I Am A Writer

(Temporary) cover for hubbie's book

(Temporary) cover for hubbie’s book

Yesterday I took the day away from my latest WIP to do something I hoped would cheer up my husband: I published his children’s book, Max & Shady, on Smashwords. I spent the first three hours designing a cover for it, because (unfortunately) the one I did for him before used a photo I couldn’t find the rights to. Important note: if you grab an image for inspiration, make sure you know where it’s from. Unsurprisingly, hubbie preferred his original cover (I do, too) but at least this one is bought and paid for.

Then I dug out the word document I formatted for print as a present a few years ago (turning someone’s first draft into a readable document is quite a task!) I’m ashamed to say it was full of typos, despite it being me who proof-read it the last time.

The rest of the day was spent fixing the big stuff (formatting for Smashwords and inserting punctuation inside the quotation marks). By the time he got home from work (having had to hush the kids a few times to sort out the niggly formatting issues that always seem to crop up) the book was live.

It breaks all the rules. It’s a first draft so shouldn’t be anywhere near the light of day. It’s only been proofread quickly, mostly by Word rather than a human being. It’s probably full of inconsistenices and it certainly has pages of info-dump. No matter. It served it’s purpose. Hubbie smiled.

Two things came out of it that should give both me and hubbie a boost of confidence. Firstly, when I was researching covers and categories, I couldn’t find much in the way of space adventure in the middle grade market: that makes his book much more stand out than mine. So, if he ever finds the energy to write some more, on top of being the bread winner who is pounced on by two small children as soon as he walks in the door after work, there might be a new niche he can fill.

Secondly, I re-read my work-in-progress, after editing Max & Shady, and realised just how much I have learned about writing in the last two or three years. I can see my progress from what I would have written as a first draft (much as hubbie’s is – fun but flawed) to my current work: not perfect, but oh so much better. I got quite excited reading it and found it pleasurable rather than excruciating, as reading my own writing normally is (a bit like hearing your own voice on tape). I understand things like avoiding info-dump, developing a character arc, climax and lots of other useful / essential things, mostly from reading blogs on writing. All that staring at the iPad seems to have had an effect. Who knows, I might actually, finally, be able to consider myself a writer!

Now I just need to work out who the bad guy is in my children’s book, what the plot and storyline are, and I can get on and finish it. I might be a better writer now, but I’m still pants at planning!

Formatting and Designing Covers (Again)

A possible cover for THSH the complete story

A possible cover for THSH the complete story

I spent today doing what I love best (ahem), formatting and editing a word document ready for uploading to Smashwords and Amazon. It frustrated me from the beginning of my 2013 writing challenge that I wasn’t able to put the Two-Hundred Steps Home volumes onto Amazon, because they don’t allow permanently free books.

It has therefore always been my intention to combine the twelve volumes into one book to put on Amazon. The dilemma is whether to spend time proofreading and checking for continuity errors and risk getting sucked into doing a full edit (which is not something I intend to get dragged into). Hubbie argues that the original instalments shouldn’t be altered (apart from fixing obvious typos as and when I see them or am told about them) as that was the purpose of the challenge: to write a first draft novel and publish as-is.

My compromise has been to put a short introduction at the beginning to explain the challenge. Writing that is also proving tricky: this is my first attempt:

Two-Hundred Steps Home was written during 2013 in daily instalments on Amanda Martin’s writermummy blog. She wanted to see if it was possible to write the first draft of a novel and publish it every day, much as a Nineteenth-Century Dickens novel might have been published.

Throughout a long year, with hours of painstaking research into the hostels and tourist attractions of UK and New Zealand, and with the endless support of her family, Amanda followed Claire on a journey of discovery from her life as a Marketing Director to someone searching for meaning on the beaches of Cornwall.

Unsure in the beginning whether she would complete her challenge, Amanda continued day by day because of the faithful followers on her blog. And so, 285,000 words, 365 posts and 12 novellas later, Claire’s journey reached the end.

This volume contains all 365 instalments, unedited and exactly as they appeared on the writermummy blog

One of the covers I'm considering

One of the covers I’m considering

It’s a work in progress! As is the front cover. After carefully choosing an image to fit with the theme of each volume, month on month, it has been impossible to come up with an image that sums up the whole of Claire’s journey. These are the two I’m playing with at the moment but I’m not entirely satisfied with either.

What I’d really love to do is have a proper cover designed by someone that knows what they’re doing, rather than me with some istockphoto images and Adobe Photoshop. But, again, it doesn’t fit in with the original challenge of doing it all myself and, besides, I can’t afford it!

