Excerpt (draft one) from Hearts Unbound – Book Nine of The Girl Diaries

Some CampNaNoWriMo stuff I needed to store because I’m not on my PC and I can’t remember my email password.

 

14th February

My valentines sucked

 

Sunday 15th February

Shift at work was miserable. I was heartbroken and hungover.

You busy?

Just got off work

Come over?

I can but I’ve got work later.

Liams angry at Wyatt for going out with that girl in your ensemble group.

Ayla?

Yes.

Why.

Because he’s in love with you and Liam told him to leave you be. He thinks Wyatt is doing it to make you jealous.

Well, it’s not working. It’s just weird. Poor Ayla.

*Drama between Liam and Summer. I know it’s my fault because Wyatt came over my house last night

I left Summers house and thought about walking over to Chucks place. I didn’t want to go home. I got to his street and changed my mind, I couldn’t talk to him about this. I found myself absentmindedly going over to Kacies.

I rang the doorbell and her little brother answered. We’re the same height even though he’s years younger than me. He grinned and I was shocked at home much he looked like his big sister, they even have the same indent on there chins.

“ I’m here to see Kacie.”

“ She’s at work.”

“ Oh…”

“ Dad’s just gone to pick her up, do you want to wait in her room?”

“ Is that okay?”

“I don’t care,” he said walking back to the lounge leaving the door wide open, he plonked back on the couch picked up the controller and unpaused his game. The sound of shooting filled the hallway and I closed the door and made my way towards the stairs.

*turns out Kacie has had sex with Leyton, Jake and even Owen because he thought Delia dumped him. Nope. Awkward.

“When did all that happen?” I asked, genuinely impressed at home many boys she had slept with in such a short time. She’d been a virgin when we first met, could that really only be four months ago?

*Kacie and I talked about the Wyatt Ayla drama and I called my mum to tell her where I was and that I’d be home early tomorrow to get ready for work. I needed a uniform that fit me, Kacie was two sizes smaller than I am.

Chuck sent me a text as soon as I got off the phone with my mum.

Where are you?

Kacies.

Why?

Why not.

Wanna come to mine? Mum let me buy Woodys.

“Do you mind if we take this sleepover to your besties house.”

“Chucks not my bestie you know.”

“What is he to you?”

About the only guy I don’t ever want to sleep with.

Harsh.

No, it’s good. We can just hang out it’s great, plus he has you and he really loves you.

Why’d he try to hook up with Adalind then?

He was angry, but at least it helped him realise there is a difference between being with someone you love and just hooking up. He didn’t understand how meaningless it was before, before he’d only ever been with you.

“ Should I feel jealous?” I don’t. I’m worried that means something.

“ I wish I didn’t feel jealousy, it’s not productive.”

 

Monday 16th February

Chuck and I went back to my place so I could shower and dress for work. Mum invited him to join her at the movies while I had my shift. Geez mum, way to go overboard with being nice. Weirdly enough Chuck said yes. I couldn’t control my jaw dropping.

*unprotected sex and he came inside me*

“ I’m so sorry, I started pulling out and you dug your nails in.”

“ I don’t even remember.”

“ I came in you, shit you’re not on anything.”

“ I know but wow it’s so much better.”

“What?”

Theres no pain afterwards.”

“You always felt pain after?” Chuck looked horrified.

“With condoms yeah that’s why I always wanted to shower, it burned, I just thought it was normal.”

“No, it really isn’t. You ever think maybe you’re allergic to latex or something?”

 

Tuesday 17th February

Class. Home. Doctors visit to grab the morning after pill. Went to Chucks after school and noticed Adalind was there smoking with Chuck on the steps.

“Hey, sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming over.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I’m leaving anyway I just came to grab this,” she held up a pack of filters.

“Nice seeing you,” I said and squeezed past them to go and grab a cup of water so I could take these tablets.”

“I have to take two now and two at six,” I told chuck when he joined me in the kitchen.

“Did you have to get your mum to give permission?”

“No,” My sister pretended to be my mum and gave consent to my GP but Chuck didn’t need to know about that mortifying lecture she gave me about safe sex. I was still reeling myself.

I didn’t keep any of the tablets down in the end and I threw up well into the night. Chuck suggested calling an ambulance at one point.

“No, then my mum will definitely find out what idiots we are and I don’t want to ruin how good it is with you guys.”

“She’s definitely warmed up to me since…”

“Since I cut myself?” I finished for him.

“That, yeah.”

“You’re allowed to talk about it, I’m definitely not going to do it again.” Because I’m never going to cheat on you and hate myself for it.

Wednesday 18th February

Didn’t go to school. Still felt way too nauseated. Mum asked me if I was pregnant when she got home from work and found me lying on the bathroom floor. I told her that I definitely wasn’t but she wasn’t convinced. Neither was I to be honest. Surely this nausea can’t just be from the morning after pill.

Wyatt called, apparently Ayla had told him I wasn’t at school.

“Because I’ve been puking, but hard to work on choreography when you can’t move your head without retching into a toilet bowl.”

“you always say exactly what you’re thinking don’t you?” Actually, I most definitely do not.

“ Why are you calling?”

“To see how you are.”
“ Alive, now can I go back to bed please,”

“You sure you don’t want me to bring you chicken soup.”

“I’d just projectile vomit it back up all over you Wyatt and I’m sure Ayla wouldn’t appreciate you playing nurse with me.”

Silence.

 

At the GP with Chuck and my mum. When the nurse called my name they both stood up to come in with me.

“I’m going in alone.” I told them and when neither of them sat down I pursed my lips, “ Fine I won’t see a doctor, I’ll just wait it out like I wanted to in the first place.”

“Take a pregnancy test at least, please.” My mother said and Chucks face went white.

“ I’m not pregnant.” I told them both before turning around to head into the treatment room. I wish saying that convinced myself.

 

Thursday 19th February

The maxalon needle my doctor gave me did wonders, also I’m not pregnant, or if I was I’m not anymore. My GP also gave me another dose of tablets, mifepristone this time rather than just the morning after pill and I woke up today with cramps and a period that wasn’t due.

Sitting in assembly being lectured by our deputy principal.

Thank god school ends early on Wednesdays.

Walked to the shops with jade and met up with Felix. Super awkward tension. After I got credit I texted Chuck to see if he was done for the day and suggested we head to the pool.

Eating Chips and chocolate.

“ Good to see you have your appetitie back.”

“I never thought I would eat again.”

“ Don’t be so dramatic,” Alistair said, “ you had food poisoning for one day.”

“Well it felt like a month,”

“You’ve just eaten enough food to last a month,” Leigh said joining us on the stands.

“ Is anyone else grossed out by those two?” Alistair asked and we followed his gaze to watch Wyatt and Ayla making out underneath one of the diving boards.

“I know how to fix it,” said Felix and he jumped in beside them creating a wave that splashed everyone and ruined the rest of my lunch.

“Want me to get you another serve?” Chuck asked looking at my soggy half eaten plate.

“No,” I got up and dumped the pack in the bin and walked over to where Kacie was sunbathing with some of her school mates.

“Sup viola girl,” Veronica said, her voice was bright but her sneer was evident.

“I’m actually doing violin this year?”

“Can’t even commit to an instrument,” she said and I shifted awkwardly. We both know she was questioning my commitment to something else. I’m just glad Chuck hadn’t overheard her.

“Don’t be such a cow, come tan with us Riss.” Kacie offered.

“I just burn.”

“I just freckle but it sure does feel good in the moment.”

Felix chose that moment to get out of the pool and shake off like a dog.

“Asswipe!” Veronica yelled at him and threw a shoe at him in exasperation. He ducked out of the way and her thong landed in the pool. Wyatt swam over and handed it back to her.

