In which I’ve become an eco-warrior

Does anyone else do this thing about a week before they go on holiday where they look at their pre-holiday to do list and a piece of  their soul melts irreparably? I’m spending five days in Zante from Monday and I’ve never been more pleased with Past Francesca’s holiday-planning judgement, although if I’d known I was going to leave my weekend job sooner than I planned, I would have booked longer than five days. On the plus side, I don’t have to faff about with checked luggage.

Seriously though, I do not know why I thought I could, in the week before I go away, do the following:

  • a week of regular work plus work for the week I’m away because holiday pay is a foreign concept
  • organise my dad and my brother’s birthday presents because they both have big birthdays the week after I’m back and the gifts I’m making are going to be legendary if I actually pull them off except I forgot about an essential supply UNTIL THIS MORNING
  • wear in the fancy shoes I bought for the party they’re having the weekend I’m back
  • put together plans for a blog tour for The Princess and the Dragon
  • do my last ever shift at my weekend job (I was even thinking of asking my colleagues out for a drink woops there went the time)
  • get my nails and toenails done; a leisurely exercise that cannot be rushed and may require me to drive home in flip flops; a potentially strenuous activity given how much trouble I have operating a clutch
  • iron every piece of clothing I might possibly need when I’m home even though I guarantee I will need the same four items I wear every single week
  • epilate my leg hair

Something’s going to give. It’s going to be the leg hair. Not sorry.

I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself for being knackered. The last time I had more than one consecutive day off was… March? I think it was when Brexit was about to happen then didn’t. Only having one ‘day off’ a week doesn’t bother me much (it’s not like I’m working at a desk 15 hours a time on the other days, I can take afternoons off to relax and stuff) but I have had a lot on my plate between then and now. I’ve taken on another client, one of my best friends died and yesterday a fly sat in my hair for about two hours. I shit you not, I was at my desk and thinking ‘god my curls are really spiky today, I can almost feel them moving’ and then I got up and what fell out of my hair? An insect.

I realised I’d knocked its leg off and felt bad because it was really woozy, so I fed it some leftover hot chocolate because I’ve been paying attention to 30 Days Wild and we need to look after our planet, thank you very much, and left it to sit on my orchid overnight. I didn’t realise that flies have giant schnozzles to hoover up liquid. This morning I put it on a leaf outside. Its wing was a bit damaged too so nature has probably taken its course by now.

Anyway, my point is that if I wasn’t mildly eccentric before I spent 10 minutes spoon-feeding a fly, I probably am now. Which takes me back to my question about melted souls. PLEASE GO AWAY, RESPONSIBILITIES. If you never hear from me again, I hired a boat in Zante and sailed to somewhere with no wifi.

You know, I’ve had that Pirates of the Caribbean gif set on my computer since Johnny Depp made good films. This blog is old, my dudes.

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A Shitty Week ft. the Coolest Illustration I’ve Seen All Year and Probably Ever

Morning. Or, Morning! if you’re feeling perky. I was until I sat down and now it’s just like an earlier version of the two o’clock slump which is not how I was planning my day off.

I’m not sure how many regular/committed readers there are still here, but if you’ve been following my posts as they go out, I suppose there’s an elephant in the room. Well, small dog. Well, small dog no longer in the room. We had Donnie put to sleep the week before last. I know that not everyone is particularly bothered about their pets, but I am not one of those people. Not having him around is strange and horrible and I keep forgetting and looking for a second dog and I’m paranoid Fred is pining and it’s odd only feeding one dog and I miss how he used to bark at literally everything and snore with his eyes open. I don’t miss the last couple of days of his life when it became abundantly clear that he had had enough. A lot of people say they fell guilty for making the decision to end their pet’s life, but I think I couldn’t have lived with myself if we’d made him hang on any longer when he couldn’t really walk and didn’t want to eat anything.

But I’m more interested in remembering the snoring and the ridiculous woofing, so maybe animal euthanasia is a subject for another day.

A non-sequitur that’s actually absolutely relevant if you live inside my head (a non-non-sequitur?): the next chapter of The Prince in the Tower, from The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes is available to patrons today. It’s relevant because a) there’s a dog called Bean in The Prince in the Tower, named after Donnie. He used to do this dancing, jumping thing every time he was about to go for a walk or get fed, so I used to call him a jumping bean. Which became Bean and then Bean Sprout, then Sprout and honestly what is up with pet owners and nicknames. Anyway. Point b) is that I got to hang out with my friend Tatchiana the day before Donnie died and she gave me a very cool illustration from The Princess and the Dragon that was a huge bright spot in an appalling week. Spoiler alert there’s a dragon:

girl facing giant blue dragon in cave

So you guys who aren’t patrons need to become patrons so we can make an ebook from this story and I can commission more artwork because it is seriously the coolest, coolest thing seeing your story interpreted in someone else’s art! It’s very nice knowing that I can support someone else’s work at the same time as doing something fun and promotional for my own work. It feels very eco-system-y. (I am paying Tatchiana for the piece, although she wasn’t convinced I needed to which is very friend-y. When I am feeling less bereaved and more awake we should have a conversation about paying friends for work. It’s a lot like euthanasia in that no one wants to talk about it but we’d probably all be better off if we did. God what a sentence). Oh, I’m also paying Tatchiana using money from Patreon. From your investment in my fairytale. How cool is that? We’re starting to accrue enough to pay my proofreader, Maria, as well. THE PLAN IS WORKING.

You can find links to Tatchiana’s other work here and buy her coffee (please do!) here.

Right, I’ve got patron letters to write and some Etsy orders to package. See you soon.

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.

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.:

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…

I Hereby Name Thee Miguel

I was scrolling through my Tumblr likes just now so I could dredge up some capital-C content alongside promotions and I came across a post my friend Tatchiana did in 2015 recommending this very blog. I can’t find the post now, but it gave me a fuzzy warm feeling that lasted long enough that I thought I’d come and say hello. I think I’ve been writing here now for nine entire years. That’s longer than most prison sentences, innit. Mad. 2015 doesn’t even feel like that long ago but I suppose it must be.

Sooo how have you been since 10 days ago? I’ve been good, cheers. Started another job (weekends! Retail! Say hi if you see me – wait no don’t make eye contact). Got to hang out with Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. Ish. Sort of. We said hi. I haven’t touched dragonnovel since I sent it to my cuz, but I am itching to make improvements. Not itching as in, I have eczema, itching as in, that feeling of when it’s almost the school holidays. I’ve already started sketching out ideas for my next book, which makes me feel like I’m cheating on dragonnovel. But I have to be realistic that a) dragonnovel might not get picked up, in which case I should start on the next, better, thing as soon as possible and b) dragonnovel might get picked up which means I need to look like I’m serious about this writing thing.

I just spent five entire minutes looking for a suitable dragon gif, no fucking dice. Come on, Shrek. First thing I’m gonna do if this book picks up is commission some cool dragon art.

While I’m thinking about it, it occurred to me the other day that since dragonnovel is actually nearly done (or as done as it can be without professional editorial insight), I’m going to have to stop renaming characters soon. Seriously, this one guy has had about four names. I think the first one was Pablo. Or it might have been Paolo. Then I think I tried to name him Raphael, but I already called someone Raphael. Anyway, my point is that if you were ever thinking of pledging to ye olde Patreon page in order to see a character named after you, you should probably do it soon because I need to start remembering characters properly or my synopses (that’s plural of synopsis, right? I’m scared to Google it) will be way out of whack. Oh, I think this guy was called Miguel at some point.  Miguel.

He’s so not a Miguel.