Category Archives: Flicker

Flic’s New Conflict (and my personal conflict with Breaking Dawn!)

So, I’m back in the Big Apple – New York, one of my favourite cities in the world.  And as I’ve said before, one of the reasons I love New York so much is the inspiration it offers.

The Arts are there at every turn, and this week I’ve been enjoying a very cultured week of Broadway and off-Broadways shows.

But rather ironically, it’s not the musicals which have got me writing… it’s the (rather awful, dare I say) movie that I watched last night!

Now, I happily admit to being a Twilight fan.  One of my main motivations for finally committing Flicker to paper was reading the four part series in a matter of days and wanting to craft something like that myself.  I LOVED the first film, and devoured the books one after the other, but frankly, Breaking Dawn Part One left me rather cynical in my cinema seat.  The whole film seemed like a cash-cow.  By stretching the preamble of the last book out to make an entire film, it seemed the movie moguls were simply trying to double their revenue from the final film, knowing full well that all the Twi-eny boppers out there will happily put their hand in their pocket twice.

I don’t want to turn this blog post into a film review, and I did have numerous issues with the movie, but the main thing that left me unfulfilled as a fan was the total lack of action in the film.  It dragged, and dragged and dragged.  If I think back to the first movie, my favourite scene was the baseball scene.  High Voltage, loud, fast, superhuman baseball, with thunder and lightning, and the appearance of murderers, and a kick-ass sound track to boot.  It was awesome.

Flash forward to Breaking Dawn Part One, and you have two hours of troubled emotional music, montages of old footage, and dragged out romantic scenes.  Now, I’m a girl, and a self-confessed romantic … but give me a sick bag! I WANT SOME ACTION!

 

Now, those of you following my work will know I’m currently back to square one, re-editting my first novel Flicker.  It’s been rejected by a handful of publishers, and when I first got rejected, I buried myself in a second, very different, book, however I’m back to Flicker – a story I crafted, and loved, for a very long time.  But I know it’s not perfect, and I think one of the greatest skills as an artist, is being able to recognise when you’re own work is flawed.

One of the issues I have with Flicker is it’s an introduction.  The whole book is the preamble to a series of five adrenaline filled novels which will take place around the globe.  I want to ease the reader in gently, revealing facets of my new imaginary world piece by piece, rather than throwing him or her into the book and just saying ‘here’s a bunch of teenagers with super powers!’  But the problem is, I don’t want it to be too tame.  I don’t want to keep the reader waiting too long for the big kick-ass super human baseball scene, because in reality, without an international franchise and teenagers declaring themselves in Teams behind my two main male characters, it’s unlikely anyone is gonna wait around too long.

 

Like me in the cinema at Times Square last night, the reader needs action.  As soon as the story can possibly warrant it … and that … is hopefully what the reader has got!

 

Check out the new scene …

For those of you not familiar with Flicker yet – please check out the first chapter

This scene takes place mid way through the second chapter, just after Flic has introduced herself properly to Toby, and watched Isabelle telling her cousin Anthony that being afraid of the water isn’t cowardly, people will understand ….

Flicker

by C-C Lester

Part of Chapter Two – Foundations

‘Camilla the Superior’ had beaten Flic to it, and collected the key to their cabin before her.  Flic frowned, sure that the other girl would have secured the best bunk by now.  She hurried through the narrow corridors of the boat, eager to find their cabin as quickly as possible, only to turn a corner and find Anthony and Isabella blocking her way.

The pair were oblivious to her presence.  Ant was holding his cousin up against the white-washed metal wall by her throat, his face pressed close to hers as he hissed ‘How dare you!  How dare you embarrass me like that in front of everyone!  In front of the others!  You undermined me!  You made me look weak!  You know how important this is to me!’

Isabella whimpered, helpless.  Anthony adjusted his grip on her neck, taking his hand away just long enough for Flic to see the red raw skin beneath his palm.  He was hurting her.  Really hurting her.

Without another thought, Flic bowled headlong into him, taking him by complete surprise and knocking him off his feet.

‘What the Hell are you doing?’ she shouted down at him, as he scrambled to his feet.  ‘Picking on someone barely half your size!  Isabella didn’t make you look weak, you made yourself look like a fool!’

‘Let me get this straight … Flic,’ he hurled her name at her like an insult.  ‘You think you’re a match for me?’  Anthony squared up, rising to his full height of over six foot. ‘Do you have any idea who I am?  Who my family are?’  He looked as if he were about to spit on her.  ‘You’re nothing but a pitiful little orphan.  A charity case!’

The words winded her, so painfully raw and unnecessary.  She gaped up at him in total shock.  No one had ever spoken to her that way before.  She ought to crumble.  To let the flood of tears that seemed to permanently well behind her eyes spring free.

But Flic had done her fair share of mourning over the past three months, and she was done crying.  Instead, Anthony’s vicious and unfounded attack ignited something inside her.

‘You know nothing about my family.  Nothing!’ she spat angrily.

‘Wanna bet?’ Ant leered at her.

Flic glared up at him, and without a second thought, brought her hand slicing through the air and into his jaw.

 

Flic blanched immediately, shocked.  She had never slapped anyone before.  In fact she had never done anything that impulsive before.  Somehow Ant had managed to flick a switch that up until this moment she hadn’t even known existed.   But that wasn’t what had caused her shock.  Hot, violent pain coursed through her palm.  Burning. As her palm connected with Ant’s face, it felt as if she had thrust it right into the heart of a fire.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins, willing her to ignore the pain, but she knew it was far more intense than it ought to be.  This wasn’t the sting of the strike that she was feeling.  Her palm was quite literally burning, bright violent red and radiating heat as if she had placed her hand right on the flat of an iron.  What had she done? She sank down to the ground, clutching her hand to her chest, strangely overwhelmed.

Flic turned her gaze from her scarlet palm, to Ant, staring up at him in disbelief, but he wouldn’t meet her eye.  He simply turned on his heel without a word, and marched off in search of his own cabin, leaving both girls crumpled in his wake.

Flic looked over at Isabella.

‘Are you ok?’ she asked, rising slowly to her feet, and extending her undamaged hand to the British girl.  Isabella accepted it coyly.

‘I’m so sorry …’ she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

‘Trust me, it’s not your fault.’  Flic replied, not quite believing any of the past five minutes.

Isabella’s hand was at her throat, covering the brilliant red welts of Anthony’s grip.

‘How’s your neck?’ Flic asked carefully.  ‘Would you like me to have a look?’

Isabella winced slightly, and then carefully drew her hand away.

Flic examined Isabella’s porcelain skin, gently brushing her fingertips over the spot where Ant had choked his cousin.

She pressed her lips together, a mixture of happiness and concern.  The scarlet flush on Isabella’s skin had disappeared.  And yet she could have sworn her throat had been red raw a few moments ago.

‘How does it look?’ Isabella asked nervously, not sure how to read Flic’s expression.

‘It’s fine!’ Flic replied, surprising even herself.  She shook her head, ‘Sorry, I just thought it was gonna be worse than it is … from further away it looked bright red.’

Isabella shrugged a little awkwardly.  ‘I get pretty bad heat rash when I get emotional, probably just that.’

