Three Years and One Week

First things first: I am writing a book. I’ve loved writing all my life, but this time it’s official: I am going to get something published, and I’ve got it down here because that way, the statement is immortalised and I won’t be able to back out of it.

I wrote those words three years and one week ago.

Trouble is, I didn’t realise that things change. Motivations change. Plans change. Zara’s story became Isabel’s story, then Isabel’s story needed to change, then Milly’s story decided to come first.

The book is now a series.

The thing I think I’ve learned the most is patience. Publishing a book, traditionally or otherwise, takes time.

The Day Project started when I was at a very unhappy chapter in my life. I was bored, restless and frustrated, and I wanted to get out and do something. When I read Felicia Day’s book You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), I was impressed by her determination. (For the record, the title is slightly misleading. It is possible to be weird on the Internet; trust me on that.) The past three years have been an incredible journey, and I do not regret starting it. For example, I always thought I was the type of writer who worked better without an outline. I was proved wrong there.

I am aware that some of the posts on this blog are about things other than books and writing. I do miss responding to prompts, though. It was amazing seeing how creative other people can be.

But there’s one thing I found myself wondering – if Felicia Day could see this blog now, what would she make of it? It’s strange, because I haven’t thought of that in a long while. And in the long run, does it really matter?

So many people have helped with this series. My family, friends, writing coaches…I am so grateful to all of them, and to God for giving me the gift and passion for writing.

Wild Rose is going to be published soon and I’m working on Dark Rose, the next in the series. And who knows? I don’t think Zara and her friends are quite finished with me – they may get their own story yet. We’ll have to see.

Thank you for staying with me on this journey.

Let’s see where the next step leads.

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Dreams

I might have mentioned this a few times on this blog, but I absolutely love to write. I’ve loved it since I was about five. But the truth was, I never considered writing as a career because I was afraid if I did, I wouldn’t love it anymore.

I never considered what I really wanted out of life. I just knew I loved to write, and that it’s a God-given gift and passion. It’s my duty to use what I’ve been given, which happens to be something I love to do.

Somehow, that turned into the ‘Roses’ series.

 

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The Hogwarts Oneshots: The Sorting

“Costello, Emilia!”

Nerves rose up in Milly’s throat, threatening to choke her. Swallowing them down, she walked forward, deliberately keeping her eyes on the space between the Hat and the stool beneath. Her last thought as the Hat was lowered onto her head was that she wasn’t going to be scared.

That’s the idea, a voice said.

Milly nearly jumped out of her skin. She clutched the edge of the stool tightly.

Hmm, you are a tricky one. Let’s see…you’re a clever girl and a compassionate one. But you’ve got a gutsy side to you as well.

Had she?

Yes. And…you’ve got a hunger. You want more for yourself, but you don’t know precisely what it is you want yet. So, where to put you? Where would you do best?

Bravery. Friendship. Knowledge. Ambition. It was an impossible choice, and it wasn’t even hers to make.

Except…wouldn’t she find all four of those things no matter where she ended up? Her House didn’t determine who she was. What mattered was who she became.

Oh, very wise, Miss Costello. Very wise indeed.

“RAVENCLAW!”

xxx

“Da Lange, Avrel!”

Leo squeezed Avrel’s shoulder. She tried not to look back at him as she walked towards the stool. She didn’t look at him as she felt the Hat settling on her head.

I do love Sorting twins, the Hat said. It’s always interesting seeing if they belong in the same House or different ones.

Avrel wondered where she belonged.

You are not your brother, Miss da Lange. But you do have a strong loyalty about you. If someone wins your respect and friendship, they’ve got an ally for life. I know just where to put you.

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

xxx

“Jamison, Francesca!”

Frankie walked boldly towards the stool. She sat down and kept perfectly still as the Hat descended.

You’re a bold one, aren’t you? And sneaky. You’re reckless, but clever enough not to get caught. You’re a lion and a serpent.

Frankie had been expecting Jack to be Sorted into Gryffindor. Judging from the look on his face as the Hat was removed, he was just as surprised as she was that he’d been placed in Slytherin.

Careless disregard for the rules is not courage. You, on the other hand, do have courage. There’s a definite spark inside you. Let’s see if we can fan that into a flame.

“GRYFFINDOR!”

xxx

“Morel, Samara!”

Samara sat down, closed her eyes and waited, remembering her grandmother’s words before she left home. She was resigned to her fate.

It doesn’t have to be like that, you know, the Hat murmured. You don’t have to be a Slytherin. Others have chosen not to take that path. But Slytherin House is remaking itself. The past doesn’t determine the future, and you have a chance to make the future. Reshape Slytherin’s legacy. What do you think?

