2013 – a bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of fun…

photo2013 was such a mindblowing year that I hardly know where to start.  It was mixed, of course, and the good things that happened for me were, sadly, matched by the bad things that happened to friends. But good things happened to friends too, and I suppose that what I’m trying to say in my characteristically crap way (writer, apparently?????) is that it was, in most respects, a fairly typical year.  Except that I published a book.  Then I published another one… until I couldn’t stop writing them. Even more excitingly, people started to read said book.  And then they read the other ones… some even said they liked them…

My favourite thing this year has been finally getting the validation I’ve always craved for my writing. When I started out, years ago, I always said that all I wanted was for people to come into my worlds and share them. People have done that and truly taken my characters to their hearts and it has meant more to me than I can say.  It’s been hard work, every single spare moment has been spent doing something – if not writing then promoting or researching opportunities to reach more readers – but it’s been the most enjoyable nervous breakdown I’ve ever had.  I’ve had pen names this year – more than a few – and I love the books that each and every me writes, even though they’re all very different. As their creator, I think I’m allowed to say that, right?

My other favourite thing has been the wonderful friendships I’ve found through the writing community, both online and in the real world. Some of you I’ve managed to meet, some meetings we’re working on, some of you, sadly, live too far away and it’s likely I’ll never get to meet you.  But you’ve all been fantastic. You’re all ages and all walks of life and everyone has a different agenda, but we get along and support each other. And we’ve all shared each other’s journeys in many ways. I’ve seen some friends release their fabulous debuts and enjoy the same experiences as I’ve had as people have discovered their books. Some friends have finally found the professional success that they’ve worked for years to achieve – book deals, new agents, competition wins…  and so much more good stuff. Some of my friends have started new book blogs and gone on to find enormous and faithful followings as people have discovered their reviews and come to love and trust them.

Most of all, 2013 has been a year of change. I’ve learned so much about writing and marketing, but I’ve learned about life too.  I think this year has changed me as a person – I know now that I can do so much more than I ever believed I was capable of.  And as if the family dramas, friendship dramas, two children’s books, six young adult books, and an adult book on the cusp of release weren’t enough, there was one more lovely surprise, tucked right at the bottom of 2013’s stocking.

I finally got my fabulous agent…

2014 is a new chapter. And even I don’t know where this plot is going…

*

The Sky Song trilogy is a year old! To celebrate, all three books in the series will be reduced to 77p or 99c each for the next week. Thank you to everyone for your brilliant, valuable support and Happy New Year!

 

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!’

Hello insomnia, goodbye sanity…

As the deadline gets closer for the release of The Young Moon and I’m still behind on promo for Sky Song, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually normal in the head.  I look at my kids like I don’t know who they are, I put food in the oven that emerges four hours later as an unrecognisable husk, I wash dishes in shampoo, I go shopping in odd shoes.  In short, I’m lost in a world where real people have been replaced by book characters.   But I don’t mind admitting that, despite all this, I’m having the time of my life.

page-0 (2)The decision to self-publish was a long time coming, and part of me thought that it would make me feel like a failure for not having a proper deal (although I was lucky enough to land one for Runners shortly afterwards) but the opposite turned out to be true.  Instead of feeling like a failure, right now, I feel like captain of my own ship.  I call the shots – I decide what I write, what my deadlines are, how I market my wares.  At the moment people seem to like what I do and the feedback is good, I’m productive and full of new ideas. I may not always feel this way, and it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t still love an agent, but, after years of hiding my stories away,  it seems like my writing career has finally begun.  This year is already mapped out in terms of releases, until September at the very least, and possibly beyond.  And even if no one is reading them, I’m having a ball writing them!

The Young Moon is the second book of the Sky Song trilogy, due to be released for Kindle 8th March 2013.

Location, location, inspiration.

IMG_0938

This weekend I’ve been splashing around in cold seas, scoffing ice-cream and scrambling over rocks. There might have been some shopping involved too but that’s a different story…

There has been a purpose to all this frivolity, however. I’ve been researching locations for the last book in the Sky Song trilogy, Not of Our Sky. More accurately, one very important location that’s integral to the climax. Every writer has a slightly different approach to using locations in their stories according to their needs. As a fantasy writer, my sense of place (a bit like my writing in general) lies somewhere in between real and made up. Quite often I’ll take an actual place and modify it. Sometimes I just won’t tell you where that place is. There is quite a lot of that in Sky Song, for example, I don’t tell you where the boating lake is, but it is a real location.

*As an aside, the only clue you’ll get from the entire three books of the park’s location in the physical world is this line from The Young Moon:

Jacob was hit by a rush of conflicting emotions as he entered the dolphin-embossed gates and the glittering waters of the lake stretched out before him, beyond which the hazy blue rim of the sea cut across the horizon.

