Tag Archive: fantasy


Raincheck…

Hey peeps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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

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

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

Take care;

JAC.

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A Passel of Teeny Reviews Part 1

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…

View original post 620 more words

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

Hey people!

So, how’s things? Enjoying the rain? (Hey, I’m in the UK and it’s summer- I’ve just taken my raincoat off!)

Here all is even madder than normal. Apart from that thing that happens sporadically where I end up covering two totally different jobs simultaneously in the dayjob (quick version: if you have a good senior manager I believe you should support them, as there are SO MANY bad senior managers out there) and the sheer non-stop nature of wrangling a large puppy through the day with a minimum of damage, I seem to have suddenly taken it into my head to attempt some marketing and something resembling an actual proper release for Sprig 2 (that’s The Holly & the Ivy, for newbies and random passerby).

So- the date is set for 21st August and all sorts of promotional things are happening in the interim. Watch this space for details of various promos, contact me if you’re up for a review and want an ARC, or if you have any other comments or suggestions for promotional ideas, etc: and if you haven’t signed up to the mailing list, now’s the time to do it as there will be giveaways and bonus material exclusive to the list!


Exciting, huh? Even if I have chosen a cover based around a colour that really clashes with the blog. 😏

Let’s see how it all goes, eh?

Catch you later;

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.

Morning peeps!

And here is a particularly splendid post for you all to enjoy. As you know, I have a short story named “A Sprig of Holly”. It was written for the first Christmas Lites charity anthology back in 2012, a sweet little adventure / romance written in the style of a Scandinavian folk tale (way, way before Frozen made it trendy. Afterwards I released it as a freebie with the hopes of spreading the word about the anthology a bit – all four of the current Christmas Lites anthologies are written in support of the NCADV, the American National Coalition against Domestic Violence.

Now as it was only an ebook, I bodged a cover until such time as I could get a decent one done, and that bodged cover was this:

(you may laugh, now I’ve got a better one). Sprig of holly bodge cover

 

But despite this non-splendidness, this little story has grown and grown in popularity until it has become the most frequently-downloaded text I’ve uploaded.

Now for a while I have been playing with the idea of doing a couple of  illuminated copies of some of the more fairytale of my stories, and I’ve been looking for a decent artist who might be able to do the illustrations. Someone suggested I should go and look on deviantart and I have to say, there are a lot of talented people on there. One of these is Wesley Souza, and he agreed to do an ebook cover for Sprig. Now, the development of this cover has been really interesting and I totally love the end result, so come with me on a journey through time and space (or at least through the last week or so) and let me show you just how talented an artist I have accidentally found.

So this is what we started with. I described Greta, a girl who lives with her grandfather in a cabin in the mountains, and the snowmaiden, a  figure that Greta carves from snow. We looked at a few varied possibilities for Greta, but this was the best and the most striking visually. The blue lady behind had the right kind of remoteness for the snowmaiden.

IMG_1118

This settled, Wesley began to work his magic. First he put them on the right kind of background, a snowy mountain landscape.

IMG_1119Then he put in a sunrise behind the mountain…

IMG_1120

After that he did some work on Greta’s hair….

IMG_1121

Followed by the snowmaid’s hair, and Greta’s sprig of holly…..
IMG_1122

After that, look at the details of the trees in front of the snowmaid’s skirt…

IMG_1123And then the snowmaid’s body, as of course she is made of snow (and I love the details of  the frost-patterns on her arms and face).
IMG_1124

Finally we discussed font; placement, choice of styles, and colour. We played about a bit until it was right, and he added the sparkles, just to make it more magical. So are you ready? Because here is my gorgeous new cover, for your delectation:

 

600x800smashwords_by_wesley_souza-d8tlltz

 

For anyone who’d like to read more, it’s free at Smashwords and should be at Amazon here: http://getBook.at/Sprig .

Also, go check out the rest of Wesley’s stuff at Deviantart here: http://wesley-souza.deviantart.com/  as it’s pretty exceptional!

