Game Of Thrones Isn’t Predictable – It’s Called Good Writing

GIANT SPOILERS AHEAD, PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Game of thrones

Okay, I’m trusting that having scrolled past that picture, you’re cool with spoilers. So lets talk about the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale. Well, the final two episodes. It’s been a spectacular end to a marvellous season, in my view. But I’ve seen a complaint levelled at these last two episodes, and heard it echoed within the four walls of my living room by my other half. Game of Thrones is getting predictable.

I can sort of see the argument here. Nothing was ever going to top the shock twist of Ned Stark’s beheading in season one, but subsequent seasons have seen further twists and surprises. Just not so much this season.

But there’s a reason for that. Ned Stark’s death was so shocking in Season One because we believed in the lie that Cersei had control over her son, that when she suggested mercy and the Night’s Watch for Ned, that Joffrey would listen to her. Cersei is as surprised as the audience when the vile little shite turns round and demands Ned’s head.

But the thing is, once that shock has been delivered, once we know that about the character, we aren’t surprised by anything he does any more. We know the depths of depravity he will stoop to.

The Fiancé’s chief complaints about the penultimate episode was that a) Rickon Stark had to die, and b) that Jon and Ramsay didn’t have some climactic sword fight showdown. Rickon dying was too obvious.

Well, of course. We knew Ramsay would kill Rickon as well we knew that Roose’s death would be quickly followed by the death of his wife and true born son. Ramsay is sadistic and cruel and loves to torture people. As Sansa was quite correct to point out, Rickon was doomed the moment Ramsay took him as prisoner.

And as for Ramsay and Jon not ending it with a sword fight… Well, Ramsay is not a warrior. He’s always used a bow and arrow, preferring to let other people (or animals) do his dirty work. For him to suddenly pick up a sword and fight would be to utterly change his character.

And that’s why these latter seasons of Game of Thrones have lost the ability to truly shock and surprise us. Because we know these characters so well. They are such defined, realistic and believable people, that we can guess what they’re going to do. To have the characters do something truly shocking now would be to undermine the storytelling and character development that has made Game of Thrones such compelling television for the last six years.

Did anyone really doubt that Cersei would have cooked up some terrible revenge for the High Sparrow? Perhaps her callous destruction of just about everybody else along with him was a little shocking, but we know Cersei is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect herself and her children – we’ve known it from the moment she had Jamie push Bran out of the window in Season 1, and she’s proved her commitment to that line over and over again. It backfires on her spectacularly in perhaps the best death of the season – the brilliantly understated suicide of Tommen. But even this – while shocking – isn’t particularly surprising. Tommen has always been a bit of a drip, and having his love Margaery killed, and all those other people, by his own mother no less, is absolutely plausible motivation for him to throw himself out of a window.

With things coming to a head at the end of the episode, Danaerys on her way to Westeros, Jon Snow declared King in the North (by the magnificent Lady Mormont – someone stick that kid on the Iron Throne, seriously) and Cersei on the Iron Throne, everything is gearing up for the final resolution of the story. Which means Game of Thrones is no longer in the business of introducing new characters for the audience to learn and be surprised by. It’s going to be dedicated to tying up the loose ends, bringing together the story threads in a satisfying, but realistic way. It’s unlikely that there will be another Ned Stark beheading moment, and we may as an audience be able to predict a lot of what will happen. But that’s the beauty of a well crafted story, with well written characters – if it feels inevitable, it’s because it is.

I, for one, am planning to thoroughly enjoy the ride to the conclusion. And for what it’s worth, here are a few of my predictions (desires) for the conclusion of the epic tale:

  • Jon Snow and Danaerys form some sort of allegiance, probably through marriage, to fight against the White Walkers.
  • Jamie Lannister, horrified by what his sister has become, finally becomes the good man he’s always tried to be. Dies fighting, preferably to save Brienne.
  • Davos survives and returns to Bear Island with Lyanna Mormont, where he can be her advisor. It’s the least he deserves after what happened to Shireen.
  • Tyrion is reinstated as Hand of the Queen/King and Bronn reinstated as Captain of the Guard. They have much good banter.
  • Sansa is installed as Lady of Winterfell. While being protected by Brienne, Sansa falls for Pod’s awkward charm. Poor Sansa had a terrible time with Ramsay, and Pod has the mad skillz in the bedroom. You know it makes sense.
  • Brienne and Tormund both live happily ever after and have lots of very tall, ginger children. (no, seriously GOT writers, please let this happen.)