“I’m gonna head, you coming?” she asked Kacie who declined.

“Yeah, I’m done with swimming too, lets go somewhere cooler for the rest of the afternoon,” Chuck said and he handed me my bag and unused towel.

“Is that dry?” Felix asked hopefully. I threw the towel at his face.

“We could go to the movies?” I suggested. My last pay was just begging to be used frivolously.

“There’s a new vampire movie out, I’ll come if you guys go see that.”

“Don’t get enough sucking in real life huh?” Felix asked her and Kacie and I both shot him and angry look.

 

*At the movies Kacie gave both Chuck and Felix hickeys to prove how expert her real life sucking skills really are.

“Your turn then, she said to me after she finished and a shiny red welt was apparent just below the caotd triangle of Felix’s neck. Chucks hickey was lower, just above his clavicle.

“I’m good, I’ve no doubt you have superior skills.”

“She really doesn’t” Chuck whispered and he reached over to hold my hand again. I relaxed the moment he touched me, I had even realized how wound up I’d gotten watching Kacie suck on his skin.

“ I will have to go to work soon,” I told him, my eyes on the screen. I didn’t want to look at the hickey on his neck again, it looked painful and I definitely wasn’t going to kiss it better. I had been so shocked when he agreed to let her give him one at all.

“ Want me to walk you over?”

“nah, hang out with these guys. Try not to hook up with Felix while I’m gone.”

“haha.”

 

Friday 20th

I have awful handwriting.

School was okay. More department heads ranting at school. This time it was about kids continuing to smoke in the tunnels below the overpass. I left school one class early to meet up with Summer before she went to work. We totally smoked together under the overpass before getting chocolate frappes together.

Chuck took me on an actual date.

I wore a dress and everything was great until Wyatt showed up with Ayla at the same restaurant and they sat down with us. He was clearly stoned and decided to loudly proclaim his theories about aliens in the middle of the dinner rush.

“Ask him to go outside for a smoke,” I begged Chuck. People were staring.

“Lets just leave.”

“I can’t do that to Ayla.”

“You owe me,” I’ll probably owe you for the rest of my life.

Ayla ate her meal in silence and then she and I paid for the bill. The guys still hadn’t come back inside.

Wyatt was sharing a joint with Chuck in the parking lot.

“I want to go home,” I told them as we made our way over to the bike racks they were resting on beside the industrial bin.

“I’ll walk you,” they both offered at once. Sigh.

“It’s all good, Ayla and I can share an uber,” I told them and I took her hand and headed back out the front of the building.

I got home and wrote a poem called Stuck on You. I can’t ever show it to anyone because it’s all about how Wyatt can’t seem to get over me but I needed to get my unhappiness at this fact out anyways.

I’m sorry I love him more, I know it isn’t fair

To lead you on and care not for your despair.

My heart is already full, though it doesn’t always show

The ways in which I love him are more than I bear to know.

I can’t remember your embrace, while accepting his.

That’s why I deny your attention and hurt you like this.

If only you could give your heart to another

I’d gladly go back to treating you as a brother

But that’s unrealistic to wish for it seems

I have to settle for watching you rip apart at the seams.

According to his profile Jake is dating Melita again. Good. They deserve eachother. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with these social accounts at all. No one even tells you anything in real life anymore.

While I was busy not caring about what my ex is up to I heard the doorbell ring, I checked my phone. Nope no messages. It’s not that late, it’s probably for mum.

“Can you get that?” she called. What am I the butler?

I opened the door to see a very well dressed Wyatt. Why didn’t he wear that nice outfit to dinner though?

“I need you to do me a favor.” Not this again.

“Ayla isn’t answering and Liam and Summer have friends over.”

“How does this result in you being on my doorstep?”

“I don’t want to get high and hook up with anyone.”

“So you came here.” Great logic that is.

“Yeah, you don’t want to cheat, I don’t want to cheat. We can help eachother.”

Saturday 21st

As soon as Wyatt went home I messaged Chuck. Can I come over today?

Of course, you don’t have to ask. He reminded me.

I grabbed food on the way over and we curled up in his airconditioned room to watch movies.

“I wish I didn’t have to get to work.”

“ I wish you never had to get dressed.”

“ if I had a bike of my own I wouldn’t have to leave for another half an hour.”

“Buy one, you can always earn more money.”

“Will you help me pick one?”

“Yeah I’ll go check out a few shops while you’re on shift.

“You’re amazing.”

“Do amazing boyfriends do this?” he asked and he rolled me on top of his still naked body and pulled my nipple in between his teeth and bit down slightly. I inhaled sharply and felt his penis harden under my thigh. I kissed him and said, “I guess they do.”

Later that night.

I have a nice shiny new bike and Chuck and I raced over to Felix’s house on it. Jade was already there and in his pool when we arrived. Chuck beat me by at least three blocks. No one felt like drinking so we just swam until I figured it was late and I should head home.

“I could ride with you, stay over, finish what we started this morning before you left rudely.”

“I have to work early tomorrow.”

“Please,” I hate saying no to him.

“I could finish you off here, those two aren’t coming out of his room anytime soon.”

 

Sunday 22nd February

 

Monday 23rd February

I got zero sleep last night because chuck stayed over. Ever since we got back together all he wants to do is have sex or get head. He made me come eight times last night before he finally let me go to sleep. I didn’t mind then but I’m stupid sore now and just lifting a pot of water is making my abdominal muscles contract painfully. It’s mums birthday though so I’m going to make her poached eggs with fried tomatoes and spinach. Hoepfully. I’ve never made poached eggs before but I found a recipe for it and it doesn’t look that difficult.

At swimming carnival sunbaking with Ayla and Leigh. Tabitha is the only one of us who still had races, if they weren’t taking attendance I would have just gone home to sleep. I managed a first place in backstroke despite not having any rest for the past 36 hours.

“So have you spoke to Wyatt since the worst double date ever?” I asked.

“Yes, he admitted he was being a wanker and apologized.”

“I hope you told him you will never go anywhere with him when he’s off his face,” Leigh said, the set of her eyes cold and severe.

“I told him that.” Why do I doubt the sincerity in that statement though?

At sizzler with the pirate family.

I had to leave early, before dessert even to get to work. I’m approaching 42 hours with no sleep now, I don’t know how I am going to manage.

Tuesday 24th February

Got home from my shift, amazed that my till even balanced because I can barely remember anything outside my hazy state.

My phone is ringing. Noooo I just want to go to bed. But it’s Chuck.

“Hey,”

“is Wyatt over?”

“What, no, I just got back from work.”

“oh, I forgot.”

“I really need to go to sleep,” I told him.

“He’s dropping off a bag for me.”

“Why is he dropping it to my place?”

“he lives closer to you.”

“I’ll wait up,” I promised but I wasn’t happy about it.

 

Fell asleep on the bench outside and woke up when Wyatt was carrying me into my bed. He tried to climb in with me too but I hissed at him, “Just leave what Chuck asked for and go.”

“I thought we could roll one, I need your advice about Ayla.”

“I don’t want to get high I just want to sleep.”

“She’s still pissed at me though.”

“Maybe stop getting trashed every single day and just spend time with her then.”

Woke up to mum asking me if I’d seen her spare shoes. Yes I had, I wore them to work last week and accidentally left them at Chucks house. I didn’t want to tell her that so I pretended to help her look for them instead of going back to sleep.

Decided I was too tired for school Want me to bring your weed over?

Ditching school are we?

Yes, but only because I want to sleep in your aircon. I’m sunburnt.

We got high and walked around the shopping centre. Ran into my mum and I made up some story about needing aloevera gel. I don’t think she bought it but she shouted Chuck and I lunch and waited around for me to try on clothes before giving us both a lift back to our place.

