‘Recovering Alice’ by Catherine Morrison – Review

A gripping uplifting tale of romance and relapse…

Catherine Morrison has delivered finely balanced story about addiction that carries the message of love and honesty without glorifying the issues surrounding alcoholism. Whilst some of the subjects within are heavy, they are handled with grace and make this book more than a love story or simply a tale of recovery because it is that and much more

We meet ‘Alice Patterson’ in the midst of a relapse and from the depths of this dark moment she encounters ‘Bob’ a man who eventually becomes a beacon of hope. The mystery surrounding this man is heightened to begin with and for good cause as Alice questions why anyone would be interested in someone like her with such issues? The inner conflict that aligns with the wider plot is very well done here, its realistic and gripping. As a reader I wanted her to succeed and that is the true sign of a gripping read.

The messages within are plenty with a main theme of recovery and the concept of finding the right person who will not only accept you for your faults and who you are, but will support you also. I particularly enjoyed the final chapters as Alice begins to realise that she is a force for good even when surrounded by those with similar struggles and for anyone looking for an uplifting read, this one is for you.

5 Stars – Reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads

‘Billy Summers’ by Stephen King – Review

An enduring multi-layered tale of one gun for hire and his final shot…

Stephen King has succeeded yet again in turning his hand to crime fiction but describing this story as just a few genres would be an understatement because like always, you get your money’s worth. ‘Billy Summers’ is the name of a man who is a gun for hire, he has a sometimes dark history which readers will gradually realise while also being connected to the underworld of big business and organised crime.

There is a lot to unpack and digest here along with references of many different things through multiple layers, some I grasped and probably others I missed. A few figurative elbows are aimed towards modern politics but for the most part we stay in the neighbourhood King is known for. Our main character turns his own hand to writing a memoir of war, childhood trauma and much more while carrying out a final mission. They do say ‘write what you know’ and for this story its metaphorical in a sense. The ‘dumb self’ concept is particularly clever and a needed vessel to give Summers a certain calculated depth although my only criticism is we don’t get all of him and after such a long read is kind of a waste to me. For a man who spends much of his time covering up who he is, readers never really get to know the real side to him.

Of course the story is an enduring one, we have a slow introduction and long middle and even a long end but it works for the most part. There are many twists, turns and that textbook depraved/twisted style which Stephen King is known for but in smaller doses. I particularly appreciated the reference to one of his older works and for those who aren’t into the supernatural side of things, this one is perfect for you.

4 Stars

The Story Behind The Ghost Beside Me

Two years have passed since my short paranormal romance ‘The Ghost Beside Me’ was published. Two years that have served as the most important of my writing career and this book represents that and so much more. Prior to the publication of ‘Ghost’ my 5th book, I had nearly walked away from publishing and writing all together, this creative journey can be arduous and many different things took their toll so this book represented a symbol of resilience and eventually the philosophy that I carry today- never giving up. Ever.

2019 was a year I spent repairing myself as a writer. Before then, I had gone hard into writing and publishing. Books One to Four were published in two years – the results by the end of that were minimal, social media is something I hadn’t fully figured out, being an indie author is a constant struggle that I had yet to discover too. I was in my late twenties and the previous decade was coming to fruition – I was also moving into my own place for the first time. Things were busy, stressful and something was going to snap and it did. I took most of my stress out on myself and this author path which was seeing near enough no results.

Good things do take time and I’ve learned that now, I am content with that now, but lessons for me are always learned slowly and the hard way. Expectation always plays a part in this journey and now its more realistic but back then it wasn’t so I suffered in my own mind for it. So how did I find myself? I went back to my writing routes. I went ‘dark’ on social media for a short time, I even put the laptop away and started to write down the ideas I had for a paranormal romance that would tribute to my own thoughts and feelings, an echo of me finding myself, finding resolve and a path forward. The concept of Edward Neville being an introvert by choice struggling to break that mould and wanting to socialize with others was a vessel mirroring my own struggles. There were also so many ‘real’ elements of me that went into the story, the concept of trying to fit in at a work place, the monotony of commuting and of course living alone.

