Tag Archives: teenage fantasy fiction

New Start to Flicker!!!

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

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

Cheers, C-C xx

Flash Forward

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

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

1. Fugitive

December 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Go on …’ he nodded encouragingly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under C-C Lester, Flicker, Novel Excerpt

Social Media and the Writer Package

As we all know, being a writer … or really doing any profession, has changed a lot in recent years.

Social media has turned our world upside down, allowing us to share our thoughts with the world immediately, and without censorship.  As fans, or readers, Twitter, Facebook and blogs give us a whole new arena of access to our favourite stars and authors, and as authors we have various new forums in which to broadcast our ideas and showcase our work.

I’ve talked before about the benefits of community offered by social media, but recently I’ve come across some media which has made me question exactly how much, as an unpublished author, I ought to be using the social media.

I guess I’ve become comfortable in my role as is …. I think I can talk in a relatively useful and knowledgeable way about life as an unpublished author, and so that topic has formed the basis of my blog.  Occasionally I’ve used the blog to showcase samples of my writing, and the opening chapters of all three of my complete novels can be found on the site, but other than that, as an unpublished, and currently unsigned, author, I haven’t really felt confident to do much more with the site.

As for my Twitter account, I mainly use Twitter to publicise links to new blog posts, and the only thing I use Facebook for with regards to my writing is to draw my friends’ attention to any new posts I’ve written.  I follow people on Twitter I don’t personally know, and likewise am followed by people I don’t know, but Facebook is a site I use exclusively to communicate with people I know in person, outside of my life as ‘C-C Lester, the author’.

Now, I’m not saying any of this is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, because one of the main things about plotting a career as an author is that there is no ‘set route’ to success.  It’s not a graduate recruitment milk round role.  You don’t have three interviews and a vacation scheme and land a £50k job!  Everyone’s path to publication, success, notoriety, or whatever it is they are craving, is completely different, and I think that’s one of the things which most appealed about the career.  However, having recently come across a fellow Young Adult author , I’ve found myself wondering if I ought to be doing more!

Very recently I stumbled upon another unpublished author in her twenties, however her approach to social media and publicity is very different to mine.  So different, in fact, that I’ve always thought some of the approaches she’s using were better suited to life ‘PBD’ – Post Book Deal!

I guess the question is whether publicity can help you secure a book deal, because as an unpublished author, signed to a well-renowned literary agent, that’s the next hurdle.

Do publishers Google a new author when a manuscript appears on their desks?  Does he or she search out the author’s Twitter, read her blog, and scrutinise how many Facebook fans she has? Or do they just base their decisions on the text itself?

I guess the traditionalist in me assumed all the publisher would be interested in would be my writing, and me ‘as a package’ – ie my age, my background, the story behind my writing, my marketability.

But does my Social Media presence affect all that?

I suppose I’ve always seen social media as an extension of your ‘author package’ – something you apply the package to, rather than a part of the package itself.  But perhaps in today’s society the lines have shifted, and social media can be as much a part of the package as your academic background, background story and general appeal as a person.

If you can write a blog that brings in hundreds of subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of page hits, or update your Twitter regularly and interestingly enough that thousands of strangers follow your ever 140 words, then perhaps this can add to your marketability as an author.  It can help you become the whole package.

The author in question, who I stumbled upon this week, Retweets posts from publishing houses and book devoted websites.  She @mentions publishers and publicists in her comments, drawing their attention to her work, and regularly demands strangers visit her personal website and ‘Fan’ her on Facebook.  She even goes so far as to canvass local schools, promoting her currently unsigned books, and gaining fans before she even has a finished product.

Is this genius, or simply jumping the gun?

As unpublished authors, are we audacious to claim we have ‘fans’, and to actively campaign for readerships?  Are we being intrusive and ignoring etiquette by contacting publishers and publicists so brazenly? And should these be things we ought to wait to do ONCE we have book deals …

Or by sitting on our hands, and thinking all we’re good for are blogs about waiting to get published, are we missing a beat, and stalling in the starting blocks?

 

Let me know what you think!

C-C xxx

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

Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for some time now.  The theme for ‘Elli Writes’  June contest is ‘A New Pair of Boots’ – writing in someone else’s shoes, and whilst I know the idea of the challenge is to force you to write from someone else’s perspective, the contest has inspired me to write a blog post on the subject of characters and perspectives.