 

Wednesday 25th February

School. I had to pay attention because I had a lot of catch up to do. Wagging always seems like a good idea and it never is.

Got my pay in, shouted food for Tabitha, Chuck and Felix at the Indoor Sports Centre. Training was brutal, I still haven’t caught up on enough sleep.

Thursday 26th February

School.

Chuck met me after and he has the sniffles. I tucked him into my bed and made him a tin of soup. He ate it and fell asleep. I did my homework while listening to him snore and wished, not for the first time, that we could just live together. Not in our parents home but in our own place.

I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie and when I woke up I noticed my bed was empty. A sinking panicked feeling crept in. I checked my phone. Nothing.

I went to go look for him upstairs when I heard hushed angry voices.

I peeped out the front to see Chuck talking to Wyatt. What the hell is he doing here?

 

Friday 27th February

After eavesdropping on Chucks terrible advice to Wyatt about Ayla. “Dump her, find someone you want to be with and don’t tell them all your sordid history with Clarrissa.” I couldn’t hardly sleep so I’m at school like a zombie again.

“There’s a party at Graysons tonight,” Leigh told me at lunch.

“Are you going?”

“Yep, are you.”

“No, and Chuck is still sick so I’m going to his place tonight.”

“Can I tell my mum I’m sleeping at yours?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Can I tell my mum the same thing?” Tabitha asked.

“Sure, I’ll unplug the home line in case one of your folks tries to check up.”

“I was actually hoping we could both get ready at yours,” Leigh asked, she batted her eyelids at me.

I laughed, “Does that ever work?”

 

Ayla and Wyatt had a massive fight at the party. No suprises here he was smashed and flirted with some random girl that was there in front of her.

Jade slept with Grayson, at this rate I’ll be the only girl in my friend group who hasn’t.

“I left your esky behind in my rush to get out of there,” Jade explained when she showed up at Chucks house in an uber.

“It’s cool, I’m sure he’ll drop it off to Tabitha’s for me tomorrow.”

“What have you guys been up to then?” Foreplay, sex, anal sex, handcuffs… We had our own house party.

“Just watching movies, we’re about to put on another one if you want to join. I’ll make you up a bed when it’s over.”

“I can sleep with you guys,” she suggested.

“Ummm, I should probably make that bed too,”

 

Saturday 28th September

Jade made us a picnic lunch and Chuck and I joined her for a quick morning hike. Afterwards I had work, another close. Don’t get me wrong I love the penalty rates I get on night shifts but it’s really killing my social life. Chuck Jade and Felix all went back to her place to drink while I had my shift and then texted me asking for Pizza when they knew I was finished. I considered pretending that I hadn’t seen the message and just going home to bed but then another message came through saying Wyatt was over so bring three pizzas.

When I finally arrived, food in hand they were all super drunk and everyone except for Chuck was playing strip poker. I joined in and after I’d lost my socks and my hair tie and all I had left on was my underwear Chuck took off his shirt and gave it to me and then stormed out of the room. I turned around and awkwardly pulled it on despite protests to go and find him but he’d already left. I went back inside, got dressed and went to bed in the spare room.

Leap Year Day

“Wyatt and Jade had sex.” Felix announced and handed me a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I put the steaming mug down on the counter. “Well, so much for him not wanting to cheat on Ayla,” I said and I plugged in my phone at the charging station on the kitchen bench.

“Chucks pissed at you.”

“I may have noticed, what with him storming off last night.”

“He sent me a message asking if I’d stay here to keep an eye on you.”

“What?”

“Apparently you cheat on him everytime you guys have a fight.”

“Well all I did was go to bed, I hope you told him that.”

“ I did.”

“Thanks, I think.” I can’t believe he asked him to spy on me.

*Tried talking to Chuck. Made everything worse.

“You love the attention you get from guys, don’t deny it.”

“That’s so not true, I was just joining in and having fun. You should try it sometime instead of just smoking and drinking and annoying me for sex.”

“I do a lot more than that.”

“Really? When?”

 

At work. Chuck still hasn’t replied back to me since I apologized.

 

Monday 1st March

School. Home. Wyatt came over to beg me not to rat him out to Ayla about Jade.

“I wouldn’t betray Jade like that.”

“I don’t get the impression she likes Ayla very much,”

“Well I don’t get that impression from you either, why haven’t you broke up with her already?”

“I could ask you the same thing about Chuck.”

 

Picked up dinner on the way to Chucks house. If triple fudge ice-cream counts as sustenance. I made Wyatt pay for it because it equated to hush money. Chuck rolled a joint for each of us and we sat outside in his little sisters wading pool and got high and stared at the stars. Eventually Wyatt left to go talk to Ayla.

“I hope he breaks up with her,” I told Chuck after the door closed.

“He should, he clearly doesn’t love her.”

“Because he cheated? You know that’s not why.”

“No, but he spends more time with you than his girlfriend, he’s even happy to be around me just to spend time with you.”

“I know.”

“Then do something about it.”

Chuck and I discussed the best way to minimize contact with Wyatt and because he was really high he also let me trim his hair. I don’t think I did too bad of a job actually.

Tuesday 2nd March

School was arduous. I crammed in all my homework in my lunch break because I had to deal with Wyatt tonight like I promised. Unfortunately when I called him on my walk home he was already with Ayla and I didn’t want to have this conversation with her in earshot.

Wyatt showed up at my place and we walked across the road to the park so we could have a smoke.

“Did you break up with her?”

“No,” he said and he turned away from me.

“Oh for god sakes, what are you doing?”

“I told her that I’m no good for her and that I want to go get treatment for my addiction.”

“What addiction?” I regretted those words as soon as I said them, even an idiot could see how badly he misused everything you could possible drink or smoke.

“Liam is going to kick me out if I don’t go to a day program,” he admitted.

I laughed, I couldn’t help it, a dealer giving rehab advice.

“Okay but that doesn’t change the fact you should break up with her.” She’s too good for him, she truly truly is.

In my room

Giving another boy a hair cut. This is not the cutting that Chuck had in mind when he told me to deal with Wyatt but he seemed so lost that I couldn’t help myself. He needs a haircut for his upcoming court case anyway and if he’s going to see some counsellor about his substance abuse he should at least look like he wants to change for the better.

What is 20BooksTo50k and CreativeIndie?

There’s a lot of buzz in the indie world about self-publishing gurus like Derek Murphy and Craig Martelle. Are they just innovators? People who genuinely want to support other writers to succeed or is there an ulterior motive?

At the core of both platforms there is an option to pay to be supported, however there is definitely a crap load of free advice and products and no commitment asides signing up for a newsletter. If you really want to make money from writing and you are floundering around trying to work out where to start. Well, these guys offer a launching pad.

Derek Murphy

Craig Martelle

The best offerings I can find across both these platforms is the community of indie writers that each of these writers foster. A haven where kindred spirits discuss their writing/editing/marketing journeys. Sometimes getting your book baby out there into the world can feel like too big a task and it’s hard to watch others have sucess while you’re drowning in key words and social media like loops. Getting published, even just getting query ready is a lot of HARD WORK and often emerging writers are not prepared for it. I know I certainly wasn’t prepared for the $3000 cost to launch my debut novel series. and there are another twelve books to go!

Originally when I discovered CreativeIndie and 20Booksto50K I was already published on Amazon and going no where fast. I had maybe 13 KENP each day if that and a book sale per month. I was so dissapointed, like many newbie authors are when they start there self-publishing journey. So what did I do? Eat chocolate and abandon my attempts altogether?

Guerrilla Publishing

20BooksTo50K

No, I joined each of these Facebook groups so that I could stalk authors in the Indisphere that had already clawed there way to payday and I am going to share some of the wisdom these two successfully managed groups have to impart with everyone here hoping to make that same successful leap!