Although I was hurting at the time I started ‘Ghost’ I seemingly produced a story that might be my best attempt at emotional depth and expression. For a 59 page book, you get every essence of my inner emotion through Edward Neville. The words poured onto the page and soon enough by early 2019 I had a fully handwritten draft. Then I put it away and did probably the most important thing I have done on this path. I began reading and reviewing indie books. My return to Twitter sparked it all to life when I put out a Tweet asking for indie books to review – the response was huge and showed me the potential this platform has, so I got to work. (This was late 2018, long before those tweets where people fish for engagement by asking for book recommendations).

While the reviews and social media stuff started building my profile, I was reading because I was trying to find myself and my love for stories. The wonderful thing is, it worked. This was just me by myself reading books but then the reviews started helping others and so it became inadvertently selfless. And by the time September of 2019 rolled around I was ready and then the perfect thing aligned. You see 2019 was the 13th anniversary of my Grandfather’s passing – a man who’s influence is still with me today. He told me a real ghost story back when I was a kid and that story became the inspiration for the ghost in this book and now I had a reason to publish it – to tribute him. 13 years later because we always had a thing for the superstition of Friday the 13th and I knew wherever he was, that would make him laugh.

I got to work transferring a handwritten story onto my laptop and organised the cover art. And this book would carry the weight of all the above; an emotional tribute, finding myself, self-repair and that important 5th book where they say things start to happen. And they did.

‘The Ghost Beside Me’ soon hit the highest number of reviews any of my books got on release – even now it is the quickest of my books to reach 30+ reviews. Sales were the best at the time and I’d made some level of writing redemption. Redemption in many walks of life is rare and so this book represented that. Expectation plays a huge role in authoring, especially at the self publishing level and so with this book my expectation was zero and that where it remains for every release. This journey and its success is governed by the beholder, you.

The truth is, and whilst finding myself I never gave up even though sometimes it can get dark, it can depressing and it is hard, there is always hope where there is life and creativity. Books are a truly wonderful thing and even now with all this modern tech, social media and other stuff, books still have a powerful mystique, their wonder to expand our minds has never changed. Their power to connect us and heal us when we most need it is something I will always cherish

And now, two years after publication, the majority of authors who I have connected with choose ‘Ghost’ because it has become a writers favourite. Something I hold dear to my heart for what it really represents. I guess writers can read between the emotional and symbolic lines, well, they did for this book and that means a lot to me. As a lower profile published author I never get much of a chance to talk about my work in this way and The Ghost Beside Me stands out as an experience like no other. It got me back into to writing, it proves that books can still be successful after publication and it paved the way to elevate me higher than I could ever imagine. My centre pillar of blogging comes from reviewing books, and their power is what put me back together.

There is great power in your stories authors, embrace it!

To those who have read and reviewed and supported this 59 page tribute to many things, thank you and thank you for reading.

Not What I Was Expecting- Prologue

Introducing fellow author and blogger Eleanor who presents some new descriptive fiction.

Eleanor DeSouza -The Life Of A Weirdo

As I look out of my window I see red. I shouldn’t see red. A deep, dark threatening red has replaced the sky, with spasms of light splayed across it. Fear has coiled its fingers around my insides and is tightening its grip. My lips are jittering, trying to form words. Sentences. I’m left with nothing. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the glimmering bunting from my eleventh birthday party only a few weeks ago. Flashing memories of village halls, stomping feet and my first phone. The only movement my body exudes is from the rigid inhale and exhale of breath. This is complemented by my shaking my ribcage and frozen eyes. Wrenching me from my cryogenic-like state is a smash of glass and a guttural cry. I bolt out of my bedroom and down the stairs, trainers landing with a muted thud at the end. I…

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‘The Rusted Hook’ by J.E Clarkson

The buzzer cut into my consciousness for the tenth time that day. I ignored it again as I had the previous nine times. 

“We’ll be back again later. We know you’re in there. You can’t keep us out forever,” a man’s voice yelled up towards the window.

