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Progress check

Har. Posts overdue, due to my apparent inability to tell the diff between the  Preview button and the actual Publish one…. I might be a bit tired but plus side, it’s a while since I caught myself putting the Fairy Liquid in the fridge so on balance I’m classing it as “weary” rather than gibberingly knackered. And my autocorrect is off on one today so it was surprisingly complicated to actually get that sentence right….!

So. Currently sitting on the sofa watching the dog, who is lying upside down and wagging in his sleep. Being a Lurcher this is a rare sign of approval so I’d like to think he was dreaming about the pack humans coming home, though in all fairness he tends to greet us with mild approval. The Sainsburys delivery man, on the other hand, virtually gets a ticker tape parade ever since the time they substituted chicken flavoured treats for his Dentastix. I was just explaining that Dog is not a big fan of chicken when he slunk up between us, delicately poked his snout into the carrier bag, retrieved the packet of treats and slunk away to his bed where he spent some time fiddling with the packaging. Then he brought it back, dropped it at my feet, nudged me and stared pointedly at it.

The Sainsburys man said “It’s terrible when they’re so fussy,” (chortling to himself). So we agreed that it might perhaps be an acceptable swap on this occasion and Dog has greeted him with glee ever since….

Returning to the point, however!

Progress. It’s about to slow because I’m cutting back on all the late night work I do after OH has gone to bed. This is mostly because I can only manage 4h sleep a night for so long before I start walking into things, and my day job needs a certain level of alertness right now, so trying to keep it low level and ongoing at sustainable levels. Yep, it’s exactly as frustrating as it sounds!

However. Currently moving towards the last part of a fairly substantial edit on Wolf book 1 which seems reasonably settled around 118k words, so will probably end up nearer 110k after the editors get their scalpels on it. I’m currently thinking that as this is the most standalone of the lot, getting this one out separately might not be a bad thing provided I keep writing the others which will need to come out at regular intervals.

Also a few last edits to put in place and I might have Holly & the Ivy coming up to being ready – anyone not already on the ARC list who wants to be, give me a shout.

The cover is now done and with a bit of luck I’ll be able to do you a “process blog” like the one for Sprig. Next time, eh? 

So. Onwards! Dog to walk one last time for the evening and then I’m calling it a day. Have a good evenin, all….

Take care & catch you later;

JAC

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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

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.

Pantomimes: A Guide for the Unwary


Morning all, and a Happy New Year to the lot of you!

Before I start, a quick reminder: The Locket (short story) released on Christmas Eve and for this week only it’s cut price so that you lovely people who read the blog or get the newsletter can get a good deal on it. The price will go up on Monday so if you’re interested, now’s the time to indulge! Or of course, mail me for a review copy, if you fancy writing one – good or bad, any review is better than none.

So, that apart, how have you been? Good Christmas / New Year / days off / whatever you’ve been up to of late?

I had a couple of days off over New Year but am now back to work, and the trains are filled with small children in costume and harassed-looking adults all coming back from any manner of pantomimes. The kids as are hyper as a can of pop and a packet of Haribo allows, and the air is heavy with cries of “He’s behind you!” and the like. It’s a bit full-on if you’re shut in a carriage with them and not on a sugar-high, but then it’s Pantomime season, so it’s hardly a surprise.

Pantomimes. They’re such an institution. Sometimes we love them. Often they make us cringe and run for the hills, but Christmas is invariably accompanied by a rash of very frightening posters featuring heavily-made-up D-list celebs costumed as a variety of characters from fairy tales and the like. It’s a strange old tradition when you think of it – not that you ever really do. It’s just another part of the Christmas season, isn’t it?

…Or is it?

I always thought so until a few years back, when I discovered that Pantomime is less global than I had always assumed.

This was a while back, when League of Gentlemen was airing on UK TV (and this is the somewhat twisted comedy-horror series with Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton, not the dubious but well-costumed film with Sean Connery), a friend got tickets for the League of Gentlemen Pantomime, and persuaded me to come along. It was not an entirely usual panto, because the first half was straight League of Gentlemen with all the usual characters: but the story being that the theatre group having been unavoidably detained, in order to save the day, the rest of the characters decided to do the panto instead. Correspondingly the second half was the actual characters (rather than the LoG actors) putting on the panto.