Hook & Ladder 69 Release Day Blitz

Title: Hook & Ladder 69: Eighteen Authors…One Sexy Firehouse.
Genre: Romantic Short Stories/Anthology
Release Date: June 16, 2016

Meet the brave men and women of Station 69, serving the citizens of St. Louis while igniting hearts along the way. Eighteen authors have joined forces to bring you their sizzling stories—some sweet, some five alarm hot—but all for a great cause. Follow the antics and adventures of these sexy firefighters in what promises to be one of the hottest summers yet! This delectable book begs the question: Can anyone resist a hero in uniform? 

Multiple authors have come together to give you one firehouse where all proceeds from this collaboration go to the Burned Children Recovery Foundation.

The Burned Children Recovery Foundation is a national recovery agency that has provided Emotional Support and Financial Aid to Burned Children and their Families since 1989. 

For more information about this foundation: http://www.burnedchildrenrecovery.org 

Contributing Authors: 

Emme Burton
M.C. Cerny
Sarah M. Cradit
Michelle Dare
Jami Denise
L.B. Dunbar
Lisa Edward
Lia Fairchild
Mary Catherine Gebhard
Z.B. Heller
Glenna Maynard
Kristen Hope Mazzola
Morgan Jane Mitchell
Emerson Shaw
Kacey Shea
M. Stratton
Madison Street
Felicia Tatum
On sale for $0.99 for a limited time!
We made out like drunken, horny teenagers all the way to his apartment building, in the elevator, and down the hall.
Mitch slammed me into his door, never parting his lips from mine as he fumbled for his keys in his pocket.
The door flew open behind me and I went flying into a bare apartment straight into boxes—falling, crashing, screaming, embarrassed.
“Holy fuck are you ok?” Mitch grabbed me, pulling me into his strong arms as he laughed a little. “Well, I guess I need new dishes.”
I gripped his shoulders as he kissed my neck, pressing me against his newly painted wall. “Sorry?”
“Don’t be. I hated those pieces of shit anyway.”
Mitch unclasped my bra, letting me shimmy out of it and throw it across the room. Then he put his hand in the middle of my chest, pressing me against the wall before dropping to his knees as he yanked my skirt up and pulled my pink thong down around my ankles.
His hot breath danced over my soaking clit as my knees started to quake. With his free hand, Mitch traced circles over my inner thigh as he gently let his tongue glide over my swelling bud. I cried out from the simplest caress.
“Just wait, babe. You ain’t felt nothing yet.” Mitch’s words were barely audible as his flattened tongue spread my folds.
I held on tight, panting and moaning uncontrollably with my eyes slammed shut.
“God, you taste so good.” He breathed right before forcefully shoving his fingers into my wetness and in an instant I was done. My orgasm built up and crashed around me within seconds and I was a puddle on the floor.
Mitch scooped me until into his arms, kissing me sweetly. “I told you, love, there’s still more to come.”
Emme Burton
Emme Burton is the author of the Amazon Top 100 Rom-Com/New Adult novel SNACK and the Better Than Series: BETTER THAN ME (Book 1), FIX IT FOR US (Book 2), and STILL INTO YOU (Book 3). She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her amazing husband and sons, and her “fur boy,” Jasper. Emme has never, ever been lost in a mall either as a child or an adult. Her mother, and now her family, have always known where to find her. At the bookstore.
* * *
M.C. Cerny
M.C. Cerny fell in love with books after experiencing her first real ugly cry reading, Where The Red Fern Grows. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Flashpoint was written in a series of post-it-note ramblings that would likely make her idol Tom Clancy and her mother blush. She is a post graduate of NYU, and calls rural NJ home with her menagerie of human and fur-babies. When M.C. is not writing, you’ll find her lurking in Starbucks, running stupid marathon, singing Disney show tunes, and searching out the perfect shade of pink nail polish. xoxo
* * *
Sarah M. Cradit
Sarah is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Paranormal Southern Fiction series, The House of Crimson & Clover. The series was born of her combined loves of New Orleans, family dramas, and the mysterious nature of love and desire. Her books combine elements of paranormal, mystery, suspense, intrigue, and romance. She is always working on the next book in the series, and absolutely loves connecting with her fans.
Sarah lives in the Pacific Northwest, but has traveled the world from Asia to Europe to Africa. When she isn’t working (either at her day career, or hard at work at writing), she is reading a book and discovering new authors. The great loves of her life (in order) are: her husband James, her writing, and traveling the world.
* * *
Michelle Dare
Michelle Dare is a romance author. Her stories range from sweet to sinful and from new adult to fantasy. There aren’t enough hours in the day for her to write all of the story ideas in her head. When not writing or reading, she’s a wife and mom living in eastern Pennsylvania. One day she hopes to be writing from a beach where she will never have to see snow or be cold again.
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Jami Denise
Jami Denise is an up and coming writer from Southern California.
She writes Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Erotic Romance.
