What I’m waiting for right now

We’re pelting through May at a pace and closing in on the mid-way point of the year. There’s still plenty of things to look forward to in 2022 though. Here are just a few.

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles

It’s so close and I’m as keen as my readers to get my hands on a copy of the second novel in my futuristic fantasy series. I so want to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you all. Just a little bit longer, honest.

The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency by Peter Oxley

Burning Chair’s own Peter Oxley has a new fantasy novel out this year too. The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency features two side characters from his earlier dark fantasy Infernal Aether series. I don’t have a publication date or official blurb yet, but here’s what he said about it in my interview with him last year:

My latest book is one I’ve been threatening my readers group with for far too long. It’s called The Great Big Demon Hunting Agency, and is an irreverent spin-off from my Infernal Aether books. It takes place a couple of years after the events of Beyond the Aether and focuses on a couple of characters who were bit-part players in the main series – lovable rogues Spencer and Bart.

In terms of inspiration for the book, those two characters were initially just little plot devices, but they muscled their way in to the story time and again, insisting that I give them more air-time. I had to cut most of their scenes from the main series – they were too much of a distraction from the main story arc and characters – so I promised myself I’d give them their own proper series when I could.

As a fan of the Infernal Aether, I can’t wait to get my hands on this novel.

The Stone of Destiny by Andrew Neil MacLeod

Last year, I read and reviewed The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir by Andrew Neil McLeod. I enjoyed this historical paranormal novel immensely so I was excited to find out that the follow-up novel, The Stone of Destiny, will be published in October. Here’s the blurb:

What if the Coronation Stone at Westminster—the stolen relic on which the High Kings of Scotland had been crowned for over seven hundred years—was a fake?

What if the true Stone of Destiny was still out there somewhere, hidden away by a Holy Order to protect it from English invaders?

When Doctor Johnson turns up at his friend James Boswell’s door after an absence of almost seven years, he makes Boswell an enticing proposition: to join him on a quest to recover the true Stone of Destiny.

What follows is a breath-taking journey through the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, from Edinburgh up to the furthest reaches of the northern isles. Plunged into a dizzying world of secret societies, occult mysteries, and supernatural phenomena, the two friends leave no Neolithic stone unturned in their search to uncover the truth.

Eighteenth century Scotland has never been so magical… and terrifying.

On TV

I don’t get a lot of spare time to watch TV. I therefore keep a look-out for new releases on Netflix and Prime Video so that I can spend my viewing time wisely. There are three main 2022 releases that I can’t wait to watch:

  • The Rings of Power is a pre Lord of the Rings premise. I’ve heard a lot of good and a lot of bad opinion on the series, but it looks beautiful in the trailer. As with any book, film, or TV series I come across, I want to form my own opinion.
  • The fourth season of Stranger Things seems to have been a long time coming. I loved the retro Stephen King feel of the first three seasons and the journey of all the young characters. As the trailer says, every ending has a beginning.
  • Finally, a new series Night Sky looks very interesting. The premise is that a middle-aged couple discover a gateway in their back-yard that leads to an alien planet. It’s a secret they’ll have to protect from family and strangers alike. Can’t wait for this one.

My summer holiday

After the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions of the last two years, my husband and I are finally getting away on a holiday abroad this year. I’m excited and nervous and excited again. It’s surprising how quickly I’ve become accustomed to staying close to home because of the pandemic. This’ll be an opportunity to dress up, kick back, take a ton of photos, and make plenty of memories.

My son’s A’ level results

Like many young people who should have taken their GCSEs in 2020, my son is facing his first proper exams in the form of A’ levels. His exams are in June, so he’s head down in revision. He’s hoping to go to university in the autumn, so his final grades are paramount. Fingers crossed for a brilliant result.

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Like I said, there’s so much to look forward to in 2022. It’s turning out to be a great year. Bring it on.

Writing a book: solo project or team effort?

As book two of my fantasy series, the Haven Chronicles, moves closer to its ‘fly – be free’ moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether writing and creating a book is a lone process or not. Can it be done by an author in isolation or does it require the input of others?

Solo project?

There’s no denying that an author writes a book on their own. Or maybe it might be more accurate to say that they write that first draft on their own. I certainly did, in a whirl-wind of brain dump, imagine, choreograph – scribble, scribble, delete, delete, scribble some more – as I penned/typed the next leg of Steve’s journey into magic.

Once that first draft was done and dusted and polished to what I thought was a shine, I handed it over to my publisher for their response.

