level as negativity will creep in. Inside all of us is a pocket of self-doubt, helplessness, anxiety, anger…having a long term illness with chronic pain my pocket balloons with negative emotion if I’m tired or rundown so I must take a steady pace. So, sprawled on my soft, pink sofa I binged watched The Crown. It never appealed to me on TV but during Easter Kitty and I came upon it after procrastinating over Netflix and Now programmes. I’m so happy we did; it was addictive whilst being relaxing and a change from our American teen dramas.
Anyways the Sunday after Book Club I had a taste for more adventure. I can’t just go anywhere. The longer I’m on London transport the more my neck will jerk. The further I walk to a location the tireder my limbs will get. Together this leads to pain, immobility and my enjoying the event less. So we trained it to nearby Harrow, to an Italian coffee shop that’s more a cafe. It was highly rated on Trip Advisor and rightly so because the atmosphere was vibrant, the choice of food was varied from a full English to lasagna to cake. Kitty had a vegan breaky and I had the most delicious cheesecake. The average person probably doesn’t give a passing thought to going for coffee. That’s how different my life is…my flare ups are not fibromyaligia or myelopathy…these conditions are my norm, my everyday life…my flare ups reduce my symptoms: a burst of energy, remission of pain, a steadiness on my feet. Once, I too ran around the city from coffee shop to wine bar to brasserie. Popping off to Oxford Street, going to the theatre, clubbing in the West End. I count myself lucky I experienced that. I’m glad I was unaware of my congenital defects. That I’ve paraglided, abseiled, danced the eighties away, birthed four beautiful babies who make every day brighter for me.
My favourite book of 2019 so far is A Curse So Dark and Cruel, a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I knew it would be hard to follow and it was tough reading my book club book Kane and Abel. I read it in my teens and couldn’t get enough of Jeffrey Archer material until his court case. Back then, before social media, authors were as enigmatic as popstars, so it wasn’t often you heard their dirty laundry. Also I found him a bit pompos and up himself so rereading Kane and Abel, although it’s a simple rich man, poor man tale, was pants. However I did come across some jems recently: the endearing Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine who like Mia from RA has serious mother issues and two YA sure things by the fantastically named Rainbow Rowell: Fan Girland Eleanor and Park.
Music wise my song of the week is Lil Nas’s Old Town Road; both versions, his and the collaboration with Billy Rae Cyrus. Where do I get this bare chilled music from? Spotify and my son Tommy who is constantly dropping me links of new music. I don’t like all rap or all Emo, it’s got to have a distinctive voice and a killer corous.
Not only have I not blogged in ages I haven’t vlogged so I’m hitting it hard today.
Realistically I know I’m not going to be an overnight writing sensation but I don’t need a miracle I need for readers who like RA, to star it on Amazon, mention it on Instagram and copy by copy my identity as a writer will be validated. So if you love YA and you’re considering your next purchase take a chance on Random Attachment. It’s a simple romantic thriller, nothing highbrow, nothing fantastical or magical but I’m proud of it. I think it holds its own among other YA thrillers. It would be lovely if you subscribed to my channel or followed me on instagram…slowly I’m building up my numbers. Even if you don’t do any of this thank you for reading my post.
Recently I joined Instagram and my first thought was how perfect the images are…and those in them. If you check me out you’ll see a handful of snaps. I am a tidy, colour coordinated person so I should fit in here. And wanting to be followed and liked as much as the next person I spent an allowance of energy, I can’t really spare, on colour schemes, interesting juxtaposition and avoiding images of myself; a very ordinary, middle-aged woman, with unruly hair and a penchant for everything pink and flowery. But I realised I couldn’t compete, other book bloggers had images down to perfection and honestly I’m a mess. I’ve the spine of a centenarian; it’s weak and crumbling and my spinal cord is damaged and I can barely dress myself. So although this image above is an arrangement it’s more reflective of the person I am which is a struggling author, used to her own company, mad enough to read extracts of her book to her mutts.
