One day I had to set aside my heart project. The one that made me become a writer. I was sad but I was finally free to do something wild. Daring. Like I hadn’t ever let myself do before. From the dusty book tomes of my mother’s romantic suspense, and my own obsession with the darkness within death, Behind the Veil came to me as a single scene. It splurged out of me as though it was always there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for its chance.
When I handed it over to my good friend Hart, in a moment of doubt, I wondered if I even had something. Something worth writing about and maybe for more than myself.
Encouraged by her words, it was as though the story had permission to be written, that it needed to come out and did so in a matter of twenty five days. When I was done, I had no idea what to do with it, until friends who’d read it said I should pitch it. And a publisher liked that tweet. A few flurried months later Sharon at Literary Wanderlust wanted it, and I wanted to give it to her.
After several grueling years of covid and other disasters, I’m so pleased to announce that it is now here and available for preorder!
You can find it on Amazon and if you need it now it’s available on Netgalley for review. Not enough? Hang out and sign up to my news letter for secret info on how you can win eARCs and in the coming months paper copies and special surprises!
I hope you fall in love with this dark and gothic world, of grief and sacrifice, those left behind, and those who aren’t meant to walk this earth. Of gentle manners and hard hearts. Of the brashness of bravado and the quietness of courage. I hope you love Letitia and Alasdair as much as I do.
I’ve loved the story of Peter and Wendy since I was a little girl, and it took this story with its unique perspective to remember how much I truly hated the original.
How the boys went to war, and Wendy was relegated to tying false bandages on false wounds, making dinners made of nothing, and being a mother to boys who never want to grow up.
As though a girl can never really be a girl.
But Wendy is no ordinary girl now. She’s a woman. She went home after Neverland and was never the same – and it’s Peter’s fault.
From the heart thundering start when Wendy senses Peter’s return, to the awful moment he mistake’s Wendy’s daughter Jane for Wendy herself, this book’s genteel horror caught me in a net. Ensnaring, playful, threaded with half truths and lies, it’s a cleverly woven telling of what came after when Wendy grew up.
This book explores the tale from Wendy’s perspective, alternating between her quest to retrieve her daughter, and the awfulness of her return from Neverland. That no one believed her, until her brother had no choice but to have her committed.
We then see the island of Neverland not quite like it was before with Jane, and her adventures with Peter and the Lost Boys. Except the boys are truly lost, Jane doesn’t remember her own name, and Peter is ever there, ready for another game that makes no sense and the rules always change.
Between the two, glimpses of dread start to emerge, a far starker and grim fate for those who once populated the island, but there are other horrors to come. Neverland has a secret, a darkness at it’s heart and Wendy must face it to save Jane.
Wise’s prose is phenomenal – it drags you into a visceral world you can feel, emerges you in sensations with aching moments of almost prose like writing that’s simply put, gorgeous. I fell into these moments, forgot where I was or what I was doing, and in that I think is possibly my only criticism. Sometimes I’d forgotten where in the story we were up to when we returned, or that the memory or moment had a purpose. Dropped back into the story, it wasn’t disjointed so much as disorientating, and that may have been the intent.
For much of the story we spend with Wendy in the asylum where no one believes her, to Jane who’s so influenced by Peter she forgets her own name, struggles to remember that she’s not really Wendy, it’s a delicate mental balance beautifully written. The pair and their view of one another, and what it means to be a mother, what it means to be a woman in a place and time where they are little more than objects, was so well told it hurt.
I’ll never see Peter in quite the same light again, and I feel all the more powerful for it thanks to this book.
There are varying times in my author career I’ve inevitably known I’ve failed. Whatever was being asked for, whatever they wanted, I couldn’t give.
This… wasn’t one of those times. This was the opposite.
In a conversation about other matters, I vented my frustration.
About doors being closed in my face in the publishing industry. I can’t count the people who have done this to me, those who made me feel excluded, small, not enough.
And it hurts, as though I’ve done something wrong. As though being myself wasn’t enough.
