Inspiration for Weird Wild

Weird-Wild

My collection of short stories, Weird Wild, was published on 20 March 2014. The first story I wrote for it was called ‘The Lake’ and was written as part of an online writing challenge. I didn’t know then what it would grow into!

My book babies, out in the wild!

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s nothing more relaxing than walking through forests, unless you’re being chased by a werewolf! We’ve visited forests in the UK, including ‘Wistman’s Wood’ in Dartmoor, as well as rainforests in Latin America and Asia and all helped inspire ‘Weird Wild’, with creepy mists, crooked trees and hidden dens.

Blog-126
Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

The Stone Circle in Weird Wild is definitely inspired by my love of archaeology. I love Stonehenge and have been fascinated by stone circles, both in terms of what they tell us about our ancestors, but also the more mystical elements. My logical, scientific brain (and a number of my tutors!) debunked the idea of ley lines but there’s still something magical about these stones. Who’s to say they aren’t portals to the fairy realm?

Stonehenge. I visited it while studying and the image of the stones rising from the earth has stayed with me. Magical

How pretty are bluebells? It was an annual tradition growing up to visit ‘Bluebell Woods’ and see them when they bloomed each spring. I was fascinated to learn some of the more nefarious uses of this beautiful, if deadly, bell. I’d also never claim to be a poet, but the poem for Weird Wild was written fairly quickly, the voices and the bells ringing clearly.

Buriton 2002
Bluebells near where I grew up.

 

Blog-143
Dartmoor, UK

So many beautiful lakes inspired ‘The Lake’. Whilst Lago Roja in Bolivia isn’t surrounded by trees like the lake in Weird Wild, the stillness and sense of isolation crept into the story.

Lago Roja, Bolivia. It was so peaceful and ethereal here

Blog-142

Out in the wild!

Blog-139

As always, any sticky plot points were worked out during long walks. There’s something about being outside which definitely clears the fog and helps the writing process.

Check out those wild flowers!

 

Blog-395

You can get your copy of Weird Wild from Amazon, or contact me below for a signed copy!

The Big Interview: Chloë Yates (C. A. Yates)


Life’s a funny old game isn’t it? You never know who you’re going to meet, and in today’s virtual world, you never know who you’ll meet very briefly in the flesh, but who you’ll end up becoming friends with online. However, that’s how I met Chloë – we met very briefly as Alt-Fiction four years ago, then worked together on different Fox Spirit books, before chatting online and becoming friends.

Chloë has been very open about her struggles with her mental health and as part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, she’s kindly agreed to discuss her issues, what methods have worked for her and how her creativity has saved her. She writes as C. A. Yates and is on twitter as @shloobee

WARNING: Chloë discusses her issues with mental health which may be a trigger for some readers. Also, there may be a little swearing. You have been warned.

GCH: Which living person do you admire most and why?

CAY: Do they have to be alive? Almost all my heroes are dead. Let me have a think. Okay, I’m going to have to go with “someones”. I’m involved with a collective of creative dames, called The Speakeasy, who support each other through thick and thin. There’s musicians, artists, writers, crafties, all sorts. I admire every single one of them and I’d be lost without them. There’s always someone (quite often a dozen someones!) you can speak to and bounce ideas off, to encourage you, to talk over problems with, expel your fury, laugh with, and almost anything else you could need. There’s so much creativity, chutzpah, and common sense in the group, it can’t help but keep me going. I’m honoured to be a member because these women are balls out cool… and that makes me sound like I think I am likewise some cool shit. Maybe I do, maybe I am… *lights cigar and tips hat*

GCH: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

CAY: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I mean aside from stuff like chopping up your granny for pies, whatever floats your boat, however it floats your boat, shouldn’t be apologized for. An it harm none, y’know? Guilt and shame are what society uses to pop us in our assigned boxes, to keep us on the supposed straight and narrow so we can “fit in”. Ugh. Fitting in. So vulgar.

