fiction Stories Writing

a lock down novel: 7

(a snippet of)

Chapter 7, Mary

Days have merged into weeks when I have felt permanently exhausted, entirely drained. I have felt fidgety as if I want to get outside and do things but the thought of physically acting upon that drives me crazier still, so I have mostly remained here in my room.

The shaking sensation in my hands have been beyond my control and I can hardly hold the pen that I am writing with now which is nothing on what they have been some days.

My skin is itchy and I have a huge rash over my face and arms which has always been a sign of a breakdown. I have blotchy patches all over and scabs from where I have picked in a panic or worry until blood drips onto the off-white carpet. At least that’s the cleaner’s problem. It is a silly colour choice for a place of this sort anyway.

My hair is beginning to fall out too which is what happened last year when all of this started, well, sort of when it started.

My legs ache. My clothes are hanging off me because I haven’t eaten for what must be days if not a whole week now. I can’t remember. My memory is going too which is scary because a lot of the time that is all I have to hold on to. Memories. How precious they are.

I spent some time earlier (I think it was today) looking through old photos that they allowed me to have in here. Some were of Erin and Jack so young I could cup them in my hands, like tiny puppies not ready to leave their mum yet. Some were of them only a few months back which makes me so proud to look at. To look at how they have grown into such fantastic humans with little help from me. Though I have a bit of pride to take for it I guess, I wasn’t always completely absent.

The children have hardly wanted to visit. I think the few times that they have appeared has been out of forceful bribery by Eileen. Perhaps a promise of McDonalds on the way home or a trip to the cinema to see the latest release.

What a good aunt she still is. No matter what we throw at her she keeps a strong frame within herself to hold everything together and keep those children onto a path of success and independence for which I will always be grateful.

Adulthood Non-fiction Observations

This week I vow to find my personality

I am writing the first part of this blog post today, Sunday, after a week where tiredness has sucked every sense of personality out of me. I will check back in on Wednesday before posting this to see how I am getting on.

Something Dawn O’Porter wrote on her Patreon recently really resonated with me. She said: ‘Today was hard. My energy levels were zero. My personality was zero. My willingness to at least try, was zero. I really struggled.’

One of the many things that I admire about NHS workers, with the horrific shift patterns, is their energy. Aside from their incredible knowledge and skill set, their energy and enthusiasm through it all is amazing.

Never have I seen a miserable nurse, a pissed off paramedic or an impatient Doctor. It’s just not in their nature.

This past week I have found that tiredness has overruled. I’m usually smiling, at work anyway. I have to be. I work with people. Nobody wants a misery guts making them a sandwich or helping them post a parcel. I usually feel energetic and enthusiastic to help even the nuisance customers. I have a lot of patience, on the outside, and I mean it when I say thank you. Last week this was not the case.

Nurses and doctors and everything in between are tired. Of course they are. They spend their working days saving lives. I never see them crumbling to this, outwardly showing how they inwardly feel.

This week I vow to find my personality again.

To not let tiredness win. To overrule and be happy. To smile even if inside I am screaming. To find energy in any way that I can. To appreciate everything and to not put much time into negativity.

Monday arrived and I still had a bee in my bonnet. I was not having it and I couldn’t shake my negative way of being. Conversations seemed meaningless. I couldn’t even try. Everything got to me and I wondered if I would ever be the same again.

Gradually the day got better and the large gin at the end of it gave me some upbeat energy but anger still filled me. Mostly.

Tuesday came and it was like I’d been drip fed amphetamines through the night. It was lovely.

I woke up with so much more energy, ready to converse with even the slowest, dullest in society. I was working better, my brain made more sense and putting the increasing numbers of orders together didn’t feel like solving an algebra equation.

I was joking, genuinely laughing, really smiling and not getting down about tiny little nagging things. These brushed over me like the wind. I didn’t even meditate!!!!

Of course the day wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is. Frustration came in ebs and flows and I began to think that over-tiredness and being overworked was starting to get to us all.

