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I’m back … with a very different project!

Hello lovely blog readers,

Apologies for the silence of late … but I am writing, promise!

Have a bit of a side-project going on at the moment, which I thought some of you might be interested in reading.

In just under three months time I turn 30, and in order to make the most of my final few months being single in my twenties, I’ve set myself (and my friends) a challenge.

I have to go on 30 Blind Dates before I turn 30.

Am two week’s into the challenge and currently up to Date Number 4.  The majority of the dates are recommended by friends of friends, or in some cases friends of friends of friends …

Some are good, some are appalling …

There’s a bit more to the story of why I’ve decided to do this challenge, but I wont reveal anything just yet, because I’ve been blogging about it all at 30 Dates By 30.

Just thought I’d let you all know in case it’s a blog you might fancy reading.  So far the reviews have been pretty good – I think everyone is appreciating my brutal honesty!

But take a look, and let me know what you think!

30blinddates.wordpress.com

Cheers

C-C xxx

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Flicker Chapter One (Rebooted 2013!)

Prologue

Flash Forward

January 2014

 

Jets of steam shoot into the air, and the open wounds in the landscape belch thick black mud.  Around me the island hisses and fizzes, a volatile volcanic wasteland. The old man flicks his wrist and a wall of flames appears high above the acid-filled lake. And all of a sudden my fear is eclipsed by the overwhelming sensation that not just the last eight weeks, but also the nineteen years leading up to those eight weeks, might finally begin to make sense.

 

Chapter One

Fugitive

December 2013

 

If I’m honest, I’m not sure how long I stood beneath the departure board at Heathrow, silently debating my next move.  All around me the airport seemed to move like it was on acid.  A frenzied blur of excitement.  Families, businessmen, tour groups and air crew, ebbing and flowing in waves.  And there I stood at the epicentre.  The fragile redhead teenager struggling beneath the weight of her own backpack.

 

For all they knew, with the endless list of destinations above my head, and all my worldly possessions on my shoulders, the world was my oyster  – a life barely begun.  Little did they realise I was here because my world had already ended.  Imploded on itself until nothing I knew or loved remained.

 

My name is Felicity Firestone, and I am an orphan.

 

The introduction rattled around my brain, the way it had for the past three months.  As if that was a socially-acceptable thing to say out loud!  And yet somehow saying it …. even to myself … made it feel just that little bit more real.

 

It’s odd when I think about it.  I lived perfectly happily without my Dad for all those years.  And yet losing Amelia was quite literally like losing my own identity.  She had been my everything.  My entire family.  And in a few short months she had just dissolved.  Becoming a weaker and weaker version of my mother every day.

 

She was the reason I was there.  The ticket clutched apprehensively in my hand was one she had bought.  The itinerary for my trip compiled in secret from her hospital bed.  She had planned it all.  But this next bit was down to me.  No one else could board the flight in my place.

 

A flight to Australia is every gap year student’s dream.  And yet I didn’t want to go to Australia.  I wanted to go home.  Not that home existed any more. The house I grew up in was still there of course, but it no longer belonged to me.  And even if I’d decided not to sell it, all it would have been was an empty shell.  One more thing in Bath to remind me of everything I’d lost.

 

I remember looking around the airport hopefully.  And then chiding myself the moment my eyes left the departure board.   Ally wasn’t going to come.  No matter how much I wanted him to.  He’d had three months to return to my side, and he hadn’t.  Today was no different to all those other days.  I was on my own now, and I needed to get used to it.

 

 

An unruly tear escaped my eye and I brushed it aside angrily, gritting my teeth and taking a determined step in the direction of the check-in desk.

 

This wasn’t how it was all meant to begin.  My Gap Year.  My adventure.  This was my fresh start – my opportunity to make a new life for myself, away from all the things I had so suddenly lost.

 

I was still lost in my memories as I swung the heavy backpack from my shoulders.  Not yet used to its weight, I rocked forwards and slammed the bag into the back of the man in front of me.

