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You can hide a lot with a smile.

(Trigger Warning: talk of loss by suicide & bereavement)

My best friend was the life and soul of the party. She was confident, clever, people gravitated towards her. Three years ago she took her own life.

Three years on and I still think of her every day. It’s hard to be in the world and know she’s not in it.

it’s hard to come to terms with knowing that when she was taking her own life I was walking the dog on a park five minutes from her house.

I’ve been sad, I’ve been angry and every emotion in between. I’ve thought I was going mad because I didn’t know how to deal with the overwhelming grief that felt too big for my body to hold. I didn’t think it would ever leave. I was terrified I would always feel like that.

Grief doesn’t ever go away. You just learn to live with it. And eventually the sharp desperate, maddening insanity you feel doesn’t take up quite so much room inside you every minute of every day. Maybe you can get through one day without crying, or you can laugh at reruns of Friends. At some point you can talk about the things you did together and smile.

The tsunami of grief turns into waves that hit unexpectedly; if I watch Pitch Perfect 3, or if I see a pigeon on the street or hear Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Then there’s the birthday and anniversary waves. They’re not as turbulent as the 1st anniversary waves were. First birthday after she died, first Christmas etc, but the waves ebb and flow and sometimes the sadness comes with a nostalgic smile and sometimes they come with tears of disbelief. But the waves do ebb and flow and I’m not afraid that the grief will eat me whole anymore. It will come and it will go.

But some days i still forget she’s not here for half a second. A barely formed thought will appear and I’ll reach for my phone to call her.

I think of what she’d say about the world right now. Of the pandemic—I imagine she’d be giving loads of zoom tutoring during lockdown and doing some fun exciting kids read along story time to get kids excited about books.

I wonder about silly things too, like when Philip Schofield came out as gay because she always had a crush on him. I imagine something witty she’d say about missing her chance with him.

I think of what we’d do if she was here. How we would have gone on social distanced walks during lockdown, and how we’d talk about our writing everyday.

The world is a colder, scarier place now. Because if she can do something like that then what other horrors are out there?

She was a big part of my life for over twenty years and I miss her. We met on the bus on our way to college, we went to uni together, lived together, partied, argued, she travelled the world then eventually came home, and I stayed home the whole time, but we’ve always been friends.

Sometimes it feels like she’s just gone travelling and one day she will be back to tell me all about it.

Being left behind In this way is a weird thing. It’s like I’m living in the twilight zone. Everything is mostly the same, there’s just one thing missing. It’s small and huge at the same time.

I phoned a helpline shortly after it happened. It was one given to us by work so not specifically for suicide bereavement. The woman on the phone obviously had no training in this because she said to me “haven’t you had anyone in your life die before?”

It’s not about the dying. I’ve had aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers die—but not one of them took their own life. It’s a different kind of grief when that happens.

It’s also mixed with guilt, shock, anger and you can’t stop playing the what if game—what if I’d asked her to walk the dog with me—what if I’d got her to stop at mine the night before— a hundred different scenarios that play on a never ending loop in my head and drive me crazy because I can’t do anything about it. But what if?

The grief bordered on insanity and I never thought I’d claw out of it. I’ve spoken to more specialised volunteers since then, People who have been through it too. But what helped the most was going to see a counsellor and just talk. And cry. There was and is still a lot of crying.

This is the first time I’ve talked about this online, I’ve seen a few things on the news—someone falling/jumping off the balcony in a shopping centre, an incident on the railway track and I think about their families and friends and understand a little of their pain.

Suicide Grief is a maddening, crazy, overwhelming, lonely thing to experience. If anyone is going through this don’t try to do it alone. Speak to a counsellor,or experienced volunteers. I spoke to Cruse https://www.cruse.org.uk

If you’re having suicidal thoughts then know that you are loved and also consider getting help.

