Tag Archives: Fantasy

Launch Day! Unveiled Book Three

Book Three of the Unveiled series – I Hold the Tide – is available for purchase now

In paperback

Amazon ebook (UK) (USA)

And epub for other ereaders via Smashwords, ibooks, Barnes and Noble etc

‘Do you like ghost stories, Emily? Mine doesn’t have a happy ending…’

Emlynn’s power is spiralling out of control. Still reeling from the dark rite that almost killed her, Emlynn’s life is thrown back into turmoil when Grace requests her help in Cornwall. Caught between the seductive pull of the Veil, and haunted by the memories of a long-dead smuggler, and the apparition of a mysterious woman who is singing men to their deaths, Emlynn needs to get her powers back under control and unravel the mystery before the storm breaks…

First of all, I know that I’m about three months behind my projected release date. I’m super very sorry, I really thought I was going to have to pry it out of the cold dead hands of my inner perfectionist. But hey, it’s available now and I’m pretty pleased with this one. I hope you guys enjoy it too.

I do have ARC copies available in exchange for honest reviews btw, just ping me a message via the contact form.

Other news;

Despite messing up the release date for book three, book four – I Rule the Night – is all set to publish on schedule 18th December 2017. So there won’t be a long wait to find oug whar happens 🙂

You can pre-order it from Amazon now (UK) (USA) and it will be available in ebook from all other distributors for pre-order soon. Paperbacks will be out on 18th December.

All my back catalogue (except Amy’s Academicals – which will be up on Smashwords etc from mid November) are now vailable through all distribution channels. So if you prefer not to use Amazon you can purchase my books from Barnes and Noble, ibooks etc instead.

I also have a few more freebies coming up so watch this space…

Here’s the part where I say please and thank you. First of all thank you to e eryone who buys my books. Judging from the sales figures there actually quite a lot of you. You all rock  – especially those of you who get in touch to tell mr you enjoyed my books. (I love hearing from readers so don’t ever be shy.)

The please side of that is, if you enjoy my books or hell even if you didn’t and think I need to get my act together, please could you leave me a review where you bought the book? Or on sites like GoodReads or Litsy if you hang out there? One line saying you liked it is fine although please do write more if you wish. Your opinions matter – not just to me although as I’m writing for you guys I definitely like to know what you think – bt to other potential readers. Reviews make a huge difference to authors – we live on word of mouth. So if you could find the time to leave me a review, I’d be really grateful. No review is extraneous – no book can have too many reviews!

That’s all for now folks but I’ll be back soon to talk about accidentally writing a book (which I’m probably going to put up for free) and a chat about my new projects as well as Unveiled audio books.

Happy reading 😉

 

I Hold the Tide (Unveiled book 3) Sneaklet

Okay so earlier this week, I said that if I got a certain number of likes, I would post a sneak preview of my third Unveiled book – I Hold the Tide – which is due out on 20th October 2017. So here you go, this is an excerpt from Chapter Two, which doesn’t give too much away. Amy and Emlynn are staying at a guesthouse in Cornwall and there’s strange doings afoot. Enjoy 😉 

 

My eyes snapped open. I was curled up on the broad windowsill, the first golden fingers of morning stroking my face. I felt vile. As if I’d been out drinking all night. My head ached, my eyes were scratchy-hot and my upper left arm near the shoulder throbbed. Pain deep in the bone. I groaned and sat upright, fingers seeking for the small hole left by a lead ball in my upper arm. They met only smooth unblemished flash. No injury. Nothing there. No reason to think there would be – except that I knew I’d been dreaming some long dead person’s memories.

I didn’t want any of this again. I wanted to be left alone. But a deeper part of me still craved the excitement and mystery. Craved danger? Never had a dream where what I experienced as somebody else left me in physical pain, though. I tried to close my left hand, but I couldn’t get all my fingers to meet. As soon as I bent my thumb inwards pain screeched up my arm into my shoulder socket. I bit back a cry. Could you accidentally break your own arm in your sleep? Ridiculous, but the pain was real even if the cause wasn’t. Eyes watering, I rubbed my upper arm. Gradually the pain faded, lingering only in a slight numbness of my left hand. Eventually that disappeared too.

When I tried to make a fist again, my fingers obeyed with only a slight stiffness. I swung my shoulder in a full circle. No phantom pain. Which left me with only one question. What the hell was going on?

Are you alright, Em? 

That’s what Amy should be saying about now. It was a weird thought to have but Amy’s version of the Touch nearly always meant she knew when something was wrong. Which meant she turned up. Was she okay? In sudden panic, I stumbled to the connecting door and threw it open.