The one constant I have noticed is that successful authors are out there hustling, they are doing everything they can possibly do to grab readers and then coax them into buying their new books. Usually this starts with having a decent cover and an advertising budget but if you are able to build up an engaged subscriber base while you are creating your amazing content you are in a great position to release your book to market (with or without a publishing contract)

There is so much inspiration and advice available to newbies in both of these FB groups, you have to take what applies to your genre and what you can reasonably afford to do but it’s a great first step for anyone just now entering a highly saturated market. A word of warning, these ARE NOT platforms to market your books. Other writers aren’t your target audience, but… you can find out where your target audience is by finidng out what has worked for other authors writing in your genre. Learn about what good covers that attract readers and that are targeted appropriately look like, find examples of blurbs that hook your attention and learn about NL swaps. Best of all, get examples of e-Newsletters, templates for advertising, links to podcasts that discuss honing your writing skills and collaborate with other writers to broaden your social media presence. You aren’t in this alone.

Moving on, here is the condensed ‘Tips to success’ as promoted by those in the know.

1) You Must Write A Series. Series outsell other books. Series build a readership and encourage readers to stick around.

2) You Must Write Relatable Characters Don’t make them pretty or perfect. Readers want to connect with and empathise with their journey.

3) You Must Release Your Series Quickly. Publishing a book a month for a year is often the only way you will ever see an income. And yep it’s very hard to accomplish when you also have a day job but this is your priority NOT gaining social media followers. Sorry, but if it was easy, everyone would be a success.

4) If you can’t get traction try something different. Don’t waste money flogging a dead horse. Do pre-orders while you are finishing with edits for your book (This means you need a cover and a catchy description ready to go) as this is a great way to see if there is any interest for your concept.

5) Pay someone to design your Covers. Make it genre appropriate and make sure it matches the series. Readers need to know they are buying book two or three or just that it’s YOUR book. Your branding is important so make sure it is recognisable.

6) Get published on Kindle Unlimited. It doesn’t cost you anything but time to learn how to set up an account and format your book in Kindle Create.

7) Chapter One needs to be Unputdownable. If you don’t have your readers attention on the first page your book release will fail.

A Diary entry from when I was a teenager. Surprisingly deep

As I was walking home, having one of those super vivid daydreams where you are off being some amazing creative incredible person anywhere but here, I realised something. I really do want to be anywhere but here. In my fictional universe today, I was in my mother’s European homeland for a family reunion and all my previously unaccounted for relatives were sane types who let me drink craft beer and snuck me into a rave. My random delusional brain aside, it got me thinking. Do other people play out fantasies in their heads to combat the drudgery of living a normal existence? I feel like my imagination is always getting away from me, to the point that even when I don’t want to appear rude or ignorant my brain just checks out of a lesson or a conversation and suddenly I’m running away with that cute boy on the bus or pretending to join some cult so that I can rescue the children there from their oppressors. Occasionally when there’s no one who can see or hear me I will just practise fight scenes or make up aerobic routines to try and get out all this energy that sneaks up on me. I fidget a lot. A doctor once called my constant movement’s restless leg syndrome, but I do it purposefully, so I stay grounded. So I can focus on being present. It doesn’t always help, I feel constantly bombarded by my random thoughts. I wish that it was socially accepted to act them out or talk about them because I do have some interesting ones sometimes. I have only ever managed to have a truly deep conversation with one other person, my brother. I’m not sure it really counts as he was high on drugs at the time. I don’t know what he took, but we had this meaningful chat about the reality of being a human being. He told me that people are so much more than they ever project, we are forced to spend so much of our time pretending to be what others expect of us, so much so that often we become confused as to who the real person we are even is. We live these fake lives, where we bury ourselves carefully beneath layers and layers of learned behaviours to the point we aren’t true to our genuine personalities. After my conversation with (Girl From School) today, I think he’s right. I know I try hard to hide who I am and just show the socially accepted version. “You will become the person who you believe others want you to be if you aren’t careful.” He warned me, I was young then, eight, and I still remember those words. Conditioning starts young too. I remember people telling my mum I needed to see a psychologist because I was talking to made up dragons and rabbits at the dinner table and buckling up their seat belts in the car. “You were the only one of my children to have imaginary friends.” she said to me when I finally grew out of the habit. What I never admitted to her was that if she had of let me have a pet I wouldn’t have needed them. I was only six and I just wanted to bring something fun and lively into my day. All I had to focus on back then was the loss of my parents’ marriage. What kid wouldn’t prefer being given the glorious task of raising a baby dragon instead? I still feel like that now, as though I crave something more from this life, when I finally entered the front door today I walked into my room I saw a pile of job application forms I still needed to fill out and a full basket of laundry to put away. I immediately stopped feeling bad that I want to play out entertaining fantasies in my head rather than just be here in my real life. Surely there’s no harm making boring tasks like walking or cleaning more palatable? Sometimes though I’m worried that the thoughts that I have, and that my dreams for my future aren’t in line with what other people are thinking about. I really want my life to be exciting, fun, different from the all-consuming hard-working middle-class paths my family seem hell bent on steering me towards. At the same time, I also don’t want to disappoint them. I probably worry about this far more than is necessary, but it bugs me not knowing where I rank on the weirdness scale against other people. Do other people have dreams at night that are so vivid they also struggle to orient themselves back into reality when they wake? Do other people fantasize about random nonsense like meeting an astronaut in the supermarket or winning the lottery and building homeless shelters? Or is there something off kilter about my brain for getting side tracked so often? Nobody talks about this stuff, sometimes I just spend hours in my own mind, basically talking to myself, not out loud but there is a definite back and forth conversation happening. I used to write my stories down, but a teacher gave me a serve once, after reading a piece I wrote where a young girl sacrifices her family to jump into a parallel universe and escape her poverty stricken home town. I stopped writing them out after that. My mum, who used to praise all my creative work didn’t even notice that I stopped showing them too her. Most of the time when I check out I am just envisioning escaping, as if I would ever be brave enough to get on a bus and run away from all of this. How awesome would it be to just pack a bag and go somewhere completely foreign? To make friends with some amazing family, going out on adventures, just experience a culture that isn’t my own.A boy in my grade, once offered to sneak me along to an indigenous youth camp, I wish I had taken him up on it. I declined because I was so scared about getting in trouble, I would have needed to construct a lot of lies to pull that off and I was only ten. When I think about how the last four years have shaped me since that day I decided not to lie to get something that I wanted I have realised that all the missed opportunities that followed came down to the same thing. My willingness to do whatever it takes to get what I want, my desire to live life with reckless abandon and my conscience. I hope that in the next four years I can reconcile with this somehow before I am out on my own. I need to fill out a job application so I can actually fun being out on my own. I want more from my life than what is expected of me. When I really think about what life as an adult could be like for me, the friends I’ll have and the places that I will go, I can’t help but imagine it will be a thousand times more meaningful than what I have now. I do love my friends here, I’m grateful for the time and affection they bestow upon me, but I don’t always share their mind set I guess. I was just so excited to have a group of peers to be social with that I didn’t stop to consider that I would have to make compromises constantly to retain those friendships. And sometimes when I’m with them it feels like they are just passing time with me also. I guess I really struggle to feel gratitude. To accept the life that was handed to me. I didn’t ask for a broken family or to live in this basic and boring town. What am I supposed to do? Just acclimate into this crap life alongside all the other unhappy souls, never seeking out a chance to find more, to be more? Just say yes, smile and nod and laugh at jokes that aren’t even funny so other people like me, or at least they like the version of myself that I project. Which brings me to the question of how do you even know if other people want to be around you? My primary school friends who ditched me didn’t. My ex boyfriend didn’t. If I don’t mean what I am saying how can I know if other people are being truthful? I’m trying hard to figure all of this out this afternoon and I have no idea why. I am surmising that others have spent a lot longer than my fourteen years on these questions and for some reason still haven’t come to any sort of real answers. Unghhhh that’s so depressing. What if we go our entire life never finding meaning or purpose or true love, hell does true love even exist? I don’t think it does somehow. What I felt for (ex-boyfriend) couldn’t have been love, and if it was, it wasn’t worth having. How can you say that you love someone if you never know what sort of person they really are? If the answers they give you are just carefully crafted responses, products of their own social conditioning. What if the love you feel is all just based on your own assumptions. I don’t know if I’m ok with that. It sounds disappointing and messy. I don’t know if what you perceive to be love is worth putting your true self out there for someone to see and then reject. Is that ever worth the risk? And if love is pointless, then what is the point in pleasing family or friends, what’s the point of going to school? The constant limitations of age, schooling and societal constraints only serve to detract from living a rich life it seems. All the adults in my life have an opinion on what I should be doing with my time, what I should focus on learning about, what sports and interests I should find enjoyable. They never ask what I want to do, they just tell me what I should be doing. How am I supposed to become a well-rounded human being when I’m stuck in a box with all these other people and all we are all being taught is that we are sheep and we need to fit in? Occasiaonally, even the adults admit how crushing reality is, that my teen years are the best years of my life and I should enjoy my time now while I can. If that’s true, then what is the point to anything I do? Why even bother having morals or sticking to your obligations to other people if it’s only going to result in a crap life no matter what you do. I’ve always felt like things that I’m doing don’t matter and I’m starting to feel like maybe I should just start doing the things that I want to, stop listening to my inner voice and just not even care about how my choices affect anybody else. I know that technically that makes me a bad person but so far being a good person hasn’t felt great either.

