What’s in my earholes? Special book edition

This week I’ve been gearing up for the release of The Memory Game on September 1st. ARCs have gone out and the positive feedback so far has been overwhelming.  With this in mind, and as I’m not at the day job this week, and because What’s in my Earholes has been missing anyway, I thought I’d share a song that actually features in the book.  David, our protagonist (I like to think of him as anti-hero) is a massive Radiohead fan and this is the song that is played at his funeral (don’t worry that’s not a spoiler, he starts off dead!). Anyway, enough of my waffling, here it is…

 

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Jacob is going on tour!

I wanted to let you all know about the upcoming blog tour for Sky Song with the very lovely people at Fiction Addiction tours.  I thought about what to write for a little while, but I couldn’t really come up with anything entertaining. It’s been some time since I wrote anything with Jacob and his friends in, so instead of telling you about the tour myself, I couldn’t resist bringing out the guys for one last time…

Jacob stood staring at the pile of clothes and the empty suitcase on his bed.  He scratched his head and then looked up at Ellen.

‘You’re worse than a girl,’ she laughed.  ‘Just put something in, we’re never going to be ready.’

Luca grinned as he lounged on the bedroom floor.  ‘I was done in minutes flat.’

‘I bet you only took one change of clothes,’ Ellen replied. ‘It’s no wonder.’

‘It’s a book tour, how many changes of clothing could I need?’

‘You have to have some standards,’ said Ellen.

‘This book tour…’ Luca began, ‘are there going to be good looking women on it?’

‘Ahem…’

‘Apart from you, Ell, of course,’ Luca said quickly.

‘Seriously,’ Jacob said as he stuffed a sweatshirt into the case, ‘you know you give all males a bad name?’ He glanced at Ellen.

‘Ha ha, Jake, Ellen is not falling for that I’m so sensitive act that you put on.  I know you were thinking the same thing.’

‘I was not.’ Jacob said, doing his best to look outraged at the implication.  Then he grinned. ‘Are there, though?’

Ellen rolled her eyes. ‘You’re both ridiculous. You have to be polite to all the tour hosts and the coordinator or Sharon will be furious with you.’

‘Who’s Sharon?’ Luca asked.

‘Sharon Sant!  Only the woman who created you!’

‘Is she good looking?’

Ellen frowned. ‘I think she’s, like, really old.  And quite short… oh what am I saying, it doesn’t matter! Stop being such a sleaze, you’re just impossible.’

‘That’s not my fault,’ Luca said with a hurt expression. ‘Sharon made me like this so if I ask whether she’s hot, that’s her fault.’

‘He’s got a point,’ Jacob said.

Ellen sighed.

Luca thought for a moment and his expression clouded. ‘You don’t think Sharon heard me say that, do you?’ He looked up at the ceiling as if I might be hiding in there.

‘Of course she did, you douche, she’s making you say it!’ Ellen replied.

‘You mean she’s here right now?’

‘How on earth do you think any of us are here right now?  She’s omnipresent and she can make us do anything – I mean, we live or die by her hand.  And if you’re not careful she’ll have you sticking a kipper up your nose.’

‘Wow!’ Luca said in awe. ‘So she’s like some all-powerful guardian of a world?’

‘It’s not a new concept, Luca,’ Ellen said drily.

‘Really?’

‘What do you think your mum goes to church for every Sunday?’

‘I don’t know. I think she quite fancies the priest…’

‘She goes to pray to an all-powerful guardian of our world.’

Luca gave a confused frown.

‘God!’ Ellen said, her voice rising in exasperation.

Jacob looked up from trying to locate some deodorant in a drawer. ‘Was someone talking to me?’

Ellen sighed. ‘Go back to your packing, Jacob.’

‘Where are we staying, anyway?’ Luca asked trying not to snigger now.

‘I suppose we’ll stay with each of the tour hosts as we go on our way,’ Ellen said. ‘They’re all over the world.’

‘Are there any in New Zealand?’ Luca asked with a wink.

‘Only people who have read the book will get that joke, Luca, and as the point of the tour is to persuade people to read the book, I think that your clever quip might be a bit wasted at this stage.’

‘I hope we get separate rooms,’ Jacob cut in, raising his eyebrows at Luca, ‘you snore.’

‘I snore?’ Luca cried. ‘That’s rich coming from you.’

‘I don’t snore,’ Jacob said sniffing at a trainer before deciding to throw it into the case.

‘You do,’ Luca said, ‘you snore like the Astraen equivalent of a water buffalo.’

‘Astraen water buffalos aren’t so noisy, they sort of squeak, really,’ Jacob answered thoughtfully.

‘For Pete’s sake!’ Ellen said, throwing her hands into the air. ‘Would you just get ready, we’re going to be late and Sharon will have to go without us!’

‘I’m done!’ Luca cried. ‘It’s old Watcher Lightfoot over there holding us up.  Who knew being a cosmic guardian needed such a coordinated wardrobe?’

‘Shut it, Valvona, we don’t all want to parade around in a black thong for the whole two weeks,’ Jacob said.

‘You’re just jealous because you could never pull off a black thong,’ Luca fired back.