Amy was sitting cross-legged on her bed, typing away on her laptop with her headphones firmly plugged into her ears. I stopped, deflated. Whatever Amy was doing, it was engaging enough that she’d been able to ignore the Touch. I tried to smother the little voice that said Amy had moved on. That I mattered less. I tried to drown it with logic. Amy’s gift worked differently. It was less strong – and less of an affliction – than mine, so I couldn’t expect her to react to every bad night I had.

Yes but I was shot. 

No, the person you were in the dream was shot. Get a grip. Amy probably didn’t even know anything was wrong. Were you going to tell her anyway?

No, but

But nothing. It was a dream not the end of the world.

No, it’s just meant that pretty much every time in the past so far…

Do you want your little sister always on call in case you decide to let her in on your paranormal shenanigans? Do you? Doesn’t Amy get to have her own life, her own friends?

Her own boyfriend?

The guilt was hot, acidic and immediate. Everything I kept expecting to feel when I thought about what had happened to Rhys, but that had never come. I felt it now. And I’d named the evil. Amy has a boyfriend. Why should that feel like the world was dropping out from beneath my feet?

“Em? Are you coming in or is there something magical about the doorway?” Amy pulled out one earbud and cocked her head to the side. She looked impatient. The sinking feeling in my gut grew worse. I relaxed my grip on the doorframe.

“Yeah,” I said illogically. I meant ‘I’m coming in’ but I didn’t feel welcome and the word turned to ash in my throat.

“Could you whack the kettle on then?” Amy turned back to her laptop. She left the ear bud out but it was clear she wasn’t paying attention to me.

I mechanically went through the motions of filling the kettle and laying out the complimentary tea and coffee. A tight band of pain circled my head. A sidelong glance showed Amy reading something on her screen, her mouth curving in a smile so unconsciously tender, I felt as if I was spying on her. She looked up when I shoved a cup of tea under her nose, her smile more open and less intimate now it was aimed at me. I couldn’t help noticing that she rested one hand on the lid of her laptop, ready to slam it shut the moment I tried to take a peek. If Amy was aware of the cords of tension strung across the room she gave no sign of it. Feeling childish but unable to stop myself, I ostentatiously stirred sugar into my own tea. It was stupid, attention seeking behaviour. But Amy knew I only took sugar when I was particularly shaken after a bad psychic storm. If she was going to notice anything…

Amy typed one further sentence, then started shutting the computer down. She was oblivious to both my battle to keep my mouth shut and my shakiness. I sipped the sweetened tea, torn between wanting to know what Amy was up to and a thin, constricting pride that tightened around me, forcing the words back in my throat. If she wasn’t going to notice that there was a problem, I wasn’t going to tell her.

“Good job we’re at the top of this house,” Amy remarked. “The wifi is dreadful. I bet you can’t get any signal at all on street level.”

“Y-yeah well that’s C-Cornwall for you,” I muttered, still trying not to sulk. But Amy had given me an opening. “What were you up to anyway? You c-can’t have sk-school work already.” My attempt at teasing came out flat. Amy gave me a sharp look but didn’t comment on my tone.

“Just chatting to someone,” she said lightly.

“Muh-must have been some chat.” It was there again. The coldness in my voice. I couldn’t stop myself.

“You know how I get when I start talking ‘science nerd’,” Amy said but there was an edge to her tone. Leave it alone, the edge said. I couldn’t.

“D-don’t think you’ve t-told me anything about Geneva.”

“Really.” Amy’s expression shut me out.

I hated it. I hated this distancing. Was this a new thing? How had I not noticed? Anxious frustration laced even more tightly around me.

“Are y-you actually g-going t-t-to?” I demanded. The tenser I became, the worse my stutter grew. I didn’t mean to sound like I was interrogating her but something had snapped inside me. I was desperately trying to claw down the walls between us that I’d only just realised were there.

Amy shot me a look that was so cold and disappointed, I sucked in a breath. For a moment she wasn’t my little sister but a formidable woman I didn’t even know. “For your information I’ve told you pretty much everything about Geneva. If I’ve kept anything back it’s because it’s private. Can’t I have anything that’s mine? Or do you have to approve all my friends and everyone I talk to?”

“Amy…I…I–”

“I haven’t finished,” Amy said. “You of all people know how horrible it is to be talked over!”

I stared at her, mortified. If anything she was only getting angrier, which meant this had been building for a while. I shook my head but not in denial.

“Have you told me everything? Or even anything? No. You’ve been stuck in your own little world like always.” Amy’s frostiness cracked. A pleading note crept into her tone. “What happened in Dorset, Em? Why won’t you talk about it?”

“Nuh-nothing happened! I t-told you everything.” Everything I can tell you anyway.

