The last time I published a blog post was back in December 2022.
It's been almost a year, you can tell I'm not great at maintaining a blog. To be honest, for a while I wasn't too great at maintaining myself, let alone a blog or a website.
I guess what brings me here now is knowing that very soon a day I have been dreaming of for years is fast approaching...
Since removing Origin from Amazon (what had been the very first draft of book one in the Jackson J Tales) after deciding I wanted to completely rewrite it, I have been working my arse off on different stories.
Let me start by explaining WHY I removed Origin from the marketplace.
So, it took a few years for me to get book 2 completely written which reached over 200K words. So here I was, with book two done, full edited, polished. Then there was the ship wreck of Origin which needed a miracle. So I painstakingly began re-writing Origin (now named Pirate's Vow).
In the end, it also fell in the 200K word count even after two revisions. That's a big book....biiiig.
So, I decided to split the book into two. Stay with me now.
Kindle Direct Publishing won't accept manuscripts over 828 pages, so yeah...I had to split it. Which explains the cliff hanger ending too.
And guess what? Yeah...book two had to be split too.
So here I am having to make big adult decisions, and I'm happy with the decisions, don't get me wrong! It's just adulting is hard lol
I should also add that in between writing these books, I took a break to work on writing other projects in order to not overwork my brain...so I dabbled in trying contemporary romance, which I did really enjoy and still do but for personal reasons I chose not to publish the WIP I had spent a good couple years on.
Life happened. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and had two breakdowns in two years, I was at my lowest point in my life, I deactivated my social media accounts, I dropped contact with friends, I was off work, I honestly shut myself away from everyone and everything and just didn't want to exist any more (thankfully I had my mother and a few close friends I could trust to remind me that they were waiting on the other side for me). Honestly, it was a dark place and time for me and I learnt a lot about myself.
It took a lot to claw my way out of this coffin of despair, took even longer for me to swim to the surface and finally draw in breath and come back to reality. By the time I could breathe again, I felt like I had to re-integrate back into the world. It was the scariest, hardest thing to do. Being afraid of being judged by co-workers, looking at myself in the mirror and seeing a shadow of myself and not the person I used to be. It was hard and painful.
And during all of that, not once had I written. Nor had the urge to write. I'd lost my passion, my drive, my creativity. And for a while I resented myself for losing my gift.
But then one day...I found breadcrumbs. I followed them and found that my old self had left me clues and reminders of myself. I know it all sounds crazy but the good news is...I'm here.
It was this year January when I resurfaced. I went on a self love journey (which I'm still going through), re-connected with my faith and felt the desire to write. That's when I found my way back to Pirate's Vow and dedicated months to finally getting it out into the world. And HERE WE ARE!
The only social media platforms I currently use would be Instagram and Pinterest (sometimes). I find social media to be quite toxic so I've decided to not re-activate my other accounts for my own mental wellbeing. So if you ever want news on upcoming books in the JJ Tales and you have insta, feel free to give me a follow!
Pirate's Vow is now due to release on November 3rd 2023! And I am super excited!! Yay!!
I can't wait to share this with you all! I'm so proud of how far it's come!
The point of me sharing all of the above with you is so that I could offer an explanation as to where I've been, why I've been quiet, just 'why' for any reader who asks it.
But also I hope that this post reaches someone who is or has been struggling for a while mentally, physically or creatively. I hope that they are left with some hope that whatever storms you're facing, you'll come out of it alive. You'll piece yourself back together eventually. And if you do have something you've dreamt of doing, you'll get the courage and strength to do it - I believe in you.
And if curiousity ever gets the best of you, then maybe you may even find yourself reading Pirate's Vow and getting stuck in the madness with me!
Either way, I'm glad to be back, and in action.
Welcome to the Advent Calendar Story Train, where you can read through 24 stories under the theme The Gift. Thank you for reading today's story. The next one will be available to read on December 17th, titled "A Christmas Wish". The link will be active tomorrow when the post goes live.
If you missed yesterday's you can go and read it here.
Israni pulled apart the shoji doors of her two-storey Japanese Minka house and absorbed the sight of thick virgin snow covering the vast garden which had been thriving with vibrant colours just yesterday. Like every year, first snow fall came without fail under the cover of night to present itself in its beauty and glory at first light.
She bent down to slip on her straw boots, her long black silky hair fell over her shoulder and brushed the wooden deck. Today was the first day of winter and Israni was well-prepared for the long season in which she thrived in. She may not have the helpful hands of her daughter, Chinatsu again this year, but that was alright. A Goddess’ work never stopped.