Yet this was mixed with laughter. Meaningless, squiffy overtired laughter but so much laughter. I felt alive again.

Wednesday morning (today) has been welcomed with a much needed lie in, a read, a slow get up and a hearty breakfast (Spaghetti hoops on toasts counts as hearty in these desperate times).

I’m feeling tired, but I’m feeling good and ready to get through another day helping others get through these terrible times.

Non-fiction Observations Writing

For a moment I forgot I am a writer…

For a moment I forgot that I am a writer and that writing is, in a sense, work as well.

Each day I find time to write in between working busy shifts and I thoroughly enjoy to do so. Whether it is at five o’clock in the morning before I start work. It might be at half past one in the day time when I am on my break from work. Or occasionally I write in the evenings if I have chosen not to have a glass of wine. This is very occasional.

It’s therapy. It’s freedom. It’s time to myself. It’s development. It is all of those things but it is also jolly hard work.

A novel contains a huge amount of words and those words take a lot of time to edit. Getting them down in the first place is a job well done but that is also only the beginning. I didn’t realise myself how many times I would go over my manuscript before it went to print. I certainly didn’t realise how many other eyes would read and scrutinise it as well. It is a big task.

In fact, it wasn’t until the other day when I was driving with a friend on the way to a coastal retreat for the weekend in order to get more work done when I noticed that I have forgotten to consider writing as hard work for a while.

I have neglected to notice that it makes me tired. I have failed to count it as my working hours. I have disregarded the time and effort needed to make my work as good as it can be.

We were working out rotas and my friend said how she fully realises that my breaks are not always breaks and I use that time ‘off’ to write. I returned from the coast and felt worryingly tired considering I’d spent the weekend away at my happy place, a place of relaxation and recharge. Then another friend pointed out that I had in fact been WORKING and that reading and editing is tiring.

Suddenly I felt something needs to change. I’ll never stop loving writing and I’ll always see it as a fun, enjoyable, soul strengthening thing to do but I need to start seeing it as work and to stop beating my twenty-four-year-old self up for being too tired for a youngster because a writer is a job title.

Creative work is work. Reading and editing makes you tired. Painting, drawing, sketching, whatever it is your talent is in, it is still worthy to be called work. People buy it for a reason. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Hear it from me.

Non-fiction Observations Writing

My Publishing Journey: The Proof

It has been a week and a half since I received the exciting email containing the professionally edited proof of my debut novel.

At a first glance, all I felt was excitement. Giddy excitement to see my baby, still on a Word Document, but looking as it will look on the pages of an actual book. The layout just looked fabulous and having my name as the author and on copyright was pretty cool.

My words flowing, words I had written, characters I’d come up with in a world entirely created by moi – it still seems surreal. Scrolling briefly before reading any, I was happy to see that it hadn’t been completely covered in editor comments and changes, and felt quite proud that an amount of my time studying English had been worthwhile.

My publishers explained to me in detail how they have edited my manuscript and advised precisely how I go about agreeing with their changes or, indeed, disagreeing.

I realise I am no professional. I am fully aware that I am brand new to this game. However, I felt it would be useful to share with you all my tips so far on THE PROOF and what I have found helpful when reading through my entire manuscript once again.

  • READ ALOUD: it makes for clearer reading and easier to spot little mistakes
  • TAKE YOUR TIME: while time is of the essence, this book is going out into the world, do not rush, be careful to get it right
  • PLAN, BUT NOT TOO MUCH: I have planned to read a chapter a day. If I achieve more, then I am very happy but if that is all I manage then equally, I have done well. I work full time and sometimes after a busy shift my eyes need to be away from screens.
  • KEEP A CLEAR HEAD: there is no point attempting to effectively read through and edit when your brain is frazzled. I find it takes a few moments to get into the right head space in which to work properly. This weekend I am off to the beach. I have a great friend who makes this happen but also, the beach is where my mind instantly clears and I know I will get a lot of quality work done while there.
  • BE PROUD: don’t underestimate your achievement and be proud to look at your book in a professionally edited form. As much as you feel you’re boring those around you, it is VERY VERY exciting!
Non-fiction Recommendations Review Writing

Writing Magazine: a review

For over a year now I have been a proud subscriber of Writing Magazine.