Amy’s face was closed and cold. “No,” she said very calmly. “No you didn’t. There’s something going on with you. Why won’t you let me in?”

“There’s nuh-nothing going on!”

“Oh really,” she flared. “Then what happened with Ciarán? What’s going on there? He came back and you’ve spent the last two weeks acting like you wish he hadn’t!”

“That’s n-not f-fair!” I said, stung. “And h-how is that your b-business anyway?” My own temper was rising now, molten lava through the ice.

“It’s my business because I like Ciarán. And I hate watching you hurt him by dangling him and stringing him along when you’re supposed to be together. I don’t know what happened with that Lucas bloke, but he’s not someone you ditch Ciarán for.”

“H-how is th-this about my love life?” I snarled. “I’m n-not with either of them. Wh-when d-d-d-did you become the kind of girl wh-who thinks someone is f-f-failing unless they’ve got a sodding b-boyfriend?” How dare she say I was dangling him! I had reasons – good reasons – for not getting involved with Ciarán again. I don’t deserve him I squashed the thought under a layer of fury. Who did Amy think she was? After everything I’d been through, I was selfish?

“H-has it occurred to you that m-maybe there’s m-more to it? That we’re n-not supposed to be t-together? Or were you so b-busy with your great n-new life you n-never th-thought?!” I snapped in a tone I would never in a million years have thought I’d ever use on Amy.

Instead of recoiling, Amy leaned into blast. “I know that you’re frigging everything up for some stupid reason you won’t explain! I know you’re so busy playing the martyr you don’t care you’re hurting anyone else!”

“Shut. Up.” The words whipped out of me on an electrical charge that left a burnt taste in my mouth. I saw them hit my sister. I saw them work. Her scowl went from anger – and a certain reckless enjoyment that we were airing the things that bothered her at last – to surprise and consternation when she opened her mouth and no words came out. Amy shook her head as if to clear it and tried again. Mouth open. Mouth closed. No words. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so awful.

Two weeks ago, I’d told someone else not to speak and they never had again. Admittedly Rhys had died soon after. Maybe it would have worn off. But what if I’d robbed Amy of her voice forever?

Amy looked up at me, mouth still working. Her anger had collapsed and she seemed to be trying to laugh but there was a hint of panic in her eyes.

“Amy? Oh shit. Amy sp-speak to me,” I half-reached for her and then let my hands drop. “Speak.” The word sizzled on my tongue. I closed my eyes in shame.

“Okay. That was weird,” Amy said, sounding freaked out.

“Um…” Relief mingled with the horror in my twisting gut.

“You know when you have something you want to say on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t get the words out?” Amy said, disturbingly calm.

I raised an eyebrow at her, feeling sick. My hands were shaking.

“Of course you do,” Amy went on conversationally. “Well that was nothing like that.”

I forced myself to meet her gaze. “W-what do you m-mean?”

“I mean it was like someone was actively stopping me from talking.” She gave me an odd look and I wilted under her scrutiny.

Now. Tell her. Now is the time. Explain about Rhys and his ability which is now yours. Tell her what you did and why you can never be with Ciarán. Make her understand…

“Wuh-weird,” I murmured.

Amy looked disappointed for a moment, then set her shoulders as if steeling herself. “Did you… you didn’t…do that? …did you?”

“What?” I vacillated between coming clean, explaining about the unwanted extra ability – that using it had been an accident – and saying nothing because I wanted Amy’s good opinion. I was horrified at the evidence of Rhys’ evil ability within me. But there was something else stopping me. That same stiff pride that quelled my horror, which told me I had made my decisions and did not need to explain myself to anyone. That I knew what was best and since I was the one who had to live with everything I’d done, it was my business, no one else’s.

Amy’s composure was being overtaken by bewilderment. I was sure she knew it was my fault, but she couldn’t see how it could be and doubted herself. Before she could reason her way through it, I leapt on that doubt. Encouraged it.

“S-sometimes I g-get so angry I l-l-literally can’t speak,” I offered. Maybe that’s what happened to you.

“Yeah but…” She shook her head again. We both heard the unspoken words. Yeah but you have speech problems.

“I’m suh-sorry,” I said miserably. Sorry I can’t tell you. Sorry about Ciarán. Sorry I just silenced you. Sorry I was angry and scared and possessive. Let her take it anyway she liked.

“Me too. I’m sorry I yelled at you. If you want to tell me anything…” She shrugged. “I’m here, is what I’m saying. When you’re ready.”

“Th-thanks.” I tried not to sound sour. “Th-think I’m going to go for a walk. Clear my h-head. It’s hurting today.” Maybe if I made it sound like one of the headaches I got on a fairly regular basis, Amy would put my bad mood and the resulting argument down to that.

