Gradually Then Suddenly, now free to read on Tablo and Wattpad

I’ve added another of my short stories to Tablo and Wattpad.

Gradually, Then Suddenly

After the death of her beloved grandmother, Ella Riley inherits her home and her belongings, including  a ring with a mysterious inscription. As Ella solves her grandmother’s final riddle, she discovers a tale of fear, escape and new beginnings.

“This time though, I saw a countdown to freedom and finally I had my own secret, my own beautiful, untouchable truth.”

A story of a life forged in friendship and bravery, short enough to read in your tea break.

You can read it for free on Tablo and Wattpad.

Garden progress and feathered friends

It’s been a while since I’ve done a garden update so it felt like time.

Our back garden is still very much a work in progress as a lot of the heavier work is on hold until my husband is 100% healed from surgery. We now have  a gate, thanks to a local coffee wholesaler who was giving away pallets and a lovely person on Gumtree who was giving away wood from an old fence on her property that had blown down. We even have enough of the fence wood left to make a start to the raised flower beds soon, once we get the stakes we need to anchor everything to.

The main reason we’re using reclaimed materials where possible is cost, but it’s also really nice to turn something that would otherwise be thrown away into something beautiful and useful. The downside is having to keep checking Gumtree for relevant adverts and then having to be able to go and pick things up in our tiny car with very little notice, but it’s only a minor inconvenience and it’s making us very resourceful.

The only thing we aren’t making from reclaimed materials is the shed that should be arriving over the next couple of weeks.  It was supposed to be here last week but there was a delay with the supplier. We will have to assemble the shed when it gets here (thankfully it’ll arrive pre-dipped so the wood doesn’t need treated until next year) but we’ve already got the base prepared so the 5x3ft space in the corner is ready and waiting.

It’s all part of the adventure though and the birds don’t care that the garden is only half finished.

This is Boss Pigeon, the supervisor. She (I think she’s a she anyway) hangs out under the bird feeder to grab any seeds that the smaller birds drop. We keep a small bowl of water on the patio so the cat can have a drink when she’s outside and Boss Pigeon seems to have some sort of authority when it comes to letting other birds get at the water when the cat isn’t about (not that our ancient cat has any interest in chasing birds). I watched a delightful stand-off between Boss Pigeon and a brazen magpie the other day. The magpie was eventually permitted to access the water, but only for a minute.

This little cutie is one of many. I’m not sure what kind of bird it is, but there’s a group of them that visit the feeder regularly throughout the day and have dirt-baths in the soil we’ve got piled up for the flower beds. They’re a bit more nervous about people than Boss Pigeon so it hasn’t been easy getting clear photos of them as they tend to scarper as soon as there’s movement anywhere near the back door. We were blessed with a really sunny day earlier in the week so I lay outside on an airbed soaking up some sun and the tiny birds tolerated my presence enough to visit the feeder even though I was only a few feet away, as long as I stayed still.

My head is a bit all over the place at the moment after the sad news of a friend’s recent death, so part of coping with that has involved reminding myself as much as possible of all the good things in the world. I had planned to have already made headway into Patreon research, outlining Car Thieves for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and finalising Stone Flowers Grow In Cold Places so I can set it aside until I’m ready to publish, but I haven’t been in a place to do anything that complex.

I treated myself to a new notebook and pens because I’ve been really missing bullet journaling as a creative outlet since using a diary-style planner, so I’m going to spend the rest of the evening setting that up and ease back into work next week.

I hope your weekend is going well. If you’re spending time with loved ones, give them an extra tight hug ❤

Revised publishing plans: Free books and Patreon!

I’M A FLUFFY BUNNY! Blame Instgram for this. If you provide a bunny ears and whiskers filter, I’m going to put it on my face. Also, enjoy the eyeliner smudges under my eyes because I am pure glamour, always.

Anyway, so the point of this post. I’ve been thinking a lot (I mean A LOT, in capital letters) recently about indie publishing and how I want to approach it. Last month I wrote here about my publishing plans as they were (part 1 and part 2) but since then I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, that there was something missing, something I still had to figure out. It was really bothering me. It felt like a stone in my gut and it wouldn’t shift.

