NaNoWriMo and The Stalking Muse: 2013 365 Challenge #277

To NaNo or not NaNo?

To NaNo or not NaNo?

Earlier in the week I wrote about the importance of writing even when your Muse is missing in action. Well, my darling muse seems to have come back from her spa break invigorated and enthused and is now stalking me, mostly in my dreams.

Twice this week I’ve woken out of an exhausting dream with a full-length story in my head. That has only happened once in my life before and resulted in me writing Dragon Wraiths. I’m grateful for the input but, really Muse, I don’t have the time to start two brand new novels just now. I think maybe my Muse knows NaNoWriMo, which I hadn’t intended to do this year, is just around the corner.

The first dream story was in the chick lit strain and all a bit predictable, to do with cheating fiances and manipulative best friends. I think there was even a gay friend: how many chick lit tropes can you get in one plot? Easy NaNo fodder, but likely to result in a lot of hard work to make it original.

Last night’s story, possibly as a result of being woken by my pumpkin son every hour, was a spectacular science fiction drama with explosions, space ships and more action than I could understand or describe this morning. I don’t have any intention of writing a science fiction novel – I struggled enough with the fantasy world building for Dragon Wraiths – but at 7am, if I could have done a ‘print screen’ on my mind, it would have been easy. Maybe reading Rinelle Grey’s blog, over on Coffee Time Romance, about writing scifi romance has rubbed off.

So, who is up for some NaNo this year? I have no idea how I will fit it in – I’m barely keeping up with the daily blog as it is. Not to mention how hard it would be to write two stories simultaneously. But I will have an extra few hours’ childcare, as our extra day comes into play at half term (the kids do more childcare in the winter to stop us all getting cabin fever) so it might just vaguely be possible. If only to keep my stalking muse quiet!


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! What are you doing here?”

“Hi, Mum. Lovely to see you, too.” Claire dropped her bag at her feet and ignored the look of barely veiled horror on her mum’s face.

“And who is this?”

Her mother’s tone, a mixture of suspicion and approval, made Claire wince.

“This is Conor, he’s my new boss. He gave me a lift home from the airport.” She didn’t want to explain; to talk about Kim or her own dire finances or anything. She wanted to crawl into her own bed and sleep.

Raising weary eyes to her mother’s face, she released a sigh. “Can I stay? I know I haven’t given you notice. If you’ve got people visiting, I’ll sleep under the stairs. Or in the bath. I don’t really care. I can’t afford a hotel.”

Her mother looked over her head, presumably at Conor, and flushed. “Of course you can stay. You are always welcome. And does your friend want to stay too?”

Claire snorted at the blatant matchmaking, then flushed, worried that Conor would take it seriously.

“It’s grand of you to offer, Mrs Carleton, but I must be getting back. It’s a long journey I’ve got ahead of me.” He seemed to take it as his signal to leave. Walking forward, he turned to face Claire. “I’ll call you tomorrow, to discuss when you’ll be free to start work.”

Holding his hand out towards her mother, he said, “It was nice meeting you, Mrs Carleton. Bye Claire.” Nodding at them both, he turned and walked back down the path towards his car.

Claire felt as if a protective force had been taken away from her. Once he was in his car and driving down the street, her mother’s forced grin dropped from her face.

“What on Earth is going on? I don’t hear from you for weeks. Some men come and take away that rusty heap you left outside and now you’ve turned up out of the blue looking like death.”

“Can I come in, Mum? It’s a long story.”

Her mother stepped back to let Claire into the hallway, before closing the door behind her with a bang.  “And why did your boss pick you up from the airport? Are you sleeping with him? What happened to Michael?”

“Enough, already!” Claire’s voice came out louder than she intended and she heard her mother suck air in between her teeth.

“Sorry. I’m tired. I’ve been travelling for weeks, I haven’t slept for two days and I need a shower and some clean clothes. I’m sorry for not calling you first but I had– ” she hesitated, “–other things to deal with. I’ll explain it all tomorrow, okay?”

Without waiting for an answer, Claire picked up her rucksack and forced one foot in front of the other, along the hall and up the stairs. She reached her old room and paused in the doorway as she saw the suitcase by the bed, the perfume and make-up on the dressing table.

Claire walked numbly down the corridor to the spare room. With an in-held breath she pushed the door open, but the tiny room showed no evidence of being in use. Claire dropped her rucksack by the door, kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers.


Dark Dreams: 2013 365 Challenge #267

Today's Claire post is about the beautiful Milford Sound

Today’s Claire post is about the beautiful Milford Sound

I had a dark dream last night; a full story one, like Dragon Wraiths but much more creepy.

When I woke I wasn’t scared although I hate scary or violent movies: I told hubbie off the other night for putting Three Kings on without telling me what it was like. The scene I saw – of soldiers aggressively stripping captured people naked – had me fleeing the room in distress. The image stayed in my mind for days, like it was burned into my retina.

Last night’s dream was a bit like that, but without the horror. I don’t remember dreams with much lucidity but I recall I was in a huge building, hiding out (I think that bit came from a news report on the awful terrorist attack in Nairobi, where they said people might be hiding anywhere in the shopping centre). Only this was a Bond-esque evil empire complex with some terrible purpose behind the bustling activity and the steel and glass.

In the end I was captured, hiding out in a disabled toilet of all places. Then it gets really weird. Because I’m sure I was assaulted and tortured. I definitely remember that they changed my face to make me hideous and unrecognisable. But, unlike my usual dreams, I didn’t wake up terrified. And although it’s stuck with me all day, it has done so in a detached way that’s very unlike me.