Every step she took turned the snow beneath her feet to ice, the tiny spikes on the bottom of her boots, gripping the solid surface for support. She gracefully descended the wooden steps of her home to the vast courtyard of white, making headway for the largest tree in the centre, a Sakura willow untouched by snow, gleaming with power and position. The mortal prayer tree.
With the days creeping closer to winter, the buds had slowly begun to open as whispered pleas and requests were uttered from human lips for her gracious support in the toughest season of the year. Now the tree had fully bloomed, each flower glowing with reverence and beauty and she would nurture each one.
Israni waved a hand, summoning her winter spirit friends, wisps of willing souls who had long lost their way in the afterlife whom she had taken under her wing. The spirits, once human being, took the form of animals they would one day be reincarnated into in their second life.
“Dear ones, it’s time to get to work.” Israni smiled at them softly, “we have a lot of prayers to answer.”
A variety of heads bowed, a stag, wolf, deer, fox, cat, dog, mouse, snake, crane. Many gracious creatures with warm hearts in her cold climate domain. Another smile tugged at her mouth as the memory of a very young Chinatsu seeing the spirits for the first time and gleefully playing with two of the hare spirits.
Israni raised her head and gently handled one of the willow strands, reading the devotions carefully. As she did, she called out the first order to the spirits. “The southern village families are having trouble obtaining coal for their fires, please deliver the stocks with haste. And give every household ten kabocha squash, bags of rice, potatoes and beans.”
There was a shuffling of crunching snow behind her as the spirits scattered to collect the items from storage to journey to the mortal realm. Israni was already on the second branch reading from top to bottom before giving the next order. “Crane, Wolf, a little boy has lost his sight and his will to live. South of his home, you will find a bag of abandoned puppies by the river, bring them to him and his family, they will be his eyes, lifelong companions, and restoration of hope.”
“Bear, Stag, the eastern pond has frozen, three elderly families do not have the tools to break it to fish, break the ice, and take my warming stones to keep the area free from frost.”
Over eighty orders later, Israni went to her field and harvested her cultivated vegetables and crops with the help of the squirrels as the spirits rushed back and forth to fulfil all the prayers as efficiently as possible. A pile of offerings had been brought by some spirits from the shrine, sentimental objects and coins from the mortals who worshipped her. It warmed her heart to know she was thought of, but she didn’t need their possessions. Their faith alone was a gift.
A quiet mew from behind had Israni turning to smile at the cat spirit who carried a pouch in its mouth. She gestured it forward. “What do you have?”
The cat dropped the silk pouch into her palm, the scent of lavender and lemon teased her nose before three small pink lotus sweets tumbled out. She blinked in surprise. She hadn’t made sweets like these since Chinatsu had been a child.
“Where did you get these?” She asked the spirit softly, petting the purring feline. The cat prowled away slowly back on the path towards the house, looking over its shoulder to beckon her to follow.
Israni picked up her woven baskets full of squash, rice stalks, spring onion and potatoes. There was an extra eager stride in her step up the pathway, her heart pounding with curiosity when the spirits stop working to bow as she passed.
Her eyes flickered to the shoji doors and there in the doorway stood Chinatsu wearing a white and pink haori. Israni froze in place, the baskets falling from her grasp, wondering if she was really seeing her after all these years. Duty and distance had separated them for too long but seeing her child, healthy, in person, it brought tears to her eyes and had Israni’s legs moving fast.
There was no greater gift than holding her daughter close to her again, feeling the strength in her arms, the warmth from her body or the lotus fragrance on her coat. There were no words needed to express the love between a mother and child, and none were spoken as they embraced.
Israni pulled away at the feel of Chinatsu’s swollen belly, awash with sudden joy and anticipation. Chinatsu’s graceful smile and stroke of her stomach had her mother’s eyes welling with happy tears.
“Your grandson, Kōsetsu.” Chinatsu announced proudly placing Israni’s hand on her baby bump. “Due this winter.”
“Snow fall.” Israni’s tears fell as she recognised the meaning in his name. And with that, she thanked the gods for granting her the greatest blessing in all her years as the Goddess of Abundance.
The strongest tree in her heart and home. Her family.
I purposefully held back from writing a blog post during the editing process because I hate not having anything new to talk about when I do eventually turn my attention to my blog...but wow, my last one was in April? That was four months ago! Where on earth has the time gone? How are we in August? Honestly, now that I have a moment to actually reflect on reality it's hitting me hard that soon we'll be in September and then before we know it 2020 will be over.
Just another way to keep you in the loop!