So for a long while I’ve been working on my novella Play The Game. It was after a night out at University, when I found out about Kindle’s self-publishing. And found out that actually, it could be a really good idea. It was a drunken conversation with a very cute guy that clued me into it, and suddenly I thought “That’s what I should do.” I have a lot of projects on the go that I’d like to see published. A couple that I’ve submitted. But I knew, if I was going to self-publish anything, it should be Play The Game. Mainly because it wasn’t a full length novel, so I could work on it quickly. Or so I thought. To me, it was also something I wanted to get out there, as much as the others I’d tried to have traditionally published. And then I started looking into self-publishing, and following blogs of people who had done it, and tried to get it done and it’s taken almost a year to get to this stage where I’m not actually near doing it. But that’s okay. Because I’ve learnt a lot in the last year. It was never something I wanted to do half-arsed. I knew I needed a good cover, and I knew I wanted the novella to be as polished as possible.
In the last year, Play The Game has gone through many changes. A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger read over it for me and gave me some great feedback. Not only did it make me see some of the plot points that were wrong with the novel, but it made me sit back and really think about what I wanted in there. The main character needed more, the supporting characters needed a bit more back story to them. So, instead of just hinting about the reason Robyn’s father left, I used her grandmother – who only has one or two scenes in the original – to state “Don’t underestimate the fear of what we might grow into” when she tells Robyn about her own past.
The novella had a sequel, which explores Robyn’s relationship with her ex as well as the main love interest in Play The Game, and I realised that I needed to show, in the first, more of the impact that Nate has on her. So I added in a completely new first chapter. I’ve added in extra scenes, drew on more what I wanted the novella to really say, and so far I’m not even halfway through the rewrite.
I haven’t talked about it much. Enough, even, seeing as the whole reason I started a blog was to try to promote the novella when I actually got it out there. So, after a few drinks, I’ve decided just to put up the first chapter of the current draft of the novella for you lovely readers to check out. Please, if you have any thoughts about it, leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think. Importantly, if this was available for you to buy, would you want to read on? Would you want to part with cash to find out what happens next?
And yes, the title is taken from the awesome Queen song of the same name. The sequel is currently titled Somebody To Love.
Play The Game
The day slipped by, mostly unnoticed by Robyn. When she finally dragged herself out of bed, the weak November sunshine was trying hard to cling to the world. Her throat felt raw, dry, and her head was thumping. She could barely remember a thing about the night before, just the girls buying her drink after drink, dancing with them and stumbling quickly away from the couple of creeps who had tried to dance with her from behind.
She glanced at the planner on the wall. Classes highlighted in blue, shifts in yellow. At the end of the semester was a big red mark, and her chest tightened whenever she looked at it.
Robyn pulled open the curtains, covering the window beside her bookshelf. Snow was already starting, flakes drifting down slowly on the unremarkable street in the unremarkable area of London. There weren’t many cars outside. The street was dominated by students, a breed who could not afford to run a car even if they could afford to buy one. She was one of the lucky few. Since she was sixteen she had worked, part-time shifts in shops and bars once she was old enough, moving to working in a call centre once she came to University. Her savings had given her enough money for the second-hand red mini parked right outside the house.
Ducking away from the window, she began to get dressed, glancing at her bookshelf as she tried to judge if she had anything left to read before the end of the semester.
It had been two weeks since she had walked away from Nate’s, tears streaming down her face and her chest in so much pain she thought it would never heal. Once the tears had stopped, she had thrown herself into work and studying, making a huge dent in her to read pile. But even the worlds contained in the novels couldn’t alleviate all of the pain.
Robyn took a deep breath, glancing in the mirror as she brushed her hair and pulled it back, tying it with a thin black band. She frowned at her reflection, taking note of the dull green eyes and pale skin. Her dark brown hair, when let down, would fall straight to her shoulders, and sometimes she thought she would kill for Tina’s black curls.
She wasn’t going anywhere, so she grabbed her most comfortable clothes. When she left her room, it was in a pair of joggers and an old, baggy Green Day t-shirt.