Here are a few links

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/supporting-someone-who-feels-suicidal/useful-contacts/

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/help-for-suicidal-thoughts/

Books for the bereaved:

Unfinished Conversation: Healing… https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/193700645X?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

Wilderness of Suicide Grief: Finding Your Way (Understanding Your Grief) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1879651688/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_FTP4HQ6NEEQZRDX63WS5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

for those suffering with depression/suicidal thoughts

Reasons to Stay Alive https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1782116826/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_YXF9S1PD7NDS2N81H4VF

Risky Business Blog Tour

Hi Everyone! Thanks for stopping here on the last leg of the tour for Risky Business. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about me in under three minutes check out my TiKTok where I attempted to answer as many questions as I could!

Risky Business by Andi Lee
Veterinarian Dane Vincent is used to being unlucky in love. That’s why his crush on new friend Ben is No Big Deal. He’s more than happy to swoop to Ben’s rescue when he brings a ferret into his practice. It’s what friends do—and vets.

Ben Clifford came to Lockstone for a new job and a fresh start. He didn’t expect to make friends, never mind a tightknit group of them. They’re all wacky and wonderful, and he fits right in, something he’s never done before. They even support him when he finds a ferret at work and decides to keep the cute little bundle of joy.

There’s just one tiny problem. Ben’s house doesn’t allow pets.

Moving into Dane’s spare room is meant to be temporary, but the more time he spends with him, the less he wants to leave. They connect on a level he’s never experienced before, and slowly but surely, the feelings of friendship Ben has for Dane morph into something deeper.

The question is… does he have the courage to act on them?

Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway!

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Salon Du Livre

It doesn’t seem real that not only is my novel Mischief Maker being translated into French by the amazing Juno Publishing, I’m also going to be attending the Salon this March!

This will be my first official outing as an author and I’m so excited and just a little bit nervous!

I’ll be the one who knows no French (I’m sorry!) and will probably even forget how to speak English…but speaking Rat is much more fun anyway!

If anyone wants to come say hi, or tell me how much they love rats–perhaps even show me a photo or twelve of their own rats then I’ll be ecstatic!

Partway Plotter

I don’t plot—well, I’ve tried, but I can never work out what scenes I need until I’ve written the characters and I know how they work. With my first novel Mischief Maker I just WROTE, then did little bits of research as I came to it.

I knew pivotal points, I knew where I wanted to end, and the important stuff along the way, but I didn’t know how I would get there.

I would write meandering scenes where Jamie and Liam would eat a lot and drink enough tea to keep PG Tips in business–all to get the next pivotal point that I had in my head.

This worked and it didn’t. I came up with a few good scenes just by writing, but I cut over 10k of ‘filler’ scenes out once I finished my first draft. By filler I mean chapters or paragraphs that didn’t have a point, they didn’t take the characters anywhere, nor did they help the characters grow. They were merely me trying to pass time to get to the next interesting bit.

Now I’m writing the sequel. And again I know the general plot, know how it ends, and pivotal points along the way, but when I felt myself get to ‘filler’ spots I stopped and instead of writing these I just wrote the next Big Scene.

I know I’ll have to rework them a lot to make sure everything flows, but I also feel like I don’t have anything pointless in it, and it will be a lot easier to write the in-between bits once I know what they are connecting!

I’m not sure about you, but I always like to read writing guides (not that they help much because I’m not a plotter! Plus, my memory is awful so I don’t remember enough detail for it to be that helpful!)

When I was half way through Animal Lark 2, Save the Cat Writes a Novel came out, so I thought I’d give it a go. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it and feel like it will help me with those pesky fillers as well as keep momentum going.

I carried on writing the chapters I was excited about, vaguely linear, but not too worried if they weren’t when I discovered Trello –I think it was recommended by one of the many authortubers I watch though obviously I can’t remember which one!

I have to say–I love Trello! I’ve used it for my story world and character bios, which is helpful to keep track of the little details when you’re writing a series.

But in a moment of madness I decided to create a board with the steps of StCWaN so I could access them easily and see how Animal Ark 2 fits into it.