Each month another issue arrives through my letter box and I indulge in its variety of useful and interesting content. Every issue is packed full and thicker than your average magazine so I admit that sometimes a pile builds up beside my bed of those that are still to be properly read.

I initially skim through, perhaps picking out articles that particularly stand out and read them there and then. I then put it away for a day or two until I find time where I will read through properly and enjoy every minute of doing so.

From competition entries to writing news, author stories and everything else in between, Writing Magazine offers a superb selection of opinions, information and ideas to develop your writing technique.

Since subscribing I have undertaken a writing course, appeared on the letters to editors page, entered numerous competitions, taken on board book recommendations, discovered new writing exercises to spark up ideas and learnt so much about this weird and wonderful industry.

Encouraging, inspiring, informative, interesting, entertaining, witty, realistic and fabulous. That is how I would describe this brilliant and useful magazine. Long will I subscribe and if you’re interesting in writing and reading then you should consider subscribing too!

Adulthood fiction Observations Stories Writing

The Friend

“So, that’s all we have time for on the programme this week.”

There’s a soothing aspect to having the radio on as a constant background noise. It is something that I feel strongly about and as a result, my house is never quiet. Whether I’m leaving it on so that Poppy, my Spaniel, doesn’t feel lonely while I’m out in the day, or to keep my mind focused on the words being said so that it doesn’t wander into those dangerous dark places, I always have sound.

Poppy’s favourite station is Radio 2, though she does like Heart FM on Sunday’s – musicals and love songs aren’t her thing. I particularly enjoy Radio 4 for it’s discussions and the peaceful tranquility that comes with it. I feel I learn something merely by having it playing out even if I’m not listening and, most of all, I feel like I have company when I am alone.

I find Sunday’s the hardest days to cope after everything. Sunday morning television is hideous and currently I haven’t a good book to indulge in. I love to lose myself in fictional worlds but it has to be the correct, gripping read and my taste is becoming pickier as my age increases.

Poppy lay on my lap sound asleep but in a state whereby if I move she will know instantly and pine for me to return. I can sense it and, apparently, so can she. Stroking her soft fur brings me calmness but otherwise I am fidgety and restless. What to do.

I press my phone and there is nothing. No messages, no likes or comments on social media, not even a breaking news broadcast. Nothing is going on.

Outside is cold but sunny and bright which brings envy towards my friends with kids and perfect families, probably playing outdoors or off out for lunch at a country pub that they saw recommended in the paper. I rarely envy children having made a conscious decision not to have them, but times like this I do.

Breathing in slowly and out deeply relaxes me further but only for a second when a car pulls up onto next doors driveway causing Poppy to bark loudly in attempt to warn possible intruders off. She fails to realise that they live there and it is perfectly within their rights to park up.

I tune back into the radio that has been playing throughout my morning and chuckle slightly at the comedians. Even though I don’t find them very funny at all, I feel I should at least try to laugh on occasion today.

The day suddenly feels huge with an expanse of time to fill in which I have no plans and nobody to plan with. I pick up the paper and attempt the crossword to add productivity to my day. At least I will have achieved something that way.

The first clue. Seven down. I can’t do it.

The door rings. Jenna.

“Oh hey darling, I was just checking in. See if you’re alright. Martin has gone out with the kids. I wanted some time to myself.”

Imagine that, I think, wanting some time to yourself.

“Lovely to see you.” I say, genuinely so grateful for her presence.

“Here, look. I brought a bottle. It’s up to you but I really fancy one.”

“It is the weekend after all,” I agree, pretending I’ve got it all together with my normal, upbeat response.

I take the perfectly chilled bottle from her, my thumb prints marking the icy casing and put it on the kitchen side while retrieving two glasses from the cupboard.