“Oh yes, I can, you bastards,” I thought, and continued to sit on the floor and out of sight. I heard the letterbox clatter and the dull thud of something heavy hitting the hallway floor. I was curious but gave it five minutes before I sneaked downstairs to see what it was. 

I knelt onto the hallway carpet and looked at the thick booklet that had been posted through the letterbox.

“NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ENTER & SEARCH YOUR PREMISES – REMOVAL NOTICE.

Due to your failure to pay an outstanding Magistrates Court Fine a Bailiff, under the instructions of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service has attended your premises today with the intention of levying distress and removing your goods.

The Magistrates Distress Warrant empowers the Bailiff from Lawson & Associates, by virtue of Schedule 4A of the Domestic Violence, Crime, and Victims Act 2004, to enter your premises by force should you wilfully refuse to pay the outstanding fine and costs.

To prevent the removal of your goods and the expensive additional removal costs you must make immediate payment to the Bailiff. Failure to do so will result in the Bailiff re-attending your premises with Locksmiths and the Police to remove your goods even in your absence.

No further notice will be issued.”

I slammed the booklet down onto the floor and held my head in my hands. What the hell was I going to do now? Ever since I’d settled into the centre of the city, I’d had nothing but trouble.  I’d thought that it was just because it was so bloody expensive to live there. But something about it was weird. I’d got into debt before and yet it had taken a very long time before any of the companies had taken any action. I’d only been here a few months and missed a couple of payments and nothing major as far as I’d seen but almost straight away these thugs had been sniffing around and trying to gain access to the flat. It was happening at all times of day and night too. 

Gingerly, I held open the letterbox flap to see if I could recognise my tormentors for the next time they came to visit. I could just about see across to the opposite side of the road and noticed a couple of men standing there. One of them was a tallish, wiry figure. He was wearing square-rimmed glasses that glinted slightly in the sunlight. He leaned nonchalantly against the lamppost next to him and looked straight towards the flat. He didn’t seem like he had much intention of moving. I crawled on my hands and knees towards the small chest of drawers where I kept a few odds and ends and pulled open the top drawer. I immediately found what I was looking for, a small pair of binoculars that my adoptive dad had given me. I put the binocular string around my neck and crawled back towards the letterbox. Just before I reached it, the brass flap flew open. Instinctively, I flattened to the ground and willed that the bailiff wouldn’t notice me there. My breath caught in my throat and I willed myself not to panic. I could see from my position a pair of bespectacled, beady eyes, looking right back into mine.

“So, there you are,” the man hissed through the letterbox, “if you’ll just let us in and pay what you owe, then all of this unpleasantness will just go away.”

I noticed that when he spoke, one of his teeth also gleamed in the light. I found it almost as disconcerting as what he had to say.

“I haven’t got it,” I spat, “and I can’t understand how I can owe so much? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well, maybe you aren’t quite as good with money as you think you are,” the man replied.

The letterbox flap clattered shut, I heard footsteps walking away from the door, and then everything went silent for a few moments and I thought that the bailiff had maybe given up for the day and disappeared. Gradually, I pulled myself up onto my haunches and opened the letterbox flap once more. That pair of beady eyes were staring back at me. I sprang backward away from the door as if I’d been burnt and crawled away as quickly as I could.

The flap opened one last time.

“We’ll be back,” the man yelled through the hole, “and next time we won’t take no for an answer.”

—————————————————————————————————————————

“Sorry that I couldn’t come round to yours,” I said, looking at Ellen sadly, “my shout as soon as I can sort all of this out.”

“Don’t you stress about it,” Ellen replied, “it’s the least I can do when you’re having to worry about the demon bailiffs from hell.” She reached over and poured some cheap wine into a plastic cup, “at least the gits don’t hang around at night.”

“They do, but just not tonight, for some reason. I just don’t get it,” I said and shook my head slightly. “There’s something weird about all of this. Firstly there was all of that stuff with the bank…”

“Yeah, but they’re going to sort that out for you though,” Ellen replied.

