Editing Frenzy: 2013 365 Challenge #162

A busy day editing and scrapbooking

A busy day editing and scrapbooking

The lovely Pat Elliott has made me doubly happy today. She has reviewed Dragon Wraiths, over on her blog, saying – in her candid way – “There are a few minor editing errors, but you know, they didn’t stop me loving the book. I’d definitely read another by this author.” Big grins.

Pat has also, very kindly, read my chick lit novel Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes, and provided feedback. Despite having no intention of spending time on the novel this year, it galvanised me to work on it today, incorporating the suggested changes (unsurprisingly mostly to do with grammar.)

The frustrating part, for me, is that all three of the main formatting changes suggested by Pat involve reverting back to the way the text was before I began editing it last year! One is to do with commas: I know I don’t really understand commas, so I purchased a book on punctuation and learned as much as I could. As a result I removed a whole heap of the little buggers, figuring it was better not to have them than to put them in the wrong place. Pat’s main formatting suggestion? More commas!

I never quite found the right image for Helen

I never quite found the right image for Helen

The second one is to do with layout: putting *** where the text breaks and there is a shift in time or location. I did that originally, but it looked messy, so I took them out and left just a paragraph break.

I’ve spent today putting them all back in.

They are more important in an ebook, as you have no idea what the pagination looks like. With a print book you can put them in only where it isn’t clear that there has been a shift, such as over a page break.

The third grammar point has me puzzled. Pat informed me (and I trust her judgement) that modern publishing no longer uses double quotes for dialogue. Apparently standard form is now to use ‘ rather than “. This poses a problem. Partly because that, too, would involve changing the entire manuscript back to the way it was originally – before an early Beta Reader told me to use double quotes (preferably smart quotes), as that was standard form.

Sharni, Derek and Maggie

Sharni, Derek and Maggie

It also poses a dilemma for me personally, because I have come to prefer smart/double quotes. A quick flick through the other ebooks on my iPad showed most of them to still use double quotes.

I Googled it, but still haven’t discovered a definitive answer. The best I can tell is that it is a UK/US thing, with the UK using single quotes and the US double quotes. As the majority of my sales are in the US, I think I will leave the double quotes. (Plus, that means less work!) I’m definitely going to keep Googling for publishing standards, though, as Pat raised a point I hadn’t previously considered. Self-publishing is full of hidden pitfalls and, thankfully, lots of lovely people with maps and compasses to help guide the way through!

The final style point was that my writing has too much internal thought in italics. I agree that such is probably the case, and I spent a chunk of today toning it down. It does make me worry about Two-Hundred Steps Home, though, as it’s probably 20% in italics! I’m not sure where it came from as a writing style, but if it is mentioned by other Beta Readers I’ll have to train myself to write a different way. This is the amazing thing about good Beta Readers – they don’t just help you with that novel, but with all your creative endeavours!

All this has a) given me a headache and b) reiterated that I need a copy editor. As I can’t afford to pay for one, that takes me back to my original plan: trying to find an agent to publish traditionally, so I get that stuff as part of the deal. In the mean time, it’s back to the Penguin book on Punctuation and some paracetamol.

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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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The steel light of dawn crept in through the curtains and lit the room. It took Claire a moment to realise where she was and what had woken her at such an ungodly hour. Loud, rasping snores resonated through the room. They sounded as if they were coming from behind her, which wasn’t right.

The acoustics in this place must be crazy. That woman needs to consider getting a single room; I feel like something’s sawing at my skull.

The next thing Claire noticed was how narrow the bed was. She felt precariously close to the edge of the bunk, with only a short rail separating her from a four-foot drop. The third fact permeating her foggy brain, seeping through the thudding pain, was the arm around her waist.

Bugger.

Like a movie on fast forward, the events of the previous evening sped past her eyes in brutal clarity. The gin. The quiz. The random questions she’d got right, to much applause. The congratulatory hugs from the group when they came third.

The Scotsman.

Bugger.

The weight of the arm pinned her to the bed. Claire tried to work out if either of them were naked. As far as she could tell, she was still wearing her t-shirt and pants from the day before.

Phew, that’s something at least.

A brush of warmth against her back informed her that the Scot wasn’t so well clad.

Oh, Christ. This is a single-sex dorm. I’m going to be in so much trouble.

Claire lifted the heavy arm and slid it behind her, holding her breath as the man murmured something unintelligible and rolled over to face the wall. Claire clung on to the foot of remaining bed, not wanting to fall in a heap and wake her room mates.

She peered over the bunk, looking for the ladder, and saw a girl asleep on the floor.

What?

Remembering how unsteady the beds were, Claire flushed as she imagined being in the bottom bunk with any sort of shenanigans going on above.

Crap. Poor woman.

Fully awake, adrenalin pushing the alcohol from her fuddled mind, Claire surveyed the room below. She hadn’t unpacked, so that helped. All she had to do was climb down from the bunk and retrieve her bag and clothes, without waking the girl on the floor or the naked man hogging most of her bed.

With the stealth of a ninja, she moved, one limb at a time. A loud creak filled the room and she stopped, breath held, listening. Ever nerve zinged like a live wire under her skin. She felt she might hear a mouse breathing or the trees growing outside the window. No sound of censorious women could be heard.

Deciding all or bust might be the better option, Claire flipped down from the bed, narrowly missing the sleeping woman. In one movement she grabbed her jeans, handbag, rucksack and shoes. Anything else would have to be marked up as lost through misadventure.

Cheeks flaming and ears ringing, Claire fled the room. Pausing only to pull on her jeans and shoes, she strode along the clean, silent, corridors and headed for the car park.

So much for an extended stay.

With her phone confessing that it was only 5am, Claire was behind the wheel and on her way.

***

Cheeky Characters: 2013 365 Challenge #135

Dad playing the fool

Dad playing the fool

Characters are like children: they are a part of you, and you steer and shape them, but much of the time they don’t do what they’re told.

I wrote two or three scenes together yesterday, as I’m desperately trying to get ahead in case we don’t have internet access on holiday. Writing one installment at a time keeps the characters mostly under control, as I put them in a situation with a clear purpose.

When I let the writing flow, though, they can sneak off and do their own thing. In a normal first draft that’s fine because if they end up changing too much it’s possible to go back and reintroduce the new character traits. Writing in daily installments, knowing the first four books are published and unchangeable, makes it much harder.

I have a new-found respect for authors like Charles Dickens, writing serious literature in serial form.

My lovely dad

My lovely dad

Not only do I have to remember what the characters are like and what they’ve said and done – I also can’t really change it.

The person who has morphed in today’s installment is Claire’s Dad. He’s middle class through and through, and he’s taciturn, uptight, distant: but all of a sudden he started chatting away and I didn’t have the heart to stop him. I wonder if he’s channeling my memories of my Dad, after the pictures I used of him recently.

That’s always the danger. Stuff seeps into the subconscious. It’s why it’s not a good idea to read in the genre you’re writing as you pen a first draft. Too easy to plagiarise ideas and not even be aware of it.

I like the new version of Claire’s dad, though, and I think sometimes people can surprise you. So I’ll let him stay and hope readers are forgiving of a little shift from expectation. After all, the characters are in charge!