So what do you think, peeps? Better than my homegrown effort, no?

hehehehe.

JAC.

Hi all:

Just starting the sorting and tidying of the post-Loncon detritus, and while I’m working up to the full report, I thought I’d give you a quick list of links to be going on with. The dealer’s hall was an Aladdin’s cave of cool stuff, and on the Thursday I ended up walking round it about sixteen times, as every time I finished a circuit they’d put some more stalls up when I got there again!

I wanted to buy  SO much stuff: virtuously didn’t, and in all honesty the only thing I really regret is not buying the fab pic of the ferrets pulling the Celtic knots to pieces from Sophie Klesen(?) which I shall link to later, but then it was more money than I really could afford so probably for the best.

Anyhow. Take a look at these, and appreciate the splendidness!

Art

http://www.margaretwalty.co.uk – the most beautiful, luminous art. I wanted to buy all of it but sadly it’s a bit out of my pocket! Go and admire though – they are fab.

http://www.tekeli-li.com – this is where you can find all the various links for the Sophie Klesen whose fabulous mediaeval stuff is really gorgeous. In real life it’s dripping with gold leaf, and so unusual! If you check out her FB page, the one with the ferrets is the one I was hankering after. Isn’t it cool?! I did ask if they had it in postcard form, but they didn’t so I got the “Not available” one instead because it made me laugh.

www.annesudworth.co.uk – evocative, almost photographic paintings. Lovely stuff. They sold almost before I got to them!

Books

 www.glasgow.ac.uk/thesaurus – the historical thesaurus of English. Synonyms going right back historically; very pleasing.

www.inspired-quill.com – the excellent people at Inspired Quill who kept us amused in our bookselling endeavours. Buy their stuff! I have done.

And the cyberfriends from the Amazon forums who I finally met in the flesh, authors all:

www.willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com

http://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/

and my good mate and shameless tribble-petter MTMaguire: http://hamgee.co.uk/

Tshirts and other stuff

www.islandofdoctorgeof.co.uk – a fresh kind of madness. Slightly steampunk, very random. I particularly like the sleeve badges pertaining to tea, but sadly they didn’t have just straight black tea or I would have bought it on the spot. There were several other cool ones I meant to go back for, but when I did it was shut – another close call for the credit card!

www.londonmetalclay.com – pretty things! I did in fact cave annd buy a really pretty necklace from here. I wandered past every day for the entire con and still wanted it at the end so, y’know, it might have accidentally hijacked my credit card.

www.genkigear.com – Well, there were these Tshirts and I really wanted them and they were funny, so I virtuously bought some for pressies, you know, and accidentally maybe one for me and then it turns out they had a green one with weasels on and my press is called Weasel Green Press so it would have been kind of rude not to….

Anyhow, there are some links for you to be looking at while I’m writing up the rest of it.

Loncon was a most tremendous experience and I met some tremendous people, had some very interesting conversations and learnt A LOT. Part of what I learnt was that I really, really love meeting people and chatting to readers. Sadly I am a bit rubbish at selling my stuff, but you never know – maybe people will go and see what I’m rambling on about if I feed them enough jellybeans… but more of that anon.

Sadly being quite STUPID I took no photos at all of my first ever con.

< F A C E P A L M >

Still, I’ll find some Twitter peeps and get them to link in the comments if I can so you’ll have a bit more of an idea of what was going on.

Yet again – watch this space…also, if I find more of my links I may update it later on so do come back and check – and if you know something I’ve missed out, that’s what the comments are for!

More anon:

JAC

Hey all:

Here for your delectation is my schedule for LonCon3. If anyone is going to be there, do come and say hello – particularly at the signing bit where I am in the same room as some people like Peter V Brett and Christopher Priest whose books are spectacularly famous! Fortunately I will be there with my nonexistent following so the table will look nice but the room will not be even more crowded…! heheheh.  Though if it gives you any idea how seriously I am taking this, I have spent actual money on an actual dress. Yes, a dress.