It worked pretty well, actually, because half of the LoG characters fall into the same mould as the necessary panto types; the simple lad, the bad sneering guy, Papa Lazarou (well you define him!) and of course the horrendous but not entirely horrible Pauline, played with some gusto by Steve Pemberton in a dress, to name but a few. Pauline in particular was confusingly good as the Dame – a bloke playing a female character filling a role normally played by a bloke dressed as a woman…! Brain-fry!

And of course there was all the usual banter with the audience. It was definitely an adult panto – not so much in content as in language, as there was lots of swearing – but it was an impressively sharp audience. At one point when doing the stock call and response (normally “oh yes he did” / “oh no he didn’t”), Pauline added a sweary twist in the form of “Oh yes he f*cking did!” and the whole audience roared back without missing a beat “oh no he f*cking didn’t” which caused Steve Pemberton/ Pauline to snort with laughter and comment “ooh, you think you’re so clever don’t you!” It wasn’t complex but it was a very pleasingly unanimous ad lib.

…Well, almost unanimous. As the panto part of the show progressed I suddenly realised that the nice German couple sitting next to me were starting to look first confused and then increasingly and inexplicably terrified. In all honesty, given it was not in their first language I just assumed that they had lost track of the dialogue, but the sheer discombobulation on their faces seemed to be disproportionate to that kind of likely bafflement. When it got to the end of the show, after much clapping and stamping of feet, the lights came up and everyone started filing out, and the two Germans sat in their seats and stared at each other, apparently gobsmacked.

Then one said to the other “But how do they know what to say?!”

And I suddenly realised they didn’t know about Pantomime. 

And if they thought it was just a normal trip to the theatre, how surreal must it have been when the audience started talking in unison to the characters?! That would be really, really disconcerting…. And judging by the way they fled, it really was.

I’m afraid that that amused me greatly. However, I was also intrigued. How in the world could they not know about pantomime? Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know the correct response to “Oh yes he is!”? 

Well… yes. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t, which is a slightly bizarre idea. It turns out that pantomime is not exactly global. So, for those readers from other shores who have no idea what I’ve been going about, here is a beginners’ guide to a part of British culture that you never knew you wanted to know about (and indeed may still wish not to by the end of this epistle).

The Pantomime….. 

So, how do I explain pantomime to you? It is actually terribly British – not Terry Thomas stiff-upper-lip British, but Kenneth Williams, Carry On Whatevering British. It’s seaside postcard humour with a bit of cross-dressing and heckling thrown in. Think last-gen Rocky Horror, but for kids (mostly).

It has its roots in fifteenth century Italy, where groups of players went round putting on half-scripted half-improvised plays based around certain stock characters. (This tradition would eventually come to be called commedia dell’arte and has given us characters such as Harlequin, Scaramouche and Mr Punch of Punch and Judy). Over time the traditions evolved in the UK into modern panto. The improvised element has been given up in favour of scripts, but the slightly anarchic, unpredictable nature of the thing remains to this day; ad libs are commonplace, practical jokes between actors are not uncommon, and at any point where the audience engages, there is the distinct possibility that it will all go a bit off-book for a bit before coming back to the script. The last night in particular is generally a miscellany of the unexpected.

The which said, it’s not just a randomly daft musical. There are certain conventions which are not negotiable and must be fulfilled in any production purporting to call itself a panto. 

In panto there is no fourth wall. The characters routinely have scenes where one of other of them sits on the stage, starts off with a monologue (often including song) but ultimately will end up talking to the audience, usually referred to as “Girls and boys”. In particular, at some point we will have the set-up where one character is looking for another who will be sneaking about behind him on the stage, probably intermittently hiding behind the curtains or other scenery.

This is where you bring in the audience participation which terrified the German couple so much, and it always goes the same way.

The dialogue will go thusly:

Character 1: Hello boys and girls, I wonder if you can help me. That naughty Character 2 is hiding from me. Have you seen her?

Character 2 does exaggerated tiptoe across back of stage.

Audience yells: She’s behind you.

Character 1: What’s that you say, boys and girls?

Audience (louder): she’s behind you.

