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Peachy keen, Josephine!

Just a quick one today and a bit off-topic but it pleased me, so….

For many years I have been an enthusiastic if not very knowledgeable gardener. As soon as I had a little space that was mine, I started putting plants in it. My flower beds are not keenly planned out or beautifully manicured; more a case of “that’s a pretty colour–let’s stick it in the garden and see what happens.” Sometimes things flower briefly and die away, but other times they thrive, which is always very pleasing.

However, I am not now allowed to go near the garden centre. This is not because I am liable to go dashing down the aisles whooping like Tarzan (far too tired for that these days). It’s just that I find it difficult to go past any display of plants without picking something up, and in my local garden centre they have hit my Achilles heel square on by the cunning placement of what is known as the “graveyard shelf” just near the exit.

The graveyard shelf is where they put all the plants that are a bit gnarly, look a bit sickly or they don’t expect to live. They put them all on a big mixed shelf by the checkout for a pound each, and if they don’t sell, at the end of the week they all go in the bin. Hence the name!

Now I am a sucker for this sort of thing. I have a terrible need to rescue them.

One day I walked past and there was little peach tree in its pot, a patio peach tree, which is to say one that has been grafted onto stock that will not grow tall and is therefore suitable for growing on your patio.

At the time we were between houses. We had sold our beloved house further out from London and were looking for somewhere a little bit nearer to the elderly mother-in-law. Our attempt to buy a house had just fallen through, and so we had moved into rental in the area in order to scope out the area and keep an eye out for new properties coming onto the market. It was a bit of a miserable time.

So I saw this peach tree and knew that I should not buy it. It was a silly idea. But it was also a Saturday evening and nobody else had bought it because it had a terrible case of peach leaf curl, and the leaves were all blistered and malformed. I could not have planted it at the rental house, but as it was in a pot, I ended up bringing it home. I had to look up what was wrong with it, and then what to do about that.

For the past four or five years I have been spraying it twice a year to stop the mould that causes it, picking off the leaves if they come through blistered again, moving it from the little lean-to by the house where it spends the winter to a nice warm sunny spot by the wall where it gets maximum warmth in summer but is still protected from rain. I have even – and given the state of my short term memory this is not always guaranteed – I have even remembered to feed it and water it! And it has responded nicely.

Each year fewer leaves come through blistered and it has started bearing tiny little fruits on the branches. Last year they stayed in place for long enough that one was not rockhard, but it was still completely inedible. It looked so pretty with the peaches all rosy against the green leaves though.

This summer, we have had some very hot weather. Outrageously hot, for the UK. And the little peach tree has loved it. Every morning on my way out of the front door I’ve paused for long enough to water it with the can of water set ready, and each new day it it’s dry again. It has six little fruits across its branches – I picked off the other tiny ones so that these six get a chance to ripen properly – and finally today one fell.

We brought it into the kitchen and decided to see if it was edible. This is it next to a teaspoon for scale. Isn’t it the tiniest peach you’ve ever seen?

It separated from the stone beautifully. It was as ripe as could be. And the scent of it! I have never smelt a peach that smelt so beautifully fragrant. We tried the flesh and it was slightly odd of texture – I need to return to Google– but the taste was there, and I could not help thinking that perhaps in a couple of years if I fine-tune the way I have been looking after it, perhaps we will finally get some true, delicious peaches from it. Not bad for a pound purchase from the graveyard shelf!

In some ways my writing career is much the same. I am hopeful that we are getting to the tipping point now whereby the books I have on the shelf are of a quality to please, and there are slowly starting to be enough of them to be memorable. The Holly series is now in editing for the first couple of books although the last one is still to be finished off, and I am in negotiations with Wes for the cover of Holly 3.

I have also recovered the Scarred Artisan. Although the old cover had a much better picture of the main character, Lyria, it was not immediately obvious what genre it was. A lot of people glanced assumed it was women’s lit, which it isn’t. Consequently sales have been negligible. I have now ordered a cover which doesn’t look so very much like Lyria herself, but it does look very much more like the sort of story that it is. It will be interesting to see whether this works better.

Anyhow, back to the grindstone. Lurcher supremo Lord Thunderpaws is starting to give me the meaningful eye. He believes it is time for me to go up to the study and get on writing, not sit on the sofa drinking tea. No brownie points for writing blogs from the lurcher who wants to go snooze on his comfy bed upstairs!

Another busy week at work beckons, so I have no idea how much I’ll be able to do this week: most evenings I’ll probably end up logged on again.

I hope you have a more restful week, in any case. There will be another newsletter going out on the 21st as we are part of another group giveaway. And hopefully also the sneak preview of the new cover for Scarred Artisan so watch this space!

Catch you later – –

J A C

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As regulars will know, periodically I burn out and have to take time out. This one’s a doozy. However although in a pretty unfocused way, I am still chipping away at the outstanding stuff, so here’s the latest sitrep.

On Dark Shores series:

Flight. I thought it was pretty much finished apart from the research on sailing. That is actually a dauntingly huge job but I did a bit of research and discovered a really good resource that looked likely to be available in four or five weeks. Excellent, I thought. In the meantime I’ll reread the first book.

