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Sarah Dixon

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Your Enthusiast

Writer. Lifelong enthusiast. Blogging, Bids & Tenders, Grant applications.

Happy Valentine’s Day

I always try and post a love story for Valentine’s Day, which is always tricky because I don’t tend to write romance. But last night, I happened upon this story on my Kindle. I wrote it for NYC Midnight, but felt it didn’t quite fit the prompt so wrote something else. I don’t think anyone but me has ever read it. It’ll be rough around the edges, but then, aren’t we all? Happy Valentine’s Day!

Felicity

Why are we turning?

Lurching from his seat, Neal swung himself around the pole, his thumb finding the button to ring the bell. Thundering down the central aisle of the bus, he yelled, ‘You’ve gone the wrong way!’

The driver didn’t take his eyes from the road, he just jerked a thumb towards a dog-eared piece of paper pinned to the Perspex screen surrounding him. Neal read as far as, ‘Route Change on the Number 5’ and groaned.

‘I need to get to the Royal Holdney,’ he checked his watch, ‘in ten minutes.’ Giving his best pleading look to the driver’s profile, he added, ‘I’ve got a date.’

The brakes on the bus squealed as it came to a halt, and the doors hissed open to admit the cool night air. The driver pointed across the street to a high stone wall.

‘It’s about two miles that way.’

‘Thanks,’ Neal muttered, shuffling, slump-shouldered off the bus. ‘Thanks a lot.’

The bus drove away, leaving Neal to stare at the solidly yellow-gold barrier that separated him from his goal: Felicity.

God, but she was beautiful. His mind wandered back to that afternoon, the college refectory, and her, illuminated in the autumn sunlight.

‘Daddy’s having a thing at the golf course tonight. The Royal Holdney, do you know it?’

‘Yes,’ Neal said, with a confidence that hid the fact he’d only seen the name over the wrought iron gates as he’d passed on the bus.

‘Will you come? It’ll be dreadfully boring if you don’t. Langley Suite, at 8.’

Felicity Windham-Jones, ice-cream heiress and unobtainable goddess. This was his one chance. He wasn’t going to let a wall come between him and happiness.

Glancing left, then right, he barrelled his way across the road, the pavement and the verge banking the wall. Leaping with all he had, Neal grabbed for the top…and came up six inches short. Again, he tried, again he failed; 9 inches this time.

Pressing his head against the lichen-covered brick, Neal breathed in the dampness. Think. Find a way.

Stepping back, he looked both ways, then headed left towards a large oak tree. One thick branch projected over the wall. Grasping at knot holes, Neal worked his way up the trunk and sat in the v between two branches staring. In the distance, the bright lights of the clubhouse burned through the night. Felicity.

Neal crawled towards the wall, his breath misting the air before him. As the branch narrowed, so he clung tighter. Seeking another handhold, his palm slipped on slick wood. Momentum took him, leaving him hanging from one hand a foot shy of the wall. Grunting his exertion, Neal shuffled forward, hand over hand until his feet touched solid stone.

Muttering curses, he lowered himself to sitting, then jump-slid to the ground in a pile of wet leaves. Brushing himself down, Neal sucked in a breath and kept his eyes on the lights ahead. You can do this.

At a jog, he began to move on a direct line towards the clubhouse, towards his goal. Scrub soon gave way to long grass that wrapped itself around his feet sending him tripping forwards. Don’t fall. Grass stains.

A stand of saplings loomed out of a patch of mist and Neal slalomed between them, then froze at the motorised whirr of a golf cart. Security! Ducking down, Neal pressed himself against the slender trunk.

At precisely the wrong moment, his phone rang. The cart pulled to a stop.

Patting his pockets, Neal found the phone on the third attempt. With another trill imminent, Neal made a choice. Summoning up his strength, he lobbed the device down the fairway. It beeped, then hit the ground with an audible thud. Closing his eyes in supplication, Neal gave thanks as the cart began to whir away, in the direction of the still bleating phone.

Glancing at the departing cart, Neal made a break for the next line of trees. The long grass soon gave way to a close-clipped green; Neal saw the flag in the hole just in time and swerved right. Grinning in triumph, he ran over a rise, high on adrenalin.

His foot came down, and found air where the ground should be. Tumbling base over apex, he landed, winded, in a sand-filled bunker. Hearing a fearsome yowl, he turned to see an angry cat, back arched and tail fluffed. Cat. Sandpit. Sh

Jumping to his feet, Neal pulled off his jacket. Nose wrinkling at the stink of the brown smears, he tossed it to the ground and ran on.