 

‘I am so sorry ….’ I mumbled, my voice disappearing into my throat.  The man just shrugged, though as he turned towards me, he caught my eye, his gaze lingering ever so slightly.  Embarrassed heat flushed through me and I stared down at my hands, not used to the attention.

 

Carefully I inched my gaze back up at the man.  He was classically good-looking, his jaw chiselled and hair jet-black.  His skin was the colour of milky coffee, almost white but with a perplexing darkness to it.  He towered over me, his thin t-shirt and jeans leaving little to the imagination.  Every inch of his body was solid muscle.  But what surprised me most was the fact that I had noticed it!

 

 

For three long years I had only had eyes for Ally.  I’d never had to look elsewhere with him at my side.  But he wasn’t beside me anymore, so maybe it was time to remove the blinkers.  Times had changed.  And I needed to change along with them.

 

For a brief moment I toyed with the idea of trying to start a conversation – Carpe Diem and all that jazz!  I was meant to be a new me, after all ….  But then the queue moved forwards, and the guy turned back around.

 

One step at a time.

Just being here was a big deal, I reminded myself.

I’d come a long way in three months.

I’d arranged the funeral, sorted probate, sold the house …

One step at a time.

 

Being a teenage girl again could wait.  For now I just need to focus on becoming a normal functioning human again.

 

*                                  *                                  *

 

The airport was a nightmare.  At every turn it was like I was being tested.  As if getting to the check-in desk hadn’t been my goal, but simply the first hurdle.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the airport security barriers, I’d have tried to leave at least twice before boarding the plane.  I’d queued like cattle for the security scanners, and then the departure gate had changed three times, each one located at a different end of the airport.

 

By the time I arrived in the right place, I was out of breath, sweating from every pore, and near ready to collapse.

 

I frowned awkwardly at the enthusiastic air-hostess as she directed me towards my seat.  It was eleven hours to Bangkok, and then another nine to Sydney.  I was exhausted just from running the gauntlet of the airport.  I wanted to find my seat, claim my blanket and sleep mask, and shut out the rest of the world for the entire flight.

 

Finding my seat, I unwrapped Ally’s water-polo hoodie despondently from my waist.  It was the only item of his clothing I hadn’t yet been able to part with.  To be honest I’d probably worn it more times than he ever had.  Though it only every used to be something that I would sleep in, as opposed to wearing in public.  But then since Amelia’s death all considerations of public and private had gone out the window.  I was the orphan girl.  My grief had become public property.  And with it, I had forgotten all previous distinctions.

 

I shoved the hoodie into the overhead locker.  I was exhausted and angry.  Angry with myself for losing so much of me along with Mum.  Angry at Ally for deserting me when I clearly needed him most.  Angry at Amelia for dying … and then immediately angry at myself for even thinking of blaming her.

 

I slammed the locker shut with unnecessary force, and sank down into my seat.

 

‘Wow!  What did it ever do to you?’ came a deep voice beside me.

I turned, confused.  ‘I’m sorry … what?’ I stopped short as I realised who was talking to me.  Sitting in the seat beside me was the same guy I had knocked with my rucksack in the check-in queue.  The plane seat sagged beneath me, and my entire body prickled with an uncomfortable heat.

 

‘The locker!’ he gestured casually towards it, not seeming to notice my awkwardness.  ‘Hey …’ he smiled, a flicker of recognition in his eye.   You were behind me at the check-in counter.’  He grinned, an easy grin, which revealed teeth so perfect they could only have been achieved with the help of serious metalwork.  ‘Bad day?’ he asked simply, raising an eyebrow.

 

I grinned to myself.  Ironically today was probably the best day I’d had in weeks.  I looked sideways at him, carefully noting the absence of any girlfriend.  Instead, beside him a grumpy-looking man was fiddling with his seatbelt.  I focussed my attention back to the hot guy and gritted my teeth nervously.

