John Who? – Chapter Eight

“People in a small town in the south east of England, which was the site of army action against a suspected terrorist cell, have begun to exhibit symptoms of an unknown illness which, some are claiming, is proving deadly in up to 80% of cases…”
The Washington Chronicle 9/6

“Epidemiologists have admitted they are perplexed by the lethal, as yet, unidentified, virus which is sweeping through the United Kingdom. They have, as yet, been unable to either identify it or determine its source. One problem appears to be that the infection does not appear to conform to any known epidemiological pattern…”
The Washington Chronicle 9/9

“Experts are baffled to explain exactly what is happening to the people of the United Kingdom, who appear to be in the grip of a deadly epidemic. The British Prime Minister Philip Rutherford today assured this reporter that the health service was up to the challenge of the current crisis but private sources revealed this was only because most of those infected were dying before they could make it to the hospital, and one scientist even claimed the virus had a 100% mortality rate. The President dismissed such claims but has today offered Prime Minister Rutherford the help of the CDC and a team of specialists is preparing to leave for the UK later today.”
The Washington Chronicle 9/12

“With scientists unable to control, or even identify the mystery infection which has, to date, killed over one million people in the UK, the United Nations today declared mainland Britain a Controlled Area. All military and civilian air ports and ports have been closed and the Channel Tunnel has been sealed at both ends and a civilian air and sea exclusion zone has been put in place. The President has asked people not to panic as there is no reported case of the disease outside of mainland Britain. As a preventative measure, however, he has ordered all British nationals, and those who have had contact with them, as well as US citizens who have visited the UK in the last month to report to isolation centres to be placed in preventative quarantine. The National Guard is helping to escort these people to isolation centres, as we go to press…”
The Washington Chronicle 9/16

“It has now been over 48 hours since any official word has been heard from the United Kingdom government and sources at the Pentagon today suggested the reason could simply be that the virus devastating that country has now claimed over 80% of the population…”
The Washington Chronicle 9/19

Our search is complete. There are no LWCs left on this landmass. We failed to locate John. We must extend our search. We are billions strong. We will separate into groups. We will search the other land masses. We will use the feathers warm collections. We must find John.

http://www.hellenriebold.com

@hellenriebold

F: Hellen Riebold’s Author Page

The Saddest Boy In The World

A friend and I had cause to be in central London on Bank Holiday Monday, where we visited a Starbucks. The story below is inspired by something we saw whilst there. Hope you like it and, if the little man in question reads it, I hope it gives him ideas.

 

Ralph’s attention drifted from the test paper on the desk in front of him, his brain rebelling against the endless practising for an examination he didn’t even want to take. His father’s cough sounded low from across the room, he was being watched, he knew, so he had no option but to plod on. He bent his head back to his work and tried anew to figure out which shape could possibly be the odd one out.

Ralph had been excited when his father had suggested their trip to Starbucks. He so rarely spent any time with his dad, who always seemed to be busy at the office or locked away in his study doing serious things, his heart sang as his father chose to spend his precious bank holiday with him. However, once they arrived, Ralph’s hopes had been dashed. His father had ordered a single drink, a black coffee, and then pointed Ralph to a prison of a table, wedged between the wall and the high side of the counter with soft sofas in front of the table that would trap him for sure if anyone sat down in them.

His father had carefully placed the test booklet on the table, together with a pencil and a ruler. “You have an hour,” he’d said with no further explanation. “If you complete the test satisfactorily, I’ll buy you one of those milk drinks you are so fond of.”
With that his father had turned his back, walked to the other side of the room and chosen his own seat by the door where he proceeded to read The Economist, occasionally glancing up to check his offspring was being compliant.