Character 1 turns to look behind him. Character 2 hides.

Character 1: I thought you said she was behind me!

<repeat ad nauseam>

Character 2 comes out and comes right up to him.

Audience (children yelling like banshees now): She’s behind you!

Character 1 turns to find himself face to face with Character 2.

Character 1: Oh, Character 2, you did give me a start! 

This may also be used with Character 1 saying “I’ll just put this MacGuffin on the table and have a little sleep. I hope the Character 2 doesn’t get it though. I’ll tell you what, if you see Character 2, boys and girls, you be sure to tell me” and other situations of that type.

The other main formula (which may be used in tandem with the above or separately) is comedy contradiction, so for instance Character 1 having fallen into a snoring nap, Character 2 would turn up, the children would yell, Character 2 would hide and Character 1 would go into the following routine:

Character 1: “I can’t find him anywhere. He wasn’t here at all was he?”

Audience: “Oh yes he was!”

Character 1: “Oh no he wasn’t!”

Audience: “Oh yes he was!”

Character 1: “Oh no he wasn’t!”

Etc till they get bored.

(So if you ever get into a random contradiction with a British person, the likelihood is that they’ve gone all panto on you simply because it’s that time of year, that’s what you do, and they haven’t realised you don’t have the first clue what they are on about.)

The stock character-types do remain – well, kind of.

Firstly there is a Dashing Young Hero. He is played by a young woman, usually in tights and shorts, and slaps his / her thigh a lot for reasons passing man’s understanding.

His (her?) love interest is the Soppy Young Heroine, also played by a young woman, but generally not in competing tights. She gets to wear a girly skirt.

These two are often rather dull but generally have several long songs, often about how much in love they are. They have little or no comedic value but give everyone else the excuse to turn up, so get brownie points for that.

Next you will be introduced to the Pantomime Dame who is generally played by a strapping bloke in drag. Dames with beards are not unknown. She is the older lady who is a bit ghastly and often takes a shine to the Dashing Young Hero who is of course uninterested. The Pantomime Dame is a figure of fun, yes, but we laugh with her rather than at her for the most part. She is played as legendarily unattractive (the beard probably doesn’t help) and is the sort who terrifies her man into submission rather than attracting him. Her attempts to woo the Dashing Young Hero are pure cringe-worthy slapstick, but she often has a poignant moment or two that humanizes her, and is generally the star of the show. She has licence for any amount of overacting, provided her banter with the audience is up to scratch, and generally gets the loudest cheer and the most curtain calls at the end. 

The Simple Lad, generally played by a boy of staggering gormlessness, is a bit of an innocent. He may be side-kick to the heroine, and is often helplessly and hopelessly in love with her. He may be the son of the Pantomime Dame (but does not have a beard). Occasionally, if the Simple Lad did not start the show as the son of the Pantomime Dame, he may turn out to have been her longlost child, usually misplaced in some outrageously unlikely manner involving laundry, a handbag, or just severe forgetfulness on her part.  

The Simple Lad commonly has a good friend in the shape of the Pantomime Horse or Cow, usually played by two unfortunates (of negotiable gender) in a terrible costume. One of them will then get to spend six months being the butt of “horse’s arse” comments. The horse may dance and is generally male. The cow does not often dance, is generally female, but may have a slightly unsavoury fascination with the Simple Lad, the Dashing Young Hero (played by a girl, lest we forget), or occasionally the Baffled Father Figure.

The Baffled Father Figure is played by an older man. His function is to stand around being baffled and ineffective, for the most part. When the Pantomime Dame (beard and all) invariably gets turned down by the Dashing Young Hero (the young lady in tights) she often turns her sights on the hapless Baffled Father Figure, who is helpless to turn her down despite the potential for fighting over shaving implements of a morning. He is normally baffled but cheerfully resigned to this annexation on her part.