Her books are always on the spicy side with a little bit of sweet to make you swoon. Her feisty kittens always give the bad boys a run for their money. She likes taking risks, pushing her characters into directions that challenge the reader and take them out of their element. You’ll usually find the unexpected to happen in her stories. Life isn’t always pretty, and she likes to layer her words with true grit.
She is a self-professed cat lady, addicted to coffee, Monster, birthday cake lip balm, and loves all things old,grungy,and fast. She’s well versed in sarcasm, and the F-word is her favorite adjective.
When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, or fingers on a keyboard, she’s spending time with family and friends, watching old movies, and waiting for the next felon to come sweep her off her feet.
* * *
L.B. Dunbar
I’d like to say I was always a writer. I’d also like to say that I wrote every day of my life since a child. That I took the teaching advice I give my former students because writing every day improves your writing. I’d like to say I have my ten-thousand hours that makes me a proficient writer. But I can’t say any of those things. I did dream of writing the “Great American Novel” until one day a friend said: Why does it have to be great? Why can’t it just be good and tell a story?
As a teenager, I wrote your typical love-angst poetry that did occasionally win me an award and honor me with addressing my senior high school class at our Baccalaureate Mass. I didn’t keep a journal because I was too afraid my mom would find it in the mattress where I kept my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that I wasn’t allowed to read as a twelve year old.
I can say that books have been my life. I’m a reader. I loved to read the day I discovered “The Three Bears” as a first grader, and ever since then, the written word has been my friend. Books were an escape for me. An adventure to the unknown. A love affair I’d never know. I could be lost for hours in a book.
So why writing now? I had a story to tell. It haunted me from the moment I decided if I just wrote it down it would go away. But it didn’t. Three years after writing the first draft, a sign (yes, I believe in them) told me to fix up that draft and work the process to have it published. That’s what I did. But one story let to another, and another, and another. Then a new idea came into my head and a new storyline was created.
I was accused (that’s the correct word) of having an overactive imagination as a child, as if that was a bad thing. I’ve also been accused of having the personality of a Jack Russell terrier, full of energy, unable to relax, and always one step ahead. What can I say other than I have stories to tell and I think you’ll like them. If you don’t, that’s okay. We all have our book boyfriends. We all have our favorites. Whatever you do, though, take time for yourself and read a book.
* * *
Lisa Edward
Lisa Edward is the author of The Songbird trilogy, and the novella Duty of Care. While Lisa has called Melbourne Australia home for her entire life, she has lived and worked in England, and travelled through most parts of Europe and the United States. She loves nothing more than spending time with her beautiful daughter, or curling up into the early hours of the morning with a great novel. By day, Lisa works in the analytical IT field, so relishes the opportunity to foster her creative side through writing. Her deep appreciation for literature was nurtured from a young age, being taught to respect books and get lost in their stories. She enjoys reading honest and realistic novels that are relatable, thought provoking and leave a lasting impression. She can’t write without music playing, using the emotions from different songs to invoke those of her characters. Lisa takes inspiration from her own life experiences, the people around her and those she has met in her travels. 
* * *
Lia Fairchild
Bestselling author, Lia Fairchild, is both a traditionally published and independent author who writes women’s fiction, romance, and chick lit. Fans of her books praise her endearing, real characters who come to life in stories that will touch your heart.
Fairchild is addicted to the warmth of Southern California and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a multiple-subject teaching credential. She is a wife and mother of two teenagers.
* * *
Mary Catherine Gebhard
Mary Catherine Gebhard bites off more than she can chew and sometimes calls herself Eva Natsumi. She’s lived in Salt Lake City, Utah her entire life, but occasionally goes on vacation from reality. Don’t worry, she sends postcards.
* * *
Z.B. Heller
As a little girl it was always a dream for Z.B. Heller to become She-Ra Princess of Power. Since this dream was unobtainable, she spent what was probably way to long in college trying to “find herself”. Becoming an artist scratched the creative itch until the stories in her head were getting to be to loud for her to get anything else accomplished.
She lives in St. Louis with her husband, son and Flemish Giant rabbit Chloe. In her spare time she likes to read, stalk celebraties on Twitter and create the type of art people scratch their heads about.
* * *
Glenna Maynard
Glenna Maynard was born and raised in the beautiful hills of Eastern Kentucky, where she still resides with her husband, son, and daughter. A mother by day and writer by night. When Glenna isn’t spending time with her family you can find her curled up with a great book. Glenna enjoys scrap booking,photography, crafting, cooking, and playing video games.
