When I started my Creative Writing MA in 2017, I never considered teaching the subject to anyone, but now I’ve set up an online workshop. Like most people in lockdown, especially those involved in the arts, my work dried up this year, along with my book sales. If I had a regular job to fall back on, it wouldn’t have been an issue, but I had just taken the plunge from making a part-time income — to being a full-time writer, and everything else which goes with that. Only a small part of it actually involves writing.
Anyway, while trying to get copywriting jobs and similar work to replace the freelance jobs I lost, I tried all kinds of things. I’m probably busier now than if I just had a full-time job. I read submissions for an online press, write book reviews for a blog and have just spent six months putting together a charity anthology with poetry, fiction and non-fiction from 43 different writers. All of that is unpaid though and doesn’t help to put the beans on toast on the table. So, I tried to come up with ways to earn money. In line with how I like to help and encourage other writers, (I often promote indie writers on my book review podcast) I set up the paid writing workshop. I had been attending a free writing workshop, which my partner runs on Zoom. This is just a small group of writers who are all very supportive and encouraging.
I decided to do something on a larger scale. I talked to my partner Andy and he agreed. We set up the ticket sales on Eventbrite and are charging just £1.67 per person, with up to 100 places available. If you’re wondering, the 67p is the Eventbrite fee. We are now selling tickets for our 2nd workshop.
After receiving so many emails offering online workshops that sounded great, it’s been disappointing to click the link and find out they are charging anything from £30 to £300. With the combined experience Andy and I have, £1.67 a session is a bargain. We can help other writers with this workshop, and still make a little money ourselves, to recover some of our lost household income during lockdown. Obviously, I’ve never attended any of the expensive courses I just mentioned. Our paid workshop will be less intimate than the free one, because there will be more people and the sole focus will be on writing, without our usual chatter and joking in-between. Maybe the pricier workshops have fewer participants who are given more individual attention. Whether that is worth the price they are asking, I can’t say.
If you would like to try our very low priced workshop, you can judge for yourself. We are open to all levels of writers from anywhere in the world. However, please note the next one is at 3pm (GMT) on 14th November. If you’re attending from outside the UK, this will be different and it’s up to you to work out the time difference.
Exclusive extracts of my novel, which will be released in March 2020
I never imagined my own death. Why would I? I was thirty-six years old. I had years left, or so I thought. I changed my mind about that when I woke up in the morgue. The dead body…my dead body laid out in front of me, provided a good indication that I no longer needed to draw breath. My eyes were open, and I could almost imagine I was staring at myself. Yet I struggled to look away from the shell I used to inhabit. My eyes wandered from my bruised face to the red mark on my neck, as if I was punched and strangled.
I closed my eyes. Maybe this would be gone when I opened them again. I’d have a laugh at the weird dream I had about being beside myself in the morgue. A brief memory popped into my head, hands gripping my arms, then the image faded. I opened my eyes to find my corpse wasn’t gone though. It seemed to be taunting me for thinking I could make it not real.
“Did somebody do this to me?” I asked my dead self, only to receive no response. She just laid still. I wondered if all dead people looked like…well…like they had been scared to death I suppose.
I watched enough crime shows to recognise the signs of a murder. I recalled those same crime shows. Copying what they did seemed like my best option. The first step was to examine the victim. I took a deep breath, although no air went in or out of my body, but the action remained the same. I twisted my head from side to side. I stretched my arms like someone preparing for a boxing match or an intense workout session might do. It helped to imagine I was looking for clues about what happened to a fictitious character. If I stopped to dwell on the reality of my death, I might have panicked. It also helped to have no recollection of the circumstances leading up to my death
I walked through the bedroom wall, no longer freaked out by the action. My mind was focussed on getting to the garage. I was prepared to walk through all the doors and walls I needed to in order to reach my destination.