“Do you want me to come?” Amy said.

“I’m n-not good company r-right now.”

Amy looked at me properly for the first time. “You’re mega pale, Em. And your eyes… Did you sleep alright? You don’t look well. Are you sure you should be going anywhere?”

“M’fine,” I murmured. “R-really. J-just need some fr-fresh air.”

“O-kay,” Amy said doubtfully but I was already returning to my room.

Launch Day – And a Free Book!

Ok, it’s finally here. Launch day for the second novel in the Unveiled series. I have been a bit rubbish about promoting ‘I am the Silence‘ here  – possibly giving in to my natural urge as a writer to hide whenever a book I’ve written is released.

Anyway, the usual anxieties around book releases aside, I am really excited that Book 2 is now available. I feel that I’ve really found my voice with this book and that it’s even better than ‘I Belong to the Earth‘ – and it appears there is a growing consensus of opinion to that end, so it’s nice to know that I am not entirely delusional 😉

Released 19th January 2017 ebook and paperback

“Have you found your inner darkness, Emily Lynette?”

A year after breaking the Pattern, Emlynn no longer fights her gift. She’s become adept at sending the Dead on to rest. Perhaps a little too good…

Sent to investigate reports of a haunting, Emlynn finds herself facing a crushing embarrassment, and worse, a deep betrayal. Deciding it’s time to leave the supernatural alone for a while, she travels to Dorset to stay with her childhood best friend, Beth. The Milton Abbey festival of music should take her mind off everything; Ghosts, betrayals and disappointments. Except Beth has changed. She’s definitely running with a new crowd – a cooler, dangerous group whose leader, Rhys, has an unhealthy interest in Emlynn.

As if that isn’t enough, Emlynn’s violin tutor turns out to be a young man she used to know. Lucas has definitely changed – hostile, volatile and rude, but also intense and disturbingly compelling. That’s one mystery Emlynn can’t leave alone. Torn between her connection with Beth’s troubled younger sister and the terrifying black beast that stalks Emlynn in her dreams, there’s no rest for the weary psychic. Facing the reality of what Beth is mixed up in, Emlynn may have finally picked a fight she cannot win…

I’ve mentioned in the acknowledgements that this was a really hard book to write and it’s no exaggeration, so I am also strangely relieved that it’s now available for general consumption. I am looking forward to hearing what you all think.

Also available for those who enjoy the Unveiled series – two novellas and a short story. You don’t have to read these before you read ‘I am the Silence’ – or at all for that matter, but there are easter eggs and snippets of back story that give a richer reading experience if you decide you want to. (Only available in ebook at present.)

 

 

 

Free Book – Ciaran’s Chance

Anyone been wondering what Ciaran has been up too since he exited stage right at the end of ‘I Belong to the Earth’? This companion novella to ‘I am the Silence’ will tell you all.

There are things we do in life that we can’t ever take back. Bad things that follow us, no matter how we wish we could change them. So I needed to find him. See the man. And the monster.’

A year after the events in Arncliffe and Ciarán is giving up hope of ever being able to return. Marked by what he did that night, he is no longer the person he thought he was. Surly, directionless and irritable, he reconnects with an old friend whilst staying with his sister. Somewhere between friendship and hatred, he starts to pick apart the strands of whatever darkness hides inside him.

A trip to find his father and confront his past turns into a nightmare that dates back centuries. Because something hunts the men of Ciarán’s family. Something ancient that cannot be reasoned with or bribed. Amongst the O’Connors, the sins of the father really are visited on the sons. If Ciarán ever wants to be able to see Emlynn again, he must succeed where all his ancestors have failed and stop the creatures that have stalked his family for generations.

This book is ONLY available through my website BUT I am giving it away FREE.

All you need to do to claim your copy is join my Readers’ Group . 

(I send newsletters around once a month or less, no spam – promise. And if you don’t like the content then you can always unsubscribe. You’ll still have the free book 😉  )

That’s it for now but there will be more updates in the days to come. I’ve been silent but extremely industrious – there are many more books on the way. Thank you for reading and to everyone who’s been part of the journey so far, and to everyone who has contacted me to ask about writing or for book recommendations or just because they liked something I’ve written. I love hearing from you – you all rock.

An especially big thank you to everyone who has reviewed my books. Seriously, authors live and die by word of mouth so every time you recommend one of my books or write me a short review (or a long one!) you are making a difference and ensuring I can write more books for you.

Ok so back to finishing book three it is then…

 

 

Cover Reveal – I Belong to the Earth

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Artwork copyright – J.A.Ironside

Cover Design copyright – M.E. Vaughan

From the back cover:

“There.” Grace pointed towards the moor and I saw it: there was a shape in the dark. A tall, masculine shape. No, not a man; a piece of darker darkness in the shape of a man. We were being watched.