The girls looked startled as she stepped into the living room/kitchen. The smell of spicy chicken filled her nostrils, and she inhaled deeply, smiling at Bobbie standing at the stove.
Bobbie smiled. “There’s enough for you, if you want some.”
“Great. Thanks.” Robyn nodded eagerly, stepping into the room and joining Tina and Lucy on the sofa. They had their eyes fixed on the television, watching some program about the Antarctic and Arctic. The documentary kept switching between the two. Robyn soon found herself transfixed on the giant expanses of white they were showing, drawn in by the idea of complete solitude contained in the two.
Lucy glanced at her. “How you feeling?”
“All right.” She shrugged. “A bit rough. You?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lucy smiled at her, though it was hesitant and slightly strained. Concern danced in her hazel eyes, as she studied Robyn.
Finally, Robyn relented. “If you’re asking in general if I’m fine, I think I’m getting better.”
Tina leant forward. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. It still…hurts. And she hasn’t been in my classes for the last couple of weeks, and I keep dreading the day she comes back but…” She sighed. “I’m going to have to face it eventually, aren’t I?”
Lucy reached out, squeezing her hand.
They were the only people Robyn could open up to, could really talk to, but even they didn’t know anything. They knew some of the key facts, and they knew enough to know who ‘she’ was without Robyn having to mention the girl’s name.
“It’ll be okay,” Lucy said, smiling brightly. “And if you need us to find her house and kick the crap out of her…”
Robyn laughed. She was sure they had offered the same thing many times over the past two weeks. “No. It’s okay, really.” Because the girl wasn’t the root cause. “She’s not worth it.”
“Neither is he,” Tina chirped up. “Really. Once you get back from Christmas, we’re going to have an awesome semester, aren’t we?”
“Sure.” She nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly. “We should go to Thorpe Park when it opens, or something.”
“Oh, hell yeah!” Bobbie cried. “Good shout.”
“And you’re coming back for my birthday, right?” Lucy asked, sliding just slightly closer to Robyn.
Robyn nodded. “Of course I am. Nothing like spending New Year’s Eve in London, right?”
Lucy grinned, as Bobbie pulled the pan off the stove and called to them over her shoulder.
“Come on, girls, dinner’s ready.”
She had met Nate her very first day of University. He had been the tall, good-looking blond showing her to her new room. He had appeared a few nights later as she was walking home, and had, essentially, rescued her from a situation she never really thought would happen to her, even with the warnings thrown around campus.
But the way she met him was vastly different. Nate had been what the girls termed a ‘pretty boy’, even with his scars. The guy she met in Cardiff, on the other hand, was nothing like the constantly clean-shaven, slightly metro ex-boyfriend. He was tall like Nate, but with brown stubble and dark brown hair that constantly fell into his eyes. He looked like he took care of his appearance just as much as he had to, no more, no less.
He approached her when she’d darted out for a cigarette, the few girls she kept in touch with from school still inside. They had drifted apart, no longer shared secrets or talked for hours on end. But they were a good group, and she liked going out with them.
“Got a light?” he asked, holding up a long, thin, completely white cigarette.
Menthol. Robyn liked them sometimes, liked the way they made her mouth feel like she’d just brushed her teeth, but couldn’t smoke a whole pack.
“Sure.” She dug the silver Zippo out of her pocket, holding it out towards him. He brushed the hair from his eyes and smiled.
It was a nice smile, kind, showing just the right amount of teeth. “Thanks.” He lit up, handed the cigarette back and inhaled.
After the first drag, he began to cough. She laughed.
“Do you usually smoke?” she asked, watching him carefully. His eyes were a deep, dark blue, and Robyn didn’t mind staring into them.
His smile was sheepish. “Nah. I just…wanted an excuse to talk to you.”
They’d ended up talking for a while, swapping numbers and going their separate ways. Every time they passed each other, they smiled, and when the last song came in on her found her, grabbing her hand and leading her to the dance floor.
“Come back to mine?” he whispered, lips close to her ear, one hand on her waist. She’d agreed, glad for the chance of one night where she could push thoughts of Nate and her brother to the very back of her mind.