Style hell Sunday: 2013 365 Challenge #273

A nice moody monochrome cover seemed right for Volume 9

A nice moody monochrome cover seemed right for Vol9

Word styles are going to be the death of me. After all the issues with Baby Blues and Normal vs Style2, I’ve had problems today that made that look like child’s play to fix.

Dragon Wraiths came out of KDP select as of this morning, so I put it back on Smashwords, thinking I’d fixed all the formatting issues last month. Wrong. So at 8 am, when I should have been writing my Claire post, I was desperately trying to fix formatting issues. Then during the morning, between ironing uniform and doing laundry, I spent hours trying to fix the index.

Five versions later I admitted defeat and copied a working index in from an old file. Then, as we were about to leave for the in-laws’, I desperately tried to fix the tiny text-and-indenting issues.

Arrived at father-in-law’s to discover that hadn’t worked so spent the journey home fixing them on my laptop in the car. While cooking sausage and mash and folding laundry this evening I made one last attempt and – fingers crossed – it looks okay now. On iBooks at least. I’m too scared to check the other versions.

I tweaked a few other formatting issues too, so I’ll now have to upload a new version to Amazon and redo my CreateSpace version. Formatting never ends! I begin to understand why people pay companies to do it for them! Although there is a sense of satisfaction when it all comes good.

On a happy note, tomorrow is the beginning of October (scary, I know!), which means it’s nearly my birthday, my sister comes home for a visit in a week, and we survived the manic month of September! Hurrah


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 jumped down from the coach and waved vaguely in the driver’s direction. She’d already checked which bus would take her to the airport and the driver had pointed out the stop.

If only the tour still stopped in Christchurch overnight, I could have booked a taxi to pick me up from the hostel. Bloody earthquake.

Standing at the stop, Claire tried to remember the last time she’d caught a bus. Back in Manchester she’d stuck to the trams, if public transport had featured at all. Mostly she used her car.

Please let NZ buses run punctually.

Claire chewed the side of her nail and stared along the road, willing the bus to appear amidst the traffic. She was surprised how many cars there were on the street on a Saturday evening.

I wonder if the Kiwis come into town for a night out. I wish I was heading to a bar for a double gin and tonic. Hopefully there’ll be enough money to buy one on the plane, assuming I get there.

Claire could almost taste the cool refreshing tang of tonic with a slice of lime, and she took a swig of water to wet her throat. Her tummy rumbled but she didn’t dare leave the stop to look for food. Plenty of time to worry about eating when her luggage was checked in and she had her boarding pass.

At last the bus appeared down the street. It seemed to take forever to reach her in the traffic. Claire jumped on almost before the doors were open.

“Airport, please.”

The driver nodded and named the fare.

“How long will it take?”

“Half an hour, assuming we don’t hit traffic. Don’t worry, chook, we’ll get you there for your flight.”

Claire took a seat, wondering how much panic was visible on her face to get a pep-talk from a complete stranger.

Outside the window, she was able to get a true sense of the devastation caused by the earthquake and began to realise the traffic was not caused by volume of people, but the need to negotiate streets still closed off by piles of rubble.

Gazing at the buildings along the central business district, Claire realised they were actually shipping containers, stacked up and painted. It made her sad to think of the once beautiful city in such a state of disrepair, however much it matched her mood.

As the bus drove along suburban streets lined with bare trees, Claire felt increasingly like she was on her way home.

It’s not winter there, though. How odd to go from spring to summer to autumn and back to summer again.

She tried to imagine travelling around Cornwall in the sunshine, back in her own car and in control of her travel plans. The thought raised a flicker of happiness deep inside, but it was soon extinguished by her concern for Kim and her need to get home.

At last there were signs to the airport and Claire felt her heartbeat quicken. Before they were even close to the building she rose and walked to the front of the bus.

“Where do you drop us?”

“At the arrivals hall.”

“Damn. How far to departures?”

The driver laughed. “Not far. It’s not exactly Singapore. You’ll be fine.”

“My flight leaves in half an hour.”

“Ah, you are cutting it close. No worries, we’ll get you there.”

Claire clung on to the nearest seat as the driver put his foot down. She wished she’d told him earlier that she was in a hurry.

I can’t imagine a bus driver in the UK going faster because I’m late for my flight. He’d be more likely to berate me for my bad planning.

“Here you go. Through there, you can’t miss it. I’d get a move on though. Good luck.”

With a wave, Claire jumped down from the bus, shouldered her rucksack, and ran.

She found the international check in desks and looked for her flight. All the signs were blank and she felt the panic begin to rise up her throat. One desk had a woman behind it and she ran towards her, bumping the barriers with her rucksack.

“Hi,” she panted, dropping her bag to the floor. “I need to check in for my flight to Sydney.”

The woman behind the desk looked up and frowned. “You’re too early, check in isn’t open yet.”

“What do you mean? My flight leaves in thirty minutes.”

The frown deepened. “Sorry, Ma’am, you’re too late to check in for that fight. I can put you on standby for the next flight, but it doesn’t leave until the morning. You’ll have to find accommodation for the night.”

“What do you mean I can’t check in? I’ve still got at least twenty minutes before the flight leaves. I can’t get one in the morning, I’m connecting to Dubai.”

The check-in clerk looked at Claire with a mixture of pity and frustration. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, you should have allowed more time to get to the airport. I can’t get you checked in and through security in twenty minutes. The gate is already closed.”

Claire stared at the perfectly made-up face, the immaculate hair, the clean and ironed clothing, and knew hatred. After everything she had been through to get here, to miss the flight because this woman wouldn’t let her through was too much. She wanted to scream and rant, to barge through and run for the gate. To do something desperate.

Instead she stood, numb and defeated, and let the tears fall.


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.