In Just Seven Days…

I’ve never had the opportunity to create a man before.  I birthed a son once, but I had a pretty good idea how he was going to turn out, and anyhow, I didn’t have much say in the result.

Today however I received my AFS, which stands for Art Fact Sheet.  Before today I didn’t know these even existed.  I don’t know how I thought book covers came about.  I think I just assumed someone would magically look into my brain and make it up from there (or, I dunno, read the book).  Instead I get to fill in a very detailed document asking for what the characters look like, wear, any other visual elements and so on.  It’s all rather fun.

I have a very clear picture in my head what the characters look like, especially my hero -who wouldn’t, that’s half the fun of writing.  Of course he isn’t just one person (though Tom Ellis in Merlin comes pretty close).

Like a latter day, and slightly less gruesome, graverobber I’ve stolen bits of various different people.  So he’s got J*’s lovely blue eyes, the dark, floppy curls that belong to K, that way of looking through his eyelashes that L does, the slightly crooked smile belonging to M, and so on.  Which is all rather lovely in my head but probably less than useful for an art department.  I’m half tempted to get a load of photos and make a collage but the resulting image would be more likely to send readers screaming for the hills than swooning with lust.

So I’ll fill in my sheet and attach plenty of links to photos online and wait with antic…pation to see what they come up with.

*why do X, Y and Z always get all the fun!

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The day I came out

Everyone has secrets.  Mine was that while my husband was working away I’d wait till the kids were in bed, get comfortable on the sofa (usually with the aforementioned cat) open the laptop and… write.

I can’t remember exactly when I decided I’d try write a novel but one night I did.  It must have been a slow night on TV.  Thank goodness I’d never heard of Breaking Bad back then.  I’d write a chapter or so over a few evenings, upload it to Wattpad and hope a passing publisher would spot it and snap it up.

I finished the novel.  My husband stopped working away.  Every so often I’d wonder what to do with it, open the file, footle around and change bits here, add a scene there and so on.  Then a Wattpad buddy (to whom I shall be eternally grateful) told me about Harlequin’s ‘So You Think You Can Write’ contest.  I entered the first chapter and other than daydreaming about what I’d do if I won, didn’t expect to get anywhere.  I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone.  They’d only laugh.

October half term holiday came round and I went down to Cornwall with the family, parents in-law, sister-in-law and brother in-law-in-law for a week in a cottage.   I wasn’t going to do any work at all.  No marking, no planning, no books, no laptop.  No internet connection.  Only more cream teas that were healthy and plenty of trips to the beach.

Cornwall isn’t great for phone reception but driving back from meeting a friend on Sunday afternoon the phone rang.  Like the responsible driver I am I ignored it until I could find a safe spot to pull in and check the message (for a given value of safe- have you ever seen those country lanes?)  There was no real rush, it would only be my husband wondering where I’d got to.

It wasn’t.

It was an editor from Harlequin asking me to check my email because I was through to the final 50 of the contest and could they please have my full manuscript?

Tomorrow.

The manuscript that was on my laptop.

In Cheshire.

Riiiiight.

What to do???  I couldn’t miss out on this chance but driving back home wasn’t really an option (though I did consider it).  By the time I made it back to the cottage I had a plan.   Now all I had to do was ask.  And confess.

“HelloeveryoneIhadalovelytimeinLooepleasecanIborrowyourlaptopI’vesecretlywrittenabookandI’mgoingtothepubtodownloaditfromtheinternetpleasesavemesomedinnerbye.”

It went down quite well really.

What’s in a name?

Choose a pen name.  Easy right?  My original pseudonym – DeeDee Elle- came about as an in joke based on an online mum’s group when I needed something to hide behind on Wattpad (my day job is teaching so it was a definite necessity).  It was a good name, it did the job, the women who knew the connection thought it was fun, and occasionally people would ask where it came from.  A male friend finally admitted he had wondered if it was my bra size.  I became quite fond of DeeDee.

However, when I got The Call from Sarah at Harlequin, she asked was I going to use that, my real name or something else entirely.  It was time to change.

Now, I’ve named two children and neither has objected to what they’ve been saddled with so this should have been a doddle.

Think again.

Alliteration?  Nope, too comic book heroine.

The old ‘name of first pet and name of street’?  Baggins Barfield.  Try again.

Where was I when I got The Call?  On a ferry approaching Dover.  Something White?  Something Cliff.  Chanelle Ferry? Nope.

How about combining the name of a family member and someone famous?  Youngest daughter’s middle name is nice.  I’ve just been skiing and Chemmy Alcott is a pretty good female role model  Yep.  Louisa Alcott.  That’ll do nicely.  Oh…

Friends and family were exceedingly helpful and I’ll be forever grateful for the suggestions of Hooty McBoob, Lavinia Lustworth, Monica De Plume and others far too indecent for public viewing!

At this point my husband got out the map and we started on the bad puns.  Say almost hello to Heather Alderley, Olivia Yorke and Louisa Canterbury.  Historical maybe, but not very romantic.

The children decide to join in the game and draw on their extensive knowledge of CBeebies characters, but I don’t think Katie Morag Tumble is quite the image I’m going for.

I’m tearing my hair out and wondering if I’ll ever be able to reply to Sarah or if I really will be going with Anne Onymous after all.

And then the cat wanders in.  Old, arthritic, getting bonier by the day and the only one the children didn’t land with something utterly ridiculous.  Most of my writing takes place with him slumped across my legs or lying across my arm with his head on the laptop (I blame him for the typos).  So in tribute to him I’ve stolen his name.  The other half is one of mine.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.

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