Monthly Archives: February 2011

Flicker continued …

Thanks to all of you who have checked out the three pages of this blog containing my fiction work –

Flicker, My Ten Future Lives and The Dream Navigator.

After a number of your requests, I thought it might be time to post a little more of ‘Flicker’, my first novel, which is currently being considered by publishers.

Thanks again for your time, and as ever, I would LOVE to hear your feedback,

C-C xxx

CLICK HERE FOR FIRST SECTION!!

Chapter One – Fugitive (continued)

Flic had never known twenty-four hours go by so quickly.  She and Daniel talked about everything and nothing.  He told her about his childhood in South Africa, his father’s mining company, and boarding school in England.  He explained how he was meant to be in his third year at Oxford University studying Engineering, but that his father had insisted he take a year’s sabbatical to travel and work in Australia.  In turn Flic told him about her mother, the little she knew of her Australian background, and her childhood in England.

She knew she oughtn’t, but Flic couldn’t help comparing him to Ally.  Whilst Ally was just as intelligent, about to finish his first term at Cambridge, the two boys were markedly different.  Ally was arty; his way was with words.  He was studying Law, and had this ability to make any idea convincing.  He could paint a scene so lyrically from his own perspective that often Flic would forget her own point of view by the end of a debate! Daniel, however, was almost mechanical.  His language was simple and unemotional about everything apart from his mother and his relationship with his father.  When he talked about his parents it was as if the chink in his armour suddenly appeared.  He was logical, his intelligence not in his eloquence, but in his thought processes.

To be honest it was quite refreshing.  Flic had always had difficulty rivalling Ally’s ideas.  Whilst she could be persuasive when she wanted to, she could also be quite emotional and, with it, irrational.  Her passion was a quality, which she treasured.  Some of her most successful ideas came from the less rational side of her brain.  In fact, she’d originally wanted to study English at university, a subject that she saw as the perfect combination of logic and passion.  But ironically Ally had managed to persuade her otherwise, insisting that she apply to study Law alongside him.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t study Law.  She was perfectly capable.  It was just that she knew that she didn’t think in completely the same way Ally did.

Daniel was just so different, so accepting.  He understood that she thought differently on certain subjects, and simply seemed interested in those differences, rather than determined to drown out her alternative thoughts.

*                                  *                                  *

In Bangkok airport they sat snuggled together on a bench, Flic resting her head tiredly on Daniel’s knee as he checked his Blackberry.  It felt so nice to have simple human contact again, that she didn’t even question the fact she’d known him less than a day.  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d even been hugged.  All of her closest friends at school had really been Ally’s friends, and so once they’d split up everyone had vanished, leaving her to deal with her grief alone.

One of Daniel’s arms rested gently across her shoulder and chest, and she curled in towards its comfortable weight, succumbing to a sleep she hadn’t known for months.

When Daniel shook her awake an hour later she was burning up, heat flooding from her cheeks, her throat dry and scratchy.  Realising where she was, Flic bolted upright, her hands rushing to her tangled hair and roasting cheeks.  Daniel jumped up to join her, and coolly tucked back the fronds of russet hair that licked her face.

‘Hey, where’s the fire?! We’ve still got ages.’ he continued, calmly. ‘There’s no need to rush! Sorry, you were getting all hot and bothered, so I thought perhaps I ought to wake you.  I hope you don’t mind.’

Flic tried to catch hold of her dreams, the strangely familiar sensations of heat and light, which had stormed through her while she slept, but they evaporated as she stared up at Daniel, confused.

Daniel paused for a second, and then all of a sudden cupped her face in his hands.  His eyes searched her for a reaction.

Flic smiled back at him, fully back in the present.  She took in his height, the depth of the darkness in his eyes, and the gentle coolness of his palms. ‘Thank you’.  She placed her hands around his waist.

It was weird.  His waist was wider than Ally’s, his back thicker. Holding him wasn’t uncomfortable, just unknown.  Flic looked into his eyes, sensing that somewhere in the silver-grey swirl was the intent to kiss her.  And at that moment, she realised she wasn’t ready.  While she knew she needed to put emotional miles between her heart and her love for Ally, the geographic miles had to come first.  Gently, she took both of Daniel’s hands in her own, and moved them from her face down to her waist.  Tucking her head beneath his chin, she slipped her own hands up his back, and whispered ‘I’m sorry, I’m just not ready for anything more than this.’

Daniel responded with a strong, tight hug, clamping her in his arms in a manner that made her feel strangely untouchable.

Qantas flight QF 2 now boarding at Gate Seventeen’ came an announcement.

Daniel gave her a reassuring squeeze, and murmured in her ear ‘That’s us’.

*                                  *                                  *

They spent the next eight hours entangled in cramped airplane sleep.  The only vaguely comfortable element of it all was Daniel’s arms, which didn’t let go of Flic for the entire flight. It was weird, but somehow, in his arms she definitely felt stronger.  More capable of dealing with what was to come.  Maybe it was just feeling wanted again, feeling protected and understood, but whatever it was, it felt good.

‘Hey Daniel?’ Flic asked as the plane finally began to land. ‘What are your plans for the next few weeks?’

‘Um … Australia?’ he replied blankly.

‘Fancy joining me on my adventure tour?’

‘I’m sure I can fit it into my hectic schedule!’ he grinned, and tightened his grip around her fingers.

*                                  *                                  *

The lift doors opened with a ping to reveal the tour group ready-assembled.  Embarrassment flooded Flic’s cheeks as she realised that she was late, and already drawing unnecessary attention to herself.  Daniel had warned her against sleeping.  It was six in the evening, and she had only just woken up, but she’d barely been able to function when they finally touched down in Sydney, let alone after the connection to Cairns. Luckily getting Daniel onto the supposedly elite bus tour had turned out to be far easier than they’d expected.  Another member of the group had cancelled at the last minute, leaving a spare place that Daniel was happy to fill.

Ten pairs of eyes fell on her and suddenly she was filled with dread. She knew she ought to be more excited about meeting the people she’d be living with for the next two months, but she simply felt drained and inadequate.  How was she going to survive in this newly formed group? If Ally, the person who knew her best of all, could reject her so easily, why should a bunch of strangers accept her?