Glenna comes from a line of strong women with an amazing ability cook just about anything from scratch. She grew up in a family owned and operated restaurant with her Grandmother, and both of her parents. She spent her childhood days in the kitchen learning to prepare home cooked meals. After school she would walk down the street from her families snack bar as it was called by the locals to the county library to get lost in her favorite books.
Glenna is an avid reader who loves discovering new authors. It was her love of reading that recently drove her to try her own hand at writing.
* * *
Kristen Hope Mazzola
You want to know more about me? Well, let’s see…
I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams. I have a full time “day job” and by night I am an author. I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those). I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.
Please feel free to contact me to chat about my writing, books you think I’d like or just to shoot the, well you know.
A portion of all my royalties are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.
* * *
Morgan Jane Mitchell
Bestselling erotic romance and paranormal author, Morgan Jane Mitchell spent years blogging politics and health trends before she rediscovered her love of writing fiction. Trading politicians for bloodsuckers of another kind, she’s now the author of bestselling post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Sanguis City. Her action packed series of vampires, witches, demons and zombies is paranormal romance, dystopia, urban fantasy and erotica in one bite. When Morgan Jane is not creating the city of blood or conjuring up other supernatural tales, she’s dreaming up erotic and dark romances. Morgan Jane lives in the beautiful bluegrass area of central Kentucky with her husband, 3 sons, 3 cats and a greyhound shepherd mix dog named Miss Penni Lane.
* * *
Emerson Shaw
Emerson Shaw was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors of Business Administration. She is married and has two beautiful children. Her debut novel, Acts of Desperation, was based off of a true story. She recently began a new romantic suspense series called “The Hot Pursuit Series.” Straight Flushed, book one, was released on June 22, 2015.
* * *
Kacey Shea
Kacey Shea is a mom of three, wife, and indie author who resides in sunny Arizona. She enjoys reading and writing romance novels as much as her son loves unicorns, which is a lot.
When she’s not writing you will find her playing taxi cab to her children while belting out her favorite tunes, meeting friends or family for food and to share some laughs, or sweating it out in the gym. Kacey finds that picking up heavy weights repeatedly is good for her mental health as much as it is for the physical.
She has an unhealthy obsession with firefighters. It could be the pants. It could be the fire. It’s just hot. On occasion she has been known to include them, without their knowledge, in her selfies outside the grocery store.
Kacey one day aspires to be a woman hand model in a sexy photo shoot. You know, the woman’s hand raking across the muscular back or six pack stomach of the male fitness model. Yep, that hand.
Until that day comes she will continue writing sexy, flirty romance novels in hopes to bring others joy!
Kacey enjoys interacting with her fans so please feel free to stalk her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. 
* * *
M. Stratton
M. Stratton is an International Amazon bestselling author in the romantic suspense and mystery suspense categories for her Storm Series and Bender. She lives with her husband and son in Arizona, which is a big difference from where she grew up north of Chicago, Illinois. As an only child she learned to tell herself stories to make the long winters go by quicker while dreaming of summer vacations. Now as an adult she still makes up stories to pass the time, but now she writes them down to share with other people.
Stratton is a self-proclaimed dork who loves to make people laugh. Her inner rock star is always on stage performing to a sold out crowd, but she quiet and shy on the outside. She spends her days plotting new ways to surprise her readers.
* * *
Madison Street
Madison Street was born in New York City and was raised in the Bronx, where she resided until she was 17 years old. After September 11, Madison joined the United States Navy to serve her country.
During the deployments, Madison constantly wrote short stories and she discovered her passion for writing. You will find Madison always on the computer, whether she’s on Facebook, designing websites, messing with Photoshop, or writing for her blog.
Besides writing, her second passion is music and dance. Even though she’s a terrible singer, she’ll still belt it out in the shower, especially if the song is her jam! She currently resides in Virginia with her husband of 8 years, 2 children, a dog, and a cat. She is so excited to start this amazing journey and is honored to be part of such a compassionate and loving community.
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Felicia Tatum
Felicia Tatum was born and raised in Tennessee. She always loved reading, and at the age of twelve began writing. Her passion for creating stories grew and in May 2012, she finally wrote her first novel, The White Aura.
She still lives in Tennessee with her daughter and her kitty. She loves cooking, books, and animals are some of her best friends. She watches a lot of Disney channel and often dreams up new book ideas. She’s currently working on various projects, including the rest of the White Aura Series, the Scarred Hearts Series, and a novella series. Her dream is to write as many books as possible while entertaining as many people as possible.