I write two blogs one as an author and one as a sufferer of Myelopathy called My Hell Opathy. I haven’t a great deal to offer in terms of exciting places, holidays, clothes, restaurants so I strive for honesty…which doesn’t always look attractive. I want to be the kind of writer who looks for hidden gems: a good heart, fairness, grace, pure unprejudice. I am a total believer of, no matter what bad things you’ve done in your life you can change, maybe you can’t take it back, you should be punished, you may never be forgiven, but a new life is possible.
How we look matters; there is no escaping that fact. It seems to matter more when we’re young. We have this negative image of ourselves in our head which is out of proportion; our pessimism photoshops it, so we hate ourselves. Then we fall in love, and it’s like our dark bloom has flowered into something extraordinary until we are dumped. We are like Pandora’s Box with each crack that appears escapes: doubt, hate, anger and we do the most damaging things to ourselves and others because pain is sometimes unbearable.
Random Attachment is Mia’s story…but she shares it with a trillion young people. I don’t say girls or women because boys and men equally feel the same hurt; their self-worth, love, desire, hope is no less fragile. How do I know this? Well I’ve a husband and two sons and if that’s not confirmation enough there’s Lil Peep, XXXtentacion, Juice WRLD. These artists are part of the soundtrack to Mia’s self-hate, despondency, loneliness and heartbreak. I still listen to them now, whilst editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle because they are as relevant to Phoenix Whittle as they are Mia. I scribble words, names of artists, doodles, my appointment for waxing. And I was about to change my sheet for a fresh one when I thought: this is life; imperfect, full of half-finished ideas, riddled with emotion. Then I checked my Insta. Why am I doing this to myself again? Trying to fit in, to be liked, to wondering why my post has 200 likes but nobody wants to see my profile. What effect does this have on a teenager. Especially one who feels overlooked, worthless, crap at school, never invited anywhere, struggling with their sexuality, their identity. Jesus, it’s terrifying, I can feel my heartbeat increase just by typing these words. So I’m rebelling, my house isn’t perfect, it smells of dogs and the kitchen light’s been out of action for three months. I’ve got the worst cellulite in history. I’m so tired all the time. Everyday I think about giving writing up. Everyday I want to curl up and sleep forever.
My emotion isn’t the raw, gut wrenching bleakness a teen feels but I’m not fooled by how damaging it can be. Music gives a relevant, bittersweet insight to the teen psyche. At 51, writing YA, this resource is probably as close as I’ll get to young adult thinking unless I become a councilor. I’m not pretending to know half of what’s being expressed. It’s almost a foreign language to someone like me who only swears when the banoffee tarts run out. But the emotion is there; this dark energy that I claim as once my own. There’s a brutality to emo rap that’s beautiful; a vocabulary that at first seems vulgar, violent, sexually explicit. But if you forget who you are, and listen, you start to understand who they are.
Mia is a dreamer…which sounds exciting and ambitious. If I had to colour dreams, they’d be soft hues of yellow, sky blues, light green…but what if your dreams twist like you’re wringing out a grey, stained dish cloth. What if they gnaw away at you? What if you desire something so badly is hurts? What if you think of a cold, damp, earthiness, six feet under? Mia’s desperate to escape, to be loved, to be lovable. But where’s the emotion in that? Where’s the taste of hurt so bitter even when you spit it out it lingers. Where’s the fucking loneliness. Why the fuck does Mia care about her mother. She’s a fucking bitch! Now there’s the hurt, the loneliness, the hate. So I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are born from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed Mia’s way; from how her mother picks her up and puts her down.
Beamer Boy is Mia; she feels like a nobody, like she’s a buffer for her mum, a gofer. So she dreams about boyfriends, being slim again, dancing, having friends…killing her mum…and she is a girl who doesn’t need a boy…but she desires Flynn; there’s a difference. So it’s my song of the week.
Lil Peep and many emo rappers are well tattooed up. Not the popular, well placed, top ten tats but totally random words and art work in visual places. Their stories written on their skin; their songs emotionally and intimately revealing. It’s hard to think this talent, this young man is dead.