When I think about it too much, I feel I should hold back on getting out a complete volume. Part of me wants to get something live this week, so I can get back to the proper job of writing when the children go back to school next week, while the rest of me knows that rushing into any self-publishing breaks all the rules and risks damaging an author’s reputation. But then so does writing a novel in chunks at 2am and publishing the first draft. However, 6,000 downloads later, it doesn’t seem to have done too badly.

My only other point of indecision is whether to call it “Two-Hundred Steps Home Volumes 1-12” or “The Complete Journey” to separate it from the individual volumes but also make clear it isn’t a sequel! I can write fast, but not that fast! 🙂 Ah well, knowing me I’ll make an impulsive decision at midnight and you’ll see something live shortly after. If no one buys it, I’ll come up with a Plan B.

The End. For Now. 2013 365 Challenge #365

The Final THSH Cover

The Final THSH Cover

Hurrah. I made it. Claire’s journey is finished, for now. She’s found a new home and what I suspect will be only the beginning of fresh adventures. Already the new characters intrigue me. Timothy, for example: he’s Maggie’s gentleman friend but for some reason I think he might lean the other way. Eddie is going to be a real handful. And the quiet Kayla might surprise everyone.

You’ll have to wait though. I have other novels to write, sleep to catch up on, books to read, before I even think about picking up Claire’s journey again. I want to start immediately, but I think we all need a break. I’ll be making notes, though, and any feedback is of course always gratefully received.

If you enjoyed the series, tell your friends. I hope to pull the entire 365 installments into one ebook at some point soon, although I won’t be editing it (except for any typos that I discover). The raw first draft (albeit one that was line-edited as I went along) is part of the challenge and should stand untouched. I’m proud of it as it is.

So, what’s next? After the sleeping and the reading and the hopefully shifting this cold finally because I’ve had it for weeks? Well, Class Act needs work. It’s currently a 50,000 word romance that I have plans to extend into a full length novel. Then there’s Finding Lucy. And a sequel to Dragon Wraiths. And of course a continuation of Claire’s adventures in Cornwall. I’m going to miss her and Conor, although it’s good to miss people!

The blog might be quiet for a while. Or it might not. I think stopping blogging might be like coming off the Christmas chocolate: both a challenge and a relief. I’ll see you when I see you. Please hang about and if you see only this post for a while, please understand! Maybe I’ll have more time to read and comment on some of your blogs now. That said, as it has been raining for the last two days, and my head is fizzing with blog entry ideas, it might not be quiet for all that long!

Wishing you all an amazing New Year and here’s to a 2014 full of words.

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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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Her clothes filled the small wardrobe; her rucksack sat empty in the dark recess of the cupboard, tatty after its long journey. She could never have imagined, back when Carl had presented her with it as a leaving gift, that she could become so attached to a bag.

“We’ve come a long way, you and I. Time for a rest, for you at least.”

Claire laughed as she realised talking to an inanimate object was probably the first sign of craziness.

Maybe I am crazy. Do crazy people ever actually know that they are?

She thought about leaving Conor standing alone on the beach, and shivered. It had been two days and he hadn’t tried to contact her. She didn’t know if that made it easier or not. Dozens of unsent messages sat on her phone, taunting her. Her last words echoed continually in her mind, like a song stuck on repeat.

The man I love like breathing.

She considered it, as she walked across the tiny room to gaze at the ever-changing view of the sea. Was it true? Did she love him? Could you love someone on such a short acquaintance?

But it wasn’t short, was it? Four months is a long time, and he’s been there for me since day one. All the time in New Zealand and every time I needed someone since I returned.

Dwelling only intensified the pain. She cast one last look around her room and felt a glimmer of a smile through her grief. Her room. It felt good.

Downstairs, the children were finishing dinner. Claire hadn’t spent much time with them over the weekend. Timothy seemed to instinctively know she needed space to settle in, and had quietly assured her that she had no duties until Monday morning. She attended meals and sat in the shared lounge to read and think. Sometimes she nestled in the window seat she’d discovered along a corridor, overlooking the sea, and listened to the children giggling in their rooms. The sound of laughter rang constantly throughout the old building.

Outside, the sky hung overcast. She wandered through the bushes and trees until she reached the rolling lawn that led down towards the sea. Within minutes she had scrambled down the rocky path to the private beach.

A group of children clambered amongst the rock pools under the watchful eye of Eddie. He raised his hand in greeting and she nodded in return before heading to the other end of the sand.

Thinking she really needed to buy a surfboard, Claire found her favourite rock and climbed on it. Sitting with her arms clasped around her knees she stared out at the horizon and let the peace wrap around her like a blanket.

