Category: eBooks & Publishing


Raincheck…

Hey peeps!

So. Phew! Release day over, The Holly & the Ivy launched, A Sprig of Holly at #1 on several different lists in different countries… it’s been fun! A proper run down will follow, but just now I’m doing the last bits of tidy-up and admin.

The giveaway books are being parcelled up and sent across the world in all directions. The bonus material is just going through its last polish before I send it out – and I am pretty pleased with it. It includes: a recipe for Holly’s favourite spiced milk, a behind-the-scenes audio file talking about where the idea for A Sprig of Holly came from and what’s queued up to be written next, and best of all, a short story telling about the run up to the story, told from another character’s point of view. 

I’ve enjoyed putting all that together, but in some ways it’s been a bit of a learning curve – not least as I haven’t done any audio stuff before, so not only did I have to check out what the best equipment and software was for a beginner on a budget, but also I had to work out how to use it and find out whether I could talk unscripted for the right amount of time….! Turns out my early brush with a radio show was not entirely wasted – the problem was actually making the ramble short enough to not crash everyone’s inboxes! 😂

The recipe, as well, was one that I made from scratch, and it took a little time to get the mix of spices just right. I can tell you, I’ll be using that one again though! Mmmmm! Though I say it as shouldn’t….

Of course, with this being exclusive to those who bought before 1st Sept, none of this will be surfacing anywhere else for a while, if ever. Maybe when the Holly series has finished and there’s a box set or something…. so essentially, if you want to read any of this and you bought The Holly and Ivy, get your receipt into me quick! The email address is in the back of the book  but it is jaclement [dot] ondarkshores [at ]gmail.com. Get in quick!

So, apart from that, there will of course be the ongoing round up of deals and giveaways that my stuff is featuring in on the newsletter, which you’re welcome to sign up to if you haven’t already, and once I’ve finished off a couple of outstanding blog posts related to the release, it’ll be time to put together the big overview of what I did, how it went and what next….

…and then onto the next bit of writing of course. But which??

In the meantime, a couple of big deadlines in the dayjob, and the dog has managed to prang himself on a tree at some speed, so is currently sporting one of my tshirts to stop him licking the resultant gouge (far better than a cone, esp given that this is the dog who routinely slides off his own sofa!)

But though life is as frantic as ever, at the moment it feels oddly focused and productive. I feel like someone who’s been trying to carve something with a penknife and someone’s just given me a hammer and chisel… The tools available to us as writers are the moment may well make a huge difference, and I think now is the time to use them – I just need to keep producing the odd short to keep me publishing while I’m working on the longer series. 

Moreover, it turns out I have a genre developing, albeit one with a slightly high-falutin name. You know grimdark, where terrible things happen to everyone and are described in detail and it probably is all going to end with the bad guys winning (my definition!)? Well, it turns out, someone has invented “noblebright”, which sounds a bit po-faced, but as far as I can see, the diff is that whereas bad things can happen, noblebright fiction is characterised by a thread of hopefulness running through it. It’s not as simplistic as good always winning, but sad things can sometimes be the correct outcome too, provided they provide the best outcome. 

There are undoubtedly better definitions than this and unlike Joe Abercrombie who is known as Lord Grimdark, I have no illusions of being dubbed ‘Lady Noblebright’ any time soon (you’d definitely need a robe with stars on in that case, don’t you think?😂) but it’s nice to finally have something to tell people who want to know what I write. Esp as I have written what I wanted to write, and the genre has appeared just in time to fit my stuff! Most obliging!

Anyhow. Also turns out there’s a bit of a market for fairytale retellings and fairytale-like stories, which is the other thing I’ve been playing with with such shorts as The Last Dragon and The Scarred Artisan That’s good as I already had several ideas for more, so these might well be the shorts I work on in between chunks of series stuff.

      

So, it’s been a busy old month but a sharp learning curve, and has left me somewhat cheered. Can’t complain, eh? Anyhow, back to the edits on the bonus material – if you are expecting yours, look for it around the tail end of this week, if not before.

The rest of you, take care. It’s a bit of a grimdark world at the moment, and we fantasy fans need to look out for each other. I sometimes think that when we can’t influence real life, all we as writers can do is to provide an escape for people, and hope that when they set our books down, they have had a little emotional respite from it all, recovered enough of their equilibrium to get through the day, and the next and the next. If that is all we can do for our readers, that’s a pretty powerful gift, not that we will ever know it.

So. Be kind to yourself and others, and stay safe. Whether from fire or flood, or the far off rumble of national hostility, I hope you can all find a safe haven, whether in the real world or fictional ones. 