 

Review: Fierce Heartbreaker by Liza Street

Fierce HeartbreakerTitle: Fierce Heartbreaker

Author: Liza Street

Series: Sierra Pride #2

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Received for Review from the Author

Summary (from Goodreads)

After Jude Fournier broke her heart six years ago, it took Ava Stricket a long time to get on with her life. Now she’s back to help out her newly-widowed mother, and Jude’s presence is just as distracting as ever. Her overprotective brothers and uncle don’t need to worry, though—Ava’s had a lot of time to harden her heart to Jude’s charms, not only to protect herself, but her daughter as well.

But Jude isn’t going to give up so easily. Despite the hostility from her family and a new imbalance in his pride, he slowly works to win Ava back. His mountain lion chose Ava as his mate years ago, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prove to Ava that he loves her and wants her back in his life—and this time, he’ll never let her go.

Review

The sexy shapeshifters are back in the second instalment of the Sierra Pride series. Fierce Heartbreaker is every bit as spicy and sexy as Fierce Wanderer, with some tantalising hints of conflict to come, and the wider world of the Sierra Pride.

As with the first book, it’s very short, though this time some of the instant attraction can be attributed to the fact that the two main characters were in a relationship in the past, one that didn’t end well. This makes them more rounded as a couple, and provides plenty of conflict – which makes the inevitable ‘get together’ all the more satisfying.

I often felt while reading this that there must have been two or three books, or even a whole series that had gone before that I hadn’t read. Characters were mentioned, mythology talked about and other world building stuff dropped in that left me wondering if I’d missed something a couple of times, but it’s certainly clear that Street has an excellent sense of her world, and I can’t wait to spend a bit more time in it. Which, to me, is the only real mark you need for a good story.

If you liked the first book, you’ll love this. I, for one, will be looking forwards to reading the third.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Fierce Wanderer by Liza Street

fierce wandererTitle: Fierce Wanderer

Author: Liza Street

Series: The Sierra Pride #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Received for review from the author

Summary (from Goodreads)

Hera Watterson’s flight from her small town into the Sierras hasn’t gone unnoticed. The guys after her really want the evidence she’s trying to bring to Reno. Fleeing isn’t easy when her ex-fiancé is a drug dealer…and the chief of police. It’s even harder when a super-hot guy with funny eyes starts getting into her business when her car breaks down. Radiator overheating? Sure. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the molten feeling spreading through her core.

Blake Fournier has been wandering around the wilderness for months, often coming back to stay at his family’s ranch for just a couple of days before heading out again. His mountain lion is bored and listless, tired of the routine of hunts, fights, and one-night stands. His first impression of the woman stuck on the side of the road? She’s absolutely gorgeous. Second impression? Completely paranoid. But once he gets to know her, his lion only wants to wander into one last place: her heart.

Review

At just 68 pages, this is a very short and sweet (and just occasionally spicy!) paranormal romance.

Because of the short length of the book, everything happens very quickly. There’s little build up between Hera and Blake – they spend one afternoon together before falling in to bed with each other. Which is not a problem. It’s what we read these books for. But if you’re looking for a more drawn out romance, with lots of romantic tension, you might be left a bit disappointed. This is all about the fierce (see what I did there?) heat of instant attraction and sexual chemistry between two people. And it gets quite raunchy at times.

Bonus points have to be given for the fact that the sexy shapeshifter is also a Star Wars nerd. Not enough sexy nerds in romantic fiction, in my view. I’m so done with brooding billionaires.