Expressing this to Susan, the powerhouse behind Literary Wanderlust, I said to her “I want to be better, I want to do more. And I’m willing to work for it.”
When she suggested I be a developmental editor with Literary a switch clicked inside. This was the next step. This was the next learning phase. This was what I needed to do.
I’m a prolific beta reader and my author page says so from reviews. I know I give good feedback, but the idea of being able work with writers to reach publishing dreams was so far beyond the scope of anything I thought I’d be able to do before… for a moment I was uncertain.
Could I do that? Look at queries, find one I wanted to make shine and dedicate myself to it?
I’ve worked with so many authors on their scripts. I’d more than once heard that I’d nailed the undefinable wrongness with a script that the author couldn’t see themselves. But the idea of working on a project that would be published drove me even harder. I want to work with someone who has a great story. Something they were passionate about. I’ve worked with so many authors in the past but this would be different.
And I’d need to be different for them.
I signed up to dev editor courses that day. I have books coming in the mail. But most of all I have a background working with writers who have said to me; Oh! I didn’t even SEE that bit! Thank you!
Because I believe that every story I ever see has bits the author doesn’t see, myself included. And that means finding faults, eradicating plot holes, but it also means finding great stories.
And sometimes it isn’t a great story to start off with. But that’s what editors are for.
You can now submit stories to me at Literary Wanderlust’s submission page, and I’m very proud, and honored, that Susan is going to teach me. Because this writing journey isn’t just about me. It’s about every writer I’ve met and encouraged on the way.
That every story needs a champion. Sometimes it’s not the one within the story.
I look forward to seeing yours.
I woke up this morning at 6am, got out of bed, and hit the desk with a furor and if you think this is how I normally operate you’d be dead wrong.
I’m an out of bed by about 8:30, maybe 9am on a Saturday, because it’s the morning I get to sleep in with the dog. Right now, he’s sulking in the cat’s bed. Staring at me. I broke the routine. Bad dog mum.
What’s got me here?
The opposite of my last few weeks.
I hit what I like to refer to as dead zones.
My drive to write, create, encourage was there, under the surface an intent I wanted. But most evenings when I normally focus on these things, I wasn’t doing it.
Was it because my day job was going through a huge and important upskill? Or that I was coping with getting serious feedback on my first neurodiverse book? Even preparing to start querying that book next week?
Maybe it was all of it, but my brain just said ‘no’ every time I wanted to get behind the keyboard and do some serious work. To sit and hyper focus, to just let the words come, beta read projects, polish short stories, fix big ones.
It took me a little while this morning that while my intent to do all these things was still there, and I wanted too, I’d taken a mental vacation from “work” because that’s exactly what it was, work.
I have a choice about what I do, how hard I drive myself, but that includes what I do with my spare time, and when ninety percent of it is writing in one form or another, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for mental break.
What triggered it?
I’d read a tweet about a guy who worked so hard his brain broke.
A wriggling fear and source of procrastination crept up on me. I’d written the other week about people who quit writing, and underneath it was a horrible dread that one day I’d be that person too. That either my brain would snap from all the demands, or one day, one little defeat would be one too many, and I’d just… stop.
I recently finished an almost yearlong demand list of scheduled work that needed doing, just a few weeks ago, so while had my own mental schedule, there were no editors or people I had specific dates to return projects to. There were no competitions or mentorship projects with deadlines. There was nothing but what I needed to do, when I thought I needed it done by.
My brain just very quietly disengaged. I spent a bit of time playing games, reading a few old books for fun and not for reviewing. I mentally distanced myself from my work.
Without thought of procrastination, or even being aware that was exactly what I was doing, I just took a mental step away from “work”.
So, this morning when I work up that drive returned. Nothing in particular triggered it except my subconscious thought that it was time to “get back to work.” That thought stilled me in my tracks, halfway across the kitchen, coffee cup in hand, ready to start work at six am on a Saturday morning.