For a start, I’ve discovered I write far quicker in the first person.  Maybe that’s just because I’ve spent over half my life journalling.  Or maybe it’s because you dwell less on description in the first person than you do in the third person (or at least I do!).  The first person allows you to focus solely on one character’s thoughts and emotions, whilst the third person is obviously broader.  There’s more to consider,  both character-wise, and also from a lyrical standpoint.  The reason third person writing takes longer, is because sentences written in the third person can normally include more elevated, creative description, and as such, every sentence requires careful thought.  For me, first person writing often becomes a stream of thought.  I don’t know if that means I write better in the first person, or that my writing is lazier in the first person, but that simple initial choice of perspective can completely and utterly change a book.

At the moment I’m writing a novel called ‘Mercury’s Child’, which I’ve now mentioned a couple of times.  It’s my first stab at science fiction, and initially started as a far ‘younger’ project, as compared to my other novels.  The two other ‘children’s’ works I’ve written are teenage fantasy novels.  Teenagers with superpowers.  However, because of the nature of the worlds, the timings of the characters lives, and the necessary naivete of the protagonist, Mercury’s Child is a book about an eleven year-old, and as such I decided to target the book at a younger audience – maybe 11-15 year-olds, as opposed to the 14-19 year-old bracket my other books has been designed primarily for.

Initially I decided to write the book in the first person.  Because I find it easier, quicker … and possibly the lazy option 😉  However, the problem with writing about an 11 year-old in the first person, is that you then need to think like I’m an 11 year-old.  Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a big kid at heart, and I don’t think I have problems empathizing with teenagers, in fact, in a number of ways I probably still lead a rather teenage life.  I live with my (friend’s) parents, drive someone else’s car, and a mortgage and marriage are both things which are still a long way off!  For those reasons I enjoy writing teenage fiction, because in a lot of ways I simply write how I think.

And whilst I was obviously 11 years old at some point, if I’m honest, I don’t really remember it all too well!  I definitely don’t think like an eleven year-old.  And for that reason, I eventually decided to write the book in the third person.  Because, whilst this perspective might require more careful crafting, and doesn’t allow for stream of thought writing, it also doesn’t require a detailed insight into the mind of your protagonist.  It requires some, but not total empathy.

So, I began writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds in the third person.  And within a few chapters I noticed something else.  I write way too old for that age-group!  As an author, I genuinely think it’s hard to hide your own voice.  Some might argue that’s all part of the craft, and obviously it is to some degree.  You don’t want to write an autobiography, you want to write fiction.  But fiction, as I’ve said before, is also writing about what you know.  Writing about what you understand.  And as Mercury’s Child took shape in the third person, I realised I wasn’t writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds.  I was writing about an eleven year old girl and her family, for readers in their late teens and adulthood.  And whilst that might seem like a failure for some, for me, I think it just means I know my target audience.  I know where my talents lie.  And rather than try to force a story into a form I think it ought to take, I’d prefer to leave it in its natural form, and see if it works that way.

Because this is the thing I’ve found about walking in someone else’s shoes … it only really works within certain parameters.  The shoes don’t necessarily have to be your own, but they have to be a reasonably good fit!  Whether you’re writing in the third person, or even more specifically in the first person, you need to know your character.  You need to understand your character.  And you need to understand your reader.  And whilst no one wants to read an autobiography where the names have simply been changed to call it fiction  (apart from maybe The Devil Reads Prada!) that doesnt mean people want to read something completely foreign to a writer.  Good writing comes from the heart.  Your heart.  Not someone else’s.  And so you need to understand your own story.  You need to live your own story.

That’s why Mercury’s Child, in my opinion, works best pitched at older children and adults, and in the third person.  Because, whilst I understand my characters and the worlds I’ve created, I best represent those characters and those worlds in the voice of a teenager/adult.  In a voice rather similar to my own.  That isn’t to say adults can’t write for younger children – as is obvious from almost all children’s literature! – I just know where my voice is strongest.

Following on from this idea of knowledge and understanding, I really struggle with the idea, as a female writer, of writing about a male protagonist.  Ok, from a distanced third person perspective, I might be able to do it.  (It’s something J.K. Rowling obviously nailed!).  But it’s not something I would choose, because I understand girls.  I know them, because I am one!  I don’t think I would ever excel at writing from a male first person standpoint, because, quite simply I don’t know how men think!  Men and women are really different creatures, and I don’t think I could ever be confident enough to establish a credible enough male voice.  Even in the third person, I’ve struggled to write male dialogue, and had male friends criticise the realism of my male-on-male conversations, because quite simply, I don’t know how men converse with one another when they’re on their own.