The tour guide took a step towards her.  ‘And you must be Felicity’, he announced loudly.

‘Yep, sorry I’m late,’ Flic mumbled, not even bothering to correct him.  She stared down at the lobby carpet, suddenly all the more aware of her baggy clothes and lack of make-up.  Her new travel buddies were definitely meeting her in her most elementary state.  Sensing her discomfort, the guide extended a warn hand, and added more quietly, ‘Not to worry, Daniel here explained you were on your way.  I’m Damo by the way.’

He turned to the rest of the group.  ‘Right boys and girls, I don’t know about you, but it’s definitely getting close to beer-o’clock for me! Shall we move to the pub?’

The group filed eagerly out of the hostel lobby. Flic looked around for Daniel, but he was engrossed in a conversation with a beautiful brunette.  Deflated, she stared down at the red patent stilettos of the redhead in front of her, and felt a jealous ache as the girl slipped her hand into the palm of a tall boy with cropped dark hair, and hugged his arm into her chest.  Without even turning, Flic sensed the group pairing off around her, engrossed in introductory conversation.  Once again she was alone, and the fears that she’d pushed aside in Heathrow racked through her.  Was she really doing the right thing?

Cairns wasn’t particularly big, and within a few minutes they were at the pub.  A depressingly smiley hostess greeted Damo with a hug before leading the group upstairs to a large balcony.  Flic gripped the back of her chair nervously and tried to find Daniel.  He had settled himself comfortably beside the slender brunette.  Not wanting to get caught staring at him, Flic flashed her eyes around the table, taking her first proper looks at the group.  Her stomach fell.  She wasn’t sure if it was just her insecurities talking, but they all looked enviously confident and attractive.  She cursed herself for not even bothering to throw on some make-up.  So much for a great first impression …

The rest of the group chattered away, oblivious to her silent awkwardness. She slipped discreetly into her seat, and then finally forced herself to raise her head again.  Gazing cautiously around the table, she hoped her eyes wouldn’t betray the flood of emotion in which she was drowning.  She gulped noiselessly for air, and quelled the flames in her cheeks.

The first pair of eyes to meet hers was kinder than she expected.  The petite redhead with the scarlet shoes was sitting directly in front of her.  She beamed easily across at Flic. ‘Hi, I’m Jules’.   She gestured to the boy at her side, ‘and this is my boyfriend Mark.’

Jules was tiny, and yet there was an intense strength to her features.  She stood no taller than five foot two, minute compared to Flic’s Amazonian stature, however Flic felt immediately dwarfed by her personality.  The girl had such tangible strength.  It was there in both her face and her words, and in a less attractive girl might even be construed as coarse, yet Julia’s delicate beauty seemed to melt the directness of her words.

‘So, I guess we’d better get the standard backpacker questions over and done with!’ Jules sighed, a cheeky sarcasm in her voice. ‘Make a couple more Facebook friends!’ she grinned, and Flic got the impression she cared little what others thought about her.

‘I’m from Camden …’ Jules paused, and then laughed easily as she noticed everyone was suddenly listening to her.  She added ‘that’s in London’ as an afterthought, though Flic was sure that Jules’s broad accent was universally recognisable. ‘I just finished university’, she continued, ‘ and Mark and I have been travelling for about four months.  Plan is to travel until the money runs out, which could be far sooner than expected at the rate we’re going!’

Without a pause, Mark followed his girlfriend.  He was tall, with an athletic build, his brown hair cropped short. ‘Hello everybody! I’m Mark’, he said, raising his pint in greeting.  ‘I’m from Reading, England.  I also just finished my degree, and, unless I find a better model … Ow!’ he winced playfully as Julia elbowed him in the ribs, ‘then I’ll be travelling as long as Jules is!’  He squeezed his girlfriend’s leg affectionately.

The rest of the group took Mark’s lead, and introductions began circling the table.  The guy to Mark’s started to speak.  His hair was thick and dark, his skin a dark olive tone.  Flic couldn’t help noticing an uncomfortable air of superiority about him.  ‘Hi everyone, I’m Ant, and I am most definitely not a POME!  Well not unless you count my convict ancestors!’  He chuckled at his own joke, while the girl to his left reeled in horror.

‘Anthony, you know very well our ancestors weren’t convicts!’ she hissed.

Ant ignored her, and carried on, though it was clear her reaction not only amused him, but had been his intention.

‘I’m from Darwin,’ he continued conversationally, ‘though contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean I have webbed feet!  There is definitely no chance of inbreeding in our family!’ he guffawed.  ‘I mean, who’d want to get on that?!’ he exclaimed crudely, motioning to the girl beside him, whose face was alternating between furious scarlet and putrid green.  ‘I just finished school, and my dad, Isabella’s uncle, thought it was time I saw the country.’

Isabella slowly composed herself, though she winced as she spoke, as if the echo of her cousin’s words still stung her.  ‘Good evening everyone, I’m Isabella Leiter, Anthony’s cousin.’ Her words were clipped and formal, her voice British and upper class.  She wore her long reddish-brown hair in a neat braid, which coupled with her delicate figure, made her look far younger than eighteen.

‘Our fathers were both born over here, however Papa moved to England before I was born … thank God!  Papa thought it would be nice for me to spend my gap year with family.’ She ended abruptly, looking back at Anthony. The tone of her voice suggested she didn’t necessarily agree with her father.

Flic felt her nerves rise as the focus of the table moved closer towards her. As she looked at the two people set to speak before her, she groaned.  This was going to be even quicker than she’d expected! These two definitely came as a pair.

Jake and Luke were identical twins.  Their hair was such a vivid shade of ginger that it seemed to shine.  Red hair is something so often ridiculed, an automatic assumption of ugliness, but the only word that sprang to mind as Flic eyed the twins was ‘radiant’.  Their skin was the most attractive shade of brown, tanned in a way she’d never thought possible for redheads.  In fact, as she looked around the group once more, she realised that everyone was enviably brown.  Flic assumed it must just be the Australian weather, though she knew that no matter how much time she spent in the country, her pale complexion would never reach such a gorgeous caramel colour.  Luke-warm British summers, with their fleeting snatches of sunlight, had taught Flic at an early age that she wasn’t compatible with the sun.  She had envied Amelia so much.  Her mother had had an almost permanent tan.  While the best Flic could ever hope for was Maybelline summer tone foundation, and even that looked harsh against her pale skin!

