Category: eBooks & Publishing


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

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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.

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.

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!

humanitysdarkerside

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.