Category Archives: Writing

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

The Ferry Crossing

I wrote this short story a while back for a competition in Woman&Health magazine.  The only requirements were the length, and that your story was about ‘a secret’. Anyone familiar with my writing will notice the difference – I figured it needed to be pitched at an older readership.

C-C xxx

The Ferry Crossing

by C-C Lester

I blink back the tears as the border guard approaches our vehicle.  Now is not the time to be showing any weakness.

‘Good afternoon madam!  May I see your documents?’

I wonder if he sees my hand shaking as I pass him the pile of passports.  But then everyone gets scared crossing borders don’t they?  That unsubstantiated feeling of wrongdoing, just because someone in authority is questioning you?

Except this time the feeling isn’t unsubstantiated.  I’m doing wrong.  But in doing wrong, I’m also doing what’s right for me.  What’s right for my family.

‘That’s quite a brood!’ The man nods into the car.

On cue Ruby smiles over at him, a gappy-toothed grin out from under her nest of golden curls.  And in that split-second, I know I’ve done it.  I’ve escaped.  Crossing the border and never having to look back.  All that rehearsals were unnecessary.  Worrying how I’d answer questions about the nature of our trip, or where my husband is.  But I had underestimated the children.  My natural camouflage.  My three little Sirens.  So perfectly beautiful that the moment anyone sees them, they all but forget that I exist.

That was the problem in the first place.  SHE saw my children, and my husband, and both SHE and HE forgot that I existed.

The guard waves us cheerfully on, and Ruby and Lily beam at him through the rear-view window.  I have to stop myself applauding their acting skills.  But then I remember they’re not acting.  As far as they’re concerned, this is just another holiday.  One that Daddy will be joining us on as soon as he finishes work.

‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Ruby asks innocently.  I cackle euphorically at the age-old question.  My sharp laughter is so uncharacteristic, that when I check on my girls in the rear-view mirror, they look shell-shocked.  I really need to get a grip.  I wipe a damp palms through the front of my hair, and then follow the parking attendant’s directions around the ferry car park.

Ruby moans my name three more times before I remember to answer her.

‘Sorry Rubes.  I just have to make sure the car is parked up properly.  Um, no we’re not there just yet … because it’s a really big adventure!  See … we get to travel on this huge boat all the way across the sea, and then when we get to the other side we’ll be in a whole new country!  And guess what, in that other country, they don’t use the same words we do, and they drive on the other side of the road!’

‘Woah, cool!’  Ruby’s eyes are wide with excitement.

Lily leans over to her little sister.  ‘It’s called France,’ she adds authoritatively, ‘And they eat frogs and snails there!’

‘Urgh gross!’  My two little cherubs screw up their faces, just in time for Theo to wake up with a wail.

‘See …’ Ruby giggles.  ‘Theo thinks it’s gross too!’

I freeze my face into the smile I know I would normally be wearing at this point, and usher the girls out of the car, Theo bundled up in my arms.

As we cross the deserted car park, I know I’m being overly protective, shielding the girls futily with my body, and insisting the hold tight to one another, but I’ve come too far to lose them now.  My darling babies.  The idea of handing them over to HER turns my stomach.  SHE can’t have them.  SHE already got HIM!

No.  This is the only way to save my family.

I shake my head at no one, aware of how ironic that sounds.  Here I am trying to save a family which HE was so keen to throw away!  Doing everything in HIS power to dissolve the bonds of our precious little clan.

MacAllister.  The name on those passports.  A name, which used to mean so much.  All those years I aspired to be a MacAllister.  Hoping that he might notice me … Dreaming that somehow the university rugby jock would really see little old me.  And somehow he did!  I used to pinch myself over and over, but it was real as day.

Benjamin MacAllister chose me.  HE chose me!  To be HIS wife.  To be the mother of HIS children.

So why did HE choose HER … when HE already had me?

Lily’s noticed the tears in my eyes, so I brush them quickly away with the back of my hand.

‘What’s the matter Mummy?’

I try to shrug, worried my voice will fail me.

‘Aren’t you happy that we’re going on holiday?’ Ruby chimes in.  ‘I thought adventures were exciting?’

I nod silently, desperately trying to squeeze away the tears.  I need to be strong.  For the girls.  For what remains of my perfect family.

Eventually I catch my voice somewhere inside my dry throat.

‘Mummy’s just a little bit sad at the moment.  But it’s fine.  I’ll be happy soon.  You three make me so happy!’ I smile weakly through the tears and clutch my brood to my chest.

‘Are you sad because of Daddy’s secret?’  Ruby asks quietly.

I stare down at my middle child in surprise.  Where on Earth did she get that from?  But there’s no point asking.  I don’t want to know what she knows.  What she heard.

