thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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My mind is a movie screen – an interview with Jeannie Wycherley

Really enjoyed doing this! Thanks!

Zeroflash

Me

Words were my earliest fascination. From my earliest years I was a precocious reader. Even now when I see a flashcard or a Ladybird book, I feel a little thrill. I was a kid with a very active imagination and spent most of the time in a fantasy world of my own creation. From about the age of six, I was travelling on the bus to school and if I wasn’t reading I was imagining myself in stories I’d read, and bigging up my part of course. I could see everything in cinemascape in my head. I was very visual in that sense, and I wrote loads.

And then all of a sudden I didn’t.

I was bright, and I focused on my academic studies at school, then I studied English and Theatre between 16-18 years, and trained as a stage manager at 18. I channelled all my creativity into…

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If you go down to the woods today: Cover reveal – CRONE

 

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. The East Devon countryside is the setting for Jeannie Wycherley’s debut novel – think dense and ancient forest on the Jurassic coast and you’ve pretty much got the idea.

Jeannie was driving home one night from Sidmouth to Ottery St Mary underneath the dense overhanging canopy, when she wondered how she would react if she saw a strange woman in the undergrowth. This quickly became the inspiration for the malevolent Aefre, who is at the centre of the novel’s evil misdoings.

Heather Keynes’ teenage son died in a tragic car accident. Or so she thinks. However, deep in the wilds of the Devon countryside, an ancient evil has awoken … and is intent on hunting the residents of Abbotts Cromleigh.

No-one is safe.

When Heather takes a closer look at a series of coincidental deaths, she is drawn reluctantly into the company of an odd group of elderly Guardians. Who are they, and what is their connection to the Great Oak? Why do they believe only Heather can put an end to centuries of horror? Who is the mysterious old woman in the forest and what is it that feeds her anger?

When Heather determines the true cause of her son’s death, she is hell-bent on vengeance. Determined to halt the march of the Crone once and for all, hatred becomes Heather’s ultimate weapon. Furies collide in this twisted tale of murder, magic and salvation.

Edited by Amie McCracken, and with a fabulously unnerving cover design by Jennie Rawlings at Serifim.com, Crone will appeal to a cross section of readers who enjoy fantasy, horror and women’s literature. With a female protagonist and an eerie female protagonist, Crone is unlike anything you’ve read before.

I’m hugely excited that Crone will be available soon, with this amazing cover to creep you all out, so follow me on Twitter @thecushionlady, or on Facebook @Jeanniewycherley, or follow my blog. Watch this space!


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Three shorts

I’m busily gearing up to publish my debut novel Crone, which is wonderfully exciting (and a bit ohmigerd at the same time) but then remembered there are other fab things on the horizon – namely the release of three short stories this month.

The first one is The Fly Man, which I’ve self-published to Kindle using my pseudonym. You can find The Fly Man on Amazon.co.uk, or on Amazon.com. It’s a hot, erotic story, that is very loosely (VERY) based on a work placement experience I had in the last millennia. There was a gorgeous theatre technician, and Peter Gabriel was singing Sledgehammer on the TV when I needed to borrow a sticking-plaster, and alas that’s it. I wrote it for a submission call but unfortunately it was rejected. I happen to think it’s a great story, and the anthology I wrote it for never saw the light of day, so what the hell … please enjoy.

The second short story was also rejected for an anthology (this time regrettably and for length) and I happen to think it is one of the best things I’ve written. The Municipality of Lost Souls (the short story version) deserved a home, and thankfully The Society of Misfit Stories gave it one for which I am so grateful. After I’d finished writing this story, it just wouldn’t leave me alone, and so I am currently 70,000 words into the novel length version, with some new characters and a more in-depth plot. I am really enjoying the writing of this. The short version will be available from Amazon on 17th February 2017.

The Municipality of Lost Souls is the first story to be published under my married name. I decided that a surname like Wycherley, however it is acquired, was too good to keep under wraps and I want to publish Crone using my own name, so from now on, all my non-erotic stories will be under my name, and I’ll keep good old Betty Gabriel for the other stuff.

The final short story for the month is An Encounter with Old Duir, appearing in the Sirens Call Ezine, Women in Horror Month Special. This is my favourite market – they gave me my first break and have been so supportive over the past few years. The amazing thing is, the whole E-zine is free. All that reading and you don’t pay a penny.

An Encounter with Old Duir is a special story. After I lost Herbie last summer it took me months before I could find any inspiration to write. It seemed impossibly hard. I would sit at my desk and stare out of the window, lost in sadness, until one day I noticed the hill across the valley and the trees on top of it … and bang! A new horror story was born.