Take care;

JAC.

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It is possible that I have just noticed the reblog button….! so here is the last review of “The Locket”, in case I didn’t share it at the time!

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Originally The Locket was one of the short stories in the Christmas Lites II anthology edited by Amy Eye.

The Locket takes us back to a time before On Dark Shores begins. A Scarlock before war, poverty and desperate choices visits the life of Nereia. It is also a tale about Yule and family.

“Is it true that I don’t have to go to bed till midnight, Mama?” Nereia cut into her memories, coming away from the window to sit next to her mother. “Papa said that if you said yes, I could stay up and see the actual Yule ceremony this year. May I, Mama? I’d really like to, may I?”

The Locket is a sweet story that had me thinking about all the things I am grateful for and how they have both changed and stayed the same through my life. It also had me re-visiting my thinking…

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Ooh, look! A nice review of “The Locket” from CNC Books Blog. NB it’s at the end so you’ll need to click through to the blog.

Thanks to Lelia for taking the time to review it- much appreciated!
JAC

Buried Under Books

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Colin Goodwin
2QT Limited, July 2015
ISBN 978-1-910077-60-3
Trade Paperback

This book had me chuckling quite a bit with its premise—blackmailing an English village’s cricket club to either win  a trophy or lose its playing ground. Along with this audacious crime, we have village ladies who truly appreciate the hired ringer’s skills and a shady real estate development plan. It’s all great fun even with sabotage and perhaps a little murder.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Cat in an Alphabet Endgame
The Midnight Louie Mysteries #28
Carole Nelson Douglas
Wishlist Publishing, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-943175-05-5
Trade Paperback

I confess, I put off reading this as long as I possibly could, so long I’m really embarrassed but…

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Guest post at Barb G Tarn’s blog is here: Barb was one of my early friends on Goodreads, I think from the original Creative Reviews gang.

Release day frivolities will include; 

Giveaway of a rather lovely copy of Jackie Morris’s children’s book The Golden Hare.

Giveaway of paperbacks to the first few people to leave a review for both A Sprig of Holly and The Holly & the Ivy

Details of some outrageously good deals on other books that I have enjoyed

And a solar eclipse we put on, special….

….okay, maybe that wasn’t us, but it’s still going to be cool, okay?

More tomorrow-watch this space!

JAC

I am standing on the seashore….

Hi all:

Bit of a surreal day today. Went to a funeral which was held in a natural burial place; not a graveyard, but a very beautiful stretch of woodland sloping down to the sea. There are no grave markers, though you can see the mounds for a few years till the soil settles a bit, and as we walked down the path to where the grave was, at first it’s a bit disconcerting, seeing all the mounds under the trees, some more recent and others barely discernible. Most were covered in woodland flowers and undergrowth – not as if they were unkempt, but as if they were being reclaimed by nature.

The coffin was made of wickerwork, and the bouquets were simple cut flowers, no oasis or cellophane. The grave was under the canopy of a most beautiful beech tree, with other trees closely around. I looked up during the service, and was fascinated by the moving mosaic of leaves, layer upon layer of them. The sun glowed through the higher leaves, and now and then there was a blink of blue sky as the branches shifted and whispered in the breeze. It was really lovely, actually, and looking around at the other grave sites, I really liked that slowly, the mounds settle back into the ground and become part of the woodland. They’re tall and proud at the beginning, when you need the marker, but gradually as the sadness of grief fades and the happiness surfaces, the mound also fades and the woodland stops being background to grief, and comes back into focus as a place of peace to sit and be thankful for the good memories.

That really appeals to me. For me, a quiet, sunny space filled with leaf-whisper and the dappling of sun through the leaves is perfect for dealing with grief; not lonely silence, but filled with enough sound and movement to keep your brain occupied while your heart quietly breaks, and quietly mends itself, though it takes a long time.

One of the moments during the service that made me wobble a bit was the readings as they used one – sometimes called “What is dying?” – that we had at my Dad’s funeral. He died last year, just before our wedding. That reading was one I first heard at the funeral of the father of a good friend. It talks of dying as standing on the seashore watching a ship carrying cargo which disappears over the horizon. It’s lovely: have a quick look at the link above (the rest of this blog will make a lot more sense if you do!)

