Yours Truly…

Well here goes. My first ever blog.

While I sit here at the cusp of a new year, actually feeling nervous to do this, I find myself racking my brains to think of what to write. I figure the best place to start is with me – the very core, the alpha and omega of this blog. (Unless you know me personally, you won’t picture the tone I just used. Pity…)I live in a quiet street (if you don’t count the howling dog next door and the guy that should never pick up a guitar again) with my husband, my two year old daughter and a Pajero with no air conditioning. Yes, that was worth mentioning in this 40 degree heat! When I’m not running after a rambunctious toddler that seems to run on Energiser, I attempt to keep the house in order, following the trail of destruction she leaves in her wake. But this isn’t everything and all I have.

I, Melissa Armstrong consider myself lucky, nay blessed, to be one of those who live in two different worlds. (There’s that tone again.)

The first, being the aforementioned, is called reality. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Full of its mundane routines and responsibilities. I trudge daily through the repetitive motions of a stay-at-home mum.

But the second is a place I travel to every day, without fail. It is a world I have visited since I was a little girl and have never grown tired of it. While there, I have been on adventures, laughed and danced. I’ve seen tragedies and fallen in love over and over again. I’ve met creatures, terrifying and hideous. Beings, beautiful and enchanting. I’ve seen it all…

And this world exists in my imagination.

The first time I realised my love of writing happened when I was eight years old. My music teacher, also took us for Maths and English that year – the result of being in a split class of grade threes and fours. It was in the library that the magic first came to me. Mr Morris had asked us all to write a story for that lesson and away went my pencil.

What happened after that has always stayed with me and ultimately set me on a path, a goal I am still on at age 26. That day a dream was planted in me.

I lined up at Mr Morris’ desk just like half the class, waiting for their stories to be marked. When my turn came and Mr Morris read through my story, he was delighted. He looked up at me with a smile and said “This is great.” He then asked if he could read it out to the class and of course I was chuffed.

When all the students had handed in their stories and sat back in their seats, my teacher told them I had written a great story he wanted to share. He began to read aloud with a smile on his face. The kids around me laughed when it was funny, and I listened intently to my words with the voice of someone else. I noticed the joy it brought to others and I loved that it was because of me.

When Mr Morris was finished he said “Wasn’t that wonderful?” to all the kids. He praised me in front of the whole class so genuinely that I was beaming. I have never forgotten that feeling and when I share my words with others now, I experience that day again through their encouragement.

But that wasn’t the only time Mr Morris read my work out loud. He continued this on two more occasions that I remember. Needless to say, that dream of mine began to grow and spread through me relentlessly.

When I was 11 I wrote my first novel. A grand total of ten pages about what most girls that age love – horses. It was about two girls who, while playing in the bush, come across a wild horse that is only ever tame around them. Lame and silly, I know! It makes me laugh now and I still have that story somewhere. But even as bad as the story is, I hold onto it because that was when I realised I wanted to become a published author. I had become determined to get that ‘novel’ published, even writing it out neatly to send it off. Thank goodness I didn’t! How embarrassing… But from then on I dreamed of one day publishing a book.

Through high school I began to write better, with more interesting plot-lines and often delved into poetry and children’s stories. I began writing a fantasy at the age of 14 but only made it about fifteen pages in. At 16 I began another, completely believing that this was the one I would finish and have published. But I only made it through three chapters and writing this spanned over three years. (I still have that story and might just get back to it one day…maybe…)

After this I would often be hit with a sudden need to write and I would type a few paragraphs of a story I knew nothing about. I didn’t understand what was happening in the scene, what had happened or where it was going, but I wrote what I saw in my mind. Sadly, I have lost them all.

When I was about 21 I scribbled down a new scene that came to me, into a notebook. Once again I had no plan for the story line. Heck, I didn’t really know what they were talking about. But I was sure I would use it some day. That was the last thing I wrote for about three years.

Around April 2009 I took that last scene from my notebook and began to put it into a novel. I worked on this for about five months, reaching 140 pages, 47 000 words. The furthest I had ever been and I was thrilled.

But then something happened. A new idea came to me like a slap in the face. (The best kind!) I envisioned a scene that I became obsessed with. In that scene I watched in my memory, over and over, I saw everything. The theme, the feel and mood, and basically the entire premise of the story. It sounds strange but when you have two characters dancing, it’s amazing how you can interpret those moves into a story. I could see their feelings and emotions behind it. I saw the way their story would end and I was hooked.

I couldn’t stop thinking about these characters and feeling what they felt. I was addicted and every day more scenes came to me. I didn’t know how they would fit together but I knew they belonged. Like picking up a puzzle piece and setting it aside for later. While these images came pouring out so fast, I scratched away in a notebook so I wouldn’t forget them.

I had promised myself I wouldn’t work on this idea until I had completed my 140 page working progress. But this new story possessed my thoughts so much I stopped writing the other all together. I wasn’t coming up with any more ideas for it! My mind was on overdrive for this other book.

In the end I had been chewing over this new novel in my mind for six months. I knew the story back to front, beginning to end. All tucked away and itching to come out onto paper. I gave in.

December 2009 I put pen to paper and didn’t stop. I wrote from morning to night while my parents looked after my daughter. When she went to bed I would be up until 3am. My pens ran out of ink a lot and words came to mind faster than I could write them. I woke up through the night with ideas I had to write down so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning. I ate, slept and breathed this story. Come to think of it, there were even times I forgot to eat!

Six months, 260 pages, 100 000 words later I completed my first ever novel – Evergreen.

Filled with such a high over fulfilling this part of my dream, I began the sequel right away. Here I am, exactly a year later, in the process of editing the sequel. I still can’t believe I have written two books in a year! And after all that, my fingers are twitching with anticipation to begin Book 3.

It’s 1am now and looking over all I’ve written, it’s almost a novel in itself. I’m not usually so long winded…I don’t think… But I am always up this late. I’m practically nocturnal. Not to worry though, I have no fangs. (You may laugh but according to Principal Figgins, they exist… And if you don’t get that, I shake my head at you.)

So in conclusion, I’m a woman who often stares into space, imagining hunky guys with abs and biceps while listening to music…and then sometimes I think of my characters and stories too. (Cue boisterous laughter).

Happy New Year!