This was either a massive mistake or really lucky. I discovered the timelines need a bit of work and in all honesty, I suspect it might work rather a lot better if I cut all of the books into chronological order; but there there will be far two many characters. So what I need to do is cut them all together, work put what plot strands are going to be superfluous, any characters who can sensibly be merged or cut, and streamline the whole thing. Which is an ENORMOUS task, and that’s before I even start sorting out the 100k words I already wrote of Mother.

Plus side, Scrivener should allow this to make more sense.

Minus side, I’m going to need the world’s biggest Excel sheet to make the timeline even attempt to make any sense.

Plus side, I can re-cover the lot with something closer to market and make pretty files with Vellum, then relaunch the whole lot at once.

Minus side, that launch is a long time and a lot of work away.

Summary: months of work, lots of research and thought needed.

Bugger.

Wolf series:

Finished Book 1, self-edited and did a lot of work on it, sent it to betas and all of them loved the story and were very excited by it…but agreed to a person that the dialogue between the two main characters is flawed in register and needs redoing in its entirety. So close!

They are right of course, and it shouldn’t be difficult to fix, but it does require substantial rewrites and a bit of thought to ensure the story still works if the motivations change. Bugger. Still, there is some consolation to be had in that Book 2 is written and ready to start editing, book three is half done and four and five are plotted out. These are congruent with the new register (ironically, as I was writing it I was wondering how to make it work with old-stylebook one) so it’s just book one that needs a total fix (hopefully!).

The later books involve stuff that is new to me and needs a bit of basic knowledge; they come across a new character who will be pretty important to the plot, and he is profoundly deaf. I was a bit hesitant about this on several scores. On the one hand,the lack of diversity in fantasy has always annoyed me as I think fiction is so much more powerful if it reflects real life? On the other hand, it’s always seemed such a big subject to tackle that… well, frankly, I didn’t know where to start. And yes, this is exactly as stupid a reaction as it seems. But of late because diversity has finally become a Thing, there is much more visibility of resources, which is fabulous, & I got to a point in Wolf where it became clear that for the story to work, the character in question had to be deaf.

Now, the number of questions this raises is not small. In a fantasy world, how likely would it be that they would diagnose him correctly if he was born deaf? How would he manage the day to day exchange of the Court? What advantages and disadvantages would it bring? And most importantly, how can I as a hearing person, write a genuinely authentic and moving character that deaf people (and Deaf people) will enjoy and identify with? The quick answer is that I will almost certainly get some bits wrong, but hopefully if the main, important bits are right, it might either pass muster, or inspire others to write a better deaf character than mine, which would be epic.

I have thought a lot about this and I end up with the viewpoint that is better to attempt to write a diverse cast in good faith and with due diligence put into getting it right than it is to chicken out of it in case someone shouts at me. It is almost certainly true that I will get it wrong in places and no doubt lots of people will be angry at me and rightly so: but if one young deaf person identifies with and is lifted by my attempt at representing a deaf character, in a world where they don’t normally get to think “that person is like me”, then that is worth taking a bit of flak for.

No doubt I will be blogging at a bit more length about this later in the process, but for now I am at the very beginning of learning a bit more about deaf people and the Deaf community in the UK (as well as elsewhere, a little bit). I am learning some very basic sign language as my character will sign (of course the story won’t use British Sign Language but I reckon there is much to be learned from understanding how the language is put together that would make sense transferred across to an invented language). And I have to say, I’m totally loving BSL- it’s absolutely fascinating. In an ideal world, I’d go on to study the proper BSL courses, but that will probably have to wait till I have actually finished some books and sold them, as the course is far from cheap.

So though it’s frustrating that Wolf series has also stalled, that doesn’t annoy me so much. It seems more like an opportunity to get learning the sort of things that will make the story, the world and the character so much richer (and which feed into my general obsessions with communication, languages and acting in any case). I have been lucky enough to find someone knowledgeable who has offered to help when I finally get to that part of the story, but I am conscious that this really does need to be as right as possible. So work continues, if not writing, and this is going to be another slow one.

Summary: months of work, lots of research and thought needed.

Kinda cool and exciting, not to mention fascinating, but still won’t be quick.

Bugger.

Holly series:

So this series is pretty much the only thing of mine that’s shifting at the moment, but given that I’ve stopped all attempts at any kind of publicity or marketing (due to burn out) I’m quite impressed that it is shifting at all!

I looked at my author page and realised it looks as if I have a two second attention span. I really need to finish at least one series, just to make the point that I’m writing characters who will be around for long enough to be worth reading! And Holly being pretty popular, and made up of shorter novellas than the rest, it seemed obvious that these were the ones to try for.

So: Holly 3 is written and halfway through editing. Holly 4 is written and Holly 5 is showing signs of wishing to become a full length effort, which wasn’t the idea at all but would be quite a nice way to end the series. Work continues on this in dribs and drabs in the two minutes it takes the kettle to boil, and in my lunchhour when I have one. I think this is going to be a cracking series, but because of the way the story builds up, I need to write it to the end and then go back and make sure that everything in the earlier storied tallies up with the later ones… so guess what? Quite right, can’t publish H3 till H5 is written. Argh. And they have the most expensive covers as well, so writing them first makes loads of sense…no wait…!

So. Plus side, they are probably nearest to being finished.

Minus side, still a fair bit of work to go.

Plus side, the covers are going to be epic!

Minus side, the covers are going to be expensive.

