Tag Archives: book

Life between worlds – writing a novel

notebook, pen, laptopYou can get a bit lost in writing a book; it’s a long process and quite isolated too. You spend a lot of time with your characters, immersed in their world. Sometimes the real world is a welcome relief, sometimes it’s an irritating distraction. At times it can seem quite distant. The story grows and develops; it follows you even when you’re not actually writing. Your protagonists and antagonists feed you information, not always at the most opportune moments (mine often decide that the best time to tell me something vital is when I’m driving, usually with nowhere I can pull over to scribble it down). It’s as if you’re living in two different realms at the same time, each as tangible as the other.

You try hard to get the writing right, to let the characters have their say but also to keep the story flowing the way it should be. You cheer when it goes well and the words pour from your fingertips; you groan, procrastinate and drink far too much tea when the plot sticks or your characters decide to go off and do their own thing without telling you. And they do do that. Without so much as a ‘by your leave’ and then you find that they’ve changed the timeline or reconfigured the plot without so much as even conferring with you or asking what you think. Well, why should they? You’re only the author after all.

Eventually, eventually you get to the end.

Of the first draft.

But that’s not the end as a writer. Because the first draft is the basis but it always needs lots of work; editing and reworking paragraphs and dialogue, adjusting timeline inconsistencies, ensuring continuity of all sorts of things from the colour of people’s eyes to who has a dog and who likes what music. And then there are the typos and the grammatical errors and the repetition of words and phrases that need to be corrected.

So you plough through again, rewriting, amending, tightening up the prose and getting it closer to how you know it needs to be. And when you’ve finished the second draft, you go through it all again a third time, just to make sure.

Phew!

You’d think that’d be it then, wouldn’t you?

Alas, no!

It’s usually when I’ve got to the end of the third draft that I ask my lovely band of pre-readers to read through it and feed back to me anything that doesn’t fit right or hold true, anything that seems superfluous or out of place, anything that they think needs altered or adjusted. With these invaluable critiques it’s time for – you’ve guessed it – draft number four.

By the end of the fourth draft, hopefully the manuscript is as near finished as possible and as good as it’s going to get. This is usually the point where, having been living and breathing it for however long and having read and reread the story countless times, I usually think “This is complete and utter rubbish. Why did I bother? I might as well just dump it in the recycling bin and do everyone a favour.”

At that point I know it’s time to consign draft four to my virtual drawer and ignore it for a month or two. When I come back to it, it’s usually not as bad as I’d thought. Usually needs a few tweaks but generally it’s OK.

That’s the scary point. Time to unleash it…

A Birthday

picture of moon over seaIt is a year today that my first book Dreaming the Moon was officially released in paperback. It was launched with titles from six other authors at a fantastic event in Lyme Regis organised by Magic Oxygen Publishing, which also incorporated the announcement of the winners of the first Magic Oxygen Literary Prize. It was a wonderful day, both an honour and very humbling to be surrounded by so much creativity and talent.

 

So Happy Birthday to my book and here’s a little excerpt from it:

There was a sharp stinging sensation on her left calf. Instinctively she reached down and rubbed it, thinking that she had been stung. Several seconds later, there was another on her hip, more of a blow this time, and then again on her shoulder. Robyn began to walk but the strikes continued and she noticed that small pebbles were falling all around her. There was a chittering in the scrubby grass and gorse either side of the path, high pitched spiteful laughter, leaves rustling and twigs snapping despite the stillness of the air. Robyn broke into a jog then a run as the stones became a hailstorm. She could just make out creatures in the grass, small twiggy limbed figures with long noses and angry eyes. There seemed to be a lot of them. And then the first one leapt onto her back, its gnarly fingers yanking at her hair.

“Get off me,” she shrieked, grabbing frantically behind her and flinging it away by its spindly arm. Another one had attached itself to her leg. Stones were still raining down on her, dust rising around her as she ran. Panic was nearly choking her now as she felt more of them grabbing at her, leaping in front of her, trying to trip her and bring her down. She stumbled, twisting her ankle but managing to keep her footing, slowing under the onslaught of pinching and scratching and stones. Just as she felt that she couldn’t go on, she heard Fiona’s voice, a memory in her head. “There are charms that will protect you from the fey, should you need it. Salt’s one, iron’s another, they’re the strongest. But red thread, bells and chimes, even turning your clothes inside out will work.”

Robyn grabbed the bottom of her T-shirt and wrenched it over her head, dislodging several of the little demons and sending them flying. Slowing momentarily, she flung it back on inside out, immediately relieved to find that the rest of them fell away. The storm of pebbles continued however and she accelerated back up to a run despite the pain in her ankle, not slowing until she reached the garden at the back of the shop. She fumbled desperately for her key, struggling to get it into the lock with her shaking hands, and flung herself through the kitchen door, collapsing onto one of the chairs as her knees gave way.

Jim was standing by the counter waiting for the kettle to boil.