It wasn’t just a declaration of being ready to work, but mentally ready to start the grueling process of querying again, but this time with a script that has whole sections of my soul. It was to embark on new challenges including a course on developmental editing.
There is a deep sense of urgency in writing, a perception it has to be all now and that we have to keep trying every single day to get our one script, or many, out a proverbial door. Like sending kids to school, handing in a work project, finishing a season of sport.
And if you don’t “do it” in time, you’re going to miss some form of lucky boat. That if you don’t do it now, the opportunity might escape. You’ll be left wondering if that big break could have been you if you’d just sent that email a single day earlier. That you wrote a book so similar to one that’s big and only if you’d thought and written it sooner.
Telling yourself this is the kind of pressure I wanted to escape. The idea that my chance was wholly dependent on working myself into a mental breakdown. And I’ve been doing this long enough to know, subconsciously or not, when I need to take a break, to step away mentally for a few weeks.
And it feels good. So, give yourself the space, if you’re pushing yourself and finding it hard, maybe you do need some down time. Putting a hold an email for a couple of weeks isn’t going to rob you of anything; its going to save you from an inevitable break. There are still those chances out there and I believe if they are meant for you then they’ll still be there when you’re ready to come back to it.
Because if this process can take years, decades, then you can afford to sit down, have a cup of tea, and reread the book you’ve read a million times, that isn’t perfect, but you still love it. I know I do. Even when it’s my own.
I’ve seen several long time twitter accounts deactivate over the last few months, and a friend I thought I’d got back has just vanished entirely. Another person I know blocked me on twitter because no one was taking their script. They wouldn’t try/couldn’t bring themselves to write another, and when I tried to console them and explain that this process takes time, they got very angry with me for no other reason than I said it can take years.
So, if you’ve been with me a little while, if you’re getting very tired let me point out a couple of things to you.
THE PANDEMIC IS NOT OVER
We’ve been battling this for over a year, we’re getting the vaccine, but the world has changed. And this isn’t just a habit change. A habit change takes twelve weeks to adjust to in your mind, and that’s something like not putting salt on your food, or not drinking soda, or exercising.
I don’t have to tell you its trying, you know, everyone you know knows. You’re over it.
But we wont ever be quite the same as we were before. Normal is a place we may never be able to revisit. I saw someone say they just wanted to have dinner with a friend.
It might not be possible, but in some countries, you can start doing these things. You can meet just one friend nearby for coffee. Maybe you can’t travel but when was the last time you did something touristy in your hometown? It might be years, it might be boring, but right now not only could those places use the business, but it’s a nice visit down memory lane to things you haven’t done in years, if at all.
The pandemic isn’t over, but neither is the world. Being fatigued by that doesn’t make you less of a writer, just exhausted by all this, and it’s more okay than you’re probably giving yourself credit for. The fact you’re still here is amazing.
Now that’s out of the way, lets talk about writing journeys.
When you do it a long time, it gets tiring. And we’re tired already.
It’s recently enamored me of what I’ve seen called a “positivity” pass. As a writer, I’m used to assessing constant critique of my work; from dev editors, to beta readers, to readers themselves. Taking it all and learning and growing from it is fine, and no you don’t want someone to tell you an imperfect script is perfect (it will never be perfect, there are always things that can improve). But having a complete person just enjoy and point out strong points in a script are important to give you the drive to keep going.
I call them cookies when I talk about the assessment I give to manuscripts when beta reading/critiquing. I both love giving them and receiving them. It’s just a minor comment by the assessor to say; Oh wow, I love this bit!
Sometimes that’s all you need to keep going…
… because I’ve had people who’ve just stopped.
People I thought would be on this journey with me for years have thrown in the towel and meant it, and a lot of the time they never said a word. They just checked twitter every other day. We stopped DMing each other in giddy excitement over the latest story.
Because they knew, like me, that for all their excitement there is a mountain of work that would need to be done to query, submit, selfpublish, whatever their journey is, to make it good enough for a reader. And after a first, third, fourth book… you know the work beyond the joy of writing that’s in store for you so why start!