Ralph’s spirits sunk – he hated the eleven plus, he’d had to do a test paper each and every week day of the holiday, he did a quick mental calculation to check just how many that made in total, seven times five, 35 tests! An hour for each test, followed by 20 minutes of terror each evening as his father marked them then another hour whilst his mistakes were laid plain for him to see and repair. That was 105 hours of his precious holidays wasted on a stupid test he didn’t even want to take. He didn’t want to go to Boughton House, like his father had, he wanted to go to St. Thomas’ with Simon and Mohammad, he didn’t want to be sent away from home, only seeing his mother during the holidays and never allowed to call during term-time. His father called it character building but Ralph thought his character was okay as it was. He didn’t want to make the ‘right’ kind of friends, he liked the ones he already had and anyway, he didn’t want to work in a bank, or any other kind of office, come to that and, if he ever did get a job, he wanted it to be because he was smart, not because of who he knew.

Ralph finished the final calculation and looked over at his father who was engrossed in the article he was reading. A shiver of panic travelled down his spine – he’d finished too soon. He must have got something wrong. Hastily he flipped the booklet over and turned each page, scanning for the mistake, but he could see nothing. He let the final page fall to the table and carefully put the pencil down beside it, uncertain what to do next.

Two women had filled the sofas as he feared someone might, and he was trapped. He looked over at his father for help but his father wasn’t looking this way and wouldn’t want Ralph to disturb his reading anyway. He looked around the table, as if searching for a previously unseen magic door to open and release him, but none appeared. Finally he headed straight for the sofa, even though he could see the space between it and the table was insufficient to his needs, he just didn’t know what else to do. Mercifully one of the women saw his predicament and asked her friend to move so he could squeeze passed. His father heard him whispering his thanks and put down his magazine, looking expectantly at the boy.

Ralph made his way over to his father, the paper shaking in his hand a little and laid it down in front of him, “Finished?” he asked.

Ralph nodded silently.

The man glanced quickly through the booklet, “Let’s get you that drink,” he smiled down at Ralph, “I have a feeling you’ve earned it.”

The two of them went over to the counter and Ralph’s father ordered himself a second coffee and Ralph a strawberries and cream Frappuccino with cream and everything. Ralph walked back to his father’s table but before he could sit down his dad picked up his copy of The Economist and gave it to him.

“Why don’t you go and read this back at your table whilst I mark your work?” he asked, though Ralph knew it wasn’t really a question.

He took the magazine and his drink, squeezed his way past the two ladies, who looked at him sadly, and returned to his prison seat to enjoy his reward, silently.

He could hear them whispering under their breaths about him and his father, they seemed to be cross but he couldn’t really tell with whom. He tried to tune them out and focus on an article about the need to maintain free trade in the global commodities markets in areas of conflict. He didn’t really understand anything he was reading but, as his father had taught him, he ringed the truly baffling phrases with his pencil for later discussion.

Ralph had almost finished his strawberries and cream Frappuccino when his father called him over with another discrete cough, he was relieved to see the grumpy ladies had gone so it was easy to free himself, he was careful to pick up his pencil, ruler, magazine and beaker, he was hoping not to return.

“You know Ralph,” his father almost smiled down at him, “I think that if you keep performing at this standard, Boughton House will have to invent a new top set, just for you.”

“Thank you, Father,” Ralph replied, and that’s when his wicked idea hit him. He did a quick mental calculation, the holidays would be over in less than two weeks, that was around another ten tests his father would mark. Another ten tests he had to pass. But Father wouldn’t mark the real test, he realised with relish, if he deliberately answered those questions incorrectly, Boughton House wouldn’t want him at all, not in any of their sets. He’d be free to go to St. Thomas’ with Simon and Mohammad. Free to sit with his mother for breakfast, free to play football after school and see his Nanna whenever he wanted and, best of all, free from his father’s expectations and plans for his life. He would be free.

He smiled a deep down smile that travelled from the secret places, through his stomach, into his chest and burst forth onto his face with a force that could not be stopped.

“Feels good to win, doesn’t it son?” his father asked.

“Yes Father.” Ralph answered.

Writing Promptly 2

I have decided to share some of the micro stories that I have furiously scribbled down, in response to writing prompts, with you. I hope this will encourage you to have a go yourself but I also wanted a way of giving these little tales a chance to live, however briefly.