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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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When the door closed behind his son, Claire’s father seemed to relax and become smaller, shorter. It was as if he had maintained some act of standing tall in Robert’s presence that he didn’t need to continue in front of Claire.

“Cup of tea, Dad?”

Her father turned and smiled, a twinkle in his eye. “Yes, love. Now he’s gone maybe we can have a proper natter. Feels like having my old boss in the house, with him in his suit and tie. Doesn’t the boy ever relax?”

Claire grinned, feeling like a collaborator. “He’s got a lot on his mind, I guess.”

“Yes, that stuck up cow of a wife is giving him a hard time, from what I can gather.”

“Dad!” Claire stared, open-mouthed, as her father shuffled into the lounge and settled in his favourite chair. She followed him in, perching on the sofa, all thought of making tea forgotten.

“Well, don’t tell me you like her? I don’t suppose you’ve visited once since the wedding: silly pretentious affair that it was.”

Claire wondered when aliens had come and kidnapped her father. He was the one always a stickler for formality. When he was working, chief financial officer of some major company or other, he’d seemed so stiff and unapproachable. She’d never seen this side to him, lounging in a comfy chair having a gossip.

In fact, I never see him at all normally. Last time I was home he was off playing golf all the time. She thought about his question. When had she last seen Francesca and the boys?

“I Skype now and then, on the boys’ birthdays. If I remember.”

“Ah, yes. Easy to put on a front on the phone. Even with that new-fangled thing that allows you to see the other person.” He shuddered, as if the future made him uncomfortable.

“The truth is in what Robert doesn’t say. Never talks about her, you know. Nor about the boys much. It’s all work, work, work. Well, I gave all that up. Glad to see the back of it, too.”

Claire raised her eyebrows. “I thought you hated leaving your job? Mum says you’re never here. I guessed you were busy with non-exec roles, that kind of thing.”

Her father’s face flushed, and he looked towards the door, as if expecting to see his wife enter at any moment. Then he turned back to Claire and his face was conspiratorial. “Don’t tell your mother, but I’m usually at the library.”

Claire felt like a clown that had just been splatted in the face by a custard pie. “The library? Why? Mum says you play golf, when you’re not working.”

“Golf? Whatever for? Stupid game. I go to the club sometimes, to catch up with the old boys. Really, though, what’s that thing Twain was meant to have said? ‘A good walk spoiled.’ No I’ve been doing research.”

Settling back into the sofa, Claire leaned on the arm so she could face her father. “Research for what?”

“I’m writing a book.” He beamed, like a child admitting they’d won first prize in a competition. “Your mother would think it was foolish, so I haven’t told her. She’s so busy keeping up with the Jones’s and doing her WI things. She would think it awfully common to be writing a book.” He frowned. “You won’t tell her, will you?”

Claire’s mind whirled with the flood of new information. She felt like she had never truly known her father. Either that or her first surmise was right, and aliens had kidnapped Gerald Carleton and replaced him with someone new.

“Of course I won’t tell Mum, if you don’t want me to. What’s the book about?” She expected him to say Business Finance, or Military Strategies in the Second World War.

“It’s a thriller. I’ve been having writing lessons. You know, one of those free Adult Learning courses they do at the college? They say everyone has a book in them. I think mine’s tending towards a Grisham.”

Laughter built in Claire’s chest for the first time in days. She threw her head back and the sound filled the empty magnolia room, rolling off the walls.

“Oh Dad, that’s brilliant. Can I read it?”

“It’s not finished yet.” He looked furtive. “You won’t tell your mother,” he repeated.

“Why not? It’s great that you’re doing something with your time, now you’re retired. Maybe Mum could proof-read it. She did used to be a secretary.”

That was how her parents had met. Her mother had been her father’s secretary, just to prove that clichés did happen in real life.

“Lord no, I couldn’t do that. She hates being reminded of the past. Between you and me, I think it makes her feel uncomfortable, as if she’s a fraud.” He gestured at the room. “Take this house. It’s got no warmth, but she’s so afraid of it turning into her Mother’s house, full of tat and mess and pictures. As if clutter somehow makes you working class.”

His words, said in a thoughtful tone, amazed Claire. Who knew the old man was so astute? It came as a surprise to think there were busy thoughts going on behind her father’s placid face. He’d always been in the background of her life, rarely getting involved in the day to day events. Now he seemed to come alive, three-dimensional and vivid before her.

“Anyway, girl, how about that tea? And then I suppose you best be getting on your way. You’ll be stuck awhile chatting at Ruth’s and you don’t want to drive to a new hostel in the dark.”

Almost numb to the shock of fresh revelations, Claire knew she shouldn’t be surprised that her father knew she was booked into a hostel for the night, and needed to drive by Ruth’s place to say her farewells. Carl had agreed to only the week’s holiday and, with Sky returning to school in the morning, her presence was no longer required.

“Okay, Dad. Coming right up.”

***

“I’m Just…” 2013 365 Challenge #130

I'm Just Finishing my Lunch Mummy

I’m Just Finishing my Lunch Mummy

One of the things I’ve discovered since spending many hours a week writing for a living (and since having children) is that I have lots of phrases and words that I say too often, without realising it.

I noticed it from the children first, when phrases like “that’s so random” started coming out of my daughter’s mouth.

I haven’t tallied it, that would be too depressing, but I imagine I say it a dozen times a day. That at least is quite cute coming from a four-year-old. There are other phrases, some repeatable, some not, that I’d rather my kids hadn’t learned.

Phrases crop up in my writing too. I’m considerably more aware of them since starting the daily blog, because I’m also editing every day. In the past editing happened in chunks, I would use ‘find/replace’ to remove evil, repetitive words, and they would disappear from my mind. Words like “Wow” and “Absolutely” spring to mind. I say them, I write them. Far too often.

I'm Just looking at these gnomes and flowers Mummy

I’m Just looking at these gnomes and flowers Mummy

If only speech was as easy to edit as a manuscript. If I could ‘find/replace’ in my head and remove all the annoying words from my speech. Because, then, I could stop my kids saying them.

The naughty words or bad phrases they pick up from me in my weaker moments are easily controlled because they come back rarely and then only to test me.

The harmless words, though, the ones that are simply annoying: they’re much harder to remove, from their mouths or mine.

At the moment the evil word is “Just”.

I suspect I say it a hundred times a day. Something like this:

Kids: “Mummy, sit with us!”

Mummy: “I’m just going to stack the dishwasher/make a cuppa/ put the dog out”

I’m sure “Just a minute” is a standard parenting phrase, however horrible. Only, now the tables are turned. It’s:

Mummy: “Time to go kids, put your shoes on.”

Kids: “I’m just finding my toy/ making my bed/ putting this irrelevant thing into this box.”

Knowing you started it makes it no less frustrating. More so in fact. Now every time I hear myself saying “Just”, I cringe and attempt to think of another word. I’m as self-conscious in my speech as I am becoming in my writing, through editing Claire every day. I just need to think of different words, then I just need to say them often enough that the kids just forget they ever heard the word just. Hmmm.

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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 stood chewing a fingernail, watching the two men talking through the small pane of glass in the door. A knot behind her ribs throbbed in time with the ache in the back of her skull. I should probably drink something other than caffeine before my head caves in.