 

Coarse Afro-Caribbean curls framed cool grey-blue eyes that had a definite sparkle.  His muscular jaw was speckled with dark stubble, cropped to a designer length.  His clothes were casual, yet perfectly selected.

 

I tried to still my excitement, reminding myself that whilst the man might be the picture of relaxed confidence, my current appearance verged on midlife-crisis chic.  He was just being polite, nothing more.

 

I nodded politely and leaned forwards, leafing through the contents of the seat-back pocket.  I pretended to busy myself with the in-flight movie schedule, instead trying to still my disproportionate excitement.

 

Flic, he is just being polite.

 

‘I’m Daniel,’ the man continued, ignoring my attempts at silence, and extending a firm hand over my magazine.  A proper introduction.  His voice was a neat mix of South African and English boarding school.

I flinched, startled.  ‘Felicity … Flic.’  I stumbled, awkwardly grasping his fingers.

 

My unease seemed to amuse him.

‘So, ‘Felicity-Flic’, what takes you to Australia?’

I lowered my eyes, worried they might betray my excitement.  He wasn’t simply being polite.  He was initiating conversation.  Slowing my breathing, I tried to focus on what he was asking.  I opted for the simplest answer.  ‘I’m on my Gap Year.  I’m booked onto a two-month adventure tour, starting in Cairns.’

 

‘An adventure tour?’ his eyes sparkled with interest.  At least I hoped it was interest and he wasn’t just humouring me.  Something about him put me ever so slightly on guard.  Like I was the butt of some unknown joke … or was that just a facet of my own insecurities?  Did everyone act like this on long-haul flights?

 

‘An adventure tour?’ he repeated when I didn’t immediately respond, showing a genuine interest in my words.  ‘Sounds like you’re something of an adrenaline junkie!’  I decided to trust his apparent sincerity.

‘Hmm, maybe …’ I replied non-commitally.  ‘Though I’m into endurance sports too.’  I added as an after-thought, surprising myself.  I was flirting!  I never flirted!  I’d been so young when Ally and I had first got together, I don’t think I’d ever even had to flirt before.  We’d been school friends, and the friendship had just taken what had felt like its natural course.

 

I waited nervously for Daniel to reply, wondering if my answer had been too cheesy.

 

His eyes flashed appreciatively down to my t-shirt.  ‘Yeah, I can see that … the London Marathon … wow!’

I shrugged off the praise.  ‘It’s not really that hard.’  I ignored the part about me running the marathon because my ex-boyfriend had wanted to.  ‘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,’ Daniel countered smoothly.

 

I didn’t know how to take him.  He was just so self-assured.

Ally had always been confident.  But Daniel practically smouldered charm.  It was definitely disconcerting, though perhaps being out of my comfort zone was just what I needed?

 

 

‘So Daniel,’ I grinned, feigning confidence and stumbling at what could potentially be flirtation, ‘What’s your sport of choice …?  Or am I allowed to try to guess?’ I added cheekily, realising the question allowed me to glance quickly over his body.

 

It was impossible not to compare his body to Ally’s – the only male frame I’d ever known intimately.  Both men were muscular, but Ally had been a rower and a swimmer, his musculature streamlined and lean.  Daniel’s frame was bulkier. Whilst he was just as tall as Ally, he seemed shorter because his body was so broad.  Every inch of him rippled with muscle.  He was huge, and yet there wasn’t an element of fat on him.

 

‘Go on …’ he nodded, encouragingly.  A playful smile decorating his picture-perfect features.

‘Rugby?’ I shrugged, going for the obvious option.

Daniel shook his head.  ‘I don’t really do team sports.’ He grinned, unashamedly.

I lowered my gaze.  Thick muscles strained at the denim of Daniel’s jeans.

‘Hmm … horse-riding?’ I tried again, regretting the words as soon as they escaped my lips.  Horse-riding?!  He was a twenty-year old man, not an eight-year old girl.  I groaned inwardly at myself.  Maybe it was a good thing I had never needed to flirt – I was appalling!

 

Daniel simply raised a confident eyebrow.