“Ellen, it’s been three months now and there’s no sign of that money,” I replied between mouthfuls of fried rice.

“You know how long these things take. It’s like waiting for Christmas,” she replied.

I looked at her and nodded but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t the first time that I’d ever had any fraudulent activity on my account but it was the first time that it had ever happened multiple times by different fraudsters. At first, I thought that maybe I’d accidentally clicked onto a phishing link in a junk email but that just didn’t ring true. In the background, I heard a distant ping. I set down my plate and grabbed my bag. Taking out my phone, I noticed that it was blinking with a new notification. It was yet another from the bank. There’d been a further unauthorised withdrawal and for fifty quid this time. As  I tried to log in, my fingers hardly worked at all. They didn’t feel part of my hands anymore and it took several attempts before I could successfully gain access to it again.
“Here we go again,” I said and ran my fingers through my hair in frustration.

“Who is it this time?” Ellen asked.

“It’s just a nonsense combination of letters and numbers, 5T3LL4. The cheeky sods have even added a transfer fee because the withdrawal wasn’t in pounds,” I replied. “I’m beginning to feel like someone’s got it in for me.”

Ellen looked me straight in the eye.

“Oh come on now, I know you’ve had a bit of a run of bad luck but now you’re starting to sound paranoid,” she said, taking a large gulp of wine from the cup.

“A run of bad luck?” I laughed bitterly, “can you honestly say you’ve ever known anyone else who’s had this happen to them? This level of fraud, I mean, so often and by so many different people?”

Ellen looked thoughtful for a moment and didn’t answer immediately.

“No, I can’t honestly say that I have,” she replied and looked uncomfortable. “But what you’re suggesting sounds like something out of a book. I mean, that sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life does it? And even if it does, why on earth would they pick you?”

I looked back at Ellen and then down at my bank statement again. 

“I don’t know, Ellen. I really don’t know.”

—————————————————————————————————————————

I hadn’t slept at all and when the sunlight broke through the curtains the next morning, I felt as if I’d been awake for a week. Ellen had already gone and left a hastily scrawled note on the drawers in the hallway,

“Stop stressing. See you later.”

I straightened up and looked at my pasty reflection in the mirror.

“Easy for you to say,” I replied and was about to turn away to leave when I noticed a leaflet on the doormat. I was sure that I hadn’t seen it the day before and was about to throw it away when I noticed that it was a flier for a recruitment agency. I picked it up and looked over it. It was certainly eye-catching as it featured a red background and black lettering.

“S.T. Ella Recruitment. Specialists in city recruiting. Wide range of employment opportunities available. Extremely competitive rates. Enroll @ www.st.ella.bs.com.” I thought that I had already signed up with all of the local employment agencies and so I was surprised to find out that there was another. I wondered if it was recently opened or I’d just missed it as a result of my recent difficulties? Either way, it sounded like it was worth a shot. I was willing to try anything to keep Lawson and associates from breaking down my door and it seemed like I was running out of time.

————————————————————————————————————————— 

The S.T. Ella Recruitment website wasn’t very subtle, it employed the self-same colour scheme as the flier had, a deep red background with black writing. There was only one small difference, the website featured a photo of a black swan in the centre of the page. I wondered what the significance of the picture was, but then batted my curiosity away as it was likely to be some kind of corporate branding and because of the situation I was in, I didn’t have time to question further. I merely registered with the website as quickly as I could, uploaded a CV, and hoped that I would at least have a couple of hours before the bailiffs started to ring the buzzer again. I had only just sat down when I heard my phone ping once again. Expecting it to be yet another fraud notification from the bank, I almost didn’t check it but when I did, I saw that it was an email forwarded by S.T. Ella Recruitment. Puzzled, I looked at the time on the phone display. It was only ten minutes since I’d uploaded my CV. It surely couldn’t have been an offer already? And yet, it was.