I loved it. I sent it home to my parents as my mum plays the organ at a lot of funerals and my Dad’s choir used to sing at them, so it’s always useful to know these things in case the family are having trouble finding something relevant. My Dad had always loved sailing and the sea, so he really liked the reading too. It always makes me think of him, and certainly it did today. I miss him, the old bugger. I found myself standing at the funeral for one person and crying for another, which was also weird. 
My Dad found school very difficult as a child, and that included reading. He said once that he read maybe five books from the time he was a teen to that point (his early seventies, maybe?) But at that point we went on a mission to get him reading. I had persuaded my Mum to read Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. She didn’t like fantasy until she read Hobb and discovered it wasn’t like she had thought, and she was sure that my Dad would enjoy it too, but he was an awkward one and not necessarily inclined to oblige. So we left it on the table, slightly in the way. When he came in, he looked at it and read the blurb and said “What’s this?”

“Oh, sorry, is that in your way?” I  moved it onto the side. “It’s the book I just finished reading.”

“Is it good?” 

I shrugged. “I think it’s epically good,” I told him, and went off  burbling about it being really exciting and gripping and all the stuff I thought might appeal. “But you wouldn’t like it.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I know you’re not right bothered. Anyhow I lent it to Mum and she loved it so I’m going to see if (my sister) wants to read it.”

I left it at that and wandered off, and sure enough when I went back into the kitchen a couple of hours later it had mysteriously gone. He loved the book, of course, and was up till all hours reading it several nights in a row. Less than a week later I caught him sneaking into the other room to see if he could find the second one in the bookshelf… and he did read the whole trilogy. 

After that, there was a rather lovely thing where he would come and ask my Mum rather hesitantly what she thought he might like next. Mum, having been a school teacher, is pretty good at judging that sort of thing, and he went from kids books like Stig of the Dump, which he loved, to James Herriot and Nevill Shute, and by the time of his death he was part way through Oliver Twist. To me, that is just the most amazing thing, to suddenly discover the joy of words so late in life, and I’m so proud that he stuck with it all the way up to Dickens (I know the classics can be a bit Marmite, but I love Dickens’ use of words, so it’s amazing to be able to share that enjoyment with someone discovering it for the first time). I am so proud and pleased that he did start, and kept going nearly to the end of his life, when his Parkinson’s intervened. He gained so much pleasure from it until then; I love that that was a gift we were able to give him. It feels like a real privilege.

I don’t think he ever read any of my books apart from one short story, The Black-Eyed Susan, which had a sailing ship in it. He  really liked it and wanted to read Song of the Ice Lord after, as it also involves ships and war, which were two things he was quite interested in, but sadly his illness intervened and he never got that far. Whether he would have enjoyed it or not I can’t tell you, but I think he would have liked the shipspirits.

What are the shipspirits? In Song, the warrior/sailor tribes that make up the Skral people have a complex relationship with their ships, to which they attribute a sort of benificent awareness, and when each ship becomes too old to repair, the tribe haul them to a very secret and sacred place, the ships’ graveyard, where they are laid to rest in honour. Maran and Lodden, a bard and a engineer of sorts, travel across the island where Maran’s people live. Lodden, who comes from a far country, is awed to see the row upon row of ships along the hillside, the older ones crumbling into flat, shapeless mounds while the newer ones stand high and stark.

…Sound familiar? 

As I looked around the burial ground today, with the grave-mounds unmarked and settling into the earth, it felt as if someone had taken the pictures in my head and made it real, just on a smaller scale (and with less snow!). That’s why it was doubly eerie when they started reading the poem; Song is dedicated to my friend’s father, at whose funeral I first heard the poem that gave me the idea of the shipspirits- but that poem, the poem at my Dad’s funeral, was the very same one they read today.

Today, the combination of the burial site and the reading made me shiver, though not in a bad way.  Song of the Ice Lord is about grief and loss, but it is also about coming to terms with losing the people you love, and understanding that while we remember them with love, they never really leave us. 
I will leave you with the last part of the poem in the version we heard today, as the soul-ship disappears over the horizon and is lost to sight:

And just at the moment when someone at my side says

“She is gone!”

there are other eyes watching her coming,

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout

“She is here at last!” 
Take care, all.

JAC.

– – –

NB Song of the Ice Lord is quite randomly on a 99c deal at the moment, if you’re interested. Oddly enough, we organised it weeks ago before there was any question of a funeral at all. Synchronicity is a weird, weird, thing.

Hallo all;

this week we have a treat for you: a guest post by the lovely Vivienne Tuffnell, whose latest book Little Gidding Girl has just released – and last time I looked, all the reviews were 5*….

Having read it myself this very afternoon, I loved it – it’s a very well-written, intriguing story with finely-crafted characters you can really identify with (or really dislike, depending on which one we’re talking about!!). Modern lit is not really my thing but Little Gidding Girl is excellent, and well worth a read.