She could hear Ruth breathing softly behind her. The sound was no longer comforting. Her sister hadn’t woken once in the twelve hours and more since Claire had arrived at the hospital. She studied the faces of the doctor and her brother, trying to guess the gist of their conversation from their expressions.

Both looked serious but Claire knew that was Robert’s habitual expression, and tried not to let it twist the knot ever tighter in her tummy. The room closed in around her, hot and muggy. Claire had already tried the window but it didn’t open.

What do they think Ruth will do, try and shimmy down the drainpipe and run for freedom. Or maybe someone will climb up four stories and break in to steal the personal effects of a sick person. There must be easier methods of security.

A dry cough behind her caused Claire to spin round. Grasping the wall to steady herself as lack of sleep and too much caffeine made her head spin, Claire peered at the lump of sheets on the bed to see if Ruth was awake. There seemed no life and for a moment Claire felt her own heart stop. Don’t let her be dead, I couldn’t stand it. Not on my watch. Not ever.

With a push against the wall, Claire propelled herself towards the bed, slumping onto the pull down mattress before her knees betrayed her.

“Ruth? Can you hear me, sis?” And still the motionless silence dragged at the air, making it hard to breathe. Claire leaned closer, trying to see her sister’s face. It was turned into the pillow as if hiding from the brightness.

“Do you want me to turn out the light, Ruthie?” There was no response. Then Claire thought she could detect a flicker of movement, a flutter of eyelash. One eye flicked open, searched around, then closed again.

“Light’s fine.”

Claire exhaled loudly in relief.

“But, Claire…”

She waited, straining to hear the whisper of sound.

“If you’re going to lean so close after coffee, can you at least suck on a mint?””

Claire sat back in shock, heat flooding her face. Then she heard the dry coughing sound again and realised her sister was laughing. Feeling as high as helium, she began laughing too. She saw the doctor and Robert turn towards the sound, their matching frowns deepening. The sight only made Claire laugh harder.

***

Breaking the Rules and the See-Saw of Self Doubt: 2013 365 Challenge #88

My new YA cover

My new YA cover

Well, here it is. My new cover. Apologies to everyone bored to the back teeth of my self-publishing adventures. I have to make sure this blog is about my writing as well as my parenting journey!

Actually today has been a watershed sort of day in my personal journey as an author. I’ve been oscillating between hope and doubt since breakfast. First off I flexed the credit card and bought this gorgeous photograph – isn’t it stunning? Oh to take a picture like that. It reminds me of a bit in Baby Blues, when Helen takes an amazing photograph that leaves everyone stunned. It’s hard to imagine how one image can have that impact until you see one.

I asked the photographer if he had a vertical version better suited to a book cover (the original of this one is horizontal) and he sent me another from the shoot. It wasn’t the same at all. The expression was more sulky than vulnerable, as if the model was saying, get me out of this damn rain, I’m cold. So I had to work with this horizontal one and create a ‘rainy’ background for it to sit on.

That was my high (working with beautiful photographs is like a drug).

My low came after reading a post on Catherine, Caffeinated‘s blog, by an editor, about why you must have an editor if you intend to self publish. I posted a comment along the lines that I just plain can’t afford one and her response was, well then you mustn’t self-publish. I’ve thought that before and I don’t blame her for saying it. However if I listen to that advice I’m back to querying agents and wondering everyday if I’m meant to be an author. It took the edge off my excitement about the new cover. Especially as hubbie confessed to hating the type font of my novel (I do too, so that’s okay) and to finding another typo. I’m sure the manuscript is littered with them and I do intend to have another run through with fresh eyes. Only now I’m scared to look in case there are hundreds!

Sneak Preview of 200SH March Cover

Sneak Preview of March Cover

My see-saw of self-doubt tipped upwards again with a lovely comment on my blog from someone who is also self-publishing (albeit with the use of a professional editor!). She stopped by to tell me not to be disheartened by Catherine’s comments and that people will forgive a badly edited book for a good story. Well, they did with Twilight so I know that’s true.

I’ve ended the day somewhat level on my see-saw. I know I’m breaking the rules by self-publishing without paying for the services of an editor or proof-reader and without going through my manuscript again the minute someone spotted a typo.

I will do. One day.

But if I wait for the right time I might never get anything done because by the time the kids have started school, or left home, or whenever is a good time to focus, I will have talked myself out of doing it. I have a short attention span and a small amount of self-belief so I have to carpe diem.

There’s been a song floating round my head for weeks (hubbie has it on his ipod playlist I think) and I heard it on the radio today while working on my front cover. It sums up where I am nicely:

You’ve got the words to change a nation
but you’re biting your tongue
You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
afraid you’ll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?
So come on, come on

I don’t think my words will change a nation but I do so love Emeli Sandé’s song and I love the concept of Our Version of Events. Everyone has an opinion on the right way of doing things – be it writing, parenting or anything else. Our job is to discover our version of events and stick to 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. 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 hills towering either side, blocking out the sun. Bloody typical. It was almost spring-like back at the hostel. I could be sitting in the lounge ignoring the awful floor covering, reading my book and drinking tea. An image of the scene she’d left behind floated into her mind: Fiona and Josh entwined on the sofa, chatting to baby Lily, while Sophie and Lucas played snap on the bright blue carpet. Even though she was pretty certain the domestic bliss had lasted approximately five minutes before one of the children was screaming or sobbing, the sight had still left an odd taste in her mouth. I’m better off out of it. A morning spent in the Hall grounds with Josh’s kids was sufficient to convince her peace was rare and fleeting.

I certainly didn’t need to come out on a five-mile-hike to escape. Although I guess I do need something for the blog. I can’t coast on the concussion excuse forever.

Her rough research had suggested a walk along Wolfscote and Beresford Dales would be picturesque and easy-going. Unfortunately the website’s estimate of a two-hour circuit hadn’t allowed for the snow. The path was hidden and she had slipped several times on the crunchy ice-crystals that had formed in the heart of the dale.

To her right the river Dove gushed along, swollen and grey from the melting snow water. On the internet pictures the brook had sparkled in summer sunshine. You’d think an Advertising Director would be trained not to believe everything she sees, especially online.

The footpath snaked through tightly packed hills, making Claire feel like she was walking between a giant pair of breasts.  Lovely. Josh will piss himself when I tell him. He’ll be gutted he didn’t come. Then she remembered Fiona’s expression as she announced her afternoon plans, and her smile dropped away. Josh had glanced at his wife and met a blank stare, as if she had decided not to influence her husband’s decisions. Claire hadn’t been so lucky. The woman had flashed her a micro-glance that had slapped her across the face. It wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t have let him come. Wandering around with a single man is one thing, but hiking alone with a married man – even one who is just a friend – isn’t my style.

Lost in her thoughts, Claire didn’t realise she had left Wolfscote Dale and entered Beresford Dale until she saw the looming pile of limestone ahead of her. Ah, the Celestial Twins. Look like lumps of rock to me. The Twins didn’t seem as impressive as they had in the pictures. Claire guessed it was because they blended into the dirty-grey snow lying thickly on the Dale floor.