Anyone recognise it now?*

The reason I don’t always tell you the name of the real place is that the story needs me to alter it in some way, and I don’t want everyone shouting at me that the details aren’t right. The boating lake is in a real park, but I take details of an annual event in another, nearby park and add them to my boating lake park, then I chuck in some buildings that don’t exist in the real park either because they have a vital part to play in the final confrontation of the book. In my upcoming standalone novel Runners, I do tell you the real name of every location, but the action is set in the future so that you can accept that the landscape or buildings may have changed. The climax of Not of Our Sky, however, needs a real place and it needs to be accurate because the whole book has been foreshadowing the events there in such a way that it has to be named. The action takes place in a contemporary time too so it has to look in the book how the real place looks now. And despite the fact that I have researched the location extensively from afar, actually visiting it this weekend has revealed just how little of the details I actually got right! Physically seeing the landscape has also suggested new ideas to weave into that final scene that would never have occurred to me had I not been there, ideas that I’m sure will improve it.

IMG_0952

Of course, it’s not always possible to visit your locations. In the second book of the trilogy, The Young Moon, there is an equally important, really existing location. Sadly, however, that place is one I travelled to many years ago and as I don’t have the money to go back there, I’ve had to rely on my ageing memory and let Google fill in the gaps!

But why not simply set the books in the place I live? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Having been born in Dorset but brought up in Stoke-on-Trent, I do actually use both places frequently as a source of inspiration. The story dictates the setting. And the stories I’m working on now need the Dorset and Hampshire landscapes to work. There is something epic about the terrain there, something quite mystical. Hardy saw it and wove it into the fabric of his novels like a character. But there are other stories I write that Stoke is a perfect backdrop for. Most of my short stories are set there, particularly the ones with more of a realist feel. For me, Stoke, as a city, is incredibly real; the people have a natural grounding and no-nonsense self-deprecation that seems to suit those stories better.

I know some writers who can set a story in a place they’ve never visited by simply researching it for a sense of location and some who only ever set things in the place they live. Some spend pages describing intimately their locations and some throw in titbits to give you only a flavour. And, obviously, there are some whose places don’t exist anywhere except in their books. Their methods work for them as writers and their stories. It’s a fascinating process and one that, for me, is almost as important as characters and plot. Location can do so much to shape a story.

Jacob’s back…

I’m happy to tell you that with The Young Moon almost ready for release, I may be allowed out from solitary confinement soon. Just for a short walk around the garden, mind, and ten minutes to wash the dishes before I’m shackled back at the laptop for Not of Our Sky.

Here’s a sneak preview…page-0 (2)

It is a prophecy, Watcher.  And it foretells your destruction.

So comes the stark warning from Astrae.  But what does the prophecy that tells of the young moon actually mean?

Two years have passed and Jacob’s search for the second Successor brings him back to Earth. But his Watcher powers seem to be useless as the other Successor remains shrouded in mystery… And he soon discovers that his bitter uncle, Makash, is also hot on the trail.

Jacob’s quest takes him and Luca halfway across the globe in a race to get to the other Successor first. As they get closer to their goal the body count starts to rise and Jacob and Luca are dragged deeper into Makash’s deadly game as the net closes around them.

All Jacob has to do is cheat death, yet again, find another like him amongst the seven billion people that swarm over the face of the planet before Makash does, and thwart the prophecy that spells his doom. No pressure then…

The Young Moon is the second book of the Sky Song Trilogy.

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

Questions and Answers signpost

I’ve been tagged in the next big thing blog hop by the surreally hilarious Laurence Donaghy.  I have the same list of questions that I have to provide entertaining answers to and then I tag two writerly friends.  Oh well, here goes internet oblivion….

1. What is the working title of your next book?

It’s called ‘the one where Sharon’s writing fairy locks away her Merlin DVDs and uninstalls the youtube app from her phone and ties her to a chair until some words come out’.  Maybe that’s a bit longwinded, though.  We’ll go for The Young Moon instead.  It’s the second of the Sky Song trilogy.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

As it’s a sequel, I suppose I have to say that the idea came from the first book! At the end of Sky Song, we left Jacob **Sound of a truck roaring past** so, The Young Moon picks up two years on from there. There was always going to be three books and each one continues the overall story arc. Sky Song was as much about Jacob’s dilemma over his life choices as it was about his battle with the bad guy.  In The Young Moon there’s a whole bunch of different dilemmas around loyalties and who gets to choose who lives and who dies. Jacob gets faced with some really tough decisions and quite often has to deal with the consequences of making the wrong ones.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

If you wanted to be pedantic you could call it Young Adult fantasy.  But there is a feel of realism about it, and I’m very influenced by magical realist works, so I suppose, in that sense, it’s not fantasy in the way most would think of that genre.  There are actually a couple of my favourite TV shows that you could probably point to and say ‘like that.’ If you look at something like Life on Mars or Misfits, outwardly, the setting is very ordinary and mundane, but something extraordinary is happening just beneath the surface.  I think that Jacob’s story is like that.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is where I come undone.  Colin Morgan’s face just pops up every time – not because he looks remotely like any of the characters, but just because I’d make sure I was on set every day!  This is a tricky question, though, because the main characters are all teenagers so the actors young enough to play them would probably be fairly unknown.  I think for Jacob’s best friend, Luca, Jonathan Bailey (from CBBC’s Leonardo) would be pretty cool.  For Jacob, I could really see Jeremy Sumpter looking right, although he may be a little old now as I’m still remembering him like he was in Peter Pan. Maybe someone similar.  But if Colin Morgan would dye his hair blonde then he’d be a definite Jacob!  Actually, for Ellen, someone who looks sort of like Katie McGrath would be good, only she’d have to look seventeen (sorry Katie!). Luckily I’m not a casting executive – my requirements would be pretty vague!