I asked Vivienne to tell us a bit about her novel for the blog, and here is what she had to say about it.

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Coming of age or mid-life crisis? Little Gidding Girl is both and neither.

In trying to place my new novel Little Gidding Girl into those nice neat categories and genres that Amazon offers, I realised that it won’t fit into a convenient box. It has that in common with every other book of mine, too, of course, but I’d had some hopes that with the Holy Grail of having GIRL in the title, it might be a little easier to place. No such luck, eh?

The word GIRL is itself problematic. Many years ago, when I worked for the Nature Conservancy Council (now Wild Britain), I had a colleague who was a very inspiring woman, about fifteen years older than me. She’d served her time at the Greenham Peace Camp and had campaigned on a variety of things to do with conservation, social justice and nuclear disarmament. Indeed, I suspect that I may have been thinking of her when I wrote Cathy (Red Cat), Chloe’s sister, from Square Peg. I remember her frustration and increasing fury when our boss referred to us as GIRLS or worse, LADIES. “We’re women,” she’d declare, and would correct him every single time until he got the message. At 22, I was barely out of girlhood, really, but I was already married, and then pregnant in the second half of my contract, so I agreed and made a mental note that the word GIRL was problematic in so many ways.

But at what point does a GIRL truly become a woman? It’s a tricky question. It’s not got an easy simple answer. In theory, the moment a female enters her majority (in the UK, that’s anywhere between 18 and 21; one can vote at 18 but many other activities are limited to 21 and over), she becomes a woman. In some cultures, it’s at menarche or at first pregnancy, and in some, never in any meaningful legal way.

Verity, the main character of Little Gidding Girl, is 35 when the book starts. She’s married, and mother to a child verging on her teen years, but there’s something extremely youthful about her. Her hair retains the white-blonde colour of youth, and she’s pale to the point of transparency. Her plumpness is more like puppy-fat than middle-age spread and she’s in the process of losing it. She struggles with keeping her daughter in order, and is a bit of a pushover. Her job is one that any recent school-leaver might do, or indeed one that would appeal to a student, and she’s pushed around and bullied by her boss, a woman she was at school with who has become a shrewd and cut-throat business owner. She remains, in essence, a girl, unformed and a strange shadow of what she might have been. She’s frozen in a moment in time that has long gone, yet she herself has not managed to move on with it and become a woman in any of the truly meaningful ways that have nothing to do with voting age or getting into night clubs.

The mid thirties are when the first signs of mid-life can manifest, often as restlessness and dissatisfaction with how life has turned out. The average age for the classic mid-life crisis (in men, characterised by the cliché of buying a sports car or getting a new, younger, trophy-type wife or girlfriend) is 42, coincidentally also the number chosen as the meaning of life (if you’re a fan of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). At thirty-five, Verity is a little young for such a crisis but her world has changed, tilted on its axis by the death of her grandfather. Since he was the constant, rock-like figure in her life, his loss is surely a factor in triggering the change in Verity; she and her little family move into his house, left to her, and that too catapults her unconsciously into reviewing her life so far.

The novel is the story of how a girl might become a woman, when the passage of years has done nothing to bring about this change, because the flow of life that should have heralded that coming-of-age, has been dammed up and time, in a strange sense, has stopped. In the opening lines of Burnt Norton from Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot talks speculatively about the nature of time, postulating that if all time is eternally present, time is itself unredeemable. In effect, Verity’s exploration of her life and how it stalled, is a process of disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose leaves. Yet the echoes created by her searching unconsciously become more and more real and more and more disturbing as the cracks in time start to reveal a life she never lived.

At seventeen, Verity lost the future she’d craved when Nick, her enigmatic and troubled poet boyfriend, drowned at sea. At thirty-five, in a safe, humdrum and uninspired life, she finds that snatches of the life she didn’t have begin to force their way into her real life. This other life, more vivid and demanding than her actual life, begins to gather a terrible momentum as she starts to understand that her un-lived life was not the poetic dream she had imagined it might be. Doubting her own sanity as her other life comes crashing down around her in a series of disasters, Verity is forced to re-examine her past, realign her present and somehow reclaim a future where both her own early creative promise and her family can exist and flourish together. Exploring the nature of time itself, the possibilities of parallel universes and the poetic expressions of both, Verity searches to understand why and how Nick really died and what her own lives, lived and un-lived, might truly mean.