Other things on the horizon

March is going to be alternately stressful and mind-bogglingly awesome, as the publication date for Crone comes nearer. I haven’t settled on a date – everything has to come together, and as this is my first time, I’m not clear on how long it will take. April 1st seems fitting though – we’ll wait and see!

I should have a cover reveal for Crone soon though. Jenny Rawlings at Serifim is designing my cover, and I’m dancing with anticipation.

Crone is off to my editor, Amie McCracken, for some TLC. I’m at the stage where I could weep with the editing of it. I can’t see the wood for the trees, and there is a LOT of forest in Crone.

And I have a new website in the offing. I’ll still be copywriting, but I’m not actively looking for new clients, so I figure I need to big up my creative writing.

Keep your eyes peeled! More on Crone as I have news to share!


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Last Post from The Bunker

This is my last post from The Bunker. That sounds more dramatic than it actually is. The Bunker is the name I gave to our Bungalow when we moved in here 16 months ago. It was a nickname entirely lacking in affection, because I didn’t particularly like the house, or the area where we hurriedly found ourselves after being given notice unexpectedly by our previous landlord. The place seemed unappealing to me – atop a huge hill, and several degrees colder than the rest of Devon, with unadopted roads, and miserable squat grey houses. Bunkers.

As I type this, everything is packed with the exception of the dogs and the teabags. I have my laptop but no pens. A washing machine but no line. Most of our stuff has already been moved. We have a bed for example, but no bedside cabinets. The freezer is defrosting; the oven is sizzling away in some toxic chemical that will miraculously remove the grease inside allowing me to wipe it all clean with one single piece of kitchen roll. 

We have finally achieved what we have waited for, for over three years. When I was made redundant in 2012, I set in motion a chain of events that triggered my husband leaving his job, and us selling our lovely house in Derbyshire so we could finance buying a business in Devon, that would obviously pay us enough so that I could write full time and sell all my novels and live happily ever after. Fairy tales.

We thought that in no time at all we would be back on the mortgage ladder. But none of that happened. The gap between the cost of housing in Derbyshire and that in Devon is beyond ridiculous. It’s been a struggle. All of this time we dreamed about having our own place again, where we could paint the walls whatever colour we chose and put all our art back on the walls instead of storing it in bubble wrap in the loft. We wanted somewhere secure to live, where the landlord can’t chuck you out on a whim, or announce an inspection just because, or hike the rent up higher than a family would pay out in monthly mortgage payments.

And here we are! I should be ecstatic but I’m not. Almost but not quite.

The new house is lovely. It’s sunny, it’s airy; it has the most magnificent views of the rolling countryside around here, and if you sit at one spot in the garden you can actually see the sea. It’s beautiful. The garden is so magically overgrown that when you stand at the back door, because we’re on a hill, it’s a bit like being above the tree canopy. The hill falls away into the valley and then rises once more on the horizon. I’ve decided to nickname this house, ‘The Treehouse’.

But as I sit in The Bunker typing this final Bunker blog, my thoughts return again and again to a furry grey fellow who came into this house with me in good faith. This was never meant to be the last place that Herbie lived. He should have been seeing out his last years (always 5 or 6 more in my mind) in The Treehouse; steadily and gently declining, with grace and love, and my soft hands to guide him. We were robbed.

I am loathe to leave The Bunker, because the weather is still nice enough for me to sit on the back step and remember how he and I cuddled up when I knew his time was closing in. As the glorious days of summer grew bleaker, infused as they were with his horrible final illness, I sat on the step and watched him with love and a deathly fear of his loss. He meandered around the shrubs and trees, doing his deeds, sniffing and patrolling and setting the world to rights. And I’ll always remember how he came back to me for reassurance, looking up at me with such love and trust, always living in the present. I made it a ‘thing’, a ritual that had to be performed every evening while he was ill. Without fail. As soon as I arrived home from the shop. Until the night that I sat alone and wept when he’d been gone just 8 hours, and I couldn’t hold his soft furry head again or smell his warm scent, or bury my face in the fur on his neck.

I’ve been dreading this final day here and now it’s upon me. I know I’ll never be able to sit on that blasted step again and conjure him to me. I’ll never spend any more time in that garden. I’ll never know what he looked like next to that bush or that tree, as he lifted his head and sniffed the wind. From now on Herbie will always be a ghost in my mind, a memory replayed over and over, a name I still can’t say without a sudden hitch in my breathing. I can’t see him in the new garden because he has never visited it.