We start judging so young. In the playground abusing one another. Hurting each other when there’s sandpits to play in and who doesn’t love paint?
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times; it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s not just names its: texts, snapchats, facebook, instagrams, twitter; each mistake, each misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion is crushing.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. Hearts aren’t bullet proof and minds do dwell on every word spoken, every wardrobe choice, the phone calls that never came. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That’s advice for someone who’s lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low; imagining a darkness where all your pain disappears, you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia thinks – what’s the point? She doesn’t care about herself or school. She’s sixteen and a crutch for her mother. She barely exists…until she sees Flynn. It’s not a case of a knight in shining armour; that’s romantic but outdated. Flynn’s the spark, the catalyst, not the hero…why should he be under that pressure? Mia has to find what she needs from within.
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep. Some writers, JK Rowling for instance, have an imagination that is boundless. Not me. My imagination is very much on earth, living in a head that can’t imagine past the high street. As a middle-aged women, my emotions’ sharp edges have become blunt from experience. I rarely cry, I find it hard to comfort others, I don’t care what people think of me. Yet when I write, I feel everything as fiercely as I did in my teens…but me, the woman recognises negative emotion as a trap. It’s like a vampire; you’re drawn in by it because you feel so shit about everything. It comforts you with this cloak of darkness that numbs you to the point you feel a sweet sense of peace that you want to hold onto…forever. So unlike the brilliant Thirteen Reasons Why my YA characters will never do the unthinkable…they might want to…they might be on the brink of…but I can’t let that happen because of the insight age brings. I know this:
no matter how much you hurt pain dulls with time even when you don’t want it to
around the corner is possibility: friends, lovers, achievements, adventures
Life is hope and Death is hopeless.
One of my favourite films, WRISTCUTTERS, is the journey of three people who commit suicide and end up in a limbo for suiciders. It’s here they learn to value life and go on this mad adventure to get back to the living world.
I know from experience that when you’ve really hit bottom you don’t want to go back to living.
To put it like emo rappers we are all fucked up inside. Sometimes it’s our parents that fuck us up, sometimes it’s friends, boyfriends, complete strangers, events, abuse. Some of us will never fit in. What’s the saddest thing is some of us won’t make it. We’ll never know if love, friendship, acceptance, happiness was only around the corner. For Mia it had to be. For me? I’m not spending four hours putting my books in piles according to colour; my energies need to go on writing and not feeling sorry for myself.
I want to live till I’m a hundred, writing books and loving my family. I know some days I’ll forget this…but I’ll listen to Lil Peep and XXXtentacion and I’ll know we all feel like we are walking a tightrope between the living and the dead.
If I was in a room full of teenagers I’d give this advice. People will always judge you, let you down, hurt you, but that’s the life they are living, one of ignorance, bitterness, dissatisfaction, jealousy, competition. You need to LIVE YOUR LIFE; don’t let someone or something cut it short. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS tell someone how you feel, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be scared of hurting them, don’t think you’ll look like a dick or weak, don’t think people will blame you or that somehow you deserve it, or it’s your fault.
When I felt threatened, coz that’s how you feel when parents dump all their shit on you, I hadn’t anyone to talk to and I worried my mum would find a diary and use it against me and I genuinely loved her and didn’t want my words to hurt her so I wrote letter after letter to John Taylor (Duran Duran). My friend had seen him going into a house in South Kensington so I had the address (we think). It didn’t solve my problems but it lightened my heart. I hope you all find a way to lighten your hearts and LIVE!
My Channel: Ramblings of a Mad Woman…actually Gertrude T Kitty.
I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are bourne from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed your way, from how people pick you up and put you down.
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times and it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s just so much worse insults, slurs are
Every mistake, misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion crushes.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. I don’t think there is a recipe for healthy self esteem, for shielding yourself against bullying, for thinking positively. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That advice is for someone whose lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia sometimes thinks – what’s the point? Her trouble is her mum’s isolated her, relied on
Teens live now
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep.