I stood staring at the car, which resembled the same rust bucket I only saw a few times after Paul purchased it. It seemed obvious, even to me that he never worked on it. If anything, the car was in a worse state than the day he bought it. He deceived me, buying this thing, possibly as an alibi while he went out murdering women. I hadn’t been the first. Had he been killing for the whole year, or longer and just decided he needed the car as a reason for his long disappearances? My mind flicked back to his old management job. His hours were random, and he often had to go in at short notice. The building was open twenty-four hours a day, so it didn’t seem so far-fetched back then. When Paul was made redundant, he got the job at the restaurant. Disappearing at all hours would have looked suspicious. That’s when he bought the car. I connected the dots and created a picture of my serial-killer fiancé.
I tried to focus as I continued to look around the garage. I searched the interior of the car, with my head inside the vehicle and the rest of me outside it. If Paul was able to see me and he decided to go to the garage, the sight would freak him out. The made me smile, until I spotted a red basque in the back seat. I couldn’t pick the thing up, despite trying to levitate it with my mind, but it seemed small. It might fit a size six (or an eight at the most) but not me, a size ten. Paul knew my size and the only clothing he ever bought me were t-shirts on my birthday; the ones with stupid slogans on. I recalled one that said Hot Stuff. Don’t Touch. I only ever wore it in winter, under a cardigan. He never bought me anything else wearable. The basque couldn’t have been a surprise for me. I wouldn’t have worn it if it was, even in my size.
I questioned whether the lingerie might be a trophy from one of his victims, aware that some killers like to keep something as a reminder. They also manage to come across as normal to their friends and family. It was possible that Paul had fooled me along with everyone else. Paul slept upstairs in the house, with my sister. The woman who kept something going with him while he was with me; my sister who had started a relationship with him when I went to university while I remained single, hoping we would get back together after I graduated. My sister, despite all of that. I shouldn’t leave her to be murdered too.
“How long will he be gone?” His eyes darted around, reminding me of the stickers I used to get at the dentist, usually an animal of some sort with wobbly eyes. I wasn’t sure if he felt nervous about Tim returning, or the chance of someone noticing him standing in the street talking to himself.
“I’m a ghost, not a psychic,” I pointed out, then passed through the locked door.
It took me a few attempts to unlock it for Steve, but I managed.
“Did you bring gloves?” I asked.
“Do I really need these?” he complained, putting on a pair of disposable gloves – like the ones you get when you buy a box of hair dye.
“The last thing we need is for you to get your fingerprints on anything,” I told him. “Don’t you watch crime thrillers?”
“I prefer comedies. My life is more of a rom-com, without the rom…or the com.” Steve replied. He walked through me in his haste to get the breaking and entering over with. “Where do you want me to start?”
It occurred to me that Tim might have taken his driving license with him in his wallet. Although, it’s possible he was wary of anyone getting hold of it after losing it once already. His use of false names proved he didn’t want anyone to know his true identity. He may have planned to do something long before he killed me, even if it wasn’t murder.
“Well?” Steve persisted.
“Ssh, I’m trying to think like a sick creep with a fetish for hurting women.”
“And, how’s that going?”
“Well, obviously I’m not a sick creep, so it’s a work-in-progress.” I paused before saying, “If I was him, I wouldn’t take anything with me that could identify me to potential victims. I wouldn’t throw everything away though. People always need I.D for all kinds of reasons. Instead, I would hide it.”
“That’s all very interesting Inspector Casper, but where would you hide it?”
I ignored his new sarcastic name for me. People probably called me worse things when I was alive, despite me never realising it at the time.
I walked up the stairs. Steve followed until we reached Tim’s bedroom. He stopped to stare at the newspaper on Tim’s bed. The image of me smiling (obviously during happier times) was unrecognisable because of the mess Tim had made.
“What’s that?” Steve asked, reaching down to pick up the paper.
I assumed he meant the stains obscuring most of the article.
“You don’t want to touch that,” I warned.
Steve looked at me as if waiting for an explanation, before screwing up his face.
“Eugh!” He pulled his hand back and leapt away as if it might launch itself off the newspaper and physically attack him. That in itself would be a front-page news story.