I’m excited to announce that I finished the first draft of my novel, The Riddlebane Chronicles, last week!  It’s been a long time coming.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I began this novel writing journey.  I suppose you could say that it started back in November of 2009 when I began writing it in earnest for National Novel Writing Month under the title The Alone Elevator.  I wrote about 30k words of it that first month, and then it took me nearly another year and a half to finish the remaining 46k words.

My First Draft

So this is what a 348 page first draft looks like.

But I you could also say I started working on it several years prior when I first realized that I had a novel in me.  I was listening to an episode of PotterCast with editor Cheryl Klein who was speaking about what she looks for in a novel.  And for the first time I wondered if I had a novel in me.  I’ve always loved to write.  In fact, I’ve been engaged in creative writing since I learned how to write, turning my spelling words into short stories and poems.  But I had never even considered myself capable of writing a novel up until that evening.  It had always seemed so daunting.  At that point writing a twenty page short story seemed daunting.  But for some reason her words stirred up something inside me and I thought, “if I were to write a novel, what would it be about?”  Then I remembered this one page hand scribbled “thing” I had written back when I was 14 years old in high school creative writing class.  At the time I had no idea what it would turn into.  I had written it out one day and forgotten about it.  But that night I suddenly knew what happened next.  I stayed up until 4am writing.

A few days later, the whole plot of the first novel came to me in a rush while I was driving back from a doctor’s appointment in the city.  It wasn’t long after that I realized that the book was not just one book but a trilogy.  So I suppose you could say that I really began writing this novel at age 14, though I hardly knew it at the time.   This novel has been nearly 13 years in the making so far.  And it’s not done yet!

Now the real fun begins as I start to write the second draft!


Here’s a short summary of The Riddlebane Chronicles:

Kylie Lockmoore cannot believe her good fortune when she is chosen to attend Riddlebane Academy, society’s most prestigious school for training the next generation of leaders.  When the most popular girls in school accept her into their clique she is sure her time there will be absolutely perfect – that is if odd but brilliant Art will just leave her alone.

But at Riddlebane, she learns secrets that turn her world upside-down, and Art quickly becomes the only one she can trust.  She finds out her now deceased Grandmother was the genius behind a chemical supplement that everyone is required to consume.  Though the population is told the supplement protects them from the dangerous levels of pollution in the environment, Kylie discovers that it actually is being used to keep the population subdued.

Even more mysterious is the ancient elevator in her family’s home.  The room at the top is Kylie’s special refuge.  One day she accidentally discovers a hidden basement level that contains the belongings of a sister she didn’t even know existed.  In her sister’s belongings is a brilliantly encrypted electronic diary.

With Art’s help she is able to unlock the diary and discover the story of her sister’s disappearance, the misdeeds of her school and society, and the plans of a rebel group who wants to change everything.  And once she knows the truth she must decide where she stands – with the school and government who would use her to control the population, or the rebels who would use her to destroy the supplement and only society she’s ever known.

The Riddlebane Chronicles is a Young Adult coming of age story set in dystopian future.

And here’s a excerpt from the novel itself:

Kylie lugged her Riddlebane trunk through the narrow the back hall and pushed the elevator call button.  Within seconds, the intricately embossed steel doors slid open, and she stepped inside.  It was an old fashioned elevator car, one of the classics that used buttons instead of vocal commands.

Kylie reached out and pushed the “up” button, taking in the feel of its familiar texture just as she had done almost everyday since she had lived there.
The elevator lurched, and up she went.  Through the elevator’s great glass windows which were framed by elaborate metal gilding, she watched the world zoom away.  Up above the acid puddles.  Up above the concrete buildings.  Up above the smoggy air.  Up above the clouds.  The elevator’s inner workings creaked and groaned as it climbed inside the vertical glass tower that stuck out from the back of Kylie’s even more historic Victorian house.

Finally at the top, she stepped out, and, setting her trunk down for the moment, she walked to the giant windows that surrounded the circular room at the top of top of the tower.  She looked down knowing that of all the people living in the city, she was the only one watching.