Why Vellum Rocks!

I self-published on KDP guys. It’s been a learning experience let me tell you… Firstly, I wasn’t using Scrivener… I know right! It’s like $50 USD, how do people not have this life changing software? I don’t know either but I dutifully typed my entire first draft of my twelve part novel series (in chronological order) using Word. DO NOT RECOMMEND! No wonder it took me a decade. Then, in addition to all that, I had tab spaces in my manuscript. So of course all of that mess got doubly indented when uploaded to KDP. Sigh. Then I didn’t use page breaks, we all know how that reads on a Kindle, lastly my embedded fonts didn’t exist in the Amazon software so the digital copy of my debut novel (The version enrolled in KU) and the copy that gets the most attention because it’s free to subscribers just looked beyond wrong!

Thankfully, I have a spare iMAC in my husbands office and he has agreed to buy me Vellum for my birthday. God I love him, he is the best and most supportive person any Indie Writer could ever have. I wish I could clone him for you guys. I also have Scrivener now and am using it to do developmental edits on the next eleven books in my Middle Grade series.

So, as a converted Vellum user here are all the reasons I want you guys to consider investing in your writing career also 🙂

  • Vellum costs $199.99 to create unlimited ebooks or $249.99 to create unlimited ebooks and paperbacks. That is a whole heap cheaper than paying a monthly subscription to Adobe InDesign  or paying someone to edit all your manuscripts in word or *insert groan here* Calibre.
  • The layout screen of Vellum is straightforward.
  • It has a tutorial!
  • It integrates well with any document you’ve already typed up and had edited in Word
  • Chapter organisation is often done automatically even if you hadn’t used page break formatting and including hyperlinks to next in series is effortless.
  • It has a million styles, okay maybe not a million but certainly a good amount and across a diverse range of genres.
  • You can add text as you go (if you find a misspelled word or missing comma.
  • Inserting ornamental breaks is another great facet of this software.
  • Great export capabilities
  • It automatically creates a print book to your specs WITHOUT re-uploading your file and formatting from scratch. Page numbers. Margins. Headers. Font. Line spacing. All of the setup that can take hours elsewhere happens automatically.

Last Night I met Shanna Wann

I’d love for my followers to go and check out Sober In The Country, a new movement encouraging Australians using alcohol to self-medicate their mental health issues to seek support and help to recover. The following blog I’ve taken from Shanna’s site highlights just how necessary this movement really is for our countrymen and women. Please have a read and if you are as moved as I am by this woman’s journey and her resolve to empower others to quit the grog and take their lives back I’d love to read your comments. Together we are better!

Delusions of grandeur among us … ADDICTION doesn’t discriminate

A Blog Post by Shanna Wann

As you all know, I am shamelessly very specific about speaking directly in the space of rural Australian that includes my peers, professionals, executives, corporates, etc., whether it be in the form of agriculture, grazing, rural business or whatever.

Why? Because I have lived it and known it for my entire life. Simple, really. I get it, know it, understand it.

I was reflecting the other day with a mate and just shaking my head, saying that I wonder if young, clueless, privileged me could’ve looked into a crystal ball and seen what was coming … what I would have done?

Ye Gods… probably would’ve moved to Mars.

I was reflecting on the crazy few years it’s been. How that’s included standing up and addressing a room full of VIP’s at Parliament House; starting over from scratch, or sitting in a hospital holding the head of somebody violently vomiting their way through detox while they watched their privileged life and reputation collapse in pieces.

What I have learned through much of these experiences is that ”priveleged” rural Australia is a demographic that can be the most misguided and intentionally oblique of all. And cruel with it on occasions.

There’s nothing like old-money, old-school snobbery and elitism to show the true meaning of the double-standards strolling amongst us in well-shod feet driving the latest SUV.

Let me illustrate: have you ever witnessed a group of the well-to-do sipping expensive red wine while having dramatic whispered discussions about the ‘drEADful state of affairs with the meth addiction sweeping across rural Australia…” for example?

No? Well, it’s a thing. This kind of attitude is rampant in rural Australia.

… there’s this kind of ‘perceived’ superiority from the landed-gentry where some can talk themselves into thinking wealth and prestige equates to immunity from pesky, awkward and unpleasant things such as addiction.

Well – I put to you that this is something we need to address and get real with.

Because dwelling in our prettiest houses amongst our nicest A-List suburbs are some of the sickest people of all. Pretending they’re not. For years. And while ever the perception remains that alcohol isn’t a deadly drug (albeit prettily packaged and splendidly marketed) remains: so does the divide.

In reality, the only thing separating a well-shod high-functioning ‘successful’ alcoholic from a ”low-life” meth addict is a paycheck and the packaging. Yet – the illusion and the immense social divide remains.

I saw that this week another rave-styled party took the lives of two young kids.

Pollies were sad and hysterical. Understandably. It’s tragic.

People called for the lynching of those low-life drug dealers! And yet, still, NONE of these public comments from people in power or politics seem to ever address the fact that alcohol-related deaths, accidents or illness makes drug-related death literally pale into insignifigance or comparison. Here in Australia, and globally.

Why? I can only guess it’s because alcohol is the go-to drug of choice for the elite. Right?

(Along with cocaine, of course. But the prestigious won’t actually admit to that one publicly. Alcohol, on the other hand. Well: bombs away.)

While ever we continue to see brilliantly packaged-and-marketed wines for ”busy Mummies” and gold-label scotch for ‘exhausted important executives’ at airports – none of this will change.

Because we still aren’t calling it for what it IS when it comes to those who are sick, addicted, and living in extreme denial. Because it is VERY uncomfortable. Because we like to think we are DIFFERENT. We’d really rather not be labelled in the same way we label the hoi polloi.

I think it is simply because of stupid, ancient and out-dated beliefs that ”we don’t talk about our problems or ask for help’‘ or that many among this demographic sincerely hold tight to the belief that pedigrees or education and inheritences equates to immunity from addiciton.