I nod slowly.  ‘Yes Ruby, I’m a little bit sad because of Daddy’s secret.’

Lily stares indignantly at me and her sister.  ‘What’s Daddy’s secret?  I didn’t know Daddy had a secret!’

I usher the kids to a quiet corner of the ferry as I decide how to answer her question.  Eventually I try the simplest response.  ‘It wouldn’t be a secret if you knew what it was!’

Lily looks unconvinced for a second or two, but then shrugs.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  In all my rehearsals of answers, telling my seven year-old daughter how her father has been having an affair with her dance teacher was definitely not one of them.

‘So …’  Lily carries on eventually.  ‘Do you have secrets too Mummy?’

Her question is so innocent.  So natural, given the circumstances.  And yet equally, so wrong.

I take a deep breath, realising that this is the pivotal moment.

The moment when I move from one reality to another. 

‘Of course I do, my darling.  Everyone has secrets.’

My eldest frowns.  ‘But I don’t have any secrets Mummy!  Ruby knows everything about me!’

Ruby nods in agreement.  ‘I know where she keeps her diary, and the secret name she calls Theo when she gets angry at him!’

I wrap my wing around my fledgling chicks.

‘Don’t worry Lily, those are still secrets from me and Daddy.  We don’t know where you keep your diary, or what you call Theo!’

The use of the word ‘we’ sounds hollow.  Foreign.  Wrong.

‘You see my lovelies,’ I talk quickly, so I don’t have to think too deeply about what I’m saying.  ‘Me and Daddy have some secrets from you three … like what you’re getting for your birthday.  And you guys have secrets that we don’t know … remember when you got that secret Father’s Day card for Daddy?’

The girls both nod, smiling at the mention of presents and cards.

‘Can we make a new secret?’  Lily asks quietly, falling into a trap I hadn’t even realised I’d set.  Everything is playing out like the script I tried so many times to pen in my mind.

The perfect performance.

‘Of course darling.  Hey, how about us four have a secret of our own?  You, me, Lily and Theo?’  Theo gurgles his assent.

‘Why don’t we play a big game of Hide and Seek from Daddy?  He can come and try to find us?  Because if we don’t tell him where we’re hiding, then that’s a secret!’

The girls’ eyes sparkle wide, and I know I’ve targeted my pitch at the right audience.

‘So …’ Ruby is processing the logistics.  ‘Daddy is going to come and find us in Fu-rance?’

I nod, my smile wide and painful.  ‘You know what the really cool thing is about Europe?  We can go anywhere!  We could stay in France … or we could go further … Germany, Spain, Sweden …. Africa!’  I giggle, a little hysterically.  ‘The world is our oyster!’

Neither of the girls seem too clued up on what an oyster is, but before I can elaborate, Lily turns to her younger sister and clarifies, ‘The world is our secret.’

I clutch Theo tightly to my chest, and nod my agreement.  The world is our secret.  They are my world.  They are my secrets.

When the boat pulls away from Dover, I take the girls to the onboard pharmacy.

‘Let’s play dress-up!’  I exclaim cheerily, rooting through the boxes of hair dye.  ‘We could change the colour of our hair, just like Mummy does!’  I’ve seen the way the girls peer through the crack in the bathroom door as I touch up my grey roots.  I know it won’t be hard to convince them to ‘play’ with the permanent hair colour.  Lily chooses a box of burgundy red dye, and we troop happily off to the bathrooms.  After all, it’s all part of the game.  If we change our hair colour, it’ll make it harder for Daddy to find us.  Make the Hide and Seek more fun.  Make our secret last that much longer.

I’m surprisingly unemotional as I dye my five and seven year-old daughters’ hair.  Their blonde curls have always been so picture perfect … and yet they were always the indicator that they weren’t completely mine.  That their claim to the coveted MacAllister name was stronger than mine.  They were Ben’s for good.  Bright blond hair and blood a far stronger bond than my cheap wedding band.  My maiden name would always be different.  Once a Petty, always a Petty.  My hair would always be mouse brown underneath.

But now we’re all redheads, the girls’ locks such a vibrant shade of burgundy that I barely recognise my own children.  I debate dying Theo’s hair too, but he barely has any hair to speak of, and I can’t help wondering how safe henna really is.

Ruby is the first to notice the ironic fact.  Only now do my own children look like they belong to me.

‘Mummy, we match!’ she says excitedly, tugging at my wet hair.

‘We’re sharing the same hair!’  she smiles, proud of her use of a big word.

Lily turns to her, and narrows her eyes slightly.  Her serious expression.  ‘We’re sharing the same secret!’