Seventeen-year-old Emlynn knows all about grief and guilt, not to mention secrets. Being able to sense the Dead wasn’t so bad before the accident which killed her mother. Now it’s taking over her life. Broken and shut off from the world, Emlynn is horrified when her father moves the family to a remote Yorkshire vicarage: a house that stands at the centre of a centuries-old curse born of betrayal, jealousy and poisoned love. A curse that feeds on the lives of young girls. A pattern about to repeat itself once more… When her older sister, Grace, gets involved with local bad boy, Haze, Emlynn knows she has to act fast. Somehow Haze is connected to the curse. Is Grace his next intended victim? Hurtling towards another family tragedy, Emlynn must find the strength to stop running from her gift, or risk losing the rest of her family for good. Only the dead have the answers she needs. If she can bring herself to speak to them…

 

Available from Amazon on 25th September 2016 (Paperback to follow October 2017)

 

I BELONG TO THE EARTH – SECOND EDITION COVER REVEAL!

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I am so excited about releasing the new cover for I Belong to the Earth, that I just had to write a sort post about it.

The new cover for Book one of the Unveiled series will be released tomorrow at 6.00pm GMT.

 

If you haven’t read it yet, I Belong to the Earth is a YA paranormal fantasy about a young girl named Emlynn, who has an affinity with the Dead. After surviving a horrific car accident leaves her with brain-trauma and a strained relationship her family, Emlynn finds herself further adrift when her father moves the family to a lonely vicarage on the North Yorkshire Moors. Withdrawn and wary of trusting anyone, Emlynn wants nothing to do with her strange ability, let alone with a centuries old repeating Pattern of rage, jealousy and poisoned love. But when her hostile older sister gets involved with the local bad boy, Emlynn has to confront her power or lose the rest of her family for good. Only the Dead have the answers she needs. Rushing towards another tragedy, can she bring herself to ask them?

 

This  second edition of I Belong to the Earth will be available from Amazon on 25th September 2016. (Paperback to follow in October, release date TBC). If you happen to have read the first edition, the story has not materially changed. Instead, as a more experienced writer, I have tightened up the prose a bit and removed a few continuity errors (I’m actually surprised I didn’t get called out on those!) So the second edition is not a new book but a cleaner, better, tidier version. I promise I have not gone George Lucas on it 😉 In addition there is also a brand new, never seen before Unveiled short story included because hey, if you’re a fan, you’ve had to wait ages and that is no way to treat your readers. A gift to you from me.

 

A bit about writing the book; I Belong to the Earth is my debut novel. I’ve written more books since then but I can honestly say that I have yet to feel compelled to share a story in the same way.

I was strongly influenced by three things. Classic literature, folk lore and genuinely wondering what it must be like not to be able to read or articulate your thoughts? I mean, being able to read and to communicate is a real gift – one I had sort of been taking for granted. At this point in her half-timid, half-take-no-prisoners way, Emlynn charged in and demanded the story be told.

I also wanted to look at the relationships and power dynamics between sisters. It was something I felt I hadn’t seen enough of in books and Emlynn, together with her older sister, Grace, and younger sister, Amy, were perfect for telling that side of the story too. Some people leave you better for having known them. I can now swear to the fact that some characters do the exact same thing – and Emlynn isn’t done with me yet.

Goodies and extras; Whilst going through my files when I re-edited this book, I discovered all sorts of snippets, extras, sneaklets and short stories. The pick of the bunch will soon be available to read FREE here on my website. Look out for the ‘extras’ button on the main menu.

See the new cover tomorrow at 6.00pm  GMT on my tumblr, facebook, webpage and goodreads.

 

 

Announcing the third Random Anthology

The Random writers have not been idle in their silence. And here it is – the new anthology!

Stalking Leviathan – A Bestiary of Tales 

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“It’s out there. I can feel it in my water. I can hear it…”
 
Twelve tales that go in search of creatures of myth, legend, and the spaces between the real and the imagined. From the overwhelming confusion of the Irish Civil War to the eerie expanse of modern day Bodmin Moor; from Elizabethan England to the skies above Persia, the Random Writers quest for an answer to the question – What is the nature of the beast?
I am proud to have been an editor on the project, and I and my fellow dragon -co-host, M.E.Vaughan, as well as historical fiction co-writer, Matthew Willis and long term writing buddy, Shell Bromley, all have stories included in the collection.
Get ready for creatures that personify the wild, guard and guide the dead whilst helping the living out of grief, non-binary Unicorns, beasts that personify the madness and destruction of war or the gift of life and nature itself.
Release Date: 29th September 2016 in ebook and paperback formats.
(Special thanks to M.E.Vaughan for the fabulous cover.)
Final bit of news: Tune in the same time tomorrow for the grand cover reveal of
I Belong to the Earth – second edition.

