In which Southend is less shit than we thought!

Afternoon. You might have noticed I’ve redecorated the blog and changed the theme to something else white and blocky, although by the time you read this I might have changed it twice more and/or back to how it was.

I’ve hit a mid-afternoon slump and can’t actually remember what this blog was supposed to be about, so let’s talk about dead kings! Or princes, as the case may be. Or may not be. Who read about the Prittlewell Princely burial and felt a mild stab of pride at being from Southend? It was a fleeting stab – kind of a twinge? – but YES HELLO THAT’S A BIT OF VERGE I RECOGNISE. I’m going to the exhibition as soon as I can.

I actually remember, albeit vagually, visiting an exhibition about the burial in either Southend Museum or Prittlewell Priory 12 or 15 years ago, when it was quite a new find. I don’t remember being hugely excited but take two should be better, mostly because I now know how to read.

It occurred to me ages ago that it might be quite fun to do a series of posts about things in and around Southend that are actually quite nice (there are some excellent shops and a few interesting historical places and/or haunted places), but I never got around to it. Maybe I should start with the exhibition? Or the bit of verge under which the Saxon king/prince was buried for several centuries? The Aldi across the road is staffed by lovely people, but we might have trouble getting photographs that don’t feature traffic. Or tarmac.

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no spoilers but I couldn’t be bothered to properly finish this post

Evening! I don’t particularly have anything to say, but I ate a snack quite late so I’m sleepy but I feel like lying down would be quite a bad idea. Sooo…. hello. How was your April? Did you enjoy the mini heatwave? Have you got hayfever yet? I had this monster cold with such bad congestion that I’ve still got scabs inside my nose, so bring it on, pollen. On the plus side, I was so ill I took a day off and slept through a lot of finally watched Line of Duty. My favourite part of the programme thus far has been the evolution of Steve’s waistcoats.

To be honest, that’s all I’ve got to say. Turns out I’m ‘about to crash with laptop open’ sleepy and I can’t even be bothered to source a gif of Steve in a waistcoat. I bet there are loads. I had a look on Twitter and a cursory scroll of @bbcone indicates there are some hardcore fans out there, but I think that particular rabbit hole is one for another day. Is there a directory for fandoms? So I could type in ‘waistcoat evolution’ or ‘steve’ and filter to British TV>Line of Duty and tadahhh Kaz from Hull has a crime drama Tumblr with 12 posts about wardrobe evolution. It would save a lot of searching, I’m just saying.

Phuket & the Soi Dog Foundation, Thailand, ft. DOGS

I’ve been eating a lot of curry lately, because there is almost no limit to what you can put in a curry except perhaps cabbage, and between that and that one part of The Umbrella Academy that’s set in Vietnam, I feel like South East Asia is calling to me. My bank account isn’t on my side, so I might as well share pictures of dogs at the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, which I highly recommend to the whole of humanity because DOGS.

So I virtually live blogged the 40-odd hour journey out of Laos into Thailand. We took such a weird route out of Vientiane because one of the places on my list to see in Asia was the Soi Dog Foundation. Originally established by Dutch expatriate Margot Homburg, in 2003 she joined forces with British expats Gill and John Daley, who wanted to do something about the estimated 70,000 stray cats and dogs on Phuket. It’s grown into an internationally-renown shelter dedicated to sterilising and re-homing strays and, if I remember correctly, helped eradicate rabies from the island of Phuket completely. It was also instrumental in helping the abandoned pets and strays left over from the Boxing Day tsunami and is campaigning against Asia’s dog meat trade – I first heard of it from an online petition.

Phuket is a lot bigger than it looks, and the Soi Dog Foundation was way further from our hostel at Karon Beach than I realised. It took the entire morning to get there by bus – but Phuket is a lot like Spain in that it’s virtually set up for tourists, so the roads were fabulous, especially compared to Lao and Vietnamese roads. Also, Thai motorists drive on the right. So do the Maltese. Sensible people. Anyway, the shelter is a bit hidden from the bus stop, so I got a lift on a motorbike from a volunteer, which was useful as a local dog, ironically, was doing a great job of nipping the back of my legs when the bike pulled up (get your vaccinations, kids, rabies eradication or not!).