*

A tapping at the door roused Claire from a doze. She checked the time and was surprised to discover she’d been asleep for an hour. Thinking it must be Timothy wanting to remind her about something for the morning, she rolled off the bed and went to open the door.

She grasped the frame for support as her questioning gaze met a pair of familiar green eyes.

“Hello, Claire.”

“What? How did you know where to find me? How did you get in?”

“A bit of research found the centre and a chat with your man Timothy meant he let me in. Seems he’s a sucker for a romance.”

“You could be a stalker or a murderer.” She frowned, unsure how she felt about the invasion of her privacy.

“I showed him this.” Conor held up his phone to show a photograph of the two of them in bed, tangled in the sheets.

Claire stepped back into the room to hide the blood rushing to her cheeks. “You’d better come in.”

Uncomfortably aware that the room held only a bed, she waited for Conor to perch on one end of it, before going to stand, arms folded, by the window.

“Why are you here?”

“To ask why you keep running away from me without letting me speak, woman. I had something to add to your marvellous speech, you know.”

He stood up and crossed the room, coming to a stop only inches away from her. He leant in until his lips brushed the hair near her ear, sending flurries of heat across her skin.

“I love you, too.”

*

Claire rested her head against Conor’s shoulder and stared out the window at the multi-hued sky. They had talked long into the night, until the dawn light began to paint the horizon in stripes of silver and pink. Her head ached with the fog of missed sleep, and she knew her first day at work was going to be a disaster, but her heart felt like a bird floating on an updraft.

She looked around the tiny room, listening to the heartbeat and slow, sonorous, breathing of the man beside her. It wasn’t ideal, agreeing to a long-distance love affair, but she didn’t care. He loved her and she loved him; that was all that mattered. The rest was just geography.

As she lay in his arms and watched the sun rise, she realised she had finally found what she had searched for through two hundred long days – through a lifetime – something that wasn’t outside the window, or even in the room, but rather in her heart. A contentment; a sense of belonging and of peace.

She was home.

***

Perfect Procrastination: 2013 365 Challenge #334

A potential front cover (though fonts are always a challenge)

A potential front cover (though fonts are always a challenge)

Sometimes I’m so easily distracted I think I’m no better than a three-year-old! Instead of getting stuck in to writing today, particularly important on a Friday to give me a head start for the weekend, I spent two hours designing a cover for a potential entire Two-Hundred Steps Home volume, even though I haven’t even written December’s installments yet, never mind getting November’s finished and up on Smashwords.

There is method in my madness.

Partly I thought it might be nice to produce a printed volume for my hubbie for Christmas. (He reads this post, so it won’t be a surprise even if I get it done!) It’s not likely to happen, though, because it would mean finishing December’s posts by around the 10th, in order to get it all uploaded and ordered. Hahaha, excuse me while I roll around laughing. I have no doubt that, despite the best intentions, the last installment will actually be written on New Year’s Eve, when the kids are in bed and hubbie is trying to drink in the new year with me.

The second excuse idea was that I could put the book out for pre-order, to see if there is any interest in buying the complete set of twelve volumes, even though you can download the individual ones for free.

More important, the cover for November

More important, the cover for November

It would be around 275,000 words, which is substantial for any novel, and of course would have to come with the HUGE disclaimer that it is a first draft and hasn’t been edited or proofread. I would hate people to buy it under any illusions. That said, I think a lot of the people who download the free copies don’t follow the blog, and no one has left me an awful review yet. (Ignoring the fact that I’ve only had a handful of reviews!)

Of course it would be lovely to edit it all and have it proofread, but part of me thinks that would defeat the point of the exercise, which was to produce something in installments without planning or the ability to go back and change things. Aside from the odd typo I’ve spotted (and once when I changed a character’s name in one installment) I haven’t gone back and amended anything. What you get in the downloaded volumes is what I wrote, day by day, through 2013.

Maybe, with a decent blurb and introduction, it would work. People might pay to have it all in once place, or as a reminder of the year, if they enjoyed it. Who knows, they might even recommend it to others. Certainly if I publish a sequel it would be handy for people to be able to catch up. Anyway, there’s my justification for two hours of my day wasted. And I’m sticking with that! 🙂

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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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Alex paced across the room, picked up the iPad, put it down again, then walked back to the window to stare out across the lawn to the sea, as if expecting to see his father striding across the grass.

“He’s late,” he said, without turning round.