She took some snaps of the edifice for the blog, before hurrying on along the path. The valley narrowed, enclosing her like a rumpled duvet, until she was striding along a gorge. Despite the blue sky and hints of invisible sunshine, the gorge was lost in shadow. Claire felt the air temperature drop even lower, but sighed with relief as the blasting wind fell away. It wasn’t late but it felt oppressive in the gorge and Claire was glad when the footbridge came into sight.

She stood at the edge of the bridge, listening to the roar of the river beneath her. The water was only inches from the bridge, although the planks were still dry. I wonder how low the water is normally and how long before the bridge is complete submerged. As if she feared that might happen imminently, Claire forced herself to plant one boot on the wood and then another. Closing her ears to the thunderous noise, she scuttled as fast as she could across the bridge and only breathed when her boots landed in snow again.

At last the valley opened out and the sun twinkled on the horizon, dazzling Claire’s eyes even though it no longer held any warmth. The field stretched ahead of Claire and she realised she had no idea which way to go. In the dales and the gorge the path had been obvious, despite being mostly buried by snow. Now, out in the open, there were no obvious markers to follow and no footsteps to show the way.

Fear tightened in Claire’s chest until her ribs ached. She tried to keep calm but memories of the mugging tugged at her mind and wound up her pulse. Great. I’m lost. The hostel is only a mile or so away. I can almost taste my cuppa and feel the warmth of the wood burner. She shook her hands in an attempt to bring life back into them. Her fingers tingled with the loss of sensation caused by the wind penetrating her flimsy gloves. Mental note to buy some fleece-lined gloves at the next opportunity.

Claire fumbled through her pockets for her new phone, praying there was signal. Eventually, with nerveless hands and thudding head, she managed to load up her satnav system and find out what direction would take her to the village.

I hope the drive to Cambridgeshire tomorrow is easier than this, or I’m going to be late to collect my niece. And Ruth will kill me.

***

Saturday Every Day: 2013 365 Challenge #82

Mummy daughter craft

Mummy and daughter craft

It has been Saturday in our house for five months. Since hubbie was made redundant last October everyday has felt like the weekend. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes frustrating.

Today was one of the good days. Normally Friday is my day to take the kids to Play and Learn at the local primary school, followed by a trip to the library.

Well, I say normally but I’ve probably done it once this year. Instead I’ve been writing posts first thing and then we have done a different activity like the Farm or zoo. I deliberately finished yesterday’s post before bedtime so I could make up for weeks of being Crap Mum and be Supermummy today. I failed.

Ingenious creation of a caravan

Ingenious creation of a caravan

Before I even made it out of bed I read an email from a reviewer of DW, informing me of a typo on the first page, and it foolishly plunged me into the bog of eternal self-rebuke. Yes, typos happen but not on the first page and not in a self-pub with something to prove. I broke. Darling hubbie ended up with the kids while I cried and cleaned the kitchen floor: What else do you do in a crisis?

I took over at 10am and thought about doing the usual day trip, or even taking the kids to town to buy them new waterproofs, seeing as winter looks set to hang about for a while longer. But it’s Arctic outside today: any ideas of being outdoors vanished in a gust of snow when I poked my head out the front door.

I want this trailer when I go on holiday!

I want this trailer when I go on holiday!

So hubbie and I ended up doing Relay Parenting, as I like to call it. I took the baton until lunch, playing cars and taking the dinosaurs on holiday to a (quickly sketched on paper) seaside resort. Hubbie took them for afternoon milk and video while I snuck upstairs to read for an hour. Then we did Divide & Conquer: he took little one to the tip while I did craft with Amber.

I really enjoyed helping her make a paper shell necklace and an underwater scene complete with sock octopus (thank you Charlie & Lola magazine!)

It felt like a good day.

Until I told Amber how nice it was to do craft with her and it had been a while and she replied “because you’re always working mummy”.

Ah, hello Guilt. Do come in.

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Youlgreave turned out to be a cheery little hostel with spacious rooms and a homely feel. The bunks had individual lights and Claire curled into the corner of hers as a mouse might his winter nest. She pulled a paperback from her bag – one of several she had treated herself to at Sheffield station – and let the world slide away.

After what felt like minutes, but was nearer to an hour, her phone chimed to say the sync was complete. Claire sighed and put down the book, her mind still caught up in a world of Games and tributes. She opened her email and scanned the list, hoping for nothing new. When she saw the email from Julia she had to stop herself launching her new phone out the window. I’d forgotten about the bloody challenges. Don’t let a mugging stop you Julia, you carry on regardless, heartless cow.

Reading the email, Claire felt her lungs fill with anger. Callous bitch.

Claire

I heard about the accident. If you will wander round like a hoyden, these things will happen. Carl said if anything was stolen you will need to claim on your own insurance due to the event occurring outside office hours.

Please find below your task for this week. As you only saw fit to undertake one activity from my previous list I have not researched any more than this.

Your next assignment will be sent on Thursday owing to the office being closed for the Easter weekend. Carl asked me to inform you that you are still expected to stay in hostels over the bank holiday.

Julia

http://www.peakhanggliding.co.uk/

Claire didn’t need to open the link to discover what Julia’s maliciousness had concocted for her. The bitch knows I’m scared of heights. Hang-gliding? She has to be kidding. I’m almost impressed that they want me to resign this badly. Well, tough.

She laughed, her eyes crinkling in mischief. Pulling out an envelope from her bag she retrieved the letter inside and smoothed it flat, before taking a picture with the iPad.

Dear Julia

Please find attached the Doctor’s Note I received, following the severe physical attack I suffered while working for your organisation. I have been advised to avoid any activity which may result in a worsening of my condition. I am sorry to inform you that I am certain Hang-Gliding will fall under that category.

I will notify you when the doctor deems me fit for physical exertion. Until then I will continue in my assignment to the best of my ability.

Kindest regards

Claire

Claire stroked the Doctor’s Note before slotting it into the back of her paperback. Best forty-pounds ever spent. Then she tucked her phone and tablet back into her rucksack and curled up in the corner of her bunk, feeling as if she had done Katniss proud in her skirmish with Julia.

***

Relentless Revision: 2013 365 Challenge #74

This is me when faced with revision...

This is me when faced with revision…

I’ve been revising Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes all day today.

Well, no, let’s be honest. I’ve been farting about on Twitter and WordPress and getting my head around Hotmail switching to Outlook, while thinking to myself I should be doing revision.

I’ve watched Homes Under the Hammer, dozed on the sofa and walked the dog. I’ve stacked the dishwasher, although I haven’t hoovered or cleaned the floor like I should have (just delegated the hoovering to hubbie but now I feel guilty because domestic chores are my job).

Have I mentioned before I hate doing revision on my novels? Probably once or twice. I’m fine for a page or two but then the sheer scale of the job overwhelms me, or I come across a scene that really stinks, and that’s it. Poof. All motivation evaporates. I really really want to stop working on Baby Blues (it will never be ‘finished’!) but if I release it into the world before it’s ready it will die and maybe take my (currently non-existent) reputation as an author with it.

On a happier note my wandering through the world of WordPress has introduced me to some great new blogs. I thought I should have a look wider than the parenting/writing blogs I tend to follow, and I’ve found some lovely photography sites and other more general ones. When I have time (i.e. when I’m meant to be revising again) I’ll pick out one or two to share.