 

If you’re going to Soi Dog hoping to get your fix of dog cuddles, you’ll be disappointed (I was). These dogs see humans all day, every day, they do not give a shit when another one walks into their home, although most were more than happy to come and say hello. The shelter is separated into sections: old dogs, puppies, cattery, specially-designed dog hospital (they play the dogs music!), non-human-friendly dogs, etc. The staff, who are mostly volunteers, take you on a tour and do a fantastic job of explaining how everything works.

 

Can we have these posters in England too please?

 

I visited not long after Gill Daley died (her husband John is still involved full time) and really got a sense that this is the sort of place people come to volunteer at time after time, because it’s a lovely place to work. I wish I could have spent more time there – I didn’t realise how long the journey would be – and really recommend you take the time to visit if you’re on Phuket on holiday, or if you’re thinking of getting involved with stray dogs or opening a shelter (hint hint Zakynthos).

There wasn’t a lot else on Phuket that we wanted to see – there were, like, children with their parents and forks instead of chopsticks and I was in Peak Shitty Backpacker Mode at this point – so after saying hi to Big Buddha, Maxim and I headed to the islands, where we split up to look for clues see different parts of Thailand.

 

I think they are planning to paint Buddha eventually?

 

Sort of can’t believe how good my tan is in that photo. Also can’t remember if the statues were especially large of if I’ve just got to get used to the fact I’m smaller than I think I am…

I’m going to make another curry. Come back in 6-8 months to hear about Koh Tao and Koh Samui, and then one of my favourite parts of the trip: Chiang Mai and Pai.

Meet THE PRINCESS AND THE DRAGON AND OTHER STORIES ABOUT UNLIKELY HEROES.

It’s time to introduce you to dragonnovel. After 3 years of writing and plotting and editing and re-plotting, 3 months of unsuccessful pitches to agents (followed by a much-needed edit) and approximately 14 uses of Google to double check different shades of the colour blue, dragonnovel’s done. In the can. Would it be even better with another 6 months of edits? Maybe. Would it have benefited from a professional editor alongside a mishmash of read throughs by my friends and critique partners? Definitely. Do I want to leave the current manuscript on my computer while I wait around for an editor to magically appear? Nope! Oh, here’s the blurb:

This is a book of fairytales, but not of happy endings.

Welcome to the Three Kingdoms.

Princesses hatch plans; princes embark on quests; the forces of evil gather in dark corners like spiders in an ancient tower. There’s an ancient tower. Don’t expect to fall asleep to sweet dreams when you’re done.

So here’s how we’re doing this: you guys remember my Patreon page? I’ve been sharing dragonnovel 1.0 on there for a few months (this is dragonnovel 2.0, by the way. Now you get why I call it dragonnovel). Anyway. There are 24-ish chapters in The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, and the first three plus the prologue are available for the entire universe to read here. They’re also on FictionPress and Archive of Our Own and deviantART and Wattpad; go and read at your leisure. The remaining 21 chapters will be shared with patrons once a fortnight until roughly January next year. Chapter four is actually up now.

I’ve decided to use Patreon to share the book for two reasons. Firstly, I want to share the novel in a fun book club-esque way, kind of like how I used to post fan fictions chapter-by-chapter and watch readers guess what would happen next (helloooo god complex). Secondly, and more practically, if enough people join in with my Patreon between now and next January, there should be enough money in the bank to make a proper ebook and commission my illustrator friends to do some cool drawings. There might, maybe, even be enough for a hardcover copy that I can hide in coffee shops and send to charities that give out free books. Perish the thought, I might even be able to make some money off them… let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. For now, I just want you guys to meet a princess called Amelia. She has a dragon infestation issue and absolutely no intention of being married off.

cover for The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes by Francesca Burke

Membership of my Patreon page (we’re gonna call it the Dragonnovel Book Club or something really snappy) starts from $1 per month. Depending on which side of Brexit we’re on when you read this, that’s about 78p. If you stick around for a year, you’re getting the whole book for about £10 which is quite a bargain for 56,000 words.

Here’s the basic breakdown of where your money goes:

  • 20% Patreon and bank processing fees; costs associated with running a membership platform
  • 40% The Bank of Francesca, because I don’t currently have the financial security to take the time to write (or research or plan) the next book
  • 40% The Make Dragonnovel a Proper Novel Fund, with which I can pay my proofreader and buy ISBNs and convert my files into e-reader files which it turns out is actually quite complex (this page on my new shiny website breaks it all down.)

You can read  about the different membership tiers (and their rewards!) on my Patreon page, as well as see how close we are to reaching the Holy Grail, aka an ebook.