But as she turns to me, she’s grinning.  This is all just a game, after all.

‘Now what Mummy?’

I shake my head, still taken aback by their transformation.  I clutch all three of my children to my chest, my face pressed against Lily’s wet curls.  I only break away when Theo starts to moan and Ruby wriggles free.  ‘I’m hungry!’ she moans.

I shake the cobwebs from my mind, too engrossed in thoughts and memories.  SHE had been dancing through my mind again, unwelcome.  With HER lithe twenty year-old body and brilliant blonde hair.  I will never let HER have them.  She will never be their second mother.  No one needs a second mother.  It’s an exclusive role.  Just like wife.  Ben shouldn’t have needed a second woman … HE just did.  But his children most definitely don’t.

‘I’m doing the right thing!’ I mutter to myself as we search the lower deck of the boat for a snack shop.  Lily runs up ahead, still wrapped up in the adventure.  But Ruby insists on clutching my free hand, occasionally staring at me out of the corner of her eye.  She’s always been too perceptive.  I squeeze her little palm, and pretend to be checking on Theo, so that she doesn’t see the fresh wave of tears threatening my eyes.

The minute chocolate is in sight, my strange behaviour is forgotten.  Ruby chases her sister up and down the aisles, exploiting my absent behaviour by filling a basket high with treats I normally wouldn’t dream of buying.

It’s only when we get to the counter that I register the contents of the shopping basket.  Chocolate coins, Curly Wurly’s, Salt and Vinegar Squares, Marshmallows, Creme eggs and Pepperamis.  I wave the cured meat at my daughters.  ‘Girls, who are these for?  You know none of us like them!’

I should have guessed the answer before I even asked it.

Ruby looks up at me, with HIS eyes.  Brilliant as sapphires, deep as wells.  The same eyes which stole my heart all those years ago.  The eyes, which must have also stolen HER heart.  The eyes which tried to steal my children from me.  My three new hearts.  All as vital to me as the one beating in my chest.

‘It’s for Daddy … for when he finds us!’  She explains excitedly.

I turn away from the eyes, and begin to walk.  The shop assistant is calling after me.  Theo is crying again, wailing up at me from my arms.  And yet I barely register his weight, let alone his cries.  I can vaguely feel the girls tugging at the hem of my skirt.  I know I ought to pay.  I know they want their chocolate.  I know they’re hungry.  When did I last feed them?  When did I last eat?  When did I last sleep?

Questions and demands fill my mind. But all I can do is stare out to sea, glad for the distraction that the view offers.

On this side of the glass panel, it feels like wave after wave swamps the boat, each one swallowing the one before it.  Slowly I count to ten, aware that nothing I’m looking at now was the same as it was ten seconds ago.  A whole new world.  A constantly clean slate.

Just what I need.

I needed a new world.  And I got it.  A world with no Ben.  A world where my girls are redheads.   But that world didn’t need to be France.  In fact … I didn’t even need to leave Manchester.  Because Ben isn’t there any more.  He isn’t here any more.

No, the reason I had to leave Manchester was HER.  Because when SHE finally fully invades my nest, opening up my home with a key I know HE’s given HER …or when the neighbours notice the mail mounting up, and the girls’ teachers start to wonder  why they’re not at school..… the Police will storm our lovely semi-detached home.

And they’ll find HIM.  They’ll find HIM where I left HIM.

In the bath with the bread knife straight through HIS heart.

And then they’ll give them to HER.  They’ll give MY children to HER.  And SHE’ll have taken everything.

MY entire life.

And that’s how Ben’s little secret has become MY little secret.

© C-C Lester, 2011

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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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The Writer, The Entrepreneur

Firstly, apologies to those of you who are regulars to the blog for my absence …  September was a pretty crazy month, culminating in the Budapest Marathon on Sunday, which I’m very proud to say, I finished, in a pretty respectable time of 4 hrs, 28 minutes.  Thanks so much to everybody who sponsored me, all the money went to Cancer Research UK.

 But enough with the excuses! Back to the writing …

On my way back from work today I was listening to Radio 4 … not necessarily something I’d admit too often, but a debate about entrepreneurship caught my attention.  As the guests – including the head of Google UK – discussed how to become a successful entrepreneur, I began to realise how similar life as an aspiring author must be to life as a fledgling entrepreneur.

Suddenly the advice the experts were offering wasn’t just entertaining background noise, but pertinent to my ideal career.  Because as a writer you’re self-employed … a freelancer … a creative thinker … a gambler of sorts.  And the same tips someone selling a new invention or service might benefit to, can also help someone promoting a story.