Team effort?

The next few months went something like this:

  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 2
  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 3
  • publisher feedback…

You get the gist. There were several rounds of publisher feedback and draft revision before we landed on the final version. Somewhere in among that exchange, a number of beta readers were asked for their thoughts too.

The next stage was to hand over the concept to a book cover designer and while their design won’t change the words written down in my novel, they will add to the online and on-shelf presence of the story. Readers will come to recognise that book cover as much as they recognise my writing and Steve’s story.

Finally, dear reader, there’s you. Once published, a book’s text may be complete and set in ink, but your response will tell me how you’d like me to handle the story’s next stage in book three.

Answer to my question?

Book two in its original form was definitely a solo project. I knew where I wanted to take Steve, Hartley, and the darkling and the perils they would face. I think that’s probably the case for any writer. After that first draft was written, however, it turned into a team effort and book two is all the better for it. Eyes other than my own pointed out the weaknesses I had missed and directed me to solutions I would never have dreamt up on my own.

It’s like that phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It takes a community of book-lovers and book-experts to create a book in its final form.

So I’d like to thank a few of those people for their undeniable help and support. I couldn’t have got this far without you:

Thank you for being my village.

Looking back over 2021

looking back over 2021

The nights are drawing in and the trees are looking golden. Halloween and Bonfire Night are over and the shops are filled with festive cheer. It must be November and time to look back over the past year.

After the pandemic-ridden 2020, I had high hopes for 2021. By spring, we were out of lockdown and returning to normal, or at least a new version of normal. There was hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine. College was opening back up for my teens. I could even walk into McDonalds again, albeit masked up to my eyes.

So what has 2021 thrown at me as an author?

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

I had high hopes for seeing book 2 spring to life in 2021. Unfortunately, the editing process and my publisher’s rapidly expanding stable of authors (that’s the number of authors expanding, not the authors themselves) means that book 2 won’t reach the hands of readers until 2022.

Still, this year has seen it revamped and polished to within an inch of its literary life. Steve, Hartley, Blessing, and the darkling are back but there’s a new villain to contend with. There are also new friends, new puzzles, and plenty of new places to visit.

Social Media for Authors

An idea began in 2020 of a way to marry both my copywriting and authoring skills to help other authors handle their social media presence. I even asked Burning Chair if they were interested (they were).

In 2021, I emailed off the first draft off to them and shortly afterwards they offered me a publishing contract. Over the summer, I polished off the edits they asked for and now it’s back in their hands for the next stage. I’ll let you know more, when I know more myself.

Guest blogging

As usual, the writing community have continued to be a joy and as supportive as always in 2021. I’ve appeared on six bookish blogs this year:

Thank you to Lily, Clare, Jon, Claire, Karen, and Chelle for your kindness.   

Caught up (almost) with my TBR list

I had so many wonderful books on my to-be-read shelf that I decided to make a definite effort to read them all in 2021.

So far, I’ve read and reviewed:

  • Roxie and Alfred by Nancy R Hinchliff
  • I am Dust by Louise Beech
  • My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson
  • Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs
  • The Curse of Becton Manor by Patricia Ayling
  • The Crow Folk by Mark Stay
  • Point of Contact by Richard Ayre
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins
  • Near Death by Richard Wall

And that’s just the fictional works. You can find all of my book reviews on my Instagram account.

A regular blogging habit

I’ve written a blog post at least once every month in 2021. There are a lot of planning and progress posts, but I’ve also written:

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It’s been an odd but productive eleven months. The new normal is still taking a little getting used to, and constantly evolving too. I have two books in the works with Burning Chair and my fingers are firmly crossed for both book releases in 2022.

We’re on the glittery, slippery slope to Christmas and we’re only weeks away from the new year too. In December, there’ll be plenty for you to read here in the run up to the big day with a slew of author interviews.

See you then.

Meeting the challenges of writing Book 2

meeting the challenges of writing book 2

I saw my mother-in-law at the weekend. She’s not happy with me. Why? She wants to read the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes right now. Why isn’t it ready? How long does it take to write a book, for goodness’s sake?

Don’t get me wrong. My mother-in-law is lovely and very supportive of me. She’s just keen to see what Steve Haven does next. Me too.

The (fingers crossed) almost-final version of book two is with my publisher, Burning Chair. I’m waiting for the next round of edits from the lovely Si, eager to get on with the polishing process.