‘Thank you …’ she added quietly.

Flic shook her head.  ‘Don’t, please I was completely out of order!  I don’t know what came over me … it was totally irrational!  I shouldn’t have hit him.  I’ve never hit anyone before!’  She balked.

Isabella lay her hand on Flic’s.  ‘He provoked you!  That’s what he’s like … He shouldn’t have said those things about you, about your family.  Please don’t feel bad.  You did me a huge favour.’

Flic stared down at her hand, still unconvinced.  Running her thumb along the life line of her palm, she frowned.  The colour of her own skin was almost back to normal too.  The sting of the burn reduced to the tinkle of pins and needles.  Maybe she had been mistaken.  Maybe that was what it felt like when you slapped someone after all.

‘Are you going to be ok?’ Flic asked, turning her concern to Isabella once again.  ‘Rooming with him?  I mean, we could ask for you to swap?  I’m sure there’s space for you in with me and Camilla?’

Isabella shook her head.  ‘Thank you, but I’ll be fine.  I know my cousin … it’s all just hot air.  He’ll be apologising in no time!’ She added with a false brightness.

Flic remained unconvinced, but sensing that the conversation was over, nodded gently in Isabella’s direction and turned away to find her cabin.

*                             *                          *

© C-C Lester, 2011

 

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

New Start to Flicker!!!

So I promised to return to ‘Flicker’ … and that’s exactly what I’ve done 🙂  Those of you who regularly read the blog will know the original first few chapters can be found HERE, but after a year away from the story, I’ve decided to edit it again.  Here’s the ‘new’ opening scenes!! 

As ever, it’s great to hear what you think!

Cheers, C-C xx

Flash Forward

Jets of hot white steam plumed violently into the air, and the open wounds in the landscape belched thick black mud. The island hissed and fizzed, a volatile volcanic wasteland. At the flick of the old man’s hand a wall of flames appeared above the acid-filled lake. Flic stared up at him, no longer able to fight the instinct that somehow he was answering questions she hadn’t even realised she was asking.

‘Tell me you haven’t looked into the heart of a fire and felt its very soul?’ he asked. ‘I know you Felicity Firestone, in the same way I knew your mother, and this is your destiny! It’s in your blood!’

1. Fugitive

December 2009

Flic frowned up at the departures board, struggling under the weight of her backpack. All around her Heathrow Airport buzzed with excitement, happy holidaymakers eagerly anticipating life on the other side of the departure lounge. She shifted her gaze at the itinerary in her hand – an open return trip to Australia of all places! And yet Flic was feeling anything but excited. She didn’t want to go away. She wanted to go home! Not that she even knew where that was any more …

The house she’d grown up in was still there of course, but it was no longer hers. And even if it had been, all it would have been was a shell. Just one more thing back in Bath to remind her of everything she had lost. All the people who mattered were gone.

Flic gripped the page tightly. She was making the right decision. In fact, Mum had made the right decision for her … without even knowing the half of it! She stared around the airport one last time, immediately chiding herself for looking. Ally wasn’t going to come. No matter how much she wanted it, no matter how many times she prayed, he wasn’t going to magically appear at the check-in desk and beg her to stay. He wasn’t going to tell her what she wanted to hear. That this had all just been a big mistake. He wasn’t going to do any of those things, because he’d already had three months to run back to her side, and he hadn’t come.

Hugging her day-sack close to her chest, Flic stepped reluctantly in the direction of the check-in desks, and tried to push her doubts to one side. She wanted to go home … but maybe that was actually where she was going. After all, her mother had been born in Australia, and had always promised to take Flic there one day. Flic had just never expected that when she did visit her mother’s homeland, Amelia would only be with her in spirit.

An unruly tear escaped her eye all of a sudden, and Flic brushed it aside, angrily gritting her teeth. This wasn’t how all this was meant to begin. This was her gap year, an adventure. Her time to see the world, experience new things, meet new people. Her opportunity to make a new life for herself … one to replace the life that she had so suddenly lost. And she wasn’t going to be able to do any of those things if she stood around crying and moping.

With a newfound sense of purpose, she marched determinedly towards the Qantas check-in counter, but her determination was short-lived, as she took a step too far and slammed right into the last person in the line. Flic flushed red and mumbled an apology. The man shrugged easily and caught her eye, his gaze lingering ever so slightly. Flic looked hurriedly down at her hands, embarrassed by the foreign attention. If it really was attention? She frowned at herself, all too aware that she’d never been in this situation before.

Flic glanced awkwardly up at the man again. He was classically good-looking – his jaw chiselled, and hair jet-black. As he turned back to face the front of the queue, she could make out the well-defined muscles of his wide shoulders and back beneath his thin t-shirt, broad arms held casually at his sides. It seemed to take her a moment to realise exactly how attractive he was. It had just been so long since she was last single! With Ally at her side she’d never had any reason to look at other guys. But Ally wasn’t at her side any more. Times had changed. And it was time for Flic to change along with them.

This was the right thing to do. Going to Australia. This was where Amelia had wanted her to be, just three months on from her death. The will had spelled that out in no uncertain terms. Tickets had been booked, research secretly carried out, and a place on a two-month tour reserved in her name. Her mother’s last actions. Her very final wish. It seemed Australia was where Flic was meant to be. Thousands of miles away from the funeral, the ex-boyfriend, and her stale university dreams.

Flic shifted the weight of her rucksack on her shoulders, grudgingly acknowledging the realities of the past that she would soon be leaving behind. She’d been carrying so much for so long. Not just since her mother’s death, but long before it, watching, futile, as breast-cancer wrecked and ravaged her vibrant young mother. Seeing Amelia suffer had been quite literally soul-destroying. And yet she had packed it all away, memories to face at a later date, and instead busied herself nursing her mother, and trying to savour the painful last days with the woman who had been her entire family. She knew she ought to begin to deal with it all. It had been three months. Perhaps now, as she embarked on a new adventure, away from the stresses of university, and everyday life, this was her opportunity to begin to come to terms with everything?

She frowned, and looked resolutely over at the check-in counter. One step at a time.

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‘Good Evening Miss Firestone!’ The air hostess beamed as Flic finally stepped aboard her flight and handed over her boarding pass. Flic nodded grudgingly. The past three hours had been an uncomfortable waiting game, wedged between impatient businessmen and excitable children in the security cattle queues. Finally past the scanners, the departure gate had changed three times, each one located at a different end of the airport. Flic had been left beyond flustered – out of breath, sweating from every pore, and utterly amazed that she’d actually found the plane on time!

Still breathing heavily, Flic followed the air hostess’s directions and made her way despondently towards the seat which would be her prison-cell for the next night and day. As her eyes skimmed the crowds of other passengers settling down in their own seats, something inside her flipped unexpectedly, and she found herself wondering where the man from the queue might be. For a second she wavered with the idea that perhaps she should have put on some make-up in the airport toilets, but immediately chided herself for the thought, looking down at the baggy tracksuit and greying t-shirt which she’d thrown on without so much of a thought that morning. It was going to take more than make-up to cover up the realities of the past three months. No, Flic was best off burrowing herself into her seat, and hiding beneath the airline sleep mask for the duration of the flight. At least that way, if the handsome stranger was anywhere nearby, on this crowded flight of hundreds, she wouldn’t embarrass herself any more than she already had.