The first tip the experts agreed on was confidence.  Self-belief.  You need to be a gambler, and one who sees the gain over the risk.  The more positive your approach, the more positive the feedback.  You don’t get something for nothing, so whatever your area of expertise, you need to put in the effort, and not worry about the pitfalls along the way.  Reach for the stars, and try not to worry about all the space in between!!!

Next of all, rather pertinently, the experts talked about using the internet as a cheap and relatively painless way of testing your product.  The analogy they used was setting up a website as opposed to going the whole hog and renting a shop, only to find there wasn’t a market for your product.  In a writing sense, testing the water could be posting excerpts of a story on a blog as opposed to going the whole hog and paying to publish your own book, only to discover the story wasn’t quite right.  Blogs are an awesome way of finding out if something works, or if it doesn’t … And if it doesn’t, they’re a great forum for development and debate!

The entrepreneurs talked about investors … including business angels.  Friends and family willing to invest in your idea before you have the financial weight to approach banks.  Angels don’t just exist in business.  When it comes to writing, friends and family are your first line of support.  The litmus test.  A biased bunch of readers who can ease you into a world of criticism until your writing has enough weight to gather criticism from strangers.

The final piece of advice which stood out in my mind was ‘knowing your product’.  Understanding what works, and fine-tuning it so that it’s the best ‘form’ of your product.  A woman who owned a company which specialised in hotel bathroom supplies talked about recognising her most profitable market, and tailoring her business plan to that market.  How she had changed a company which supplied every kind of hotel into one which specialised in luxury hotels … Likewise, as a writer, it’s key to know your strengths, and understand what genre and readership your writing style best suits.  Identify your writing strengths, and hone them.

Know your product … Know your writing … and SELL it 🙂

I know I’ll definitely be watching the Apprentice more keenly in future 😉

C-C xxx

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Everything’s Coming Together …

Ok, so those of you who regularly read the blog will know that just over four months ago, I gave up life as a traveling nanny-come-first aid instructor – come author, and have returned home to a more socially acceptable 9-5 job!

After two months waiting to start my new job, the past two months of employment have been quite literally mental, working every hour under the sun to try to claw back all the debt I ran up waiting to start the job! As of today, I’ve had just four days off in nine weeks! Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, has taken it’s toll on my writing.

I’ve been knackered! After 12+ hours a day staring at a computer screen, quite frankly the last thing I wanted to do every evening when I got home was to spend another couple of hours typing away.

Add to that the increasing general frustrations of being an ‘almost there’ author – something I’ve spoken recently about in ‘Just the Advice I Needed’ and ‘The Writer’s Marathon‘ – and it’s been hard to motivate myself to continue writing.

A few months ago, when I was waiting for my ‘day job’ to start, I began a book called ‘Mercury’s Child’ – a novel for 11-15 year olds about a girl called Halley MacFadden, who discovers eight parallel universes to the one in which she lives, and who, without giving too much away, soon realises that many of the people close to her are actually different versions of the same person.

The book has always felt ‘almost there’ (a phrase all too close to my heart at the moment!). The more I developed the concept, the more excited I got, but I just kept thinking it needed an extra va-va-voom, and I guess this slight apathy towards the story, combined with all the other reasons I’ve been disinclined to write, have meant that Mercury’s Child has sat half-finished, and untouched, on my laptop for the past two months.

Now, for those of you who are regulars, you’ll know, when it comes to writing, I like joining the dots! I write by linking connections, and I get my ideas by drawing connections from things I come across in every day life … (Me vs Me! and ‘Give Yourself an Inspirational Day!’) And you’ll also know that my Dad, who died when I was 19, has been playing on my mind quite a lot – ‘Just the Advice I Needed‘ – so with all that in mind … I think everything’s begun to come together!!!

Mercury’s Child needs some oomph … something that makes me want to write an ending, and also something which makes me believe in my writing again, after nine months of rejections from publishers.

As everyone keeps telling me, the best thing a writer waiting to hear back from publishers can do, is to keep on writing … but you need to be inspired to do that, and you need to believe in your own writing.

As I explained in Just the Advice I Needed, Dad has become the inspiration. My biggest fan might no longer be around, but that doesn’t mean I ought to stop believing in myself. If anything, the amazing feedback I got from all you guys from the blog post I wrote about finding all his old writing should be something that inspires me to believe in my own writing. But I have a feeling Dad can help me out in another way with the writing!

So, as I mentioned above, I’ve been working crazy hours recently – the life of the starving artist!!! And today was my fourth day off in nine weeks! The day off was long overdue, but it also gave me the down time I needed to start joining the dots and finding the connections around me.