It was an offer to work as a cleaner for a city-centre office, Nemo and Co. When I read through the email so much of it was strange. The CV that I had uploaded made no mention of having any cleaning experience. It was far more suited to working in an admin role, but when I saw how much money was being offered, I began to feel persuaded. A small part of me felt slightly wary of what was being offered as it seemed too good to be true, but a larger part of me didn’t give a shit. Hiding from the bailiffs was starting to get very old and I wanted to get things sorted out with them and the bank as quickly as I possibly could. The sort of money that Nemo and Co. were offering meant that even if the security issues with the bank weren’t immediately sorted, I would have enough to open another account and sort out what I owed the bailiffs. And all within a couple of weeks. I sent off a quick email of acceptance to the recruiters and hoped that I hadn’t just agreed to another kind of scam. I placed the phone back into my bag and went into the kitchen to make a coffee hoping that it would enable me to at least function at a basic level for the rest of the morning while I divided my time between tidying up and hiding from the bailiffs for the rest of the day.

When I reappeared in the lounge again, I noticed the phone’s blue light blinking. I picked it up and saw that there were three notifications, one from the recruiters, one from the bank, and one from Nemo and Co. Not wanting to open anything from the bank, I resolved to check that notification last. I began with the message from the recruiters.

“Congratulations, your application to work for Nemo and Co. has been accepted. The company will contact you in due course.” 

Once I had read this, I was fairly certain what the Nemo and Co. message would be about. I was right that it was the job offer, but the terms of employment were bizarre, as was the insistence on secrecy. How many secrets would I be a party to as a cleaner anyway? Yet the weirdness of the offer was far less of a problem than anything else that was happening in my life and so I decided to just forget about it and take the money. 

At that moment, the buzzer to the flat sounded and instinctively shot to the floor. There was silence for a few moments and then I heard the same voice who had shouted through the letterbox the day before.

“You don’t need to come to the door. Your account has been settled. We won’t be visiting you again.”

I wondered if I was hearing things or if it was even a kind of trick to encourage me to open the door, but when I looked out of the window, I could see the bespectacled man crossing over the road and opening the driver’s side door to a waiting people carrier. Before he got in, he turned to look up at the window and I thought I heard him shout,

“Check your bank,”  then he nodded and drove away.

Out of curiosity, I did just that and was astonished to find that not only had every fraudulent payment had been repaid, but they had also been erased from the accounts altogether. It was as if they’d never existed.


This is a prologue of the dystopian Nemo & Co series by J.E. Clarkson. You can find more information about the series here and you can find J.E. Clarkson on Twitter.

Twenty Years on and the Dream Remains Strong

It can take a lifetime to put together and finally complete a story. But to me, the journey, the work and the dream is worth that time.

Some of you know my journey started back in the early 2000’s on a rainy Sunday in front of a windows 98 computer. I was twelve years old and the dreamer in me then is still the same only now I have a completed manuscript for that first story I began then. A story about robots in the future that would stretch generations of characters and time, that world known as the ‘Future’ full of lore that has grown with me and now that book is 130,000 words strong and 500 pages of writing destiny. This legacy story was and always is the plan and the truth is, I was only ready to complete it now because I love it so much, I held this story so dear and I care for it so much that I wanted to be the very best I can be to tell it. This story has always deserved the best and even though I am always learning and honing this craft, there’s a bunch of road behind me full of experience, books, readers and life. Now I stand in a position I have never been. A completed story that is my destiny facing the journey of what could be next.

Anyone can call hindsight here but this has always been my plan. To spend my years learning and honing. Convincing myself and others I can do this and I can do it well enough to inspire, inform and entertain others. The 900 plus followers on here and the 16,000 plus Twitter followers will tell you everything you need to know about that. The connections, oh the wonderful connections that have secured me a fantastic exciting future, all because I started writing on that rainy day.

I have carved this path for that book, for that story I love so dear and because it matters to me, a story about robots in the future that is really a ballad for humanity. Yes there is action, fighting, gadgets, lore and so much more but there is also that message about finding your own destiny, finding others to help you and seeking out the truth in life. Fighting for what you believe in stands at the very core of this book and this is also my own belief. The first original attempt at this book contains all of that but that was just the seeds being dropped into plain earth and now we stand in a garden blossoming with life and all of it driven by love. Those plants of destiny reaching high towards the stars.