A lot of the research I’ve done into indie publishing involves pricing strategy, when to make books free or discount them, what channels are best to sell through, what commission is taken by different platforms and how to shift units. Believe me, I understand how important marketing is but it hurts me in my soul to have to focus so much on sell, sell, sell. The tools people use to sell – social media platforms – are tools I use to connect with people, genuinely, honestly and openly. I don’t want to view every awesome person I meet as a potential book sale. I don’t want my friends, old or new, to feel like they’re being marketed to.

It was a friend’s birthday last weekend and a bunch of us were having an adult slumber party (like a slumber party for adults, not like “adult”), so I decided to give my brain a couple of days off, enjoy the company of lovely people and let inspiration arrive by itself.

And by the power of mead and pizza, it arrived. When I got out of the planning mindset and allowed myself to think about what I really craved for my writing, I realised that I wanted to a) make my books freely available to anyone who wants to read them, and b) not have to push buy my thing constantly. Basically, if I won the lottery tomorrow and had no need for income from any other source, I’d still write constantly and publish my own work in as many places as I could. I don’t write to sell. I don’t write for critical acclaim or prestige. I write because I love writing, I love sharing and I love reading. If I gave a shit about any of that other stuff, I’d be busting my balls to get a deal with a big publishing company, not working towards indie publishing.

So I ventured into the realm of what if?, which is a great place to visit when you’re not sure what to do next. What if I could just give my books away for free on multiple platforms? What if I could still earn an income from writing? What if I could do all this in a way that fit with my personal ethics and values, with my heart and soul as well as my brain? The realm of what if? delivered, as it tends to do when you approach it with an open mind.

If my books are free, always, everywhere, for anyone to read, I can still have options for people who have the inclination and financial means to support my work. Patreon, which I’ve mentioned here before, gives supporters the option to pledge an amount per month (I’d rather welcome per month pledges rather than per thing pledges for reasons I’ll get into in another post), even a very small amount, and in return I can give them awesome stuff. I haven’t completely decided on what awesome stuff this will be, but I’m thinking of access to character profiles, location references, drafts, news and even possibly an invitation to get involved in helping me make decisions about stories I’m writing. If I also use PayPal, people who read one of my books, like it and it want to do the equivalent of buying that book, can have the option to pay an amount of their choosing as a one-off payment. Or make multiple one-off payments as and when they want to. Flexibility is what I’m going for.

I know this is new. I know this is experimental. I know this relies on people actually wanting to support my work in this way rather than just straight-up purchasing books. I know it’s going to be hard work and even if I put everything into it, it might not work out. But it might. I’m under no illusion that I’m going to make huge amounts of money, or make money quickly. I know it’s likely to be a slow build. But “it’s going to be difficult” has never been a reason not to do something. It’s a reason to do it harder.

I believe in people. I truly believe that while some people will grab what they can get for free and not care about supporting creators, there will always be people who will want to pay for the things they enjoy. I know that there will always be people who want to pay but can’t afford to, and I still want those people to be able to read my stories. I ran my idea past friends, both internet-friends and meatspace-friends, on a couple of different social media platforms and have had really encouraging feedback, which has been wonderful! I’m ready to do this 100% and see what happens.

I need to get stuck into learning all about Patreon and figuring out what rewards are desirable for ongoing pledges. I need to work out how long all this will take to get set up properly, because I don’t want to do it half-assed just to do it soon. I need to get Stone Flowers Grow In Cold Places completely finished and ready to publish. I need to start working on Car Thieves, which is going to be my July 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo project (just casually announcing that here). I need to keep publishing short stories on Wattpad and Tablo in the meantime.

When I think about it being less than half a year since I decided to get serious about writing, it totally blows me away. In that time, I’ve had work published in lit mags and a book. I’ve written a novella and am planning a second. I’ve started using two new platforms (Wattpad and Tablo) for sharing my work and on one of them (Tablo) everything I’ve published has appeared in the Trending section within hours. I’ve fallen in love with social media again and am genuinely enjoying spending time on Twitter, Ello and Tumblr. I’m blogging here more often. I’m talking to new people and making new friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m working my ass off, but I’m doing it for me, for my dream, and no matter what happens next, every second of this experience is an adventure and I’m so grateful for it.