Anyway, I think it’s time to have something different happen to Claire. I have an idea or two floating around so going to open my Word doc and see what falls on the page.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Claire pulled her coat tighter and tucked her chin into the collar. After the heat of the pub the night air was bitter. She had stayed longer than intended, enjoying the open fire and the good wine, and now the sky had settled into a dusky shade of blue.

What a stupid idea to walk. I must stop listening to advice. Who cares if it’s only fifteen minutes, I got enough exercise this morning with those horrible brats and the oh-so-charming Pete.

The sun had set behind her and she knew the sky was laced with red and orange. Ahead it was dark, with only a faint glow highlighting the hills beyond the village.

I hope there are streetlamps up the lane. I didn’t think to bring a torch. Claire dug in her bag for her iPhone and used it to light the road ahead. I don’t want to step in anything nasty.

She walked on, concentrating on the pavement directly in front of her in case some careless dog owner had left something behind. These are the only shoes I’ve got that aren’t already crusted with mud. I’d like to keep them that way.

Ideas for her blog post drifted through her mind, floating on a glass of wine and settling into the rhythm of her stride. How am I going to write about this morning in a funny way without getting Pete into trouble? I guess I don’t have to name him. She thought about the weaseling trip and laughed, the sound echoing in the still night air. Too many pies. Cheeky bastard. Patting her tummy Claire thought that maybe her jeans were a little tighter than they had been a few weeks ago. It’s all these pub dinners. Why do they have to make the Fish and Chips look so yummy on the menu? Mind you, it was yummy. But it’s not exactly sushi or noodles. If there was any justice I’d be burning the calories doing stupid things like walking back to the hostel in the dark.

As if the words formed an image in her mind Claire became aware of just how dark it was. The pool of orange light cast by each streetlamp only seemed to highlight the darkness in between. Killing the light on the iPhone she tried to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. Her heart thudded loudly and she twitched at the sound of something scurrying in the hedgerow behind her.

What’s with all these looming walls and rustling trees? It’s spookier than a cemetery at Halloween. Come on girl, you’re not one to be afraid of a bit of black. Sheesh don’t add fear of the dark to your newly found phobias. Josh will piss himself laughing.

Claire opened her shoulders and raised her neck as if she was back in Madame Émile’s ballet class imagining a line pulling her head to the ceiling. It was as she was about to release the inhaled breath that she heard the footsteps. They were steady, unhurried, coming up behind her. She resisted the urge to walk faster. City life had taught her to ignore the approach of others, to remember that not every stranger on the street was out to kill you.

She strode the length of a long wall and saw the turning to the hostel driveway up ahead, past some houses set back from the road. The footsteps behind her seemed to be drawing nearer although their pace matched her own. It made her think it must be someone with a long stride. Or someone intent on catching me up.

Her heartbeat came faster now and the battered fish sat heavy in her stomach. She lengthened her own stride and glanced up and down the road ready to cross and turn up the drive. She deliberated whether to abandon the walk home and return to the safety of village. It was unlikely that the driveway had any lighting and she didn’t remember there being houses between the main road and the hostel.

Silly girl. Why didn’t I drive down for dinner? Or leave earlier. Somewhere between the thump thump of her footsteps and their unwanted echo and the timpani-pounding of her heart Claire knew why she hadn’t bothered. This is Hope Valley. People don’t get attacked out here. People get attacked in cities like Manchester. She thought about all the news stories she had seen with some poor soul sobbing, explaining that that sort of thing just didn’t happen round here. Claire felt the blood drain from her face at the thought that it has to happen somewhere.

The attack came from her right, not from behind. She had been so concerned with the footsteps she had failed to see the shadowy figure lurking on a park bench beneath the trees. Claire felt someone grab at her bag, trying to pull it from her shoulder. She swung out an elbow and let the bag slip free, knowing her phone was in her hand and her wallet in her back pocket. She’d at least learned that much. As soon as the bag was free she ran, hoping the man had what he wanted. She had forgotten about the footsteps, the fact that anyone following her would have seen her phone in her hand.

The first pursuer caught up with her as she crossed the road. Self-defence classes came to her aid and she jabbed the heel of her hand into his solar plexus before he could get a good grip. He crumpled, winded, and Claire span back to the driveway, wondering if her trembling legs would carry her the full distance before the second person arrived.

Her mind screamed at her to do something and without stopping to consider she yelled “Call Michael”. She heard her phone ringing in the pitch black of the lane. The screen lit up as the call connected.

Oh stupid girl.

The light shone bright in the darkness and the running footsteps came straight for her. Something sped through the air and she felt the impact against her temple, as a piercing pain stabbed through her head and blurred her vision.

A familiar voice rang in the darkness. “Hello? Michael speaking.”

Claire felt someone wrench the phone from her hand and then nothing.

***

Happy Birthday WriterMummy! 2013 365 Challenge #64

It's my Birthday (well, WriterMummy's anyway)

It’s my Birthday (well, WriterMummy’s anyway)

WordPress has informed me that my blog is officially a year old today! And what a year it has been. I have journeyed from trying to promote writing tips, through realising I am not qualified to offer writing advice, to writing a daily novel and chatting about my family life.

Twelve months ago this point seemed impossibly distant and yet, little by little, here I am. I have 81 blog followers, I’ve posted 121 times and have had 3267 views. I’ve had as many views so far this year (4th March) as I had for the whole of March 2012. In my former life as a Data Analyst I would call that a good result with clear evidence of growth.

Of course I’m a long way from achieving the holy grail of 1000 True Fans but then I’m also a long way from producing a book worthy of them! I dug out Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes today, to see how far from finished it truly is. The first section is okay – I always start at the beginning when I do revision. I don’t always make it to the end. By the third and final section I was wincing in pain at the clumsiness and sheer awfulness of the prose. I’m embarrassed I asked friends to read it or thought it was ready for querying.

What I need is a plan.

The Crowden YHA - Photo by John Fielding

The Crowden YHA – Photo by John Fielding

When faced with a 116k manuscript the thought of detailed revision cripples me. Also I worry about story arc, character arc and all that stuff. However, if I assume the story is mostly okay (the friends that read it didn’t highlight anything terrible, they just didn’t enthuse, if you know what I mean?) and concentrate on tightening the prose then maybe that will be more manageable. I’m going to treat each scene (there are about 200) as a ‘Claire’ instalment and edit them as such, making sure they have a clear opening and a neat close. It feels a mammoth task but if I am methodical I might actually get to the end this time. So what if it takes another year, at least it won’t be awful. Guess I’ll be putting my self-publish cover away for a little while yet.

On the blog front my little boy has chicken pox, despite being vaccinated, so the posts might be a little bit sparse or rough this week. Today’s post is about grounding Claire back in the YHA hostels and introducing her to Derbyshire. She has about ten days before the Easter holidays (and Sky) so I might have her wander round the Dales for a while. We’ll see.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

“Just yerself is it?”

Claire nodded without raising her head.

“Dorm or private room luv? We’ve got a single room as it happens. Some lass rang in a cancellation this morning.”