Carefully she took her gaze away from her fellow passengers and instead concentrated on the seat numbers, searching out her vacant seat. ‘Twenty One, Twenty Two, Twenty Three …’ She mentally ticked off the rows, and finding her place, reached straight for the overhead locker, untangling Ally’s water-polo hoodie from around herself with one hand. It had been the only item of his clothing that she hadn’t been able to part with. With a frown at all it symbolised, she shoved the jumper into the locker, and slammed it shut with a rather unnecessary bang.

As promised, she sank defeatedly down into the aeroplane seat, and began fishing around in her daysack for her sleeping mask.

‘Woah girl … what did it ever do to you?’ came the voice beside her. Flic turned confused, ‘I’m sorry what …?’ She asked, stopping short at the sight of her next-door neighbour. It was the same man she had crashed into in the check-in queue. The same gorgeous man who Flic had crashed straight into just a few hours beforehand. ‘The overhead locker!’ He continued. ‘Hang on …’ he smiled, a flicker of recognition in his eye. ‘You were the one in the queue earlier!’ He grinned, an easy grin, which revealed teeth so perfect they could only have been achieved with the help of serious metal work. ‘Bad day?’ he asked simply, raising a cheeky eyebrow.

She took a deep breath, registering her sweaty, thoughtless appearance. Bad day was beyond an understatement! Even if she hadn’t just run circles around Heathrow, this situation would have been a nightmare. Since the funeral Flic had barely eaten, let alone brushed her hair or opened a make-up bag, and yet suddenly she was waking up to concerns that hadn’t entered her consciousness for months. She was a shadow of herself. And for the first time since Amelia’s death, she cared enough not to want to be.

She shot the guy a sideways glance, carefully noting the absence of any girlfriend beside him. Tucked in the window seat, a grumpy-looking old man fiddled with his seatbelt. Flic focussed her attention on the friendly stranger, gritting her teeth nervously and wondering how she’d been able to look at him so impassively before. Neat black locks framed a pair of cool grey eyes that had a definite sparkle. His angular jaw was speckled with dark stubble, cropped to a designer length. And his clothes were casual, and yet perfectly selected. He could have stepped right off the page of a magazine. She frowned inwardly. What was she doing? He was being polite! Nothing more! She ought to be happy that her head and heart seemed to finally be waking up after lying dormant for so long. It was a start. She shouldn’t ruin it by over-thinking anything. Sensing the natural end of the polite conversation, Flic leaned forward, deciding to give him an easy out. She leafed through the contents of the seat-back pocket, settling on the in-flight movie schedule, and then settled back to pretend to read, her heart still racing from the novelty of it all.

‘I’m Daniel’ the man continued, ignoring her attempts at silence, and extending a firm hand across her magazine. A proper introduction. His voice was a neat mix of South African and English boarding school. Flic flinched, startled. ‘Felicity … Flic’ she stumbled, awkwardly grasping his fingers.

Her unease seemed to amuse him. He raised a confident eyebrow, ‘So, ‘Felicity-Flic’ what takes you to Australia?’ He had introduced himself to her! He had initiated conversation! She had given him an out, and yet he had initiated a conversation. All to aware of the flip of unexpected lust in her chest, Flic tried to still her excitement, but allowed herself to turn properly to face him. Daniel. Distracted immediately by the intensity of his cool eyes, Flic looked quickly down and tried to focus on what he was asking. What a question! She opted for the simplest answer. ‘I’m on my Gap Year. I’ve got a two-month adventure tour booked, starting in Cairns.’

‘An adventure tour?’ his eyes sparkled with interest. At least she hoped it was interest, and he wasn’t just humouring her. Something about his manner put her ever-so-slightly on guard, as if she were the butt of an unknown joke. He was just so slick. Flic couldn’t help wondering, why someone so attractive would make this much effort to speak to her? Or was it just her imagination? Just another facet of her insecurity? Why did he have any reason to be anything other than polite and friendly? They would be sharing neighbouring seats for the best part of twenty-four hours.

‘An adventure tour?’ he continued, showing a genuine interest in her words. ‘ So you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie then?’ Flic decided to ignore the nagging suspicion that he was mocking her, and trust his apparent sincerity.

‘I guess you could say that! Though I’m into endurance sports too,’ she heard herself babble. Flirt-mode! She registered in utter surprise. This was her flirt-mode! Flic had been so young when she’d first begun dating Ally, she couldn’t even remember ever having had to flirt! It had just been so easy – they’d been school friends, and their friendship had taken what felt like its natural course, gradually developing into a relationship. Looking back she couldn’t remember even attempting to flirt before. She waited nervously for his response, wondering if she sounded too cheesy.

His eyes flashed appreciatively down at her t-shirt, ‘Yeah I can see that … the London Marathon … wow!’ She shrugged off his praise, ‘It’s not really that hard. I think the only reason I finished was because I’m so stubborn! Trust me, it had nothing to do with sporting ability!’ ‘Impressive, nonetheless.’ Flic really wasn’t sure how to take him. He was just so self-assured. Ally was a confident guy, but Daniel practically smouldered charm. It was definitely disconcerting, though perhaps being out of her comfort zone was exactly what she needed?

‘So, Daniel’, she grinned, feigning confidence, and stumbling at what could potentially be flirtation. ‘What’s your sport of choice? Or can I guess?’ She grinned cheekily, realising the comment permitted a quick glance at his body. He was muscular, yet streamlined. Daniel lacked the shoulders of a rower … shoulders Ally had … and his thighs were heavy-looking, but not rugby-esque.

‘Go on …’ he nodded encouragingly.

‘Hmm … horse-riding?’ Daniel raised an eyebrow, and she groaned inwardly at her behaviour. He was a twenty year-old guy, not an eight year-old girl! Maybe it was a good thing she hadn’t had to flirt for three years, she was appalling! ‘Sorry, I meant polo,’ she corrected herself, wincing slightly as she waited for his response.

Daniel simply smiled. ‘I guess you could draw some similarities… I ride bikes.’ Flic stared at him out of the corner of her eye. ‘There’s no way you’re a cyclist! Sorry, but you’re way too … stacked!’ She blurted, a hot blush colouring her as she realised what she’d said. ‘Why thank you!’ Daniel laughed easily, and ran a steel tongue-bar between his lips. ‘No you’re right, I ride motorbikes not mountain bikes. I guess I’ve always been into my gadgets, and bikes are the most fun gadget of them all!’

Felicity stared awkwardly down at the magazine in her lap, not really knowing what to say. She was still embarrassed about the horse-riding comment, and the conversation had led to something she knew absolutely nothing about. Her vague bloom of confidence was disappearing almost as quickly as it had appeared.

Daniel filled the silence. ‘So Felicity-Flic, how about you tell me about this adventure tour?’ Flic smiled, glad for the change of subject. ‘Well to be honest, I don’t know a great deal about it! My Mum booked it, and she wanted it to be a surprise. All I really know is that I start in Cairns, and I’m not heading home until at least next February.’