Summary: a few months of work, and a lot of cash needed.

Bugger.

🙂

Dragon series:

So this is ridiculous, I thought. There must be one solitary series I can finish. How about the Dragon stories? People like dragons. I like dragons! Let’s do some dragon shorts to go with the Last Dragon….

Did not go well.

Wrote two nice little stories to go with the Last Dragon. Went to get some cheapie covers to go on them from someone new. These covers were so good I can’t use them for little random stories. These covers suggest Emotional Depth, dammit! Quandary!

So after a bit of thought, I got a fourth matching one done as I have a quartet of dragons whose stories need telling, and these covers will be splendid for those. Then I went back to try for some new covers. The short stories will need to be renamed which could be confusing, only no-one has actually bought The Last Dragon so I don’t really think it will be a problem.

So I made up new names and a new series name, and went back to my new person. Dragons are a bit difficult to find decent pics of for obvious reasons, and having used up the idea of tattoo-type icons for the Four Dragons, I had to resort to renders, which looked a bit shonky. I did hesitate but I figured, we need to use the shorts to earn money for the Holly covers but once they’ve done that, I can use them to save up for new covers with better dragons on. We’ll get there in the end.

So I sent my choice of pictures to the new person and bugger me if she didn’t come back with the most stonkingly fabulous covers ever. The shonky renders now look reasonably respectable next to Anne McCaffrey’s covers! (Fangirl moment!) Hurrah!

…and indeed bugger. Because now I can’t use these fabulous covers for little fairytales. Argh! Again!

So. Before I got stuck too deeply into a cycle of buying tremendous dragon covers for stories I haven’t even written yet, I called a halt. The two sets of fabulous covers can go on stories I am planning out which will tie in a bit remotely with the Holly series, which is pretty cool, and will be referenced in ODS, which is also cool- but I’m not starting to write them just yet.

The Holly covers need to match the first two.

ODS can’t be re-covered till I know where the story splits, but in the meantime no-one’s buying it so I don’t need to worry about that.

Wolf is too far from completion to worry about.

Scarred Artisan may get a new cover and relaunch at some point, as will Song after a slight re-edit. But those are simmering along quietly in the background until I have time to do a launch.

The real reason everything has stopped right now is just burn out. Work is unsustainably manic, and I end up working in the evenings and weekends when possible. I don’t actually agree with that sort of thing, but sometimes you just have to pull all the stops out to get the job done. My partner is in a similar position. It’s not good.

Add to that the weather: two weeks of heatwave means the dog hasn’t been able to go out and run with his friends as usual. We’ve been doing a late evening runaround, but not all his friends can make that time and lots of other people have been doing the same, so his running time is severely limited. This makes him crazy, which means that some nights, I’m still taking him through his training at midnight in an attempt to tire him out. With an 0440 alarm call, this does not make for a restful night’s sleep, and I am one who really needs my sleep!

There’s always the usual other stuff going on of course, but right now I’m frazzled, and a bit bewildered by the way my stories have suddenly fractalled!

The answer is always the same: proper time out with the exception of two minutes’ writing here and there to keep me sane. Theoretically the day job should calm down in a couple of months, and I shouldn’t be using all my creative mojo on getting through the day. By then my brain will have worked out what a plan of attack (current thinking is Holly is next up) and with a bit of luck we should be a substantial way towards getting at least one series up and running. I’m looking forward to getting back to it…

But in the meantime, the dog is barking, we’re late for his walk and goodness only knows what we’ll have for tea….

🙂

Take care, and I’ll catch you on the flip side!

All the best:

JAC

Locus Iste, put in pictures.

As some of you will know, I write poetry as well a fantasy stories, and I’ve just got a new app to play with that makes videos. By way of seeing what it can do, I thought I’d try putting one of my poems into it. A lot of my stuff is a bit obscure to find images easily, but it’s an interesting exercise.

I found an old one I wrote on a choir trip to Venice, a poem called Locus Iste, and of course it has some lovely pics of Venice. Alas the music is not Locus Iste, but Gymnopedie No 3, however I do like a good bit of Satie and it catches the slightly reflective mood of the poem, so it’s all good.

I’m not sure the poem isn’t better by itself, tbh, so here is the text of it below.

= = = =

Locus Iste

In Venice there was nowhere for us to practice before the concert

so we grouped ourselves in St Mark’s Square in the midmorning heat

and sang through our pieces there.

The sun was warm but not yet ferocious, cooled by the slight breeze

which flowed over the smooth mirrored ripples of the lagoon.

There were still gondolas moored there, bobbing gently on the undulating water

and all along the vast square stretching in front of us stood

the intricate, beautiful facades of old buildings and palaces in red and white;

above us the tower and the winged lions on their columns,

behind us the gilt domes of the doorways of St Mark’s,

beside us the balconies of the Doges’ Palace.

We sang Ave Maris Stella, and Holst’s Nunc Dimittis;

there were others, in English and French and Italian and German,

but the one I remember so clearly is Locus Iste.

KLocus iste a deo factus est, we sang,

this place was made by God.

= = = =

Now you’ve read it and put your own images to it, here’s the say-what-you-see version.. probably less good as a poem but not terrible as a short piece of video. With the right blurb, that could be pretty cool as a book trailer perhaps.

Any thoughts?

🙂

JAC.