Mercury’s Child is the story of a little girl.  Halley, the central character is just 11 years old when she begins travelling between the different parallel worlds. But there’s another major character in the story – her father Robert, and the different versions of the same man that she comes to know. And I think that’s the missing link in the story that I might have just begun to see.

I grew up surrounded by my Dad’s stories. Not the literal box of old stories and projects which now sits under my bed, and decorating my bookshelves, but tales of his weird and wonderful life. Tales of the thirty-odd years he lived before I came into this world. My Dad, a computer programmer by trade, was a hundred other things. He had been an English teacher in Tehran, a lorry driver, an insurance clerk, an RAF translator, a backpacker … And those were the stories which coloured my childhood. Which inspired me to momentarily forget my Cambridge law degree, and become a live-in nanny over in Canada, which inspired me to pack my bags and see the world, which inspired me to do every job from a children’s party entertainer to a first aid instructor.

But Dad’s stories don’t just have to inspire my life, and the way I choose to live it … They can also inspire my writing! Because I have a feeling that Robert MacFadden is missing something that my Dad had in truckloads …

Backstories ….

The man was meant to have discovered the different universes, and lived in different time-z0nes, set 20 years apart. He literally lived tens of different lives …

So now it’s time to add all those back-stories in, and see if I can put the va-va-voom back into the story, and get back my writing mojo

C-C xxx

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Me vs Me!

There are very few similarities between the way I write fiction and the way I write my blog posts.

Fiction work takes me hours, revision after revision, carefully fiddling to find the right adjective, the  right sentence structure … Blog posting is a far speedier process.  I try to approach my blog like I’m talking to a friend.  A chatty discussion as opposed to carefully sketching out a picture.

But there’s something which ties all of my written work together, and that’s finding connections.

I can remember studying English Lit at school and excitedly tracing themes and images through books, to then translate the connections I found into essays.  Years on, and while I don’t have any essays to write any more, I still enjoy joining the literary dots.  Whether I’m writing a blog post or a chapter of a novel, I often find myself making connections between ideas and events, to come up with the final product, and in this way my blog posts tend to write themselves, a collection of themes and ideas that weave together to form an idea loosely linked to writing.

Take today for example.  My day started reading one of many lovely comments on a recent blog post of mine.  In the comment, another writer remarked that writing isn’t a competition. Authors aren’t competing against one another.  We’re colleagues, not competitors, and so we need to work together and share our collective knowledge of an otherwise opaque industry.

Then this afternoon a friend on Facebook had a chain letter-style  status declaring exactly where she was in life several years ago, and asking those who read it to work out where they were that year.

Finally this evening, as I pounded the streets of my home town on yet another Marathon training run, I realised in a lot of ways, I’m right back to where I was in 2002.

That year was my gap year.  I had my first full time job, was newly single, living at home and  running every spare hour of the day.  It was one of the most fun years I had.  Heaps of cash, peak fitness, and an amusing string of hopeless and hilarious dates, many of which have become dinner party annecdotes.

The thing is, nine years on, on paper I’m in the exact same place.  Whilst friends of a similar age are buying their first house, getting married and having babies, as far as a stalk of my Facebook goes, I’m still very much a teenager.  I live at home, just broke up with a not-very-serious boyfriend, and am in a non-career job.

When I look at my life that way, it’s hard not to feel like I’ve failed somehow, or I’m behind the rest of the pack … and yet that isn’t how I feel at all!  I love my life … and to be honest, I loved my life at 19!  But what I’m trying to say ISN”T that it’s great to be single and have no commitments when you’re 27 … (though it can be!) … it’s to say that life isn’t just about what’s on paper.  Life isn’t a snapshot, or a comparison, and to be honest, if you live your life comparing it to other peoples, you’re going to miss out on a lot of fun.

My life isn’t as simple as being single, living at home, running, and working … the parallels I drew between 27 year-old me and 19 year-old me!  In the last eight years I’ve achieved so many things … gone to so many places I could never have dreamed of.  Anyone who regularly reads the blogs will know my life is anything but ordinary, and has had it’s ups and downs, but all in all, if I did the past eight years again, I’d do it all the same.  And I’d end up right back in the same place …. A place I was at 19 too!

The thing is, by comparing myself to other people, I’m only going to make myself miserable … I don’t have a house, or a nice car, or a husband, or kids …. yet.  But that doesn’t mean I’ll never have those things, I just haven’t got there yet.

And yet, if I compare myself to 19 year old me … the me that lived in this village, and pounded the same pavements I pound every night as I train for the Budapest Marathon … well in that case I come out trumps.  19 year old me hadn’t travelled the world, written two novels, done two degrees, or done any of the other weird and wonderful things I’ve done since I was her …

The moral of my story isn’t just about life …

It can also apply to your writing!