The twins were English, but studying at a university in Melbourne.  This was their summer break.  Like Isabella, their slight statures made them look extremely young for their age.  As Flic looked from one to the other, she realised it wasn’t hard to distinguish between them.  Jake’s hair was floppy and unkempt, his appearance far less cultivated than his fashionable twin’s, though as Flic reminded herself, fiddling awkwardly with her dowdy combats under the table, tonight’s appearances shouldn’t be read into too deeply!

Finally it was her turn. She breathed in deeply, and flashed her eyes around the circle.  Daniel was no longer engaged in conversation.  His focus was on her, cool, but encouraging.  As her nerves heightened, her cheeks flamed.  She stared back down at the table, and began.

‘Hi, I’m, uh, Felicity, but everyone calls me Flic.  I, well … to be honest … I’m still pretty jet-lagged and shocked to be here.  I just finished my A-Levels, and had planned to go straight to uni until’, … her voice faltered, but she knew she had to say it.  It was her life now.  ‘Until my Mum died a few months ago.  Mum was Australian, but I’ve never been out here before.  She, uh, she left instructions in her will for me to come here …’ Flic trailed off, lost for anything more to say, her cheeks and chest burning red with embarrassment. Under the table a warm, unfamiliar hand gripped hers, and she flinched.  Before she could react, its owner began to speak, taking the heat of the social spotlight away from her. A cool wave of relief washed over her, and she turned her attention towards her saviour.

Interestingly, her neighbour wasn’t overly confident in the spotlight himself, and yet there he was, taking the heat for her.  Affection for this stranger welled in the back of Flic’s throat, and she squeezed his hand before he drew it away.

‘Hi everyone’, he stuttered nervously, ‘I’m Toby.’

Toby’s voice had a rough quality to it, though it wasn’t because of a regional twang like Jules’s.  While there was a definite Brummie lilt to his voice, the texture went beyond his accent.  His voice was less refined, less polished than anyone else’s.   He stumbled on shyly and Flic wondered if his hesitance was linked to insecurities like the ones she felt as she stared round the table.  Not that he had any need!   And his shy awkwardness only served to make him more attractive.

‘I guess you’ve all heard by now that my brother dropped out.  Max, ah, well Max met a girl while we were in Thailand, and decided to fly to South Africa instead of doing the tour.  I’m so sorry for all the inconvenience this causes … um, with numbers and stuff …’, he directed this towards Damo, who sat at the head of the table.  The tour guide shook his head dismissively, and Toby continued.

‘So, anyway, well, I’m from Bromsgrove, born and bred.  This is actually only the second time I’ve been abroad.  I’m a sparky,’ he glanced around at the rest of the group, a number of their faces blank, and then corrected himself, ‘an electrician, by trade. I’m over here on a working visa.  Plan is to work out here once the tour’s over.’  He shrugged awkwardly, and Daniel slickly carried on from where he left off.

‘Good evening everyone! So, it looks like I’m Max’s replacement! And, can I just say, I think your bro’s made the right decision about holiday destinations!’ he winked at Toby, the South African part of his accent becoming stronger, as if to accentuate his point.

Toby grinned awkwardly.  In fact it looked more like a grimace, but Daniel didn’t seem to notice, and continued, telling the others the same tale of his life that he’d told Flic on the plane. Thankfully he skipped out her involvement in him joining the group.  She wasn’t sure she wanted the others knowing about … whatever it was that had happened.  The day of jet-lagged sleep since their arrival made the plane journey seem a lifetime away, and suddenly, faced with him in this new environment, Flic was no longer sure how she felt about Daniel, or about leaving everything with Ally behind her.

Finally, the beautiful brunette at Daniel’s side introduced herself.  Her hair was chestnut brown, but with expensive-looking caramel highlights, which glowed autumnally in the light.  Flic sighed.  It was the same look she’d always wanted.  She sometimes imagined that her hair glowed a reddish shade when the sun caught it, the way Amelia’s had, but deep down Flic knew her hair was nothing more than a dull shade of brown.

Camilla had a fragile heart-shaped face and flawless cheekbones reminiscent of a porcelain doll, something that she accentuated with dark rings of eye-liner. Her complexion, however, was by no means pale.

Like the twins, Camilla lived in Melbourne. It surprised Flic to find Australians on the tour.  She’d just assumed the group would comprise of the typical backpacker demographic, a bunch of eighteen year-old English girls, and a sprinkling of pub-crawling Irish lads! Obviously Amelia had selected a slightly more unorthodox trip for her!

Flic wasn’t sure how happy she was about that yet, especially as she gazed at Camilla’s envious curves!  In an age when curvy was synonymous with fat, somehow Camilla managed to pull off a frankly massive bust, and miniscule waist.  Flic groaned inwardly.  She’d always heard that you ‘find yourself’ on your gap year.  So far all Flic seemed to be finding out was how plain and inadequate she was!

‘So guys, this is your family!’ Damo interjected ‘… well, for the next two months at least!’ he continued. ‘What develops between you after that, that’s none of my concern! Though from what I hear, previous tours have had a few marriages and births to answer for … but hopefully no deaths!

‘In all seriousness though, welcome to Discover Australia … or the Disco tour as I like to call it!  I know a lot of you haven’t been told too much about what the next two months have in store, but let me reassure you, you will be challenged.  We like to think of our trip as one of the most extreme and elite that the East Coast has to offer … so fasten your seatbelts … you’re in for one hell of a ride!’

He passed around a tray of shot glasses, and before Flic had even had a chance to sniff at the contents of her glass, Damo had raised a toast.  ‘To new family!’

The tequila burnt Flic’s throat, and she thought ironically of the Firestone family, which was no more.

© C-C Lester 2009

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Filed under C-C Lester, Flicker, Novel Excerpt, Writing

Sharing the Love!

Some of you have messaged me over the past few days to let me know that my Freshly Pressed ‘So am I an Author yet?!’ post struck a chord with you so much that you blogged about it!

