Helena Brockovich (Flash Fiction)

At Writers’ Group a while ago, we did an exercise that consisted of a series of prompts –

Characters: A Kitchen Maid and a Retired Judge
Traits: Corrupt, Congenial
Sense: Smell
Location: Dog Show
Object: Piece of Flint

Below is the piece of flash fiction I wrote. Credit goes to David for the title. The reference should become clear at the end, where I will give a bit of extra context.

Helena was a kitchen maid for a big house on the other side of town. Usually a congenial soul, on this day she had to drag out her inner badass and go to war.

As she said goodbye to her sickly kids, hoping their condition wouldn’t deteriorate while she was gone, she mentally prepared herself for the confrontation, using the sight of them sat there, listless and suffering as motivation for her task.

Crossing over to the rich side of town, she passed her employers house and kept walking until she reached the dog track. There was a ‘Best of Breed’ show on for all the pedigree pooches of the neighbourhood, and she’d been told the judge would be there.

Sure enough, she found him in the front row, mercifully unattended.

Helena approached and he smiled at her, so she gave him the speech – a four-minute pre-prepared rant, that didn’t stop for pauses or interruptions, about the state of living conditions on the poorer side of town.

When Helena was done, she handed the judge a lunch box, which he opened and then immediately closed again, throwing it away as he swore at her.

Although he’d managed to throw the box quite a distance, they could both still smell the item strongly. All pleasantries had gone from the judge’s demeanour as he demanded an explanation.

Helena said it was a sample of her front yard, which had become flooded and, subsequently, contaminated with the local water. Which just proved her point: the water in the poor side of Flint, Michigan, was undrinkable. Unfit for the ground, and most certainly toxic to people.

The judge frowned before hesitantly agreeing to look into the matter, hinting that things would be sped along if Helena made a donation to his office.

It took her a month of working extra shifts, but she made the money and sent it off to the address he had written out for her.

It was only after that she found out that the judge was retired and had no influence in local matters anymore at all.

Not the happiest story in the world but, sadder still, it is based on a real-life situation. If you haven’t heard about the Flint water crises, you can (and should) read about it here. Education is power, after all.

If you would like to hear me read more flash fiction in person and you live in Belfast, you’re in luck, because I’m going to be reading at a Women Aloud NI event on Tuesday as part of the CS Lewis festival.

Failing that, you can subscribe to my Patreon here for as little as $1 per month, for which you will get regular access to exclusive poetry and fiction by myself. #SupportIndependentAuthors #SpreadTheWord

Ripped: A Novel

A few people have been asking me about the book I’m working on at the minute, so here goes.

It’s called Ripped, and it’s a contemporary young adult novel. Which is to say it is set in the real world (no fantasy elements), with a teenage main character, and intended for mainly a teenage audience (though it will appeal to some adults too).

The tagline I’ve written for it is ‘Can a family be held together by the red tape that helped tear it apart?

Summary

Mya’s life was hard enough already, dealing with her sociopath step-dad on a daily basis, but when she goes into labour during maths class, things are set to get a whole lot worse.

She hasn’t told her boyfriend, Richard. She hasn’t told anyone; hasn’t got any support in place, and is helpless when her step-dad forces her to give her baby up.

Mya had no idea social services would offer the baby to Richard before putting her in the system, and she certainly never would have guessed Richard would say yes. Now all she can do is fight to get them both back.

It’s quite character driven – written in close third person point of view, so you really get inside Mya’s head.

I’m aiming for is a total word count of 50,000 when finished, so not too long. I got half-way through the previous draft when I realized I really needed to work on the story structure. So, this year, I’ve been rewriting the whole thing from scratch.

Yeah, I’m biased, but I think the updated plot works a lot better. All in all, I’m really happy with how Ripped is progressing. I have plans to finish the bulk of the rewrite this month (as part of NaNoWriMo), tie together any loose ends next month, and start querying agents in January.

Ripped isn’t the first novel I’ve worked on. Previously, I’ve written drafts of two other novels, which I plan to go back to once this one is done.

If you’d like to support me as I plug away at my path to publication, please consider donating to my Patreon. Even $1 per month helps.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear what you think of my premise.