So, yes, Hera accepts Blake’s shapeshifting a little too readily, and the stuff with the drug-dealer ex-boyfriend is never really explored fully. But it doesn’t matter – it’s all just window dressing for a sexy little story about two people in a tent. Great beach reading, perfect for your summer hols!

Rating: 4/5

Review: Pirouette by Kenley Davidson

pirouetteTitle: Pirouette

Author: Kenley Davidson

Series: Andari Chronicles #3

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling

Summary (from Goodreads)

In this retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” a princess and a spy must find a way to work together if they are to prevent their kingdoms from falling into war…

Lord Kyril Seagrave is handsome, popular and growing bored with his shallow existence at court. In search of adventure, he signs on for a clandestine mission into the heart of the Caelani Empire, a largely unknown land to the east which may also be the greatest threat to Andar’s future.
Armed only with his natural charm and a set of ill-matched companions, Kyril enters Caelan under the guise of a raffish bodyguard and soon realizes he is far beyond his depth. Each of his companions seems to have their own hidden agenda, leaving Kyril to navigate the complexities of an unfamiliar court alone.

Princess Ilani cannot remember a time when she was not invisible. Her twelve sisters dance for the Caelani court, while she remains hidden from view. But hidden does not mean blind, and Ilani knows too many secrets to be ignored forever. When it is time for her father to name an heir, all of those secrets will come back to haunt her, along with a devilishly charming foreigner who seems to know far more than he should.
Ilani finds herself fighting not only for the future of her land, but for her very life and the lives of her sisters. Even if she survives her father’s search for an heir, her secrets may not, and Caelan itself may never be the same.

Review

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is not a fairy tale I’m familiar with, unlike Cinderella and Rumplestiltskin, which were the subjects of Davidson’s previous two books. I won’t say this impaired my enjoyment any, but it was a different experience to read the story fresh, without the added layer of trying to figure out who was who, and how the beats of the fairytale would figure in to the retelling.

Pirouette is a more ambitious tale than its predecessors. Where Traitor’s Masque was interwoven with politics, it was smaller scale, and the heart of the story was in the relationship between the two main characters. In Pirouette, Kyril and Ilani barely get any screen time together – to the point that I began to wonder if they were going to be a romantic pairing at all. There are bigger things going on than one blossoming love affair, so the romance does take a bit of a back seat.

The main narrative is about the spy mission of Kyril’s to Caelan to work out what Prince Rowan is up to – a familiar enemy if you’ve read the previous books – and the lies and betrayals that have kept the leader of the Caelani, Ilani’s father, in power. The book also introduces the concept of magic – thus far left out of the retellings. The complex relationships between people of the Caelani court, and the actions they take leave you guessing what’s actually going on for quite a long time, and there are some shocking revelations along the way.

Which all adds up to a great story, but for me, I missed the slow burn of the relationship developing between the two central characters that the first two books delivered. Pirouette is a different reading experience – and by no means a bad one. An exciting tale of politics and betrayal, just not quite as romantic.

Rating: 4/5

On Self Worth

About two years ago, I was running a local 10k race. I do it every year, and there’s this particular point on the course at around 8km where it goes quite steeply uphill. It’s a section of road called Phoenix Bank – I’m sure because when you run up it, you feel like you’ve died and been reborn in the flames once you get to the top.

At the bottom of Phoenix Bank, a woman I didn’t recognise said to me in snatches of breath that her kids were in my class and that they both really liked me and my lessons. She said it to me at that moment to give me a boost to get up the hill. What she couldn’t have known was that she’d caught me at almost my lowest ebb, that if I’d had any liquid left in my poor, sweaty body, I’d have probably burst in to tears.

As it was, I had Phoenix Bank to conquer, and I couldn’t spare any energy on anything else. Which saved me a humiliating public sobbing session, and allowed the words to be the boost they were intended to be. I went on to beat my best time by about four minutes.

Why did those words have the ability to drive me to breakdown? Because I knew they were lies. Four years of teaching had driven me into the ground, and even though I can look back now and know that she wouldn’t have said it to me if it wasn’t true – why make the effort to lie when you’re gasping for breath and about to run up a massive great hill? – at the time I knew. I had no capacity to believe in myself and my ability anymore.

Less than a fortnight later, I was signed off work by the doctor and my notice was handed in. At that point I was having mild panic attacks every day. It took being signed off to give me the wake up call that I needed to quit.

I was diligent about applying for work, and within a month or so I had something else lined up. I thought that in a couple of months I would be feeling close to 100% myself again.