How to impress your Lurcher…

Evening all!

So, after last week’s marathon post you know all the gossip about the writing that’s going on, so this week I thought I’d just check in briefly and tell you about an amusing incident that happened with the mad Lurcher puppy. He is currently exhausted, and sleeping the sleep of the just on the sofa in typical lurcher style:

Now apart from his water collecting activities (if you don’t know about these, have a search on my Facebook page for the photos), his main bad habit is digging up the garden. He has a terrible tendency to start excavating when excited, and despite the rockhard earth here, does so with surprisingly quick results.

This is not one of our favourite habits, as you can imagine, because apart from anything else, my other half spent many months carefully bringing the lawn to a state of grassy splendour. He was well on the way to achieving this when the Lurcher puppy exploded onto the scene, dashed around until he had his own personal racing track of mud and dry earth, and then in the remaining grassy spaces, spent quality time digging a maze of surprisingly deep holes.

Whilst mildly vexatious as a habit, the holes themselves have also proven to be something of a health hazard – when going out to the garage in the dark to get a bag of frozen peas, if you happen to wander across the wrong part of the garden there is a danger that you will suddenly find a very localised part of the lawn about a foot deeper than the rest. The fact that none of us has actually sprained an ankle so far is a question of some wonderment to me.

To add to the surprise value, these holes may be little but they are deep – normally I would expect dog-dug holes to be wide and shallow, but because the lawn hasn’t been dug over for some 20 years it is as solid and compacted as concrete, and therefore very difficult to dig. Not that it bothers the lunatic hound– he’s got three or four of his human-traps dotted in important parts of the pathway, and very effective they are too.

We have been meaning to rotivate and reseed the lawn for some time now in a valiant if possibly vain attempt to re-grass the whole thing, but we haven’t had time so far. Finally, with a sunny weekend in hand, we decided that today was that day! And so I unearthed the rotavator and my other half took the dog out on a walk so that I could see to the garden. Given that the fool hound likes to chase the vacuum around the front room any time he has the chance, it was a pretty safe bet that he would have the same reaction to the rotavator, and it seemed the better part of valour to avoid the problem rather than attempt to keep him at a safe distance.

And so off they went, and once the door was safely shut behind them I fired up the machine and got to work. I will tell you now, it was hard going! We had decided just to do a strip about 10 m² as that was all the grass seed we had; even such a small area as that took me a full hour, and I only got it loosened up to a depth of about 3 inches. The rotavator ground and chewed at the sod and spat out stones, and I went vibrating all over the place on the end of it like an escaped blancmange, attempting to keep it vaguely within the confines of the lawn and in some danger of being taken on a wild ride round the garden by this ground-hungry steed.

Eventually, slightly sunburnt and thoroughly shaken (but not particularly stirred), I was just doing the last small and difficult corners when I heard the door open. I turned off the machine and put it away just in time for Lord Thunderpaws to come lolloping out of the house. Faced with the dug-over stretch of earth, he skidded to a stop and his jaw dropped open. I have never seen a dog look so impressed in my entire life.

He looked around and you could almost see written on his face the exclamation “Oh my goodness! Human, you have dug an enormous hole – and all for me!” He bounded into the garden and leapt smack bang into the middle of the loosened earth which he began to excavate with wild abandon, throwing mud all over the me, the rest of the lawn, my other half, my cup of tea, and everything else within reach.

Then, clearly too excited to stay in one place for long, he rocketed off round the garden, did Wall of Death around the fence and ricocheted back through the loosened earth. His feet now thoroughly muddied, he took it upon himself to bring the garden into the front room, paddling mud onto the sofa and grinding it thoroughly into the rug as he did an emergency stop in order to snatch up his toy shaky cow. After some laps with this, throwing it up into the air and catching it with joyous enthusiasm, the shaky cow ended up on its back under the Acer and Lord Thunderpaws dashed back inside for the squeaky badger. This he flung into the new hole he had dug (it was subsequently nearly buried there as he did repeated circuits of the garden involving the dog equivalent of a handbrake turn, severally repeated).

It took some time to get him to calm down again. Of course, once he had subsided onto his cushion on the patio and was lying there surveying his domain with great glee, the next step was to fence off the newly dug area, gather all the loose earth back into the place where it should have been, rake it and seed it.

This did not go down at all well, and clearly lost me all my brownie points.

He kept trying to wade through the fence, some netting strung up on bamboo. When that didn’t work he retrieved the squeaky badger and flung it over the fencing onto the dug-over earth, and then tried to inveigle his way in to retrieve it. At first I thought this was accidental but by the third time I decided it probably wasn’t so much an error as a sneaky plan.

Duly admonished, he took himself away into the front room in high dudgeon and installed himself on the sofa, grumbling all the way. Now, it isn’t him who is in the dog-house! In any case he has taken refuge in sleep – he is currently spark out and happily upturned, snoring like a pig on his comfy sofa.

Tomorrow he will no doubt come up with further cunning plans for investigating, but for today I had the brief privilege of leaping high up in his estimation as an eminent digger of holes. Coming from him, this is clearly a compliment of the first water –what more can a lurcher owner want?! Apart from just a little bit of lawn with no human-traps in it, that is….

That’s all from the madhouse today, anyhow.

Have a great week;

JAC (& Lord Thunderpaws)!