Claire paused, pen hovering over the form, then resumed writing. “Dorm is fine, assuming you have single-sex?” I think I’ve had my fill of men this month.

The man behind the counter tapped at his computer and assured her they did. “Staying long in Glossop?”

“Oh no, just tonight thanks.”

The man nodded knowledgeably. “Pennine Way?”

His words drew a reluctant smile. “No, I managed one leg, up at the finish. That was enough for me. I’m heading south to collect my niece.”

She didn’t add that she intended to pick off as many Derbyshire hostels as possible en-route or that her primary concern was to get away from Manchester. After leaving the Airport she hadn’t returned to the city, despite having several hours to kill before she could check into the Crowden Hostel. Instead she’d taken a detour to a hotel outside Hyde that her iPhone informed her boasted a Starbucks. It turned out the hotel also had full leisure facilities and empty rooms. It was only by imagining the look of smug satisfaction on Carl’s face if he ever found out that she stopped herself checking in for the night.

“We’re the first leg, you could always do that and say you’d started and finished. No need to talk of the middle.” The receptionist gave Claire a wink and a grin. She frowned while she tried to remember what they were talking about, then grinned back. A cheater’s version of the Pennine Way. That’s my kind of thinking.

“I might just do that, if I can get it done tomorrow and still move on Edale.”

“Yer heading to Edale? Well that’s the start right enough. Walk from here to there and you’ll be done.”

“Walk with my pack? And what about the car? No thanks. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m in Edale and stroll up the first few miles. That should be plenty.”

“You’ll be spoilt for choice at Edale: Kinder Scout, Mam Tor. You won’t want to leave.”

“Believe me, one night and I’ll be off. I need to be in Cambridgeshire by next week.”

If the receptionist thought Claire’s plans strange he didn’t let on. She was about to leave for her room when he stopped her.

“Make sure you pop by Holmfirth while you’re with us. It’s where they filmed Last of the Summer Wine. Though I suppose you’re too young to remember it?”

Blimey, that takes me back. Uncle Jim must have watched every episode and rerun. Perhaps I will take a look, put something on the blog. It might make Uncle Jim smile wherever he is.

“I will. Thank you.” Claire dug out her brightest smile for the helpful man and pulled her rucksack up onto her back. She felt a decade older than she had twenty-four hours earlier. As she bent over to counter-balance the heavy bag, Claire thought she must look at least ninety.

Nora Batty eat your heart out. All I’m missing is the wrinkly stockings. She shuddered at the thought. At least it hasn’t come to that.

Dragging her lead-filled shoes towards the stairs, Claire tried not to pine for the Leisure Hotel with the Starbucks on-site.

It’s just the hangover wiping me out. I need to feed it carbs and water, that’s all. And then sleep.

***

Dressing up, Dog Walking and Self Doubt: 2013 365 Challenge #63

My proof copies and my craft books

My proof copies and my craft books

Today was a lovely Sunday of swimming, dog walking, family visiting and playing dressing up with Mummy’s wedding dress. (Not me, obviously, I can’t get it on any more!)

My little babies managed to walk all the way to the top of the field behind my parents’ house and back without being carried. That’s a first. We saw deer and rabbits and the kids and dogs had a great run in the sun.

Perfect.

It made up for getting to the pool this morning to find a Gala on. We had to drive to the next town and suffer an inferior swimming experience. At least we’ll appreciate our local pool all the more next time we get there, especially a dry changing room floor! It’s the little things.

Self-doubt came swooping down today, through the medium of Social Media. I read two things that reminded me not to get too cocky or over confident, although neither was intended that way or was even directed at me. (And I can’t imagine being cocky or self-confident in any universe).

The first lesson came from a thread on a LinkedIn Group I follow and it was about self-published authors not having their manuscripts properly edited. Lisa Tannier wrote:

I see so many complaints lately from Indie readers about lack of editing. It is like the author is in such a hurry to publish that they skip over a crucial part of writing the book.

Guilty! I can’t afford an editor and I know I should probably have done at least one more revision on Dragon Wraiths before I stuck it on Kindle. Lisa’s comment was followed up by one written by an Editor (although I did note it had a couple of I-wrote-too-quickly typos, which wouldn’t endear me to an editor!)  Caryl McAdoo replied:

And, thing about self published authors, many DON’T have a good story told from characters from their Point of View – their work is full of passive to-be verbs, attributions, too many ‘ing’s and ‘ly’s, and unnecessary prepositional phrases.

I confess I didn’t even understand all of her comment: my grammar is pretty poor and mostly I’ve focussed on getting my punctuation right. I know full well my writing is too passive and I don’t use enough punchy verbs, instead of littering ‘ing’s and ‘ly’s through my prose. It made me shiver to read her comment because I fear a slating review (though with only 4 Dragon Wraiths copies sold I don’t think anyone is going to bother writing one!)

My little girl growing up

My little girl growing up

The second chastening lesson came via a conversation with Charlene K Blackwell on Twitter. She mentioned that she’s reading Orson Scott Card’s craft book Characters and Viewpoint. I have a copy on my shelf, it’s a great book. But I haven’t read it in at least a year, possibly more. I bought my craft books when I taught Creative Writing briefly to an adult education class (much to my shock and terror as I never expected to get the job.) I also studied craft with the Open University while pregnant with my first child. I confess, though, that I rarely open a craft book these day. They sit on my shelf next to my print-proofs and that’s probably as close as they’ve got to each other.

The thing is, I’m impatient. Terribly, terribly impatient. And easily bored. I can cope with two, maybe three, revisions of a manuscript then I’m sick of the sight of it. Part of the reason I put Dragon Wraiths live was to get some critique on it because I don’t have the guts to join a critique group. How nuts is that? I don’t want honest feedback from a small group of fellow writers so instead I’ll put it out for any random stranger to tear it apart!

Actually I have spent more time editing and rewriting my Claire instalments than any of my manuscripts. I used to think I had to plough through a first draft and then edit it after the words were out. Now I suspect the new way is better for me. Write a little bit every day and then polish it until it shines because chances are I won’t have the patience to do it properly when the book is finished. It’s a lowering thought.

So my new aim is to start re-reading my craft books and to incorporate bits into my Claire posts. I’ll relearn the things I’ve forgotten and maybe I’ll manage to eradicate some of the passive verbs and ‘ly’s. Here’s hoping.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Claire paced through the milling crowd of passengers and tearful family members without registering them. At the back of her mind a nagging sense of loss itched like nettle rash. She patted her pockets for the fifth time, convinced she must have left her phone or keys in the café.

“Claire?”

The sound trickled through the hubbub of noise and brushed at Claire’s cheek. She half turned her head then carried on walking.

Even the memories are taunting me now. Thanks guys, impeccable timing.

“Claire Carleton?”

Stronger this time; more stream than trickling brook. It cut through the swaying trees of strangers and curled around her feet. Her heart stopped and her body followed suit, frozen in place by an impossible sound.

Not impossible though. Not even unexpected. He practically lived in this place when he wasn’t at mine.

Glacier-slow, Claire twisted her head to locate the source of the sound without giving away that she’d heard. Except of course her body had betrayed her by standing still. Stillness gave you away in a place of perpetual motion and Michael was by her side before she’d even had a chance to locate the direction of his voice.