So what is the message here and what is the real point to this? I hope you grasp the fact that your story, no matter how long it takes to find and bring to the world matters. It really matters and it is okay to love those characters, their struggles and their journey. For so many years this book of mine has kept me going knowing I have it as an ace up my sleeve and it is ready to throw onto the table. But its also more than that because they give me an escape to in life, when life does come crashing down around you, we as writers do have somewhere to go and I’ve always had this hand of cards but I have the knowhow to use it now. I loved this story so much that I used it as fuel to improve everything I am as an author and blogger. Words and writing are still the most romantic way anyone can communicate in this world and they will always be around in some fashion so maybe I am just an old fashioned romantic who has a love for stories. But that love is powerful, and that love is purpose. Let those stories of yours guide you, they have guided me since I was very young.

Modest Means

Hey followers, have some flash fiction from fellow blogger and author Megan…

cch217

Brenda tapped Sara on the shoulder to take over her register. Brenda was starting the second part of her eight hour shift. Deep into the full swing of Black Friday. A day that Brenda never looked forward to working. So many obnoxious, rude customers all demanding to be catered to. She logged into the register and looked out over the sea of people lined up with their overflowing carts. The vast amount of greed made her stomach turn.

Here she was twenty-three working retail in order to support herself. Her modest means, and simple lifestyle, she rented a rundown studio apartment, was vigilant about turning out the lights, keeping the thermostat at a comfortable sixties-five degrees and only took fifteen minute lukewarm showers. She utilized the public library for her entertainment needs, and used the neighbors Wi-Fi for her laptop when she needed to be online, which wasn’t often. She…

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‘Home’ by Thomas Overlook – Review

Unique and intriguing. A page-turning tale that’ll take readers down the rabbit hole of what’s there and what isn’t…

Its quite difficult to pin point what this story is really about and how deep it goes, but for the majority I was addicted and kept reading to see where it went. To me, that’s a job done well and driven by that immersive intrigue, Thomas Overlook tells the story of a young couple who decide to start again away from the hustle and bustle of city life with their infant child. Then events start to turn strange.

There’s a multitude of different themes and things going on here, some are more obvious and on the surface while others go deeper. Much of the book is taken up by the inner workings of ‘Joel’ and ‘Aubrey’ or their memories but we are only shown and told so much to the point where everything seems to have a kind of surreal feel – this is a complex but imaginative set up for a book because the events that do happen gradually unfold while we find out only limited information about these two characters. The concept of what’s on the surface and what’s beneath starts to blend and uniquely the organisation which ‘Joel’ works for is deliberately omitted, something some readers may frown upon but an original concept and there is a heap of originality here. ‘Aubrey’ seems to have this kind of lustful subconsciousness while also perhaps hiding something. These characters aren’t fully revealed to the reader which only increases that intrigue.

Soon after moving into their new and remote house weird things begin to unfold. Is this an elaborate prankster or perhaps even a haunting? this is after ‘Joel’ may have unleashed something or at least stirred it. What ‘it’ is, we never really get an answer but it points towards something that lurks beneath the surface literally and psychologically. Is what ‘Joel’ appears to be seeing actually there or not? Could we actually be in the company of something that has always been there but is only awakened if disturbed? Rational thought begins to blend with the irrational as he tries to investigate what really is going on. Has ‘Joel’ really unleashed something that feels like its hunting him and his family?

“He was terrified but not mortally. It was a queer feeling, deep fear tinged with a silken sadness…”

Cause and effect comes into play here as these events put a strain on the couple. This has all the makings to suggest there is another lifeform amongst us but that is only really suggested – that’s what this book made me feel anyway and I am intrigued to see where it goes as this appears to only be part 1 of a wider series. You might not get any answers this time but the reading experience was entertaining overall and full of enough mysterious intrigue to at least entertain more of this immersive deep writing style and story. For those looking to have a lighter reading escape or even those who don’t enjoy deep thought this might not be the one for you, but those who enjoy complex stories that are open to wider interpretation then this is the one for you. It’s definitely one of the most unique reads I have come across in recent times.