“I’m sure his flight was delayed, that’s all.” Claire tried to be the voice of reason, concealing her irritation that Robert hadn’t even sent a text to confirm that he’d arrived at the airport. Keeping her voice level, she added, “He had to connect at Brussels and Birmingham to come down here, and then he’ll need to get a taxi from the airport. There’s a lot to go wrong.”

“He wouldn’t have been late if this was a business meeting. Even some minor client grossing less than ten grand a year would have ensured his punctuality. But for his sons, well, why bother?”

The tone of disgust in Alex’s voice tore through Claire. She wanted to tell the boy not to speak about his father like that, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. He had a point.

“He came to Cambridge when Auntie Ruth was poorly,” she said, instead. “He was brilliant at the hospital. I’m sure his delay is something outside his control.”

“Father probably only did that so he could feel important. You know, showing that he was better than you and Auntie Ruth. Or to get away from Mother for a week.”

The words were unanswerable. Claire realised she didn’t know her brother at all. Even during that awful week, when she’d thought Ruth was going to die, she had barely spoken to Robert. When he hadn’t been talking to the doctors he was on his phone, discussing business, or buried deep in emails. She wondered when her brother had become a stranger.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to see Ruth and Sky,” Jack said, breaking into her thoughts. “I haven’t seen Auntie Ruth since I was little, and I’ve never met Sky.”

Guilt washed over Claire, as she realised that was true. Ruth didn’t have the money for travel to Europe, and it was years since Robert and his family had come home for the holidays. They usually went skiing.

I should have taken them up for the weekend, to see Mum and Dad and Ruth. It’s not that far away.

“Why don’t you ask your dad if you can go, before you fly back to Geneva? I’m sure your flights can be changed.”

Alex snorted, but said nothing, merely turning to gaze out the window again. Jack shrugged and picked up his iPad, and was soon lost in a game.

Claire looked at them both and felt helpless. Two weeks ago she didn’t know or care about her nephews. Now, though, they were real people; people she didn’t want to see suffer. Despite his eagerness to go, it was clear Alex only wanted to return to his friends and girlfriend. Jack had been subdued all morning, his silence speaking of his unhappiness far more than words.

I wonder if Conor would let me take a few days leave to run up to Cambridgeshire with the boys. I can’t see Robert taking them. She thought through the logistics, and suppressed a sigh. I guess it’s a bit late for that. Robert would have a fit if I suggested it, after he’s flown all this way to pick them up. Assuming he hasn’t forgotten.

Claire chewed at her lip and tried to concentrate on the book in her lap. The words blurred as her mind filled with thoughts too muddled to be processed. Behind her attempt at calm, a wave of anger was building: rage at her brother’s thoughtlessness, and remorse at her own previous neglect. Who was she to take the moral high ground? How often had she spent time with the boys or gone to visit them in Geneva?

Maybe we have no capacity to love, in our family. Perhaps that’s it. Maybe Ruth got it all, and is using it all on Sky. The rest of us: what do we know of family and loyalty and trust?

She closed her book and followed Alex’s gaze out the window, losing herself in the relentless blue of the uncaring sky.

*

The sound of a car pulling up the driveway echoed loudly in the silence of the dining room. Both boys turned to face in its direction, as if hoping to see through walls and confirm it was finally their father.

Tension twisted Claire’s stomach like the shift in pressure that heralded a storm. Shaking off the feeling, she rose to her feet and turned to face the door. She could hear voices in the corridor, as the manager gave directions to the dining room, as Claire had requested earlier.

Her brother’s form filled the doorway, and Claire could see a second person standing just behind him, clutching his arm.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

Claire shot an angry glance at Alex, about to admonish him for his language. Before she could speak, she registered his white face and the pursed and bloodless lips. She turned back to the door to see what had made her nephew so angry. Hanging on Robert’s arm was a young woman, younger than herself. In her late teens or early twenties, Claire guessed. The woman clung on to Robert as if he were a life raft, staring up at him with wide brown eyes.

Claire wondered if Robert had brought the au pair to look after the boys on the trip home.

That would be like him. Can’t even look after his boys for a few hours.

That didn’t explain Alex’s outburst though, not really. From what she had gathered from Jack, the au pair was a sweet German girl, with limited English. Not someone to be treated with such loathing.

As realisation dawned, Claire felt the blood drain from her own face.

Not even Robert could be that stupid and cruel, surely, to bring his new girlfriend with him?

As far as he was aware the boys didn’t even know he’d met someone new. Even if they weren’t close to him or their mother, it was still neither the time nor place to introduce a replacement.

Robert stood motionless in the doorway, surveying his sister and sons, a faint sardonic raise of one eyebrow his only expression.