As an aspiring author, I’m faced day after day with other peoples’ work.  Other peoples’ successes.  The minute I decided I wanted to become a published author, one of my favourite pastimes – reading – became a reminder that I hadn’t made it yet.

But you can’t think like that while you’re trying to get published.  As all the amazing comments on my blog post ‘Just the Advice I Needed’ reminded me, writing ISN”T a competition, and authors aren’t in competition with one another.  Someone else’s success ISN”T your failure, and you have to remember what a long process getting recognised and published can be!  Instead of measuring yourself up against other writers, measure yourself against a younger you … What have you achieved in YOUR writing over the past few years?  Maybe you finished a chapter, maybe you finished a book? Maybe you came up with a concept?  Maybe you found an agent?  Maybe you touched on my current Holy Grail and secured a publishing deal?  Or maybe you’re JK and just nailed another billion 😉

Set your own goal posts!  And don’t look away from them, coz everyone else is playing on a different pitch! (Mixing my sporting metaphors now, I know 🙂 )

But seriously, the only person you need to compete against is yourself … do the best you can!  And if you concern yourselves with other authors, use them for advice and inspiration, not to make yourself feel worse about your current situation!

 

C-C xxx

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Just the Advice I Needed …

As regular readers of The Elementary Circle will know, in recent months I’ve been getting rather jaded about the waiting game.  I’m an ‘almost-there’ author.  I’ve finished three novels, and have heaps of ideas for others, but now I have to sit back, and wait to see if there’s an editor at a publishing house who believes in my work as much as my agent does.  The problem is, I’m rather impatient, and after a good three years of hard slog, can’t wait for some return on my efforts, even if that return is simply the recognition that comes with a bona fide book deal.

If you’ve read my blog before, you might also know that I’m an orphan.  I lost both my parents back in 2003, when I was just nineteen.  Since Mum and Dad died, I’ve spent five years at university, and three years travelling the world, only to come back ‘home’ at the end of April.  When Mum died, my sister and I were forced to sell our family home almost immediately in order to put ourselves through school and university, and simply live. At Christmas 2003, over the space of three weeks I lost both my Mum and my home, with thirty years of my parents’ marriage relinquished to boxes which went almost straight into storage, scattered across the lofts of various family friends, where they have remained ever since.  I moved into a friend’s family home, and have called their house home ever since.

I was always a Daddy’s girl.  A tomboy as a child, my Dad was the one who taught me to play cricket, who took me skiing, introduced me to Scouting, and sat up late at night reading me tales by Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll.  My Dad was my idol, my role model.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Mum dearly, but when my Dad died, I lost my best friend.

I grew up surrounded by my father’s stories.  He had spent his twenties travelling the world, a natural-born linguist, and I not only inherited Dad’s talent for languages but also his desire to travel.  When I finished my Masters and still had  some of my inheritance from the house left over, it seemed natural to spend the money on seeing the world, because if Dad had been given the money at 24, that’s exactly what he would have done with it!  In fact, my Dad actually met my Mum (who was Romanian) when he was travelling around the world.

But travel wasn’t the only thing me and my Dad have in common.  My Dad was a writer.  When he died, I actually remember an old RAF pal of his sending Mum a package with an old story they had written together inside, and last week, when I was feeling particularly down, I went in search of it.

Two hours later I gave up, empty handed.

The whole writing business had just got me so down.  After months of trying to stay upbeat, and trying to keep inspired and active, I was defeated.  Fed up with not even getting rejections from publishers, just total radio silence, and beginning to doubt both myself and my talent, I needed my Dad.  I needed the one person who knew me inside out, which he always did, because I was the female version of him!  I needed his advice.  Dad had been the one who had helped me with A Level options.  He had planned my Gap Year with me, and not just chosen Cambridge colleges with me, but walked me to the gates of my university interview.  Unlike other Dads, mine hadn’t just stood on the sideline of my cricket matches, but had been out on the pitch alongside me – the umpire, the coach, the facilitator of the match.  My biggest fan.

I needed my biggest fan again.  Writing had become such a lonely pursuit, and without Dad around it just felt even lonelier …

And then on Sunday I got a message from one of my closest school friends.  Katherine now lives in London, but her parents still live just twenty minutes away from my old family home, and this weekend just gone, they had tidied out their loft, only to find several boxes of things from my parents house.  Things I hadn’t seen for eight years.

I assumed the boxes would be full of Dad’s photo albums, or old clothes we hadn’t been able to part with so soon after Mum’s death, but last night when I went round to Katherine’s house, I was in for a surprise.