Those friends/acquaintances of mine that’ve vanished over the years have been replaced by others. Friends come and go, and so do people’s ability to endure the trials of the journey to publishing.
And that’s never to say they aren’t writers. They may come back to it, they may never return, but they are still writers.
My endurance for this industry has forced me to reassess my focus, and to that end I’m going to start writing and subbing short stories as something fun to do. And I am going to make it fun because I need to be able to weather the constant up and down hill journey of my writing career.
To make those long stretches of writing, editing, and polishing novels have upbeat moments of folly.
To enjoy not just crafting a great novel, but to fling myself at a different challenge I haven’t faced before that won’t impact me as strongly because its not a whole year’s worth of work.
Just one small story.
This might not be for you, but if you are tired of your writing journey, and a positivity pass or short stories aren’t going to cut it then what is?
How about offering to beta read a stranger’s book?
How about joining a writer’s group to find likeminded people?
How about stopping writing, and not starting again until you’ve read ten, fifty a HUNDRED books?
Whatever it takes to make you the you I knew before, the me who started this journey with no idea of how truly hard this would all become, but you wanted to do the hard work. To reinvigorate yourself for the writer that was always within you. Because, just like you, I don’t want to fade away, and I don’t want you to either.
As an ND person we’re used to doing stuff wrong and it’s a long journey but I wanted to share a blog post about things outside of writing that are still a big part of the writing journey. I’ve spoken before about meltdowns and editing as an ND author but there are other aspects that don’t get as much attention, and some will be a reiteration of those blog posts but I’m doing it because it’s important.
Because as an ND writer, there is stuff we see and here a thousand times and just don’t get.
That magical ‘click’ in our brain when we understand something that is almost and auditory sense for me has been amazing. Then there is some stuff I’ve done for years I still don’t entirely understand.
I’m sharing what I’ve learnt that if you’re ND you might like to know/be reassured of, and for those who aren’t ND a little glimpse as to what is going through the mind of your ND writerly friends.
- Not all Demons
Lets just start with the fact that within a lot of ND writers (but not all) is a host of ideas. Many ND authors I talk to have periods like any writer where they go through a void of idealessness, but many of the others I’ve met, and myself included, have so many ideas its hard to focus on ONE idea.
And that’s not a bad thing, despite the inherent frustrations. Which one should get the revisions and focus and editing done on it? Which one to query or publish? You could ask someone else, send out a few first chapters and get feedback is one way to start with a trusted CP, its how I got Behind the Veil in my first trad publishing story. But most of all go with your gut. The story that’s the most enjoyable to write, no matter the content, is the best use of your time, you’ll put more of yourself into it, and I think that’s a good thing.
- Bad feed back
I’ve spoken about this one as part of my editing blog, but I wanted to come back to it. I’ve really struggled on how to take editing on my feedback since writing my first open ND book.
I’ve had an extraordinarily patient and understanding CP on that one, but I want to talk more specifically about the feedback in itself.
“I don’t get this”
Reading that particular piece of feedback is super hard when you know what you mean but you’re not able to rethink it over. You can walk away from the script and come back to it, but sometimes, your intent and meaning isn’t clear, no matter that it’s something you DO get and you love.
But if you intend on sharing with others, sometimes you do need to edit out that part, rewrite it, or even read it aloud to someone to describe what you are seeing or feeling about the text. There is usually a lightbulb moment of understanding with an NT person once you can open a discourse about it, so don’t be afraid to do that.
Also be used to being wrong. We all make mistakes. Its OK in this sphere to make a mistake. Go tell yourself that. Put it on the wall. Say it in the mirror. It’s OK to have mistakes.
It’s cool. It can be used to write thousands of words in a day. I think my best was 20k in one day. It wrung me dry for the next couple of days so I know my limit is 10k a day, but I love that I’m able to do it with relative ease. I love that we ND folk geared towards writing can make that happen.
It’s a two edged sword though.