“It is you.”

He stood too near for comfort but too far for touching. His hands hung loosely as if they had already reached out for an embrace and been repulsed.

Claire kept her head low, allowing a wall of hair to shield her. She could tell Michael was itching to reach forward and brush it behind her ear as he always did: to laugh as he always did when it fell forward again with the irresistible pull of gravity.

His breathing was fast, as if he had run across the Arrivals hall to catch her. A hurrying man with a case on wheels and a laptop bag pushed between them, oblivious to the tight cord his movement had severed. The wave of his passing swirled the scent of Eternity round Claire, weakening the joints of her knees and making her tummy wobble.

They smiled then, sharing a moment of humour at the severance of their precious moment. As always, his smiled jolted her heart and warmed her skin like summer sun.

Oh Michael. Damn you for being here. Now. When I desperately need a hug.

She raised a foot to step towards him, reached a hand to clasp his arm and lean in for a continental greeting. Another voice called out; spewing forth like a burst pipe.

“Michael? Where are you? We’re going to miss our train. Oh…” The voice approached and stopped short of where Michael and Claire stood face to face.

“Claire. How lovely to see you. Michael said you were in the Outer Hebrides or something.” The clipped tones could cut glass. Or hearts.

Claire heard only half the sentence: the remainder was drowned out by the roar of blood in her ears. She felt it rushing to her face, heating the skin until it glowed like blacksmith’s steel.

Michael’s face drained of colour in response, as if she now had all his red hue too. He opened his mouth to speak but Claire raised a hand to fend off his words. She blinked at the tears welling in betrayal and spun herself round before he could witness them.

As she stalked away she heard Debbie’s strident tones curling after her.

“How rude. She never did have much grace.”

Claire broke into a run, not caring who saw, the need to escape stronger than her sense of pride.

***

Addicted to Artwork: 2013 365 Challenge #60

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! 🙂

Okay so I really need to either a) start a business designing cheap book covers for people or b) remove Adobe Photoshop from my PC.

I spent a precious hour today trying to find the right image for my next self-publishing adventure – even though I haven’t finished proof-reading/editing the final draft yet. It was originally called Pictures of Love (and I did a cover for it, with a picture of a camera). But I decided it didn’t sell itself or its genre properly in the tiny image you get on Kindle.

I decided to come up with a more genre-appropriate title and book cover. I settled on Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes although I’m not sure that’s brilliant either. My original concept for the cover was to have it as an illustration, with a picture of a teddy or rattle and some nice white shoes… Then I discovered illustrations are expensive to buy (and book covers designers are even more expensive when you’re starting out and have no budget.) I tried to create it myself but after spending an hour photographing my son’s teddy and trying to Photoshop it next to an image of wedding shoes I gave up. Maybe I’m not a book cover designer after all (unless you want a nice stock photo with some lettering on it – good at that!)

So anyway, this is my attempt. I like the image but I’m not entirely sure it goes with the title (the image seems quite serious, which fits the book to some extent, but the title sounds like Chick Lit). I need to tweak the lettering too, as it disappears into the shadows at the bottom.

The more I try and get my head around marketing the more impressed I am with people like Nicola May and Susan Buchanan. Their covers are eye-catching and they have a distinct brand. Incidentally three of Nicola’s books are free today (I discovered on Twitter – see, I’m learning how to use it at last!) so go and grab them for kindle if they sound like your cup of tea. I haven’t actually read any books by either author – I came across them on Twitter only this week – but they do look my kind of read.

Of course all this self-publishing stuff came today because I uploaded the second volume of Claire’s exploits onto Smashwords. I can’t believe I’m at 50,000 words including today’s post. I can see how addicted self-publishing can be and how tempting it is to put a book out before it’s ready. If I didn’t know that Pictures of Love/Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes needs a good polish I’d be formatting it for Kindle as we speak! And as for the three other manuscripts languishing on my laptop, when am I going to get back to those? The more I go down this writing path the more I have utter appreciation for the skills and talents of others! It’s not a journey for the faint-hearted.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Claire peered through the windscreen at the blue sign and swore. It was time to edge her way between the rows of traffic, to change lane and leave the motorway. Gritting her teeth Claire tried to see her mirrors through the lashing rain and cursed when she realised the wake of a passing lorry had pushed them out of position. She muttered a quick prayer and squeezed between two dirt-encrusted HGVs, wincing at the sound of horns as the rear one was forced to apply his brakes.

Her hands were shaking by the time she reached the exit and her temples ached. I’ve only been gone a couple of weeks. How can you forget how to drive like a normal human being in that time? Stupid car. I’d have been fine in my Audi.

She drove the familiar route into the city, relieved that the rain was beginning to stop. Even at midday the sky was dark, casting a gloomy light across the buildings and cars around her. Landmarks loaded with memories whisked past the window like luggage on a carousel. She exhaled. Not really the homecoming of the prodigal Marketing Director.

“Why the sigh?”

Claire looked at her passenger and gave a small shrug. “I didn’t think I’d be back so soon. Well, actually I did, but I thought it would be because Carl had changed his mind about trying to sack me or because I was booked on a flight to the Maldives, or…” She stopped.

Josh raised an eyebrow but she didn’t accept his invitation to elaborate. She wasn’t the one with explanations owing.

As the rain eased Claire was able to take some of her attention from staying on the road and apply it to the prickly problem sitting in her passenger seat.

“So, when are you going to tell me what this is really all about?”

Claire threw the words out there knowing they would fall on sterile soil. She’d tried to prise information out of Josh the night before, without success. Instead he’d introduced himself to Maggie and retreated back behind the backpacker persona. It had been the same at breakfast and during the two-hour rain-drenched journey to Manchester.

“Tell me why I am ferrying your arse to the airport to meet your wife when you won’t give me a damn thing.”

Josh hitched up his cheekiest smile and fluttered his eyelashes. “Because I’m a handsome Aussie bloke and you’re a swell Sheila who can’t resist me.”

Claire fought the grin but it crept across her face in betrayal.

“Ah ha see! No chick can withstand my charm.”

“And how are you going to explain that to Fiona?” Claire pictured their near kiss at the Observatory, thought about Beth and Chloe, and the anger returned.

“Your poor wife”, she bit out the words. “And children, I’m sure you mentioned children before you invoked your own Official Secrets Act.”

The smile dissolved from Josh’s face. Claire thought he was going to defend himself but he turned to look out the window. As she negotiated the busy streets into her home town she tried to ignore the growing tension. Do I push it or let him explain in his own time?

Angry words bubbled beneath the surface as she recalled the events of the previous evening. Josh’s highhanded summons, his shock revelation. Finding out he had kids after his avowed dislike of ankle-biters. Forgot to mention he had some of his own. Finding out he was married. What about all the women he’s come on to, for Christ’s sake, and done lord-knows-what with? What about me? How am I meant to face his wife at the airport? Just because nothing happened. It might have done. If he’d tried again. Which he hadn’t. Now she thought about it she had never actually seen Josh embracing anyone.

“You’ll have to talk to me eventually. You asked me to help you create a believable story for Fiona. I can’t do that if I don’t know the plot, or the key characters and their motivations.” She let her words hang in the air as she followed her Sat Nav to the hostel. She passed bars and shops that beamed like pictures in a family album.

