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My Reading Round-Up of 2017

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

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

My Reading Round-Up of 2017

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

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

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

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Finding your tribe

Guest blog over on SFF Bonanza!

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

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

😉

JAC

December, you sly dog…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care, all:

JAC.


Hey all! 

So – seven days to the release of The Holly & the Ivy, and the countdown continues! 

We’re now into the closing stages of the prep and I’m ramping it up, so you won’t see quite so much of me here for the moment. Why not? Well,  I’m writing guest blogs, digging around for some great deals to send out to my mailing list and putting together bonus material for those who buy in the first week. Talking of which, if you have any great ideas, let me know – I have some fun stuff planned but there’s always room for a little more!

So: for those of you not on the mailing list:

if you have read my short fairytale type story A Sprig of Holly, you may be interested to know that the sequel, The Holly & the Ivy is now available for preorder. For those who buy pre-release or in the first few days, if you mail me your receipts you will receive in return a batch of exclusive bonus material. More details will follow as I’m currently still compiling it, but you won’t get it anywhere else!

Second, if you do sign up to the mailing list you should be able to get a free copy of The Locket as part of the signup process. If the link did not work for you, please let me know. (We had a shortlived technical glitch but this should now be fixed.)

In the meantime, though I don’t often send mails out, we have a run of them coming up to release day as I have tracked down some pretty good deals for you all, so if your TBR is looking a little patchy…. okay, okay, stop with the hollow laughter, I know you are as addicted to books as I am but I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, okay? 

Let me rephrase: if, like me, the only reason you have not been buried alive by your TBR list is because it lives in cyberspace and therefore has currently refrained from taking physical form,watch the mailing list for a series of bundles and offers to add to your ebook empire. 

Better?

Lastly, can I just have a little smug moment? Old faithfuls will know that a year or two back I released a novel called Song of the Ice Lord,  about which I’m a little bit tentative. I think it’s good, of course, or I wouldn’t have published it. My editors thought it was good, or ditto. But I’m really aware that for a straight woman to attempt to write a bisexual man is a bit of a risk, so I’ve kind of left it to sink or swim by itself for the moment. 

That being the case, the fact that one of Amazon’s top 1000 reviewers in the UK has reviewed and loved it was a real lift, and when I asked her afterwards, she said that the relationship between the men was part of what made it for her, which is just the most exciting thing to hear. One of the biggest kicks of being an author is that moment when someone reads your stuff and ‘gets’ it – not in a “ah, clever me” sense but because these character are like friends. It’s very much like when you have two sets of really cool friends and you introduce them to each other and they all really get on, so you end up having the most hilarious time because it all snowballs. Hurrah!

Anyhow, the review is here for anyone who is interested. Just need to find about a hundred more now, obv…! Anyone about to run out of stuff to read- oh wait, we just had this conversation, didn’t we? heheheh. But, y’know, review copies always available should you like the look of it. 

Upon which note I should really stop chattering.  After all, only ten days to go! And in the meantime, I have  bonus material to write, deals to unearth and newsletters to put together.  Have a good week, folks, and watch this space (or the newsletter) for more gossip anon.

Right. *deep breath* Onwards!

….and into day 6….

JAC.

Tiny steps….

This weekend we have made a little but significant bit of progress on Wolf series book 1. See?


Okay, so it’s one step at a time and there’s a long way to go, but this is always a nice moment in the process of any new book; the bit where I print and bind it for the first time.

This means I’ve finished the initial draft, done a couple of passes for typos and obvious mistakes. I’ve probably left in a couple of notes to self (not usually as bad as the one in Song of the Ice Lord which just said “insert battle here”!!) but usually plot stuff which s more easily checked when you can leaf between page 3 and the end of the book and  just check what you have matches up. Also, notes that suggest I check bits that might need rewriting or expanding on.

But basically, once I print it, the main shape is likely there, and the rest is just sculpting and polishing; usually two print passes and it’s time to start sending it to the editors (dun dun DUUUUUUNNNNNN!).

In this case, because it is part of Operation Write The Whole Series First, I plan to indulge in one pass through this, and then go onto the soft-copy edits and corrections for Book 2. Then more new writing when I get back onto Book 3, hurrah! I am starting to think that this may well be a fresh kind of madness but if nothing else, it will be an interesting exercise… Now taking bets as to what the readers think (which is, after all, the acid test).

And when I burn out a bit on this series, there’s always the last few edits on The Holly & The Ivy, which was slightly impeded by my cover artist’s computer dying horribly. It lost the Christmas slot so I’ve told him as and when – Christmas will be right along again next year and if other authors have definite release dates to hit, he’d be better off sorting them out first, and coming back to it when he’s not under such time pressure.