Honestly these last few years of walking this road have shocked me again and again. I’ve also seen the so-called ”elite” among us behave worst of all in terms of judgement or condemnation. People who see somebody fall by the wayside and chant from the sidelines ‘you’re just an alcho – you’re not welcome here anyway …’ and kick a man when he’s down. The same man they stood beside not much earlier in the story getting fall-down-drunk with in public. With fake camaraderie and back-slapping.

But that’s fine – becuase that was a special occasion, and everybody was pissed. Right?

And the thing that makes me saddest of all is to watch these folks walking among us pretending to be all about ”inclusivity” and tolerance.

It’s all good and well to say you’re ‘about’ those things – but we all know that true integrity happens when we behave a certain way regardless of our audience.

What I would love to say and convey is that we are all walking this earth on borrowed time. And that at the end of the day, whether we are the King, the Bishop, the Knight or the Pawn – when the game is over – we will all end up in the same box.

I will always be immensely grateful that my life took me to the bottom. Humility is the greatest gift of all. And I would rather sit with the broken than stand with who society tells us is ‘great’ – because that’s where life is real and raw.

To read more posts by this champion for recovery you can find Shanna online at

https://www.soberinthecountry.com.au/blog/

The Breadwinner by Morgan True

Image result for the breadwinner morgan true bloom

So a couple of months back I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or as my children call it ‘Muuuuuuummmmmmmm get off your phone I’m hungry’ and I found this incredible writer/illustrator/freelance cover designer who I immediately begged to design covers for my contemporary romance trilogy. And she did folks! I was super grateful because I had been fumbling around with concept art for a while and nothing was speaking to me. Some people struggle to write a book, some people struggle to edit, I really struggle to create a simplistic but impactful cover that will draw in potential readers. We all have our flaws dont we? Okay, enough about me lets get down to the review for The Bread Winner!

Set in the year 1924, the book follows the MC, Pasha, who is sixteen and a struggling immigrant from Russia. I won’t spoil the book with his tragic back story but when the book starts he is living with his mum and mentally unstable little sister working for a street gang to support them. Things look bleak but here’s the twist guys. This book is a fantasy and our young hero is soon flung into an incredible world of magic tucked away in good old Central Park. Written in 3POV (Which is my favourite format) This book had everything, great characters, accurate historic setting and a well paced narrative that sets the series up to continue. As a reader I was left wanting more.

Morgan True Blum (@morgan_true_blum_author_artist) • Instagram photos and videos

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself,  the link is here https://www.amazon.com/Breadwinner-Morgan-True-Blum/dp/0998042900 or if you, like myself want to enlist this talented lady to help design artwork to promote your next book or if you’d simply like to see more of her incredible work you can find her over at https://www.morgantrueblum.com

When marketing kills your creative energy

I always see people who are posting about products they love, products we should buy and links to their endless social media sites that you should follow. Like for like posts and other boost your tribe on social platforms requests are currently clogging up my news feed. The hustle to market your content as a creative writer or painter etc etc is getting out of hand.

I have often expressed doubts about social media, I personally believe that Australians, in particular our under 40 years old demographic spend too much time on our phones and we are disconnecting ourselves from the “real world” and in doing so also teaching our children that this is an acceptable way to behave, when empirical evidence suggests otherwise.

You want to hear the truth? YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS ARE HURTING YOU!

Yes, I realise it is the cheapest way to engage with your potential audience and reach readers or buyers. You can meet new people, reconnect with old friends (and lovers) and take some of the worlds most ridiculous Which Disney Princess Are You quizzes ever.

But every minute you spend on Facebook and Twitter and whatever else you are using (I’m not even going to try and list all the other social networking sites available, there is a freaking butt load) is another minute you aren’t writing the next chapter of your novel, or reading to improve your understanding of the craft, or practicing with watercolours, or exercising, or meditating, or cooking healthy meals or just generally nurturing your well-being. 

I read an article at work last week (I work in Mental Health intake) that broke my heart. It was an honest, true assessment of exactly how comparing ourselves to strangers online harms our minds and ultimately our screen addictions are compromising the relationships we have with our families, coworkers and friends. I can’t share the article with you guys because it mentioned current clients in digital detox but it revealed just how easily everyday people, even educated professionals can fall into the trap of allowing their online world to become more important than the real one.

I totally get how dependence on social media can happen. I myself have experienced it. Being fairly new to this whole “Building a writing career” I have had to familiarise myself with the plethora of sites that my potential readers, reviewers and #writingcommunity are all using. I was told early in my querying days by a well known publishing firm that having an author platform and networking via social media, especially when you’re a new writer, is vital to your future success. Don’t get me wrong, I am well versed in the need for online interactions and sales platforms, however I am not sold on social sites as the best practice method for generating income from my art. In fact, I have sold more books in person than I have advertising with Google or enrolling in Kindle Unlimited.

I guess, in getting back to the point of this post, how do you know that your use of social media has become a problem? How do you know when it is damaging you mentally, and some times physically (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005) How can you launch a career as a content creator or artist and still be inspired?

I’m sorry, I don’t have the answers. Although there are plenty of topical marketing and entrepreneur focused blogs and companies out there that claim to know the answers. The best one I’ve read lately was this one: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/10/24/18-steps-to-take-before-you-launch-a-product-or-service/#6db69c2819cf

Even though I can’t offer you a concrete no fail solution (and here’s antoher heartbreaking truth here, no one can, so don’t get sucked in by good marketing yourself, learn from it!) I do know that spending all your free time liking posts and following other creators or bloggers online is definitely NOT the solution. Creating a supporting and inspiring circle of like minded persons on your social pages is only that. A network, unless you keep creating new product you have nothing to share with that circle and they can’t help build up buzz for products that don’t exist.

Now is the point where you may want to ask yourself some tough questions.

  • Why do you write or paint or offer your product or service? *Hint – Money is not the answer and if you can’t pull a different reason out of your hat then maybe it’s time to rethink this career choice. You will likely make more money (profit wise) working as a retail cashier than you ever will from self-publishing or selling your art.
  • How often are you actually wasting online? *This includes Netflix, Stan and YouTube. Can’t answer that offhand? Maybe it’s time to install a digital well-being app on your devices.  Track your email consumption, your instagram posting, your binge watching, your blogging, your blog reading, your time answering questions on social media groups, your aimless surfing and your not so necessary “research. Be honest. Don’t cheat. When you look at your habits I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much time the Internet takes away from you. Time you can’t ever get back to go for a hike, learn a musical instrument, watch your children playing, have a barbecue with neighbours.
  • Is the Internet as a whole compromising my creative time, am I reading less or drawing less or sewing new headbands less because I’m spending too much time participating in #satsplat or #ff on Twitter? Why am I doing this, I’m not seeing an increase in book sales or client bookings. Maybe the reality here is that I am reaching out to strangers because I’m not feeling the same sort of support at home? Maybe I don’t have any friends who are artists to engage with, maybe I did but my inability to get off my phone when we met up for lunch or hung out at thier place meant they stopped inviting me places. Do you have a digital addiction and is it blocking opportunities for you to be creative?