Here are some links to and quotes from the blogs I’ve noticed.  If you’ve mentioned the Elementary Circle on your blog, I would love to hear about it!

Thanks C-C xx

An Author? A Writer? What Am I?

4 Chicks & A Muse

I just stumbled upon this great question on the front page of WordPress.com: So Am I An Author Yet?

My natural curiosity just wouldn’t let me continue on with my own task.  I had to follow that link.  Because this is a question we who write struggle with constantly.

(Check out the awesome blog for the rest of the article!)

Anyway, back to that link…At the end of it I found a great post by C-C Lester.  She expressed the writer/author identity struggle eloquently and, ironically, it made me identify with her.  Aha! I thought.  She’s one of us. In C-C, I recognized a kinswoman.  A woman-writer-perhaps-author chasing the muse, who also recently decided to share her story with the world via the blogosphere.   C-C and I, we may not know what to call ourselves, but we know that writing is an inseparable part of who we are.

An author?  A writer?  Who knows?  Who cares?  I write.  Period.

Words under my Eyelids

Mirella Rose

One thing, however, on the freshly pressed page, caught my attention and I keep going back to it ….

Beautiful words there. Truly inspirational and motivational.  They kept coming back to me in a jumbles of ways, especially guilt at the stories I’ve left as barely finished word files on my documents in a special folder titled literature (everyone assumes its English Literature coursework and doesn’t bother to look there for anything juicy- so shhhh!)

So I ask, what keeps you going? What burns and fuels the story onwards? Whats the secret to giving a story a plausible spark of life?

Links We Like

Restless Writers – Restless Lori

The third post on writer C-C Lester’s blog was Freshly Pressed and in it she ponders when she can legitimately (in her mind) put “author” on her immigration forms at the airport. I suspect that time is now.

Who Are You?

Isabella Louise Anderson

Yesterday, I read a blog that really made me wonder about who I am, and what I do.  Am I a writer, or not?  I took some time last night, and thought really hard about it, and the answer is YES!

Here is the link to a very inspiring, honest and heartfelt blog, about the journey of a writer: So am I an Author yet?


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Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

The Secrets to Finishing a Novel

I’m often asked how exactly I went about writing my novels.

Unlike a number of the new writers I’ve spoken to, I have never started writing a novel, only to give up on it part way through.

(With the exception of the sequel to Flicker, which is currently paused on Chapter Five until I find out if the series will be published!)

Of course, this could simply be down to the fact that I’m really rather stubborn!

I’m the type of reader, who even if a book is atrocious, will have to read it to the end, because I have started it. If I start a story, I need to finish it.  And I guess I apply this same attitude to my writing … though hopefully my books aren’t ‘atrocious’!

One blog reader recently commented that her reason for writing was a ‘selfish one’, in that she has to get her stories onto paper for her own sanity.  This is definitely something I can empathise with.  Quite often my head buzzes with a story all day, and I find myself literally racing home in order to commit it to virtual paper.

And so my disciplined writing style might just be the result of stubbornness, or of an unerring need to spill out my day’s plot-developments.

However, I like to think there are two key ‘secrets’ to how I have finished three complete novels, and all the necessary edits, in just two years.

Firstly, I have time.

As an ‘unpublished author’, the main problem is obviously lack of funds.  You’ve found your vocation, but you’re not reaping any of the financial rewards.  Unless you’re being supported by someone else, or are fortunate enough to have saved the funds to take a sabbatical from the more mundane side of life, you need to have a job.

But exactly what your day job is will affect your writing.

At university, when my mind was whirring all day, every day, I found if very hard to concentrate on anything particularly taxing in my ‘spare time’.  I read very little, and the only things I ever wrote were essays.  My time to read and write had always been my holidays.  With my mind free from other distractions, I would not only digest one or two books a day, and also began to pen my own ideas.  The concepts for Flicker and My Ten Future Lives were thought up during a particularly lazy ten days in a Miami Hostel at the end of my third year.

And as I described in ‘So am I an Author Yet?! Flicker went from an idea to a full novel during my year backpacking.  Trapped on twenty-something hour-long bus journeys across South America, I had the time and the inclination to write.

However, no one can travel forever.  And so I ended up in Whistler, Canada, feeling like I was at least a writer, if not an ‘author,’ but knowing that without a book deal, neither of those self descriptions was going to pay the bills.

Anyone who has read my bio will realise I’m a Type A overachiever.  I studied Law at Cambridge, and went on to do a Masters.  If I were back in London, my own conscience would have forced me into a stressful 80-hour week city job, and my writing would have been relegated to the back-burner once again.

However, for the past year and a half, I’ve been living in Whistler – a ski village full of Brits and Australians escaping their high-power jobs to feel sixteen again, and work in basic service industries, in return for a free ski pass.  Everyone in Whistler is over-qualified.  The guys behind the counter at McDonalds have MBAs, and the girls scanning your ski pass every morning have done six years at university to qualify as vets.

Being a nanny with a Cambridge Law Degree is completely acceptable … because everyone else working in Whistler is in the same boat.  And so I unashamedly became a full-time babysitter.

Not only do I love children, but the job is perfect for my writing.  If I am working during the day, the children wil normally nap for at least two hours, and if I’m working in the evening, then I  have plenty of time to write once the kids are in bed.  And when I’m not working, I’m never too mentally-drained to put pen to paper.

So, that is my first ‘secret’.  Time, and a job, which provides it.

My second secret  to efficient writing is the adoption of a writing routine.

I’m not simply talking about writing at the same time each day, though for me this definitely helps.  A time-tested night owl, I know anything that I write in the evening will read far better than something written earlier in the day.  I’ve also worked out, that for the most part, if I have trashy American TV playing on loop in the background, only having half my attention on my own story also seems to work!

But the main part of my routine, which seems to be pivotal in me finishing novels, is the template I have established for writing those books.

First I divide the book into a series of empty Word documents.  One for each chapter.  After planning out the story roughly in my head, I then split up my notes between these documents, working out roughly what ought to go where.  I write my notes in italic font, and add to them liberally.  When the rough outline of the book is down, I then begin with the first chapter.  I brainstorm the section, play it out in my head, and write down anything and everything that comes to mind – phrases, scenes, rough ideas – again all in italics.