I have to admit that writing book two in a series has been a challenge. I even wrote about the main stumbling blocks in creating it last year, including:

•          Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

•          Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

•          Steve’s world is getting bigger

•          New research

•          Publisher and reader expectations

So how did I do? Did I meet those challenges?

Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

This challenge was all about giving Steve enough reason to leave the safety of school and return to the world of magic. In Haven Wakes, Steve was pushed into that world. This time round, I wanted him to willingly jump.

In book two, Steve desperately wants to be somewhere other than the mundane world he’s always known. His time in Darkacre has changed his view on life and he’s got new, magical friends in his life that he cares about. It’s a no-brainer for him to return.

Challenge met? Yes

Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

Magic and robots. You’ll find me use that phrase a lot as way to explain the world of Haven Wakes. I wanted to keep that mix in book two, but I knew that Steve would be delving further into the magical world so keeping a balance could prove difficult.

I think I’ve managed that challenge well, with a deep dive into the magical world (not just Darkacre) and a bigger picture of the workaday (scientific) world too. There are also more examples of the interplay between the two cultures.

Challenge met? Yes

Steve’s world is getting bigger

For this challenge, I wanted to take Steve far beyond the city limits of Caercester. The initial destination I intended to use ended up being a non-starter. It was too restrictive for the adventure I wanted to take Steve on, and the same purpose could be served closer to home.

One of Steve’s main bugbears with his parents is that they never take him with them on their travels. In book two, Steve experiences his own travel adventures.

Challenge met? Yes

New research

Research for book two was extensive, to say the least, both on scientific, magical, and other topics. Want to see the list (or at least part of it)?

  • solar power
  • oil platforms
  • (more) robots
  • legal systems
  • architecture
  • origami
  • henges
  • Greek and Roman mythology
  • ancient Greek puddings
  • tram and train systems
  • space stations
  • artificial gravity
  • spies
  • EMPs

I didn’t use all my findings in book two. Some may turn up later in the series, or in other series after I’ve finished writing the Haven Chronicles.

Challenge met? Yes

Publisher and research expectation

This was probably the scariest challenge of the lot; creating a book that equalled Haven Wakes in quality, maintained the momentum, and pleased both my publisher and my readers. Phew!

Well, I seem to have succeeded with creating a novel that my publishers like (with a few tweaks). The verdict on whether my readers will like it is still to be reached. Personally, I love where I’ve taken Steve – even if I’ve made him suffer on that journey – and I hope you’ll love it too.

Challenge met? Yet to see.

The Result

Overall, I’ve succeeded in meeting the challenges of writing the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes and I’m keen to see what you all think of it. There’s still work to be done and sometime soon I’ll be asking for beta readers to have a look at book two. In the meantime, all I can ask is that you – and my mother-in-law – hang on for a little bit longer.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles is on the way

book 2 of the haven chronicles is on the way

I can officially announce that Burning Chair Publishing have offered me a publishing contract for the second book in my YA fantasy series.

On 14th September, I happily emailed my signed publishing contract back to Burning Chair and began the process of editing my manuscript after receiving feedback from Pete and Si.

So what’s the process and the plan for Book 2 from here?

  • What I’m doing at the moment is editing my novel in response to Pete and Si’s feedback. Once finished, I’ll email that off to Burning Chair (version 2).
  • As you can see, my novel is still known as Book 2. I need to come up with a book title.
  • Burning Chair will create a developmental edit document and email it back to me.
  • I’ll then edit my manuscript and email it back to them (version 3).
  • Burning Chair will carry out a copy edit to check for inconsistencies.
  • More editing on my part, then back to Burning Chair (version 4).
  • In discussion with Burning Chair, the book cover design process will begin.
  • Once the content of the manuscript is agreed on and we have a book cover, Book 2 will be sent out to beta readers.
  • With the feedback from the beta readers, I’ll make final changes to my novel (version 5).

The plan is to publish Book 2 at the start of 2021, unless we can get through the whole process above in time for publication in mid November (who knows?).

What can you expect from Book 2?

Steve and his friends will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in Haven Wakes. The world of the Haven Chronicles series – both magical and work-a-day – will be expanded beyond the city of Caercester. A new threat will raise its head, dragging Steve and the others back into danger.

If you want to know the inspiration behind the first book in the series, have a look at this article from last year.

Follow my writing journey of Book 2 on my Twitter account.

A chat with my publisher

a chat with my publisher burning chair publishing

If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, my debut novel Haven Wakes was launched by the wonderful Burning Chair Publishing last year.