You can check out my titles and those of the other Magic Oxygen authors using the link at the top of the page.

 

 

Dreaming the Moon release date

So… it’s 2015! Happy New Year! It’s already shaping up to be an exciting one and we’re still only in January! One of the most exciting things for me is the publication of my first novel, coming out in paperback on 14th February.

picture of moon over seaCalled ‘Dreaming The Moon’, it’s a fantasy story set in Cornwall (a land of mystery and magic itself) where Robyn, an ordinary girl haunted by strange dreams, discovers that not only is there another hidden, magical world linked to our own, but that the barrier between the two is failing fast and she is the key to restoring it and preventing the forces of darkness from overrunning both realms. With everyone in danger and everything she loves at risk, can she and her friends outwit the malevolent creatures sent to stop them and fix the shield before all is lost?

Here’s a taste:

By the time Robyn fell into bed that night it was past midnight, and she was exhausted. She curled up under the duvet and dropped into a deep sleep.

It was dark – intensely, terrifyingly dark. The barest sliver of a new moon illuminated a silver thread of sea in the distance, but where she stood the blackness was total and heavily oppressive. Just moving through it was like walking through treacle. She stumbled forward, desperately trying to see something, anything. A branch caught her arm, making her jump, and she stumbled again, feeling her way but not seeming to move anywhere. Eventually she stopped and looked around again, straining her eyes to pick out something familiar, some outline or shape. But she could see nothing except for the narrow ribbon of sea far ahead of her, hear nothing except her own ragged breath. Everything around her was perfectly and absolutely still. She tried again to move, slowly easing her way toward the silvered water, concentrating hard so as not to lose her footing in the inky darkness. And despite the silence, the stillness, the sense of isolation, she was acutely aware that someone or something was watching her.

A Song From When Joe Met Alice

When Joe Met Alice coverI can hardly believe that it’s almost a year since my first short e-book ‘When Joe Met Alice’ was published and appeared on digital shelves in virtual bookstores across the web. I still remember the sheer excitement of seeing the story I had written out there in the public domain; thrilling and scary at the same time. But it certainly spurred me on and the characters for other tales have been kind enough to wander into my head and say hi. They’ve kept me busy and have resulted in one novel that will be coming out early next year and another that is still a work in progress. Magic Oxygen have also published my second short e-book ‘Catching Up With the Past’. All in all, a fairly eventful twelve months on the literary front.

So, how to celebrate? Well, I am lucky to have a creative family and both my sons are very into music; playing, writing and listening. I was talking to Jed (older son, 16) about song writing and asked if he’d ever consider writing music for an existing set of lyrics. When he said yes, I asked him if he would write something for the lyrics at the end of ‘When Joe Met Alice’ and he agreed.

He’s been working away at it for some time now; writing the music, then sequencing the drum track and recording the keyboards, bass, rhythm and lead guitars and vocals (all of which he played/sang himself). Called Truth Won’t Die, it’s almost finished and you will be able to listen to it from a link here a little closer to Halloween. I’m as excited about this as I was when the story came out.

So watch this space, and perhaps if you’re wondering why Halloween is relevant, you might like to pop over to the Magic Oxygen shop to get your copy of “When Joe Met Alice”. And while you’re there, check out the other fantastic titles they have.

The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize

MOLP posterMagic Oxygen, as you will be aware if you have clicked on ‘My Publisher’ at the top of this page, are the wonderful people who have published my books. But unless you have visited their website you may not be aware that they take pride in having a much fairer and greener ethos than most other companies out there. And they are very keen on encouraging creativity, wordplay and storytelling (most usually accompanied by a lovely cup of tea and some biscuits.)

This is why in June this year they launched the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize, a competition with two categories, short stories up to 4000 words and poems up to 50 lines. Each category carries a first prize of £1000, with a second prize of £300, a third prize of £100 and two highly commended prizes of £50. All the winning entries will be published in an anthology. Not only that but, true to their ethics, they have pledged to plant a tree for every entry they receive, to create the Magic Oxygen Word Forest.

It’s only £5 to enter and is open worldwide to anyone over 16. And it doesn’t close until 30th November 2014. So pick up your pens and get writing. Get your entry in! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything potentially to gain and what’s the very worst that could happen? You’ll have helped to grow not just a tree but the amazing and wonderful art of words.

For more details about the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize and further information about the Word Forest, go to http://www.magicoxygen.co.uk/competition/

Good luck!

A Cloak of Glass by Connor Cadellin Mckee

I am pleased to have another guest post from the talented Connor Cadellin Mckee, introducing his new story, A Cloak of Glass, a short prequel to his dark, dystopian novel Children of the Crater, which was released in May 2014. And lucky us, this one’s free to download. Thanks, Connor!