Hi everyone;

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Which as always is not to say that I’ve stopped doing things, just that I’m trying to do everything at once. I found a couple of new groups on Facebook which are full of the most exciting and innovative information on how best to optimise your time as a writer and the best ways to write well and quickly, and then to produce well and quickly.

To this end I am teaching myself dictation. To readers this might sound like a slightly random thing to do, but those of you who have already dabbled in it will probably know how much faster you can generate your words by speaking them rather than typing them. Case in point, my typing speed is not too bad – about 1500 words per hour – and I can type for several hours at a time, given the chance – but when do I get the chance? I don’t, is the quick answer.

If I dictate, my first draft is considerably rougher, but in the same amount of time I can currently generate 2500 words, and that’s just with the generic office variant – I haven’t got the dedicated software yet. Speaking to the others in my Facebook groups, using Dragon many of them are able to get down 5 to 7000 words in one hour alone.

Obviously this needs rather more editing that if you were to sit down and type it, however it does mean that the first draft is very much quicker to get onto the page. Oddly it seems to be much less tiring to dictate for three hours flat – even with the corrections as you go – than it is to type for those same three hours.

So yes, it does need more editing, with the software I’m currently using. But if I get to the point where I can afford proper software and a microphone, this will be much less of an issue, and in the meantime it means that I can finish the first draft much more quickly than I can whilst typing.

A second usefulness of dictation is that so long as I have Word open on my phone, at any point at work where I’m walking between rooms, so long as I have my microphone with me, I can do a five minute sprint on the latest story. This really maximises my writing time, as with five or six of these I can get 1500 to 2000 words down just in time just would otherwise be spent on the stairs or in the corridor. How cool is that?!

Then there’s the whole horrific question of marketing…… In fact, I think this is something which will quite intrigue me and which I might well end up being not too bad at as I do love a bit of data, and good marketing seems to pivot on data analysis. But like most things, it is a question of time, and time is the main thing I lack…

As ever, this means that although I’m still producing new text, it’s taking a while. The good news is I have a short story that’s very nearly ready to go – I just need to send it to my editors but it’s in pretty good shape. The bad news is that to get a decent cover with a dragon on is not at all easy without spending a lot of money. And I need three of them! So the search continues…

I also plan to rename and recover Song of the Ice Lord as at the moment I don’t think the cover I’m using (which I love dearly) actually reflects the genre of the book itself. Further, there is an issue since the success of Game of Thrones, which is that if you search Song of the Ice Lord, what you actually find is four pages of results for A Song of Ice and Fire instead. Consequently I have finally given in and decided to both rename and recover the book.

I am considering cutting the three tales which are told by characters in the story. One of these has not yet been published separately, but is on the list to do next. The other two are already available separately. I am open to discussion on this, but I suspect they slow down the main narrative and would be better cut from Song and just referenced, remaining available as standalones. If anyone has read Song, what you think? Did you like the stories as separate episodes within the main book, or do you think the story would flow more smoothly if it is not interrupted?

In the meantime, I am inputting the corrections to Flight. This came back from the editors sometime ago, and at that time I thought the chronology needed fixing so did a lot of work on it. Frustratingly, after having done so I discovered that one of my initial assumptions was incorrect, and the original chronology would have worked perfectly well. Then the file got corrupted so I had to start over from scratch. Arghh!

Because of the rewrites the editor requested for Flight, it now overlaps and makes a nonsense of the chronology of On Dark Shores 1&2. So in order to resolve this, I need to cut all the books into one file, sort out one overarching chronology, put all the things I have written so far into order, and very probably then thin out some of the characters and the smaller plot strands so that it all makes sense as one streamlined narrative.

Yes, this is a lot of work. Yes, I am plugging away at it. No, it will not be a quick or slight undertaking. Yes, when it is all done I still need to finish the last few thousand words of the trilogy, including the final crisis and working out where the story will go afterwards. It is my intention that this will be a trilogy that comes to an end of sorts, but with a bit of luck there will be enough interest to justify the next trilogy! So the saga of On Dark Shores continues without any actual resolution – as per usual. Sigh!

So as ever, progress is happening. It’s even possible that I might have a new release for you in the Dragon series of shorts, due over the next couple of months. If I can use the short stories to raise a bit of money for the covers, Holly 3 should be ready to go soon, and Holly 4 is just getting fun, so I might even have two series finished which would be fab! It’s my hope to get both of these out in their entirety by the end of this year; however as you know I have a Douglas Adams like attitude to deadlines… Not necessarily from choice!

It’s always a question of just getting to the end of the next bit, just keeping on learning, keeping on writing, keeping on editing, trying out new things as much as possible, trying to stay on the curve of the wave in terms of technology, while still actually publishing even just a short story once in a while!

(Not to mention the day job, the housework, the mad Lurcher puppy…)

You know the rest, right?

😉

Anyway. Obviously the blog is suffering a bit because I am working hard on everything else, but if in doubt you can always find me on Facebook, and if you follow the On Dark Shores Page on Facebook, I will link there to my other new undertaking in the format of Facebook Live broadcasts!

There are already two of these up there. The first one is a recording of me reading the short story from Christmas Lites 3 (the story with the exploding Christmas pudding)

and the second is one where I show you a book of which I was particularly fond as a child, with all my favourite fairytales in, some rather beautiful pictures, and some pretty dubious colouring in by one of my sisters! Ah, those 80s felt tip pens-we had a huge packet of them. I remember it well.