“Hello Claire, boys.” He nodded in their direction, as if stumbling across a casual acquaintance, rather than coming to collect his sons after a two-week absence. The girl hanging on his arm gave them a timid glance, before turning back to gaze at Robert. He seemed to feel her stare, because he pulled her into the room and put his arm around her.

With a broad smile he said, “I’d like you to meet Gabriella. My fiancée.”

Silence reverberated round the room like an aftershock. Then Claire sensed sudden movement to her left. Alex strode across the room to stand in front of his father.

Staring up into his face, he hesitated, then said distinctly, “You utter bastard.”

He pushed past his father and Gabriella and left the room.

***

October’s Cover Reveal: 2013 365 Challenge #304

October's Cover Reveal

October’s Cover Reveal

I struggled to choose a cover image for this month’s volume of Two-Hundred Steps Home. It’s indicative of the month I think, as the October installments have been written more in survival than planning mode.

For other months there has been a theme – September’s was depression, August was about freedom and escape. Or there has been a clear identity of place – Dorset, the Peak District and so on.

In the end I chose this picture because it seems to represent Claire’s realisation that she’s content in her own company. In contrast to those around her who need their support network – Ruth with Sky and now the church, Kim with Jeff and her mother, Josh and Fiona, Michael’s desire for a family and children.

Claire used to see work as her support network when she lived in Manchester but now she has come to realise work no longer defines her. She wasn’t happy being a tourist sheep; she’d much rather hike up a mountain and have the birds for company.

It doesn’t bode well for her and Conor – with his self-confessed need to be surrounded by the “steaming heap of humanity”. Maybe theirs will be a flash-in-the-pan coming together, or maybe they’ll find a middle ground and carve out a happy ever after. I don’t know: they haven’t told me how it ends yet. He’s a rather charming chap, though, yes? I like him.

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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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“Should you be driving? It’s pretty late and the road up to the hostel isn’t for the fainthearted. You can always kip on my floor.” Conor turned to face Claire as they reached her car but she couldn’t read his expression in the dark.

“Are you calling me fainthearted?” She pursed her lips into a pout that would make Sky proud, ignoring the last part of his suggestion.

“I wouldn’t dare.”

Claire raised her eyebrows at her boss, challenging his remark.

“Seriously.” He nodded emphatically. “You scare the bejesus out of me; you have since the day you walked into my interview like you owned the room and everything in it.”

“Now I know you’re winding me up. You and your bunch of suits sat there like the bloomin’ Inquisition. My knees shook so hard I thought I was going to crumple in a heap on the floor.”

“That would have been worth seeing.” Conor grinned and leaned back against Claire’s car. His shirt stood open at the neck and his hair looked dark beneath the hotel lights. Claire jingled her keys hoping he’d take the hint, but his pose suggested he had no intention of moving anytime soon.

“Do you regret taking the job?” he asked suddenly, making her jump. “I know you hated your old boss but this isn’t exactly your thing, is it? No glamorous board meetings or FTSE 100 clients here: just a bunch of boring old men in a sleepy backwater. I get the impression you’d rather not have come back from New Zealand.”

Claire wrapped her arms around herself and swallowed down irritation at her boss’s drunken loquaciousness. “I was more than ready to come home – even if I hadn’t run out of money. I’m not good at being a tourist sheep following the pack.”

Conor frowned at her words and she hurried on. “This is different: I see what you’re trying to achieve and I understand your passion.” She swept her arms wide to encompass the town and area. “This is a beautiful part of the world. I feel comfortable here.”

Inhaling the tangy salt air, Claire thought carefully before continuing. Conor might be drunk but that didn’t stop him being her boss.

“Yes, I can’t lie: part of me wanted to go back to having a regular job with a decent car and my own apartment. I miss having a bath! But this part of the assignment won’t last forever. I can settle down somewhere in a few weeks, when I’m done.” She imagined being stuck in the Dorset town Conor loved so much and shivered.

Conor pushed himself away from the car and came to a standstill in front of her. A heady wave of aftershave washed over her, making her legs tremble. He stood so close she had to stare up at him to avoid fixing her eyes on the top of his chest, peeping out from behind his shirt.

“I can’t wait,” he murmured, gazing intently into her face. His arms twitched forwards, then dropped loosely at his sides.

Claire contracted her brows in mute question and he added, “I can’t wait until you’re settled close by. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.”

His voice crept in her ears and trickled beneath her skin, leaving behind a trail of heat. The only thing that existed on the whole planet was his body, inches away from hers. His eyes shone wide and vulnerable in the darkness, showing no trace of the brash ladies’ man.