And so for that reason, whilst obviously, as fiction writers, we are always walking in someone else’s shoes, I think those shoes have to be a reasonable fit.  For me, I’d say my current literary fit is a woman’s shoe, aged 15 to 35 years-old in the first person protagonist.  Where the third person is concerned, those requirements are a little bit looser.

What do you guys think?  Can male writers write in a convincing female voice, and vice-versa?  How big are the writing shoes you feel confident filling?  Or am I being too conservative with my writing?  Should I step into less comfortable shoes?

C-C xxx

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Filed under Blogging, C-C Lester, Mercury's Child, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

A Change of Approach

Last week I hit a bit of a brick wall with the book I’m writing.  I’ve realised that,  rather ironically considering how much I enjoy travelling, I really don’t enjoy writing the ‘travel’ sections of stories – how characters A and B get to C. Something which you can in some circumstances simply skip altogether.  However, when the story is one about a series of interlinked worlds, it seems rather important to describe those links.  I just get rather impatient and can’t wait to get to the main story again … and that leads me to a bout of good old Writer’s Block.

However, I think I found a solution … or at least it did in my case!  Two week’s (of unemployment!) in, and I’ve now hit 30,000 words.  Obviously, their calibre is still to be decided, but they are words, on a page, and for that I’m proud/

In fact, it was actually words on a page which got me past the infamous Block, because I decided to change my approach to writing for a few days.

I write in  Word documents.  Each chapter is a simple Word document, and then sections are compiled as folders on my laptop.  I spent my life writing on a computer screen.  And so I mixed it up a bit.  I printed out my chapters.

For a start, actually being able to physically touch the pages of my work reminded me of what I had achieved.  30,000 words is about 76 pages of print.  That’s a pretty hefty weight in your palms … even more so if you print it out double-spaced (which is actually something I would recommend if you have a lot of editing to do!)

But also, seeing the writing in a different way – as printed pages, as opposed to a never-ending scrolling computer screen really helped me look at it in a fresh light.  I ended up editing everything I had written, and being inspired enough to go straight to writing another three chapters.

So if you’re struggling with a writing hurdle of some kind – whether it’s a travel section of your novel, or just simply a scene that you still can’t get to sound quite right – why don’t you try looking at it in a different way?  Print it out, type it up, or simply copy it out again … You never know what the results might be!

C-C xxx

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Back on the Wagon!

So I’m back writing a novel again 🙂

I came up with the premise of Mercury’s Child some time back, but have had various excuses for not properly starting it … up until now!  I moved back to the UK almost a month ago, and still haven’t got the green light to start my new job, so I figure I should be making use of my time by writing.  I’ve recently written a couple of competition entries, however due to the rules, I can’t ‘publish’ them until I know whether I’ve won or not.  However THIS I can ‘publish’ … it’s the first chapter of Mercury’s Child, hot off the press ….

I’ll post it as a separate blog post so that it’s easier to find in later months, but for now, let me give you a brief outline of the book.

Mercury’s Child is a science fiction novel.  The main character, Halley MacFadden is just eleven years old, however I think the book will still remain in the young adult genre, like most of my books – though possibly the younger end – 13-15 as opposed to the 16+ age group that Flicker and TDN were written for.

I don’t want to reveal too much at this point, so all I will say is sit back, have a read, and let me know what you think!

Cheers,

C-C xx

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The Time I Dated A Vampire (Writing Prompt)

Following on from my post ‘I’m Bored’ I decided to spend an hour writing a response to Maria Kelly’s Writing Prompt ‘Twilight – Re-Vamped’.  Let me know what you think, write your own response and share the link, or give me another writing task!

C-C xx

The Prompt – ‘Write a strong female character in a vampire situation.’


The Time I Dated A Vampire

 

“So you’re telling me you’re dead?’  I frowned up at my new boyfriend.  We’d been seeing each other just two months when he decided to drop that particular bombshell on me.

I’ll admit, there had been signs that something wasn’t quite right.  The cultural references for a start…  I mean, surely everyone watched Rainbow and Wackaday when they were kids?  But I guess if you were one hundred years-old in the eighties, children’s television wouldn’t have been so much of a priority.

And I did notice how cold he seemed whenever we shared a bed … but some people are just cold, right?

But I guess that’s the distinction.  Some people are cold.  All the living dead are freezing!

‘Well yes,’ Thom nods awkwardly.

