Two years of head-desking…

dead girl walking finalIt’s been a long two years since I began writing Dead Girl Walking. In between beginning this book and where we are now (not quite but almost ready to publish) I’ve been through two day jobs and published three books under my pen name.  But this book has been one of those that I have had a love-hate relationship with. While I have loved the characters, I don’t mind admitting that the story has been incredibly difficult to get right. I’ve had the help of my fantastic agent, Peta Nightingale, who must be absolutely sick of seeing rewrites from me by now (I think we’re on about eight but I’ve lost count)  and her colleague at LAW, Philippa Milnes-Smith, who kindly carted one of the first drafts around Bologna book fair for me to gain lots of publisher feedback, along with one of my best friends, Louise, who read the crap drafts even when she had much better things to do.  Writer friends have also waded in, and I have to thank Mel Sherratt in particular for championing the book right from the start, Rebecca Bradley for offering her know-how and expertise on getting the details right, and Jack Croxall for braving the early drafts.  Without all these people Dead Girl Walking would have been something very different, and not nearly as good, I’m sure. It’s taken two years but think I finally like it and I hope that you all like it too.  So I’m thrilled to share the new blurb and cover  with you all. I don’t have an exact release date yet, but it’s soon, so I guess, as they say, watch this space…

Cassie Brown doesn’t see dead people, she becomes them. The slightest touch forces her to relive their final moments in breath-sapping detail. She herself was dead, killed in the accident that took the rest of her family. But whatever strange power governs the universe, has plans for her that don’t involve her death… yet.

Dante has a recurring dream.  Every time he sleeps he sees the exact moment of his own demise. But where did the nightmare come from?  If it is a premonition, how long has he got?

A girl and a boy, two damaged souls drawn together. Add a serial killer stalking the streets, a desperate cop and a newspaper reporter with an unhealthy interest in her story, and Cassie is soon caught in a lethal game. She may have cheated Death once, but this time he’s keeping a much closer eye on his prize…

Dead Girl Walking is an unpredictable mix of romance, paranormal and crime thriller that will keep you gripped until the very last page.

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Thanks for the Memories!

Today I’m all like this…

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Because yesterday was release day for The Memory Game, and it was an incredible and enjoyable day, one of the best days I’ve had as a writer so far.  I have so many wonderful people to thank for that, people who read the book at the beginning and offered their constructive opinions, people who read it again when I’d rewritten it, people who read it to offer insightful and intelligent reviews when it was finished, people who helped spread the word, people who downloaded it, of course, or people who simply told me they believed in the book. I was going to list you all individually, but the list is enormous and I’m certain I’ll forget somebody vital.  I would hate to do that because you’re all so important and I wouldn’t want you to ever think otherwise. You people know who you are, and how much I love you for being the best and most supportive friends a writer could wish for.  It’s down to you all that yesterday was such a success.  An author can produce the work of the century, but if nobody knows about it, there’s almost no point.  Everyone has their own motives for writing. It’s true that I write because I’m compelled to tell stories, but I also need my stories to be read by others, it’s what drives me. Without the help I have received, not just yesterday, but all along the publishing journey, that couldn’t happen. I can only hope that this is the start of a long and fun journey, and that I’ll have you all alongside, singing with me every step of the way.

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.

If songs could be blurbs…

You know when you sit and daydream about your new book and imagine a montage in the film version that you’re absolutely certain will be made one day, then you make a mental note of the music that would be playing over the scene and decide that you’ll insist the film’s producers approach the band in question and pay them any amount of money they ask for that song?

Oh, so that’s just me then? Well, the first time I heard this song the lyrics immediately resonated with me because they were so reminiscent of the scenes where Elijah is travelling the road with his friends in Runners. Enjoy!

Serial Spoilers

I’ve recently seen two separate blog posts about spoilers in reviews (check out both excellent sites, Liz Loves Books and Between the Lines)  and many other tweets/Facebook comments.  It started up a Twitter conversation of my own with fellow authors and we got to the point of how difficult it is for the author themselves not to spoil when writing a book series. 3065361442_21d4cc62e7

This was a problem I wrestled with for some time when writing the blurbs for The Young Moon and Not of Our Sky, which follow on directly from Sky Song.  While it was difficult enough to write a blurb and talk about The Young Moon in interviews, it was particularly problematic when it came to Not of Our Sky.  In the final book, almost everything that happens is as a direct result of what happens in the final chapter of The Young Moon, and without referring to that, it was pretty much impossible to give any indication of the story.  The other side of this issue is that I want to give some information, and it has to be enough to hint at something that will tempt the reader to come back to books two and three.