But I learned a lesson years ago, when I was in India with my then soon-to-be husband. A wise man told us, “The Gods will provide,” and that has become the mantra that my husband and I live by. When the time is right good things happen. We’ve have been waiting 6 long months to complete on our little house. In February when we applied for the house, Herbie had a bit of a cough. I wasn’t worried. But that nagging illness spiralled. If we had completed the house on a normal schedule, we would have been trying to move when he was at his most poorly in June. The ‘Gods’ held us up. They waited for Herbie to live his life, calmly and quietly, and cross the Bridge. They waited for me get through the worst of my grief (if I even have) so that I could organise the move and put the requisite amount of energy that was needed, into it. And they waited until I could fully appreciate the beauty of The Bunker, and the land of clouds and forest, before they let me move on.

I could never have written my novel, Crone, anywhere else but here, and while so far publication has been elusive, I believe this is a novel that will see the light of day, and people will come to know the countryside that spawned the story, and love its mystical qualities as much as I have. Just this week I had my #PitchCB rejection through from Sophie Lambert at Conville and Walsh. She said, “There’s a rather wonderful mystical and lyrical quality to the prose here and there’s a very intriguing core to the narrative”. Of course it was accompanied by a ‘but’, but I’ll take that feedback with sincere gratitude. I believe in Crone, because it is a story born of East Devon and it is rooted here, and it has a truth.

So, I’ll save Crone to yet another memory stick, and I’ll bubble wrap my memories of Herbie in the garden, and hold them to me just as tightly as any of my other possessions, and carry them with care. And I’ll count my blessings for all that The Bunker has gifted me. Tonight as the gloaming settles around me, I’ll pause to reflect on my precious boy, and I’ll cry, of course I will. But I’m allowed to, I loved him. I loved him here. It will be the Last Post for Herbie.

And onwards then … Let’s see what transpires in The Treehouse, with The Writer’s Apprentice, shall we?

 


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Puppy Tales by Finley aged 9 weeks and 2 days

My day so far ….

4.45 am. Rescue Dad’s watch from bedside table and chew it.

4.50 am. Wake Mum (owl ears) up and have it forcibly extracted from gob.

4.52 am. Plonked into garden for a wee

4.55 am. Cry because Mum doesn’t want to play (MEANIE!) and goes back onto her big basket WITHOUT inviting me

5.00 am. approx. Have a poo. Make the bungalow smell of warm pasties

5.01 am. Puppy happy hour (actually extended today)! Tear around like a loony! Yay!

6.15 am. Alarm goes off. Hear Mum n Dad uttering a collective groan.

6.27 am. Dad reluctantly gets out of bed. I chase him into the kitchen, eating his toes the whole way.

6.28 am Dad puts some food down for me.

6.29 am. I decide I prefer Dad’s toes.

6.30 am. Dad extricates himself from me and shuts me out of the bathroom. I cry.

6.31 am. Mum calls ‘Finley?’ and I dash over to her. I have learned my name. Everyone – except Satin and Betsy – is very impressed.

6.32 am. Mum hoists me onto the bed and I proceed to tear her hands to ribbons in spite of the chewie things she keeps offering me.

6.34 am. Dad brings tea and I try to have some. It’s hot. I decide not to bother.

6.35 am. I take it in turns to annoy Mum/Dad/Satin. I give Betsy a wide berth. She’s hormonal or something and hates my guts.

6.52 am. Satin farts. I’ve never heard a fart before. I inspect Satin carefully. Did someone let the air out of her? Is she going flat? Mum and Dad laugh and say she’s an old lady. I make careful notes.

7.00 am. News is on. I try to eat my Mum’s Kindle. She’s not happy. Dad gets up. I’m sad.

7.01 am. I fall asleep.

7.05 am. Mum has to get up because Betsy wants a wee now. I follow Betsy out. She drinks out of the water bowl outside. I watch her. I copy her. We drink together. Mum gets misty eyed. Silly moo. I wuvs big Betsy I do. Shame she hates me.

7.25 am. Dad goes out with the big dogs. I cry because I want to go. Mum goes in the shower. I cry because I want to get in with her.

7.26 am. I cry because I’m in the hall and I can’t find my Mum even though she’s still in the same place as she was one minute ago.

7.32 am. Mum turns the shower off and I finally hear her and come running. Exhilaration. She still loves me.

7.33 am. I try to eat Mum’s wet hair. She’s not amused.

7.35 am. I try and eat mum’s shorts while she’s putting them on. She’s not amused.

7.38 am. Mum walks to the kitchen and I bite her toes all the way. She’s not amused.

7.40 am. I demand food. She puts food in my bowl. I eat as though I’ve never been fed before.