The challenge for this next story was to take a recent piece of news and write as though you were someone caught up in the events. I chose a piece of local news about a lightning strike on a building in Rayleigh High Road, which closed the road for hours and caused chaos locally. Please remember this story was written under time pressure so does not represent my ‘best work’, it’s just a bit of masochistic fun which I’ve decided to share.

The Story
“You will not believe the day I’ve had,” Sylvie called as she finally lugged her bags wearily across the threshold. My meeting was moved to Chelmsford, but, of course, no-one thought to let me know, so I had to go tearing up the A130 as soon as I got in, and you know the Army and Navy roundabout is full of road works. I tried to cut up through Great Baddow but then I got stuck behind one of the flat-cap and pipe brigade doing three miles an hour! Mike?”
Sylvie stopped and listened to the silence that met her. Sulking is so childish, she thought. She glanced at her watch and kicked off her shoes.
“I’ll jump in the shower – we won’t hiss much of the party.” She apologised.
She made a quick search of downstairs, continuing her tale of woe; trying to excuse her extreme lateness.
“The meeting went on for hours – it was so dull, I struggled to stay awake. Then on the way home I had to cut through Rayleigh because the roundabout was flooded, I was making really good time though, then, just as I got to the top of Crown Hill, there was an almighty bang and a huge flash. I swear the car almost jumped off the road. Then, suddenly it was raining huge lumps of brickwork. I thought a bomb had gone off, or something.”
She made her way upstairs.
“The road was completely covered in rubble. Thank fully the police station is just across the road there so they were soon on the scene. They closed the road. I couldn’t get through, and it would have to be the one day I leave my phone at home, wouldn’t it! Mike? Are you home?” The lack of response was beginning to bother her now.
“Mike!” she called as she walked into their room.
She stopped and stared at the scene in front of her. Her brain unable to comprehend what it was seeing. His drawers in the chest stood open and empty, the wardrobe door hung gapping, screaming “He’s gone!” with a mouthful of empty hangers.
She glanced down and an envelope, addressed to her, on the bed caught her eye. She grabbed it and tore it open, resigned to its contents.

“Sylvie
You couldn’t even bother to call with your excuses this time. I’ve had enough. I’m going to celebrate my birthday, my way with my mates, and I won’t be back.
Mike”
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If you liked my little tale and want to find out more about my writing you can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hellen-Riebolds-Author-Page/530521043655534 or take a look at my website: http://www.hellenriebold.com/

Writing Promptly 1

Once a month I attend an encouraging, enabling writing group called Writebulb which is held at Chelmsford library and run by two very hard-working women called Carlie and Maria. Each month, at the group, we are given writing prompts and thirty minutes to come up with a story inspired by that prompt. I have decided to share some of the stories that I have furiously scribbled down in those labour intensive, frankly terrifying thirty minutes, with you. I hope this will encourage you to have a go yourself but I also wanted a way of giving these little tales a chance to live, however briefly.

The prompt for this first story was a list of four things that had to be included in the tale, they were: a door, a tree, an explosion and a golden key. Please remember this story was written under time pressure so does not represent my ‘best work’ merely a fun story which I hope you like.