In painful slow motion he lowered his face towards her and she could almost taste the heavy red wine on his breath.

“I’m drunk,” he said, as if in explanation, “but that’s only obscuring my good sense, not my feelings. I’ve wanted to do this since you swung your hips into my interview and blew my life apart.”

The air caught in Claire’s lungs and her ears felt muffled, as if a blanket had dropped over her. In the back of her brain a voice screamed, but the sound of Conor’s rapid, shallow, breathing drowned it out.

After a tantalising pause their lips met, and the world exploded.

***

Organised Chaos: 2013 365 Challenge #260

What's the time, Mister Wolf?

What’s the time, Mister Wolf?

I’ve always been grateful that, as a family, we’ve been able to get by without me earning an income: but never more so than today. Even with hubbie available to do one of the child-care drop-offs this morning, it was still a crazy day.

As it was our wedding anniversary, we met in the coffee shop at 9.15 – me having dropped our son at preschool a few miles away, making sure he had packed lunch, coat and slippers, and he having dropped our daughter at school round the corner, running the tears gauntlet I have thus far avoided.

In the coffee shop we sat side by side in the sunshine in virtual silence, hubbie editing his book, me finishing my post and trying to figure out why suddenly everything was in italics, whilst we both listened (not through choice) to two ladies discussing why one had been deselected as bridesmaid. I’ve learned to block out most coffee shop chatter when necessary, but having been deselected as bridesmaid the one and only time I was ever asked, I had some sympathy.

Laundry Mountain

Laundry Mountain

Once my post was written it was time to go home, chuck some laundry in the machine, and strike something off the writing to-do list for half an hour, before heading back into town, armed with a second packed lunch, to collect my daughter, who is still on half days at school for two more weeks. (Yes, I should have just stayed in town, but I didn’t think, and had to go home to collect her lunch).

Then, with no lunch for me because we ran out of bread, we headed to another nearby town to pick up my bookmarks and buy birthday gifts for my daughter’s friends. Finding the printers proved a challenge and the bookmarks barely worth the effort – poorly trimmed with tick marks still in evidence, though possibly my mistake when I sent the artwork.

Daughter insisted on doubling the party gift budget and would not be moved so in the end we left with giant gifts for the next two parties. Please don’t let her make too many friends at school or we’ll be bankrupt by Christmas.

Front of the Bookmark

Front of Bookmark

The rather busy back!

The rather busy back!

After a fruitless search for a shark cake or shark balloons for son’s party this Saturday we went to pick the boy up from preschool: 3pm and I was exhausted. Again thankfully hubbie helped a bit by taking son to the post office while daughter taught me my numbers and letters (!) and helped me prepare dinner.

Hubbie played What’s the time Mister Wolf? with the kids while I cooked tea, then I played with them while he crashed from exhaustion. After dinner he admitted to being poorly and disappeared off to bed leaving me to clean the kitchen, wash the lunch boxes and water bottles, and make sure daughter’s school bag is ready for the morning, before going out for another half hour of ball games.

Finally dragged hubbie out of bed twenty minutes before kids’ bedtime, so I could walk the dog. Collapsed on the sofa at 8.30pm with all my post yet to write! (I ended up writing the Claire part this morning, while hubbie did the school run, and little man sang “Bananas in Pyjamas” on loop.)

With extra help, and no job to go to, I just about managed to survive the day, having done a whopping 60 mins work (not including the 2-3 hours I’m about to spend writing this post!) Could I do all that and have a job? No way ho-say as my kids would say.

So, working mums, I salute you. Hubbie, I thank you (and who knew every cloud had a silver lining when you were laid off?). Dad, I miss you, but thanks for posthumously funding my Stay at Home Mum life. I hope you approve. As a stay at home dad and self employed mechanic, I’m sure you would have understood.

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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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As Claire gazed at the scene in front of her, the early start seemed worth every ounce of effort. Like a mystical mirror, the lake stretched out flat to the horizon. Either side, dark trees framed the scene, both above and below the water’s edge, creating an expanding line of perspective towards her. At the vanishing point, the mountains took over; climbing away to the sky. In the distance, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman fought for brilliant in hues of grey, blue and white.

Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

Claire breathed in the morning air, and watched the puff of cloud as she exhaled. She pulled her jacket closer around her as the icy air prized open her foggy brain. This far south, winter had the island in its grip and she was in no mood to linger, despite the beauty of the scene.

All around her, Claire heard the chatter of disinterested tourists. She could see one or two photographers desperate to grab the perfect picture of absolute stillness and reflected symmetry. She wondered how they could stand the influx of tourists, come to take their quick snaps and move on.