Dissecting Dragons – the first Guest Episode

I’ve talked about Dissecting Dragons, the speculative fiction podcast that M.E.Vaughan and I produce a bit before. However on Friday the first episode featuring a guest author was released and I feel it’s worth looking at the process in a bit more detail – not least of which because that episode has probably been our most successful one to date.

We’ve had lots of positive feedback about the podcast – people seem to genuinely be enjoying it, which is brilliant. As writers we all know how hard it is to judge your own work, so to have listeners comment or get in touch to say they like it is very encouraging. I will, in future, explain exactly how we are producing a podcast for those who fancy trying their hand at producing their own. (It’s always helpful to look at someone else’s process.)

So, first guest. James Nichol is a children’s author whose first book, The Apprentice Witch, is being published by the ChickenHouse. (To give you some context, he has been working with Barry Cunningham, the editor who discovered J.K.Rowling.) The book sounds utterly enchanting – I’m certainly looking forward to reading it myself when it is released in July 2016.

Dissecting Dragons - Writing, Reading, Loving and sometime Hating, Speculative Fiction.
Dissecting Dragons – Writing, Reading, Loving and sometime Hating, Speculative Fiction.

What made James a great guest was that he took an interest and engaged with the entire topic. And I think what allowed him to do that was that Madeleine and I had set things up so that we fell into a natural rhythm of conversation about that week’s topic. Between the three of us we produced some really interesting content. There was no sense of having to perform, either for James or for either of us. My theory is that it’s that relaxed atmosphere during which three authors discuss books and writing that makes it engaging for listeners.

Of course it definitely helps that James was interesting, engaging and humble about his achievements. Coupled with a sense of humour that has to be a winning combination for authors. I’ve mentioned before how hard many of us find it to talk about our work. Certainly publishers and editors both have said that they often feel that authors need to feel they’ve ‘been given permission’ to talk about their books. Could it be that a cosy chat via podcast is a way of breaking down this self imposed barrier? I have no firm conclusion on that but it’s definitely exciting times.

I highly recommend you listen to James story (not just because I want you to download the podcast) because it is as close to a ‘fairytale’ dream-come-true story of an author finding his publisher and his niche.

Dissecting Dragons – Episode 4 – Witches, Brooms and Spells with James Nichol

Dissecting Dragons Facebook page

Throw back Thursday: Wearing the Editor’s Hat

(Originally posted on my old blog 29th July 2014)
So what have I been working on recently? Well it’s a bit of a step away from my forthcoming book and its sequels, but I’m really proud of the result. Here is a bit about this anthology of reflected tales, which will be available from amazon, kobo, barnes & noble, apple, nook, smashwords etc and from createspace as a paperback from 7th August 2014.
3D-ASGedited

‘How can I read the futures if I cannot see your skin?’

Six mysterious swans glide on a holographic pond in a totalitarian capital city.  A terrified girl awaits her part in a ritual that could change the future… and the past. A dancer in ancient Jerusalem mourns her maimed sister and prepares for the performance of her life.  A sword of legend sends its wielder back through the fiercest battles in history. A freshly qualified vampire hunter experiences the practical side of his vocation. Fourteen intriguing, dramatic, humorous and unsettling tales,  inspired by existing stories and reflecting the breadth of storytelling from Greek myth to Hammer Horror, via fairy tales and Arthurian legend.

It’s good stuff…and yeah, maybe I am a little biased, but that doesn’t stop it being 260 pages of quality writing 😉

Wearing the Editor’s Hat

This was a completely new experience for me and to say that it was a little scary would be an understatement. Exhilerating, exciting, fascinating – but definitely a little scary.

My friend and co-editor, Matthew Willis, (author of the fab age of sail historical fantasy,Daedalus and the Deep) came up with the idea, when he noticed how many of our writing group RASSSA) had written stories that were re-tellings of old tales and myths. No sooner had the words ‘we should pull together an anthology’ tripped off his keyboard and onto the group wall and I was all over that like white on rice.

Incidently there is a similarity in how I embrace a project and how I make friends. If you have ever read AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh – think Tigger…

Luckily Matt was happy or at least resigned to having me on board as co-editor and it’s been quite a learning curve!

Firstly we set a date – approx three months away – when we would want submissions for the anthology in by. We then allowed ourselves two weeks to sift through and decide what to include. Luckily we had fellow author, Shell Bromley, to help or we might just have become hypnotised by the flow of words!