I know that eighteen months ago I had to admit I had a problem. I had to delete every single social media account I had in order to reclaim my relationship with my husband and to start role modelling good behaviour with my sons. Nowadays, everyone in my house gets one hour a day of technology on weekdays and two hours on weekends, because you can’t teach children to exercise self-control unless you practise it yourself. My husband replaced Joe Rogan podcasts with learning guitar, I replaced binge watching netflix and moderating a breastfeeding support group with running in-person therapeutic journaling workshops. My teenage son replaced fortnite with learning brazillian jui jitsu and my five year old started school and I shudder to think how much harder that would be for him if we hadn’t moderated his access to his iPad. Because here’s the heart of the matter when it comes to digital devices, gaming and social networking a little goes a long way. You don’t have to abandon all your accounts like I did in order to focus on prioritising your life, I encourage you to continue to follow interesting people, make new artist friends, and leverage the vast resource that is the internet as a marketing tool but I urge you to monitor how much time it sucks out of your real life. Allocate specific time in your schedule for looking at your social feeds, glance at each account, interact with a specified number of posts, read what you need to read for genuine professional development, then move along, get back to creating your books, painting masterpieces, recording songs and connecting with people face-to-face. Every day you need to be refuelling your brain with good chemicals – Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins in order to be mentally well. Doing this involves being active and interacting with the world not just viewing it through a screen.


If you read the entire article, you’re a total champion. Thank you! If you found value in this I would love to discuss how we move forward as creative artists more collaboratively and how we can spend more time doing the work we love rather than just marketing it!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/riss.thomas.988

Thank you!

Wattpad and my current WIP

Okay, so I’ve heard a mixed bag of reviews about this Wattpad platform and how useful it is for writers to gain credibility, and more importantly, notoriety by using this site as a launching pad for their book series. I’ve decided to give it a go (despite all the warnings regarding plagiarism) and am going to be uploading chapters for my next book series Out of Vegas on my Wattpad account.

I may not leave this series up permanently free on this service but I am hopeful I can make some great connections with readers and get feedback on my chapters while they are live. Ultimately I am hoping that when and if I query for this saga I will be putting my best foot forward and be able to use the comments I collect on Wattpad as evidence for the popularity of the books. Wish me luck everyone!

P.s cover art concept for my current WIP The Unseen Forest which is a dark fantasy stand alone book. Why? Just for fun.

Cover design

P.p.s An excerpt from this WIP as well. Why? I freaking love feedback. It helps me grow as a writer and that’s the only reason I am putting myself out there on all these social media apps, so that I can hone my craft and one day make this my legit career.

The Unseen Forest

A mother’s heart-breaking journey from this world into the next.

M. A. Thomas

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As an Australian Writer I would like to pay my respects and acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this land on which I gratefully work and live, and also to pay respect to the Elders both past, present and emerging, in particular the Iutruwita (Tasmanian) peoples whom I mention in this book. Where possible in my fictional novel The Unseen Forest I have endeavoured to use the traditional namesakes of the locations I’ve mentioned. And I thank the nomenclature board for recognising the dual names in signage in those regions as this is vital in preserving the states heritige.

PROLOGUE

The unslightly creature squeezed its lumpy hairless grey body beneath the colourbond fence and crept through the darkness of the yard towards the small cottage soundlessly. A thin layer of fog still clung to the air despite the threatening dawn. The window made a slight groan as two thin arms with gnarled hands forced the pane upwards and then with the tiniest creak the grotesque form slid over the sill and into the rosey hued nursery adorned with floral decals and lace dream catchers upon every wall. In the corner of the room, furthest from the window, was a crib carved from spalted myrtlewood and inside the intricately carved frame lay an unprotected human infant, fast asleep clutching her softest plush teddy tightly against her little body. A long ashen arm snaked between the rails and with a gentle tug removed the toy from her tender grasp then pulled back the sheet that lay across her tiny form. The child cringed in response to the sudden chill and her hands reached out for the comfort of her stuffed animal finding nothing but the crisp air. Within moments her lip begun to quiver as her mind begun to stir. Before the child could even so much as whimper and alert her slumbering family to her distress her kidnapper had clambered into the cot, lifted that sweet little bundle up and over the rail and swiftly exited through the open window, returning to the dark forest that loomed beyond the well-groomed yard. The little girl, now awake, stared quietly at the strange being that had hold of her, she felt no fear at being in the arms of this strange, somewhat humanoid thing.

“Back to sleep now little one.” A raspy voice whispered, gently stroking the bridge between her bright shimmering brown eyes.

“Gaap will keep you safe on your journey home” and the Imp stepped through the softly shimmering fork of a tree, still clutching little Claudia Douglas in his arms tightly as she was lost to this world.

CHAPTER ONE

My mother told me endless bedtime stories, when I was still young enough to fit in her lap and snuggle soundly in her warm arms. Often sleeping in her loving embrace safely through the night. What she never told me was that all her tales of magic and tragedy were real.

Those beautifully crafted fables she burned into my mind from such a tender age were not in fact sweet little fantasies to delight my youthful imagination but her own experiences with the magical creatures with whom we occasionally share our world.

That other realm she had spoken of so animatedly as I listened enraptured upon her knee began to bleed through into every facet of my life shortly after I turned twenty-four, starting with the abduction of my youngest son, George.

I almost walked right over Ainsley as I emerged through the woods into an open clearing, still distractedly calling out for George.

“Have you seen my two-year-old?” I asked her, offering a hand to help her stand. She’d clearly been enjoying an afternoon siesta between herding sheep.

“No, and I’ve been here a while.” she answered with a smirk as she dusted off her jeans.

“He’s clearly good at hiding.” I smiled back at her before looking back to make sure my other child emerged through the trees to join us.

“I’ll help you look too then.” She suggested and before I could waive off her offer she was already walking back towards the highway calling his name.

“We’ll take the fence line back Linky,” I told my eldest son in the cheeriest voice I could manage. “he must be in the toilet block there and we missed him.”

He wasn’t.

Ainsley arrived still calling out Georges name and as she took in my crestfallen face she stopped dead.

I took out my phone and called 000.

How long had I already been searching? Why didn’t I call the police before now? I knew the answer to that. I didn’t want to talk to Shaun. That didn’t matter now though. I have to find my son.

“What do you mean he’s missing!” my husband screamed at me through the phone. Loud enough that the police officer standing on the other side of his vehicle could hear and I noticed his body shift away uncomfortably. I squeezed Lincoln, my eldest sons hand a little tighter as I repeated again the details of Georges disappearance.

“We went to the park and we were playing hide and seek together on the play ground, I could hear him giggling from behind the big oak tree so I pretended to look for him for a bit first and then when I finally checked behind the tree he just wasn’t there. I called out for him but he didn’t answer. No one else is here, it’s just us, we’ve walked through the whole park now and haven’t found him anywhere. I called Shaun at the station to come out.”

“I’ll be right there.” and Thomas hung up on me. I pocketed my mobile and looked my ten year old square in the eyes.

“Link, stay here with Shaun, I’m going to go through the park again and make sure George isn’t hiding anywhere.”

“Yep.” and he headed around to the other side of the Hilux where Shaun stood quietly, our eyes met and I felt my face burn with shame as it did every time I was in his presence.

“Can you call my mum and get her here for Link?” I asked him. No need to give him her number, I knew he’d have it. He nodded and I took off to find my wayward toddler.

How far could a two year old go? I checked inside the slide, calling his name, behind the tree where I was sure he’d be, just standing there, smiling proudly and looking at me to praise his excellent hiding skills. Nothing but dirt and leaves. Not even an imprint of his shoes on the ground to indicate he’d ever hidden there at all. I called his name all through the park, attracting the attention of more than a few farmers who upon realising the severity of my plight joined me in searching the grounds. I called the Myrtle Creek Camping Office again hoping desperately he’d been picked up by some well-meaning tourist and this horrible afternoon would mercifully end. He hadn’t been brought in but both the caretakers are heading to the park to help the search effort now as well.

There was sixteen extra bodies standing beside Link and Shaun by the time I had looped back to them, I saw the look of hope on my first born sons face fall when he saw me returning without his baby brother safely in my arms. I couldn’t bear it and I avoided his eyes as I searched the group for the only other faces that mattered to me now. Neither my husband or my mother were among the people who had arrived. I refused to let the tears overcome me and I grabbed out my phone and dialled the only other resource I hadn’t yet made contact with in my efforts to locate George.