How many visitors accidentally snap the perfect shot, not realising others have waited hours and days for the privilege?

Claire looked at the picture on her phone. It probably wouldn’t pass a perfectionist’s eye, but it looked damned near perfect to her: a magical place.

Shame about the noise.

Unable to stand it any longer, Claire headed back to the bus and the travellers who hadn’t even bothered with the walk but were tucking into breakfast in the café. As she arrived at the car park, she saw a girl load her camera into her bag and climb into a rusty red hatchback.

The girl caught her eye and smiled, seeming to say, “Rather you than me on the bus.” She couldn’t disagree.

*

Autumn colours at Wanaka

Autumn colours at Wanaka

Claire climbed down the bus steps, grateful that it was for the last time that day. She felt like she’d done nothing but get on and off the bus, to marvel at one tourist attraction after another until they all blurred together in her mind. She had no idea how she would identify which was which in her pictures when it came time to write the blog. For now she was just happy that she had at least twelve hours before she had to get on the bus again. It felt like escaping from jail.

Wanaka town was bigger than she’d expected; a sprawling collection of buildings spread out along the lakeside. The lake itself shone beneath the blue sky, framed by tall trees still bearing the orange hues of autumn. Claire imagined it must have been spectacular a few weeks before.

A feeling of snow pervaded the air, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the town as a winter resort. It seemed odd that a few weeks earlier she’d been in her shorts: the difference in climate from north to south was much more than she was used to.

Dumping her rucksack in her dorm room, Claire declined Bethan’s suggestion to go for a drink, and walked in long strides down to the shore. Her shoulders itched with a need to get away from people. Following a cycle path, Claire walked around the edge of the lake, beneath the autumn trees, kicking at the fallen leaves beneath her feet.

The further she got from the town the lighter she felt until, at last, the buildings were out of sight and she felt like skipping. It was too cold to sit and admire the view so she kept walking, intent on nothing but solitude.

This is crazy. It’s the beginning of summer at home. Why am I freezing my arse off on the wrong side of the world? Yes, it’s beautiful, but so is Scotland or Wales or the Lake District. Why did I travel the UK in winter only to do the same a few months later here in New Zealand? It’s official; I’ve lost the plot.

Lake Wanaka at sunset

Lake Wanaka at sunset

Claire spotted a bench overlooking the lake. Perching on the edge she pulled out her phone and checked the itinerary she had downloaded for the bus trip.

Another ten days until we’re back in Auckland, although at least it will probably be warmer back in the north. She read through the schedule again. I wonder if I could fly home from Christchurch.

Suddenly getting home seemed more important than anything else. Even though she knew there was no one expecting her, no job or car or house to return home to, she needed to be back where she belonged.

Vowing to call the airline company in the morning, Claire jumped down from the bench and began striding back to town.

***

Formatting and Covers: 2013 365 Challenge #256

Manuscript Paper Planes

Manuscript Paper Planes

Phew. I have spent the last two days updating my Kindle and Smashwords files to include Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes under ‘other titles by’ and to add Twitter and Facebook links. I am formatting blind. I had to load each file half a dozen times, because I kept missing things. A case of more haste less speed.

Even now I know there’s an error in each of my Two-Hundred Steps Home files (a link that doesn’t work). I wasn’t going to reload them all, and start the ‘premium catalogue’ clearance again, except I’ve had to resubmit for clearing after linking all the books as a series (even though Smashwords said it wouldn’t affect premium distribution).

When I updated my kindle file for Dragon Wraiths, I also got the Facebook link wrong in that, and now I have to wait for Amazon to publish it before I can upload it again. They could learn a thing or two from Smashwords. My head is spinning with all the details, remembering what quirks Kindle has compared with Smashwords, and remembering to link to my other books on the right platform (Smashwords will reject a file for having Amazon links within it).

Spot the difference!

Spot the difference!

I also tinkered with the Dragon Wraiths cover today, to try and incorporate the dragon pendant from the first cover. I’m not 100% happy with it, but it needed to be done. The current one, much as I love it, doesn’t say ‘fantasy’ or ‘dragons’ enough.

What’s the point of this ramble? Not much, except to say I think writing a book is about 20% or 30% of the actual graft of being a self-published author. All the other stuff is so time-consuming. More than you think it should be. My ‘two minute’ job on the cover took two hours and nearly made me late to pick my daughter up from school!.