Once I’m happy I have the majority of the chapter planned, I then begin to write.  I leave the italic notes at the bottom of the document, and write above them in normal font.  And then, as and when I include something from those notes in the main text, I simply delete the notes.

Finally, while I am writing, I keep other documents related to the book in the same file on my computer.  I have an on-going Excel sheet, which records the number of words in each chapter, and tallies the total word-count as I go.  I also have a separate summary document, where I add the key facts and actions from each chapter, as I write them, so that I can trace different themes and stories throughout my own work.  In this respect, it’s a little like an English Literature assignment, but back-to-front.  Instead of dissecting the novel into its themes and various storylines, I’m working backwards to ensure my own themes and elements are consistent.

I doubt my routine would work for everyone, but I think it’s simply the establishment of a routine, which helps you as an author.

Stubbornness, Necessity, Time (and a Job which provides it) and a Routine.

Those are my secrets!

 

I’m sure other people have others – feel free to share yours in the comments page.  And if you don’t have any secrets yet … well maybe it’s time for some trial and error to create your own!

Keep writing, (and reading!)

C-C xx

 

 

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Filed under C-C Lester, General, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

Writing from the Heart

I think most writers will admit to, at least on occasion, writing from the heart.

We discuss things which move and inspire us, because these are the things which we can write most passionately and knowledgeably about.  And yet distance still plays an important part in the writing process.

Art often imitates life.

I’m not going to pretend that my novel ‘Flicker’ appeared out of nowhere.  Whilst the main premise, based upon the Chinese Elementary Cycle, had been in the back of my mind for a number of years, it was only when I travelled down the east coast of Australia that the rest of the plot truly formed in my mind.

I had just been dumped, and had left the UK for a year travelling around the world, starting in Australia.  Five years beforehand I had lost both my parents.  And so when you meet Flic Firestone, Flicker’s central character, it might come as no surprise to find that, she too has been dumped.  She has just lost her mother, never knew her father, and according to her mother’s last wishes, joins a gap year trip down the east coast of Australia.

Felicity Firestone isn’t me.

However, at that point, she definitely shared a number of my characteristics.  Firstly, because I felt they added to the story.  And secondly, because they were things I believed I could write well about.

And then there was the third reason why Flic shared some of my more painful characteristics.  A normally unspoken reason.

Because on some level, writing about those things from Flic’s perspective was cathartic.  What better way to get over some of life’s most painful issues, than have a character get over them for you?

And so Flicker took shape.  Five months, and 180,000 words later, and I had myself a novel.  I also had some form of closure.

The book wasn’t just about Flic’s parents or her heartbreak, but with those two things underpinning her experiences, it would have been hard not to draw parallels between her and me.

By the end of the novel, Flic is stronger.  More certain of herself, and able to stand alone, without her mother, and without a man at her side.  And as for me, well, by the end of the novel, I was stronger too.  I was proud of my achievement, and felt stronger in myself … more willing to explore the world and its possibilities on my own.

As I explained in my post ‘So am I an Author yet?!’ my first agent-inspired edit of Flicker was to cut the manuscript in half.  I had to remove 90,000 words, whilst still preserving the story.

A lot of readers have asked how I could bear to do this, but, other than the obvious complexity of physically removing so many words, I actually found the process rather painless.

There were two reasons why I so willingly cut the text.  The first was that I loved the story as a whole, but not necessarily for its every individual word.  And so, if slimming the contents of the story down was going to better my chances of sharing it with a wider audience, then that was something I needed to do.

My second reason for so readily editing down Flicker, was related to the reasons I first started writing.

When I first began writing Flicker, I was heart-broken, and so too was Flic.  But when I finished Flicker, Flic had come to terms with her break-up with Ally, and I too had come to terms with the end of my own relationship.  I had the personal closure, and the new distance from those emotions, to enable me to re-read what I had written, and very clinically remove all of the excess emotion, which at the time, my grieving sensibility had thought relevant.

Bit by bit, I removed myself, and my own personal pain from the text.  Because it didn’t need to be there.  Flic’s pain was enough!

This second step was arguably as cathartic as the first.

Being able to re-read my work, and remove the unnecessarily personal elements of the text so clinically, made me realise how far I had come, and that for Flicker to be a good story, it really didn’t need to be based too heavily on my own personal experience.

From this first edit onwards, all of the characters, including Flic, truly began to develop as individuals, rather than as mosaics of different parts of people I knew.  For example, Jules, a character who had started off as a cross between my close friend Carly, and a girl I had known at university, fully developed into Flic’s best friend, an individual in her own right.  And by the same token, Flic Firestone was no longer an echo of myself, and my troubles, but a real three-dimensional girl, with some of the problems and adventures I had experienced in my life, but with an awful lot more to offer too.

It was only a I stepped away from my comfort zone, and really explored my imagination, that I saw my writing truly blossom.  I was no longer writing a journal of sorts and changing the names, but exploring the possibilities the corners of my imagination, and enjoying it.  ‘De-Charlifying’ the text became as much a part of the edit as reducing the word count, and the result was something I was tremendously proud of.

But the interesting thing is that this change became a permanent one.  Rather than beginning all my other books in the same way, setting the framework with people and experiences I already knew, and then colouring this framework with imagination, my later books all started firmly at that imagination phase.

It was as if, stepping firmly away from the comfort of topics so close to my heart, had marked a shift in my writing, and one, in my opinion, for the better!

I was asked just this morning if Ellody Rose, the main character from The Dream Navigator is based on me.  And whilst, still, where Flic is concerned, I might dither ever so slightly on the answer, with Elle I can be categorical with my answer.

Ellody Rose is not me.  Nor is she based on me.  If I had to find any similarities between us … she has dark hair.  But then, I have a feeling all my lead females will have dark hair, because as a lifelong brunette, I don’t think I’ll ever know what it is to be a blonde 😉

And in the book Ellody moves to Whistler … the infamous Canadian ski resort where my last two books were penned.  A village which I know, and which I both love and hate … something which proved very useful in the context of the story.

However, other than that … Elle is all imagination.

And I love her for it!

