The Book Wrote Me: 2013 365 Challenge #139

Thank you Olivia!

Thank you Olivia!

Today is my 200th Post.

I can’t believe I made it this far. I remember when WordPress gave encouraging messages because I’d reached my 5th post and then my 10th. I couldn’t imagine writing 200.

So as a little treat I’m taking the day off and sharing a guest post I wrote for Olivia Martinez who kindly agreed to share it on her blog. This is the post, about how I came to write Dragon Wraiths:

The book wrote me

I write romance novels. Contemporary women’s fiction is the category I’ve decided they fit into. I’ve started (and almost finished) four.  I like female protagonists in their late-twenties / early thirties (like I keep thinking I still am). My protagonists are women who are searching for their place in the world, coming to terms with realistic relationships and (lately) having children. The novels are written in the third person, often from both male and female perspectives.

The first Dragon Wraiths cover

The first Dragon Wraiths cover

So why is my first self-published novel written in the first person. By a sixteen-year-old girl. And why is it about dragons?

I didn’t set out to write the book. The book found me: Last Easter to be precise. (You can read about it here)

I woke one morning, after a broken night full of strange dreams, and the entire story was in my head. Unfortunately by the time I’d wrestled past two small children to find pen and paper (or more accurately my mobile phone) the story had evaporated, as they so often do. I believe if I could only capture my dreams writing would come much easier to me than it does now.

All that remained was the idea of dragons and the first line of the story.  “My name is Leah, and I know the time and place of my death.”

In the twelve months since I wrote that first line it hasn’t changed much. It now reads

“My name is Leah. For a quarter of my life I have known the time and place of my death. I have spent the last four years running, from the truth, from the place. I can’t run from the time. It’s tomorrow.”

And that’s how Dragon Wraiths was born. By the beginning of May (less than a month after the dream) I had written 35,000 words and I still didn’t really understand what the novel was about. I hadn’t got to the part with the dragons. I was lost and decided Young Adult literature was not for me.

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! :)

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! 🙂

I abandoned the novel and concentrated on releasing my contemporary novel, Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes (or Pictures of Love as it was called then) as a self-published ebook.  My writing journey is interspersed with self-doubt, not just about my abilities as a writer but about combining writing with raising two small children. I often feel that, if I’m going to send them to nursery two days a week, I should be earning money on those two days. I wanted a finished book out there earning pennies and I felt the contemporary fiction was a better bet.

Then in July I found out about the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition and remembered my languishing YA novel. Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes was with beta readers and I decided why not? Suddenly I had a deadline of September for completion of the first chapter and November for the finished/edited manuscript.

I discovered I work best to deadlines. Generally I’m terrible at knuckling down and getting on with editing but I really wanted to enter the competition.

To cut a rambling story short I entered the Mslexia competition and was long-listed (meaning they requested the full manuscript). I didn’t make the shortlist but I was encouraged enough to pass the novel to friends and family. Their reaction was amazing. My stepdad, who is a slow reader, finished the book in a day and said “Next one, please.”

I started querying the novel, although it is over-length for a YA book at 109k words (the average is 60-70k). When that didn’t work I decided to self-publish and see what happened.

And so here I am. It’s early days, I haven’t sold many copies but over 1200 have been downloaded during free promotion days. I’ve received several positive reviews, including one that compared Dragon Wraiths to Anne MaCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern series. Praise indeed.

I’m still not sure self-publishing is for me. Or Young Adult for that matter. But I’m glad Dragon Wraiths found me, in my sleep-deprived state. I enjoyed writing and editing it more than anything I’ve done before or since. And who knows, one day it might be as famous as Dragons of Pern. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

________________________________________________________________________________

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:

________________________________________________________________________________

Claire flicked through the photographs on her iPad, as she waited for the serving person to bring her coffee. Maybe I should just put photographs up on the blog every day, rather than writing my usual waffle. Some of these are quite good.

Her Burghley House folder had nearly 100 pictures. The tour had taken some time and there had been endless things to see. There was the shot from behind the building that was straight out of Kiera Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice. This one showed the rooms used for the interior of Castel Gandolfo in the Da Vinci Code movie. And that one was from Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Oh and of course all that lovely architecture and works of art. Not that anyone is interested in that sort of stuff, certainly no one who follows my blog.

Claire looked at the photograph of the stair-lift going up the ‘Hell Staircase’. There was something slightly creepy about old and infirm people being able to take a stair-lift to hell. She shook off the thought as inappropriate, and continued to flick through her images.

Draining the last of her coffee, Claire looked at the blue sky and then at her watch. It’s too nice to get straight back in the car and drive to the next hostel. She wandered into the rose garden that filled the courtyard outside the Orangery. There was a low railing surrounding a large circular pond. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she went to peer in the water, phone in hand to take some pictures.

“Holy crap!” Claire nearly dropped her phone, as a fish the size of a small shark rose out the water beneath her. Heart thumping loudly, she took a step back, then glanced around to see if anyone had witnessed her outburst.

Relieved to see she was alone, Claire ventured back to the railing and peered into the murky pond. Dozens of silent shapes glided and danced in the water, glowing gold or white in the darkness. I hate fish. Particularly big fish. With a shiver, Claire took a couple of photos, then turned and went back through the restaurant to wander in the sculpture garden.

           ***

In the distance a clock chimed, startling Claire from her reverie. She checked her phone and was shocked to see she had been in the garden over an hour. Ambling beneath the trees, seeking out the hidden sculptures, she had been lost in her own meandering thoughts, wondering what it might have been like to live in a great house like this. To walk through the gardens collecting flowers and having secret assignations with ardent lovers.