“I’d usually not consider drinking before 1pm,” I say with a smirk.

“This isn’t a usual day,” replies Jenna, reassuringly but making me question her mental state as well.

I pour equally generous measures into the glasses and smile at the sound. I smile at the sudden buzzing feeling inside me. A feeling I’d forgotten about.

“Cheers to friends,” we both say simultaneously.

The first sip and I am reminded how lucky I am.

Non-fiction Writing

20 writing goals for 2020

  1. Enter 10 writing competitions
  2. Finish book 2
  3. Publish my debut novel
  4. Work hard
  5. Encourage others
  6. Finish my Writers Bureau Writing Course
  7. Attempt writing for radio
  8. Write more in different settings
  9. Write some happier fiction
  10. Keep it up with my blog (at least 2 posts a week)
  11. Earn some money from my writing(!)
  12. Attend literary events
  13. Embrace conversations when people are upbeat about my writing
  14. Read more brilliant work of others
  15. Read more around topics like social media, blogging and self-promo
  16. Take myself off to places to gain inspo and ideas
  17. Start another novel???????????????
  18. Read my writing magazine WHEN it shows up
  19. Stay positive and enthusiastic
  20. Keep going
fiction Stories Writing

Flight (part 3)

One more visit to the hospice before my flight and I know this will be the hardest visit yet. I am borrowing our neighbour’s car because mine is back in England and we sold Mammy’s once she got too poorly to drive. It was an impulse decision which we clearly hadn’t thought about properly because it would have been very useful to have over the past month, a lot more useful than the two thousand euros that we got for it.

I load my gigantic backpack into the boot ready for Mary to take me to the airport after my visit and mentally prepare myself for one of the hardest goodbyes to date. Not one bit of me is feeling excited in this current moment. In fact, every bit of me is questioning whether this is the correct thing to be doing at such a helpless time. Then I hear Mammy in my ear telling me to go, spread my wings, find whatever it is I need in life and come back with lots of stories. I stop everything and smile for a minute.

I have done the journey to the hospice so many times that I don’t have to concentrate on the directions because I know the route off by heart. In fact, it scares me once I arrive in the car park and turn off the engine that I can’t remember half the journey as I was totally spaced out and unaware of my surroundings – my mind was elsewhere.

I carefully place my chip in my pocket and choke at the two-euro charge to park in a place where everybody is visiting somebody who is dying. It’s a lot better than the extortionate rates that they charge on the hospital side. I suppose you’re unaware in that case how long your relative will live so they may as well rinse you for as much as they possible can. It makes sense.

Mammy’s room is on the ground floor with a beautiful view of the bright yellow Wicklow gorse all in bloom outside in the courtyard. When she has fallen asleep during visits I have taking every pleasure in watching people walking around this space, savouring the last precious moments with one another. Be it husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, they all look content in a beautiful final scene.

I walk down the long corridor to room seven where Mammy is. A nurse squeezes out of the door quickly before I can get in. She must be new because otherwise she would have greeted me. We all know each other now because I have spent so many hours in here lately.

I look over to Mammy’s bed and see a sight I have been imagining but hoping would never actually happen. The whole room stops for a moment and all goes quiet inside my head. Perhaps Mammy has been moved to a different room.

I gasp in shock though it is the inevitable. It is real. A nurse runs to me in attempt to comfort me with a hug, but I want to go over to her. To touch her. To give her one last kiss and say my final goodbyes. Real goodbyes not temporary.

The staff respect my privacy and leave the room telling me to take my time and call them if there is anything that I need. I sit on the bed next to Mammy in a space that is as if she had planned my visit and left for me. I lean over to kiss her cheek and see Jenna’s body out cold on the floor, a needle in her wrist and marks on her neck – dead.  

fiction Stories Writing

Flight (part 2)

That was the great thing about this happening to a person like my Mam. She is such a strong lady that she made her cancer some sort of joke. A joke for her anyway. She’d constantly go on about how much we’d all miss her because she is possibly the greatest person to walk this earth.