When Daniel didn’t interrupt, Flic carried on, suddenly aware of how nice it was to talk about Amelia with someone who didn’t cry at the mention of her name. At the funeral she’d felt like the responsible adult, consoling each of her mother’s friends in turn.

‘Mum really loved the outdoors. She grew up in Australia, so I guess it was in her blood! Had me camping before I could walk!’ Flic smiled, distracted for a second, and then remembered what they were talking about. ‘Anyway, I’m guessing the tour’ll be pretty basic. No ‘flash-packing’ for me, that’s for sure!’

‘Flash-packing!’ Daniel grinned. ‘I like the sound of that – not heard that before! Your mum sounds pretty special!’ he added kindly.

Flic nodded slowly, ‘Yeah she is … was, I mean …, she stumbled, still not used to the past tense. She took a deep breath. The more often she said this out loud, the easier it would be to come to terms with. ‘Um, actually she died a couple of months ago. I only found out about the trip in her will.’

Something flickered in Daniel’s eyes, an emotion she found hard to read. Maybe it was just awkwardness, a reaction she’d met an awful lot recently. ‘I’m really sorry’, he said quietly. Flic frowned inwardly. Why did everyone do that? Apologise. It wasn’t their fault. No one was to blame. That was the problem.

‘Sorry,’ Daniel said again, and she turned her attention back to him. ‘That was a stupid thing to say. I’m sure you’re already fed up with people apologising for no reason.’ He stumbled, and Flic frowned at him in disbelief. She shook her head, wondering if she had heard him right. ‘How did you ….’

He smiled awkwardly, the strain of the expression showing at the sides of his eyes. ‘I lost my mother too … but she died a very long time ago. I never really knew her … and I’ve spent a lifetime having people apologise the moment they hear she’s gone. And it’s not their fault, they didn’t even know her! It’s not their fault …’ His voice faltered and Flic frowned again, not certain she understood the full meaning of what he was saying. She waited to see if he would continue.

Finally he spoke, his tone changed. ‘So how’s your Dad holding up?’ Flic shrugged, ‘I never knew him. It’s always just been me and Mum. I guess she was more like a friend than a mum in a lot of ways. How about you, are you close to your Dad?’ she asked politely.

The question didn’t produce the reaction she had hoped. He seemed even more uneasy! Finally, more quietly than before, he replied ‘You’d think I ought to be, wouldn’t you? But I guess I reminded him too much of her, Mum …’ Daniel paused, then went to say something and stopped. He looked down the iPod in his hand, idly spinning his index finger around the dial.

He had said nothing, and yet Flic understood that he had said far too much. A few simple sentences had shattered his picture-perfect armour, revealing a lost soul that she understood far too well. Acting before she even had a chance to think, Flic reached across the arm rest and grasped the stranger’s hand.

Daniel’s hand was so cold it was as if Flic’s body heat drained straight into it. She snatched her hand back, motivated by the shock and by the embarrassment of her actions. He hadn’t even said anything poignant. She had simply read between the lines of his words, clearly reading too much into a few throwaway comments. So his mother had died too, and he didn’t get on with his Dad. There was no cause to think anything more of the situation than what he had said. She focussed upon the attractive man in front of her and reminded herself just how out of her league he was.

But Daniel looked back at her with an expression that was anything but awkward. An expression which seemed to suggest he had different ideas about the league systems. He reached gently back across the divide of the airplane seats, and pulled her hand back down on top of his, placing his other hand over it. He stared down into her eyes. ‘Thank you.’ He said softly. His grey eyes moved like mercury – a rainbow of colours, and yet they were all shades of silver. ‘You know, I think you may just have become my favourite next-door neighbour!’ he winked, his cool exterior returning as he nodded over at the pensioner sat on his other side, who had just begun to snore.

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Filed under C-C Lester, Flicker, Novel Excerpt

Take the Reigns

It’s funny how you can be inspired by the most random of things …

As I’ve said time and time again, I write, and am inspired, by making connections.  Drawing the lines between dots I handpick from life.

And I guess a couple of the lines this week have given me a kick-start to revisit my first book.

‘Flicker’, which some of you may have read samples of on the blog, is my first novel, a teenage fantasy book about an orphaned girl setting off on her gap year travels.  After several edits of the book, my agent submitted it to a around ten publishers this time last year, unfortunately to no avail.  After a few months, the book was shelved, and my second book ‘The Dream Navigator’ was made publisher-ready, and then did the rounds.

And that, a year on, is where I’m at.  Having edited and re-edited two different books for publisher submission, I’ve then had to pass on the baton to my agent, and wait for the news to roll in.

As any of you in the same situation will know, whilst it’s a necessary part of the process, it can be rather frustrating!  And at first, whilst the frustration of not hearing anything back from ‘Flicker’ lead me to pile all my energy into ‘The Dream Navigator’, a year on, no matter my best intentions, I’m finding it far too easy to sit on my hands, and make excuses.

If I’m completely honest, it’s very hard to finish another book, knowing nothing so far has come of the others.  When I think of the hours I spent on the other two books, I feel drained, and back in the real world (I wrote the books whilst travelling) I feel too tired from everyday work to sit back in front of the computer at the end of the day, when I haven’t seen any return for all the other work.

But this is an attitude which needs to stop.  If I’m to become an author – a real, bonafide, published author – then I need to get my head back in the game.  And whilst the ball is heavily still in my agent’s court, that doesn’t mean I can’t be doing something to help.

I think what I’ve been doing wrong is trying to push forward with all the other ideas I’ve had since Flicker, when instead, there is something there in that story – there must have been to have got noticed in the first place – I just need to polish it!

So where has this change of heart sprung from? What were the dots that joined together to lead to that conclusion?

Last week I saw a friend I haven’t seen since I left to go travelling, and it turns out he reads my blog, and, despite being a 30 year old man … he read, AND LOVED!!! … the excerpts of Flicker which I put up on it!!  I guess hearing his enthusiasm for the book reminded me how enthusiastic I had once been about the story.

Then last night, I was at a friend’s birthday drinks, and it turned out a number of his friends had heard that I was aspiring author.  When, in turn, they asked me how it was going, I shrugged, disheartened, and said the same thing over and over again ‘it’s in the hands of my agent … I’m not really doing much at the moment … I work for a bank …’

And I listened to myself, and thought, if you’d asked 14 year-old me what I wanted to do at 28, the last thing I would have said was ‘work for a bank’.  I wanted to be an author … so badly that I sent a shell of a story off to a publisher, and received my first mass mailshot rejection letter!!  And you know what, I STILL want to be an author … so why the hell have I stopped working for it??