GCH: If any of your stories could be made into a movie, which one would it be, who would direct and star?

CAY: Hm. ‘Tuna Surprise!’ from the Fox Pocket, Under the Waves, might be fun. Live action, everyone dressed up as fish. Either Terry Gilliam or Guillermo del Toro would do a magnificent job, natch. Not sure about the stars. Anyone who could cope with the demands of Sub-Aquatic Operatic training? Kate Winslet might give it a decent bash. Of course, I already wrote part of a script for another Fox Pocket, The Evil Genius Guide, called PROFESSOR VENEDICTOS VON HOLINSHED VERSUS THE SORORAL LEAGUE OF BAZOOKA-BIKINI-WIELDING DEMONIC DIVAS FROM OUTER SPACE (it won’t let me write it in anything but capital letters, sorry). Ed Wood is dead though and who else could do it justice?

GCH: What music do you write to?

CAY: The Cure (aka The Greatest Band in the World Ever) is always my first port of call. My story in Fox Spirit’s anthology Respectable Horror is called ‘The Holy Hour’ and I listened to the song on repeat the entire time I wrote it. They make my brain swell in that good way that means it’s really ticking.

I can’t lie; I will listen to pretty much anything. To pare it down, any old Eighties playlist (I LOVE making playlists, every story has one) is likely to please me. Zoë Keating is a more modern favourite. She’s a cellist and her music is incredible. I really can’t recommend her enough. Epically talented. Sometimes I need absolute quiet, depending on what I’m tackling, sometimes I need something loud and thumping; I recently discovered Rage Against The Machine (yes, I know, I know). They seem very cross about a lot of things and the fury and the loud keeps my head in the game, as the kids say in Management Cliché school.

GCH: Any tips for how you edit your work?

CAY: Editing is my favourite part of writing. I’m a procrastinator and a perennial self-loather with first drafts, but once I have something down, it’s best to go at it like the Devil eating cherries. Yes, he likes cherries, ask Jack Nicholson. Keep at it for a while, take a break, and then go back (to the editing, not the cherries; too many cherries will give you the raging Trotskies, and I don’t mean you’ll get all revolutionary and such). Never get to the point where you feel like you want to bang your head through the screen or page (even though I do it all the time; what’s good for the goose sucks for the gander). Get up, Taylor Swift that shit off, and go back when you’re less frustrated. Just don’t stay away too long.

GCH: Writers are always asked where they get their inspiration. Where do you get yours?

CAY: Moonbeams and rainbows and coke bottle bottoms… there’s no real answer to this because ideas come from anywhere and everywhere! I read a lot, love art of most kinds, take frequent trips through the internet, keep notes about everything – news stories, the people I meet and see, places I visit – I love quote websites, surfing through image stashes online, etc. All these things can trigger an idea into being. I recently felt a tingle of inspiration while staring at an embankment on the M25. Story lives in the air we breathe, even when it’s thick with noxious fumes.

GCH: Tell us about your latest writing project.

CAY: My primary focus at the moment is on something called Feral Tales for Fox Spirit Books. I can’t tell you too much, but I guess you could say it’s concerned with what happens when you leave the path…

GCH: What’s your favourite drink? Wine or beer? Tea or coffee?

CAY: Water predominantly, although a mug of sweet, strong coffee always goes down well. That said, I’ve yet to say no to an ice cold Martini, two olives, no dirt.

GCH: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

CAY: When I was very small we lived right by a river. My mum would often find me behind the sofa, which was in front of the window, eating all the poor insects that had flown in and died (there were a lot). Necrophagia ain’t just for the ghouls, baby… or perhaps I was a ghoul baby?

GCH: You’ve been very open about your mental health issues. Would you mind giving a brief outline of how they affect your day-to-day activities?