Bursting through another thicket, the clubhouse loomed magnificently before him. Running his hands into his hair, Neal slowed to a casual swagger as he neared the glass doors. On the other side was a stiff-backed waiter in a bow tie, blocking the way. ‘Your jacket, Sir? Club policy.’

‘Of course! I’ll get it,’ Neal said as he backed out, mind racing. Jogging left, he circled the building until he found a fire door, propped open by a girl in a maid’s outfit smoking outside.

‘Forgot my jacket!’ he said as he rushed past, heart thumping. Moving rapidly through the corridors, Neal halted as he saw the snooty waiter pushing through the door ahead. Ducking into the nearest room, Neal found himself confronted with a coat rack. He grabbed a jacket, threw it on, checked his hair in a mirror, and ambled back out just in time to nod condescendingly to the staffer.

A sign saying ‘Langley Suite’ directed Neal to his location. Polite chatter washed over him as he entered, the air scented with strawberry and chocolate. Then there, across the room: Felicity. Their eyes met. She picked a cherry from the top of her sundae, popping it seductively between her lips.

Neal’s smile widened; the cat that got the cream.

Behind him, a voice said, ‘I say, that chaps wearing my jacket!’

 

 

Better Than An Espresso

I haven’t really done much in the way of workshops and school visits in the last year. I’ve been focusing on my freelance business and finishing up my MA in Creative Fiction. But last Thursday was submission day for the MA (results in December), and after a wonderful weekend letting off steam with great friends, I got back on it this week.

This morning started in the most perfect way – going into a local primary school to do an assembly for around 300 children. I talked to them about what it’s like to be a writer, going through all the questions I’ve been asked before like; How long does it take to write a book? Where do you get your ideas from? Are you rich?

I also read them a few things. The poem I had published when I was 9 as part of a local arts centre project, the letter to Piggle who was becoming discouraged with all the requirements of modern education, and of course, I shared a chapter of Frozen Prince with them too.

And I made a public promise that I would be working on Alfie Slider 3. It’s mentally titled, ‘Alfie Slider and the Flux Capacitor’ but that is a reference to Back to the Future and will have to change. That’s all the spoilers you’re getting for now!

All in all, starting the day like that was a better shot in the arm than a freshly ground espresso. I left smiling, feeling energised and enthusiastic about the day ahead. If I could write fiction and visit schools all day? I’d be a very happy lady indeed.

Alfie Slider and the Frozen Prince – available NOW

Unleashed 2018The official launch date for Frozen Prince is the 12th of August 2018 – the day I’ll have physical copies to sign and sell at York Unleashed. The Kindle edition of the book will be available then, too.

But the paperback version can be ordered NOW from Amazon!

I’m sorry that I can’t offer signed copies before Unleashed – but if you want to bring your copy of either book along on the day, I’ll scribble in it for you then.

Alfie_Slider_and_the_Cover_for_Kindle

Alfie Slider and the Frozen Prince

 Publication Date – August 12th 2018

Kindle Edition now available to pre-order

Alfie_Slider_and_the_Cover_for_Kindle

Challenging Times

2018 continues the trend of 2017 in being challenging on my time. I’m balancing my most important job (being a Mummy to two amazing kids) with full-time work and studying for my MA. Writing fiction, outside my studies, had fallen by the wayside.

So in January, I set the intention to enter more writing competitions and to foster my creative fiction again. I signed up for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, which is a competition I enjoy a lot as it stretches me. You’re assigned a genre, setting, and character and have to craft a story up to a word limit, in a number of days. In round 1, I was allocated to heat 5. The genre was mystery, the setting was opening night, and I had to include a character who was a sommelier.

It’s not a genre that I have read much of, but the sommelier came very strongly into my mind and the story coalesced around him. The ending surprised me, and I have been told it surprised readers, too. I would share it with you here, but I think with a little work I would like to enter it elsewhere and some competitions consider sharing on your blog to be prior publication.

The judges like it! I got some very encouraging feedback and placed first in my heat. The field of thousands has been narrowed down to 625 for round 2, and I’ve been given the genre of historical fiction, I need to include a negotiation and the character of a whaler. I can feel the setting taking shape beautifully in my mind, and I think I know what story I want to tell. I’m looking forward to writing it over the next three days.

I’m in the very fortunate position of being able to do what I love all day, to write. Whether it’s blog posts, grant applications or bids & tenders I get real joy from finding the way to communicate ideas. But I will admit, there is something about writing stories; knowing that I am giving people a little mental holiday to a world of my own creation, that is very special. I hope to be able to spend more time doing that, very soon.