So fellow writers … don’t abandon your hearts altogether, because knowledge and empathy are definite assets in a writer.  But equally don’t spill those hearts out either … you’ll only have to time mopping them (and 90,000 words) up later!

 

C-C xx

 

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The Writer & Her Sidekicks

Carrying on momentarily with the Superhero analogy from my earlier post (The Pen Name – A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?) … how many superheroes really ever worked alone?  Even the famous ‘singletons’ were all part of the Justice League!

Being a writer is a lonely profession.  Unless you are one of the lucky few to work in television or film, the chances are that most of your ‘working’ hours are spent alone.  And yet, in my opinion, to write good fiction, you can’t be a loner!  You need to understand people!  You need to understand their relationships, and their dialogue … and those aren’t things you can properly grasp if your only relationships are with your computer screen and your characters!

And so your friends and family are extremely valuable.  Not only are they your general support network, but they will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration, no matter how loosely you base your plots and characters on your own real life.

But friends and family also provide a very vital role in the writing process.  Because most of the time, they will be the first people to read your work.

In my post ‘So am I an Author yet?!‘ I explained how my personal defining moment as an ‘author’ was realising that I had a dedicated reader in my agent, Lucy Dundas of Peters, Fraser & Dunlop.  However, the more I think about it, the more I sold short some of my friends with that post.  Even before that post was Freshly Pressed, I had a readership of more than one.  In fact, over the past two years, without realising, I had cultivated a veritable A-Team of readers.  A mixed bag of close friends, whose contributions, talents and personalities have spanned the whole range of attributes required in the ideal sidekick.  In the ideal reader!

The Action Man

My very dear friend Eric is a Hollywood producer.  His area of expertise is action.  He sees my books in 3D, translating them into movies in his imagination, and then identifying the gaps that lie within the texts.  If you ever read one of my stories, and come across a kick-ass fight, or a heart-stopping high action moment, then the chances are that Eric suggested it.  Whereas I see my books as a series of chapters, Eric approaches each book as a whole, and it is this difference of vision which benefits my writing so greatly.

The Mirror Image

My best friend Mel is like a blonde version of me.  Of course we have our differences, but where stories are concerned, we were made by the same mould.  We read the same books, watch the same TV shows, and cry at the same points in movies.  In terms of literary criticism, these similarities are not without their drawbacks.  Mel loves everything that I love, and it is rare that her criticism is anything other than positive. However, for that very reason, she is the perfect addition to my team of reading sidekicks.  Mel picks me up when I’m down.  No matter how dubious or unfinished my writing, Mel is there at the sidelines rallying me on.  My own personal cheerleader.  And in the absence of a mother, she’s exactly what I need.  Someone who believes in me, and in my writing, and who will encourage me on those days when writer’s block, or the self-doubt that comes with still being unpublished, get me down.

Mr. Sarcastic

My other best friend, Ibs, is my polar opposite.  He reads different books, ridicules everything I watch on TV, and wouldn’t be caught dead seeing any of the movies that I’d pay good money to see!  He is the antithesis of my target audience.  I write predominantly for teenage girls, and Ibs is about the blokiest bloke you can get.  He loves football and beer and rolls his eyes if anyone so much as mentions the word vampire!  But these are all qualities which I need in a reader.  Not ALL my readers, obviously.  But definitely in at least one!  Because Ibs adds something else to my books. When I forward a chapter to Ibs, I prepare myself for a stream of sardonic responses.  He will call me out on anything and everything … and because of it, my novels are far more streamlined, and far less … gushy!  Ibs sees the world from a very different angle – a very masculine one.  And particularly where scenes with male characters are involved, this is a great asset.  On several occasions he has (very sarcastically) pulled me up on not getting the tone of a boy-on-boy conversation quite right.  ‘Guys don’t talk like that!’ he will tell me.  And as long as I ask the obvious, ‘Ok, how do they talk?’ and listen to his response, then my writing will benefit from his input.

The One in the Know

And finally, that brings me to Lucy.  The perfect ‘new’ addition to the team.  When my representation dramas finally settled, and I found myself with a bona fide, invested agent, I gained an extra member of my team of reading sidekicks.  I gained someone with insider information.  Someone who knew this minefield of an industry which I am trying to establish myself in, and who was able to offer me criticism, and suggest changes, which reflected the needs and trends of that industry.  Now, obviously as a writer, getting an agent is a huge hurdle, and one which I will talk about in later posts.  It is a great asset to have ‘The One in the Know’ on your team, but even if you don’t yet, that doesn’t mean you, or one of your dedicated followers can’t step in and play at least part of that role.  Publishing isn’t a secret society.  It’s an industry literally built on communication.  And so (most) of the answers are out there.  It’s simply a question of finding them!  If you haven’t yet secured an agent, that’s no excuse not to know the market you are targeting.  READ!  Read books in your genre, read blogs, read Twitter, read websites.  The internet is bursting with people trying to give you information.  You simply need to search them out, and adjust your writing accordingly.

And that brings me to my final point.  You will only be ‘The Writer and Her (or His) Sidekicks’ if you LISTEN!  It’s all well and good forming your perfect support team, but if you don’t want to listen to the things they have to say, then you may as well be going at this all on your own.  It can be hard to modify something which is so inherently close to your heart, but trust me, you will reap the benefits if you swallow your pride, and yield to at least some of their suggestions!

C-C xx

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The Pen Name: A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

My newest non-fictional effort!  Before I get started just wanted to thank WordPress for making me Freshly Pressed on Thursday!  And to thank all of you who took time to read, and comment on, my post ‘So Am I an Author Yet?’ Incredible reactions from everyone, will try my best to live up to expectations!

C-C xx

The Pen Name : A Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?

We’ve all heard countless times how the pen is mightier than the sword.

But in this day and age, where someone’s dirty, and not so dirty, laundry can be hung out to dry on the internet in a matter of minutes, do authors now need a shield to accompany their metaphorical sword?

It’s a question close to my heart, because obviously I’m intent on writing under a pen name of sorts.

‘C-C Lester’ isn’t a pseudonym.  However, it’s also not what my closest friends call me … In fact, the only people to have ever called me ‘C-C’ were the members of my university cricket team, because that was how my name appeared on the scorecard!