And then finally, this afternoon I sat down to watch the film ‘Chalet Girl’.  Of all the ‘inspirations’ this is probably the most off the wall and silly … but bare with me 🙂

So ‘Chalet Girl’ is a teenage British chick flick – the story of a girl who goes to the Austrian alps, falls in love with a hot posh guy and becomes a snowboard champ – total cheese … but I’ve always loved cheesy tv 🙂 Now, if anything, I was expecting to finish the film and simply be dying to head back to Whistler … and don’t get me wrong, after 2 winters as a seasonaire it was impossible not to watch the film and yearn for snow … but there was a stronger compulsion that came from the film, and that was to revisit Flicker.  Because years ago, when I day-dreamed about Flicker as a book, I put actors faces to some of the characters, imagining what it might be like to see my book on the big screen.  And in that day dream, Ed Westwick was Daniel DeSilva, to Felicity Jones’s ‘Flic Firstone’ – the two young British actors starring opposite one another in Chalet Girl.

And I guess I don’t want that daydream to die.  I want Flicker to still be an option.  I want it to become a name synonymous with a book, not just a horse and an online photo sharing site!  I want to be an author.  I want to be a scriptwriter.  I want to see books on shelves, with my name on the spine, and films and tv on the screen, underpinned by stories I’ve written.  And I’m not gonna achieve that by sitting on my hands!  I’m gonna do it by gritting my teeth, peeling the plaster off, and looking at a text I haven’t looked at for a year, because no matter how much I don’t want to acknowledge it, it is ‘damaged’ in some way … it’s not finished … and the only way someone is going to love it enough to publish it, is if I can fix it …

This is my challenge.  This is my part of the baton-passing process ….

To make my manuscript as kick-ass brilliant as I possibly can, so that next time my agent submits it to publishers, someone snaps it up 🙂

C-C xx

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

The Writer’s Marathon

In just under two months time I turn twenty-seven twenty- eight … Freudian slip/ wishful thinking, I genuinely first typed twenty-seven! But alas it’s the latter, and to mark the occasion, for some reason still unbeknown to me, I’ve decided to run the Budapest Marathon.

And so, as if to add to the many reasons why I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write for over a month, I’m now spending at least five hours a week pounding the pavements of my hometown.

It was on my run earlier this evening that I began to draw parallels between forging a writing career and a running race.

Getting a book published was never going to be a sprint, that much has always been clear to me. Getting published is an endurance sport. A steeplechase, as you face obstacle after obstacle on your way to getting published. First there’s the hurdle of the idea. The concept of the book. Then there’s the issue of committing that idea to paper, and actually finishing it. Once your book’s complete you have to find an agent … something which many of the authors I’ve met through this blog and via Twitter know all too well is one of the most challenging hurdles of the race.

With your agent onside, suddenly what started as an individual race becomes a team game, and together you unite to get your manuscript in the best working order possible.

But once the editing hurdle’s been tackled, the sport takes on a very different nature, because you as a writer are suddenly in the backseat – a spectator rather than a competitor. After years pushing forward, getting yourself and your writing over one hurdle after the next, you finally have to pass the baton over to someone else … and sit back and wait!

And I guess that’s where I am now …

I can see the finish line ahead … or my current personal finish line – publication – but as for getting there, I’ve done my leg of the race, and all I can do is watch on and cross my fingers, because (crossing sporting metaphors 🙂 ) the ball is now in my agent’s court.

I’m not gonna lie, for me is the toughest part of the whole process. This week a friend at work jokingly called me a ‘control freak.’ And whilst it’s not something I’ve ever been called before, there is some degree of truth in the accusation. I like to be in control. I’m a planner. I’m efficient and organised, and if I want to achieve something, I put my mind to it and get it done. If I didn’t work that way, there would be no way I would have got into Cambridge, or achieved half the ‘extra-curricular’ things I’ve done so far in life.

But getting published isn’t like that. If I want to be taken seriously as a writer, I need an agent. And if I’m going to be represented by an agency, then I need to know when to take a step back and let them get on with their jobs.

The difficult part is that I’ve put all my efforts into my books over the past two years. I’ve spent two long years glimpsing a finish line, and now it’s finally in clear sight, I am completely powerless as to whether I’ll get there. I’ve put all possible effort into the first draft, and every subsequent draft I’ve been asked to do, and that’s my job done … for now.

So the question is, what do I do now? Because frankly, when it comes to life, I’m the world’s worst spectator!

I NEED to be doing something! I NEED to feel like I’m doing something productive. That I’m still making steps in the right direction to becoming a bona fide author.

I guess to continue with the athlete metaphors, I need to stay in pique condition, and work out exactly what training is going to be most beneficial for whatever my next writing race turns out to be.

When Flicker, my first book, was doing the rounds of publishers, I busied myself with The Dream Navigator, my second novel. The book was something completely different, a spontaneous experiment as compared to the tale of Flic Firestone which had rattled through my mind the entire time I was at university. Writing a second book was the cheat’s route to getting to my target … like running in two lanes of a race at the same time, because by finishing another book, and getting it publisher ready, suddenly I was giving myself double the chance of achieving my end goal – publication. Either book might get me there!

And that motivation worked. Sheer determination to get published, mixed with the frustrated futility that an author plays in the final stages of getting a book deal drove me to write, and to write quick. I beat all my previous records, and had ‘TDN’ finished in a few short months.

And now TDN is running the race too. My second complete, edited, novel. My second chance at getting to the publishing finish line …

But now I’m back in the spectator seats, itching to do something that might possibly help my cause.

Except the problem is, I’m tired. I feel like I’ve been running my part of the race on a treadmill, positioned just metres away from the finish line. And that no matter how hard I work, I’m still not getting any closer to that end goal.
I’ve completed three novels, and have the bare bones of three more … but I’m beginning to feel I’m lacking an incentive to write new material. I’m lacking the drive to carry on writing new stuff because I’m yet to see the fruits of any of my previous labours.

Is anyone else at this point? Where you’ve spent the majority of the last few years putting everything into your books, and yet as of yet you haven’t got anything back from them?

I’ll be honest, it IS a demoralising situation, and every day, you’re hopes get a bit smaller, a bit more jaded.

So what is there to do when you’re in that situation? When you’re fed up with playing the role of spectator, and watching from afar with crossed fingers, as an agent queries publishing houses on your behalf?

The obvious answer is to write. But as I’ve tried to explain above, sometimes that really isn’t possible. Writing is the product of inspiration and desire to write, and when you haven’t seen any positive results from your previous efforts, it can be hard to motivate yourself to continue the slog. I guess it’s a bit like running a marathon, but never seeing the mileage change.

So if you can’t write, what else is there to do?

I think these days, that’s where social media comes in. As an aspiring author, you’re not just a writer, but a self-publicist, and so I think as a progressing author, it’s important to keep up with social media. I don’t think I need to repeat how important blogs and Twitter are, it’s a topic I’ve written frequently about. But what else can an author do to busy herself? To keep her hands busy, and her mind occupied, whilst waiting for her agent to complete the relay race?

That’s where you guys come in!!

What do you do to keep occupied? How many of you are in writing limbo? Anyone else beginning to feel a bit jaded and lacking the energy to put pen to paper, despite however many new ideas you might have?

It’s funny … in some ways this is the closest thing I’ve had to writer’s block! It’s like I’m blocking myself … my own impatience and dwindling hopes is putting up a block between the ideas and the writing … because where I haven’t written properly for a month or so, my head is streaming with ideas ….

I know this is less up beat and neat than my normal blog posts, but I’d just love to hear from other authors in a similar position. Being an author in limbo can be rather lonely at times!!!!