Here’s a thing I need to say before we start. There will be absolutely no hard feelings if you’re a longtime reader of this blog, or a friend, or a family member, and you don’t join this little book club. I can’t tell you where to put your cash. But do not, in a year’s time, ask me why I still have a weekend job. Do not ask me why I haven’t finished the next book yet. Do not ask me why I’ve canned freelancing for a 40-hour desk job (and antidepressants). Do not, under any circumstances, ask when your free copy of The Princess and the Dragon will be in the post. Do not sit around at parties and tell me, or your kids or friends’ kids, to do what they love while they’re young and have nothing to stop them. This is me, doing that.

Now that’s been said, LET’s PARTY. And by party I mean read the chapters, join Patreon and tell all your friends to do the same. Oh and let me know what you think of the story, it will be nice to hear from you.

Update with links to other blog posts about the novel, illustrations, etc.:

Look Out for the Ides of March. Ish.

Morning. I can’t remember the last time I blogged this early, but I can barely remember the last time I blogged, so.

I can’t believe that February has been such a short month on paper, yet 2019 already feels as long as 2018 did. Then again, in the last month I’ve moved house, edited dragonnovel to Seriously, This Looks Like a Book levels of completeness, run a little marketing workshop (yeah, me talking to a room of strangers!) and wrestled the Mini to the side of the road after it broke down going round a roundabout. Shout out to Paul the RAC guy for towing me 3 miles in fog to the garage. Bad vibes to the lady in the Range Rover who watched the tow van pull out of a junction and tried to fit between the van and the broken-down car the van was pulling. Also, your lights were off.

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, there is a point to my 8am drop-in. Well, other than my inherent need to post here at least once in every calendar month in case I look like a flake. I’m putting together something very, very cool and dragonnovel-shaped for patrons, which I hope will be ready to go in March. It’s not quite done cooking yet, but I’m more excited about it than I have been about anything I’ve made for a while so this is basically me warning you that in a few weeks’ time, you’re going to see quite a lot of overexcited Tweets and probably a fair bit of blogging. IT’S GOING TO BE COOL. You’re also going to see a lot of caps-lock. Not sorry.

I need to have a shower/wrestle my hair into a ponytail/drive my newly-fixed Mini to work so byeeeee. Wait. Who’s been watching The Umbrella Academy? I got a 30-day Netflix trial out of curiosity and couldn’t believe a) how fun and weird the entire universe is and b) how much I had forgotten how fun and weird the entire universe is. I mean, I probably won’t renew Netflix until the second series airs, but still.

 

Introducing dragonnovel 1.0: Chapter One

Friends. Patrons. Darling readers. We’re only a week into 2019 and a cursory glance at the news suggests it would be greatly improved by princesses, dragons and unlikely heroes. So I have a dragonnovel-shaped gift for you! I wanted to do something fun for patrons in the new year, while I wait to hear back from agents about the manuscript (and also because it will be fun to have something to talk about that isn’t Brexit or my impending house move). It occurred to me that the first three chapters of dragonnovel 1.0, as I’m calling my draft, are just sitting in agents’ inboxes and on my computer, and that I may as well share them with patrons. So here’s the first chapter, on an epub document (which makes it look like a book/is viewable on an e-reader apparently). Come back in two weeks for the second chapter, and two weeks after that for the third!

If the draft is professionally edited and polished up before publication, it will be fun to compare this version with the finished one (which I’ll call dragonnovel 2.0 HOW ORIGINAL). I also get to do something on my days off other than refresh my emails hoping to hear from an agent, so it’s a win-win really…

All patrons have access to the chapters, by the way, from $1 tier to $5 tier. I think it’s a bit shitty to say ‘be a patron for cool exclusives’ and then demand a higher level of patronage for the majority of exclusives. Not a patron yet? No problem, just click on the big orange BECOME A PATRON button on my page and choose which tier you’d like to join. THEN YOU’RE IN OUR COOL CLUB UNTIL THE UNIVERSE ENDS… or until you decide to stop pledging, whichever comes first.

pink background with white text reading 'Francesca's Words, dark humour colourful language. meet dragonnovel 1.0. It doesn't bite, much'

Let me know what you think of the chapter!

RIP 2018 Etc

So. Farewell, then, 2018. I’m on the sofa rewatching Luther before my friend’s New Year’s Eve party. I never know if I can be bothered with anything later than 7pm these days, but my friend’s NYE parties are always excellent, as most events are once I’m there, which is what I’m hoping will be the case with 2019.

