This weekend I jetted off in an itty bitty plane (18 seater!) to Nelson, to give a presentation on self-publishing for the New Zealand Society of Authors. I spoke about my experiences in publishing to a group of emerging authors with one of my writing besties, Wendy Vella.
I love these kinds of events. You get to meet other authors, people who are trying really hard to complete that first milestone—finishing their first book. It’s not an easy process, and a lot of what you’re doing at that stage of your career is based on hopes and dreams, rather than actual evidence of success, so it makes the people who turn up even more magical in my opinion.
It makes me think about the first book I ever published (which wasn’t actually the first book I wrote), called the If Magic Were Wishes. This book has undergone a whole heap of changes in its time, including title and cover changes, but it’s a book that’s still close to my heart.
It’s set in a magical carnival where they grant wishes in return for magical power. They can only grant one wish per stop, and they only get the magic if they successfully fulfil the wish, which isn’t as easy as it sounds…
Here’s an excerpt…
Jack didn’t know what he’d expected, but this wasn’t it.
The Mark was a morose young woman, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a baggy T-shirt, with untidy dyed-red hair framing her face. There was a small silver ring through her nose and she wore dark eyeliner that emphasized her melancholy look. She leaned on a cane as she limped along the walkway, patchy blue nail polish visible on her fingers where they grasped the stick. She and her friend were in line for the carousel, both talking quietly. He kind of felt sorry for her. He hoped they weren’t going to do anything bad to her. He’d have to stop them if they did.
“How do you know it’s her?” he asked Joey, who was practically bouncing up and down beside him.
“Look at the dragon.”
Jack’s breath caught in his chest. The creature glowed in the twilight, and its head was turned in the direction of the young woman. Its scales were like a collection of blue diamonds across its back and multifaceted eyes sparkled like rubies in the dark. Jack looked around at the crowds of people. Why did no one else notice it?
“But how do you know it’s her particularly? Why not her friend?” He took a step closer, trying to keep the woman in his line of sight. The tips of his fingers tingled.
“Garth. He’s watching from the other side, see?” Joey pointed, and Jack saw Garth standing in the shadows across from them, completely still, his black eyes focused on the woman in the queue.
As they watched, the woman gave her ticket to the attendant at the entrance to the Carousel and climbed to the platform with her friend. The dragon watched them, turning its head ever so slightly to focus on the Mark. Jack craned his neck, trying to see the woman among all the other punters scrambling for their ride. What would happen if someone else got there first? What would the dragon do? He caught a glimpse of deep-red hair approaching the dragon. This was it. He held his breath, waiting to see what happened.
They walked right past.
The Mark’s friend pulled them both toward a pair of mermaids on the far side, and she followed without protest.
They hadn’t even glanced at the dragon. There had been no dramatic pause next to the blue-jeweled creature. No mesmerizing spell had been cast over the woman, forcing her to stop and climb aboard.
He’d been caught up in it. Like a fool, he’d started to believe, despite knowing better. It had begun when Garth did something to him by the Ferris wheel, and was continued in Vincent’s caravan. Then, as he’d watched Rilla holding the audience in the palm of her hand, he had started to wonder.
A tiny tendril of hope, a kernel of what if?
And now, he’d just been delivered a kick to the proverbial balls. He felt dirty, like he’d been conned.
Dammit, he had been conned. That’s all the wish was, an attempt to con a poor innocent mark. Maybe he was the mark, instead of that girl on the carousel.
The glowing dragon was just some trick devised by the engineers on the thrills team. He clenched his hand where it was hidden in his jeans pocket. He’d almost bought into this whole damn charade. He’d been drawn into the magic of the circus, the tricks and illusions, and he deserved to feel stupid.
What had happened to his usual practical nature? How had he let them do this to him?
Viktor had seemed so certain earlier that day, and it had been hard not to feel a chill go down his spine, hard not to believe the old man when he talked about the repercussions of having the dragon in their midst. And Rilla… She’d seemed so alive, so mesmerizing in the ring. He’d been enthralled.
No. He’d been intoxicated by the experience. He’d wanted it all to be true.
Dammit, he probably had been hypnotized by Garth at the Ferris wheel.
Jack looked over at Garth and narrowed his eyes. The Giftmaster didn’t seem worried or upset. His black eyes were focused on the woman with a level of concentration that was almost scary. Garth seemed to think that just by watching her, he could will the woman to pick the right Carousel ride.
Well, he couldn’t. No one could. But if Jack needed anything to prove they were full of crap, this was it.
For some reason, instead of being relieved they were frauds, he felt an enormous knot of disappointment in his belly. A crushing bleakness that stole some of the glow from the Carnival.
A flash of red out of the corner of his eye made him turn back and watch. If nothing else, it would remind him to be more cautious. The woman had stopped by the second mermaid, one with long green hair and sparkling eyes. She put one hand up and ran it down the glossy sea siren’s painted hair. For a split-second, the mermaid appeared to lean over and whisper in her ear. Jack shook his head, knowing it wasn’t true and trying to get his focus back.
This place was getting to him.
Then time stopped. The noise of the Carnival flattened out and everything became muted. The punters around him froze in place, all except the Mark and the Carnival folk watching. The woman turned in slow motion toward the dragon. She said something to her friend, but the other woman was a statue, and didn’t respond.
The Mark walked slowly back to the dragon like she was being pulled by an invisible rope. When she was close enough, she reached out and touched the sparkling creature with one reverent hand. The dragon turned its head, its eyes glittering at her and Jack swore he could hear a low, humming purr. It lifted one leg, and motioned for the Mark to climb on its back. She bit her lip nervously, but did as she was told. As soon as she was comfortably on, the tail of the dragon wrapped itself around her leg, securing her to the ride.
For a moment, Jack forgot to breathe.