Also, there will quite possibly be jellybeans.  I am have chosen those because I don’t like them and therefore won’t eat them all myself, which means that you lot need to help me with them.

So, yeah a signing (oooh get me). And then two panels, which should be really interesting, and bonus – I am meeting up with cyberfriends such as MTMaguire (if you haven’t read the K’Barthan Chronicles, go do so) and some of the guys from the Kindle forum, with a bit of luck. And who knows who else?

Looking forward to this…. So:

Autographing 3 – J.A. Clement

Friday 10:00 – 11:00, Autographing Space (ExCeL)

J.A. Clement (and lots of properly FAMOUS people!)

Fake Science for Fun, Profit and Disaster

Friday 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 15 (ExCeL)

From Piltdown man to water powered engines and vaccine scares, fake science casts a long shadow. Why is this? Why do people fall for the same thing again and again? When does it matter? When is it good fun or is it always something that has to be stopped? If so, how?

Andy Sawyer (M), J.A. Clement, Paul Cornell, Dr Tori Herridge

You’ve Ruined It For Me

Sunday 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)

Screen adaptations of genre works are big business, and fan conversation about them often revolves around issues of accuracy and deviation. But what are the other discussions we could be having about the relationship between novel and film? How does our experience of an adaptation shape the way we read a particular book, whether for the first time or on a re-read? Is it possible, any more, to talk about The Lord of the Rings without reference to Peter Jackson? Are ‘book purists’ too defensive against what is, after all, simply someone else’s reading of a work with a budget, or do blockbuster adaptations carry a popular cultural weight that makes them hard to escape?

Ellen Kushner (M), Saxon Bullock, Jonjo, Carrie Vaughn, J.A. Clement

 

~~~

Other than this I will of course have my reader’s head on, and will be lurking in panels and workshops and  having a look round the exhibitor’s hall and all that.

And now, back to the prep.  Banners! Jellybeans! Bookmarks! It’s madness over here…

Catch you at the ‘Con!

JAC

 

Rolling…

Hey peeps;

Book 3 now stands at sixty thousand words, up from 35k. Lots more to come but the story progresses!

Not much to report with Flight at the moment, but Song is going through a self-edit post-rewrites, slowly at the moment as it’s being fitted round Wrimo writing time, but creeping on. Quite excited about Song, actually.

Sprig of Holly is flying off the shelves! Over 450 downloads so far this month in the US alone! In celebration, I’m getting a new cover done, so watch this space for details of the reveal.

Lastly, a note from Dulcie Feenan, who tells me that readers considering taking a look at “Christmas comes to Oddleton” might like to know that it will be on sale at reduced price on Kindle around the weekend of 6th December.

Have a good evening, all!
JAC

Another step on the way…

Hey peeps;

Another check-in, briefly, because I’m saving all my word-time for writing!

As you know, I’m currently working on two novellas at once as well as Book 3… well, the first edit (the one I do) is now done on “Flight from Shantar” and it’s ready to go off to my editor. Why am I working on this before Book 3, you ask (and a few of you have done)?

Flight was originally written to be one of the ODS series, and the events in it happen concurrently with the first books; but to put it in the main series brings the timeline to a juddering halt. This is why this section was cut from Book 3 – but at the same time it’s a story which readers might like to hear; and so it’s going into the Parallels series.

It tells of the flight of the Mother of the Shantar from her homeland, across the border with the country of Mardon with Vansel’s crew, headed by disgraced Skral warrior Alaric. On the way, her trail is  picked up by the Mardonese army, who are still chasing her ten years after the war between the Shantar and the Mardonese. Alaric has to get the Mother across to Scarlock to pick up Jack and Vansel – but the mysterious Jonas has other ideas…

Anyhow; that one is a step further on, and I’m now putting the finishing touches to Song of the Ice Lord, of which more anon…

That’s it for now, but just an update so you know I haven’t forgotten you all!

Take care;

JAC