Samara smiled. Challenge accepted.

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The Hogwarts Oneshots: Wands

Recently, I started imagining what might happen if the characters of my first book were in the Harry Potter universe. Here’s what could happen when they went to get their wands:

“Nervous, Milly?”

Eleven-year-old Milly Costello looked at the shop looming in front of her. “No.” She could see faded lettering above the door: Mrs. Leireag’s.

She was nervous, but not about getting her first – and hopefully only – wand. Milly was the youngest of three sisters. The eldest, Laura, had developed a talent for creating magical pictures and the second sister, Susanna, was the top student in her year. She was close to being the top student in her house and considering she was a Ravenclaw, that was saying something.

So where did that leave Milly?

“Do you want me to come in with you?” Milly’s mother asked.

“I…yes, please.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t go to Ollivander’s.” The Fearainn wandmaker wasn’t well-known as Ollivander or Gregorovitch, but she’d never had an unsatisfied customer.

“It’s all right,” Milly said. She pushed the door open and stepped inside, holding the door open for her mother.

The walls were lined with small, slim boxes; Milly saw each box was a different colour, with black boxes closest to the door and very pale grey at the opposite end. On the small wooden counter was a pot of white flowers. A shadow stood behind the counter; after a moment, a woman in a dusty-green robe stepped forward, smiling.

“Mrs. Costello! How nice to see you again. And this is your youngest?”

“This is Emilia,” Teresa Costello said, putting a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Milly, this is Sylvatica Leireag.”

Mrs. Leireag motioned towards a young man standing in the back of the shop. “This is my apprentice. Do you mind if he watches, Emilia?”

Milly shook her head. “How will I know if I’ve found the right wand?”

“You won’t find it. It finds you.” Mrs. Leireag took a box from the myriad on the walls and placed it on the counter in front of Milly. Tentatively, Milly opened the box and picked up the wand.

She felt nothing.

“Don’t worry,” Mrs. Leireag said soothingly. “It’s rare to find your wand quickly.” She took another box, pushing the other one to the far end of the counter.

Milly tried several wands but none of them seemed to match her. After the thirteenth try, the apprentice spoke, startling everyone in the shop.

“Fruit.”

“Are you sure?” Mrs. Leireag asked. “That doesn’t leave her with a lot of options.”

The apprentice nodded. “Definitely a fruit tree wand for this one.”

Milly watched as Mrs. Leireag gathered as many wands as she could and placed them on the table in front of her: cherry, apple and pear. They had a variety of cores.

She had at least six unsuccessful tries before her hand landed on a box containing an apple wand with a unicorn hair. She opened the box and picked up the wand. The moment it was in her hand, she felt her arm tingle and the next moment the flowers on the counter changed from white to a beautiful, brilliant blue.

Her face broke into a delighted smile.

“I remember the unicorn I took the hair from,” Mrs. Leireag said with a smile. “A very gentle, very sweet little mare…take good care of that wand, won’t you?”

“I will,” Milly promised.

xxx

Samara Morel’s eleventh birthday was surprisingly sombre. Everyone in the house seemed to be holding their breath, waiting for something. Samara knew what it was even though nobody said anything out loud.

After supper, she would have liked nothing more than to retire to the library and disappear into a book, but there was no chance of that. Her grandmother pushed back her chair and left the room. Samara listened as her footsteps faded away.

Her parents looked down at the table, refusing to meet their daughter’s eyes. Candles flickered in a desperate attempt to send light into the shadows.

Eventually Dame Morel returned with a slim box in her hands. Samara felt her hands tremble. The Morel family wand was crafted from hawthorn and was the only wand Samara knew of that had sphinx hair for a core. Legend said the wizard who crafted the wand answered a sphinx’s riddle in exchange for his life and one of her hairs. Samara liked the tale, but she didn’t believe it. It was more likely the sphinx accidentally left one of her hairs behind after the wizard guessed the correct answer to her riddle.

Dame Morel opened the box and put it on the table in front of her granddaughter. Candlelight seemed to dance off the wand, which was smooth from use.

Samara was an only child. More than that, she was an only daughter. If the wand didn’t accept her, it would be passed to her children, who would most likely not have the last name of Morel.

Quickly, so nobody would see her shaking hand, she picked the wand up and held it delicately. Immediately she felt power coursing through her. The candle flames stayed the same size, but their glow lit up the entire room.

When the glow faded, Samara saw the glint of approval in her grandmother’s eyes.

xxx

Frankie was bored. The excitement of her first ever trip to the mainland had worn off after being escorted around the shops with all the other children her age from their island by the police chief of all people. Didn’t he have anything better to do? Be a policeman, for instance?

He was always keeping an eye on her, as if paranoid she might wander off.