‘You’re dead!

‘I think you’re missing the point … I’m trying to explain here.’

‘Well, no Thom, not really, because I’m pretty sure you’re telling me that you’ve already died.  That you’re a walking corpse!  That you’ve roamed this earth for hundreds of years without aging … ’

‘Yes, but …’

‘No Thom, no buts!  This is well and truly fucked up!’

‘But … but we can work around it …’

I stared up at him in disbelief.  ‘Work around it?  How exactly does one ‘work around’ the fact that their boyfriend is dead?!  I’m pretty sure the normal way of ‘working around’ it would be grief counselling … though given the current circumstances, I don’t think that would really work!’

‘Amy, I just think you’re over-reacting a little bit!’

‘Over-reacting!’ I almost shrieked.  ‘I’m sorry, but how exactly was I meant to take this news?’

‘Well, all the other girls ….’

I shook my head, angry blood boiling beneath my skin.  Only my skin.

‘Now is not the time to fill me in on how many human partners you’ve had!’

‘But …’

‘But what Thom?  How well did all these hundreds of previous relationships go for you?  I’d put a fairly large bet on the fact that none of them ended up well! Let me guess … they all died Thom?  They all got really wrinkly and old, while you remained young and hot … or should I say cold … and then they died!  So go on then  Thom … what you could possibly have to offer me?’

Thom frowned at me, no longer clueless and instead, getting increasingly pissed off with me.  ‘Offer you?  Amy, I’m the same person I was yesterday!’

And the decade before that, and the century before that …  I remember thinking!

He continued ‘Can you really say you didn’t at least have some suspicion?  It’s not really like I’m telling you out of the blue!’

Pissed off wasn’t the right tone to take with me at that point.  I mean, for god’s sake, the man had just told me he was a corpse!

‘Oh, I’m sorry Thom … I forgot that was meant to be top of my boyfriend check-list … up there with ‘does he seem to be a nice guy?’ … ‘Does he look like he could be a member of the walking dead?’

‘Could you please stop calling me that?  I’m a vampire!’

‘Oh yes of course.  Please draw attention away from the fact that you’re dead, and focus on your blood-sucking pastime instead!’

It seemed fighting pissed off with more pissed off actually worked, because suddenly Thom began to back down.

‘Amy, please, just calm down for a second.  It’s not as black and white as it seems.  Please just let me explain my lifestyle to you …’

I gritted my teeth.  ‘Look, Thom … I understand it can’t be as simplistic as the movies make out … but really, please elaborate on how you see this working?  Because from my perspective it seems like you’re asking me to give up the future I’ve always imagined – having children, growing old with the person I love – just so that you can masquerade as a ‘normal person ‘and get a bit of affection along the way.  Thom, I’m sorry, but it’s not fair on me! And that’s not even touching upon the whole blood drinking thing!’

‘So, what?  That’s it then?  I open my heart to you … and you’re dumping me for being honest?’  If he’d been able to cry, I’m pretty sure there would have been tears in his eyes at this point.

‘No Thom, I’m not dumping you for being honest.  I’m dumping you for lying to me in the first place!  You knew how much I’d been messed around in the past.  How important honesty was to me … How adamant I was that I wouldn’t get close to another guy again unless I trusted him totally.  And you took that trust and threw it in my face!  I’m sorry, but ‘not mentioning you’re a vampire’ isn’t an omission.  It’s lying about the fact that you’re human!  And of all the lies to found a relationship on, that’s pretty much the worst one going.’

And that was the time I dumped a vampire.

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The Author Brand

One of the lovely comments on my Rebirth, Rebranding, Re-invention post mentioned ‘establishing your writer’s brand’ and it got me thinking…  (Thanks Jess for the inspiration!)

No matter what stage of your career you’re currently at, being an author is a very different profession thanks to the age of the internet.

Authors used to bask in the shadow of anonymity.  Even without a pen-name, they were mere names … perhaps illustrated with a grainy black and white photo and an aloof bio on the back cover of their novels.  ‘C-C Lester lives with her cat Felix and her budgie Steve in Battersea, and enjoys strolls along the beach. ‘

(I don’t really… before you start Googling 😉 )

But the internet has changed all that.  It’s not only added real-life faces to the grand names … but  it’s also added real-life stories.  Find one person who when you mention J.K. Rowling doesn’t remark on her rags to riches success, and the ‘writing on napkins in coffee shops’ story!