C-C xx

 

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Filed under Flicker, The Dream Navigator, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

Flicker – Chapter Two

Click below for earlier sections of the novel –

Prologue & First Part of Chapter One

Second Part of Chapter One

 

Chapter Two

Foundations

Flic hadn’t been able to sleep once they’d returned to the hotel late that night.  She knew that this was what Daniel had warned her about.  Her body clock was completely off-kilter, but sleep had just been too tempting that afternoon.

After a few sleepless hours, she padded quietly out into the hotel corridor, not wanting to wake her roommates.   She turned her mobile phone over and over in her hand, unsure who exactly she was planning on ringing.  She needed to talk to someone.  To tell somebody about the tour, and her new team-mates.  But then reality hit.  There was no one.  Ally had stopped taking her calls weeks ago, and she couldn’t even ring Amelia’s answer-phone, just for the brief sound of her mother’s voice, because the phone company had cut the phone-line off before she’d left England.

She sighed, and walked back into the quiet bedroom without even switching the phone back on.  She slipped it back into her rucksack.  Her first reflections of the tour were going to have to wait.

*                                  *                                  *

Flic looked down at the orange t-shirt in her hands and smiled tiredly.  ‘Flicker?’ she read, raising an eyebrow.

‘I thought it had a nice ring to it!’ Damo replied with an enthusiasm that defied their early wake-up.  The group was standing on Cairns pier, about to embark on their first challenge of the tour, five nights on a live-aboard boat, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

The tour guide stared around at the quiet travellers. ‘You know, you guys are rather green! Haven’t you Discover Australia’s official colour is orange?  It’s a good thing you’ve got those shirts, heh?’ He motioned towards the boat, ‘Now, if you could just find your sea legs …’ he frowned at the unresponsive teenagers, ‘or maybe just your legs, and jump aboard, it’s time to set sail for the good ship Discovery! And yes, she is actually called that!’

No one moved.  Flic couldn’t help thinking that the others looked more scared than hung-over.  The idea of being scared of the sea really surprised Flic.  She’d never had a problem with water.  Still, she wasn’t prepared to draw attention to herself and be the first to jump on board.

Instead, Mark was the one to eventually make the first move.  As he walked determinedly down the jetty and threw his day-sack onto the boat, Flic couldn’t help grinning.  It was obvious who would become the ‘daddy’ of the group.  Mark was a natural leader, but with the compassion and approachability of a parent.  As a silent show of support, Flic followed Jules, who had trudged after her boyfriend, onto the boat.

As Flic waited for the rest of the group to leave the jetty, she felt a warm hand at the base of her spine.  She spun around to find Toby standing awkwardly behind him.  Despite the overly friendly hand holding, she barely remembered speaking to him the night before.  ‘Hi … um, I just wanted to say … uh … Morning!’

She eyed him curiously.  ‘Morning…?’ She replied.

Toby shrugged at his own awkwardness, and then laughed self-consciously.

‘You know, I was wondering what Flic was short for!’  He commented eventually, gesturing down at the t-shirt in her hands. ‘Flicker’ he grinned playfully, a smile, which lit his entire face.

‘Um, it’s not …’ she stumbled, realising too late that he was joking.  He casually batted the awkwardness from the air with the back of his hand.

‘So, you’ve got your Open Water too, eh?’

Damo had explained that while most of the group would be learning to scuba dive, Flic, Toby and Daniel, who had all completed the basic course before, would be using the week to gain their advanced qualification.

Flic relaxed a little bit, glad for something concrete to talk about. ‘Yeah, for some reason my Mum insisted I learn when I was at school.  She was definitely into alternative hobbies!’

Toby grinned.  ‘Sounds pretty familiar – it was my Dad who insisted I learn.  I think he had some madcap plan about diving with me and my brother in English quarries, but thankfully we never had to get that cold! The farthest we ever got was the local pool!’

Their conversation was interrupted by Isabella’s shrill voice.  She and Ant were the only members of the group still on the jetty.  ‘I really don’t see what the big problem is!  If it scares you that much, then don’t do it!’

Ant clearly didn’t want the rest of the group involved in their argument, and muttered through clamped lips ‘You don’t understand … this is the first challenge.  I can’t back out now, I’d never get it back!’

Isabella either didn’t register his tone of voice, or chose not to. ‘Anthony, not everything in life is a competition.  If you’re that scared, don’t dive! I’m not exactly enthralled by the idea of breathing under water either, but we can get out any time.’

Anthony didn’t reply.  He stomped onto the dive boat, leaving his cousin floundering behind him with all her luggage.

‘Maybe it’s a good thing my brother isn’t here,’ smiled Toby. ‘It seems we’re gonna have our fair share of domestics already!’

‘Do you not get on?’ asked Flic, as the engine whirred into action.

‘Not really.’ Toby shrugged.  ‘I guess we’re just too similar.  As long as I can remember, life has always been a competition …’

Flic nodded over at Ant, ‘Sounds familiar!  But, why do you think he left the tour?  I mean, if life’s a competition, then surely he’d need to prove he can do the extreme sports too?’

Toby shrugged. ‘I dunno, maybe sometimes not trying is better than the prospect of losing …’

Flic bit her lip, still uncomfortable for some reason.  It just seemed such a waste of an opportunity.  ‘How can you win or lose at scuba diving?’

Toby smiled wryly.  ‘He’d probably find a way.  The reason he’s not here is that he met this girl.  We stopped over in Thailand for Full Moon Party on our way out here, and he met her on the beach.  When she showed an interest in him rather than me, you should’ve seen his face.  It was like he’d won some game!  After that I barely saw him.  Within three days he’d booked a flight to South Africa, and I was left to explain it all to Dad… Family, huh?’ he shrugged.

Flic tried not to wince at the mention of ‘F’ word.  She wasn’t going to spoil this moment by thinking about Amelia … not now.  She stared over at Toby shyly, and concentrated on the unfamiliar summersaults her stomach seemed to do every time he focussed his attention on her.  They’d been talking about nothing of real importance, and yet she felt an overwhelming sense that she was making progress with him.  Progress towards what?

‘Hey buddies!’ Daniel interrupted.  “Geddit? … BUDDYs!’

Flic raised an eyebrow at his lame diving joke, not sure whether she was glad for the intrusion.  She shook herself, trying to reconcile the thoughts and feelings, which had begun to race around her stagnant heart and mind all of a sudden.  She was still such a mess of emotion.  She knew it.  One minute she felt empty, void of all feeling, as if Amelia’s death and Ally’s departure had exhausted all her possible stores.  And the next she was lusting over not one, but two guys.  She was clearly just desperate to feel wanted again.

Daniel launched into a conversation with Toby about cars, to which she was clearly meant to be playing the role of audience.  Flic tuned out and simply observed the boys, realising, as she looked from one to the other, that no matter how messed up her emotions were, it was nice to not be comparing someone to Ally!