Little Gidding Girl

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Many thanks to Viv for coming out to play on the blog today. Little Gidding Girl is available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon, and having read and thoroughly enjoyed it myself, I can heartily recommend that you go buy it now!

Other than that, all progresses this side as ever, which is to say: slowly. Holly & Ivy is due to go out for betaing any minute, with hopefully a view to publishing in the next month or so. Flight is on hold till that is done and Wolf stuff cued up after that.

New Dog is being just as obstructive as he can, though he has a splendid habit of bringing me his favourite watering can at any moment when it is highly inconvenient. I have stopped putting water in it now…! With which image I shall love you and leave you.

Now go and buy Little Gidding Girl, quick – you’ll want the weekend to binge on it!

J.

 

Hi all:

Today we have a bit of a treat for you – a guest post and giveaway from Vered Ehsani, original member of the Creative Reviews group and co-participator in the Christmas Lites charity anthologies. Vered writes fascinating, unusual paranormal novels set around African mythology and for a short time only, you can download some for free! Details below….

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What happens when Lara Croft meets Jane Austen in colonial Africa? You get the USA Today bestselling “Society for Paranormals”, a delightful cozy mystery series in which a paranormal investigator refuses to let danger, death and unwanted suitors inconvenience her in the small town of Nairobi. Vered explains why she wrote the series:

Having lived in Kenya since mid-2000, I wanted to write about my home. I noticed a distinct lack of books about African mythology and paranormal creatures (apart from Egyptian ones), so I decided to do something about that. Miss Knight, the main character of the “Society for Paranormals” series, seemed the best person to accompany me on that journey. After all, we share a few likes (tea, archery and exploring) and dislikes (wet dogs, giant bugs and naughty monkeys).

When I began researching for the series, I was impressed at the paranormal diversity in Eastern, Southern and Western Africa. Here are a few of my favorites.

Called a ghost, demon or ogre, the Popobawa attacks people at night while they sleep, instilling terror in whole villages along the East African coastline and islands. The name is derived from the Swahili words for “bat” and “wing”, as its wings have a bat-like appearance. The Popobawa shape-shifts into human form during the day. At night, when it attacks, it changes into a man-sized bat with gigantic wings, talons, pointy ears and one eye in the center of its forehead.

The Tokolosh is a brown, hairy three-foot high dwarf. It speaks with a lisp and is usually naked. There are several stories regarding the origin of the Tokolosh, but they all result in a rather disagreeable beast. Some claim it is a dwarf zombie which can be created by following this simple recipe: 1) remove the eyes and tongue from a full-sized corpse; 2) stick a heated iron rod into the skull in order to shrink the corpse; 3) blow a secret powder into its mouth, giving it life and obedience to its creator.

I’d always thought fireflies were romantic, until I heard of the Adze. A vampire in the legends of the Ewe people of West Africa, it moves about as a firefly. In its human form, the Adze will attack and eat your organs. When in its insect form, the Adze will suck your blood while you sleep, and in doing so spread diseases. Its preferred victims are unfortunately young children. And for those victims who survive, they suffer again by becoming a witch possessed by the Adze’s spirit. Unlike European vampires, the Adze has no fear of the sun.

The first book in the series, Ghosts of Tsavo, is free, as is the prequel and a beginner’s guide to African supernatural beings; pick up your copies from http://veredehsani.co.za/free-books/.


As if that’s not awesome enough, you can pick up 8 books for $2.99! On 29 January, Stones of Nairobi (the seventh book in the series) will be released. Everyone who buys a copy in the first 48 hours of its launch will also get free access to seven more books. For all the details on this time-sensitive deal, go to http://veredehsani.co.za/books/stones-of-nairobi/

Enjoy this excerpt from Stones of Nairobi:

A cool dampness enveloped us as we descended into the tomb but it wasn’t a pleasant relief from the humid heat above. Moist slime soiled the walls. The air clung to my skin with hints of moldering bones and unpleasant secrets. In a few steps, we were entirely swallowed by earth and shadows. The opening above our heads provided us only the dimmest illumination. Still, as the tomb we entered was not so big, it was sufficient for the purpose.

A sarcophagus filled most of the space. Carved out of a single chunk of coral, it had similar engravings on the side as the stone above it. The outline of an unusually tall man protruded out of the lid, the carved features of the face sombre and stern.

“Do we need to launch into poetry again to open this lid?” I inquired. “Or will a song and dance suffice?”

Smirking, Koki replied almost affectionately, “Insolent human.”