Breakdown

For all my talk about this being a new era in which I’m going to really believe in myself and promote my work better, I was a little worried after my previous blog post that I was maybe asking too much or coming across as arrogant asking for people to support me at all.

There’s a delicate balance to be made between blowing your own horn to let people know you’re doing a cool thing and taking that horn and bashing people over the head with it, making a big noise in their ears at the same time.

Out of fear of being counterproductive and turning people away from the things I want to tell them about, and with a big dose of impostor syndrome, I try to err on the side of caution.

I’d rather be too quiet than not loud enough. Even so, I’ve gotten some feedback and, apparently, I’ve done little more than whisper to myself so far. That’s maybe a bit too much towards the other extreme, not being productive at all.

So, here’s the plan. Today, right now, I am going to explicitly break down what it is I’m asking for, how people can help, what people will get in return, and what I’ll do with the funding. Then, at the end of this week, I will be putting up a further blog post about my novel so people can get an even better idea of what they’ll be helping me to create if indeed they choose to help.

Here we go…

What I’m Asking

I want support – moral and financial – as I complete the rewrite of my debut novel. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. In fact, the amount doesn’t matter so much as knowing that some people (no matter how few) are choosing to invest in me. Even if I only get three people donating $1 to me each month, I consider that a positive thing. It gives me something to build on, see.

How You Can Help

Donate! By clicking through to my Patreon page (linked at the bottom of this post), selecting a support tier that’s right for you (in the sidebar on the right of the page or below the ‘about’ section if you’re viewing the site on mobile), and filling in the relevant details, you will be agreeing to support me for the set fee you have chosen, which will be taken automatically each month via PayPal and give you access to perks, as listed below. What happens if you sign up but then can’t afford to continue? You cancel your subscription. Simple.

What Funders Will Get

If you donate $1 per month, you will unlock access to posts that only subscribers can see containing breaking news about my writing. If I get a literary agent, or land a publishing deal? The people on my Patreon feed will hear first.

Donate $5 per month and you’ll get the exclusive posts PLUS a previously unpublished poem by myself.

Donate $10 and you’ll get the exclusive posts, poem, and a previously unpublished piece of fiction (most likely a short story of around 1,000 words).

People who donate $25 or more will get everything already detailed AND be listed in the acknowledgements of my novel when it finally reaches the light of day/bookstore shelves.

Two lucky people who donate $50 will get a side-character in my novel named after them, so they can live forever between the pages of a book. (And yes, that’s in addition to all the lower-tier perks.)

In addition to that, if/when I hit 50 patrons, all of them will be able to read the first chapter of my novel exclusively, before anyone else.

What I’ll Do With the Funding

I intend to use any money I receive towards costs associated with my writing. For example, right now, I need to renew a domain name for this very website. That’s the first thing I would sort if I got funds.

Secondly, I need to get a final set of proof copies of the new editions of my back catalogue. All year I have been saying I would release them and, now there’s little over a month left, I’d really like to push on and get my 2017 editions out into the world.

Beyond that, I want to join the Society of Authors, which incurs a subscription fee of its own.

Donate

If, after reading all that, you would like to donate, please click through to my Patreon page here.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments section below.

A Leap of Faith

In my previous blog post, I said that I’d been turned down for funding by the Arts Council. Since then, I requested feedback on my application and, what they essentially said was, I’ve got a good history of artistic practice and made contributions to the local arts community but I didn’t really sell my current project.

Not believing in myself has been a problem in the past, and it’s something I’m actively trying to overcome. There are a lot of opportunities that I haven’t taken advantage of, thinking I’m not good enough or established enough yet. I tell myself I’ll go after them later, when I’ve got some publication, award, or official recognition.

I know being “established” and “successful” are subjective goals at best, whereas trying to gain specific certifications can be arbitrary. Well, no more. I’m done minimizing all the hard work I’ve done so far and no longer standing in my own way.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but not felt worthy of yet is setting up a Patreon account – a place where people can support me for as little as $1 per month.

I’m not expecting anyone to donate, and I won’t be offended if people don’t want to give me their money, but the option is now there for if you do wish to help. I figure, there’s no harm putting myself out there. If it doesn’t take off, no harm no foul.

Click here to read more.