In any case, I am trying to put a broadcast up every couple of weeks although it takes a bit of doing to work out what to actually say, so again, if you have any questions or things you would like to hear about please say so! It’s always a bit weird seeing yourself on video or hearing the sound of your own voice even, but as I do more of it it’s getting easier, so hopefully I’ll start getting good at that. All constructive criticism gratefully received though!

Anyhow, dictating this so it’s got quite long quite quickly. Oops! But you see why I am hopeful that future books can be generated rather more quickly than previously?

Will stop rambling now and get on with something actually book related or maybe a newsletter et cetera……

Have a great week!

All the best;

JAC.

The Origin Tale of Ghosts of the Sea Moon

Normally I don’t write these “how the book came to be” posts, mostly because when people ask me where I get my ideas I never know what to say. Replying, “um, they pop in my head and I write them down”, doesn’t sound very glamorous or interesting, even if it’s true.

But this particular novel is different, it actually has a story behind the book (and hopefully not a boring one).

It started a couple of years ago with a writing contest. The contest was to write a flash fiction story (fiction under 1000 words) based on a beautiful photo of a ship against a large moon background (you can see the photo here on my Pinterest board).

Being from Nova Scotia, Canada, I’ve always loved the sea and had an interest in ghost stories, and that’s exactly what came to mind when I saw the photo. A ghost story, more specifically a ghost ship story. Tales of ghost ships like the Flying Dutchman fascinate me, so I thought, write a dark tale of a ghost ship. Then the stray idea crept in, “why not make it a ship that ferries ghosts instead”, similar to the Greek myth of Charon and his carrying souls across the river Styx. And so I ran with it, throwing in a bit of “mystical moon magic” as well.

Alas, the story didn’t win the contest, but it did stay with me.

Stayed with me enough that I wanted to expand the story, especially the character of the ship’s captain (that’s why I changed the protagonist in the novel from a sailor to my roguish captain). I sat down at my keyboard and began to write a short story based on the flash fiction piece. Soon I had all these gods and sailors, sea monsters and ghosts yapping in my ear, giving me plot lines and character arcs, and the word count began to creep up. Okay, (I said to myself), so it’s a novella now instead of a short story.

Nope.

The story grew and grew into a full novel. It went from a, just under 400 words, piece to a novel of sea adventure, monsters, and very dysfunctional gods. And didn’t stop there. The narrative now spans across three books, in a series I call the Saga of the Outer Islands. I also have at least two prequel books, two short stories, and a secondary series either planned or in the WIP stage (this is why I nicknamed Ghosts of the Sea Moon the story that wouldn’t die).

I hope you enjoyed the strange and slightly meandering tale of how Ghosts of the Sea Moon came to be written.

Book Info:

Title:Ghosts of the Sea Moon (Saga of the Outer Islands Book 1)

Author: A. F. Stewart

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Publication Date: January 13th, 2018

Paperback Price: $12.99

Digital Price: Pre-order and Release Price $0.99. Will go up to $2.99 on February 14th

Book Page:https://afallonblog.wordpress.com/saga-of-the-outer-islands/

Pinterest Book Series Board:https://www.pinterest.ca/scribe77/saga-of-the-outer-islands/

Book Trailer:https://youtu.be/8cr7tSCeI0A

Ghosts of the Sea Moon Blurb

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.

Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.

What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Buy Links:

Books2Read link (all non-Amazon retailers): https://www.books2read.com/u/ml5GvM

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078MS397S

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37648721-ghosts-of-the-sea-moon

Author Links:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/afstewartauthor/

Facebook Fan Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/348788975590362/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/scribe77

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/afstewartauthor/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1175681.A_F_Stewart

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/a-f-stewart

Website: https://afallonblog.wordpress.com/

Newsletter Signup: http://eepurl.com/OGrTT

Author Bio:

A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

The Captain

Captain Rafe Morrow paced the quarterdeck of his ship, Celestial Jewel, the signs of an oncoming squall setting him on edge. Blustering wind rattled the sails and the crew’s nerves, their usual jaunty hubbub reduced to grumbling and snipes. Trouble travelled on that wind. Rafe could smell it woven in the air, and his blood prickled with a sense of worry. The ship trembled as if with warning. He glared at the sky and its darkening clouds painted amber and crimson from the setting sun. A storm sky coming ahead of a full moon meant dark magic and sea monsters would prowl the waves this night.

The Moon Goddess will hold sway tonight.

A trickle of blue energy raced across the back of his hand at the thought.

Damn her…and her beasts.

On the breath of a sigh, he whirled to face his crew. “Storm’s coming, boys. Doesn’t bode well, not with the moonrise tonight.”

“How long, Captain? Will we be in the thick of the weather or just what comes after?” A rough-edged sailor, Pinky Jasper, spoke up, but all ears of the deck crew listened for an answer.

“It’s coming within an hour or two, out from Raven Rock, by my reckoning. After nightfall by certain. We’re heading in, boys, but we’ll likely hit the edge of it.” He heaved a breath, exhaling. “It’ll be a bad one even for this crew so expect trouble.”