You might have noticed I referred to indie publishing rather than self publishing. I decided I like the term better. Something about the concept of independence just strikes a chord with me and makes me feel good 🙂

Dreams of Seven Houses, now on Tablo and Wattpad

I’m getting ready to publish the novella I wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo back in April and possibly/probably participate in the next Camp NaNo in July to write the first draft of another novel(la). I’m doing a lot of thinking about how long things will take, how much I still need to figure out and learn, and when best to take the publishing plunge (I’m thinking August, but don’t quote me on that just yet) so I’ll be talking more about that here once I have a firm timeframe sorted.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying adding more of my shorter works to Tablo and Wattpad while I get more familiar with those sites and get to know other writers and readers there.

Dreams of Seven Houses is a record of nocturnal meanderings and places my mind visited while my body slept. You can read it for free now on Tablo and Wattpad. Enjoy!

Witch: My very unshadowy book of shadows

Before I get started here, I want to define a few terms (as I use them) in language that should hopefully make sense to non-witchy people or people who are new to witching.

Witch
Person (of any gender) who does witchcraft (not specifically wiccan!)

Eclectic witch
Witch who draws from a variety of spiritual paths and traditions

Deities/Gods
Personified/archetypal representations of aspects of the human condition, nature and cultural experience

Ritual
Set of words and actions used to focus intent and desire

Spell
Set of ingredients and tools used to focus intent and desire

Magic
The art, ceremony and practice of focusing intent to achieve desired results

OK, now that’s out of the way and you hopefully get where I’m coming from, let’s move onto the book of shadows stuff!

What is a book of shadows?

If you’ve read any witchy things on the internet, chances are you’ve run into the term book of shadows, book of mirrors or grimoire. Depending on what you read or who you ask, these can be different things or different words for the same thing. Because witchcraft is such an individual path, there is no one correct definition of a book of shadows/mirrors/whatevers. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use book of shadows, but in doing so I’m referring to all the things I just talked about.

A witch’s book is (usually, generally) a place to gather reference material relevant to their practice as well as to record spells and workings they do. Some witches prefer to use a heavy, leather-bound book filled with beautiful calligraphy for this purpose. I use a pink Filofax Clipbook filled with scribblings in pink and black ink, and also Microsoft OneNote synced between my laptop and phone because I like to have a portable version of my book with me at all times.

Witches who follow a Wiccan path and/or work as part of a coven may have a very different book of shadows from a solitary eclectic witch. The point is, there is no right and wrong. It’s all down to the preferences of the individual and what works for each person.

What’s in my book of shadows?

I’m going to refer mostly to my physical book here, but my digital version is pretty much exactly the same. The picture at the top of this post is the first page of my book.

My book contains ritual words and processes, including specific spells and ritual workings with notes about when I carried out them out and how I felt during and after. I also have an ever-growing collection of research and reference material about everything from deities (Hel and Thor are my patrons) to festivals to tarot to runes to colour, nature and conceptual symbolism and correspondences. I also keep records of tarot readings I do for myself as well as dedications and prayers I’ve written.

My book is a living document, a place of study and growth. Things get added constantly and shuffled as suits me, which is why using a ring binder rather than a regular notebook works best for me. I’ve been there with the ever-so-serious only-write-perfect-things-here books and I ended up not really using them because I didn’t want to mess them up or do anything wrong. For me, a process of life-long learning is all about messing up and doing things wrong. That’s how learning happens. Rough drafts, scribbles and ideas are just as important as beautiful, finished pieces of art.

What should you put in your book of shadows?

The short answer is anything you want. If you’re starting your own book, I would encourage you to make it in such a way that you actually use it and aren’t scared of not writing neatly enough or revising information based on new experiences. Some witches are totally against keeping a digital book of shadows. Some feel it’s more powerful to hand-write everything. Others are happy to print pages from the internet. Some keep their book completely private and others share photos of their pages on Tumblr and Instagram. However you create and keep your book, it should be what works best and feels right for you.