However, C-C is the name which I have chosen to write under.  Something my lovely agent Lucy Dundas queried early on in our partnership.

Because thanks to J.K. Rowling, it seems everyone wants to have two initials!  And the publishing world are getting rather sick of it!

Most avid readers and authors will know exactly why ‘Jo’ became ‘J.K’.  Bloomsbury feared that male readers would be put off by a female author, and so asked her to use her two initials. However, she only had one, and so added the initial from her favourite grandmother’s name, Kathleen, to become the legendary  ‘J.K.’

My reasons for become C-C are a little more complicated.

For a start, they are both actually my initials.  My parents had a bit of a thing for long names, and so I was born Charlotte-Cristina Lester, a fact very few of my friends even know, because all my life I have been called Charly.

C-C Lester was the tag on my school uniform.  The adult I always felt that ‘childhood me’ might grow into.  My parents only ever called me Charly, but told me I had an extra-long double-barreled ‘real name’, in case when I was older I wanted to use a ‘girl’s name’!

I didn’t.

However, I did always find something cool in the fact I had a hyphen where most people simply had a space.  To me it sounded rather epic and mysterious, and reminiscent of C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite childhood authors.  Even though even he wasn’t lucky enough to have that hyphen!

As I discussed briefly in my last post, I was a child who grew up writing, and longing to share my stories with the world.  And so in my head, ‘C-C Lester’ was the future writer me.  Whose clothes I was merely growing into!

However, when Lucy came to ask me why exactly I was writing under ‘C-C’, my main, and probably most convincing reason, was privacy.  In the cyber-world we live in today, it takes a matter of seconds to enter someone’s name into Google, and dredge up all kinds of information about them.  Thanks to the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman Award, which I received a few years ago, a LOT of my personal information was put into the public domain without my say-so, including my then address, and the very detailed description of how my parents died.

These weren’t necessarily things which I wanted people reading my books to know about me, or to associate with my work.

I was also quite keen to keep my broadcast journalism projects, namely my You Tube channel ‘Challenge Charly’ separate from my writing efforts.

One of my favourite high school teachers once gave an assembly about women juggling ‘lots of hats’.  The lover, the friend, the artist, the career woman, the mother etc etc…

And so, when I finished my first novel ‘Flicker’, I made a decision.  I wanted to wear a different hat when I was an author.  I wanted author ‘me’ to be C-C, and the rest of me to be scooped up under the name ‘Charly’.

I wanted to protect Clark Kent’s truths, behind Superman’s badge.

Except the problem was that no one had ever heard of my Superman!

It’s all well and good protecting your real identity, if your pen name has great exposure.  But one of the things I gradually came to realise, was that my ‘Clark Kent’ side – the part of me behind the writer’s mask, was actually pretty special too!  And perhaps those other aspects of my personality – my love of travel and adventure, my tenacity and positivity in the face of a really rather awful tragedy – were things which might inspire others in the same way I hoped that my fiction might too.

In a later post, I hope to write about my influences for each of the books, and the aspects of my own life which affected those stories.  And so, perhaps it is best that my readers see me as both Charly AND C-C Lester.

Check out my YouTube Channel and let me know what you think!  (And those of you who posted comments yesterday assuming I was a man, hopefully the video will clear that one up!)

So, now you all know my name.  You know the Clark Kent behind my Superman … or should I say, Superwoman?!

And yet, I will still continue to write behind the name of my favourite superhero.  Because I am really excited about my journey to becoming C-C Lester.  To becoming the adult, who that little girl in the baggy school uniform could only dream of being.  I’m excited about the opportunity to wear the hat of writer, or author, or whatever you want to classify it as.  And to explore all the experience which that hat provides me with!

What started out as a shield, is no longer necessary as one.  Instead, for me at least, it has become both a passport, and a destination.

In a number of the comments to my ‘So am I an Author yet?’ post, people discussed the journey of the writer – from conception to publication.  Well ‘C-C Lester’ is both a passport, allowing me on my personal journey – the side of me housing my immense passion and determination to write – and also the final destination – the writer I want to be, and have always wanted to be.

Thank you for continuing to join me on that journey!

C-C xx

 

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The Dream Navigator – Chapter Two

WRITING EXCERPT

A sample of my most recent work …

NB: If you haven’t already read Chapter One of TDN, please check out the relevant separate page on the blog.

And please give me your feedback on both chapters, good or bad!  Just great to hear what everyone thinks!

Thanks so much for all your support

C-C xx

Chapter Two – My Secret Audience

(Confused Murky Turquoise)

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, that’s simple … because I need to tell someone!

Only two people in this world knew about my secret when I was growing up, and both of those relationships were rather complicated.  They also happened to be the only two people who were able to see me when I navigated into their dreams.

I made the mistake of navigating into one of Dad’s dreams the same day I fell into Quincy’s show.  I wanted to make sure that I could really do it.  That I hadn’t actually fallen asleep myself, and dreamed of Quincy’s show.

A dream inside a dream.

And so that night, when I got home, so excited that I knew there was no chance of me sleeping myself, I sat and waited.  Sat listening for the radio waves to hum; for that strange TV in another room to chirp to life.  I guess Dad must have drifted off before my brother Dominic, or maybe Dom’s dream wasn’t ‘loud’ enough, because it was Dad’s frequency that I tuned into this time.

The show was so different to Quincy’s I was taken aback.  I hadn’t even realised I was expecting his show to be the same as the toddler’s until I registered my own shock.  Dad’s show was so dark.  I could barely focus my eyes in the darkness.  The room smelled of sadness … damp and dingy.  And then I heard his voice.

GET OUT!!!!!!! Get out, get out, get out!!!’

Who was he shouting at? I wondered.  What crazy monster would appear from the depths of my father’s mind?  But no monster appeared … just my irate father, who looked me straight in the eye … ‘Get the hell out of my dream Ruth …’ he stumbled,  ‘Ellody Ruth!’

Ruth was my mother’s name.  She died when I was four.  I don’t remember much about her.  My memories are more like snapshots, and most of those come from real photos where my childhood brain confused what I remember with photos I’ve seen.  But the one thing I do remember, and I know I remember it happening, rather than remember it because someone told me that it happened, is how she would hold me as I fell asleep.  And if I was lucky, she would sing.