They’re busy people with all their 2020 book launches, but I finally managed to catch up with Pete and Si for a chat and ask them to share their writerly/publish-y knowledge.

Here’s what we talked about.

Who are the faces behind Burning Chair Publishing?

Pete: I’ve been writing stories ever since I can remember, getting bitten by the bug when I won some children’s writing contest for my local paper, the Wrexham Leader. I kept plugging away, although as I grew older life kind of got in the way. But then I jumped on the self-publishing wagon in the early days of Kindle publishing – my first book, The Wedding Speech Manual, was released in 2012, and other books followed. I learnt the ropes as an indie author, gobbling up everything I could learn from all the amazing authors out there.

Si:  The first book I fell in love with was Great Expectations which showed me the expanse of the world, which as an 11 year old boy in 1980s Glasgow really opened my eyes. So I read and read and then I wanted to write. Then I met Pete and realised that if an idiot like Pete could be published then maybe there was hope for me…!

Tell us a little about Burning Chair Publishing

Pete: I’ll hand this one off to Si to kick off with – he’s much more the silver-tongued schmoozer out of the two of us…

Si: Thanks Pete, I think… We have always been extremely passionate about books, both as authors and readers, and the one thing we kept seeing, time and again, was that great stories were being lost to the world because they couldn’t find the right home.

We’re huge fans of the self-publishing and indie publishing revolution: naturally, because we have been on that side of the fence for a long time. There are some great, cutting-edge things being done by indies which the larger and more established publishers don’t seem to be getting to grips with. We felt that there was a space in the market for a publisher which took the best of indie publishing—the nimbleness, the cutting-edge marketing, the author-centric model—while also providing authors with all the backing and support (financial and otherwise) which they’d expect from a publishing deal.

Pete: Basically we wanted to create the sort of publisher we always wished would sign us up.

Si: That’s right. Our focus from the start has been on our authors and our readers: we want to build a community of outstanding authors who are all invested in each others’ success and who want to engage with their readers, getting the best stories they possibly can out into the world.

Along with so many other great indie publishers, we see ourselves as disruptors. But, in a British sort of way, rather than shouting about it and banging the drum about how disruptive we are, we’re just quietly getting on with it. Polite disruption, if you will…

What part do you think independent publishers will play in the future of the publishing industry?

Si: Huge. All publishers have their priorities, driven by who runs them, who owns them, what overheads they need to cover… The big publishers, the so-called traditional houses, will always have a place, but what’s becoming very clear is by no means do they have a monopoly. There are some fantastic independent publishers out there, putting out some great books and discovering and giving voices to a load of authors who might otherwise have never been read.

What advantages do independent publishers have over the Big 5?

Pete: We’re a lot more nimble, for a start. We don’t have a huge staff base with massive offices to pay for, so we’re able to make decisions on the basis of what we love, rather than purely on what will give the shareholders the biggest returns.

We’re therefore able to take more risks – while Big 5 publishers might often prefer to play it safe, indies can – and often do – take a punt on something that might not be immediately on vogue, or not written by a huge celebrity name, and so on.

What do you look for in a good story?

Si: A story that grips us, something that makes us simply HAVE to read on.

Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect when you send us a submission – we fully expect to do some editing and work with you on the novel – but it should be as good as you can make it. Sloppy errors and unreadable text will make it so much harder for us to want to read more.

Pete: But it’s also not just about the book and the story – for us the author is just as important. We only work with people we like and who are as passionate as we are about their story.

Any advice for writers who want to get their books published?

Pete: Write! Seriously, if you don’t write stuff down then you’re never going to have a story worth publishing. The more you write, the more you hone that skill, and the better you get. As someone once said: “You can’t edit a blank page.” (Don’t tell Si I’ve just quoted him…)

Si: Thanks Pete! Also, read loads. We don’t mean the countless “how to” books on structure and so on. Whatever you’re interested in, whatever you love reading, whatever genre you’re going to be writing in, read everything you can. It will help your own writing no end.

And don’t take yourself too seriously. Seek out feedback from likeminded people who will give you constructive criticism and listen to them.

And finally, and really importantly – avoid the sharks. Like any industry there are loads of disreputable firms and individuals out there who will take your money and give you very little in return. Our golden rule is that money should flow from publishers to authors, not the other way round. So if someone promises to publish your book in return for you paying them, then run a mile!

Where can readers buy your books?

All good bookshops (and some not-so-good ones too!). Check out our website.