The Bad Guy is often a Baron, though sometimes he may be a wizard (generally in be-turbaned 1001 nights-style, rather than the pointy-hat Gandalf / Harry Potter type). In Aladdin he is almost certainly the Grand Vizier, as any fule kno Grand Viziers are always bad guys, even when they pretend not to be. When the Bad Guy comes on-stage there will be a green and / or red spotlight, and all the audience boos or hisses. The Bad Guy will probably make smart remarks at the audience’s expense and also is likely to be horrible to animals, small kittens and the Simple Lad, all of which will win him the audience’s further opprobrium (we are not so bothered about him being mean to the Dashing Young Hero and Soppy Young Heroine however as they are dull). Usually part of his function is to kidnap the Soppy Young Heroine (played by the girl in a skirt) just at the point where the Dashing Young Hero (played by the girl in tights) is about to declare his everlasting love for her. This event spawns a soppy and incredibly twee song, to be sung by the Dashing Young Hero in his / her tights in front of the curtain in order to enable a change of scenery. 

The Bad Guy is the character most prone to chewing of scenery or general overacting. He can and should be as over the top as possible in his dastardliness, so long as it is cartoon-stylee and no genuine bad stuff happens. He is generally the second most entertaining character and second only to the Dame, gets the next biggest cheer from the adults (the kids go for the Dashing Young Hero and his tights as they don’t know any better).

The Bad Guy will probably have a comedy sidekick and like the other supporting characters, this person will probably be very, very stupid. He (usually he) will at some point mishear an important command with comic consequences, and be roundly abused for it. The Inept Sidekick is probably soft-hearted and may well be won over by the tale of woe spun him by the Dashing Young Hero or Soppy Young Heroine, but is unlikely to do much of use otherwise apart from fall asleep or drop things. However the audience doesn’t boo him and may even help on occasion. He’s too inept to be really bad.

The Bad Guy himself, being incredibly powerful and even potentially magical, is completely unassailable. At least, he is unassailable until faced by the Pantomime Dame when he is either terrified or distracted into submission. She enters like a galleon under full sail to perform a terrifying seduction on the Bad Guy, in order to distract him while the Dashing Young Hero and his / her tights go and pick the lock on the door of the Soppy Heroine’s jail, and there is always a happy ending, normally as follows:

The Bad Guy gets his come-uppance (ie explodes, goes to jail, or just runs away). The Pantomime Dame and associated facial hair may then get together with the Baffled Father Figure (who has little say in the matter), or alternatively discovers that the Simple Lad is her long-lost son, accidentally sent to the launderette in a basket of washing, etc etc etc. The whole thing all finishes off with some big jolly number, quite possibly involving high kicks by the Dashing Young Hero and her tights, and much clapping along / singing / cheering by the audience.

The biggest cheers from the children go to the Dashing Young Hero and Soppy Young Heroine, now in matching costumes, and the biggest cheers from the rather more cynical adults go to the Pantomime Dame and his beard, and the Bad Guy, who have probably also had the most fun all evening. Which probably tells you something about the whole thing, though I’m not sure entirely what.

Talking of which, it’s getting on towards time for me to get on a train full of be-costumed, screaming kids who are flying high on Haribo and Tizer, and so with that lesson in the madness of the British, I will love you and leave you. New Year beckons, hopefully looking like a kinder and gentler time than 2016.

I wish you all a wonderful year to come, filled with love, laughter and all that good stuff.

Take care, and I’ll catch you in 2017!

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.

Anyone got a preference?

Just redoing my covers – getting a bit of branding in there.
Mostly done but havering over the new one for The Last Dragon.

Which do you prefer of the below, the yellow one or the grey one?

 

 …and why?

There will be a proper post later in the week – Christmas Lites 6 is on its way, The Locket has a preorder price drop and next week there’s a mega freebie giveaway on #instafreebie -more details to follow – but right now it’s four hours till my alarm goes off, and I’m having another stupidly late night. Silliness like this is why I live off coffee!!

Anyhow, all thoughts and criticisms on the cover much appreciated.

Thanks, all!

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

 

Graphics for the numpty (ie me)

Wow. This week’s been vitriolic, hasn’t it? Not going to comment here but it’s been enough to drive me (& others) offline for large chunks of the week. Everyone in the States, take care of yourselves and those around you. Turbulent times. I’m not going add to the firestorm, so am just continuing to post my usual nonsense on social media for those who need somewhere to escape to.