‘Um, sorry, I meant polo!’ I corrected quickly, wincing slightly as I waited for his response.

 

He smiled.  ‘I guess you could draw some similarities … I ride bikes.’

I stared sideways at him, narrowing my eyes.  ‘There’s no way you’re a cyclist!  Sorry, but you’re way too stacked!’ I blurted, a hot blush colouring my cheeks as I realised what I’d just said.

 

‘Why thank you!’ he laughed, running a steel tongue-bar I hadn’t yet noticed 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!’

 

I stared awkwardly down at the in-flight magazine, not really knowing how to respond.  I was still embarrassed about the horse-riding comment and the conversation had backed me into a corner with a subject of which I knew absolutely nothing about.  My vague bloom of confidence was disappearing almost as quickly as it had appeared.  One step at a time.

 

Daniel filled the silence.  ‘So, Felicity-Flic, how about you tell me about this adventure tour?’

 

I relaxed a little, 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 February.’

 

When Daniel didn’t interrupt, I carried on, 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 I’d felt like the responsible adult, consoling each of Mum’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!’ I smiled, distracted for a second.

 

‘Have you been to Australia before?’ Daniel asked, intrigued.

 

I shook my head.  ‘We could never really afford it … it’s such a long way.  I guess she wanted me to be old enough to appreciate it.’

Daniel smiled empathically.  ‘It’s a shame she’s not travelling with you?

I nodded slowly in agreement.  ‘Yeah … I always thought she’d be with me the first time I headed out there.’ I frowned, and changed the subject back to his original question.  ‘Anyway, I guess the tour will be pretty basic.  No ‘flash-packing’ for me, that’s for sure!’

 

‘Flash-packing?’ he chuckled.  ‘I haven’t heard that before!’

‘Your mum sounds pretty special!’ he added kindly.

 

I nodded slowly.  ‘Yeah she is … was, I mean…’ I stumbled, still not used to the past tense.  It was pointless tip-toeing around reality.  I took a deep breath.  The more often I 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 I found hard to read.  Maybe it was just awkwardness, a reaction I’d created an awful lot recently.  ‘I’m really sorry,’ he said quietly.  I frowned to myself.  Why did everyone do that? Apologise?  It wasn’t his fault.  No one was to blame.  That was the problem.

 

‘Sorry,’ Daniel said again, and I turned my attention back to him.  ‘It was a stupid thing to say.  I’m sure you’re already fed up with people apologising for no reason.’  It was his turn to stumble over his words.  I stared at him in disbelief, and shook my head, wondering if I had heard him right.  ‘How did you ….’

 

He smiled sombrely, 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 that she’s gone.  It’s not their fault – they didn’t even know her!  It’s not their fault …’ His voice faltered and I frowned again, not certain I understood the full meaning of what he was saying.  I waited to see if he would continue.

 

Finally he spoke, his tone changed.  ‘So, how’s your Dad holding up?’

I 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.  She had me so young, and treated me like a little sister most of the time …’  I drifted off into my own memories before realising I was still in a conversation.  ‘How about you, are you close with your Dad?’ I asked politely, assuming that was the response he was expecting.

 

The question didn’t produce the reaction I had hoped.  In fact, he just seemed even less at ease.  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 at the iPod in his hand, idly spinning his index finger around the dial.

 

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

 

Daniel’s hand was so cold it was as if my body heat drained straight into it.  I snatched my hand back, motivated by the shock, and by the embarrassment of my actions.  He hadn’t even said anything poignant.  I 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.  I focussed upon the attractive man in front of me, and reminded myself just how out of my league he was.

 

But Daniel looked back at me 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 my hand back down on top of his, placing his other hand over it.  He stared down into my eyes.

‘Thank you,’ he almost whispered.  His grey eyes moved like mercury – a rainbow of colours, and yet up close they were all shades of silver.  ‘You know, I think you may have just 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.