Approaching the sarcophagus, she gestured to me to join her. Wordlessly, we both pushed on the lid. Despite its size, it wasn’t as heavy as it appeared. I could only thank the porosity of coral for that one consolation. In preparation for the fumes that would certainly exit around us, I ceased breathing through my nose and, as the lid crashed onto the other side, I held my breath entirely.

Peering down, we came to the same realization at the same instant: Liongo’s body was gone.

“Well, how inconsiderate,” I said as I turned to Koki. “It’s one thing to drag me half way across the country to this desolate, dreary and uncomfortable isle. It’s quite another to do so for no purpose at all.”

Bewilderment was a rare, if impossible, mood for Koki and yet, in that moment, it clouded her countenance thoroughly. “I don’t understand. The body is supposed to be here.”

A glimmer caught my attention. I leaned over the edge of the sarcophagus, its cool stone pressing into my waist, and studied the phenomena through my glasses.

“There’s more writing here,” I said and read the inscription. “Cool water.” Straightening up and removing my glasses, I scoffed, “There’s nothing cool around here.”

“It’s the Maasai name for Nairobi,” Koki said, her smug smile reasserting itself. “Enkare Nairobi. Cool water. His body must have been moved there, to protect him from his enemies.”

Before we could continue discussing the whereabouts of a corpse, a deep, throaty, snarling growl vibrated around me, its volume equivalent to an entire pride of lions growling together. The earth vibrated just as we heard an explosive crashing above our heads. Bits of coral and dust loosened and fell upon our upturned faces. Something large covered the opening to the tomb.

In the resulting darkness, I heard Koki sigh.

“What is that?” I demanded, hefting my walking stick in preparation.

Koki replied in a bored tone, “That, dear Miss Knight, is why the island is deserted.”

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Many thanks for that, Vered, and best of luck for the launch tomorrow! 

Go and find your free copies, peeps! Certainly I am about to do so. Next week we’ll be back to the usual ramblings from me; in the meantime have a lovely weekend, and here’s that link to Vered’s website again, so you don’t need to scroll back up for it:http://veredehsani.co.za/books/stones-of-nairobi/ (See how I spoil you…!)

Happy reading, and if you have questions or comments for Vered, please comment below. 

JAC.

Hello everyone,

I trust you’re all getting into the festive spirit and happily ploughing your way through ladles of eggnog and oodles of books.  Just wanted to introduce myself as the newest member of the Weasel Green Press team.  I’ll be helping JA with sundry admin-y type things, a little bit of proofreading and sprucing up our online presence during the early part of 2017 so that she can concentrate on what she does best, doting on hubby and lurcher writing stories that entertain, whisk us off to imaginary lands and generally keep us on the edges of our seats.

This Christmas season we’ve been working on her short story, The Locket, which is available for pre-order with an arrival date of Christmas Eve. So far we have not done a cover reveal so here it is:

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I hope a few of you at least find it in your virtual stockings come Christmas morning.  In the new year it will be all systems go with Sprig of Holly sequel, The Holly & the Ivy which we hope to release early in January so do look out for those.

A little bit about me – my reading habits tend towards the classics, modern American literature, anything that rips the old heart out and the giants of fantasy and sci-fi such as Tolkien and Asimov.  I’m also oddly well read in WWII novels on account of stealing most of my reading matter from my big brother who is a bit of a WWII boffin.  But enough about me.

I hope you all receive the books you’re pining for this Christmas and get enough down time to breathe a sigh of relief at the close of this rather singular year whilst indulging in a new work or returning to an old favourite.

Have a good one folks and I wish you all an enlightening and peaceful new year.

Mary

(the funniest and indeed funnest member of the WGP team)

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As regular readers will know, my Dad passed away at Easter. This is Dad trying his new choir uniform on. He was pleased as punch with it.


 He left a little bit of money to us all, and I spent a long time thinking what to do with it. I didn’t want to just pay some bills off with it. I wanted something a bit more permanent than that to remember him by.  Bless him, he always thought he’d leave us all comfortably off but by the time he died there was not a hell of a lot left, which meant it was a bit of a job to think how to use it in a way that would leave something lasting, something that he would like. We did think of putting it towards a decent bench for the garden, but that just seemed a bit selfish somehow. I wanted to use it for something where lots of people would get the benefit, not just us.

My Dad always did a lot of writing, and at the time of his death, we had just got his first novel back from the editors. I was planning to put it into a paperback for his birthday to surprise him, but sadly his health went downhill before he could finish the edits. He was very supportive of the anthologies when I told him about them, and I think he would have loved the idea of helping to make it happen so given that he was always one for charity, it just seemed right that we should put it towards getting a really nice cover done for this year’s Christmas Lites anthology. 