7.40 am and 30 seconds. I lie on the kitchen floor and watch my Mum make a pot of tea/her lunch/her breakfast/sort out the worktop/throw things away/start washing up

8.10 am Mum burns her toast. It’s an interesting smell. She makes more toast.

8. 17 am. Mum puts mats in the washing machine that I’ve decorated in my own inimitable way. I like the washing machine. I sit and watch.

8.22 am. Mum sits down with her breakfast. I run around, empty a bin or two and then sit with her.

8.28 am. Betsy and Satin come home and get some toast. Hmmm. I make notes.

8.32 am. Mum ignores me. I watch her ignoring me for a while. Then I hear Dad making breakfast for himself so I go and repeat steps 7.40 am to 8.10 am.

8.50 am. Mum gets changed as she’s off to the shop. I try to hinder progress by holding on to her leggings as she puts them on. She’s not amused.

9.02 am. Mum is running late. I keep running through the door every time Mum tries to go. Mum asks Dad to hold onto me. He does for half a nanosecond and then I get free again. Mum’s very not amused with my Dad this time.

9.05 am. Mum leaves. I’m sad. Dad’s here though. I settle down for a nap.

11.00 am. Dad phones Mum in the shop for ‘instruction’. Apparently I have been napping since she left and been as good as gold. I bite Dad. He hangs up.

The day is going well so far….

For more updates check out my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/thewritersapprentice/ 🙂 and I hope you like my selfie. I took it meself … no really I did!

 


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P is for pegs, porridge, pants …and puppies

I can’t deny that having a puppy is a joyous, wondrous thing. Although my heart is heavy and my eyes prickle with tears often as I walk the fine line between grief and a new love in my life, I am blown away by The Writer’s Apprentice. I laugh aloud often. He is such a fabulous character. And a total liability!

He’s 9 weeks tomorrow, so I do expect the toileting mishaps and I don’t mind them at all. He’ll get there and I already think he’s pretty good. I am trying to teach him ‘sit’, but only every now and again. I’m not sure he even knows his name yet, so first things first.

Oh yes. We decided to call him Finley. We tried out Georgie (as his Dad was called ‘Best’ and Georgie Best seemed fun) but it didn’t fit him. We also tried Sydney, and Chilli, but again, no joy. Finley came to us because we sell a limited edition Suki Silver Tag Teddy Bear in the shop called Finley and they look alike. Like peas in a pod. Kind of. Except one is a teddy bear and one is a real dog… I know. Ha! So Finley it is and it’s perfect. Fin for short. Not that he’ll be short, far from it.

Puppies … how quickly we forget the trials and tribulations. The chasing around after them, tripping over them, the comical angle of the head, the sudden nerves and lack of confidence after blissful boisterousness! Not forgetting the tendency to go from 100 mph super zoomies to complete snoring exhaustive obliviousness in less time than it takes to check the spelling of boisterousness.

Tassels. What is it with puppies and tassels? I never knew I actually had quite so many clothes with tassels on them. At the moment I don’t have a wardrobe, because we live in a rented house that doesn’t have built in wardrobes, and as it’s only a temporary shelter, we haven’t bought any. My clothes are on a clothes rail. The puppy has selected several items that he thinks require pulling and chomping on. These have tassels. I have also just caught him chewing on the poncho thingie I wear when it’s cold and I’m writing. This has tassels. Of course it does. I channel my inner hippie well. I need to take a long hard look at my life.

Porridge. Porridge is to puppies, what heroin is to people. You apply porridge to a crazed four legged fluffy creature, sit back, and watch their docility increase exponentially. In Finley’s case this morning, he ate all his porridge, plus Betsy’s. The result? A happy napping puppy till midday. Betsy ate Satin’s porridge. Satin – ever hard done to – had to settle for some goat’s milk. Now the effects of porridge have worn off, Finley is awake, and chewing on … you’ve guessed it – tassels.

My laundry. I managed to get some washing done. This was a feat in itself. Finley kept running off with pants. Initially he wanted a bed sheet but this was too big for him, so he settled first for my pants and then for John’s. I had to keep going after him to fetch them back, only to return to the machine to find him scampering off with something new.

Once the washing was completed I went outside to hang it on the rotary spinner. Finley was introduced to the peg basket. Oh joy of joys – I remembered ‘the peg adventure’ with Herbie and Betsy. Plenty of my pegs are half gnawed. I shooed him away and started to hang the washing on the line. Herbie used to stand beside me while I did this and daydream about whatever it is dogs daydream about, always to my left, waiting for me to stroke his head, and ask “Alright, babe?” Finley didn’t have the inclination for daydreaming today though. He tugged at the sheet again which I was haplessly trying to attach to the line, and realising he wasn’t going to win, he skipped away. Once I’d finished what I was doing, I turned to see him lying contentedly in the grass with a purple peg between his paws, having a good old chew. I took it off him and he leapt away in delight, landing on a startled Satin, who was indolently sunbathing and minding her own business.