 

*                                  *                                  *

I have never known a flight to go by so quickly.  Daniel and I talked about everything and nothing.  He told me about his childhood in South Africa, his father’s mining company, and boarding school in England.  He explained how he was meant to be going into his third year studying engineering at Oxford University, but that his father had insisted he take a year’s sabbatical to travel and work in Australia.  In turn I told him about Amelia, the little I knew of my Australian background, and my childhood in Bath.

 

I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help comparing him to Ally.  Everything thing he mentioned drew a comparison for better or for worse.  The two men were equally intelligent.  Ally was about to finish his first term at Cambridge.  But that was where the similarities ended.  Ally was arty, his way was with words.  He was studying Law.  He had this innate ability to make any viewpoint sound convincing, often painting a scene so lyrically from his own perspective that by the end of the debate I couldn’t even remember my own point of view!  By contrast, Daniel seemed mechanical.  He was logical, his intelligence not in his eloquence, but in his thought processes.  Daniel’s language was simple and unemotional.  Functional … about everything other than his parents.  Every time conversation steered towards them, he would neatly deflect it elsewhere.

 

To be honest, it was refreshing.  I had always found it difficult to rival Ally’s ideas.  Whilst I always liked to think I could be persuasive when I wanted to be, I also had a tendency to be emotional, and with it irrational.  My passion is a quality that I have always treasured.   Some of my most successful ideas have come from the less rational side of my brain.  In fact, originally I’d wanted to study English at university – the perfect combination of logic and passion.  But ironically Ally had managed to persuade me otherwise, insisting I study Law alongside him.  Same University, same College, same course.  As if Mum’s secret itinerary hadn’t been a big enough incentive to take an impromptu Gap Year to the other side of the world!

 

Daniel was so different … so accepting.  It didn’t faze hi at all when my opinions differed from his, in fact he seemed actively interested in the differences, as opposed to being determined to make me see things from his point of view.

 

When the plane touched down in Bangkok, I expected that to be the end of the pleasantries.  We had a four-hour layover in the airport, and it was the perfect opportunity to go our separate ways.  And yet Daniel stayed glued to my side.  He found a bench for us both, and knowing I hadn’t slept all night, casually offered me his knees as a pillow.

 

I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation, or the surprising intimacy of our lengthy conversation, or just his incredible hotness, but I found myself forgetting my normal insecurities for a second, and accepting his offer.

 

It was only as my head connected with the denim of his jeans that I realised what I was doing.  Who was I? This wasn’t something I did! Daniel was practically a complete stranger! He was just being polite! Oh God, what was I doing?!  The first bit of social interaction I’d had in weeks and I’d misjudged the boundaries and gone too far.  I knew I ought to pull away, but it was too late.  I’d committed now, and moving away so suddenly would only make the situation even more awkward! Daniel draped an arm comfortably around my shoulders, clearly not sharing my discomfort.  His attention focussed on the Blackberry in his other hand, he seemed to barely notice the contact.  But I took comfort from it.  And comfort frim how casual he was about it all.  As if he wasn’t expecting anything from me.

 

The unexpected contact was nice.  It was what I needed.  It had been so long since I had had any form of human contact.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a hug.  A real hug.  Not just the empty, lost embraces of the mourners at Amelia’s funeral.  No, this was what I needed.

 

Even if I’d only known him a day, I trusted him.  And that was all that mattered for now.  Reassured, I allowed all my weight to settle on Daniel’s knee, and succumbed to sleep.

 

The cold metal vice tightened around my waist.  Pincers, sinking deeper and deeper into my skin.  And yet I was numb to the pain.  I felt nothing.  I could only watch on, as the sharp metal fingers sank deeper and deeper. 

I felt nothing.  There was no emotion.  I had been so impassive to the pain of the metal around and inside me.  And then the fire began.  I felt it ignite deep within me, in the space where nothing had been before.

It engulfed me in a matter of minutes.  Pumping through my veins like acid.  The flames grew fiercer and fiercer, burning through my flesh from inside to out. 