Jacob grinned at him. ‘Who the hell would want to?’  He turned to Ellen. ‘Where are we stopping off?’

Ellen pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. ‘This is the tour itinerary that Sharon from Fiction Addiction gave me –’

‘Is she good looking,’ Luca interrupted.

‘Funny,’ Ellen frowned. ‘Do you want me to tell you or not?’

‘Yes, he does,’ Jacob said. ‘Go on.’

‘First stop,’ Ellen began again, ‘is on 8th July for Me, My Books and I.  Second stop is on 9th July at Love, Laughter, Friendship. 10th July is A Novel Review, followed by Review Buzz on 11th July and Bookalicious Travel Addict on 12th July –’

‘Are there going to be many more of these?’ Luca cut in.

Ellen glared at him.

‘Sorry, just asking.’

‘You get the weekend off,’ Ellen continued. ‘Then we have Stephanie Keyes in the US on 15th July, Tugcenin Kitapligi on 16th July, Lucky Books from Romania on 17th July, Amy Bookworm –’

‘She’s cute,’ Luca interrupted.

‘Luca,’ Jacob said, ‘if you don’t let Ellen finish, she’ll be in my mum’s freezer looking for a kipper to stick up your nose, never mind Sharon.’

Luca grinned. ‘Sorry.’

Ellen threw Jacob a grateful look. ‘Amy is on 18th July and then finally it’s Bookishly Devoted on 19th July.’

‘Cool, sounds like fun,’ Luca said.

‘I think it will be,’ Ellen replied, ‘if we can put up with each other for two weeks with no incidents involving kippers and nasal cavities.’  She turned to Jacob, who was just fastening his suitcase. ‘Ready?’

Jacob nodded. ‘Ready.  Let’s do this!’

No heckling please, I’m only a poor author.

speechOn Monday I went along to a local school to talk about writing and publishing. I had been invited by the school librarian of Haywood Engineering College, a lovely lady who is as passionate about literature as anyone I have met (and she’s also named Sharon, which can only be good!). Sharon emailed me to ask whether I would be happy to talk to year seven. Talk to year seven? I can do that, I thought with a modicum of confidence. Two hundred year sevens, Sharon said. Ok, I can still do that, I thought, with slightly less confidence.

I made up cue cards so that I could remind myself of everything I wanted to say on my ten minute introductory talk. I carefully chose a passage of Runners to read that didn’t contain too much dialogue (doing voices is not my forte) and I rehearsed it. I thought about all the questions I might get asked at the Q&A afterwards.

Was I ready? Was I hell!

After a brief chat and a cuppa, lovely Sharon led me into the hall where I’d be meeting the kids. With row upon row of chairs laid out, it was at that point I realised that two hundred was a lot more than I’d imagined. It’s ok, I thought, I’ll keep it together. Then the kids started to file in, a class at a time. I was getting more nervous with each row of chairs that filled. Then I was introduced and it was time to talk!

In the hours beforehand, I had carefully gone over a succinct and chronologically correct version of my life and career, I had even prepared a few jokes to throw in, and the reminders for each bit were on my cue cards. But as I started to talk, my brain decided that it couldn’t read cue cards – I kept looking at them but the words on there didn’t mean anything. My clever little introductory chat turned into an outpouring of breakneck speed and I missed almost everything important out, especially my jokes. We were supposed to view the Runners trailer next but as we all know that technology hates me, the sound wouldn’t work. We went to a reading instead, which I’m sure I rushed through even quicker than the intro, and then went back to the trailer (phew, a break!) and then came the Q&A. This was where it got fun!

I loved the question and answer session. I was really worried that none of the audience would have anything to ask me and we’d be staring each other down in some sort of High Noon scenario, but I needn’t have been. The kids were fantastic, hands shot up all over the place with brilliant and funny questions (are you rich, are you famous, how long does it take to write a book, will you write a book with me in it?) and before I knew it I was bouncing around the hall like an over-excited chicken trying to not to miss anyone and trying to come up with the best answers I could.

The school very kindly supplied lunch (yum, good choice by Sharon) then I went into a class to help with a creative writing session. We took our cue from the Runners extract I had read out to talk about dystopia and utopia and, once again, the discussions and ideas coming from the kids were lively and interesting and in some cases hilarious. I haven’t had so much fun in ages.

I felt so welcomed by the school, its children and staff, that I needn’t have been worried or nervous. Next time I do an author talk I’ll be ready to enjoy it.  A big thanks goes out to Haywood year seven for being amazing!

Dreams can come true…

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Six years ago I had a very strange dream in which a group of teenagers trekked across a barren landscape on a quest. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote it all down, each kid somehow a real, fully formed person that just squeezed out of my head and onto the notepad. I didn’t know what the quest was; all I knew was that they were on a great journey. A bit like the one Runners began the very next day.

I’m sure in lots of guest posts over the coming months, I’ll be talking about the characters of the book, what influenced the plot and setting, what I think about who is the strongest/ most reliable/ my favourite. So this post is going to be about the journey that the book has taken from my head that night to publication, for that has been a quest in itself.