 

A Cloak of Glass

Art work by Phanutchanat Chareonsap & Connor Mckee

It happened on the 19th of July, 2014. I was sitting in a Dutch coffee shop, a warm drink resting on the knotted wooden table before me. I was thinking not of drinking, but of stories. I wanted to write a prequel to Children of the Crater, that much I had worked out, but which characters to follow? One by one I ticked off Vanir in my head; many of my characters were simply too young to have much more backstory than I had already given them. At the moment my mind reached the twins, two identical women walked in and took a seat at the table across from mine. I said nothing to them, nor they to me; but the idea was planted.

By that evening I had the story mapped out, and now here we are. A Cloak of Glass has been released here on the internet (for free) via Smashwords. The twins are such mysterious characters to me, they are really fun to write about. Enjoy!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/472043

Dreaming the Moon

crescent moon over seaI am delighted and very excited to say that my first novel, Dreaming the Moon, will be coming out in paperback on 25th August 2014. The fantastic cover photograph was taken by the very talented Alex Smith (thank you so much) and formatted by the amazing web wizard, Simon West (again, thank you).

It’s a modern fantasy that follows Robyn, heartbroken and haunted by strange dreams, who discovers that this world is not the only one, but is separated from another magical realm by a protective shield that is failing. Thrown into a desperate situation, she and her friends are pitted against time and dark forces in a seemingly impossible task, the search for a lost fragment that will restore the shield and save both worlds.

If you like to look at life a little sideways, if you ask yourself sometimes ‘Was that only a bird rustling in the hedge or was it something else?’, or ‘Did I misplace my keys or is something otherworldly teasing me?’; If you’ve ever thought that the woods seem darker than they should when you’re walking alone at dusk, or wondered if it was just coincidence that you called your best friend at exactly the same time as he/she called you, then I hope that this will appeal to you. And if you’re not familiar with my work, may I (very cheekily) say that I have two ‘snack-size’ stories out as e-books: When Joe Met Alice and Catching Up With The Past, available from Magic Oxygen and Amazon, just in case you fancy an appetiser.

Izzy

Connor Cadellin McKee launches Children of the Crater

I am excited! On Monday 26th May, Children of the Crater, the first novel from the very Connor Cadellin Mckee
talented Connor Cadellin McKee is launched to the world. Lucky world! Having had the privilege of editing this book, I know first hand just how good it is – a dark dystopian fantasy which raises all sorts of questions and will leave you breathless. Here’s what Connor has to say about it

 

 

Children of the CraterFive years ago, my 16 year old self had a dream. One of those really vivid ones that makes you sit up in the night and scrabble for a pen and paper because it was so vivid.
Now, I used to write down an awful lot of these, but this one was special. My recollection was fragmented, but I had the important pieces. A man tumbling down into a crater ringed with riot police. Flying above the night sky, green flames writhing across my skin. A longhouse hidden deep in the jungle. It was fantastic; I wanted to meet these characters, learn their story.
I used to do sketches from the more vivid dreams, and I got to work pretty quickly on this one. I tried making it into a graphic novel originally, but the sheer level of drawing needed for that dissuaded me. It wasn’t until that summer that I had the idea of writing it down on a computer. It weaved and shifted as the years went by; I continually chopped it up, rearranged it, threw in new sections, and it began to materialize from a myriad of different scraps of paper and text documents on my old laptop.
And suddenly the release date is upon me! It feels almost unreal; I had never expected it to come this far. Children of the Crater as it is now called, is a book sitting on my shelf, with my name and the character I once sketched out on an airline napkin. It almost makes me wonder how many undiscovered worlds are out there, sitting in desk drawers.

New Book Out Today!

girl with blue hairThe wizards at Magic Oxygen pressed the button this morning and Catching Up With The Past has already appeared on the digital shelves of the Amazon Kindle store as I write. Needless to say, I am very excited! And although the process still seems like magic, there’s a lot of work that goes in  beforehand, so thank you Tracey and Simon West for all your hard work, and thank you also Sophie Graves, Anne Maloney, Lucy West and Abby Smith, for giving me such helpful feedback on the original.

 As I mentioned in my last post, bullying is a theme in the book, and sadly still affects many people of all ages. If you are being bullied, please do not feel that it’s your fault, or that you have to suffer in silence. Tell someone you trust – you don’t have to be alone.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Launch Day!

When Joe Met Alice coverToday ‘When Joe Met Alice’ has officially entered the big wide world, and a long held dream has been realised. I have had something published! Please excuse me if I sound a little excited – in fact no, make that a big excited. As a writer you hope one day you will find yourself in print, be it paper and ink or pixels and screen, but that is tempered by all sorts of things, the vagaries of the market, what’s hot and what’s not, writer’s block, a good dose of self doubt etc., etc. However, at the risk of starting to sound like someone making a bad Oscar’s speech, I have been lucky enough to have family and friends that encouraged, enthused and occasionally nagged me, until the light at the end of the tunnel turned into sunshine and Magic Oxygen. Thank you, all of you, for having faith and telling me I could. I couldn’t have done it without you!

So… if you are champing at the bit to buy it head over to Amazon for the Kindle version or SmashWords for other e-Book versions.