I haven’t stopped work on the On Dark Shores series, but Flight has come back from the editor with a list of research that needs doing, so short-term it makes more sense to sort out the stuff I can do. Let’s face it, Flight has been suitably delayed that another couple of months is not going to make any difference at all!

Anyhow, just wanted to share the small pleasingness of seeing Wolf in the Shadows in physical form for the first time…

Take care, and have a great week!

JAC

Free ebook anyone?

While I remember:

Free copy of The Scarred Artisan if anyone wants one?
You sign up to the mailing list to get it but can always unsubscribe later- there’s a link at the bottom of any email that gets sent out.

Please note, this is one of the shorts from Song of the Ice Lord so if you’ve read that, you’ve probably already got this!

in which case try The Black-Eyed Susan free here:

Happy Easter all!

and to celebrate I’ll let you in on a secret – I have a bit of light reading for the train:

 

Then some pretty heavy edits and rewriting I think but even so, progress is progress, no?

Still need to work out whether to repackage and renumber as ODS -1 or just release as one of Parallels but then book 3 is also reaching a point where I have solved the knotty bit and should be able to get on with the next bit. 

I figure, get the text all sorted on this one for the moment, & see what proportion of bk 3’s current total of 120k words needs to be rewritten, and take it from there.

Anyone has thoughts on this, I’m listening…

Anyhow. Enjoy Easter, do some quality chilling on the Bank Holidays, and if you haven’t already signed up for the mailing list, the link is on the top right of my blog…

Have a great one, peeps!

JAC

Loncon space holder….

Hey all;
Loncon. Fabulous. Blog will follow but not till I have cleared all the detritus from my desk/chair/office and can get to my computer.
Also, now back at work and that 0455 alarm? Ouch.

More eloquence and indeed detail later – fool that I am, I took NO pics so will hopefully persuade tweeps to let me link to theirs.

And I have some stonking links to send you to as well!

So much fun!
Watch this space….
JAC.

SONG OF THE ICE LORD – Last chance at $0.99

Hi all:

Quickly- as warned, the price of Song goes up to $2.99 later on today. If you haven’t got it already, get in quick before they process the change!

Now gearing up towards LonCon so updates may be sporadic for the moment. If you’re going, let me know!
Otherwise, updates will be on the blog (possibly during but more likely afterwards )

Back to it!
JAC

Dear all:

Due to a mild disagreement between myself and my computer, the splendidly celebratory blog announcing that Song of the Ice Lord had now gone live…well, it remained in my computer. Unhelpful. I will be giving it a stern speaking to later. But Song is now indeed live, and at the introductory low price of $0.99 / £0.77 until Monday 14th July only.

SO

to celebrate (in retrospect) the release of Song of the Ice Lord, I am going to give away;

One signed paperback

One bracelet, handmade by a local glass artist

And one solar-powered hummingbird, would you believe?!

And (subject to availability) the pendant of the house of your choice from Game of Thrones).

Giveawayphoto 4

So – how do you win all this booty??

 

To enter, all you have to do is come up with songs for (dah dah dah…..)

“Game of Thrones – The Musical”.

 I want to know what the song is, who the artist is, and what character should sing it.

 

As an example, if this was Lord if the Rings you might enter

“Ring of fire” by Johnny Cash (as sung by Sauron)

or envisage a scene between Frodo and Sauron to the melodic strains of “Can’t Get you Out of my Head” by Kylie

or even

“You ain’t nothin’ but a Balrog” by Elvis, as covered by Gandalf.(Yeah, it’s cheating but it made me laugh)

 

 

So –

Same idea, but Game of Thrones-related please! The prizes will be shared amongst the ones that make me laugh the most (there may be ebooks or bookmarks for ones deserving of special mentions).

 

So that’s how to enter. And if you absolutely can’t wait till 13th July when I decide on the winner,  Song of the Ice Lord is now available for your viewing pleasure (rah!) at the following purveyors at the knockdown price of $0.99 / £0.77 until Monday 14th July at which point it will go up to $2.99: you have been warned.

 

Amazon UK:

Song of the Ice Lord (Parallels)

US:

http://www.amazon.com/Song-Ice-Lord-Parallels-Clement-ebook/dp/B00L72RTY0/

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448648

B&N:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/song-of-the-ice-lord-ja-clement/1119745072?ean=2940046014785

Apple:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/song-of-the-ice-lord/id890151274?mt=11

 

It’s also in all the other stores Smashwords export to, so if not listed here, Google should find it.

 

but back to the giveaway! Game of Thrones – the musical, remember?.

Comment away peeps! there are prizes to be won, and if the entries are good enough, I might add more swag to the bag, esp if you send other entries my way.

I’ll start you off, shall I?

with an intro to the musical by the author himself.

George RR Martin, it’s time for your solo number! Roll the intro to: Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”….

after which the curtains lift on… what? Your turn – comment away, peeps!

JAC