A shiver of tension settled over the deck. Some of the crew cast worried glances at the sea and each other. Others shivered, and a few more whispered prayers. Storms brought bad memories and nervous anticipation to the sailors of this ship.

“Which port then, Captain?” The mariner at the ship’s wheel chimed in. “Might make Abersythe if we head north.”

“We might, Anders. But we head east. We’ll race the edge of the tempest, but it’s closer and the ship will find better shelter anchored at Crickwell Island.”

“Aye, sir. Laying in course to Crickwell Island.” One-Eyed Anders turned the wheel and the ship’s bones groaned. Others of the crew adjusted the sails, and the Celestial Jewel leaned into her new bearing headed east.

Instafreebie preview (download the first four chapters): https://www.instafreebie.com/free/cu9nx

Firstly-

it’s alright, Christmas can commence – this year’s Christmas Lites anthology has gone live! Here is the rather splendid cover for your delectation:

Regulars will know that every year , with a mixed group of authors I contribute to this anthology in support of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or NCADV. I love having this opportunity to do something worthwhile with my writing, and hopefully to help people out there who are in dreadful need of support. It has become such an institution that it doesn’t really feel like Christmas till the Lites go up! There are stories of all genres, including some by children, and all the work that has gone into it has been donated free of charge so apart from the charges to cover the cost of production, all proceeds go directly into the NCADV’s bank account. If you’re looking for a varied sampler of some really interesting authors, please consider trying this anthology.

You can find all the various buy-links here: books2read.com/u/3L9Er5, and for anyone would be interested in leaving a review, send me the link to your review and I will happily give you free copies of whichever of my own books you are interested in.

Second point:

To celebrate her latest release, Lindsay Buroker has put together a list of free and cheap books. Sprig of Holly is on the list, and to take a look at the others, drop on over to her website at

http://lindsayburoker.com/free-fiction/free-fantasy-and-science-fiction-novels/

I’ve been a fan of Lindsay’s Emperor’s Edge series for a while now, and am slowly working my way through her prodigious backlist as I have the time, so will be adding this to my TBR.

Her Dragons’ Blood series is now free to download at Amazon or here too, and it’s wide so using the latter link you’ll be redirected wherever you prefer to buy. I just did, and am looking forward to a bit of crafty reading time in the next few days!

She has a new release planned for 26th, of which more later…

For now, though, I wish you a merry and relaxed Christmas.

All the best,

JAC.

My Reading Round-Up of 2017

Some lovely words from Viv, and some interesting books that might land on my TBR… have a look!

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

My Reading Round-Up of 2017

According to my notebook that I use instead of Goodreads (which I loathe, more of that later) I read 78 books in 2016. I’m coming in a bit behind that this year. At the time of writing, it’s 73 completed, but as I am close to the end of a number, there’s a real chance the total will go up a bit before midnight strikes and I turn into a pumpkin. Oh, sorry, wrong fairy tale.

Around 30 or so of those titles were non fiction, some of which were poetry, some of which were part of my journey into Jungian thought and some were to do with health and on natural history.

Of the fiction, I’m not going to talk about the books that I read and didn’t enjoy, or the ones I gave up on. It’s too common for disgruntled authors to take…

View original post 1,137 more words

Finding your tribe

Guest blog over on SFF Bonanza!

http://sffbookbonanza.com/2017/12/18/from-fairtytale-to-fantasy/

Also check out their giveaways – so much to choose from!

😉

JAC

December, you sly dog…

Good grief, how has it got to be December? One minute I’m working on a late summer release, the next we’ve got Christmas looming on the horizon!

So. This year’s been mad, again… good and bad, but another in the line of outrageously busy years careering down the track one after another. I started off reasonably well-organised, got over the usual winter burnout and then March hit us with the unexpected loss of our beloved old lurcher Jack, then a fortnight later the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, then a fortnight later than that the loss of one of the older inlaws, and all the emotional chaos that involved.

After Easter things calmed down a bit, though I was ceaselessly scouring the rescue websites for our next dog. Eventually we found him- he’s an absolute love now but at first he was very hard work, and quite draining to deal with. However, in the quest to work out how best to make a life that would work for him and us, we’ve made some really lovely friends, to the extent that even at half six on a dark and drizzly November night, a walk in the freezing cold isn’t a big imposition because he gets to see his little whippety mate and I get to catch up with my friend too.

So Summer was spent mostly walking the dog, and this was a time of skyhigh productivity; two self-edits and first editor’s edit on the first Wolf book, finishing and first edits on the second Wolf book, another set of edits and chronology fix to Flight, a rejig of the formatting of Song, a tidy up on Sprig and the release of its sequel The Holly & the Ivy, a lot of work on publicity and the mailing list – I was working like a demon! Not that you guys will know as there hasn’t been that much new stuff out, but it was a really productive season.

And then came winter, and with it the traditional burnout. It’s interesting really; it’s taken me this long into what I laughingly call a career to work out just how closely it seems to be related to daylight, but it does seem that as the days get longer I go into hyperdrive and do loads, and then as they grow shorter again the fuel fails. I switch from output to input at some point in November and then it’s low output and general maintenance till spring again. The only exception to this is the annual Christmas Lites anthology, which I have never missed taking part in, though a couple of times it’s been pretty close to the wire!