Now she stood in the far corner of Mrs. Leireag’s with most of the others, watching as her friend Jack tried wand after wand after wand after wand. There was a pile of boxes on the counter, and they were almost taking up half the space. Frankie could sense the other children shifting about restlessly. After Jack found his wand, it would be her turn and then they could go home.

Suddenly Jack gave a yell of triumph as a small burst of flame erupted at the tip of his wand.

“Francesca, you’re up,” Nicholas Ainsley called, deftly whisking Jack’s wand from his fingers and placing it back in its box. Jack protested, but Nicholas gave him a warning glare that sent him slinking back to the others.

“Last one!” Mrs. Leireag announced cheerfully, handing Frankie a dark grey box from the non-existent shelves while her apprentice started tidying away the boxes left over from Jack’s turn. “Let’s see how you do with this one.”

Frankie held the wand, fighting the urge to fidget with the sleeve of her sweater. The sweater was an ugly yellow colour, and Frankie hated it.

“Not that wand, then.” Mrs. Leireag took the wand away and handed her client a different one. Frankie felt no different after touching this one.

“Here. Try this.” The apprentice was standing beside Frankie, holding out a wand he had taken from the pile that rejected Jack.

Frankie tilted her head to one side. “What kind of wood is that?”

“Dogwood.” The apprentice motioned with his hands. “Go on – take it!”

Frankie did so – and before she realised what she was doing she touched the end of the wand to the sleeve of her jumper.

“HEY!” Nicholas shouted, but Frankie wasn’t listening. She stared, mesmerised, at the red veins that spread out from the wand’s tip. Before long, her sweater was no longer yellow but crimson.

“Well, aren’t you the reckless one?” Mrs. Leireag said, chuckling. “Not everyone has an occamy feather in their wand.”

“She’ll have hers in its box too.” Nicholas held out a hand, his eyes stern and angry. Frankie watched resentfully as he put it away. “And if you get it back before you go to Hogwarts, think yourself lucky.”

Afterwards, she was so busy talking to Jack that she didn’t hear Mrs. Leireag’s words to Nicholas.

“If I were you, Mr. Ainsley, I’d be keeping a very close eye on that young lady. People with dogwood wands are mischievous enough, but paired with an occamy feather…” She shook her head. “That is not a safe combination.”

“Believe me,” Nicholas said grimly, “I know.”

xxx

“Don’t act surprised if you’re Sorted into different Houses,” Avrel’s mother said warningly.

Avrel nearly rolled her eyes. She was secretly hoping she and Leo would end up in the same House, but there was no point in saying that out loud.

“Mum, just because we’re twins doesn’t mean we’ll be placed together.” Leo adjusted the bag he carried on his shoulder.

“Exactly,” Mrs. da Lange said. “Here we are – the wand shop.”

She pushed the door open and held it so Avrel and Leo could go in after her.

“Hello!” the wandmaker said cheerfully. “I’m Sylvatica Leireag, and you must be the da Langes?”

“We are. This is Leo and Avrel.”

Mrs. Leireag smiled at Avrel. “Ladies first.”

“Hey, I’m older than she is!” Leo protested…but his voice died down after a warning look from his mother.

Unable to suppress a grin of excitement, Avrel walked over to the counter and took the first wand Mrs. Leireag gave her. She gave it a quick wave, but nothing happened.

“Don’t be disappointed,” the wandmaker said reassuringly. “What about this one?”

This time, Avrel felt as if she’d received a small shock. She waved the wand and the blue flowers on the desk changed to a vibrant orange.

Avrel grinned with delight.

“Ash and…let me see.” Mrs. Leireag checked the box the wand came in. “Hippogriff feather! Wands don’t usually find their people so quickly. All right, young man, you’re next.”

Leo took much longer than his sister. Avrel thought he must have tried every single kind of wand Mrs. Leireag possessed until he eventually found his: oak with a dragon heartstring. As they left the shop, Avrel felt her heart sink. If their wands had nothing in common, what chance did they have of ending up in the same House?

If you want a good character exercise, go to Pottermore and see what kind of wand wood matches your protagonist. It’s fascinating! I knew Milly would be apple before I went on the website: she’s associated with springtime and what better image of spring than an apple tree in blossom?

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Next Step

The website and covers for all four books are designed, and I’m working on the first draft of the second book. I’m waiting for feedback on Wild Rose, and when that’s done it’ll be ready for publication on Amazon Kindle.

This is really happening!

 

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Good News, Everyone

I officially have a website.

 

 

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Self-Publishing

Complication

The best thing about self-publishing is you get to control everything about the process.

The worst thing is you have to control everything about the process.

I did not think this through.

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