Using this method I’ve now got a visual of the storyline, with chapters I feel are important for each section, it’s even colour coded by act and if I’ve written the chapter or not–I’ve actually written more than I thought I have!

I have tried to use Scrivener before, I even brought it for my desktop and iPad but it seemed so complicated to do things I wanted to do quickly and then they both stopped syncing with each other that I gave up; I really liked how you could move chapters around so I was ecstatic that I can do this on Trello.

It’s simple to use, but I can use it on my phone, laptop, iPad and it doesn’t have issues.

I now know where I’m going and have a good idea of what will push the story and my characters along without going too far off track.

I doubt I’d be able to plot like this if I hadn’t already written the first act and didn’t know the characters and world so well.

I wouldn’t now call myself a plotter after so many years of pantsing, then plotting and failing m, but I think I could be called a partway plotter!

What I Write

I’ve written in lots of different genres, horror, fantasy, contemporary; all usually with a dash of romance and a smudging of angst. I adore creating fantasy worlds and characters, but I find I always write myself in knots and when the going gets tough, I let the slutty new idea lure me away.

2018 was a year to try something different. To knuckle down and actually write the contemporary romance I’d spoken to with my friends (The Five). I’d had a tough few years at work which completely sucked my creativity and my ability to read and trying to get back into writing and reading was tough going–it still is to be honest, but it’s getting better. I changed day jobs, now have good people surrounding me and I can finally breathe easier.

So with a slight nudge from The Five I decided to write something I wouldn’t have to create from the ground up–not to say it was easier, but it meant I didn’t tangle myself up quite so much and so my Animal Lark series was born. A series of contemporary m/m romance novels that are linked through a group of friends and the crazy but cute animals they share their lives with.

I have to say that it was just what I needed to unlock the creative dam.  The first in the series was fun to write; and as I’m sure you’ve already guessed if you’ve read previous posts–I do like to write about cute rats!

It’s not that I won’t go back to the fantasy novels that I’m half way through–the characters in them are much to loud and annoying to ever let me ignore them, but while their worlds and stories steep at the back of my mind, I get to write fun contemporary romance set in a make believe town somewhere in the Staffordshire Countryside. And that is kind of awesome.

 

cannock chase photo pixabay

Lies my Parents Told me…

Or stories anyway. There were a lot in our family.
My childhood was always a place of imagination, play and stories. While my dad would read books to us, The Witches by Roald Dahl a particular favourite of mine (I can still remember how much I laughed when the chef cut the tip of the mouse-boy’s tail).
But my mom; she is the one who would make up stories. As I’ve already written about in a previous post, there were the stories of bogey monsters, of turning into werewolves and howling at the moon, but there was another story. One about ‘The Olden Days’.  That weird, obscure time from before I even existed. I could barely get my head around such a thing!

I’d ask what it was like back in the olden days and she would tell me, in detail how our family lived before I was born.

Back in the olden days when everyone had coal fires lots of people worked down the mines. Including children. In fact, my whole family worked in the mines, my older brother and sister, my mom and dad. Then one awful day there was a cave in and unable to get out my family had to eat rats (rats seem to feature in many of my childhood memories) and then they had to dig themselves out with spoons. It was very difficult and took them an awfully long time which is why they had to eat the rats, otherwise they’d starve!

I pretty much pictured them living in The  Black Country Museum (a living museum with Victorian houses, a canal, and Victorian style shops and school houses)
It was a miracle that they all got out of that cave in to live to tell the tale. The whole family was in on it, each of them adding a small detail and backing each other up.

I should be lucky that none of us needed to work down the mine anymore, and I got to go to school. I believed this story wholeheartedly, until one niggling doubt took root…where was my brother’s best friend in all of this? (He’d stayed at ours for a week one holiday and I felt he should be in these stories as he was practically family now.)
Not one to miss a beat, my mother told me that my brother’s friend was the pit pony–which in my mind made complete and utter sense and all doubts went away. Of course Aaron was the pit pony!

 

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