Life in Layers: 2013 365 Challenge #261

Driving to Wanaka - 2006/7 Honeymoon

Driving to Wanaka – 2006/7 Honeymoon

The problem with working on multiple writing projects is I end up living my life in layers. Part of my brain is on a beach with Helen and Marcio, searching for typos, while another part is flying with Leah, as I format Dragon Wraiths for print.

In the back of my mind I’m searching for a new life (and a new name) for Rebecca, as she deals with the death of her father. And I’m permanently in New Zealand with Claire, remembering the three separate times I visited; as an independent traveller, a tour bus sheep and a honeymooner.

By the way, did you spot the cameo in yesterday’s Claire instalment? To try and get my mind in the right place for writing amid the chaos I read some of my travel journal and came across this:

“I drove from Franz Josef Tuesday morning. The weather was beautiful but cold. I stopped at Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier, and walked round it: passed all the Magic Bus sheep which made me again really appreciate how great it is having my own car! I walked all the way round so I could go to the view of views: Mt Tasman & Mt Cook both reflected in the lake; but it was full of loud kiwis, so I left!”

As an aside, it’s funny how much you can dislike your former self – even more so when you realise you haven’t changed as much as you’d hoped. My journal from eleven years ago is full of me whinging about my fellow travellers and feeling like I’m a freak with no place in the world. I came across this nugget:

“The more I travel, the more I realise how little I have in common with people, how few people I like, and how few seem to really like me. No more turning into Dad [he hated the world and everyone in it much of the time] – I have arrived!”

Anyway, I digress. The problem with a life in layers is I am also living all the layers of emotion. As most of my novels are in some part based on my own life experiences, albeit transmuted and transformed, I truly live the events alongside my protagonists. I’ve been to the beach at the end of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, so I can imagine I’m there too. I’ve been to New Zealand several times in different roles. I keep flicking through photo albums to help me with my writing and ending up lost in the past.

Puzzleworld on Magic Bus Tour 2002

Puzzling World on Magic Bus Tour 2003

It’s all good for my writing, but not so much for my day to day life. I end up dreaming epic fantasy adventures with dragons and fight scenes where I also forget to pick my child up from preschool. Or I’m trying to figure out the details of my son’s birthday cake (he wants a shark – in the end we settled for a football) while also wondering whether Claire should meet some more people before she comes home from New Zealand. I’m cooking stew and writing a guest post on postnatal depression in my head. And we know I walk the dog while mentally or physically writing hundreds of words.

Sometimes I wonder if this is what it feels like to go mad. Certainly I don’t feel entirely sane. I feel like all the words and scenes and chaos in my head are seeping out. I couldn’t plait my daughter’s hair this morning because I was overwrought and my hands wouldn’t work. Why? Because the vivid scenes from my dream, where I healed the good queen only to have her turn into a wicked monster who made me miss a school pick-up, were still swirling round my sleep-deprived brain.

I guess the upside is I don’t have to worry about no one liking me anymore, or not being able to make friends: I have a permanent posse of people with me at all times. Unfortunately they’re all a version of me, so we don’t always make the best companions. Thankfully their male counterparts and best friends are usually rather good company.  Who needs a life when you can write one?

I wonder if you keep hold of all the characters when you’ve written ten books, or twenty or fifty? My head could become very cluttered place if some of them don’t go away! At least I’ll never be lonely.


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: 


“Aren’t you coming into Puzzling World?”

Claire looked from Bethan’s eager expression to the building with the illusion tower outside that people were pretending to hold up, as if it were the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Except this wasn’t Italian architecture, it was a money trap for tourists.

“No thanks, this isn’t my idea of New Zealand, any more than tobogganing down a sand dune or racing round a track on an aerial bike. I’m exhausted by the endless ways we’re encouraged to part with our cash.”

“Oh, come on Claire, lighten up. You are a tourist, you know. You’re only here for a few weeks, why not experience as much as you can?”

“Because I’m skint, and I’m tired of being a sheep and it’s all a con.” Claire saw the smile slip from Bethan’s face and stopped her rant. “I’m sorry, ignore me. I’m tired. I was up late, thinking about stuff. You go on; I’m going to catch up on my email.”

Bethan shrugged and ran ahead to join the rest of the group. Claire felt a pang as she watched her leave. She’d meant every word, but she hadn’t intended to belittle Bethan’s enthusiasm.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. This is a trip of a lifetime and I’m being a complete grouch. What’s that kiwi song? Weather with you? We’ll I’ve certainly brought my black clouds with me.

Finding a bench in the weak wintry sun, Claire zipped up her jacket before loading her emails, expecting only blog comments and junk. When she saw Conor’s name her heart gave an odd lurch. He hadn’t texted for a while, and she only now realised the hole left by the absence of his happy messages. Her heart thudded uncomfortably as she loaded the email.

Hi Claire

I’ve spoken with my boss regarding my wish for you to join the company, knowing that you are reluctant to curtail your travels in order to take a full time position.

The Board have agreed to offer you a temporary contract that will also incorporate an element of hands on research. This will entail visiting hostels and tourist attractions in the surrounding counties to undertake a benchmark exercise on where Isle of Purbeck tourism sits at present.

At the end of three months you will be expected to prepare and deliver a presentation of your recommendations, including your vision for the future of Purbeck Tourism. The following three months will be spent drawing up implementation plans from your findings.

If this is of interest to you, please let me know as soon as possible. I understand that you are still travelling in New Zealand – perhaps there is something to be learned from their tourism and attractions also?

Extension of your contract will be dependent on your recommendations and implementation plans being accepted by the Board.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.


Claire read the message several times to ensure she had understood it correctly. Conor’s formal business language made it hard to grasp the full extent of the deal. At last she gathered that he was offering her everything she could want and more.

I get to continue travelling and get paid? The man’s a magician.

The idea that Conor was trying to impress her flitted through her mind, only to be dismissed. There was nothing in his demeanour or his communications to suggest anything other than a working relationship, albeit it a much more lighthearted and friendly one than she’d ever managed with her former boss. Claire tried to imagine Carl sending her jokes by text, and laughed at the absurdity of the thought.

Scanning the message one more time, Claire quickly tapped out a reply.

Hi Conor

How can I refuse such generous terms? I’ll be back home in a week. Jetlag aside, I should be able to start work immediately (I need the cash!)

Looking forward to hearing more about the contract. Off now to investigate one of NZ’s most popular tourist attractions.

Talk soon.


With a wide smile, Claire slipped her phone into her bag and strode towards the entrance.


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