I’d never actually finished writing a book before, though I had attempted many over the previous years. I was just coming to the end of the first year of my English and creative writing degree. I started the book straight away and worked on it during the summer holidays in between reading texts for the new term that would follow in September. I had an old cranky desktop computer which promptly died at around chapter four, so I resorted to carting the book file around on a memory stick between different computers at the university library and at my brothers’ houses. I worked whenever and wherever I could. At that time my daughters were still young so their care had to be factored in somewhere too, which often led me to work late into the night after they had gone to bed. It seemed that, for the first time, a book was just not going to leave me alone until it was out. By the time the new term had begun I had a first draft, which I nervously printed out and took to show my friend, Louise (an extremely talented writer herself) who was in the same creative writing class as me. I expected her to make up some sort of excuse, or give me a vague ‘it was good’, but she brought the manuscript back a matter of days later and told me she loved it. Still, I thought, she’s being nice to me because she’s my friend.

But I got the bug, I wrote another book straight away (which became Sky Song) and I was just addicted to writing more and more stories for a while so Runners sat on my memory stick (you’ll be relieved to hear that I got a new computer from my student loan too!). Then I saw a competition run by Chicken House for new novels. I entered Runners. My friend was convinced that I was going to win. I didn’t, but it did go past the first stages and that, considering the sheer number of entrants and that, really, looking back, the draft was far from complete, was an encouraging sign. So I worked on it some more and sent it to another competition. This time it made the long list. I knew it wasn’t finished. I rewrote it again. I tried a few agents but got the inevitable rejections. I gave it a new title (it wasn’t called Runners at first) I tried a brand new publisher who was calling for full manuscripts and they wrote a fantastic email saying that they had read it and that it was a ‘well written and heart-warming tale’ but, unfortunately, it wasn’t for their list.

Then university got more demanding and I had other creative writing projects to do for my degree and Runners got forgotten. I’m ashamed to say that I lost faith in it – perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps it really wasn’t all that good. Every so often my friend would remind me of how much she loved it and she’d tell me I ought to be submitting it again but I worked on other things. Just before my university course ended in 2009 I began to help out at Immanion Press as an editor; soon I was taken on with pay and it began to take up lots of my time. Shortly after that, I graduated and I had to get a day job too and so writing took a back seat for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 2012. Two things happened at the same time and my life took a surprising but wonderful path. Firstly, I met another local writer, Mel Sherratt, who had been self-publishing, very successfully, on Amazon KDP and gave me so much advice and support about it that I had the idea to self-publish Runners. Then, just as I was preparing to do that, Immanion Press, who had never published Young Adult before, decided they were going to create a Young Adult list and offered me a contract for Runners. With the ego boost, I started to write again, lots and lots. The Sky Song trilogy became my first foray into self-publishing instead and I’ve loved every minute of the ride so far.

Some things are undoubtedly meant to be. I’m convinced (as I’m an incurable romantic at heart) that my silly little dream might just be the start of something wonderful. It certainly changed my life.

With a little help from my friends…

old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879I’ve made a lot of friends through writing. Many of these are in real life: through my university course and local writing networks. Many more have been via social media. It’s been a strange experience in many ways, particularly ‘meeting’ people virtually.  Some of my online friends I’ve since met in real life and they’ve been every bit as delightful as they are in the ether. Some, I know I will never meet, and that makes me sad, because they are people I feel I have a strong friendship with, even a deep affection for, despite never having met them face to face.

In today’s writing world, I think there is no stronger tool than collaboration with other writers. In the days of ink and quill, writing was considered a rather solitary affair, but not anymore. In our rapidly shrinking world, we have so many ways to link up. We’re in constant contact every day, updating each other from across the globe about how many words we’ve done, when we’re taking a break, how our editing is driving us nuts.  We participate in blog hops and Nanowrimo and virtual launch parties. Some of us take these relationships, cherish them and build on them, because we understand that you can’t make it alone. People just like you are the people who will root for you, will retweet you, will send readers to your blog, will beta read for you and critique with the best of intentions, will give you heads-up on news, will egg you on when you flag. And you will do the same for them. In my opinion, that’s how it should be – a community based on mutual respect and collaboration.

But I have also encountered the flip-side of this.  Take this example:  A friend on twitter chats to a friend of theirs who has exactly the same interests as me, has other mutual friends, even writes the same genre.  I follow that person, attempt to chat to them, and I’m ignored.  I don’t understand why.  Not for a minute am I suggesting that everyone has to follow me because I follow them, or reply to me when I mention them, but I fail to see the logic in not doing these things when we quite clearly have so much in common.  We have all the necessary ingredients to make another strong link in the chain; why would you throw that opportunity away? Why would you actively set yourself apart from other writers like you? What does this achieve?

Sometimes, I admit, I feel envious of others I consider vastly more talented/ successful/ popular than me; I’m a human being, after all.  But I fight those feelings because I think that life as an indie author is hard enough without negativity taking hold and without alienating yourself from the people who could support you on your journey, just as you can support them.  I’d rather try my best to be happy for others, even when I have a down day and I don’t feel like it, than sit stewing in my juices.  The writing journey is a much more fulfilling one when you can share it with people who understand each step.