Friday, July 29, 2016

From the cutting-room floor, episode 3: The Phone Book

I promise, the print version of the book will be available REALLY SOON. In the meantime, here's another excerpt that sadly had to be left out of the finished book when things changed in the story. Lilac was trying to find someone's address, so she wanted to look it up in the phone book. Her dad was helping. Or maybe he was just "helping".


‘Now don’t interrupt, I’m coming to it … would you run in and put on the kettle for a second, I’d kill for a cuppa; where’s your mother anyway?’
‘Dad-dy! She’s upstairs. Go on.’
Lilac knew this was what she got for interrupting. If she’d just kept quiet he’d have finished the story by now. She moved towards the door to the kitchen to show willing, but didn’t actually leave the room.
‘So then they went through some other papers in case the form she’d filled in right at the start was still there. And they didn’t find it in his file and they decided that it must have gone out with the bins already.’
He stopped.
‘I know there’s more, you’re trying not to smile. Come on, Dad.’
‘Where’s that tea?’
Lilac went to the kitchen and plugged in the kettle without even looking to see if there was any water in it, and ran back through the door in about three seconds flat.
‘Now!’ she demanded.
‘So then they happened to look in the file right beside Guzzler’s, because of course you have to keep all your paperwork, and sometimes things do get pushed into the wrong place, and there it was, and there was the name we were looking for.’
‘And her address?’
‘Well, no, but we should be able to find it in the phone book. Her name’s O’Connor. Eileen O’Connor, though of course it’ll be under the husband’s name in the book.’
‘But Dad! There are probably a million O’Connors in the phone book. It’s a really common name.’
‘You can look at the addresses. We know she lives nearby. That should narrow it down.’

Half an hour later, Gerry had made his own cup of tea and Lilac was sitting on the floor with her index finger halfway down a very long list of O’Connors, trying to slow down her eyes so she wouldn’t miss what she was looking for. She’d started at Abel O’Connor who lived in Swords, Co. Dublin, and now she was at Jeremy M. O’Connor, B. Arch., of Eglinton Road, Donnybrook. There were five pages of O’Connors in the 01 area code, at three columns to a page.
‘Here’s one!’ she shouted.
Gerry leaned over to see the address she was pointing at.
‘No, that’s not going to be it. Too far outside the town. She definitely told me she lived right around here. One of those little roads off the main street further down, you know?’
‘You could stop for a while, take a break. It’s hard on the eyes looking at all that tiny print. Have you finished your homework?’
‘Yes. Practically. No, I’m going to keep going. I want to find it.’

The silence resumed, broken only by the wet slobbery noise of Guzzler chomping on his toy. There were more John O’Connors than you would think possible, but finally she was on to the Leonards, Liams, Lorcans, and one Lorenzo. (No Lilacs.)
Lilac started to wonder what Lorenzo O’Connor did in his spare time, and whether he had the soulful brown eyes and sweeping mane of hair his name demanded. What a disappointment it must have been for his mother if he had turned out shrimpy and pale. She hoped he was of foreign extraction, so that he’d fit his name, and that he was an actor or a concert pianist and not just an electrician. Though it would be fun to have an electrician called Lorenzo, too. ‘I have to ring Lorenzo’, you would say, ‘because the extractor fan in the bathroom is on the blink. He’ll have to come right over.’
Her eyes were starting to glaze over a bit and she was wondering if she’d have to go back and do this column again all the way from Matthew O’Connor (SC) at the top, when another address seemed to spring off the page at her.
‘Dad! Was it Elm Terrace?’
‘Yes, I’d say it probably was.’
Gerry fumbled in his pocket for a piece of paper and held it a certain distance from his eyes to focus on it. ‘Read out the number in the book there.’
‘What? OK…’ She read it out.
‘That’s the one.’
‘Dad. You had the phone number the whole time?’
‘Yes, it was on the page with her name. She couldn’t just run off without leaving them any contact information at all.’
‘But we could have just rung her and asked her where she lives!’
‘And have you miss all this fun looking it up? Not at all.’ Her dad grinned at her.
‘I can’t believe you did that to me.’
She was so annoyed with him that she went back upstairs and wrote her essay all about how fathers shouldn’t play mean tricks on their daughters just because they didn’t like making phone calls to strangers.

