A Time for Decisions: 2013 365 Challenge #150

Two-Hundred Steps Home

Two-Hundred Steps Home

It doesn’t seem possible that this is post 150 of the 365 challenge. How quickly the numbers stack up. If only Claire was racking up hostels as quickly as I have been writing posts. She is currently staying in her 31st hostel, with well over a hundred to go, discounting the bunkhouses and hostels that aren’t open to individuals.

I also sense that Claire’s personal journey might not require her to visit all the hostels, which would result in TwoHundred Steps Home becoming too much of a travel journal. At over 114,000 words already (now just longer than Dragon Wraiths), the novel isn’t what you’d call pacey! I have two directions in mind for where the series will go, and I probably need to make a decision soon about which road to take.

Both lead to a second, normal-length novel that I would write and publish as I have done Dragon Wraiths (just what I need, another manuscript to join the other unfinished works). In an ideal world I would write that now, alongside the daily one, so people could rush out and buy it on 1st Jan 2014, when there is no more Claire here on the blog.

Ha ha ha ha. Excuse me while I wipe tears of mirth from my eyes.

I have so many projects, the only thing that has priority is feeding the demanding, screaming, baby that is the daily blog. I don’t know what Claire’s going to do today, never mind writing a whole novel of new Claire adventures. And the sequel to Dragon Wraiths. And the new MG one. Plus, of course, editing and publishing the two complete manuscripts sitting patiently on my laptop. No wonder Claire doesn’t know what she’s doing today – her creator is swamped beneath a mound of unfinished projects.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked up at the building and wondered which way to go. The dome dominated the skyline in front of her as if it was a true mountain rather than a monstrosity of steel filled with fake snow. Her nerves were already rattled from searching for a parking space: not that the car park was full, but the rainbow of coloured bays confused her.

It’s too early and I haven’t had enough coffee. Was this a good idea? It’s not exactly Val d’Isère. How can it be anything like the real thing, here in Milton Keynes, as far from the mountains as it’s possible to be?

Knowing she had little choice, Claire followed the signs into the building and to her check-in location. If I don’t do something spectacular, Julia’s going to be all over me like hives.

She’d thought about cheating – pretending she had never skied and taking a skiing lesson. I’m pretty sure Carl will remember I went skiing with Michael last November. I don’t need that particular conversation. At least learning to snowboard will be fun and something useful for after I’ve finished this stupid assignment.

A gaggle of children clambered down from a coach nearby, making Claire jump. Their excited shrieking gave her the shivers. I hope they’re going bowling. That’s too much energy to share a slope with.

Memories of skiing flickered in Claire’s mind and she pushed them away. She didn’t want to picture Michael skiing up and showering her in powder before smothering her in kisses. Nor did she want to remember the twelve-year-olds who had swooped round her on the blue runs as if the skis had been on their feet since birth. Much as she had enjoyed skiing, she had to admit she wasn’t a natural.

Claire arrived at the desk and smiled at the young woman waiting to check people in. She received a glittering grin in return, and felt some of the tension seep out of her shoulders. Following the directions, Claire went to pull on her snow trousers and jacket and locate her board. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

*

“Ow!”

Claire glared at the child who had crashed into her, sending her sprawling in the snow.

“Sorry, Miss, I lost my balance.”

Fairness caused Claire to grin. “No apology needed, I’m not exactly getting the hang of it myself.”

“You’re doing great, Miss.”

The boy flipped onto his feet, tilted his board, and sailed off down the slope. Claire looked round, trying to work out how to get to her feet with as much elegance. She ached and her clothes were wet. This snow is far too real for my liking. Though at least it is soft.

A whoosh behind her signalled the arrival of her coach. He held out an arm and Claire allowed herself to be pulled upright.

“Are you naturally clumsy, or just not awake?”

The words were said with humour but Claire bristled. We can’t all be born graceful.

“I’m used to skis,” she said, defensively, before regretting her words.

“Ah, yes, that figures. Nice safe option. Boring, but much easier.” He raised an eyebrow and Claire felt the ire build in her chest, warming her from the inside.

“I’m not done yet. I’ve only been here an hour.” She gritted her teeth, tilted the board, adjusted her bodyweight as instructed, and headed down the slope. For the first time since arriving she managed to remain upright.

Wow, this is amazing! Okay I begin to understand the hype. The words were barely formed in her mind before she lost her balance and landed heavily in the snow, her arm trapped awkwardly beneath her. Pain flooded through her mind like hot ice, and she screamed.

***

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