And you have to be super organised and logical and all those things I’m not to keep track of it all. At least I’m learning I guess. I could probably format a file for Smashwords in my sleep (and get no autovetter errors) and I’m not far off knowing how to do a Kindle file without referring to the notes. If the author thing doesn’t work I guess at least I could make money doing that! 🙂

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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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“What are we searching for exactly?”

Claire looked across the racks of clothing to Bethan, who was holding up various items against her and contemplating her reflection in the mirror.

“Fancy dress.”

“I gathered that. I meant, what are you going as? And what the hell can I wear?”

“The theme is anything beginning with P. So I thought I might go as a prostitute.” She grinned at Claire’s shocked expression. “Too much? What about a princess? You should do that, you look much more Disney than I do.”

“I don’t know, you could be Pocahontas.”

“She was Native American, not Thai.”

Claire blushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, it was a stupid thing to say.”

Bethan laughed. “That’s alright, I know you didn’t. You’re not likely to be up on the Disney princesses unless you have a four-year-old girl hidden about your person.”

The flush deepened. “Well, actually I did spend a few weeks with my niece recently, but all those princesses muddle together after a while. There was an Oriental one, now I think about it.”

Mulan. Chinese. Closer but still offensive.” Although Bethan spoke with laughter in her voice, her face looked brittle.

“Sorry.”

Bethan looked up and her face became more sympathetic. “Oriental is a racist term in America, is that not the same in England?”

Claire shook her head. “Not that I know of. Better than calling someone Chinese when they’re really from Japan or Thailand, surely?”

“In America you use Oriental for things, not people. Asian is a better word.”

Claire swallowed and nodded, feeling like she’d been told off. Wanting to change the subject, she ran through other fancy dress ideas beginning with P. “Right. Not princesses then. Pigs? Paupers? That shouldn’t be a problem; I’m going to be poor by the time this trip is over.”

She glanced at Bethan and saw a flicker of disapproval flash across her face.

Now what have I said?

They had been travelling together for a week and this was the first time Claire had sensed anything but happiness in Bethan’s demeanour. The moment passed and Claire searched her mind for a simple fancy dress costume that wouldn’t cost the earth or humiliate her. Not that there was anyone left on the bus whose opinion she cared about apart from Bethan, and she’d already offended her twice.

Bethan held up a sequin covered top and some sunglasses, all trace of censure gone. She grinned. “How about pop stars?”

*

“Do you want another drink?” Bethan yelled over the music.

Claire shook her head and then wished she hadn’t. “No,” she yelled back, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Bethan nodded, downed her drink in one, and grabbed hold of Claire’s arm.

Claire let herself be towed through the writhing bodies, the music pulsing in time with the throbbing in her head and drowning out all attempts at rational thought. The dinner of steak and venison, delicious at the time, sat heavy in her stomach. She really didn’t want to see it again.

Outside, the music still filled the air but left some space to think. The chill autumn wind rushed over her bare skin, raising goosebumps and drying the sweat. Claire slumped against the wall and gripped her head with both hands.

“You okay?” Bethan squatted beside her and peered under the mass of back-combed hair that concealed Claire’s face.

“I think so. What time is it?”

Bethan checked her watch. “1 a.m. Apparently they’ll chuck us out at 2 a.m.”

“I’m not going to last that long. I need to go to bed.” Claire slid down the wall, ignoring the damp seeping through her tights as she sat on the floor. The events of the evening swam through her mind like a movie montage.

“Did I do a drinking game?”

“Yes. You were very good.”

“Snog the driver as a forfeit?”

“’fraid so.”

“Dance on the tables?”

Bethan shrugged. “It was Bon Jovi and you’re dressed as an ’80s pop star. I thought the balloon in a bottle as a microphone was an inspired touch.”

“Are there going to be pictures of us on the wall, like all the others?”

Bethan nodded and laughed as Claire groaned. “Look at it this way, who do you know who is ever going to come to this dirty motel in the middle of nowhere and scour thousands of Polaroids to find your embarrassing photo?”

Claire grunted in agreement but it was small consolation.

Bethan laughed again. “Relax, Claire. This is all part of travelling. You joined in, made some new friends, drank some shots. You won’t remember most of it in the morning and I promise not to remind you more than, ooh, once an hour?”

“Thanks.”

“Are you coming back in? It’s freezing out here and I’m starting to sober up. I need a drink.”

Claire gave a tiny shake of the head. As Bethan stood up, Claire risked raising her head to make eye contact.

“Bethan, can you do me a favour?”

“Sure, what is it?”

“Can you show me where my bed is please?”

With a giggle, Bethan pulled her to her feet and led her to the dorm rooms.

***