And that was when I finally felt the steel.  The pincers conducted the heat, needles of pain digging into me at every angle.

 

But the pain was only momentary.  As soon as the metal conducted the heat, it began to melt, its hold easing almost as soon as I recognised it.  But the temperature only sought to increase, even once the metal had melted.  Soon the metal was gone, but the fireball within me continued to grow.

Raging hotter and hotter, until it exploded.  And then … there was nothing left.

 

I woke with a start, uncomfortable and disoriented.  My throat was dry and scratchy; my skin burning like I had a fever.  Realising where I was, and what I must look like, I bolted to my feet, my hands rushing to my tangled hair and roasting cheeks.  Not for the first time that day, I cursed myself for not even thinking to pack a make-up bag for my trip.  As if I didn’t look bad enough already in my baggy sweats and greying free marathon t-shirt.

 

Daniel leapt up immediately to join me.  Without a word, he reached forward, and calmly tucked a frond of hair from my face.

 

‘Hey, why the panic?’ he asked calmly, placing his palms on my shoulders, and squeezing them reassuringly.  ‘The flight’s not for ages, don’t worry, there’s no need to hurry …’

 

Moved by his concern, I tried to catch hold of my dream for a second, the strangely intense sensation of heat and light, which had stormed through me as I slept.  But all memory of my troubled dreams evaporated as I looked properly up at Daniel.

 

The expression on his face … made me forget everything!  And in that second of ambiguity, Daniel slipped his cool hands carefully around my waist.  His eyes searched mine for a reaction, and without thinking I gave it.

 

I raised my hands up to his face, in an action that seemed to perfectly mirror his gentle hold on me.   And yet as my palm connected with his face, what I felt beneath my skin just felt so foreign.  Ally never let himself grow stubble.  Not that he really had to shave all that often.  Daniel’s face was coarse to the touch.

 

It was weird – I’d been chatting to Daniel all day and all night.  I had slept on his knee, and stared into his eyes, and it had all seemed perfectly fine.  His rock solid body, and jet black hair had been an exciting alternative to Ally, the boy who had been the very definition of my world for the past three years.  And yet this intimate contact, holding Daniel’s face in a way I had only every held one man’s face before … it was as if suddenly the world had jumped into fast-forward … and it was disorienting.  My stomach lurched, and I backed away.

 

He was different.  It wasn’t uncomfortable.  But he was different.  And I wasn’t ready for different.  Today was meant to be about small steps.  And stepping onto that flight had been way beyond a small step in itself.

 

Daniel’s hands were still around my waist, though I had felt the pressure release slightly as I backed away.  I placed my hands gently on top of his hands, my attempt to reassure him that he didn’t need to move them.   I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know what any of this was.  I was too tired to think.  All I could do was tuck myself into the cave of his chest and hope he understood.

 

Daniel responded with a strong tight hug, clamping his solid arms around me in such a way that in that moment I felt untouchable.

 

 

*                                  *                                  *

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Apologies for the slight delay ….

About two days after my last post my laptop exploded!!! But I’ve been writing old school instead and should have a rebooted version of the first chapter of Flicker for you all by the end of the week 🙂 

C-C xxx

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Cutting the Apron Strings

So … after three years, I’ve left my agent.  And I’ll freely admit, it’s a tad scary.

I signed to PFD just months after finishing my first ever novel, and for a fair old while I basked in the glory, after all getting an agent is the hardest part, right?  Not for me, it hasn’t been!

I think the problem I’ve had with being represented, is the whole element of handing over responsibility to someone else.  Now, I’m not a control freak, but I AM a Cambridge grad, and as a Cambridge grad, I’ve worked my backside off for everything I’ve ever achieved, and I’ve done it all by myself.

Each one of my novels has been written with blood, sweat and tears, and so the element of finishing my part of the relay race, and passing it on to someone else has never been something I dealt with well.  And I think the issue with being a debut novelist is that contracts rarely come easy, and so you’re never going to be top priority for a big agency.