I’m not here. No one can know I’m here.

Claire averted her eyes and gripped the wheel until her knuckles went white.  A stab of sunlight broke through the clouds as she turned the car into a wide street bordered by three-story Georgian houses. Something sparkled ahead and Claire looked up to see the looming monstrosity of the Hilton Tower dominating the skyline. She was glad when the Sat Nav sent her right, down a cobbled street, and she spied the green triangle of the YHA.

Pulling into a parking space she cut the engine and sat with her hands resting on the steering wheel, waiting to see if Josh would say anything before they left the private cocoon of the car to join the cacophony of a busy city hostel.

She was about to open her door and get out when she heard Josh inhale and sensed he was about to break the silence.

His words fell between them like rocks.

“I don’t want to tell you. How can I?” The sharp edges of his voice rent the air. “How will you ever remain friends with me when I tell you I killed someone? I killed a child.”

***

Kindle Delight and 2013 365 Challenge #33

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

I finally published something on Kindle! Okay it’s only the same stuff as is available here on the blog, but I still got to go through the self-publishing process at last. It was surprisingly easy although I haven’t proof-read the final product properly yet and I need to tweak the front cover. (I changed the dimensions of the front cover in ten minutes on the PC this morning while up to the eyeballs in cold and it doesn’t look right – I think I have the height to width ratio wrong).

The best bit was watching my husband type my name into Amazon and find my book. Worryingly, over on Goodreads, it seems I have written several other books including one about ancient egypt (!) so I need to investigate that some more. As I don’t intend to promote this book except as a tool on the blog for people to catch up, it can probably wait.

Next priority (apart from writing Claire’s next exploit) is to get this first volume onto Smashwords so I can offer it for free. I did Kindle because I thought I could offer it for free that way – I should have read the small print. You can only offer books free on Kindle through their Select programme (5 days free every 3 months I think it is) and then you can’t offer it anywhere else in any format. I thought they may not like that all the content is freely available on the blog so couldn’t sign up to that.

Unfortunately, having had a sneaky peak at the style guide for Smashwords I think I’ve got some reformatting work to do to get it right. I have to say formatting for Kindle, once I’d worked out what I wanted to do, was actually pretty simple. I had to take my 3AD Publishing logo out because that didn’t look right but other than that it seems to be doing what it needs to do. I’m just sorry that it’s not free. 77p or $0.99 isn’t a lot of money but then 27k words of first draft isn’t a lot of book!

This weekend will mostly be survival as husband now has the awful cold too. We have a couple of kids parties to go to and have promised our daughter we will take her swimming on Sunday so she can try out the “it really swims” doll grandma and grandpa bought her for her birthday. That should nicely fill the time until Monday (and how lovely is it that, for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to getting to work on a Monday morning!)

Now, where did I leave Claire…

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

“God I’m so sorry.” Claire flushed as she grabbed Josh’s knee instead of the gear stick for the second time.

“No worries.”

Even in the dark she could sense his lewd grin. Blood flushed to her face and she turned to concentrate on the road ahead. She was still searching her whirling brain for a safe topic of conversation when Josh spoke again.

“Claire?”

The serious tone made her glance towards him, trying to see his expression in the dark. She couldn’t and had to twist her head back quickly to concentrate on avoiding an on-coming lorry.

“Yes?”

“Can I read your blog?”

Whatever Claire had thought Josh was going to say that wasn’t it.

“Oh. Sure of course if you want to. You can read it now if you like, there’s not exactly much going on out the window.” It was dusk and the weak Skoda headlights were picking out only the road ahead. The sky was a beautiful deep blue behind them but ahead a mass of storm clouds loomed on the horizon. Claire reached behind her and retrieved her iPad from the pocket of the rucksack.

“Go to the notes section, you’ll see the drafts there.” It could probably wait until they got to the hostel but Claire was eager for a second opinion. So far there had been no likes or comments on her posts and only a few visits. She knew she wasn’t trying as hard as she could to engage on Twitter and Facebook but she was still a little disappointed there wasn’t more response.

Josh stared at the black rectangle in front of him as if it was alien technology. “Um, how do I turn it on?”

Claire held back a laugh. I guess iPads don’t come your way every day when you’re on the road all the time. She conveniently forgot that, until Michael had given this one to her for Christmas, she hadn’t known how to turn one on either. She reached over in the dark, careful to touch only the iPad, pressed the button then swiped the screen. She described the icon he needed to tap and eventually he was immersed in her writing.

The breath seemed to stick in Claire’s throat as she listened to the silence. Eventually, after far longer than it should have taken to read a few thousand words, Josh raised his head and gazed out the window.

“Well?”

“Very informative.” Josh’s voice fell leaden into the waiting silence.

“You don’t like them?” Claire fought an unexpected desire to weep.

“There’s nothing to like or not like. It reads like a website.”

“Well, that’s what it’s meant to be.” Claire could hear her voice rising in the dark and fought to keep it level. “The brief was to write about the YHA’s 200 hostels and how they promote a healthy lifestyle. So that’s what I’ve done. All the information is there.”

“Yes, information. That’s the word. It’s just information. There’s no heart.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“How many followers have you got? How many likes? I know this is the first week but how many people have visited your page?”

Claire found herself surprised at Josh’s knowledge of blogging terminology. She couldn’t find any words to respond.

“I’m sorry, I’ve offended you.” Josh’s voice was soft.

“No,” Claire forced out a laugh. “It takes more than that to offend me. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”

“It’s not that. I think what you’re doing is amazing. I write a blog for the folks back home when I get near a computer and it’s tough thinking of what to write. And it’s not my job.”

That explains how he knows more than I do. She found herself wanting to read his blog, to read about his life on the road.

“Maybe you could guest post on my blog, share your experience of travelling?”

“I can. But this is your blog. You need to write your story. People can go to the YHA website to find out opening times and local attractions. People want colour and texture. Write about hiking the Pennines in the snow. Write about falling off your bike and trashing your trousers. Talk about picking up hitchhikers and seeing the stars.”

“I’m not sure that’s what Coca Cola really want.” And I don’t want the world sharing my humiliations thank you very much.

“Bollocks. They want advertising. That’s all they want. They don’t care how they get it.”

“They will if it portrays their brand in a negative way.”

Josh laughed. “How is it negative that a girl from the city who hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a kid felt so alive the first time she freewheeled down a hillside that she thought she could fly?” There was something in his voice that Claire couldn’t quite place. It made her feel like melted marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate.

She thought about sharing that part of her adventure on the blog. I guess it can’t do any harm. What does it matter if I humiliate myself? It isn’t my name on the blog anyway and no one I know is going to read it. Especially not Michael. She shook her head at the traitorous words. Michael, will you sod off out of my mind. It’s over and that’s the end of it.

Claire looked out the window as the Sat Nav warned her she was nearing her destination. All she could see was a square of tarmac on the side of the road and some buildings set back behind a line of trees.

“Looks like we’re here.”

She pulled into the car park, glad to have an excuse to finish the conversation. They dragged their bags from the back seat and went in together to check in. All Claire wanted to do was find a quiet corner, get out her iPad, and write.

***