Her mind drifted back to when she was only eleven and had first stood on that very spot.  Her parents dragged her around for three days straight while the building preservation specialist showed them nearly every historical building available in the whole city.  They were already big collectors of antiques.  Clocks with hands on it, old images taken with celluloid, televisions that only displayed two-dimensional pictures.  Her house was full of old stuff like that, not because her parents liked the antiques themselves, but because they liked what they felt it said about them as people.  Now that they were moving, her parents wanted to a historical house to complete the collection.

But Kylie was annoyed that she had to look at old houses.  She didn’t want to even be here.  She wanted to go home. She wanted to go to the new indoor park with her best friend Jacquelyn.  She wanted to leave this new city and never come back.  Every moment she spent there deepened that sick empty feeling in her stomach.  The unwanted feeling that probably had something to do with the fact that she was going to be living in one of those horrible historical houses, and whichever house her parents chose wasn’t going to be anywhere near Jacquelyn.  She especially didn’t want to think about that.  Best just to focus on being annoyed.

Being annoyed wasn’t hard.  Her parents were discussing what it would take to bring the air filters up to safety protocol, and Kylie knew from experience that their discussion could go on indefinitely.  She stormed off in a huff hoping her parents would take the hint, but gave up stomping her feet extra loud when her parents failed to ask what was wrong or even notice she her absence.

Sometimes she didn’t know why she even bothered.  They never asked.  They never noticed.  Why should they?  She was Kylie, and she was perfect.  Kylie thought she should feel angry about it, but she didn’t.  Being angry would have felt a whole lot better than what she did feel.  She couldn’t let herself even think about it because her stomach would get all knotted up with what certainly must be the worst feeling in the world.

Even as she wandered aimlessly through the building the worst feeling began to take hold.  She didn’t know how it was possible, but it was as if her chest was going to cave in and explode at the same time.  The worst feeling in the world worked its way up from her chest to her neck to her head.  Tears threatened to explode out of her eyes.  She fought it as hard as she could.  Once she let the tears out, she might never be able to make them stop.

She forced her eyes to stay open, letting the tears evaporate without falling, keeping the worst feeling at bay.  When she finally decided it was safe to blink again, she was standing across a narrow corridor from two shiny doors.  She approached them, but they did not open automatically.  She decided they must be voice activated and cleared her throat.


But nothing happened.  Perplexed, she stepped back to get a better look at her surroundings.  If this was a historic house, perhaps it opened using some old fashioned device.  Finally, she saw what she was looking for.  Inset into the wall was a button that matched the shiny doors.  Kylie checked to make sure no one was coming and pushed the button.

The doors creaked apart, and Kylie stepped inside.  She was immediately overcome with a sense of awe as her nose filled with the wonderful scent she only associated libraries that kept a display of books from the days when people still used trees to make paper.
Kylie didn’t know how much time had passed before her exasperated parents located her in the room at the top of the elevator demanding to know what she thought she was doing wandering off by herself.  All she could say was,

“This is the one.”

Coming out of her reverie, Kylie glanced out the windows and saw nothing but mist down below.  She was too high up to hear calming sound of the pouring toxic rain outside.

Kylie felt anything but calm as she returned to her Riddlebane chest.  Heart pounding, she carefully and painstakingly pealed back the the gold embossed seal so as not to rip or damage it in any way.  Having accomplished that with only one broken nail, she set it aside for safe keeping.  The trunk was sturdy yet lightweight, probably made of some synthetic, but the finish made it look like an antique wooden keepsake chest.  It was clearly expensively made to resemble real wood as closely as possible.  Even the smell was just right.  Kylie was one of the few people who would know real wood from a synthetic as her parents had a particular interest in collecting and trading anything wooden.  In fact, it was how the made most of their income – trading things made of the precious and scarce commodity.  She loved the smell of wooden things, but nothing compared to the smell of live wood in the city’s only tree museum.

Kylie ran her hands caressingly over the trunk.  The name “Kylie Lockmoore” was engraved on the hinged lid.  She carefully undid the gold colored latch and peered inside.
An electronic voice boomed, suddenly filling the room.