CAY: It might sound like a cliché, but some days simply getting out of bed, feeling like it’s worth it, like I’m worth it, is the hardest part. Sometimes it lasts all day, sometimes there’s just a flash of it, but it happens every single morning. It’s a bloody ballache to be honest, like waking up and hitting a brick wall. That said, and I don’t want to sound glib, lately I’ve found coffee can help immeasurably. The ritual of making it – measuring out the grains, heating the water, pouring it into my special mug, sipping its inky delights – gives me a specific task to focus on first thing. It’s one thing I can definitely get done. Small things can change your mindset more than you might imagine.

Focussing can be hard work – I admire anyone who can do it. I munch up people’s advice about it like a starving man, but applying it successfully can seem like the Holy fucking Grail. This is of course pepped up by the wonder that is self-doubt which, on a bad day, can come at me like a petrolhead’s pimped out monster truck. I mean, we all have self-doubt, and with creative types I guess it’s especially endemic, but it can paralyse me, dousing me with a whole ‘can’t do right for doing wrong’ feeling that’s very frustrating and wholly unproductive. I can sit in front of my computer for long stretches seeing nothing but emptiness and pointlessness. Well, I say nothing but obviously I am EPIC at making myself feel terrible about myself and if reinforcing negativity were an Olympic Sport you wouldn’t have heard of that Redgrave fella. It’s very difficult to talk about all this without sounding like a liability, but if people want to think that about me, let them. Being more open about it has really helped my recovery and maybe it can help someone else too. That’d be a genuinely Good Thing.

GCH: You’ve recently been having some successes at dealing with your anxiety. How have you managed this?

CAY: Last autumn, stuck in bed with bronchitis and the broken rib of doom it caused, my mental health in total disarray, I felt pretty much like I was over, that I was going to be trapped in this awful cycle for the rest of my life with no way out. It was suffocating. I’ve felt bleak before but that was something else entirely. Anyway, during a half-hearted Internet perusal, I read about something called DBT – Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. It focuses a lot on mindfulness, calming yourself down, analysing what you are really feeling, and gives you the tools to help keep you balanced. When I say it’s changed my life, saved it even, I’m not overstating the case. I’m clearer and calmer than I’ve been in so long it feels almost like a miracle. It’s not, it takes hard work and constant vigilance, but it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m still learning and probably always will be, and that gives me more hope than anything.

GCH: How has your writing helped you to cope?

CAY: Ironically enough, while I often find it difficult to focus, writing is a lifesaver. It’s a bit like me wishing on those Ruby Slippers; it’s been there all along, I just had to realise it. I can channel all my negative emotions and frustrations into my work, I can control it (if it sometimes feels like it’s the story dragging me along that’s okay because I brought it into being in the first place), and it’s a place of shelter from the cacophony of the world. I’d rather be there than most anywhere else. Except libraries. Libraries are the best.
GCH: Mental health is increasingly coming into the (I hate to use this phrase but it’s either this or the worse ‘popular consciousness’) ‘mainstream’ with books by Matt Haig and the ‘Heads Together’ charity set up by the royals. Has highlighting these issues helped you to cope better?

CAY: To be honest, I don’t feel like it has helped me cope better on a personal level, but anything that highlights the issue and tries to de-stigmatize mental illness is just fine by me. I often find that people are happy to pay lip service to the fact that mental illness is the same as physical illness, that we should take it every bit as seriously, but I can’t tell you how often that goes out the window when the latter does come up. I understand it, but it shows how much work still needs to be done. It sure as shit can kill you just as easily as cancer can and needs to be taken every bit as seriously. I don’t say any of that lightly.

GCH: Whilst treatment and the complexities of individual diagnoses, what would you say to others suffering from mental health problems?

CAY: To be clear, while I am pretty open about my mental health issues, I am in no way an expert and have no desire to set myself up as such. With that in mind, there are two things I personally rely on. First, remind yourself to breathe. Stop a moment, concentrate on your breathing. Give yourself time. Repeat. It might sound banal, but it’s the easiest form of self-soothing there is. Second, YOU MATTER. Don’t let anyone, not even that nasty little inner voice that’s so bloody convincing, tell you otherwise. You. Matter.