In some ways I think the selection process was the hardest part. I had had short stories published in the past and, while I’d never said anything aloud, had wondered why it took such a long time to get a yay or a nay. The reason is quality. If you have a large proportion of stories that are badly written, unimaginative, poorly spelled, grammatically incorrect or just plain lazy, it’s easy to cut those out. Our problem was that none of the stories were poor. The standard was universally high. In the end the three of us had an online meeting courtesy of google+ chatrooms and picked out the 14 stories that made it into the anthology.

The authors who’d made it in were notified and so were the authors who didn’t. We all agreed on this last as a courtesy – it’s very annoying when you never hear anything back about a submission. We went further and offered feedback and suggestions on where the rejected stories might find a home. In all honesty, if this had been open to more than just The Randoms, we might not have been able to do this. It does allow you to see things through an editor’s eyes – when you get a bog standard form rejection, it really isn’t personal: they’re just really busy. On the other hand a line or two of feedback means you genuinely wowed someone – so be pleased, it’s a partial success.

From there it was a fiddly, complicated process of copyditing the stories and returning the proofs for approval to each author. (Legally no one can make changes to your work without your permission). Formatting the returned proofs into a book – this took a while as it had to be done individually for four different formats (I think I now have the hang of it and can do it a lot quicker though ), proof-reading – by two proof-readers (and thank you so much for all those reverse apostrophes by the way…yes you know who you are lol) and finally getting it all uploaded on various platforms ready for distribution.

Yes, you can find companies that will do all of this for you from £800+ or individuals who will do specific parts for significantly less but we decided from the beginning that we wanted full creative control and moreover, we wanted to out lay as little as possible. This worked fine for us since between us all we had the necessary skills in the group. It did pique my sympathy for go-it-alone authors who can’t afford professional level copyediting, proof-reading, cover design etc – it has to be really tough on your own.

The cover was mostly designed by Matt. He’ll generously say it was a joint effort but really he did the donkey work and I looked at fonts and paint samples. A good cover is deceptive – it looks simple but actually a huge amount of work has gone into it – google ‘the golden mean’ if you don’t believe me.

Anyway we pulled it together and I still get a little choked up looking at it all – the way everyone’s stories enhance the whole, rather than one strong story pulling away or detracting from the others. There’s no jumble here: the standard is universally high. So I’m honoured to be a part of this and really proud of The Random Writers. They rock, one and all.

As a final sidebar, we didn’t just leave our stories there. If you check out the Random Writers website, you’ll find weekly blog posts on being part of the group, individual’s writing processes  and a piece of FREE flash fiction to complement the worlds the stories from the anthology encompasses. Take a peek – just to whet your appetite.

And in short, that’s what it’s like being an editor: a tough business.