4 Stars – An encapsulating and page turning read. This review first premiered on Reedsy Discovery.

Why I Wrote ‘The Deep Space Between’ by Cassandra Stirling

Why I Wrote The Deep Space Between

One of the first things I did before I started writing my novel, The Deep Space Between, is write my inspiration story. My why-I’m-writing-this-book story. This is what I wrote. I’m sharing it because it says a lot about me, the writer, and the journey I’m on. It also foreshadows many of the imposter syndrome setbacks I’d have (am still having) with writing and sharing my writing.

And, it answers that age-old question: when did you know you wanted to write?

Let me take you way, way back

As a kid, I always had stories running through my head. If I wasn’t acting them out with my stuffed animals, I was laying in bed or the grass with an internal movie playing out whatever theme was the flavor of the day.

I also wrote stories — not at home because why do that when it could play out in my head without handwriting to slow it down — but in school, specifically during our weekly library sessions with the librarian, Mrs. Barzinski.

Mrs. Barzinksi was an odd woman. She wore clogs, big round plastic glasses, clunky wooden beaded necklaces, heavy wool sweaters in winter, and white cotton gloves. Her thick wool sweaters had the telltale bumps of her breasts somewhere near her stomach, which earned them the nickname Barzinski boobs, and served as a cautionary tale for all the girls to make sure they wore bras.

In those weekly sessions, the table at which we sat was split. One end featured those students who listened to the chapter of the current book we were all reading, headphones twice the size of Princess Leia’s braid buns clamped to their heads. Mrs. Barzinki’s voice read out the most recent chapter; at the end, she included a prompt for a story topic. We then had 20 minutes to write a story about that prompt.

At the other end, the students read the story out loud and she taped us. Similar to the ginormous headphones — this was the ’80s after all — the recording device was massive. It contained two tape reels fastened to the top. When she turned it on, there was a distinctive “thunk.” I can still hear it today.

Every week, she put the best-written stories on the wall outside of the library with an A and then numerous pluses after it big fat red marker at the top of it.

At the end of the year, the students who had the best writing, aka the most pluses, got a prize — always books — for their efforts.

In my sixth grade year, I was in an unstated competition with my best friend, Jenny Simeon, over the total number of pluses we’d get on those stories. Some weeks I won, but most weeks she did. I always came second when I didn’t win, but it was never enough. Jenny was smart, funny, creative, and well-liked. I was awkward, wore outdated hand-me-downs (which I loved), and quiet.

We were really good friends. Outside of school was the requisite sleepover. During school, we’d hang out on the monkey bars (until some dummy got hurt and they banned them), making up stories.

Sometimes they were based on Greek myths (I was Athena, always) and sometimes on characters we created, like Ricky and Katie (I was Katie, she was Ricky). We even wrote and put on a play for our 4th-grade class (9-year-olds).

We were enmeshed in our creativity without even trying. And yet, I still competed with her. I wanted to win that content — to be the best writer in the school.

But I didn’t. Jenny did.

As I watched her walk up to accept her prize — the full set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books we’d read that year — I had mixed feelings. I definitely did not want that prize, because I hated those books. Who needs to know how to build a bed peg by peg? Not this girl. But I also really wanted to be as creative as Jenny was and I failed. I sucked. I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that I came in second out of my entire 90+ student class.

I didn’t beat Jenny.

The in-between years

Fast forward through my life, where writing wasn’t a feature because I obviously wasn’t any good at it coming second place to someone I looked up to when I was twelve. I still had stories running through my head and often used them as a means to fall asleep when my brain wouldn’t shut off from the day. But I never wrote them down.

And then in 2009, after getting laid off from my publishing job, I decided I was going to write something down. The book I wrote was based on a dream in a post-apocalyptic world.