Reading can either be a learnt behaviour or an emotional journey. Don’t read one word after another. Instead infuse yourself between the cover with a girl that’ll have you hungrily breathing in the pages
Today is my daughter’s birthday. She’s in Brugge with her boyfriend. My other daughter’s at uni, first year. My novels and blogs are mechanisms that keep them in my heart.
I was horribly unwell when I first started writing. What little energy I had I spent chatting to my four children. Kitty and I would get so excited about the weekly episode of #vampirediaries. We’d try to find films with a baddie that when faced with a dilemma would do the right thing like Damon. There are two films that were flops, but I loved them, purely because the male protagonist is beautifully, sexily evil; The Guest and No One Lives. Kitty and I would come up with scenarios for boys/girls of this ilk. This led us to a scenario where an assassin steals an identity and comes into contact with a damaged teen girl. This premise got forgotten for a while, mainly because I was so unwell. After my second operation, feeling regenerated our concept reignited and my other daughter Gerty came up with a title ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.”
The following morning I wrote all day. Then the next and the next and so on. It was addictive. I was quite weak and housebound so the characters became totally real to me. I loved them. The girls critiqued, proof read, laughed at me a lot! I updated. We came up with a pen name Gertrude T Kitty (my girls’ nicknames and T because it sounded good). Then off went the first three chapters to literary agents. I struggled with that. I’m too old and too unwell to be anyone but myself or to sell myself. Luckily there was a lot of interest in the premise and requests for the full manuscript. I had lots of ‘we liked it but didn’t love it’ or it’s not one for us but that’s subjective’. I also had two offers of representation and an American publishing house that were considering it. I went with an agent I immediately felt comfortable with. Sadly it did not work out. But I learnt so much, from her and from the response of editors at publishing houses. I took a break then decided to go it alone. No having to compromise.
Readers for me are incredibly important. An unread book means I’m not an author. Yes I had the joy of writing it and sharing it with my daughters but it’s about identity. I’ve a degenerative spine condition; there is so much I can’t do but I can write. I can Twitter. I can blog/vlog and endeavour to connect my book with readers. Readers are magic because they sprinkle fairly dust and they’re with your characters; turning each page, making them real.
My book is an invitation to connect with new people, of all ages, all around the world. I won’t feel awkward or have nothing to say because we’ll have Random Attachment in common. Yes, lots of folk will tell me how wrong I’ve got it, but honestly it won’t upset me. I’m a newbie, a wildcard; I am going to make mistakes. I’m a different generation to my readership so I’ll be out of touch; sometimes say the wrong thing. I’m actually my teenage self again, trying to find a place to fit in, unsure of myself, a bit fragile at times.
My female protagonists are not perfect. Nobody is. We are all flawed and talented in some way but that’s what makes us special and unique. I want girls to read my books then look in the mirror and know they are beautiful. There’s always those that will make you feel less than you are. You might be unable to cut them from your life because you live with them. I think that’s why teen years can be the hardest because you’re trapped; at home or at school. I imagine that’s how a lot of battered wives feel. Unless you’re wealthy you can’t just walk away from a marriage.
My male protagonists will never follow a stereotype. I’ve never met the perfect, 6ft, chiseled cheekboned, 6 packed man. My husband is small and roundish; during our marriage he’s been a villain and a hero.
Today I woke up fresh and I showered. That alone caused me to crumble. I’ve had to lay still til Tramadol kicked in. I’m moving poorly, my body is sluggish and unresponsive. I’m weeing every 15 minutes. What’s lovely though is I have purpose. I’m eager to check things out on Twitter. Then Amazon to see if I’ve any further reviews (only have 4). I check KDP to see if I’ve sold a book. Then I read some blogs.
Having any illness can be lonely, even when you’re surrounded by those you love. Especially neurological diseases and mental illness because the unseen disabilities often have the least support. I yearn to be an author because I need to live a fulfilling life; it’s self help for someone who spends long periods at home. Life doesn’t stop for others when you’re disabled; friends work and socialise, your kids move out and rightly have lives of their own; so it’s up to me to make things work.
So when you read my book not only are you bringing my characters to life, you’re bringing me to life. Thank you for that. X