Within the Doorless Tower

Autumn Web 2
Fairy Tales. Funny name really – very few of them feature any characters that are fairies, though a wide range of other supernatural and natural characters parade through. But I’m digressing before I’ve even started. I want to talk about freedom. Specifically freedom in fairy tales, myths and legends. Before I get stuck in on that, let’s clear up a few ‘literary myths’.
Origins;
Fairy tales were not originally written for children. We homonids are wired to receive, process and pass on information most effectively when it is given in story form. Originally this may have been a way of passing on hunter-gatherer experiences and wisdom – text books are a fairly recent invention after all. In a way the information may have changed but the delivery method has not. And importantly, for a story to have most impact when passed from one person to another, it needs to have an immediacy; if it’s not something that happened to the teller, then it’s ideal for it to have happened to someone the teller knows…this is a quick way to align sympathy with the character and for the listener to form an allegiance with the main character.  The expansion of this into heroic tales is not the distancer you might think; when a character – like Herakles – is mentioned, it is so much a part of the collective story telling consciousness, the zeitgeist, that it may as well be a story about somone you know. Once you’ve acheived an alignment of sympathies, then the reader/ listener is willing to suspend disbelief and tales of fantastical beasts and fearsome deeds become probable.
It’s always seemed a great peculiarity to me that there is a propagated mind-set which hands down the received wisdom that fantasy is something you grow out of. At a certain age, childish things like wishes, bad fairies, dragons and heroes must be put aside or you become a quirky, even maladjusted, adult. Ergo fairy tales are for kids. The problem with that is the fact that in the original forms, very few fairy tales are considered fit material for children! Enter the Victorians who in a perfect frenzy of solicitousness, tidied away all the dark, nasty bits in the original tales. It became a self-perpetuating  cycle – cleaned up stories became more suitable for children, they were fantasy so fantasy was the province of infants but let’s just check what the little tikes are reading and maybe make them ‘nicer’.
Even as a child I found the clean version of fairy tales lacking; less than satisfying. There was no jeopardy because no matter what you knew there would be a happy ending. It led to an age of ‘not-believing’ for me which luckily I got over. When I read some of the original versions of the stories, especially Celtic, Greek, Norse and African myths, everything fell into place. As Diana Wynne Jones once said ‘only the feeble minded despise fairy tales – each contain a kernel of utter truth’. Lots of common themes strike me over and over again in fairy tales but perhaps the one I come back to most is the idea of imprisonment/ slavery vs Freedom/emancipation.
Imprisonment:
This seems to take several forms;
Physical – the MC is physically impaired, like the girl with silver hands. Or physically imprisoned, like Rapunzel (Petresonella). Or held in a position of abuse or servitude – Cinderella or The King who wanted to Marry his Daughter.
Magical – the MC is placed under a curse – Sleeping Beauty, or called upon to free someone under a curse – Beauty and the Beast or Six Wild Swans. The MC might be transformed into another creature and denied a human voice at all – Odette in Swan Lake, for example. Or perhaps the curse might make them unappealing in another way – Sir Gawaine and the Loathly Lady.
Class – the MC is held in place through poverty or low birth. Or by having elder siblings who take all of the youngest child’s share of power of position – the chinese version of Cinderella has a heroine with 499 elder sisters! But essentially the MC has to step outside themselves and their pre-conceived belief in their inferiority and become all they can be. In other words, seek their fortune. The Goose Girl, Clever Janet, the golden bird, Jack and the Beanstalk (which actually I hate as an example because any way you slice it, burglary, house-breaking and murder do not a hero make in my book!)
Mental – these are the most subtle forms of imprisonment in stories. If the MC is aware of themselves as trapped, often you have a more mysterious character who endures their imprisonment until they can free themselves. Often this freedom comes at terrible price. Danae defying her father and being locked in a chest and sent out beyond the ninth wave as an exile. Deirdre throwing herself from the chariot rather than submit to a cruel husband. Bloudewedd  being turned into an owl after conspiring against her husband. These tales on the surface seem to trade one form of imprisonment for another or to suggest that only death is the release. A closer reading shows the character making a clear, hard choice, and choice in this case is the epitomy of freedom.
This is not an exhaustive list but it does point at a common theme: The MC is enslaved and needs to earn/ conquer/ choose their freedom.
Freedom;
Doubtless some fairy tales and myths are ways of recalling historical events, but changed and distorted (rather like nursery rhymes – I doubt most parents teaching their toddlers ‘Humpty Dumpty’ realise that they are singing about a cannon used during the war with Cromwell or that ‘Baa-Baa Black Sheep’ is actually about the unfairness of the wool selling laws of the 11th century). But there seem to be deeper truths or rather levels of truths that you can access depending on how deeply you read.
Let’s take Beauty and The Beast as an example. Every major character in this story is a prisoner. Beauty is held prisoner by the beast but also by her obedience/ duty/ love for her father. Her father is bound by his word (and somewhat spurious other motivations). The Beast is imprisoned by his form – so hideous he is an outcast, a self-imposed exile, doubly imprisoned by his own loneliness and his inability to interact with other humans. You could look at this as a cautionary tale told to young girls pre marriage (especially if it wasn’t her choice) – he may look like a beast now but it’s a good match and he’ll turn out to be a prince. That seems a bit facile to me.
Another interpretation is that Beauty is actually imprisoned by her pre-conceptions (a mental imprisonment) and must learn to see past external appearances. Love and acceptance comes in many forms. Most versions of the story depict Beauty as a dutiful child who chooses to go into voluntary imprisonment to improve her father’s flagging fortunes. (That may well have been an historical fact in many cases) But this casts her in the role of someone who must free another – ie the Beast and to some extent, her family (from poverty). In fact the further down you go with this story, the more layers there are. It contains almost all the previously mentioned forms of imprisonment and equally the corresponding forms of freedom; physical, emotional, mental and choice. Perhaps this is why it is one of the most popular fairy tales – it hits on all levels.
A Question;
Which begs the question of ‘why?’  Why is freedom such a potent theme? I don’t have a definite answer – mostly because myths, legends and fairy tales are by nature and necessity, very subjective. They are designed to speak to an individual in a different way depending on what is important to them at the time. Personally, I think freedom is such a common theme because no matter what situation we are in, at some point we will feel trapped. As the essence of true fantasy, fairy tales allow you to examine your prison in a ‘make-believe’ setting. By vanquishing the monster, freeing the hero, releasing the heroine or transforming the beast, we free the part of ourselves that is truly trapped and our real life prisons become endurable if not conquerable. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
If you found this of interest you might enjoy ‘A Lamentation of Swans’, my story in A Seeming Glass: a Collection of Reflected Tales 😉