I’ve met a few writers, myself included, who hyperfocus on one script. It’s our baby, our love, and the story we know is the one. The one that’ll get published, get acknowledged, get the awards, get on the NYT, everyone will love it, if they just knew how good it is!
I’m sorry, but no. No one script is going to do that. Your heart project may be too far out for a lot of agents. Chances are its also your first book so it may not be the best writing you can do. And that fucking hurts.
I’ve thought I’d written the best book ever and have people say its unpublishable garbage.
Please be ready for this, but please know that some of your best work may come from that same place but not be of it, or it can be revised into something submittable. But it is not all that defines who you are and what you can do.
I’ve edited this piece after a conversation today with a fellow ND author. We talk a lot about how ND authors struggle to communicate without talking about what that means on a social media platform.
I’ve deleted/misspoken on social media and some of its lashed back in my face really badly. I try not to delete tweets but I’ve found I’d rather do that than have someone misunderstand what I meant.
We can feel very viscerally strong about subjects/hills we will die on and for us it’s not just a statement, we feel the intent behind those words, those hard to hold feelings can rise within us without being overwhelming to the point we lash out. We can be angry, we can be sad, we can be vicious.
I don’t have a solution to these feelings, they’re true to who I am. But I try to stick to kindness or well meaning snark on social media because much of the world doesn’t want our rage or sadness, and sometimes I don’t want to share. Sometimes I do. The point is that you have to pick your moments for when they matter most, and be aware its not what everyone wants to hear. And they’ll let you know in no uncertain terms that you are wrong.
Every time you see those responses please be aware that those opinions are just that. Opinions. These people shouldn’t live inside your head rent free because you pay for it with guilt. You choose who you spend your emotional effort on, and it shouldn’t be on people who hurt you. When you find yourself feeling like this, ask yourself; what purpose does feeling like this help me? Can I change what was said or done?
Chances are the answer is no. So don’t. Easier said than done I know, but tell yourself, say it out loud. Or if you need someone to boss you around, ask yourself this; what would Ejay say if I tear myself apart in guilt from some random internet troll?
Not to do it? You fucking bet.
- Other writers
ND authors… you ever get the feeling that all the NT writers know something you don’t?
Like there’s an unspoken manual that you never got a copy of and if you just read it things would make a lot more sense?
Yeah, it’s in the same place as the manual on life.
You’re only every going to find it through experience, stuff will still be missing, and coming to terms with that is hard. I remember being among a group of writers, and someone said something and everyone just nodded. I sat there and nodded too, gave a half smile of understanding.
I still to this day have no idea what the writer meant. To the point I don’t even remember exactly what it was that she said anymore. I go home and ask my husband and he’s usually a good grounding voice for stuff that’s off vs me just being paranoid. But this is going to be a lot like life in general.
We don’t get stuff, and that’s Ok.
I still haven’t got that click moment with the difference between “its” and “it’s” and nobody explain it to me because I’ve had just about every editor explain it to me and I don’t get it. I haven’t got a “click” moment. It is so minor, so small, such a little thing.
I DON’T GET IT.
I’ll get it, maybe, one day. They’ll be a moment. And I’ve come to learn during my writing journey that it’s a lot like a life journey. I let autocorrect take it, try to do my best, and hope I get that click but I don’t let it become the focus of the whole sentence or script.
This isn’t easy, we put a lot of ourselves out there for questioning without ever knowing what parts are tangled in our neurodiversity, and we should edit out because nobody wants that.
I’m here to tell you I want that. That you will always have that part of you that you think might be wrong, and you may be wrong, but making mistakes shouldn’t be about erasing yourself. That its OK that not all of this makes sense to you. There are things I’ve yet to experience I know I’m going to get wrong. That’s OK too. So are you – and I need you to know that. I need you to believe it, because some of the most amazing stories I’ve read are from minds that aren’t wired like anyone else.
I just want to read, and write, more from the twisted labyrinth of ND minds, even when we make mistakes.