Okay, that’s too much A Level English Literature going on right there. I’m sure, in the real world, handsome men didn’t profess their undying love and sweep the lucky lady off her feet. No different then than now.

To her right, half-hidden by trees, a large metallic face with an enigmatic expression gazed across the garden. She’d seen scrawny cows and metal deer, and a meadow of silver pots that look like an alien invasion. Despite studying The Arts at university, sculpture wasn’t really her thing, so she was surprised at how peaceful the garden had seemed.

All good things come to an end, though. Time I was getting a wriggle on to Woody’s Top. Another lovely self-catering hostel. I need to either buy food or get there in time to go to the pub. She hesitated. The latter, definitely. A glass of wine is long overdue.

***

Reviews, Hormones and Biscuits: 2013 365 Challenge #75

Buying a box of biscuits - big mistake!

Buying a box of biscuits – big mistake!

I’m due on tomorrow which means today was a day of being narky to everyone and then saying sorry. (More than usual, that is!)

Oh and a day of biscuits.

I made the mistake of buying a family selection box at M&S when we went shopping for socks. Family selection? Really? I let the kids have two each, but that was only to keep them quiet on the hour-long drive home. I’ve eaten about half the box. 😦

We had a lovely family day at a place called Springfields – one of these discount retail outlet places that also has a playbarn for the kids. We went a year ago and bought shirts for hubbie and I took them back because they were too small and impossible to iron. It’s taken a year (and the promise of contract work) to get us back out there again to spend his refund voucher on more shirts!

Running after Aaron like a hamster in a cage

Running after Aaron like a hamster in a cage

I always get the short straw when we go to Springfields. Hubbie spends the time shopping (because he has less guilt than me when it comes to spending money on himself) while I climb round the playbarn like a hamster with the kids.

Actually the playbarn was lovely today as it’s a week day: there were only three other preschool-age children and Amber went off with the eldest which meant I only needed to keep Aaron out of trouble!

At the weekend it is a battlefield of storming child-troops and shouty or indifferent parent-sergeant-majors

The only sad part is that it always rains when we go. It’s out in the Fens and I guess there’s nothing stopping the weather sweeping in and drowning the colour out of the place. I say sad because there are beautiful gardens full of dinosaurs and daffodils and we were looking forward to a walk. As the kids had soaked themselves in the outdoor part of the playbarn we had to just head to the car. Fun family day though.

I also got my first review for Dragon Wraiths today. It was three stars so I read it with shaking hands and thudding heart: even though I swore I wouldn’t care about bad reviews. As it turns out it was lovely (and makes me wonder what he didn’t like that made him dock two stars). Because it’s my first I have to repeat it here, but I promise I won’t bore on every time someone comments on something! 🙂

a gallop for the imagination, 14 Mar 2013
This review is from: Dragon Wraiths (Kindle Edition)

Entertaining, imaginative, romp with thoughtful characters and scenic descriptions. Fans of Anne MaCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern series should enjoy this tale.

Happy with that!

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The first thing Claire noticed was the cold. She felt as if she was floating on an iceberg in a choppy sea. That would explain the seasickness and the fact I’m freezing. But not the pain. Did I get walloped by a polar bear? And how the hell did I end up in the Arctic Ocean? She tried to remember but it made the pain worse.

The next thing she noticed was the siren, quiet at first but getting louder. Not quickly like a fire engine rushing to the scene but a slow rise, coming up from murky depths. Why is there a fire engine in the ocean? I wish it would bugger off: it’s stabbing straight through the hole that damn polar bear made in my skull. She reached up a hand and it came back sticky. A polar bear with a blunt object.

The siren came nearer and Claire’s head throbbed in time with the rise and fall of the wail. Blue light flashed at the edges of her vision and she closed her eyes, willing it to sod off so she could get back to sleep. Another noise joined the wail. A voice, deep and stern, like a hall-stalking headmaster. I’m not smoking or late, go away and leave me alone.

Then a word stood out in the wall of noise.

“Claire?”

Oh.

“Claire Carleton?”

The noise came with the purr of an engine and then dazzling white light shone over her.

That’s it, I’ve died. I don’t remember dying but at least I can see the light.

The engine hum went away but the light didn’t. A loud slam made her jump and she cursed at the stab of pain.

“Miss Carleton? Thank god we’ve found you, are you hurt?”

“Who are you and what are you doing on my iceberg?”

“She’s delirious.” This was said over the man’s shoulder. Claire heard a second slamming noise and footsteps.

A kinder voice said “We’re here to help. Your boyfriend said he thought something might have happened to you and that you’d Tweeted you were just leaving the Old Nags Head. We’ve been searching the route. What happened?” She hunkered down next to Claire and smoothed the hair away from her face. Immediately she pulled her hand back and examined it.

“She’s hurt. Best phone for an ambulance.”

“No. No more sirens or lights it makes my head ache. I’m fine.”

“You’re bleeding.”

“I think a polar bear hit me.”

“You’re not making sense love. Were you attacked?”

A flash of memory lit up as if illuminated by a search light. She nodded, then regretted it when the world twisted.

“They took my bag. And my phone, the bastards.” She sat up, then fell sideways against the woman, nearly knocking them both over.

“I’d be happier if you saw a doctor. Will you let us take you to A&E?”

“Blimey do you even have one?”

“The nearest is Sheffield, it’s about forty minutes.”

Claire thought about the drive, the three-hour wait, endless questions and more bright lights.

“Can you take me to the hostel instead? I’d like some dry clothes and a mug of Earl Grey.”

The police officers conferred and seemed to reach an agreement. Claire was raised to her feet and guided to the back seat of the car.

“One more thing, please?”

“Yes?”

“Can you turn off that damn siren?”

***