I’ve read one or two reviews of the follow-on books to Sky Song, and some give away more than others.  While this makes me a little nervous, I completely understand how difficult it is to comment in any meaningful way without referring to events that might be viewed as spoilers.  It’s a tough call when you have to decide how much information is too much.  I can also see why potential readers would be put off by spoilers.  I can’t tell you how angry I was Christmas 2010 when the Radio Times gave away the series finale of Merlin by printing the teaser before the penultimate episode had aired!

As usual, everything comes back to Merlin!  It’s not like I’m obsessed or anything. But the question remains: When it comes to series sequels, how much is too much?  What are your thoughts?

L is for Lovely Little Lies

We all lie.  Whether we think we do or not.  According to some of the fascinating studies I’ve read before writing this post, most of us lie many times a day without even realising it.  One study  estimated that we tell two to three lies every ten minutes.  We lie about small things and big things,  we lie to spare the feelings of others or to spare our own.  We lie to get ourselves out of trouble or to save others from trouble.  We embelish stories, we leave awkward details out.  That’s a pretty hefty chunk of porkies a day.  Imagine how many we tell in our lifetimes.  Many of them will never be found out.harry lies

But what if you’re a writer of fiction?  People lie to us even more.  My family and friends almost certainly lie when they hand back a manuscript with the words ‘It was good.’ and a look of abject terror that I’ll break down into unhinged sobbing as I figure out they didn’t like it at all. Writers of fiction lie too, every time we switch on the laptop or pick up a pen and construct a sentence. We lie for fun.  We create whole worlds full of fabricated events and people that don’t exist, we use every tool at our disposal to convince you that we’re showing you truth, or at least make you believe us for a little while. We do it knowingly and with intent to manipulate.   We tell you that we’re going to lie to you before we dish out our big, juicy platter of whoppers.  Are we forgiven?  Because lovely little lies are what makes the world go around.

Five books that had me weeping from the off (and begging for mercy by the end).

I recently started reading a book that had me crying during the first few pages.  Which got me thinking about other books that have done the same thing.  And then I thought I’d share them with you.  So… my choices are, in no particular order, and there will be others that pop into my head as soon as I switch off the laptop:

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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I LOVE this book.  I have read it three times and am preparing to use it for my PhD studies.  Set in England against  the backdrop of World War II, it follows the progress of teenager David, who has just lost his mother to cancer.  Shortly afterwards his father meets another woman and a relationship blossoms, one that David finds hard to accept.  What follows seemingly sets up as a tale of familial conflict, but soon takes the reader by complete surprise. Fleeing an argument, David finds himself trapped behind a wall as a plane crashes in his garden and the only escape is a portal to a world of every fairy tale he has ever been told by his mother.

Blub factor:  Tears begin falling on page one, people.

The Road by Cormack McCarthy

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On the face of it, nothing really happens.  But The Road, in my humble opinion, is one of the most finely crafted books I have ever read.  A man and a boy (we never find out their names) travel across America in search of some relief from their horrific life in the wake of an apparent apocalypse.  The most important consideration is food and shelter from the incessant cold, but close to that is perpetual fear from the gangs that roam the country capturing and eating defenceless people.  Terror for the reader comes from the notion that this man and his boy will be taken, and tears are shed for the internal dialogue of the man as he vows to protect his son, even if it means killing him with his own hands rather than let him be taken by one of these evil gangs.

Blub factor:  Page nine.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Teenagers with cancer.  Doesn’t take a genius to work out where this is going.  What Green does that is so poignant is that he gives them spirit and a need to wring every last bit from their short lives in the knowledge of their mortality.  Everything they do is like they’re doing it for the last time.  And when the time comes for at least one, as you know it will, it’s all the more tragic.

Blub factor:  Page twelve

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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Sorry, but I have to put Charlie Boy in here.  I adore this novel and have done since I was a kid.  I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read it.  And as everyone (unless you’ve been living on Venus) knows the story, I’ll spare you the synopsis.  But God love Charlie, he was a master at tear-wringing.  When Oliver’s mother dies right at the start, I’m already in bits, perhaps because I know what’s coming.

Blub factor:  Depending what edition you have, page three.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

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This was a book I read for a university module and something I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.  Sometimes, the books that you don’t choose to read are the ones that turn out to be the most rewarding.  It follows Jakob, a rescued survivor of the Holocaust who is taken to a Greek island away from the fighting to grow up. But as an adult he still struggles to come to terms with what he saw and went through as a boy and is haunted by the ghosts of the family he lost.  Michaels has an assured and poetic style that is both melancholy and a delight to read.

Blub factor:  Page seven