The Story
Robert hurled himself to the ground as the blast wave hit, feeling the vibration rip through the earth around him. The castle itself seemed to explode, rather than merely the small device he’d planted. Instinctively he buried his face in the grass and covered his head with his hands as the first, smaller, shrapnel began to fall around him. He silently prayed that the larger stuff, when it came, would miss him – or at least leave him able to escape. He screwed his eyes tight shut and pushed his thumbs over his ears as the choking cloud of dust enveloped him. The air became hot and thick, making breathing like sipping treacle, and his prayers more fervent as he waited for the onslaught to pass. His back and legs were slowly being buried under a rain of debris but, by frequently wriggling, he knew that, so far, he would be free to run when the time came.
Something sharp and heavy hit his head, bounced, then landed on the ground beside him, resting against his arm. It was hot, and he quickly jerked his arm away.
Eventually, the dust storm began to subside and Robert knew he’d better begin his escape. It wouldn’t take the authorities long to arrive and, when they did, they’d be looking for someone to blame for the Great Commander’s demise.
He jumped to his feet, risking a quick glance back at the smouldering pile of rubble that only 15 minutes ago had been the jewel in the state’s crown. He couldn’t help it, despite all the death and destruction he’d caused, a tiny smile escaped his lips. He looked down, feeling slightly ashamed, and that’s when it caught his eye. The heavy, sharp, hot thing that had hit him. It was a key, a large, golden key with an intricately patterned top and five teeth standing to attention at the business end. It piqued his curiosity so he bent down and, pulling his sleeve over his hand, scooped it up and into his pocket before taking off into the forest.
He ran full-pelt, keeping the sun always behind him, which, at this time of day, would ensure he maintained his trajectory westward, towards the safety of the hinterlands. He was so intent on maintaining his course that he never even saw the tree he ran into at full pelt.

A brutal blow to Robert’s side roused him from unconsciousness then a cascade of water hit him full-force in the face.
“Get up worm!” A rough voice yelled, before another blow to the side winded him.
Robert forced himself to open his eyes and, as his vision came into focus the unmistakable shape of a state prison door came into view, half way up the wall. You had to be standing to reach that door and, as he felt the manacles around his ankles and wrists, he knew that was something he would never do again.

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If you liked my little tale and want to find out more about my writing you can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hellen-Riebolds-Author-Page/530521043655534 or take a look at my website: http://www.hellenriebold.com/

What Did Nelson Mandela Ever Do For Me?

I don’t have many childhood memories, probably because I was too busy having fun to think about remembering stuff, but among the few I do have, two songs stick out very clearly in my mind.

 The first is Space Oddity by David Bowie. I remember watching Bowie sing it on Top of the Pops while sitting inside what I can only describe as a large tube. I was two and, bizarrely, I can trace my interest in space to that moment. Why bizarrely? Well because in the same year, 1969 (yes I know, I’m old), my Dad kept me up to watch the moon landing. How much of that do I remember? Nothing. Memory eh? It’s a funny thing.

 The second song I remember is The Specials with Free Nelson Mandela, which you can hear here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgcTvoWjZJU  it was released in 1984, when I was 17, and I remember it because it was the song that awaked my personal social conscience.

Don’t get me wrong; by 1984 I was a veteran of many protest marches, mostly, but not exclusively, for CND. I had been encouraged from an early age to think politically and had been taught about the greedy rich and the downtrodden poor, the Irish situation and the terrorists who would kill, even if they didn’t have a cause, but this song challenged me for the first time to decide for myself what I thought about a situation. I had never heard of this guy, Nelson Mandela, they were singing about. I wanted to know why he’d been in prison so long, what had he done and why was his imprisonment so unjust? In short I wanted to know who Stan Campbell was begging to let him go and why.

I did some research and was astounded that a situation like apartheid could possibly exist in the modern world, how could rational people think that it could ever be OK to treat another portion of society almost as a contamination merely because their skin was a darker shade on the continuum? And how could my own government agree with them?

The sense of injustice I felt was personal. It wasn’t something I had been taught or told about or grown up with, it came from deep inside me. I was, for the first time in my life, truly outraged. I joined the protests and boycotts, I spoke to everyone around me, I became passionate in my desire to see Nelson Mandela freed, if only as a symbol of how wrong this system was.

Finally, the great day arrived. I watched, like a lot of people my age, as this almost mythical creature, left his prison and walked, looking like an ordinary man, to his freedom. I was excited and ecstatic but also a little scared. He was, after all, a member of an organisation which had resorted to violence to try and get their voice heard, as people with no hope often do. What would he say? What would happen to South Africa?

We waited.

His answer was the most miraculous thing I have ever seen.

He never once spoke recrimination or revenge. He spoke only peace and reconciliation and his actions matched his words.

He brought hope, not only in South Africa, where it was desperately needed, but also to the millions of people like me. Hope that millions of ordinary people, each individually choosing to make a stand, can change the world.