Toby was undoubtedly attractive.  Something about his shaggy brown hair and relaxed gait felt so familiar, but perhaps she was just confusing familiarity with approachability. His good looks were rawer than Daniel’s.  He was rugged rather than chiselled, his masculinity in his rough hands and carefree stubble. In total contrast to Daniel’s cool grey eyes, Toby’s eyes were so frenzied and warm they could have been dancing, deep chocolate brown infused with a lively orange-red that had an energy of its own.

Staring at Toby, Flic tried to picture what his younger brother Max might look like.  She wondered if they were really as similar as Toby made out.  Was Max’s resentment linked to his older brother’s good looks and easy nature?

It wasn’t the only time that first day that Flic’s thoughts strayed to Toby’s absent brother.  Shortly after Daniel interrupted her conversation with Toby, Jake joined them.  His approach couldn’t have contrasted any more starkly with Daniel’s confident introduction.  Jake held himself awkwardly, like an animal ready to bolt at any time, and his face strained nervously as if he were forcing himself to socialise.

Standing beside Daniel and Toby, Jake looked no more than twelve, though Flic remembered the twins saying they were twenty.  The most interesting part of their interaction was the way Toby put Jake so clearly at ease.  She wondered how Max could have fled from such an agreeable older brother.

For some reason, it really bothered Flic that Max wasn’t there.  Maybe it was that she’d never enjoyed the companionship of a sibling, and was angered that Max had abandoned his brother so easily … Or perhaps that he’d defied his father’s intentions?  Flic couldn’t imagine ever going against Amelia’s wishes, no matter how out of place she felt on the trip.  Whatever her reasons for feeling it, Max was missing, and no matter how happy she was to be joined by Daniel on the tour, a weird sense of incompletion hung in the air.

The launch pulled up alongside a large live-aboard ship, and Damo assigned their cabins.  Mark with Jules, Isabella with Anthony, Daniel with Toby, Jake with Luke, and Flic with Camilla.

Flic grabbed her day-sack, and stared quizzically at the suitcase Camilla was attempting to carry onto the live-aboard.  Or rather, the suitcase she clearly hoped someone else would carry for her!  Flic sighed.  She had a distinct feeling she wasn’t going to get on with Camilla.  And it didn’t help that Camilla was basically a perfect version of Flic!  Her brown hair was longer and straighter, her waist smaller, and her smile wider.  The list of comparatives was endless.

As if those differences weren’t enough, the fact that Daniel hung off Camilla’s every word, didn’t help endear her to Flic.  It wasn’t that she was jealous!  She wasn’t even sure what she wanted to happen with Daniel…  It was just that she at least saw him as an option, and she didn’t like prissy spoilt brats limiting those options before she’d even had a chance to think about them! God, she sounded jealous!  She frowned to herself.  Whatever the reasons for her annoyance, she needed to get over them, and quickly! Because, for at least the next four nights, that prissy spoilt brat was going to be her prissy spoilt roommate!

Flic watched Camilla struggle for a few moments, and then resigned herself to faking a smile and helping with the suitcase. Just as she went to help, an everyday knight in shining armour appeared.  Flic watched on jealously as Daniel helped Camilla, and felt familiar insecurities surfacing.  How could she have seriously believed someone like Daniel would have any interest in her?  Her mind rushed back to the twenty-four hours they’d spent together travelling to Cairns. Had she misinterpreted everything? Had she just been making a fool of herself?  Her cheeks burnt as she remembered curling up in his lap in Bangkok airport.  She cringed, charred by the memories of her ridiculous attempts to flirt whilst wearing clothes that she wouldn’t even normally have worn to the gym.  What had she been thinking?

She’d been lucky to have a guy like Ally so much as look at her, let alone waste three years of his life with her!  After monopolising so much of his perfect life, how could she ever expect to find someone again?  Flukes like that don’t happen everyday!

‘And here I was thinking the first challenge was scuba diving, not carrying your own luggage!’  Flic whipped around to find Jules at her shoulder, her eyes gleaming with sarcasm as she watched Camilla handing over her luggage to Daniel. Flic remembered why she’d liked this girl immediately!

‘I think my challenge is gonna be the living arrangements for the next five days’, Flic muttered under her breath.

‘Yeah I heard about that.  I don’t envy you! I was suddenly very glad to be travelling with Mark!’

Jules checked over her shoulder suddenly. ‘Can I ask you something?’ she asked quietly  ‘Is it true you met Daniel on the plane over?’

Flic flushed various shades of red, wondering exactly what Daniel had told the others after she’d left the pub the night before.

Jules didn’t seem to notice her embarrassment.  ‘What a hottie! Why do I never get to sit next to anyone that fit on a flight?! … Apart from Mark, obviously’ she winked as an afterthought.  ‘So … what’s happening?!’ she pressed.

Flic just shrugged in response, but Jules was unrelenting.

‘Ok, ok, nothing, well, almost nothing happened … nothing can happen!’ she finally resolved,  ‘It’s too soon …’

Jules raised her eyebrows, a silent request for the rest of the story.

‘We need to go to our rooms!’ Flic said, nodding over to the live-aboard where Damo was waiting impatiently.

‘Ok, ok, but I expect to hear the full story soon! Very soon! And I warn you, I have a very good memory!’

Flic smiled in reply, surprised that the idea of chatting about it was actually almost appealing.

They barely had time to unpack before class began.  Those who hadn’t dived before would have two full days of theory and practice before they were allowed into the open water. Meanwhile, Dan, Toby and Flic met up on the deck to discuss their adventure dive options, and kit up for a refresher dive.

Flic grinned as the boys pulled on stinger suits, a necessity during jellyfish season.  They looked like the heroes of a space-age science-fiction movie! She took in every muscle that the blue lycra clung to, and grinned to herself until she realised how unflattering the suit was going to be on her less-than-perfect figure. Feeling suddenly self-conscious, she hurriedly clipped on her BCD, a large inflatable jacket, hoping it would cover some of her flaws.

‘Ready guys?’ their instructor Dillon asked. ‘Flic and Daniel, you two buddy up.  Toby, I’ll go with you.  Now, does everyone remember the signs?’   He ran through the various underwater dive signs, reminded them how to equalise, and ran through emergency procedures.  ‘So, if you lose your buddy, what do you need to do?’ he asked.

Daniel smiled confidently, ‘Swim around for a minute, and then if you still can’t find him, do a safety stop, and find each other on the surface.’

‘Perfect!’ grinned the dive instructor.  ‘Let’s go check out the reef!’

After a few tentative breaths through the regulator, Flic was confident enough to step over the edge of the boat and into the warm water.  As she and Daniel submerged together, her excited breathing gradually slowed, and she took in her surroundings, awed by the clarity of the water.  The reach of the bright sunshine seemed endless, though the deeper she got, the more bleached the colours became. Beneath them coral of all shapes and colours carpeted the seabed, a whole new world.  Bright yellow boulders of coral were nestled between rubbery green and blue showerheads.  Delicate deer antlers crept out from shaggy purple wigs swaying in the current. Creatures of all different sizes flitted around the colourful adventure playground beneath her.  Cleaning fish played tag with their hosts, clown fish played hide and seek in the anemones, and nudibranchs played colourful games of musical statues.  If she hadn’t been concentrating so much on her breathing then the beauty of it all would have left her breathless.