To be honest, I’ve been really grateful for the escape myself, and while the world is going slowly mad outside, I’ve retreated  to the castle at Lombria. The plot is developing nicely, and I get quite frustrated at having to stop writing at the end of my lunch hour. Just hit 30k words of book 3,so that’s coming on nicely (and as I’m using NaNoWriMo to keep myself motivated, it’s quite pleasing to be ahead of schedule). Just as well though – I’ve done nothing at all on it the past couple of days, today as I’ve been writing blogs and deleting them and writing them and deleting them. Yesterday I wasn’t blogging thought. Yesterday I was playing with my new find, courtesy of David Gaughran’s blog – namely, Canva.

What is Canva? Canva is a graphics website. It’s very easy to use and has accompanying apps for iphone and ipad though the functionality is reduced on each. Anyhow, having looked into the licensing, it turns out you can use it for ebook covers – it’s very cheap depending on how many different elements you use (fonts, background, photos etc) – either $1 per element for under 2000 copies, or $10 per element for more.

I’m not particularly clever with design programs as a general rule, but this one is easy to use, and easy to make quite nice-looking graphics with. I’m still just learning but already I’ve sorted out covers that I’ll probably use for the next two short stories I’m releasing – both Christmas stories, one funny, one a prequel to On Dark Shores.

You can find it at www.canva.com, and if you need graphics of any kind, it’s worth having a look there.

Anyhow. That’s it for me for tonight, not least as I have 1700 words to write before I go to bed…

Take care, people, and be kind.

All the best:

JAC.

NaNoWriMo encore….

Right now I am sitting on the floor next to a table under which my dog is hiding from the fireworks, poor lad. He will settle and go to sleep if I’m here but if not he gets really anxious and goes on patrol. In fact, he far prefers it if OH and I are in the same room (collie herding instincts kicking in, we think) but he’ll settle for me sitting on the floor next to him, and I don’t mind, as he’s a love. I am, however, going to have to keep this short, as otherwise my legs will go to sleep and I’ll fall over when i do have to get up. Besides which, jerk chicken for tea (ALL THE NOMS!).

Anyhow. This year, as usual, I am hoping to take part in NaNoWriMo. My page, if you’re doing it, is here.The past three years being what they are, it didn’t go specially well, but so far this year I did manage to get far enough ahead to spend a weekend dog-wrangling without falling too far behind.

Every year there is a great discussion over whether it’s worth doing Wrimo or not, and I think it’s very much dependent on how you work. Last three years I’ve been too burnt out to relish the challenge, but mostly it appeals to my geekly side – I want to see that barchart advancing in a steady manner, dammit! And as always, even though what you get down is not going to be top quality, what first draft ever is? For me, it’s a good way to have a specific goal, and get down a chunk of words that I otherwise would not have done.

The other side of it, of course, is that everyone in my family knows that in November you’ll get no sense out of me at all because I’m doing Wrimo, so I can get away with prioritising my writing then in a way that doesn’t happen the rest of the year, because it’s a specific, measured challenge in a specific, limited amount of time. So though I try to set aside a chunk of time every day for writing that I can, the only time other considerations don’t really present themselves to impinge on that is during Wrimo. Very useful.

The novel I’m NaNoing is the third in the new series and as you see, it’s currently about 15k words. Stuff is getting sticky for the heroine, and back at the ranch (so to speak) it’s all going to kick off for the hero too, so exciting times…!

Meanwhile back IRL, I am working through edits on the sequel to Sprig of Holly, which will be called The Holly and the Ivy. I hope to have a cover done for it by Wesley Souza, the incredibly talented guy who did the cover for Sprig, which I totally love! So watch out for that, hopefully before Christmas (fingers crossed the edits are not too involved!)

And in the meantime, we are working on this year’s Christmas Lites — the anthology a pile of us do every year to raise funds for victims of domestic violence. All monies go straight into the coffers of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and if possible I might try to get some of the other authors to come and guest in the run up to that. So, y’know, busy busy.

But for now, enough! the fireworks have quietened, the dog has relaxed, I have severe pins and needles in my legs, and it’s time to put the oven on for my current favourite food ever. Then tea, a last circuit with the Luxury Lurcher, and an early night with the laptop to try and do a bit of catch-up on the NaNo count!

It’s all good…

Have an excellent week, peeps, and will catch you the other side…

JAC.