Christmas Lites, for those of you who are new to this blog, is an anthology we put together every year to raise funds for the National Coalition for Domestic Violence, the NCADV.  This is an umbrella organisation that arranged funding and training for the various other charities in the States that cover domestic violence. It’s an American charity because most of the original group who put together the first anthology were Americans and though I live in the UK, I figure a punch hurts just as much wherever in the world you are.

All the authors donate stories entirely without reward, and the rather wonderful Amy Huntley leads a band of volunteers who edit, format and arrange the book. There is a mixture of stories by a wide variety of authors of all genres and ages – this year we have SIX young authors, no less, which is very cool, not least as one is my nephew, who is going into print for the first time. It supports a great cause, and will continue to do so pretty much forever, as ebooks don’t go out of print. I think my Dad would be as proud to be associated with it as I am.In previous years we have had various cover artists, but we all loved last year’s cover by the immensely talented Wesley Souza, and so we went back to them this year for another. 

 Certainly Wes has done him proud with the cover he has made for us. Here is it is – isn’t it fabulous? I particularly like the little sparkly bottles… 


Amy, when I suggested this, was also really supportive in true Amy style (she’s so lovely) and very kindly offered to let us dedicate the book to him, so my older sister Gubby wrote a most beautiful dedication for us.

I always look forward to December, as I really love what we do with these anthologies, and I’m proud that I have had a story in all six editions of Christmas Lites – but as you will understand, this year it really is personal. So here is the Amazon link, which should redirect you to the relevant site for your country.

If you don’t wish to buy it, you can still help support us by spreading the word via social media, and I have two free e-copies to give away for review – but only two, as the whole point is to raise funds. Anything you can do to help will be much appreciated, and for what it’s worth, anyone reviewing this can have a free copy of any and all of my ebooks as requested – just send me the link to the review and tell me what you’d like and in which format.

I’d really like to make this one a success, guys. If you can help, please consider doing so.

Take care, all of you, and have a wonderful Christmas.

All the best;

JAC.

Hi all: 

Once again the weekend beckons, and this week is the last of #NaNoWriMo.This year, I am chuffed to say, I have written my 50k words already, rah! Trying to keep the momentum up till the end of the month but I am getting pretty tired. 

 Fox in the Snare is now at about 50k words and it’s about to all get busy in the Valley again, though I am sad as one of my characters who was supposed to have a happy ending has messed up and now is having a premature one instead. Sadly, it makes a lot more sense to the general narrative arc this way, but there is a certain amount of snivelling into the keyboard happening in his scenes. Damned awkward characters! I liked this one too. But sometimes there is an inexorable pull in a certain direction and if you resist it, it shows, and jolts the reader out of the moment. Besides, usually when there is that tidal movement going on, it’s a kind of balanced evolution towards a goal which will ultimately work better than anything I had in mind. Which is all quite irritating (don’t look at me, I just hold the pen!) (all right, tap the keyboard!). 

So come the end of November I will drop tools on Fox and get on with the Christmas shorts which are in the works. The first is The Locket, which is a short story from the world of On Dark Shores, but set some twenty years before that story, when Nereia was a child living in luxury with her parents. The second is The Holly & the Ivy, which is a standalone sequel to A Sprig of Holly. Hoping to have Wesley Souza do another of his beautiful covers for that one! 

And in the meantime, Christmas Lites 6 is due out any minute, and there will be a cover reveal for that due with the breakdown of how the picture was made again (because I love that bit of the process best). Wesley has done another fabulous job on there, so I can’t wait to show it to you!

So, busy busy, eh?

In the meantime Flight from Shantar is currently pinned under the scalpel of editor #1, fellow novelist and talented playwright Julia Lee Dean. I asked her to tell us a little bit about what she’s up to at the minute (though not too much about all the bacon sarnies she’s had to cut out of the book… again…!)

=*=*=*= 


Julia Lee Dean

writer – editor – teacher

A quick glance at the kitchen clock tells me it is nearly 12:40pm, German time. I am at home, in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn and, so far it’s been a good day. I was awake at 6am this morning which was useful because it means I did my 15 pages of editing for J.A Clement before I launched into my main task of the day; 20 university exam papers to mark. You see, I am not only a novelist and editor, since my move to Germany in 2014 I have been working as an English teacher in and around Bonn. The trick with exam marking is rather similar to that of proof-editing; don’t try and do it all at once. A little bit at a time guarantees a closer attention to detail and avoids tunnel-vision. I must admit, exam marking isn’t my favourite thing but it does allow me to work from home which means I can sit, as I am now, with curlers in my hair and look forward to a meal that I have not been carrying in my bag since before dawn.