Of course, she was exaggerating, she didn’t love herself like most politicians out there or celebrities who have been born into fame and constantly told by people around them how perfect they are. The hilarious thing about these situations was how everyone around her would be hysterically crying, genuinely sad tears and she would just laugh it off and tell everyone to man up. That was easy for her to say. She was the one that was going to die.

My mother’s dealing with her stage four diagnosis was what made the horrific scenes at the hospital easier. The tubes going in and out of each and every vein. The photos Daddy sent me after her first few rounds of chemo and the news that it wasn’t working. The more upbeat photos of her sat with a large gin and tonic in the hospice more recently. It was all of this that encouraged me to book my flight to Paris on September 4th. Today.

However, today is different. I’m not feeling as cocky in my ability to handle the loss of my mother which will inevitably happen. Initially I thought that exploring Europe would set me free from the pain that is about to come but then I feel the pain will creep up on me sooner and I’m not ready to handle it alone.

I have had such an intensely beautiful month spent in Dublin with my family, visiting Mammy every day and making memories that I am going to hold on so tightly. The same way a toddler would squeeze onto their Mum out of jealousy while she was breastfeeding their new born brother. So many memories yet not enough. I am not ready to go.

As I sit and pack the last of my survival kit into a bag that already looks too big to lug around station after station and up numerous sets of hostel steps, I stare at the photo of Mammy and I from graduation. The proudest moment of my life so far and one of hers. I look to the right of me at Jenna and consider where it all went wrong. I wonder what she is doing right this minute and a part of me wants to speak to her. Though it was her decision to leave, to allow her life to go off track, she still may silently need her older sister.

Adulthood Non-fiction Writing

10 Things that help me distract my creative brain

As a creative with an overactive imagination, sometimes I find it getting the better of me. I feel overwhelmed by thoughts and sometimes even scared, especially when I dream.

I find certain things in life distract this chaos and help me masses when trying to relax without thinking up a new plot line for a novel or a horrific scene in my head for the next short story competition. Here are a few things that help me distract my creative brain:


Something I don’t do enough and miss it when I haven’t made time to read, but it is something that helps me lose myself in this busy world and escape into another one.

The radio

Even if I’m not actually listening to it, I find that simply by having the radio on in the background soothes me. I also have a theory that the wisdom from shows on radio 4 subconsciously sinks in, thus upping my intelligence, but that’s just a theory!


Much like the radio, I find listening to podcasts very relaxing and a way to gain an insight into various topical discussions and learn new things away from my writing. I am also more likely to be consciously listening to a podcast which is always a good sign!


Whether it’s on my walk to work, whilst getting ready for work or on a car journey in between, music is essential to my life. I struggle to go a whole day without it. It is my saviour.


Walking is another essential to the structure of my days and a nice break from my writing. Sometimes if writers block is looming, a nice stroll will soon sort it out.


Being with those closest to me is an obvious candidate for distracting my creative brain and exchanging scary story lines for happy thoughts. If simply being doesn’t work instantly which it usually does, then I find talking about ideas I’ve had or dreams that are bothering me helps.

Being by the sea

The sea is amazing in both chilling me out down to the core and springing up new ideas within my creative side. I wrote a lot of my first novel by the sea and loved what I wrote.

Travelling and car journeys

With company or alone, I find car journeys (train or any other method of transport) a happy space in which to stop, to contemplate and to live in the moment. All of the activities in this list are about living in the moment and focusing on that to take a breath away from the chaos that is life, especially that of a creative, and travelling certainly does that.


I tend to dip in and out of mediation and yoga but I find them both very useful. If I have had a particularly busy or mind boggling shift at the stores, when I come home to write, I meditate for five minutes before doing any work. This helps me to make the shift between different types of work and puts me in the correct zone to write.


Sudoku or jigsaws, without sounding like a grandma, are great in losing myself in the moment. They require focus so my brain can’t be bombarded with other stuff but not too much that they put stress on it.