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.

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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!

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…

September Resolutions and a Little Smudge of Self Care

Afternoon! The dogs got me up at half five this morning so it feels wrong on a molecular level that one of those dogs is asleep on my bed this very moment while I try to prise my eyeballs open with tea and willpower.

I left school four years ago, and yet September always feels like the prime time for a Fresh Start and New Things. It probably helps that I’ve got leftover holiday happiness, although it’s also mingled with that disgruntled feeling of ‘why am I never as relaxed at home as I am on holiday?’, the preoccupation of which always makes me… less relaxed. But! September! A fresh start! Also I have been 23 since last Wednesday which means I have extra fresh start feelings. LET’S MAKE THIS YEAR A FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL SUCCESS, she hisses as she drowns under paperwork, teacups and pissy late payment emails.

There isn’t really a point to this blog, except to hopefully pass on some lovely September vibes, but I felt like I should write something because my domain just renewed. Got to get my £15 worth! I thought about sharing some Greece photos but I’m too bleary-eyed to think up funny captions and do I really want to contribute to the Internet’s collective ‘my life is better than yours look what a great time I’m having’ bullshit brigade? Um, no. But here is a picture of bougainvillea, because bougainvillea flowers are a colourful spec of papery innocence in this world.

Pink Bougainvillea in Sami, Kefalonia

Does anyone have any September resolutions? Eva over at What Eva Wears wrote about hers, and it reminded me of all the times I’ve written resolutions on here. I found a couple of posts… in this one from January 2016 I wanted to learn to take better photographs (they are definitely improving), read more varied news sources (to be honest, in the last few months I’ve just read less news. I’m happier for it), learn to use Facebook (done, except now Facebook is dying WHAT A SHAME) and ‘chill out about this blog’.  Well I kind of have in a way – there was a time when I would tell myself off for not posting twice a week, but these days you’re lucky if you get two posts per month. It’s taken 18 months (and I kind of did ‘move to Cambodia’ for a bit, ha) but I think I’m getting there.

Then I found this post from the end of 2017 in which I listed some resolutions for 2018. LET’S SEE WHERE WE ARE, THEN.

  • Resolution 1, the ‘vague gesture’, was to learn to do my hair a bit more. My hair is even longer and even more purple-tinged than it was in December, and I still only wash it twice a week, but I do put it up a bit more. Occasionally. Look, it looks nicer when I ignore it completely…
  • Resolution 2, the SMART goal, was to look after myself more in a measurable way. Hahaaaaa haaaa haaa. Ha. Ahem. Well, I did download a blue light blocker. I do exercise fairly frequently (not running though, Pilates is my limit). I do take extended breaks from Instagram, not that you’d know it. I could do more, but I also could have done less.
  • Resolution 3 was to make my work, work. This was only 8 months ago and everything I wrote is still true: if this financial year doesn’t go my way, I’ll probably go and get a salaried job or retrain in a sensible industry or something. But I’m creeping in the right direction: I’m working with the Prince’s Trust to improve Francesca’s Words, my Patreon is slooowly gathering momentum – and dragonnovel is cooking away! – and I have regular-ish work. I have more to be thankful for than to be unhappy about.

So my September resolutions are to continue with everything I said I wanted to do in 2018. It’s tempting to start something Completely New, but Francesca’s Words could be twice as big next January as it was last January if I play my cards right. If I play my cards sneakily, I might even have a book or a cool French plait as well.

I said there wasn’t a point to this post: I turned out to be completely wrong. Looking back at the last couple of years has made me realise how far I’ve come. I’m always harder on myself than anyone else ever could be – I never sit back to appreciate how much work I’ve put into something; I only ever berate myself for not working harder. But I’m doing okay. Pretty well. Better than I could otherwise have been doing. That’s not too ‘my life is better than yours’ bullshitty, is it? You would tell me if it was, right?

A Cautionary Tale of Cacti

Afternoon. So much has happened in the world since I last blogged (the sun is out, the government has broken and IT’S COMING HOME) that I feel like I actually need to do an update.

A few weeks ago I bought a new mint plant, a succulent and some cacti. The cacti were supposed to be gifts but then I got them home and put their sweet little pots on my windowsill and decided to find my friends other gifts. Little cacti are so cute! Also, I like to have a window open at night but my room is over the conservatory so I can’t leave the big window open in case it invites burglary. So I put my cacti on the windowsill to spike any potential intruders, thus giving me time to wake up to their cries of pain, put my glasses on and source a screwdriver to stab them with.