So, what did Nelson Mandela ever do for me?  He taught me about social responsibility and gave me hope that, no matter how big the evil, if we stand together we will win, he taught me forgiveness is a powerful weapon against hate and that actions speak louder than words.  Lessons I will never forget.

Thank you Madiba, and may flights of Angels carry you to your well-deserved rest.

The Emily Pankhurst Blues

Usually I blog about fluffy writing issues but recently something has really got me riled up and so I decided to share my feelings and join the debate.

I feel very blessed to have been born when and where I was, it has meant that I have been able to express my opinions freely, to protest when I have found injustice, gain as much education as I could ever have wanted and wear exactly what I want.

Usually the injustices I have railed against have occurred in the developing world and that’s because the generation of women before me fought hard and long to give me the right to raise my voice and have an expectation of being heard and for that I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Lately, however, I think some of our politicians have forgotten just how strong women are and have decided that quick political points can be made against them in the current social climate and I have reached the point at which I have to say, enough!

What am I talking about? Well it is the headscarf issue of course, it seems to be the local darling of the political elite. Suddenly, a mere 500 years after they first came into use, it has been decided that the most threatening thing to a civilised society is the sight of a woman wearing a full head covering.

I have two problems with this, firstly the precedent that it is OK to legally dictate what a woman can and cannot wear and the second is the insidious assurances I am hearing that one of the major reasons this law should be passed is to protect women from being forced to wear something they don’t want to. Enough!

Women are women are women, whatever their religion or the country they were born in, they are strong, intelligent and resourceful, they have had to be to survive generations of injustice at the same time as raising their oppressors’ children. Women of the Islamic faith are absolutely no different from women anywhere else and, here’s a shocking thing, some of them actually have a faith of their own which is not forced upon them by their wicked husbands. If a woman, of any faith, makes a decision to honour the teachings of her religion and cover her head, then are who are we to say she cannot.

Is it really more acceptable to tell a woman what she cannot wear than what she should wear is ridiculous in itself, isn’t it? “We have to protect women from wicked men who tell her what she must wear by telling her she will get arrested if she does.” That sounds sane to me-not! We live in a society which bombards girls with images of scantily clad women in every advert selling everything from batteries to bread, where lingerie lines are marketed for three year olds and where female singers feel they have to go naked and gyrate like a whirly-gig just to be heard. With all these clothes related issues the thing the politicians feel we ought to legislate is the wearing of too many layers. Hmmm.

Now I’m not daft, I have heard their arguments of safety, trust and anti-terrorism, I would counter that argument by asking why has this suddenly become such a big problem?

Well I’m giving notice, if this ridiculous law is brought in, as it has been in France just 21 miles away, I will be buying a burka to wear as a fashion choice in the hope that I will be arrested and then they can tell me exactly why I cannot wear exactly what I want when I want in the democracy where I live.

Rant over, normal fluffy writing related service will be resumed soon. Thanks.

http://www.hellenriebold.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hellen-Riebolds-Author-Page/530521043655534

Flash Fiction

Today’s blog is a little different. I set the Rayleigh Vineyard Writing Group a flash fiction of about 500 words with the title “Shh! Did you hear that?” and I thought, as I set it, I might share my attempt. So here it is…

Mandy by Hellen Riebold

“Shh! Did you hear that?” Robert hissed, annoyed.

“What?” Mandy looked at him confused.

“Well, if you would just stop yammering for two consecutive minutes I might be able to hear what he was saying.”

Mandy’s face crumpled and Robert regretted his harsh tone. “I’m sorry Mandy,” he whispered, “it’s just that I paid a lot of money for this conference, specifically to hear this guy tell me how to get rich writing and I keep missing stuff because you’re talking.”

The people around them rose to their feet and started applauding enthusiastically as the seminar came to an end.

“Now I’ll never find out what number seven was.” Robert exclaimed, rising wearily to his feet and politely joining in with the clapping.