 

New Book!

Apologies if that title made you think Frozen Prince was out. Not quite yet. I’d been hoping to release it at the end of January but then Aussie ‘flu struck and that went out the window. I’ll let you know as soon as I have a firm date.

IMG_2557[1]No, the new book I’m talking about this time is ‘The Wishing Star’ a novel written by 19 different authors, all writing a chapter (occasionally two) to complete the story.
It’s a YA mystery/romance with a female protagonist and lots of tension. If you’d like to get hold of a copy you can order directly from the National Association of Writers’ Groups, here.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I always try and find something vaguely romantic that I’ve written to share with you all for St Valentine’s Day. As I don’t write romance, that’s usually a bit tricky. But this year, I have the perfect thing! For the NYC Midnight #flashfictionchallenge2017 I was assigned the genre of Romantic Comedy. Being neither romantic or funny, it made my heart sink but I ended up scoring a few points for it. It wasn’t enough to make it to the next round, but that is one tough competition. Anyway, here is…

Crouching Dragon, Hidden Lizard

Thawing the Prince

You know that phrase, ‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry?’ Well, that’s been my mantra for 2017.

January got off to a great start with Alfie Slider vs the Shape Shifter being published, and I had intended to spend the rest of the year promoting that book and getting Alfie Slider and the Frozen Prince ready to publish.

Then things went awry.

Rather than having a year to establish myself as an author, I’ve had a year where I’ve been setting up a freelance writing business and adjusting to some pretty major life changes. It’s been tough.

The good news in that last sentence? The past tense. I now have a thriving freelance business that supports me and my kids. Life is no longer quite so tough. And I’m now able to take some deep breaths, look at where I am and think about what I want to achieve; not what I need to.

What I want to achieve? Continuing my work as an author alongside being a kick-ass mother and an incredible freelancer. So, today I opened the Scrivener file that holds the manuscript for Frozen Prince and I started editing.

I’ve gotta say, that first chapter is pretty exciting!

I’m aiming to get Frozen Prince published on January 20th, 2018 – 1 year after Shape Shifter became a real thing. Watch this space for more news (or sign up for the Alfie Slider newsletter to get a chance to be a beta-reader!)

And Shape Shifter? Well, in spite of being largely neglected it is selling well and has had some wonderful reviews. If you haven’t already snagged yourself a copy then grab one now. You won’t have long to wait for a sequel 🙂

Why?

If you’ve been visiting our blog for a while, you’ll remember that I was shortlisted for a York Women Mean Business award.

ywmbshortlistAt the time, the categories were related to what you did, and I’d been put in the ‘Business Support’ category. I was flattered, and immediately wrote off any idea of winning because the other women in the category were all so incredible.

Friday the 10th of November rolled around, and I had the privilege of being in a room with hundreds of female entrepreneurs. We had a wonderful evening of fun, dancing and celebrating each other.

When it came to time to announce the winners, the fabulous event organiser Tracy Burleigh, Business Consultant (and if you need someone to help you find your path or your buzz for your business then she’s the lass for you) said the panel of judges had decided to change the categories.

Faced with all the incredible talent in the YWMB group, they’d felt inadequate to judge on quality. So, Tracy did what she does, which is to find a way that works better. The panel agreed to new categories.

I ended up in ‘The why’. That was a group of entrepreneurs who had blown the judging panel away with their motivation for their work. My full answer to the ‘why’ question is long but it can be summarised in this extract:

I have found that what I love is writing, plain and simple. Truth, fiction, it really doesn’t matter. I love seeking out the stories and telling them for people.

When I was called up to stand beside the other ‘Why’ ladies, I knew I wasn’t going to win. There were amazing people like Andrea Morrison in the line-up and one of my favourite people, Emi Ralph.

girls-compete-women-empowerEmi was the first friend I made after moving to York. She’s a remarkable person, full of passion and creativity. She has her own business, Mama Pixie, where she makes gorgeous things out of fabric. She’s also a doula, supporting women with their birth choices. She’s fabulous at both.

Emi won the award, and I completely agree with that decision. Had I won, I would have had the worst case of imposter syndrome! I was absolutely delighted to win a prize in the raffle though, a fabulous selection of re-usable kit from I am Reusable.

Friday was a great day for me. I signed a contract for a new associate role, which is going to open up some amazing opportunities to do what I love. I got to spend a wonderful evening in the company of like-minded women and I danced past midnight like no one was watching.

I certainly feel like a winner.

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