And then there was her buddy.  The light had changed his olive skin, draining the tanned colour from his chiselled features so that he seemed carved from silver, or maybe stone.  A living, breathing statue!  What was that Greek god of the sea called? Neptune? Poseidon? Though Daniel’s movements could hardly be deemed divine!  He seemed almost too heavy for the water.  However, his lack of agility didn’t seem to faze him. He was almost accustomed to it, strange for someone so definite in his moves on the surface.

Flic turned her head to watch Toby, who was hovering above an anemone a few metres away from her, transfixed by a family of clown fish. He knew what he was doing, but appeared unbelievably awkward.  It was almost as if the water burnt him, he moved so gingerly.  And yet, surrounded by the warm water, Flic found nothing but ease.  Air burbled around her ears, a hypnotic rhythm.  She twisted onto her back, water rushing through her hair and whipping it like dark flames around her face.  Playfully she blew through the regulator, watching bubbles of her breath rise up towards the chilled sun.

Daniel tugged at her fin, his arm across his chest, his fist clenched. ‘I’m low on air, 50 bar.’  Flic caught Dillon and Toby’s attention, and then together they swam to the shallower water, resting at five metres beneath the boat for the requisite three minutes.  Safety stop complete, they surfaced, inflating their BCDs around their chests.  Flic pulled the mask from her face, beaming at her companions.  Their faces showed only relief, though weirdly Daniel’s skin had yet to return to its olive complexion.  She had assumed the silver grey tone was a trick of the light.  Toby still looked uncomfortable, obviously one refresher dive wasn’t enough to restore his confidence.  There was a lot to take in, and over the next few days they’d be diving in darkness, swimming through the narrow corridors of a wreck, and diving down to thirty metres below sea level – maybe Flic was the one wearing the wrong facial expression! But, even considering the challenges she would soon be facing, all she could do was grin.  For the first time in months, she truly felt truly herself, and she was buzzing!

Flic swam over to the boat, gracefully slipping off her weight belt and passing it up to the deckhand with the rest of her gear. ‘Would you mind if I hang onto this for a sec?’ she asked, motioning to her mask.  She pulled herself lithely from the water, and then, no longer caring how she looked in the unflattering lycra, dived straight back into the water, right over the heads of the two waiting boys.  Grinning, she pulled herself through the water, feeling more awake with every stroke.  She took a deep breath and dived down again, driving herself deeper and deeper into the turquoise ocean.  She didn’t know what she was aiming for until she reached it, and then suddenly it was as if everything made sense.  Calm and satisfaction flooded through her as she watched the turtle flap casually around her, his slow precise movements silently stating his age and knowledge. Flic hovered timelessly at his side, calmed by his ancient grace.  Eventually the air in her lungs burned, urging her upwards. She spun silently; turning on an invisible axis, and with three strong kicks was back at the surface.  The boys stared down curiously at her from the deck, yet she chose not to explain what she’d been up to.  Something about that moment had been too private, only meant for her.

As she climbed up the ladder and back onto the boat, she eyed the boys curiously.  They no longer looked like untouchable superheroes.  In fact, they actually reminded her of a circus act!  The comparison was far from comical.  All of a sudden, they just looked disconcertingly vulnerable.

Back in her room, Flic unzipped her make-up bag for the first time in weeks, realising the significance of what she was doing.

When Ally had first broken up with her, everything had burned.  It was as if there was permanently bile in her throat, preventing her from thinking about anything beyond her pain.  Like her spurned heart had spontaneously combusted within her chest the minute he had removed his love. She had barely functioned, still reeling from the loss of Amelia. Ally was meant to be her rock; and then he too had been washed away.

And yet, suddenly, two months on, it was as if something had changed.  It was more than her eyes that were suddenly registering the objects of beauty around her.  For the first time in weeks it was as if her heart was actually beating again.  Perhaps duller than it once had, shrouded in the scar tissue of heartbreak, but definitely beating.  Blood rushed to her cheeks, a healthy glow to compliment the bronzer she now swept over them.  But it wasn’t just lust that was thawing her heart, it was comfort.  For the first time in weeks, she felt happy.  Here on the water, in this arid desert of a country, as far away from Britain as she could get, she felt at home.

She heard voices in the corridor outside her cabin.  The others had finished their day of theory lessons, which meant it would soon be time for dinner with her new ‘family’. Camilla swept into the room, a haze of perfume and silk, and not wanting anything to spoil her unexpectedly buoyant mood, Flic dashed out through the cabin door before it had even closed.

The cold of the night shocked her, and she touched the back of her hand to her cheek, wondering why she was so warm.  She felt almost feverish, burning with this unfamiliar sense of purpose and hope.  She shivered, maybe she was just getting overemotional, or coming down with something.  She was yet to sleep through an entire Australian night, waking at frequent intervals, overheated and with a sense that her dreams had jolted her awake, but unable to remember anything about them.  She assumed this was jet-lag, but whatever it was, she didn’t feel quite right.  She hugged her arms around herself.

‘Cold?’ came a musical voice behind her.

‘I thought Australia was meant to be hot!’ she smiled, turning to face Daniel, his dark hair still wet from a shower.

‘Here’, he shrugged off the navy sweatshirt he was wearing. ‘Wear this, I’m not really that cold anyway.’

Flic smiled in thanks, and engulfed herself in the huge jumper, breathing in the metallic fragrance of Daniel’s aftershave.

‘So, someone played down their dive experience this morning!’ Daniel exclaimed, his dark brows raised in amusement.

‘What do you mean?’

‘There’s no way you’ve only done four dives before! You were like a fish! Well, a fish carrying an aluminium tank!’

‘I dunno, I just felt so comfortable!  I can’t get over how warm the water was!  But I don’t think I was any better than you or Toby.  Maybe it’s just because I’m smaller, it probably helps with the buoyancy.’  She shrugged awkwardly.

Daniel grinned, ‘Accept the compliment Felicity-Flic!  Whatever you say, I felt like I was holding you back this afternoon, and I reckon Toby’s a lot closer to my ability. Tomorrow you should buddy up with Dillon. That way when we come to do the wreck and stuff you can really enjoy it.’

Despite the light tone of his voice, Flic could sense he was unmoving on the subject.  Perhaps she ought to just be flattered and accept.

The discussion was put to an end by the call to dinner.  As the others arrived, Flic noticed how stressed and tired they all seemed, and Jules shot Flic a look to suggest she had some stories to tell.  While the thought of adventure diving really excited Flic, she couldn’t help feeling sad that she wasn’t spending her first few days with the rest of the group.  A glance at Camilla, however, suggested that she wasn’t the only one who felt she was missing out on company.  The tanned Australian was staring longingly over at Daniel.  Flic wondered how Camilla was dealing with the fact that Flic was not only spending the next three days with the two most eligible guys on the trip, but also blatantly wearing Daniel’s jumper!

Flic snuggled smugly into the brushed cotton.  Out of the corner of her eye she caught a weird look from Toby that left her cold.  He looked … in pain?  Hurriedly, she pulled the hood of the jumper up around her face, and busied herself scooping strands of wayward spaghetti onto her plate.

© C-C Lester 2009


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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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