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s bad enough writing an ordinary synopsis!  One sentence?  Ok. I’m totally rebelling with one and a half…

All Jacob has to do is cheat death, yet again, find another like him amongst the seven billion people that swarm over the face of the planet before Makash does, and thwart the prophecy that spells his doom. No pressure then… 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?

Sky Song is self-published so The Young Moon will follow suit.  Unless some miracle occurs between now and March and an agent takes me on.  What’s that you say?  More chance of hitching a lift in the Tardis?  To be honest, though, I’m quite enjoying self-publishing at the moment – it can offer a lot of freedom to a jobbing writer like me in terms of deadlines and creative decisions.

7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If I have a good run at it, a first draft can take maybe 5 or 6 weeks.  I don’t exactly remember how long The Young Moon took but I’d say it was around that. It’s the editing and fine tuning that takes a lot more time than that.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

I genuinely can’t think of anything like it. That’s not me showing off my originality, it’s me showing off how woefully unread I am lately!  There are lots of books that tackle ‘chosen ones’ with great destinies, but I don’t know any of them that do it in such a domestic setting with so much emphasis on the emotional impact of that.  The only one I can think of that deals with it any similar way is Harry Potter, but Jacob’s story is nothing like Harry’s other than he does have a destiny that he can’t escape.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Oh dear.  I have to say, again, that the first book inspired this book!  Sky Song came to me as a vague idea about a little girl whose father watched the skies every night.  She wondered why and it took her a few years to figure out that he was watching for someone, rather than something.  The little girl turned into a teenage boy and the thing that came from the stars was his destiny. Then I started to think that if someone just pitched up at my door when I thought I had my life worked out and landed me with a destiny I hadn’t asked for, how would I react?  That’s pretty much the heart of Jacob’s dilemma.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It features hot teenage boys.  Am I allowed to say that? Oh… erm, then it has a very important message about friendship and… oh hell, who am I kidding, hot teenage boys is my USP!

Next it’s the turn of Emma and Jack…

Emma Adams is 21-year-old author of THE PUPPET SPELL, a quirky YA fantasy published by Rowanvale Books. She is currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing at LancasterUniversity whilst writing the sequel and also working on the creepy paranormal Darkworld series. Check out her  blog about her writing journey, where she posts weekly updates and writing tips, and also regular book reviews and features.

Jack Croxall is a YA fiction author and science writer living in Nottinghamshire. He tweets via @JackCroxall, and you can find out more about his novel, Tethers, by visiting www.jackcroxall.co.uk

Look out for their Next Big Thing Q&As next week.

Another milestone in my self publishing adventure.

It’s been almost two weeks since I released Sky Song to an unsuspecting public. When I say public, of course, I have my tongue firmly in my cheek.  It has been a low key affair – I just stick the odd tweet out now and again and badger my friends and family.  I don’t have the knowledge to do a decent job of organising blog tours or reviews and whatnot but I’ve been bumbling along doing my best with it.  But the overwhelmingly positive response has made my little face glow.

It’s a funny feeling, offering up the darkest corners of your imagination for all to see.  I noticed on Goodreads that someone in India is reading it.  That was a very strange notion, that someone across the world in a completely different culture, someone who doesn’t know me, owes me no allegiance or has no reason to consider my feelings, someone who simply reads and judges, is looking at the thing that I spent hours lovingly creating and doing just that.   I love the idea that people I don’t know are entering the world I made – after all, that was what I’ve always said I wanted as writer – but at the same time it’s strangely terrifying.   It opens you up in a way that makes you feel naked and vulnerable, like your soul is up for inspection.

Closer to home I’ve had wonderful support from friends – writers and otherwise –and from people I’ve never met apart from in the Twittersphere.  Offers of help and encouragement have come from the most unlikely places, as have opportunities.  Another thing that has struck me is how the people I naturally assumed would buy a copy haven’t, but people that I never expected to have bought one, read it and given me wonderful feedback.  All it takes these days is a couple of lines from an old uni classmate on facebook to reduce me to tears (good ones, I hasten to add).   I know the backlash will come, I know that we all get one star reviews, but for now, the ones I’ve had I stare at lovingly for hours.

Right now, I feel humble, but I don’t feel the need to be falsely modest about the work I’ve put in on this trilogy.  People who know me will know that I’ve been writing them for years while trying to hold another life together, that I’ve stayed up all hours of the night and ignored family members when an idea had to be worked through.  I’m not saying that no other writers do this – I know they do.  What I’m saying is let us have our little moment in the sun.  Because we’ve earned it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported, encouraged and downloaded.  One day I hope I can repay your kindness.  And roll on book two!

P.S.  After all that, I’m off to watch re-runs of Merlin.