People spend a lot of time with books.  They retreat to them, a private world they can slip in and out of, away from the hustle of a crowded train carriage, or the uncomfortable heat of a parental row.  The characters become treasured friends, and it’s easy to attach similar affection and proximity to the person responsible for creating those characters.  Readers want to know about their authors …

As a reader, I happily confess to reading author bios.  I love the short paragraphs tucked inside book covers.  I like to guess how much the writer has in common with her protagonist, muse over whether I’d like her in real life, and wonder if she’s using a pen name.  I like to know if she’s young or old, pretty or ugly, married or single. I want to be able to put the book in context, to frame the story in a world outside of its pages.

I fully admit it … I’m a nosy reader!

And then, as an aspiring writer, I wonder how hard her path to literary success was.  Did she find an agent as easily as I did?  Were her rejection letters from publishers more inspiring than mine?  How many rejections did she receive?  How old was she when she first got published?  How long did it all take?

Yes … I’m a nosy writer too!

The thing is, whilst some of the answers might be available in the book cover’s rigid biographical paragraph, the internet has provided an even better location to find answers to all those questions … and more!

Obviously there’s the Google-stalker factor, which is something I’ve discussed in previous posts –   see ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and ‘The Pen Name … a Shield to accompany the Literary Sword?’ .  One carefully worded Google search, and a reader can know an awful lot about his favourite author … provided she doesn’t use a pen name.

(A small aside – Bloggers with pen names BEWARE – I’ve noticed on a lot of comments that your REAL NAME comes up in the email address attached to your blog! )

But where authors are concerned, there’s a far easier way to find out the answers to all your nosey questions … and you’re staring right at it.

Authors blog!  We are creatures of habit, who love to write, and by definition, enjoy touching others with our words, whether fictional or not.  In the age of Twitter and blogging, what better way to reach others with our words, than with the immediacy of the internet?

By blogging, we are opening the fourth wall to our readers.  We are showing them the workings behind the novel – whether it’s just generally the way our minds work, or more specific details about our lives and inspirations.  Author blogs allow you to find the answers to all your nosey questions … how long DID it take her to find an agent?  How many times DID she get rejected?  What did those rejections REALLY say?

But the blogosphere isn’t a one-way street.  It’s interactive.  Not only is the author bearing (selective parts of) her soul to her readers, she’s also enabling them to challenge and question her.  Finally readers are being given the thing they have never had with their favourite authors – dialogue.  And an author’s willingness to partake in such a dialogue may well affect the way her readers see her.

This brings me back to Jess’s initial idea – a writer’s brand.

Think about the world we live in.  Not only is it a world of Twitter and blogging … it’s also a world of PR and Marketing.  And the savvy author needs to bear that in mind … particularly if she writes under a pen name.  Those of us not protected by that particular shield (or like me, who have very brazenly stepped aside from their shield and revealed their true name) can only control to some degree the information available about them on the internet.  But if you’ve created a person, you have full control of the data about that person on the internet.  And even if you haven’t created a person, and are writing as yourself, then it’s wise to think about the things attached to your ‘writer persona’.

By creating this website, I have unwittingly created an author brand.  If you type ‘C-C Lester, author’ into Google, the top four hits link to this blog, and the fifth to my Twitter (which is predominantly based on my blog).  This blog has become C-C Lester, the author.  And hopefully the brand I’ve unwittingly created is an honest and likable one!

I’ve said it before, in ‘Why Blogging is like Facebook …’ and I’ll say it again.  Think about what you write.  As far as we’re aware, the internet is here to stay, and the archives are endless.  So make sure that everything you personally attach to your ‘author brand’ properly represents you as a writer.  It’s also where posts like ‘Get It Write 😉‘ (about grammar and spell-checking) and ‘To Journal … or Not To Journal’ (on making your blog too personal) come in.  In ten years time, when you’re a famous author, do you really want the world to know how much you hate your ex-boyfriend?  Or that you don’t really know where apostrophes go, and have to rely on an editor to tweak such mundane things as grammar?!

Personally, I think it’s exciting!  I like the idea of being more than just an aloof name and a grainy picture on a bookshelf.  The role of authors is changing, and I just hope that my career will enable me to properly experience those changes first-hand.  I hope, in years to come, that my story will be a positive one, and one full of inspiration and interest to my readers.  And that somewhere down the line, I’ll look back at this post and smile at the legacy I began to establish back when I was a ‘nobody’ who simply enjoyed to write 🙂

C-C xxx

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