Mandy, in the meantime, turned to the person behind her, “Excuse me,” she said politely tapping the person on the top of his arm to get his attention, “can you tell my husband what number seven was please, I’m afraid I distracted him and he missed it.”

The man ignored her completely, turning instead to the person standing beside him, “Isn’t he insightful?” he said and his neighbour nodded his agreement.

The clapping died down and people started leaving the room, barging past them without so much as a by-your-leave. Robert was getting more and more annoyed and Mandy, wanting to deflect some of his anger, decided to try again, “Excuse me? Hello? Could you help me?” she tried stopping the flow of people several times, tapping them, waving at them and even sticking her foot out to cause them to stumble but nothing. Everyone was in far too much of a hurry to even look at them.

“What are you doing?” Robert’s eyes bore into her. “First you make us late leaving with your cooked breakfast and endless check-lists of things we don’t need, then you forget the tickets so we have to go all the way home, then you needed that loo break and, when you finally do get here you talk to me just at the most crucial part of the seminar. I really have no idea why I brought you along!”

Mandy felt her bottom lip start to tremble, she didn’t like it when he exploded and she could feel an eruption was imminent, “Robert, I’m sorry. I was hoping I could ask one of these people what you’d missed. I thought if I could find out for you it might make up for my ‘yammering’. I really don’t know why you keep me around, I’m such a nuisance.”

He looked at her trembling lip and pleading eyes and his heart melted, he let out a deep sigh and took both her hands in his, “Mandy.” He began, “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. You are not a nuisance. I love you, I couldn’t bear to be without you.”

She smiled, “I know. Would you like me to go home ahead of you and get the dinner on, then you could stay here and find out what you missed.”

“That would be great.” He smiled.

And with that Mandy disappeared.

Rayleigh Vineyard Writing group is completely free and meets the third Saturday of every month at Rayleigh Library, Essex from 2pm to 4pm and new members are welcome. Have a look at our Facebook page for more info https://www.facebook.com/groups/157357637755219/

Isn’t It Ironic?

Recently I have been thinking quite a lot about irony, brought on by the fact that I found myself tweeting about how a PBS documentary about the Amish was making me want to move to Pennsylvania and share in their life-style.

I began to notice other little ironies creeping in to, for example my tendency to Facebook about my battle with procrastination when writing and my friend Anna looking straight at me and struggling to remember her sister’s name, which is the same as mine. Of course the biggest irony I have come across is Alanis Morissette’s song ‘Isn’t it Ironic?” which always has me screaming at the radio, “No. That’s just sod’s law.”

So what is the point of irony? Well in an academic setting it is useful to show you understand a concept enough to be able to point out its flaws and, in a literally setting, it is seen as a useful device to point to the larger issues your work seeks to highlight, but what about when irony raises its head in the everyday setting. Well, I’ve thought long and hard about that and have come to a very clear realisation.

Irony is God’s way of showing us He has a sense of humour and His sneaky way of helping the world to laugh at us when we take ourselves too seriously. Now isn’t that ironic?

When They Leave Home

This week I have been asking myself one big question, ‘Why do I write?’

I thought I knew the answer, ‘to be published’, but this week I found out that may not be the case.

You see this week, as you may have heard, I published my first solo novel, New Earth: Beginnings, through KDP. This is the book that consumed my waking hours to such an extent that I eventually left work to give it the attention it demanded. At the time I left work I was sure this book was the be all and end all of everything. I wrote furiously for days on end, desperate to get the story out of my head and onto the paper. The closer to the end of the book I got the further engrossed in the world I was writing I became until, in the final days, I felt like I was looking back at real life through an open window. In a way completing that first draft, back in September 2012, felt a little like being set free. Oh I know I have still been heavily involved in the editing so I have read and re-read the manuscript any number of times but the story never held that same power over me.

I’m not sure how I thought publishing the book would feel, and don’t get me wrong, I am delighted it is out there, prouder than anything that it is selling in modest numbers and looking forward, eagerly, to receiving my first review, but somehow it just doesn’t feel so important as I thought it would. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling of watching a child leave home. The achievement I feel is in completing the work, by publishing it I feel I have set it free to go to make its own way in the world. I, in the meantime, am far too busy with the kids left at home to watch its every move.