Friday, July 8, 2016

From the cutting-room floor, episode two: Jeannie the babysitter

Time for another deleted scene from the book. This happened after Lilac had met Jeannie, her new babysitter, for the first time.


Once Lilac had met Jeannie, she started to see her everywhere. She supposed she had probably been there all along, but before Jeannie had just been another of the big girls in the navy uniform, who generally seemed to move in giggling clusters of no fewer than six at a time, at least three of whom would be pushing bikes on the footpath and blocking the way past for anyone else.

On Wednesday after late choir practice, Lilac saw Jeannie coming up the hill in a group just like that, though Jeannie seemed to be a little left out of whatever the subject of the giggling was at that particular moment, and was pushing her bike up the steep slope with her head low down, practically on the handlebars, as if school had been so tiring that she’d like to fall asleep before she even got home. Lilac went red and didn’t say hi because she thought Jeannie’s friends might be giggling about her, even though really that was very unlikely.

On Thursday, Lilac went down to the shops after school because her mother was baking a cake – of all things – and needed more eggs. There was Jeannie coming out of the library in the middle of the main street with another girl, still in her school uniform. Jeannie was looking oddly animated and chatting happily and waving her arms as she spoke. This was a new Jeannie, one Lilac hadn’t imagined existed. Lilac tried to say hi, but Jeannie didn’t see her, so Lilac had to pretend she’d just been talking to herself.

The following Saturday morning, Lilac encountered Jeannie with her mother, as she and her Dad went to pick Lilac’s mum up at the tennis club. Lilac’s mum had locked her keys in the car again, and it was lucky that Daddy was home, she said, because otherwise she’d have to get a lift home from someone else and nobody lived in their direction. Lilac liked going into the tennis clubhouse, with its plush surrounds in the bar (where under 12s were not allowed, but she could peer through the narrow panes of glass in the door) and its clangy lockers in the changing room, and its special smell everywhere of metal and shoes and maybe cigars. Jeannie’s mum said Jeannie was joining the club as a junior, and wasn’t that lovely, but Jeannie didn’t really look as if she thought it was lovely, much.

Lilac wondered why on earth any reasonable teenager would want to join a club their mum was in, and – more - why anyone’s mum would think they’d like to do that. Jeannie’s mum was probably all talking about how handy it would be that they could both go to the club together and how much fun it would be to have George the Pro give Jeannie some lessons and how there’d be doubles in the summer and she’d make lots of friends. Those was just the sorts of thing Lilac’s mum would say, and mothers were mothers, after all, even if maybe they didn’t all lock the keys in the car or fake lunches with publishers to get out of school things.

More cover art - and not just an ebook!

It's been a while, I know. These things take time. You can't rush genius.

More to the point, I knew it would be a bad thing to just grab a cover that was pretty good, that would "do", if I wasn't completely happy with it - no matter how impatient I was to get this book out into the world. I had to take my time and wait until I had a cover that felt just right.

Everyone knows you shouldn't judge a book by its cover - but I think almost everyone does just that.

A book's cover tells you so much about it - who it's for, what it's like, whether it's funny or serious or scary or fantastical. And that's before you've even read the title or noticed the name of the author. A detail as subtle as the style of the lettering communicates so much more than you'd think - until you pick the wrong one and nobody buys your book because the cover art isn't attracting them and the outside doesn't match up with the inside.

So I worked with some friends who are as talented as they are patient, and together we suggested and opined and discussed and tried different things and brought our various abilities together and now, almost now, any day now, I will have the final final cover ready to upload with the text files and make my ebook. I'm also going to try to make a physical book as well, because hey, why not? You'll be able to order it from Amazon in Ireland/UK or the US. All the formats, all the ways to read about Lilac.

So here's the new cover art. I think - and I hope you'll agree - that it's eye-catching and fun, that it looks right for the age group and that it's quirky and modern. I'd want to read it - wouldn't you?