But my father wasn’t singing.

He was screaming.  An angry, blood-curdling scream.  Anger was an emotion I’d never heard in him before.  Since Mum’s death he’d always just been so down-trodden.  The epitome of a doormat, he was emotionally flattened, as if half of the life had been squished out of him the moment Mum passed away.  I don’t think I’d known he possessed the energy to scream so passionately at me … but he did … and that night he continued screaming long after the dream was over.  Though he was no longer screaming at me.  Instead he shouted and sobbed in the privacy of his and my mother’s bedroom.  Sobbing her name, and knowing a locked door could keep me out of his waking moments, even if it couldn’t keep me out of his sleeping ones.

That night was a turning point.

Not just because of the obvious – my discovery.  But because from that night onwards, Dad just stopped talking to me.  It was as if he didn’t know what to say to me now that I’d seen the inside of his head.  If that is, in fact, the forum for the shows?  Even now I’m still a little unsure on the technicalities.  All I know is that everyone’s shows seem to take place on a different Stage.  And that night my Dad’s Stage was a very dark place.

Dad wasn’t the only member of my family who could see me when I navigate.  My brother Dom could do it too.  The weird thing with Dom though, was that he actually talked more to me in my dreams than he did in real life.  Not that he ever really remembered.

Because, as you know, dreams aren’t permanent memories; well not for the person dreaming at least.

Occasionally a dream leaves a profound enough mark that it might remain with you upon waking, or that at least some of the major events or details imprint in your mind, but for the most part all dreams do is leave an impression.  A sense. You might wake up feeling discontented, or angry, or in love, and not really know what the exact cause of that feeling was.  My conversations with Dom were the same.  Whilst he was still him inside his dreams, the conversations were taking place inside his subconscious, so he would normally only remember a sense of what has happened.  Or at least that’s what he said.

I used to think of it like having two brothers – the one in the dreams, who was caring and open; and the one outside the dreams, who was distant and guarded.  I guess that’s what having a sister who can climb inside your head does to you!

Dom is two years my senior, and once I’d discovered my ability, we were quick to draw up some rules.  A teenage boy’s dreams are not necessarily somewhere a young girl wants to visit, and so early on Dom and I developed a procedure.  As soon as I heard his voice narrating, the most obvious indicator that I was seeing his show, though in reality the Stages of those close to me were as familiar as their voices, I would place my hands over my eyes, and begin to count.  Dom would listen for the counting, come find me, and normally tell me when I can open my eyes.  However, on a few occasions he demanded I leave the dream, a feat far harder than you would think!

I’m drawn to dreams.

But not every dream has the same amount of pull.  Maybe it’s just personal taste – like flicking through radio stations until you find a song you like, but with dreams it’s like I struggle to hear the less appealing stations over the most interesting.  One dream will always stand out amongst the rest.  Over the years I’ve narrowed down the factors – the closer the dreamer is physically to me, the closer he or she is emotionally to me, the mental stress of what the dreamer is dreaming.  They all seem to be features, which affect how ‘loud’ that particularly station is.

And once I commit to one show, it’s extremely hard to then tune into an alternative.

That chosen show – the one that speaks most loudly to me – it’s like sitting in a room full of noise, where everyone else is talking in a language you don’t fully understand.  But there in the corner of the room is a TV show that’s on in English, and no matter how hard you try not to listen to it, your realise you’re hearing every word.

Perhaps I ought to explain something.  I don’t just navigate ‘night’ dreams.  I can navigate daydreams too.

Whilst daydreams seem to have less of a tug on me – as if my brain can resist a little more strongly when I’m not tired – I still find myself drifting.  I do my best to avoid daydreaming opportunities.  Gyms and public transport seem to be the most difficult locations, but at school it was always hard to sit in a classroom and focus on the teacher when almost every child in the room buzzed like a transistor radio. As a result I’ve see inside every one of my friend’s heads.

Do you know how hard it is to have a conversation with someone you know almost everything about, when you should only actually know a fraction of it all?  I might not be able to hear people’s thoughts, but daydreams can still tell me an awful lot about a person.  And awful seems to be the operative word.

When people daydream, they force the story.

They add the characters they want, into the scenarios they want, and then play with their own conscious thoughts.  And as a result, the messages these dreams convey are so much more powerful than night time shows.  It is in daydreams that I learn people’s secrets.  Their hopes and ambitions.

Their night dreams tend to just show me their fears.

So tell me, how do you make friends when you know all that?  When you know that Carly fancies Stu, but he really has feelings for Chris, and Chris secretly fantasises about his cousin?  When you realise your friends delight in the thought of beating you in exams, and dream about beauty pageants and talent competitions where they kick your arse?  When your closest friends secretly fancy your boyfriend, and you can see everything they want to do to him, in detail?

Why would I want to see all that?

I don’t! But I also don’t have any choice!! They can’t see me inside their dreams, so there’s no way of warning them I’m there.  It’s not like Dom and our ‘procedure’.  If I stood at the edge of their dreams with my eyes covered, counting out loud, I’d be there a very long time … trust me, I’ve tried.

And so in the end, I just decided to live with it.

Or rather, not live.  My teenage life consisted of other people’s dreams, and that’s about it.  Real world social interaction proved too difficult, and whenever I felt lonely I would hide out in someone’s dream.  How can you feel lonely when you’re inside someone else’s head?  When every moment is narrated, and their voice booms down so loudly it literally shakes the Stage?

In some ways I had the very best audience.  I could talk about anything and everything.  I can tell my deepest darkest secrets to everyone and to nobody at the same time, because with the exception of Dom and Dad, when I was inside someone else’s dream, he or she could never hear me.

And that’s why I’m telling you all this.

Because you can’t really hear me!  Because when you wake up the most I’ll ever be is a weird sense of information.  You’ll know you learnt something in your dream, you just won’t know what.  It’ll be there on the tip of your tongue – an itch you just can’t scratch, because you don’t know where it is.  You are the best possible audience.

My secret audience!

CONTINUE TO CHAPTER THREE HERE!

© C-C Lester 2011

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