I had to giggle, but I did sympathise. Both Satin and I were a little hang dog when we went back into the house, worn out. Not Finley though. Oh no. He’s having a whale of a time.


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The Writer’s Apprentice

It was never a matter of if, and always a case of when, and so this weekend, my husband and I did a 530-mile round trip in 24 hours to collect a little bundle of fluff. We ummed and ahhed quite a lot. Was it too soon? Yes. Was he too far away? Definitely. Was I trying to find Herbie? Maybe. Was he the right dog? Who knows! But there he was, sticking his tongue out at me via the wonders of the Tinterweb, and I just knew he was the one. What if I let him pass and never found the right pup? I’m terrible for worrying about such things, and so insurmountable barriers had to be surmounted, and that’s what we did.

It’s a bizarre thing to be grieving for your BFFF (see previous post) and yet to be cradling this tiny ball of wonder. He is a salve to my crushed heart, Aloe Vera for my burning soul. But that’s not to say the pain of Herbie’s loss has faded, because it really, really hasn’t. This morning I had a puppy on the bed for the first time in years, and although I was knackered and it was far too early, he was funny and he made me laugh … and then my eyes strayed to the bedroom door where Herbie would have stood and issued a cool stare that said, “Are you getting up then, or what? I want my walk.” It’s been the same every morning since that final day (17 days now actually, not that I’m counting). My eyes flick there and he’s not there, and that’s when I weep for the first time every day, without fail.

But I’m going about my business better than I was, trying to catch up on the backlog of work.

Then mid-afternoon, a song came on the radio that I like and I picked the puppy up and cradled him and we had a little dance and I sang gently in his ear, my lips close to his soft cheek, and it was joyous to be in the moment with him … and I cried like a baby for the boy I used to do that with. Even fully grown (and he was quite a big lad, my Herbie) he LOVED to do that. We would pretend he was a puppy all over again.

And just now, I sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea after exploring the garden with the puppy and then I cried, because the sky was so beautifully blue and the sun so warm, and my sweet Herbie is dust in a casket in the living room, his name beautifully engraved on a brass plaque. And I miss him. I bloody miss him.

So, a puppy? What the hell was I thinking of?

Puppies are chaotic, but their development is incredibly swift. So far, in 24 hours, he has learned how to do the steps to outside. He knows where the water bowl is. He can do wee wees and poo poos in the garden, but has the occasional accident in the hall. He comes when I call, ‘puppy’. We haven’t finalised his name quite yet. He’s a marvel.

He has explored all the rooms, but is still a little shy about certain things and follows me around like a tiny fluffy shadow. Our old dog (Satin) is a sweetheart; she’s Grandma – gives him a wash when she can be bothered. Our Bedlington Terrier (Betsy) is having a right mard because: a) we left her in kennels overnight while we raced up country and how very, very dare we! And b) “I’m the puppy!”

Now she knows how Herbie felt when we brought her home. Bless her.

I have remembered how to do ‘the puppy shuffle’. This involves walking around as though wearing a large nappy, so that when he dives between your feet there’s enough space so that you don’t crush him to death, or kill yourself when you trip over him. His teeth and nails are like razors. My legs are covered in scratches because he likes to jump up at me. I like all of this.

I’m constantly confused about what and how much he needs to eat. I have a feeling he could just eat all day, but surely that wouldn’t be good. I need to take advice on this. Betsy was a big eater, Herbie wasn’t. Puppy is going to make 22-25 inches so he’ll be pretty big.

I laughed out loud (and alone) when puppy dashed out of the kitchen with the tea-towel clamped in his jaws. I’d just dropped it and off he flew, superfast. Jesus. This boy is going to be a Usain Bolt. I was less enamoured when he decided he preferred my specs (Gok Wans – bought when I actually had a salary and could afford decent specs!) to his chewie toy however, and rapidly retrieved them, only to find he had them again the next time I looked his way. And he has an obsession with paper … he finds it, he tears it up …

My specs. Paper.

Where is he now? Sound asleep (at last!) on my left hand side as I type at my desk. Let me repeat that. On my left hand side. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? You will if you read my last blog.

He’s amazing and beautiful, I love him already, which is not to dishonour Herbie’s memory in any way. I hope not anyhow. I love Herbie as much as I ever did.

Let me introduce you to The Writer’s Apprentice. I think I’m going to cry again.