The boxes are full of my father’s projects.  Thirty years of his work.   Pages and pages of notes.  Poems, letters, postcards to Mum, letters, songs, books, research.  Loose-leaf folders packed with handwritten sheets, and boxes full of type-written stories.  Ideas, opinions, connections.  My Dad’s brain boxed.

Eight years after his death, it’s the closest thing I will ever get to a new conversation with my Dad … and it genuinely couldn’t have come at a better time!  There I was literally a week ago wondering if I might have access to one single story Dad had written, and now I’ve been presented by boxes full of his life’s work.  Notebook after notebook, one project after the other, it seems like nothing had been thrown away since the early seventies.  I could never be so grateful to discover a closet hoarder in the family!

I sat in tears, surrounded by my Dad’s work.  By songs, and poems, and sketches, and ditties, and family tree research, and research into Greek mythology, church names, and World War One.  Every intrigue, every interest had been documented.  In a world where most of my possessions have been bought post-Mum and Dad’s death, here were pages and notebooks that my Dad had physically touched!  Line after line of his handwriting, word after word of his own.

But that wasn’t the only way Dad spoke to me last night …

Because amongst those boxes of projects, were letters from publishers.  Letters very similar to the ones I’ve spent the past six months receiving.  Rejection letters, and alongside them frustrated queries from my Dad to other publishers, months after submitting manuscripts, asking why he had heard nothing.

In a world before the internet, in an era where literary agents were scarce, and  in a time when stories weren’t written on computers, but arduously typed, page after page, on a type writer, my dad had been a frustrated almost-there author too!

And you know what, his stories have survived!  He may never have gotten published, or seen his name on the spine of a book, but his stories have still survived him.  And now, his stories sit on my book shelves. This time I’m his number one fan.  Because whenever I feel down, whenever I miss my Dad, not only can I reach for one of his stories, and have him speak directly to me once again, but I can remember that Dad was in this place too, and that if he were here now, he’d be telling me about the time he submitted a book called ‘The Michael Enigma’ about the position of churches called St Michael around Great Britain (??? Yes really!) to publishers, and waited 11 months to hear anything back.  And while my Dad isn’t here to tell me those stories, the stories themselves still are.

Dad’s stories live on, on my bookshelf and in my heart, and you know what, even if my stories never get printed, I’ll make sure that I keep every single one of them, so that one day, my daughter, or my grand-daughter, will be able to pick them up, and hear my voice when I’m no longer able to use it any more.

I love you Dad,

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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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

Finding Inspiration in Strange Places!

This weekend I found myself at a bit of a loose end.  Having rain-checked my social life for a weekend of (paid) overtime (as opposed to the currently unpaid writing kind!) my employers decided in the eleventh hour on Friday that weekend work was no longer necessary, and so, rather than go creeping back to my friends, in an attempt to convince them their company IS more important than my non-existent bank balance, I opted for an uncharacteristic weekend at home.

Now. those of you who ‘know’ me, or at least a bit of my background, will know that I was orphaned in my teens.  At the time I had to sell my family home asap, and ended up moving in with the family of a close friend.  I’ve now lived with my ‘second family’ for the best part of eight years, on and off, between uni and travels, and having just returned from three years abroad, I’m back playing teenager in a family home.

So, in an attempt not to outstay my welcome, and in preparation for the day when I actually become a fully-fledged adult, I decided on Sunday that the time had come to sort out my stuff … Now when I say my stuff, what I mean is the vast majority of my family possessions, which have ended up in the attic at my second home.  I was orphaned in the holidays of my first term at university, and desperate to return to ‘normal life’ as soon as possible, we sold the house in a whirlwind … leaving the loft full of boxes I literally haven’t looked at in eight years.

Cue a day full of inevitable tears, as I sifted through photos and clothes, and trinkets, and bereavement cards, trying to work out which things were vital to my memories of my parents and which other things no longer were.

But the day wasn’t just full of sadness … in fact a number of laughs were had at the expense of ‘teenage me’, as I fished out notes sent in class, ranking systems of all the boys I knew at 15 (an amusing number of whom are still in my adult life!) and a series of emails and MSN conversations which I had printed off the computer ten or so years ago (God, could you imagine printing off every single one of your emails these days??? Rather worryingly said emails had been arranged in binders with individual plastic sleeves … teenage me clearly had WAY too much time on her hands!!)

But anyway … I digress … because aside from the memories, and the laughs and tears … I found something else in my attic on Sunday.  Yes, it’s gonna be a corny one … INSPIRATION.