Unfortunately the only person who has been spiked is me, opening the curtains, so I’ve moved the cacti to shelves and resigned myself to only leaving the top window open. I don’t know why I’m worrying, the sun will remember which country it’s in soon.

succulent and cacti on windowsill
Did you know those spikes leave the plant in order to embed themselves in your skin?

In non-plant news, Dragonnovel is coming along really well. I accidentally stayed up until midnight last night working on edits. Because it’s still in the chop-and-change stage, I can’t post a lot of snippets in case I accidentally reveal too much plot or give away some of my banging one liners. A while ago Maggie Steifvater mentioned that she really liked the latest novel she’s written, and a lot of people replied with ‘what you mean you LIKE this thing that you’re spending ALL OF YOUR TIME on?’ and she pointed out that:

‘Art as pain and pain as art and the Eternal Dissatisfaction of the Poignant Creator™ is so 19th century.  Creating the art you wish you could see in the world but don’t, and then being fucking PSYCHED when you’ve done it™ is very 2018.’

I didn’t get it at the time but GUYS I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN SITTING ALONE IN A ROOM SPENDING TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T EXIST. I’m even more relaxed about asking for patronage while I work on it because a) I will finish and query it regardless of who gives a shit and b) it’s worth paying $3 a month for. I would pay myself if that weren’t even more horrendously narcissistic than asking strangers on the Internet for money to start with.

I’ll leave this here because I’m getting ready for a market in Leigh on Saturday and trying to work in a rebrand around it which basically means my bedroom is full of boxes and my email inbox is full of really cool top secret website stuff that I’m figuring out, but I’ve been staring at a screen too long. See you soon, I guess. Or not, if the weather keeps up and I continue to spend every spare moment outside. Is this what national pride feels like? Enjoying spending time in your own country?

 

 

Look, a Goat

Afternoon. I’m going out in a minute but my intrinsic need to post something every single month and/or week to stop my life losing meaning is flaring up, so HERE I AM. I put a dress on earlier but it’s cooler than I thought so I’m also wearing a hoodie and trouser-sized leggings. You scoff but the Kardashians will have a line of dress leggings sooner or later, guarantee it.

I don’t actually have much else to say, which is why my ridiculous desire to post to a schedule needs to fuck off. I’m busy writing dragonnovel to a deadline so I’m probably not going to be online much until it’s finished. I’m trying to motivate myself by sharing little bits and pieces about it on Instagram, so head there for stained glass windows, goats and the occasional actual snippet. My Patreon is here if you want a free copy when it’s finished and/or a character named after your good self, blah etc.

Yeah, wasn’t kidding about the goats. There are also twin characters named Molly and Clarissa, like the Mindless Self Indugence songs, so I’m really hoping someone pledges soon so I can save the names for a novella about two women who bootleg gin and steal cars.

Gotta go and change my leggings now!

10 Things I Can Tell You About Dragonnovel

I’ve been working on my book most of the morning and I started writing a quick update for my patrons, but there are only two of those currently and one is a close relation, so I thought I might as well share it here. The text is still a bit too draft-y for me to share any substantial paragraphs in case I change them further along, but I realise I’ve been telling everyone I’ve been writing a book and refusing to say anything else, which is not conducive to people’s support of said book. So here are ten things I can confirm about dragonnovel!

  • I recently Googled ‘constitutional monarchy’ for fact-checking
  • Someone wears a pink dress
  • The book passes the Bechdel Test (I mean I’m at 17k words, the text should be able to pass a driving test by now)
  • Stained glass windows feature heavily
  • There is definitely a dragon
  • I have counted one (1) joke about a hangover
  • I have counted two-three (2-3) jokes about posh people
  • One paragraph includes the word ‘cerulean’
  • I think I might have borrowed UKIP’s policies for a plot point
  • A girl rows a boat

And, as a bonus:

  • The dragon is not a metaphor.

As another bonus: this spectacular cave formation and cerulean sea in Zante is what I was thinking of when I wrote the scene with the girl rowing a boat:

Light rock arch over vivid blue sea at Blue Caves, Zakynthos, Greece

I was aiming to get the final draft done before I go backpacking in the Ionian islands this August, but I think I might have to bring the trip forward. You know, for research.

If any of that picqued your interest, you can have a character named after your good self and read actual snippets of the story by supporting me on Patreon. Literally pledge a dollar and boom, a character bears your name. Or someone else’s name, I’m happy to leave that up to you. I’m basically offering you immortality. For about 74p! Cheaper than a past-it’s-best-before-date bagel.

Can you tell I’ve been editing?!