I was wrong. I started my new job in mid-August. By October, I was, in a lot of ways, feeling worse than I’d ever felt. Objectively, I knew that it was just my body and mind processing all the pent up stress, anxiety and pressure that I’d been holding back all those months while I was teaching because I’d had to. I had the space to fall apart, and my brain made the absolute most of the opportunity. But that didn’t make it any easier.

The thing was, I’d removed myself for the situation that had robbed me of any sense of self worth, but that sort of thing doesn’t come back overnight. I’d grown so used to believing I was terrible at everything, it was very hard to believe that I wasn’t going to continue to be terrible. The job I was doing at the time was an easy ‘have you switched it on and off again’ IT support role, and, again objectively, I knew I could do it. But every time my line manager looked at me, I was convinced that she was judging me and finding me wanting. I spent a couple of weeks doing breathing exercises at my desk to stop my hands shaking.

During this time I was applying for the job I have now. I should probably have gone easy on myself and not stressed about getting better work until I’d recovered, but I’ve never been that way. That ability to look at things objectively from time to time was coming back to bite me, because I knew I was worth more than the job I was doing. I didn’t want to be a financial burden in my relationship, didn’t want to be placing any additional stress on my partner who was also looking to leave a job and take a pay cut. So I applied, and I got the job I’m doing now.

Around January, when I first started, I hit my second lowest ebb. I wasn’t having panic attacks during the day anymore, but at night my heart would beat so fast I couldn’t sleep. My partner was away training for his new job. To cope with the isolation and the anxiety, I timetabled every second of my day, keeping myself busy. I spent almost a month completely exhausted.

I was probably ill enough to get signed off by the doctor again, but I’d just started a new job and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be at home all day on my own either. So I battled through, all the time waiting to be told that I was failing, that I wasn’t good enough. Even as I started to pick things up at my new job, started to get a feel for the work and a sense that I could enjoy it.

I remember having a conversation with my line manager about a month or so in to the new job. She was checking up on how I was getting on, how I was settling in. I remember the jolt of fear that accompanied her request to talk to me in a private space, the sick feeling as I sat down in the chair opposite her.

“I find it difficult to tell if I’m doing well,” I remember saying. “I hope that I am.”

I used to be the annoying person who could tell you within a couple of percent what their score on an exam was. I was the pupil who knew what her strengths and weaknesses were – to the point of arrogance at times. And yet, six months after leaving the job that had worn me down so much, I still didn’t quite believe I could be good at something.

Things don’t magically improve overnight. Recovery from depression and anxiety takes time and diligence and lots of self-love and forgiveness. For some people it takes therapy and medication. Writing was my therapy, running was my medication.

Nearly two years after handing in my notice and finally leaving teaching, I know that I’m recovered. How? Two weeks ago, I published a book.

I wrote the book in 2012, and though it’s been through a couple of edits, there’s not a massive amount that’s changed about the story. I’ve changed a couple of things that bring it more in line with the rest of the series, but the major story arc, the writing style and quality are all the same. I could have hit publish in 2012. But I didn’t.

At the time, too much depended on it. Writing was an escape from a job that, in 2012, I knew wasn’t right. I wouldn’t hit low enough to leave for another two years, but that downwards spiral had begun. I wrote for the dream of being the next JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, EL James, the next author who hit it big. I looked to writing to solve all my problems, but I knew it wouldn’t. I knew I couldn’t handle that dream of escape being dashed, so I never pursued it. I wrote the books and left them to gather dust.

Now, I have a job I love. And after eighteen months in the role, I’m finally starting to feel confident that I’m good at it, that I’m valued by colleagues and clients. People have requested to work with me. I’ve had a very positive appraisal. I’ve achieved good results. I have my self worth back.

The writing matters, it will always matter, but it’s not my ‘escape’ any more. Not the golden ticket that I’m depending on to lift me out of my horrible situation. It’s just something I take a great deal of joy in, and want to share with the world. If it makes me enough money to buy my wedding shoes, then that’s a bonus.

The last two years have been a little like the last two kilometres of that 10k race. The first nine months or so were the steep upward climb of Phoenix Bank, the death and rebirth in the flames. But after turning a corner, a gentle downhill followed, allowing momentum to increase even while still catching my breath. Other inclines were nothing after Phoenix Bank, and before long, the finish line was in sight. I crossed it on 6th May when I released my book in to the world. It’s Amazon page is my medal.