I didn't see much of the Sound when I was there!

I didn’t see much of the Sound when I was there!

I can’t help but feel my subconscious is trying to spill out another book. But I don’t write suspense thrillers. I don’t even read them anymore. When I had kids I grew soft and now I need happy endings (even to the point of redeeming the antagonist).

I thought Dragon Wraiths, which also came in a dream, was a long way out my comfort zone. Writing a story around this dream would be outside zones 1-6 and across into France.

I didn’t even intend to make notes on my dream, despite the vivid nature of the images in my mind.  But they won’t go away, especially the image of my warped tortured face.

Maybe there’s another message there entirely (possibly linked to discussions I’ve had with hubbie recently about whether I need to lose the 2 stone baby weight I’m still carrying. It’s not bothering me too much, and dieting turns me into a psycho, but my Mum’s been dropping hints.) Or maybe it was the steak I had for dinner or the fact that I got more than three hours’ sleep. Who knows?

What’s the weirdest dream you’ve Ever had? Do you incorporate dreams into your writing?


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’s memories of the south, she decided, would be memories of silence. The Catlins, Invercargill and now Milford Sound, seemed to give off an air of quiet confidence, as if there was no need to speak.

Despite the early start, Claire felt wide awake for the long journey to the fjords. The bus stopped again and again and each time the scenery became more impressive. Huge mountains towered above them, or glittered in reflection. Overhead, the skies shone blue and Claire thanked the weather gods for their parting gift. She decided she didn’t mind if it rained for the whole British summer when she got back home, in return for seeing the mountains all the way to the top.

And at least it didn’t look like they would get stuck the wrong side of the Homer tunnel because of snow. The tunnel had only just reopened after a rock fall, and she’d read it was possible to be snowed in for days, or weeks, if the weather turned, for those not fortunate enough to be able to fly back to Queenstown.

Please God don’t let that be my choice: I can’t afford to fly, but I can’t afford to miss my flight out of Christchurch either. It already cost a fortune to change it from Auckland.

Claire pushed her money worries aside and concentrated on absorbing the ethereal beauty outside the window. The bus slowed, and Claire saw a sign for the tunnel up ahead. Her stomach tightened at the thought of being stuck in the long snaking seven hundred and fifty metres of concrete. Soon it was their turn to go through. Claire rested her head against the seat and closed her eyes.

The darkness gave way to light and the tunnel disgorged them into the sun. Claire looked at the towering mountain walls as they drove away, and prayed she would be driving back through at sunset.


Claire sank back against the seat and craned her neck to see the top of the peaks surrounding her. By the time they reached Milford the sun had disappeared, leaving heavy clouds lurking above them. She guessed they wouldn’t see any seals or dolphins swimming alongside the boat today.

The view was still beautiful, as the peaks wore their fog shawls like a huddle of old women. It was disappointing not to see the Mitre Peak but Claire’s sadness lasted only until they reached the first waterfall and the guide explained that recent rainfall had made the water gush down.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The boat pulled up close to the waterfall and they were able to reach out and fill glasses with the ice cold water. It tasted pure and refreshing. Claire tugged her waterproof around her face and let the spray of the waterfall cover her.

At the next waterfall, the boat drove right underneath the cascade. Claire thought about retreating inside, with the majority of the passengers. Something made her stay put, as the water poured over her and drenched her despite her raincoat.

Laughter bubbled up deep inside her as she stood with water dripping down her neck and running off her hair. Turning, Claire saw the bemused looks of the dry passengers and gave a little wave. A beaming child waved back, enjoying her mirth.

The boat pulled away from the waterfall, but the water continued to fall as the heavens opened. Claire watched the droplets hitting the flat sound, reducing the visibility even further until she could barely see the end of the boat. The world turned into a monochrome photograph: the slate grey water, the charcoal grey cliffs visible for only a short distance before everything else swirled into foggy white.

Shivering uncontrollably, Claire admitted defeat and went back inside the cabin, glad that she had her rucksack with her. There was something to be said for travelling light and not having a car to leave all her belongings in. Her hands trembled as she fumbled with the drawstring and eventually managed to retrieve some dry clothing.

An announcement came over the tannoy as Claire headed for the toilets to get changed.

“As you have probably noticed, it is starting to rain. The weather is as extreme as the landscape down here in the fjords, and the area can see up to 50cm of rain in just a few hours. The boat will return to Milford now, and you can continue your tour at the observatory. We apologise for any disappointment.”

With a shrug, Claire continued on her way to get dry. The rain hammered relentlessly on the cabin roof.


“What do you mean we’re stuck?” Claire glared at the driver and tried to ignore the fear gnawing at her innards. “I have to get to Queenstown: my flight leaves Christchurch in a couple of days.”

She felt the tears welling behind her eyes, and stopped to brush them away. Swallowing the painful lump in her throat, Claire turned away from the driver and listened as he talked quietly to the other passengers.

“Sorry, guys. The heavy rainfall has loosened some rocks near the tunnel. They won’t let us through in the dark. You will be given accommodation for tonight and we will assess the situation tomorrow.”

Claire heard a few groans, but mostly the passengers took the news calmly. If you were travelling for a whole year, what difference did an extra night make? It was all part of the adventure. Trying to find a similar fortitude, Claire followed the group to the bus and prayed for the rain to stop.