“Kylie Lockmoore, ple…”

She was so surprised that she let the half open lid slam shut on her fingers.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins.  She took a deep calming breath to try and stop her shaking.

After a few moments, she felt more calm and more prepared as she slowly opened the lid once more.

“Kylie Lockmoore, please review the contents of this chest.  Inside you will find everything you need to begin your education at Riddlebane Academy.  If anything is missing or damaged please file a Red Seven Two Six Form with the Materials and Supply Department.  If anything goes missing or becomes damaged while you are attending Riddlebane Academy please file a Blue Eight Zero Four Three Five Form.”

Kylie suddenly wondered if she should be taking notes.

“Transportation to Riddlebane Academy will arrive at your place of residence promptly at seven tomorrow morning.  Your orientation will begin in room Seventeen Fifty Seven on the Observation Level at seven thirty sharp.  Tardiness will not be tolerated and will result in a Level One Tardiness Reprimand.  Congratulations on your placement and welcome to Riddlebane Academy.”

The voice stopped, restoring the peaceful quiet.  Kylie opened and closed the lid a few time but the voice did not reactivate.  Instead the inside of the lid suddenly transformed into a screen.  An inventory list materialized on it.

Kylie reached into the chest and removed the top item.  It was a brand new government issue portable tablet.  Her eyes widened.  This model was six times more expensive than the model she had been coveting for her next birthday.

At her touch, the tablet screen lit up and words appeared instructing her to look directly into the center of the screen.  She tried not to blink at a sudden blinding flash of light as her optical imprint was permanently keyed to the device.  The tablet was now for her eyes only.

When she could see again, she glanced up and noticed that “tablet” had been automatically crossed off the inventory list.

Reluctantly, she placed the tablet aside knowing she would have plenty of time to play with and explore its ridiculously large feature set later.  She removed a box within the trunk and opened it.  Inside she found her new school uniforms.  There were three pairs of pants, two pleated knee length skirts, and a two pairs of shorts all made from a soft and lightweight dark grey synthetic, five bright white blouses in varying sleeve lengths, a grey sweater and sweater-vest, and finally a soft but metallic gold tie that had an opalescent sheen to it.  A small pin engraved with the Riddlebane Academy logo was perfectly centered on the front of the tie.  And just below the logo, so small she could barely make it out, was her own name and what appeared to be her new school identification number.

She guessed the pin contained a chip that would grant her access to the Riddlebane campus.

Sure enough, glancing back at the inventory list, “Official Uniforms” and “ID Pin” were now crossed off the list as well.

Kylie held the different items of clothing up to herself.  They seemed to be the right size for her slender fourteen year old body, but she wanted to make sure before tomorrow.  Besides, it would be the perfect way to surprise her parents.

Kylie could just imagine their reaction.  She was following in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was considered a savior by many in her society.  Her discoveries in the field of agricultural supplements made it possible for people to safely go outside again – except when it was raining.  People still preferred to go indoor parks when they wanted to be in nature, but at least everyone could travel outside without astronomically increasing their risk of virulent cancers and other diseases.

Apparently she had gone crazy shortly after her discovery and lived out the rest of her life in a government facility.  As a result, her mother was raised by her great aunt.  Kylie’s mother never spoke of her, but Kylie had studied her in school.

Slipping into into the slightly stiff new uniform, Kylie couldn’t help but fantasize about how proud they would finally be.  Lately, it was harder and harder to gain their praise and attention for her accomplishments.  Perfection was simply expected of her, top marks no longer noteworthy.  It didn’t matter that she was the top of her class, let alone her school.

As if on cue, the home security system announced her mother was home from work.  Kylie pressed the call button on the elevator and stepped inside.  She straightened her metallic gold tie as the elevator floor sunk beneath her knowing that this was finally going to be different.  This was bound to get a reaction.  Kylie could hardly contain her excitement as the elevator rumbled and creaked slowly down to the ground floor.

Her mother must have heard the elevator coming because she was waiting there for Kylie when the ancient elevator doors grated open.

She took one look at Kylie before she burst into tears.

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