My first year with PFD saw a huge merger for the agency, and my first agent Suzy made redundant as a result.  I was then passed on to her lovely, but rather inexperienced, assistant Lucy.  Lucy had been the one who first read Flicker, and the reason I was signed by PFD, and she put herself as fully as possible into marketing my books, but whether it was my inexperience, or hers, it didn’t pay off, and she left the agency earlier this year in pursuit of a different career.

And then I heard nothing from PFD! In fact, if I wasn’t Lucy’s Facebook friend, I would have assumed she still worked at PFD!

And so, a few weeks ago I bit the bullet, and cut the apron strings.  For the past year of literary inactivity, I have answered the question of ‘don’t you write’ with ‘yes, I’m signed to a big agency in London.’  Which I was.  But if I stayed with them, ‘signed’ was all I was ever going to be.

I’m not gonna lie – I am gutted about having to leave.  For a long time I imagined myself growing old with Lucy as my agent for life – a kind of Hank and Charlie from Californication relationship (without the crazy nudity!).  But I guess that wasn’t to be … but that doesn’t have to be the end to everything.

I am an author.  It’s in my blood!  It’s a state of being that fizzes in the back of my mind all day, every day.  Every day I’m dreaming up new characters, appreciating new scenarios, or playing with book ideas.

I may have left writing for a year, but it hasn’t left me.  And I don’t want to look back in fifty years time and say. ‘Yeah I wanted to be a writer once ….’.

Getting signed by an agent wasn’t my aim.  Getting published is.

So it’s time to face my fears, stop resting on my ‘signed author’ laurels, and take control of my own destiny once again.

I have climbed Everest, run marathons, and survived being orphaned.  I can bloody well get published!!!

C-C xxx

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‘There is more in you than you think ….’

It’s been almost exactly a year.  But I am back!

I’ve ditched my agent, and I’m starting afresh!

Let’s see where it leads …. Watch this space 🙂 

C-C xxx

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My First Ever Character Sketch!

Following on from my article a few weeks ago about how you imagine your own characters (Getting into Your Characters), a couple of months ago I was lucky enough to win Elli Writes’ monthly writing competition.  My prize, was a character sketch by the very talented Liz Carlton … and here it is 🙂

I asked Liz to draw Raye, a Korean Dream Navigator, who Ellody, the main character in The Dream Navigator encounters during her adventures in Canada.  Without giving too much away, Raye is brash, rude, sarcastic, and driven by money, but as the book progresses, you begin to see a softer side of him …

Here’s what Liz thinks he looks like 🙂

Thanks so much Liz!!!! He’s amazing!!

C-C xxx

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Real Life’s Heroes and Villains

I have to admit to being pretty black and white where people are concerned.

Treat me nicely, and I’ll be your friend.  But treat me badly and you’ll get none of my time.  There’s a very definite line between the two, and once you cross it, it’s very hard for me to ever see you in a different light.  I’m not saying it’s the best way to behave, I just know it’s how I feel.  Where my friends and my enemies are concerned, goodies are goodies, baddies are baddies … there are no shades of grey!

And yet it seems I give real people shorter shrift than I give my characters!  Because I know why some of my characters are nice, and other characters are nasty.  Whether wittingly or unwittingly, each character comes with his or her own background story.  And those stories are ones I am far more likely to listen to than those of my real life enemies!

Perhaps the reason for that is obvious.  In real life, I’m directly affected by the baddies’ badness, and the goodies’ goodness.  Their reasons and back-stories are irrelevant if I’m personally being treated badly.  Whereas as an author, and a reader, you’re an observer.  Seeing things unfold from ‘above’, and getting a bigger picture.  You’re interested more in the ‘why’ than you would if the ‘what’ directly affects it.

And so my characters are multi-faceted.  It’s realistic.  People aren’t simply good or bad … even if its often easier to see them that way.  People aren’t born with their morals pre-destined, their actions and moral code are for the most part products of nurture.  And when you’re afforded the distance of an observer, you’re more interested in the nurture process.  The back story.