However, while the exams I mark are only mildly annotated, the novel I am editing is bristling with comments; observations about descriptions and characters designed to give the author something to think about with a view to development or amendment rather than direct instructions (I can only suggest, I cannot be not the authority on someone else’s novel). Occasionally I edit the text itself; typos of course and grammar when I think another tense works better. Since setting up shop as an English-language teacher, I seem to have become rather more sensitive to grammar. Again, it’s all using the “this is my opinion, feel free to ignore” approach that J. A. Clement and I agreed when we were at university, editing each other’s poems. Online editing (tracked changes) makes that so much easier! As I write that, I am rather aware that when I had my novel edited, I chose hardcopy and really loved it. I prefer to work from hardcopy but I must admit that online is much more environmentally friendly.

I have just taken up my current novel after rather a long break. Well, not a break exactly, more a prolonged period of not-getting-very-much done. Over the last two years, I have worked very hard to establish myself as an English teacher and make enough money to be able to pay rent without sacrificing my social life. So far so good. However, my own novel writing has suffered quite a bit. It’s just taken off again over the last few weeks – I do find NaNoWriMo a helpful motivator – but it’s still caught in between the need for gainful employment and the rather demanding (three times a week with homework each time!) German course I finally managed to squeeze into my schedule in August this year. Still, I must admit I do consider myself pretty lucky. Nowadays I enter an office only to teach English and, considering how much I used to hate being in an office, this is an incredible boon.

I am, however, very excited about my new novel. It is the sequel to my first novel, And I Shall Be Healed. That book followed the experiences of a young Army Chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War. The sequel, Lost & Won picks up the story five years later and takes Leo and his wife through the 1920s and 1930s, an era of incredible – and sometimes harrowing – change. Up until a few weeks ago, my writing was sporadic to say the least. However, joining NaNoWriMo gave me the impetus to finally type up the novel so far (I write longhand in the first instance) and, since then, the new material has been flowing fairly steadily from my pen. I must admit I do find the research task ahead a little daunting but right now I’m just enjoying feeling my way around my characters. Some already familiar but growing older and adapting to experience, and others quite new. I do not consider myself to suffer from writers’ block. When the words won’t come I go and do something else, grateful for what I know will be a temporary release. So far this year I have taken three exams in music theory, set up The Bonn Writers’ Club to give myself and others pure, unadulterated time to write (we meet in a café once – two times a month and just work on whatever we’re working on) and I even managed to acquire a certificate in Foundation Journalism from the NCTJ so, hopefully, I will be able to ease off some of the teaching in favour of more editing and writing work.

If the writing goes on at the current rate, I shall have a good bit done by Christmas. For those who are looking for an editor, I am taking bookings from January 2017. An average novel (c 86k words) should take a month at most. Articles and academic stuff is usually a lot quicker. If you’re interested and want more information, have a look at my website. On the “Novelist” you’ll be able to have a look at the reviews my novel attracted and, if there’s anything else you want to know, just contact me through the site or at julialeedean@gmail.com

For now, keep writing. If the writing’s not happening, read something!

Julia 

=*=*=*= 
Thanks for that, Julia.

Having read her first book I Shall Be Healed, I gave copies to my Mum, Dad and mother-in-law, all of whom loved it (and in my Dad’s case you have to bear in mind that he didn’t read much). It is a quietly melancholic book, very understated and consequently very effective – if you like the slow development of characters, I can heartily recommend it.

She has edited all of my stories (I think all?) and I can tell you she’s pretty easy to work with. If you’re after a thoughtful and perceptive editor who suggests rather than demands, look no further! Moreover, she has a great grasp of characters and plot holes – certainly she’s saved me from a couple of howlers (and we’re even still on speaking terms…) Heheheheh.

So that’s it for me this week, peeps. Hoping to bring you a cover reveal next week, so watch this space. If you’re still working on Wrimo, keep at it! You’re on the home stretch now. If you need harassment of an encouraging nature, add me and I will cheer you on from the sidelines… 

In the meantime, don’t forget there’s still time to get your freebie copies of The Last Dragon and The Scarred Artisan from Instafreebie – and watch this space as there may be an amusing Christmas short going up there too, under the name of Trial by Christmas Pudding, no less. A comic historical cowboy romance? Don’t mind if I do….

Have a good weekend, all, and catch you on the upside.

Take care:

JAC