GHC: Tell us a secret.

CAY: Everybody’s pretending. None of us know what we’re doing, so keep on trucking.

Throw back Thursday: Fox Spirit Does Exe-Con (June 2014)

Aunty Fox, @VampiricChicken and I went to the inaugural Exe-Con, held in Exeter in June 2014. It was a fun event with local traders as well as larger businesses. Coupled with a lot of cosplay, books, comics and more it was a great event. Plus, we spread the foxy word and sold a lot of books, including launching my collection of short stories, ‘Weird Wild‘! I’m happy to say the events grown since then so am sure we’ll return to it next time. In the meantime, you can buy all Fox Spirit titles here.

Check out some of our pics from the day:

The Big Interview: Adele Wearing

When I first set up my blog one of my aims was to highlight inspirational women to show young girls they could aspire to achieve something that society, their school, friends or even their parents perhaps said they couldn’t. With that in mind, I interviewed authors, a charity CEO, and a friend who could best be described as a nomad, amongst others. I’m going to be re-running those interviews, with updates as to where they are now. To start us off, I’m catching up with Adele Wearing, founder of Fox Spirit Books.

Unknown

I first interviewed Adele in 2012. She’d recently set up the ‘Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse‘, was reviewing books for un:bound and was planning to edit an anthology called ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon‘ which would help launch Fox Spirit Books. Over the last four years Fox Spirit Books have published over 50 titles, been shortlisted for a number of awards and won the BFS best indie press in 2015, had a launch event at Forbidden Planet London (African Monsters) and generally been insanely busy. Coming up they have the Pocket Party to celebrate finally finishing the Fox Pocket series (details here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fox-pocket-party-tickets-25343708715) and an event as part of the Everybody’s Reading Festival in Leicester in October. Beyond that of course they are going live this year with their first titles for both the Fennec kids and the FoxGloves martial arts lines. Busy times but Adele continues in her aim for world domination, with a very fluffy tail. You can find out more at Fox Spirit Books and on twitter.

And here’s the original interview!

You’ve been described as a feral leader, a muse who kicks people in the face as well as blogger, reviewer and publisher. That’s a lot of alter egos. Are you a secret agent in disguise?

No. I’m actually a changeling. Hagelrat is the closest translation I
could find of my species name in your languages, even then I had to go
half dutch. Knowing that you are a changeling can lead to multiple
personality issues. It’s ok though, you’ll never have to deal with all
the voices in my head, some of them aren’t safe in public.

When are you happiest?
When I’m right in the middle of something I love. That could be
kickboxing, working on the books, having coffee with friends and
sometimes there is nothing better than curling up with a book, a
coffee and my cats. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Which living person do you admire most and why?
Oh it sounds horribly trite but it’s true, so it’s my mum. I know what
she’s handled over the years and just how tough she can be when she
has to be.

So you’ve established and organised the Apocalypse Girls, Fox Spirit, Un:Bound, Alt.Fiction and more. Can you tell us a little about each project and your plans for the future (although world domination seems to be a given).
The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse was just a bit of fun
really, somewhere for a whole bunch of us to blow off steam thinking
about the end of the world. It took off far beyond what any of us
expected and we have been working on a pitch for it.
Fox Spirit is a new venture, things seem to have aligned and now I’m
an indie publisher which is a little unexpected. I love the books I’ve
got on board and the authors, it’s slightly terrifying and very
exciting. The first books will come out in July.
Un:Bound was where I started with it all really, it started as me
talking to myself, then I discovered the blogging community, events,
got a team on board and ten video editions happened. It’s a little
slower these days but still running and I still try to review
everything I read, which shows how much less i’ve been reading I
suppose, or at least how few finished books.
Alt.Fiction was an established event, run by Alex Davis for Writing
East Midlands and last year when Alex stepped down I took the reigns.
It’s a wonderful event with fantastic people involved and it was
wonderful to see it come together this year. Can’t wait for next year.
What’s next? oh umm, well let’s get the books out and the next
alt.fiction event (Leicester Central Library, 6th October) done and
umm a couple more tournaments under my belt, do the unbound fantasy
movie and take it from there? In spite of my claims to the contrary
i’m not really seeking world domination, I just want to see what I can
do. I guess the plan is to keep pushing until something stops me. Then
push harder.