Most of my stories are extensions of my dreams, but this one had a lot of rich details to it that were used to get the ball rolling.

In November, still unemployed but freelancing to be able to eat, I participated in NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write the 50,000 first draft ugly awful words of a book. And I did it. I wrote 50,000 words and my book was born.

My main character, Jenna, was smart, sarcastic, and funny; she was also incredibly isolated, an outsider, and a person who never saw her impact on the people around her. It took me 5 years to finish it, picking it up and putting it down at random moments in time. But eventually, I finished it.

At the time, I had taken a science fiction and fantasy writing class at the local university. Part of the class requirement was to read out five pages of your book. The same week it was my turn to read I had had a job interview. I was more nervous to read those pages than anything else I’d done in life, including that interview.

My classmates liked the content, but I was bombarded with questions on where the people came from, how did the food get made, where did the clothing come from. I couldn’t answer any of these questions, because I forgot to build the world while building the book. I had no idea where it came from; to me, it wasn’t relevant to the narrative. But to the readers, it most definitely was.

My husband did some research as to how much water and power my New City of York needed. He did amazing work on it and tried to help me build the world, but it was so overwhelming, I couldn’t face it. Once the class ended, I shelved the book.

Fast forward to the present

The idea for my current book, The Deep Space Between, came to me while I was writing my other poorly titled Apocalypse Girl book. And it wasn’t a dream, but an idea born out of another daydream, featuring a girl with a boogeyman riding shotgun in her body.

A girl who was an outsider, who was isolated, who felt unloved and separate from everyone else. A girl who never saw the impact she had on the people around her.

Once I realized I’d written, or started writing, two books about the same type of girl, I took a long hard look at myself. I realized I was them, they were me, just in different settings and circumstances. I had a story that needed to be told and I was the person to tell it.

This book is born out of two fears: I’m not good enough to write an engaging story; and, it wouldn’t have any impact on anyone even if I did. But I’m done competing with my 12-year-old self (since it was never about Jenny Simeon anyway).

I’m ready to see the impact I could have, or my character will have, on the world around her as she navigates the story and potentially learns more about my impact on my world in the process.

And that’s good enough for me.

Thank you to author Cassandra Stirling for sharing her inspiring story that led to the release of ‘The Deep Space Between’ which is available now.

About the Book:

Seraphina Lastra Covington had never planned to set foot in the Magical Community of Merricott, New Hampshire again. When she reluctantly returns after a twelve-year absence, she finds that the town has changed: the bustling square she once knew is quiet, and a Magic Wielding child has gone missing. It is not until she starts heeding advice from the voice inside of her head that she realizes everything in her childhood home is not as it seems.

About the Author:

Cassandra Stirling’s entire career revolves around language. She has worked in the fields of law, publishing, and marketing; writing a book seemed like a natural progression. In 2020, her husband noted that, while Cassandra’s childhood dream job was to be a writer, she “was not a writer,” as “she didn’t write.”

She proved him wrong by writing her debut novel The Deep Space Between.

When she’s not writing or working, Cassandra can be found playing video games, reading, cross-stitching, or generally figuring out how to fit all of her life into the seventeen hours a day she’s not sleeping.

The Story of my First Story

Introducing Gary Kruse who tells the story of his story…

Gary Kruse - Author

A Cautionary Tale of Hope and Naivety

A long time ago (1996 I think?) in a bedroom not so far away (about three and a half miles away from where I live now), a teenage boy decided to put pen to paper for the first time.

Twenty-five years later that same boy is still writing and finally, after a quarter of a century (on and off) of trying, I’m finally seeing my work in print and online.

This year has been my most successful writing year ever, but the road to where I am now starts way back at the end of the last century.

It’s Robin Tunney’s fault, you see. Well, her, Fairuza Balk and Keifer Sutherland.

For those who don’t know, Robin Tunney and Fairuza Balk were rival witches in teen horror flick, “The Craft.”

I went to see the Craft when it came out in the cinema…

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