I didn’t do the Indifferent Ignorance Awards this year, because I’ve had more pressing things to do, but I think we can sum this year up as not as bad as 2016 but 2007 was probably less stressful? I finished dragonnovel, got a bit of sun, played with my dogs (one is leaning on me right this very moment and I clearly can’t get up until he does so bye party I’ve been blessed). No one in my immediate family or friendship group has died, been critically ill or pledged allegiance to the Republican Party, so let’s count 2018 as one of the good ones.

Last year I wrote ‘new year’s intentions’ which are supposedly more realistic and better for your mental health than new year’s resolutions. Goal 1 was to learn to do my hair. I mean, I’ve grown my hair. I brush and wash it occasionally. It’s difficult to plait, okay, there are a lot of layers. I consistently forgot to take good pictures, but it’s looked ace this year regardless. Lots of purple. I’ll change it up soon because you can’t bleach the same bit of hair too much but possibly in 2019 I should take more pictures for proof of Cool Dyed Hair? Unlikely, I bloody hate taking my picture.

Goal 2 was to look after myself a bit more. I did not bother with a running club, but the blue light blocker is on and I miss my Pilates class when I don’t do it, which must mean it’s good for my brain so CHECK CHECK.

The third goal, basically, was Get Money. And, check again. I got a weekend job, found another client, smashed my stationery business goals over Christmas and learnt that geeky mythological pencils are really, really popular. Onwards.

blue pencils reading STUDY LIKE ATHENA, purple pencils reading ARTEMIS WAS RIGHT

Luther’s getting tense so I will leave this here. Also, Donnie’s ear is on my keyboard. Hit me up with the fun things you did this year, or want to do next year, or heard of someone else doing something nice. Happy new year!

So. Farewell, then, first full-length draft of dragonnovel. No really it’s gone this time

I’ve sent the first three chapters/first thirty pages of my 54,000 word, heavily edited, double-spaced-in-Times-New-Roman-12-point manuscript OUT TO THE UNIVERSE. Or out to my preferred literary agents, at least. Now I’ve got 8-12 weeks in which I might get an email asking for the rest of it. Then I might get another email.

In the mean time I’m making plans for what happens if the next 8-12 weeks carry a) several polite rejections or, worse, b) radio silence. I’ve already decided that if no one wants it then I’m going to print it out, staple it together and sell it on street corners because I did not flare up my repetitive strain injury and have dozens of arguments with my mother about getting a ‘real job’ to leave the bloody thing in a Word document.

Well, I’ll publish it on my Patreon page for my patrons over the course of a few months and, if they like it, look into getting it an ISBN and printing it on demand to sell at the handful of craft fairs I do each year. WHAT A GLAMOROUS LIFE THIS IS. I’ve got to start the next one in the spring too. Not a sequel, but the next thing. I haven’t decided what that is yet but I’m moving in January so it will be something to think about while I pack/unpack/reorganise my sock collection.

I know that if anyone reading this actually wanted to pledge to my Patreon, you would have already – but I’m going to ask one more time because I’m really, really proud of this book I’ve written and I think you guys will like it. I’m not arrogant enough to assume it will be snapped up by Bloomsbury after a heated six-way auction, but I’d like for someone to see it who isn’t either me or my friends who have offered editorial advice. It’s a children’s book, by the way. I can’t remember if I’ve said that. Well, it’s for children in the same way as Doctor Who is officially for children. It’s in three parts, would qualify for the Diverse Fiction shelf at Waterstones and the full title is way, way longer than dragonnovel. There’s a My Chemical Romance reference, obviously. This cave influenced several paragraphs:

Melissani Cave Kefalonia

Anyway. Here’s the Patreon link again. Patrons can expect a lot of cave photos. Some playlists. The odd actual chapter…

Speaking of craft fairs, I’ve got on in Leigh-on-Sea this Saturday and I took a day off from my shop job for it so I’m hoping to shift quite a bit of stock (the less I have to drag to my mother’s new flat, the happier I will be). I’d better go and organise my price list and check the batteries in my fairy lights… Wave if you see me! Or better yet, buy a tote bag. They take up a ridiculous amount of space even when folded. I’m going to buy a box of Quality Street to entice passers-by. ‘Take a chocolate, buy a tote’ is not a bad slogan actually…