So once again, here I am, mentally coasting while my subconscious refills with twistiness from reading, talking, watching tv. Trying to catch up on sleep and wishing I could hibernate. Looking at the clock and wondering why 9pm seems late in winter and so much earlier in summer, despite the much-reviled 04:40 alarm call which is constant all year round, worse luck.

On the one hand it can be really frustrating. Some times you feel as if you’re wasting so much time on real life when if you just had a decent run up at writing you could maybe achieve something… But on the other, I have been at this for long enough now to have realised that there’s no point in getting frustrated. Like many things, it is a case of showing up every day, of continuing to put one foot in front of another, even if the steps are so tiny that it doesn’t seem that you are getting anywhere.

You keep showing up. You write it, or edit it, or think about it, or study the industry, or consider the cover art, or schedule the publicity stuff, or just set aside a specific amount of downtime to recharge before the next push; but you always go back to it, and you keep on going. There are no easy wins, and no quick successes and sometimes you wonder why you’re doing it when you’re not even getting anywhere; but the thing is, you are making progress, even when it’s so small that it doesn’t feel like it, and once in a while you get to look back and realise that big things have actually happened.

That happened to me this autumn when I was clearing files and programmes of my beloved old netbook, now too old to be compatible with the software I use. Going through the Uninstall list was like a trip down Memory Lane – the FTP client I installed to put pictures on the website, the MobiCreator software from Amazon with the Spider opensource programme for editing html so I could be sure my TOC.ncx (tabbable table of contents) worked, when the software didn’t put it on automatically… the days that took me, trying to get it right! Thank goodness we don’t have to do that any more! I had forgotten how much everything has changed.

For instance, in 2009 when I started to work on my first book, I had to teach myself hand-encoding and the file was functional but so ugly; now I use Vellum, and I can produce professional-level files (so long as I watch out for spellcheck – never the fantasy writer’s friend!) which are pretty to look at. I love that. In 2009, my typing was much slower and less accurate, so if I had an hour free, I couldn’t use it so well, and my nice little netbook took ten minutes to wake up and another five to log off, which ate into my lunch hour typing slot considerably. And I hadn’t discovered cloud storage, so if your computer died, that was pretty much it – your novel went roaring into the void with anything else on the hard drive.

In 2009, if you didn’t have Photoshop, you were likely to end up with a really horrendous cover. I was lucky enough to find talented friends, and this is still an element I outsource for most of my files: but some of the shorts that don’t need some overtly fantastical cover, I can put together something reasonably respectable myself, using the font I have chosen by way of branding, with a modicum of mucking about with pictures, and it might not be inspired, but I’m not ashamed to use it until such time as I can fund a professional cover. Which is all to say; the world is making more opportunities, and I am learning more with every new publication. In highly convenient manner, the world has even invented my genre, even if “noblebright” is a daft name!

So though I don’t spend a lot of time looking back, once in a while it is salutary to remind yourself that even the the way ahead doesn’t really look much shorter than it ever did, in actual fact you have come on further than you know. Baby steps they might be, but even baby steps will carry you along eventually, and although it isn’t exciting it is sustainable; that’s important.

They always say that this game isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Certainly walking the line between production and burnout can be a bit on the complex side, especially if real life declines to play along. I have found that the trick is to take it one day at a time. If one day the thing you want to do doesn’t work, try something else and something else. If nothing works, leave it be and come back tomorrow. There’s something a bit freeing about that, somehow, because you only ever have today to work with, and every day is a reset.

To go at it full bore is too involved for me: the highs and lows are draining, whereas when it all gets a bit workaday you’re set for the long run. But again, that’s quite freeing. For instance, I rarely check my sales any more, such as they are, because that is out of my hands and so not within my remit. I don’t need the reinforcement of sales numbers to prove my own worth as a writer to myself now (probably just as well!) not because my books are flying off the shelves, but because that is outside of what I wanted to achieve.

And what did I want to achieve? Well, I wanted to write books that people enjoyed reading, and the majority of feedback suggests that people do enjoy them. I wanted to make books that were as professional-looking as possible, and that will always be a work in progress, but tech is on my side there. I’d like to spend a lot more time writing, and eventually I will but I don’t think it will be any time soon; so I keep taking baby steps until I get there too. Every step is a teeny tiny bit nearer, and I’m pretty much okay with that. I believe that opportunities do come sometimes, but only when you’ve earned them. Slow and steady sounds so much more likely than the bolt of lightning/overnight bestseller approach.

So that’s my mission this year and next; work on the backlist, keep an eye out for opportunities and make sure that when the next one comes, I’m in a place to be able to benefit from it. That’s not a small task, either… but it feels achievable, real life permitting, even enjoyable though it will be hard work.

Well. This has turned out to be a rather more introspective blog than intended, but a busy month beckons, so though it’s a bit early for an actual real end of year summary, I guess that’s what must happened… So how has your year gone? Do you feel you have achieved what you wanted to, or has life got in the way? And back in 2009, when I was cursing because the quotation marks were curly and they needed to be straight ones (or vice versa, it’s been a while!) what were you up to, and did you know it would bring you to where you are now? Let’s hear what the rest of you have been up to then!

I’ll probably pop up again in another week or so to talk about this year’s Christmas Lites anthology, but in the meantime, I hope your December is kind and not too stressful, and that the run up to Christmas fills you with anticipation and pleasure rather than dread!

Take care, all:

JAC.