It’s easy, at this limbo stage in writing, where some people believe in you, and you’ve achieved some small successes, but where the literary world often appears like an insurmountable mountain on the horizon, to give up.  To doubt yourself, and your abilities.  To give yourself a shake, and ask yourself if this really is your dream, your destiny.  Is it just a whim?  Are you having a laugh at your own expense?  Is it time to acknowledge that you have a decent law degree, and go and use it, rather than babysitting professionally, in the name of ‘creativity’. Ok, ok, so that last one is just me 😉

But honestly, it can be really really tough, day in day out, to find not just the inspiration to write, but the inspiration to believe in yourself.  To believe in your dream.  To see the light at the end of the writing’s tunnel of purgatory, and know that if you keep putting in the hours, eventually it really will pay off.

And so sometimes you need to rummage in the attic, and find the things that remind you of the writer you’ve always been.

As I rifled through boxes I hadn’t touched since I was a young teenager, time after time I fell upon notebooks.  Scraps of paper.  Stationery I’d half-inched from law firms where I’d done work experience

And every single one of those scraps contained a story.  An idea.  Not for a law degree, or a career in medicine, or life as a banker … But ideas for stories.  Tales I concocted in my head, and had to get onto paper, regardless of who read them.

Rummaging through those boxes, I realised something.  C-C Lester : Author, isn’t someone I’ve simply become in the past three years, after finishing my first novel.  It’s someone I’ve always been.

About a month ago my primary school closed down.  For the first time in almost twenty years, I tip-toed around a miniature school which had once seemed so large, marveling over the difference perspective can make on memories.  As part of the Farewell event, one of the classrooms had been filled with albums from over the years.  Photos, programs, notes.  Snippets of time stuffed into scrapbooks.

Now if you asked me what I had been like at primary school, I’d have called myself a swot.  Top of the class, too loud for my own good, but good at sports too.  Undoubtedly a rather annoying all-rounder.   And yet as I flicked through the albums documenting my years at the tiny school, it was interesting where I found my name.  There was no record of my academic achievements, or of my sports day wins.  And yet every single one of my short story prizes could be found in one of the albums.  It seemed, even at seven, I was an unwitting writer in the making.  And even the primary school historian had understood which of my achievements were of most important.

The inspiration doesn’t stop there.  I guess I’ve always liked images.  Whether I’m writing a novel, or a legal essay, I like to string together the pieces, to chart the flow of an idea or an image throughout the work.  Like linking beads with a string.  And so I guess this past month, the beads I keep seeing are the ones my mind wants me to see.

Because those boxes I turfed through from the loft didn’t JUST contain stories.  They contained photos, and clothes, and hundreds and hundreds of pounds worth of Backstreet Boys memorabilia (please don’t judge me!).  But it was the writing which caught my attention.  The writing which peeked my downtrodden heart and made me remember who I am.  Who I’ve always been.   Who I can be…

And so, one final note on inspiration.  I always call Flicker my ‘first novel’.  The first book I saw through from start to finish.  But technically that’s not true.  When I was fourteen I wrote a book called ‘Waking Fran’.  It was about a girl in a coma, who is visited by her friends and family, and every time she gets a new visitor, the person’s arrival triggers a new memory inside her dreamlike coma world.  God knows if it’s any good, I’m pretty sure the manuscript is actually in one of the three boxes I’m yet to rifle through … if you’re lucky, perhaps one day I’ll even include an excerpt or two on the blog!  But the story itself isn’t the important part.  Because despite probably only scratching 20,000 words, if that.  Fourteen year-old me posted that story to a publisher!

And in the loft on Sunday, I discovered my first rejection letter.

Now, this was 1998 remember.  And so this wasn’t a slick email response to a query by an agent, but a pre-printed compliments slip, where the only words written in pen were the date ‘8th October 1998’, my name (spelled wrong), and ‘The Editor’ (because whoever signed it wouldn’t even put his or her name to the standard rejection note pad slip!!!!).

Walker Books have since rejected one of my ‘adult’ novels … ironically I think they didn’t even grace my agent with a response to her query (don’t even get me started on that aspect of editor ettiquette) – surely it makes the pre-printed rejection compliments slip seem rather classy??

But that isn’t the point … the point is I have a bit between my teeth.  I wasn’t just rejected last week or last month.  I was rejected thirteen years ago.  And I’ve bloody well kept writing … and finished three novels and some since getting that first rejection.

The rejection letter in question now has pride of place on the pinboard above my bed.  Because THAT is my inspiration.  In years to come, when I’m the next J.K. Rowling, maybe I’ll even get my own rejection notepad printed up, and audatiously sign off rejection notes TO EDITORS with nothing but the moniker ‘The Author’ … or maybe, back out of dreamland, I’ll just score my first book deal, and be able to frame that first ever rejection alongside my first ever acceptance 🙂

C-C xxx

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