Now my head is full of my current work in progress, whose first draft is close to completion, and plans for the next story in line. I am brim full of ideas for short stories and long stories, novels, series and even, thanks to my local writing group, Writebulb, poems. I know I will never have time to write them all down but I am really enjoying trying.

So, after a little soul-searching this week, I can now say, with complete conviction, the answer to the question, ‘why do I write?’ is ‘because I can’t not.’, if you see what I mean.

Now if one of my children could just make a million and come back to take care of their Momma I wouldn’t turn them away, but I honestly love them all just the same for the joy they give me in their growing.

http://www.hellenriebold.com

Today’s The Day.

I have been waiting for today my whole life, it seems.

Today is the day I publish my first solo novel. It is called New Earth: Beginnings and it has had quite a long journey.

I have always written, ever since I can remember and, before I wrote, I used to tell stories to anyone who would listen. My poor sister, who is five years younger than me, had a lot to endure in her younger years.

The idea for the story in my novel first came to me a little over ten years ago when a good friend suddenly vanished. I started writing about the feelings of despair and helplessness I was drowning in as a way of coping. I wrote many disconnected scenes, none of which made it into the final draft of the book, but all of which sparked a little part of the eventual story.

Thankfully my friend returned home, eventually, and the story went onto my back burner as I returned to normal life. I wrote other, happier things, short stories, poems but my mind  kept coming back to the questions my friend’s disappearance had raised. What if someone you loved vanished and no-one cared? What social situation could make that happen? What did it mean about the value we put on an individual life? The story, which had been fermenting (or should that be festering) away in my mind suddenly felt like it was ready to burst out and I started writing. Obsessively. My house, which is never up to Martha Stewart standards, suddenly fell below even Shrek’s, my cooking became microwave, my husband neglected and I even started to resent the time I had to stop writing and go to work, even though I loved my job. I was getting very stressed and making myself sick. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be the writing. Here is where I have to tell you I married very well. I have a wonderful, one-in-a-million husband who listened as I tried to explain my madness to him and who was so supportive of my dream that he agreed to me giving up work to concentrate on my writing, even though we both knew it would mean living off baked beans and being grateful for a walk on the beach as a night out, probably forever.

So in January 2012 I left a job I loved doing working with a wonderful group of people, in an area that was very worthwhile. It was scary and exciting all at once but my colleagues, who had been very supportive and encouraging as I shared with them the first few chapters, seemed very proud of me for pursuing my dreams.

By March 2012 I had completed my first draft and then came the editing process, which, if I’m honest, I hated, but it was very worthwhile and I know it made the book 400% better than it would have been without it, for a start I’m dyslexic and can’t spell for toffee and that’s not attractive in a completed book.

Next I had to decide whether to self-publish or send off my precious manuscript to agents. In the end I decided to go down the self-publishing route because I think ‘the times they are a changin’, to quote Dylan. I thought about it pragmatically; new books sell, on average, about 500 copies. Publishers can no longer afford to pay either large advances or marketing budgets for untried authors and they expect the authors to do a lot of their own marketing. If I got a deal with a publisher I would receive a fraction of the royalties I could through self-publishing. In the end I decided that, if I would need to do all the marketing myself anyway, and my chances of selling many copies were small, I would go for the self-publishing route and retain full control of my work. So that’s what I’ve done.

If you want to see how the final story turned out follow the link below, the first three chapters are free to download so check it out and I hope you enjoy it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Earth-Beginnings-ebook/dp/B00D6G7AEO/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370520207&sr=1-4&keywords=Hellen+riebold

 

Having finished writing my first book I discovered writing is a little addiction. I have already finished a collaborative effort, The Saved Saint, with a friend, which was published last October and I have almost finished my second solo novel’s first draft. I am so glad I followed my dream and so grateful to those who encouraged me.