“Mount Arthur Rangers Department, this is Travis.” He answered on the first ring.

“Are you in town?” I asked, not bothering with any polite formalities.

“Yes.”

“Can you drive through the Rivulet park grounds, look out for my two year old as you go.” I told him and I hung up. I don’t think George could have made it over to there without assistance, but It’s been an hour since I last had eyes on my son and if there was any chance he’d made it to the creek I needed someone to be looking there.

“What do you need us doing?” Clare asked and both she and her son Evan looked at me expectantly.

“I haven’t walked up towards the church yet.” and she headed off with her boy, each taking a separate path towards the All Souls Anglican Centre.

“I’ve got the volunteer brigade headed out to Hill road.” Shaun told me, breaking my gaze away from my best friends retreating form.

“Kay.” I replied, unable to meet his eyes. The piercing knife in my heart was going to overwhelm me and I’d be of no use to George if I let it. I knew this.

“The staff from the Nunamara station are coming up now as well, I called them to look as soon as Jake got off with you at dispatch.” I could only nod. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. I felt Links hand worm its way back inside my own before I had steadied myself.

“We haven’t checked the bus stop yet.” came his raw choked voice as I wrapped him in a hug.

“We’ll make our way there over now.” I heard a young man declare, I think it was a Holders boy who spoke. Craig or Jeffrey.

“He was just behind the tree.” I said as the tears begun to fall, they erupted as soon as I saw Thomas’ car arrive.

“We’ll find him.” Shaun told me, I felt his hand cup my shoulder and I stiffened involuntarily. Not because it felt wrong, but because it had been so long since he had touched me I was shocked by the sensation. He removed his hand quickly.

“You haven’t got him.” Thomas yelled questioningly across the growing crowd. It had doubled in size since my last head count, even with the groups that had set off calling for George as they went.

“I asked Travis to drive to the creek, is my mum with you?” I asked hopefully.

“I came straight here from work.” Thomas blurted, annoyance and frustration straining his voice noticeably.

“Did you call her?” I asked Shaun, meeting his eyes for only a fraction of a second as I walked over to Thomas, Link’s hand still firmly interlocked in my own.

“She didn’t pick up, I’ll keep trying.”

“Get out there and look for my son.” Thomas boomed and a stunned silence came over the gathering of neighbours who were watching the scene unfold before them.

“We are mate.” Shaun responded calmly.

“We’re not fucking mates.” Thomas yelled back as he grabbed the arm Link wasn’t holding and pulled me away from him.

“How long before you noticed him missing?”

“Not even a minute, I could hear him hiding behind the tree.”

“Where haven’t you looked?” He asked, the desperation in his features was painful to see up close like this.

” The Highway, The Forestry Trails.” I said without hesitation. We had man power combing every where else.

“He’s two he wouldn’t make it there without being seen.”

“Maybe there’s a fence down somewhere.” I offered, not sure why I was trying to send Thomas off on a wild search when I knew in my heart all to well that George couldn’t get that far alone either. I had to piggy back him just to walk down here for a play because he was complaining the walk was breaking his legs before we’d even reached the gate on our property.

“What was he wearing?” Naomi asked, interrupting our discussion, her ear pressed to her mobile.

“Uh.” I blinked and I couldn’t even remember.

“He had a red spider-man shirt on with a pair of blue pants and blue and orange sneakers.” Shaun told her and she relayed that information back to whoever was on the line. He was right, that was what George had on this afternoon. He’d started the day in a white shirt but he’d spilt yogurt all over it when we had afternoon tea and I changed it. That shirt was now sitting in a bucket of cold water in the laundry sink. I didn’t have enough whites yet for a load.

“I’m going to head through the Dales property.” Thomas declared and he released my arm suddenly. I felt the blood rush back to my capillaries and my nerves erupted in a painful burn down my forearm and into my fingertips. I rolled my wrist, then clenched and released my fist a couple of times to try and get circulation back to normal. I watched as my youngest sons father collected his UHF from his ute and made his way over the road. I knew looking that way was pointless. Link was hiding beneath the slide and I was pretending to search for my sons in full view of the road and the tree line when George disappeared. No way I couldn’t have seen him.

“I know you’ve said you barely took your eyes off him, but…” Shauns voice trailed off, he couldn’t bring himself to ask if I wanted to change my story now that George still hadn’t reappeared.

“He was right there.” I repeated, feeling deflated. Was he, or did I just think I’d heard his highpitched giggles and snorts as I announced every hiding spot I could as I made my way to the tree I’d watched him duck behind. Was it even that tree?

“He wasn’t even trying to hide his laughter from us.” Lincoln answered when my silence had gone on uncomfortably long.

“I’m going to get dogs out then.” Shaun said with determination and he continued to stare at me as he retrieved his phone. I’d forgotten how deep set his eyes were. I looked away and grabbed my own phone out to dial my mother once again.

She didn’t answer me. I phoned Clare.

“You’ve found him.” Her voice answered, her heavy breaths filling the silent.

“No, and you haven’t,” the tears begun then, “either.” I finished with a sob.

“I haven’t met up with Ethan just yet.” She said and I could hear her voice growing more breathless as she sped up her pace towards the Anglican hall.

“I’ll call you if the dogs find him here.” I told her before ending the call.

“They’re on the way now.” Shaun told me and I blinked back the tears that were threatening to erupt and gave him a nod before trying my mother again.

Thomas came back from the adjacent farm with no news. No one had him seen George over there and before Thomas returned he helped Kelvin and Nora search all through the machinery shed and along the track down to the bore just to check he hadn’t got stuck in the mud somehow. The Dales wheeled a generator over with them shortly after Thomas had returned.

“Have you got anything of George’s in your truck?” I asked him.

“No,” Thomas responded through clenched teeth, “why?” he finished with less anger.

“They’re getting dogs out.”

Thomas turned on his heel without another word to me and left with a flurry of dust in his Ute.

He must have gone over 200 km a hour up the road to return as fast as he did, with Georges pillow and blanket in hand.

The Launceston K9 squad arrived not long after, Thomas held the pillow out first for them to catch a scent and they got excited fast.

All the dogs made a direct route across the play ground to the big Oak tree he’d hidden behind, just before the forest begins, and then they ran into the woods about fourteen meters from where he’d been hiding and they stopped. No one could understand it, they’d clearly picked up a scent only to lose it immediately. I realised as I stared at the forked **maple? tree** where they’d lost Georges scent that I’d run along this exact same path with Link as soon as we’d noticed George wasn’t with us in the playground. No one else had been there then. No one had came out the other side of the clearing either according to Ainsley who we’d met on my first loop through the woods in my initial, dare I admit, more casual search for George. I grabbed my phone again and tried calling my mum. Why hasn’t she returned my calls? Why hasn’t she come down here? I looked at the handlers who were leading the dogs back up the way we’d come to take another run at the search using the blanket this time. Where the hell is my son?

I made a book trailer and other ramblings

So with my book launch only three sleeps away I’ve decided to finally attempt to make a book trailer to promote the first instalment ‘Awkward Honesty.’

I used Powtoon and while I think it was easier than attempting a similar slides video in powerpoint, I’m not one hundred percent sure. All I can say was at least it was free. Once I make some actual profits from my debut novel I will engage with a legit video savvy professional on Fiverr. I am sure it’s worth it for the background music choices alone.

In case you’re interested, here is my trailer. Feel free to also subscribe to my channel while you’re laughing at my first ever attempt. I’d appreciate your love and I’ll likely reciprocate it 🙂

Awkward Honesty (The Girl Diaries Book #1)