Given all of the above, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
All in all I’d have to say getting to here from there. A couple of years ago I was unfit, unhappy, and facing the collapse of my supposed to be shiny new marriage. Now i’m training regularly, and well we’ve been through the rest but I’ve never been happier. So much has changed in a relatively short time.

And what would be your biggest disappointment?
Stopping. That’s it really. You try a lot of things, some work some
don’t, that’s fine, but to stop trying stuff, to settle for how things
are and not push to do more, or do things better would bother me. I’m
also very conscious of the fact that people are trusting me with their
work. Vince doesn’t let go of things any easier than I do but is
trusting me to do what I need to for the movie and the authors and
editors involved in Fox Spirit are putting their babies in my hands
and I have to make sure they grow and you know, not shake them.

When do you find time to sleep?
Ah, well biologically we only need a four hour cycle of REM sleep, so
it’s fine. Actually I am usually up around 5:20am and crash around
10pm so I get plenty of sleep usually.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I embarrass easily and forget it just as fast. The last one I remember
was having to get a pair of swimming trunks at the gym because I’d
packed a shortish dress for work and forgotten to pack knickers.
Ooops.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hmmm, people who only treat people well when they can do something for
them. I fully recognise I am rubbish and unreliable when it comes to
doing social things or calling regularly, but I hope how I treat
people has nothing to do with what they can do for me.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Nothing. Oh I have regrets, but I’m happy with where I am now and
changing anything might bring the law of unintended consequences into
play so i’d leave well alone.

Do you have any superstitions/quirks/unique qualities others would call odd?
Ha, I’ve been called on the fact that I talk to myself and other
things (I got spotted explaining to a snail why I was moving it the
other day). I also compulsively check the doors before bed.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Awesome, but everything is at the moment. I expect there are lots that
I am happily oblivious too. I probably over use ‘when I take over the
world’, but you know.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I snore, like a log cutter. Only when I’m unsettled but if I leave a
window open you can hear it down the street.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Angel delight or jello pudding. Butterscotch. I’ll mix it up with a
fork in a measuring jug and instantly eat it straight from the jug.
It’s not classy and I don’t care.

What’s your favourite movie?
Ooh, tough one. I must have seen The Lost Boys a bazillion times and
when I recently saw it at the pictures for an 80’s event was lip
syncing line for line. Serenity is a regular re-watch, and The
Princess Bride will always be special. There are probably a dozen
films that I would always have to have whatever format we move into.
Ones I had on VHS and quickly replaced on DVD.

If you could be a character in any movie, TV show, or book who would it be and why?
She Hulk. I covered her for Know You Idols and face it, if I could
spend a chunk of my time being 6ft 7 of muscular awesome and the rest
of it being a badass lawyer and self defence expert I totally would.
She Hulk loves being a Hulk, fully embraces it and makes it her own.
Although Hawkgirl is also very cool, can fly has big hammer. You may
be seeing a pattern emerge.

What is your earliest memory?
I’m actually not sure. I have blurry recollections of holidays and
things from when I was very small but i’m no longer entirely certain
what’s memory and what i’ve been told about. I remember going to buy
fish with Grandpa when I was very small. He kept tropical fish and an
outdoor pond.

Tell us a secret.
Ah, should this be where I revealed I am a changeling? Rats. Something
else then. I can’t buy cheese anymore, because I love it and if I have
it in I will eat the whole lot in a day. I don’t even pretend to be
using it as real food I just cut slices and scoff it down. So now I
only buy it when I have guests.

Thank you, that was fun. 🙂

Thanks Adele, I’m sure we’ll be bugging you again for more updates in your quest for World Domination!