Which is why, in order for me as a writer to be able to understand why Daniel DeSilva might want to sabotage the Fire Clan’s selection process in Flicker or why Raye Park might treat Ellody Rose with such outright contempt in The Dream Navigator I needed to think long and hard about their motivations.  In fact, warped and twisted motives are what fuel almost the entire plot of my adult novel ‘My Ten Future Lives’

Now, maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but most of the motivations in my book end up coming down to love, in some way.  Daniel’s actions spring from grief over his mother’s death, and a lifelong need to prove himself to his father, in order to attain his  love.  Raye’s bristly demeanour is simply because his main concern where Dream Navigating is concerned is money.  And whilst on the face of it, that might not sound too loving, Raye’s concern is really his family, who he sends the money back too.  And every part of My Ten Future Lives is the product of twisted, misunderstood love.  Because people aren’t inherently evil, their worst decisions are often made because of love … whether that love is misdirected, unappreciated, or completely and utterly warped.

I’ve also noticed the baddies in my books tend to have parent issues.  Maybe that’s just because I grew up with such a solid parental base, and felt like me and my sister were brought up with our heads screwed on right …  Maybe it’s because I spent too long as a nanny in Canada, analysing the effects absent parenting was having on the rich kids I looked after! Or maybe it’s because the nastiest ‘characters’ I’ve met in real life were the result of some rather questionable parenting …  For example, whilst at university I was at university, I was treated appallingly by a girl who freely admitted that her mother had ‘done cocaine with her at seventeen’!  Hmmm ….

Anyway, I digress! But what I’m trying to say, is no matter how black and white I view peoples’ actions in real life … I do understand the paths that have led to those consequences, paths which I’ve attributed in different ways, and with differing amounts of pity and empathy, to the ‘baddies’ in my books.

However, last week’s events in England put me in a strange position.  The riots were real life, happening in real time on national news stations, and yet I felt like a viewer.  Like I was watching something fictional.

And so rather than seeing things in black and white terms – good and bad – because I wasn’t personally being affected by the ‘badness’, I found myself approaching the situation as a reader.  As an author …  Sad as it is that I was actually reading a newspaper, not reading a book!

What was motivating these people?  What were their back story?  What could possibly explain the mindless violence, and mob rule which spread senselessly across a nation and left thousands of completely innocent people the victims?

Teachers, journalists, aspiring soldiers and Olympic ambassadors have all been arrested in relation to the riots … and frankly, it just doesn’t make any sense!  What possible back-story could even begin to validate what they did?  What possibly act of ‘love’ or lack of love, or poor parenting results in someone thinking it’s openly OK to torch people’s houses, kick in random cars, loot stores, mug injured people, break into charity shops and steal charity tins?  How do you justify that with a back-story?  How do you even begin to understand why someone thinks it’s ‘OK’ because other people are getting away with it?

I don’t think you can …

Ok so there were people involved who might have been homeless or starving (though if there were, I’ve heard little of their situations) but for the most part it just seemed like one big act of greed and thuggery.

Which brings me back to a world of black and white.  NOT races, just to make that clear.  But a world with no shades of grey.  A world where people are just good or bad!  A world where someone gets away with doing something inherently awful, and it’s so well-publicised, that it seems to flick some kind of switch inside random members of the community … a Bad Switch, which only Bad people have inside them … and then suddenly the world goes crazy!!!

I know that’s not real.  That people don’t have Bad Switches, and that shades of grey DO exist … but if that’s really the case, then how the hell do you justify the riots that hit my country last week!

As an author, I like to think I understand people.  That I write well because I know people and understand how they interact.  But maybe that’s not the case!  Maybe I’ve been too generous giving my characters back stories, and maybe I ought just equip my characters with bad switches instead … so that next time my characters are in an emotionally conflicting situation, instead of acting like normal human beings, they simply decide to run through the streets burning down houses and looting shops … Because they can!

C-C xxx

 

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