If you’re staring at a blank page with literally no idea where to start, here are a few ideas:

  • Information about your chosen deities or pantheon
  • Prayers and dedications to your patron/matron/whatever-you-call-them deities
  • Research into herbs, plants, incense and oils that you use
  • Notes on seasonal festivals you celebrate
  • Principles and concepts relating to your spiritual practice
  • Spells you’ve worked and notes about your experiences
  • Correspondences for colours, days of the week, phases of the moon etc
  • Reference for divination processes you use, like tarot or runes
  • Quotes and song lyrics that speak to your beliefs and practices
  • Records of your dreams and meditations

The internet is an AMAZING starting point, especially YouTube and Tumblr, as are books that other people have written. Read the hell out of everything you can get your hands on but when it comes to filling the pages of your book, make it your own. Your experience of the divine will never be exactly the same as someone else’s. The plants you have access to will depend on where you live. Even the dates of seasonal festivals and sabbats will be different depending on your location – the wheel of the year in the Southern Hemisphere is the opposite way round from the Northern Hemisphere. Certain ritual processes will resonate with you more strongly than others. Where possible, use your own words as they will always hold more power for you.

This is my book of shadows. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

A note about my solitary, eclectic Pagan witchcraft, research and reference, and other cultures

My spiritual path is one of eclectic Paganism with mostly Celtic, Norse and, to a lesser degree, modern Wiccan influences. This has happened naturally over the twenty or so years I’ve been witching. I never set out to choose specific influences or deities but certain things have caught my attention and called to me. In a practical sense, this is probably because I’m a half-Irish half-English person currently living in Scotland with, to the best of my knowledge, mostly Celtic and Norse heritage, so those are the things that I’ve encountered as part of the culture I live in and that feel most relevant to me.

That’s not to say I don’t have any interest in influences from other cultures, because I do. I’ve always been intrigued by the similarities and differences between spiritual and religious beliefs and practices from all over the world and  have read widely about various topics from Native American spirituality to Buddhism to Christianity. I’ve definitely been influenced by this research, and I absolutely adore talking to people who follow spiritual paths that differ from mine, but there’s a big difference between “I’ve read about these practices and am influenced by them to an extent because aspects of them resonate with me” and “I’ve read about these practices so I am now that thing”.

That’s actually a really hard concept to wrap words around and I’m not sure that I’ve done a very good job of it. It’s such a broad subject and I really only feel comfortable speaking to my own experience and perspective. Also, I feel it’s important to remember that when a spiritual or religious practice is part of the culture of living people who currently exist, that should always be respected. To take it out of the context of religion for a moment, I eat Chinese food, I cook Chinese food, I go to Chinese restaurants but none of that makes me Chinese. You know?

I also lean towards chaos magic in my practice of witchcraft. For me (I am not defining chaos magic here – please do go and read about it though, cause it’s really interesting), that involves using the power of belief as the individual chooses to direct it with the intent of focusing personal desire and action. For example, I don’t believe that a bit of rock is inherently powerful or capable of making a thing happen. I do believe that using an object like a crystal (or literally any object) as a conscious focus for intent can increase the potential power of actions taken in relation to that intent. Even the least witchy of people can probably relate to wearing a ‘lucky’ pair of pants to a job interview, saying “Break a leg!” to an actor about to go on-stage or keeping a keepsake from a special holiday in a specific place on the mantelpiece.

It’s also worth mentioning that not all witches are Pagans. I know Buddhist witches, Christian witches and witches who believe in no deities at all. My husband shares my chaos magic leanings and we sometimes perform ritual work together, especially around season-based festivals, but he doesn’t refer to himself as a witch or have any religious beliefs. If I haven’t made it super clear already, witchery and magic are very individual things.

Finally…

This has been a long post! I really want to write more about Paganism and witchcraft because it’s a HUGE part of my life. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have, although I can only answer based on my own experience and perspective.

Bewitched

❤ Eclectic pagan witch

Tools of the craft, bits and pieces from my altar, and part of my collection of lovely ritual paraphernalia.

Prints are available here.

Cigarettes As A Metaphor For Heartbreak [now on Tablo and Wattpad]

A short story about lipstick, scars and moving on.

That was the true beginning of the tempest, the vortex, turbulent and wild. Ships shattering, thrown against rocks in the darkness of a storm and lifeboats swallowed whole by raging waves. A collapsing tower, a wheel with spokes on fire, a red sky at night. A warning. A warning I completely ignored. I closed my eyes and let go. I let myself fall.

Read for free on Tablo and Wattpad.