Writer Resolutions

It’s that time again, when I take a step back and look at what I’ve accomplished in the past twelve months, and think about what I want to get done in the brand new, sparkle-shiny upcoming year. Cliché as resolutions may be, I think having a certain time of year — be it the New Year, your birthday, or another personally significant date — where you force yourself to stop and take stock can be a good idea. Just as long as you focus on the positives: this isn’t about what you’ve failed to do and plan to do better, but about what you’ve succeeded at, and plan to add to.

I’ve invited a group of talented authors, who write a variety of speculative genres from science fiction to romantic SF/F, to share some of their Writer Resolutions for 2018. I hope you find your own inspiration for the upcoming months. Enjoy!

 

 

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Nick Bailey has been making up stories since his school days, when he met lifelong friend and co-author of Liberator Darren Bullock. Besides series-opener Liberator, Nick’s science fiction work includes Primordial, a sci-fi-horror novelette set in the Liberator Universe and the short story The Last Command in the anthology Explorations – First Contact. He likes cats, dogs, long walks on the beach, and blowing up spaceships

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: My favourite writer moment of the year was probably going on Keystroke Medium with Scott Moon, Josh Hayes and Ralph Kern. Those guys are a lot of fun to talk with and it was a real pleasure for Darren and I to be guests on the show.

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: To write more. A lot more. I’m planning on building a dedicated writing space in my attic so that I can shut myself away properly, I’ve also been able to re-arrange my day job working schedule which will (should!) give me a lot more time to write in the daytime, freeing up some time in the evenings for me to pretend I have an actual life.

We are also starting up a small press publishing business – Dust Publishing, so I really do need a more organised way of fitting it all in, as well as a decent space to work.

One book from your 2018 to-read list: Night School by Lee Child, I’m a big fan of the Jack Reacher series, but haven’t managed to read that one yet (I think there is now another after Night School too, so have some catching up to do.

You can find Nick online at www.nickbailey.space and on Twitter @nickbailey317. Buy Nick’s work here.

 

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Books have always been a large part of Suzanne Jackson’s life. One of her fondest childhood memories is sitting on a wicker stool, reading aloud from the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, whilst her Grandmother sat beside her on a black rocking chair. Suzanne is the author of The Beguiler, a dark fantasy romance tale of love and forbidden magic.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: I was sure my answer to this question would have been the launch of my book The Beguiler and seeing it going out into the big wide world, but I think reading to an audience was also a very special moment. It felt like a dream come true.

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: I enjoy writing, so my resolution is to write and get my next book finished. It sounds a simple resolution, but 2017 has been a difficult year, and a lot of self-doubt has crept in. I have been asked about the next book from readers who have enjoyed the first, which is wonderful.

One book from your 2018 to-read list: If I must choose one, then it has to be Bryan Wigmore’s next book. I really enjoyed The Goddess Project and cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

Find Suzanne online at suzannejackson.co.uk and buy her book here.

 

kernFor as long as Ralph Kern can remember, he’s always enjoyed science fiction, especially the grand masters of the genre, Arthur C Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Alistair Reynolds and many more. After studying for a degree in Aerospace Technology and obtaining his pilot’s license, Ralph turned to a career in law enforcement. Eventually his love of science fiction and the desire to think about what he considers ‘the big issues’ led him to try his hand at writing. Ralph is the author of the Sleeping Gods duology, and the Locus series, which includes Unfathomed and Expedition.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: It’s been a busy year for me on the writing front. Gaining a three-book on-spec publishing contract from the biggest audiobook publisher on the scene was a wonderful feeling of validation. The release of Expedition to excellent reviews was another moment.

But when we boil it down, the single thing I was most proud of was the work I did with Keystroke Medium and Tom Edwards on our Covers for a Cure charity event where we raised $4200 for Parkinson’s Research UK. Not only was it for a great cause, but it was an event where we showed the world the sheer firepower the global Indie community can muster when working together.

I really do think that event will be remembered as one of the turning points in the Indie author Renaissance.

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: I have the next book in the Locus series out around March time. Already, the Beta readers are saying it is my best work yet and I can’t wait to release it into the wild.

Perhaps more excitingly is an extremely ambitious project I’m coordinating. I’m getting to work with the best authors in the SF genre and I’m a little star struck and humbled by the names who are moving to associate themselves with it. I can’t say too much about the project just yet, but if it goes even half right, it will be a seismic event in SF Indie publishing. More news soon!

One book from your 2018 to-read list: If I had to pick one? Tricky. Very Tricky. A good buddy of mine, Nathan Hystad, is finally releasing his books. I’ve had the honour of beta reading them and it makes me envious how damn good of an author he is. Robert M Campbell, another friend, is releasing the next part of his awesome Trajectory series. They are some of the best SF out there and on par with the greats of the genre. I am determined he should get the recognition he deserves. Scott Moon has a really exciting serial he has worked on with the legendary Craig Martelle. He is both a great story teller and, just as important in the industry, it will be facinating to see how a serial performs in the current market. Again, that may be a game changer. Finally, Josh Hayes is working with Richard Fox on a series. The first one is out, and I’m loving it. He’s a great author, with fantastic technical skill and a hell of a lot of subject matter knowledge. Four more are going to follow over the next year.

So one? No, I couldn’t pick one just one.

Find Ralph on Facebook or visit the website he hosts in collaboration with a number of leading SF authors. www.scifiexplorations.com Buy Ralph’s books here.

 

emFantasy, horror, and sci fi author E.J. Tett also writes speculative romance under the name Emma Jane. She has been writing stories since primary school, some of which still survive in notebooks in her dad’s attic, and wanted to be an author as soon as she realised it was a possible career choice and ‘Pony’ or ‘Ninja’ weren’t viable options. Her latest novel is the brand new Space Mac, a sci fi space heist story with a strong side of romance.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: My favourite writer moment of 2017 was having not one, but two, novels accepted by NineStar Press for publication. Particularly my first sci-fi, Space Mac, which I actually wrote for the 2016 NaNoWriMo. NineStar are a brilliant LGBTQA+ publisher so I was ecstatic that they’d want to publish something I’d written.

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: I failed at the NaNo this year, only managing to hit 30k, so I’d really like to try to finish the novel I started for that. I also have a couple other things I’d like to write for NineStar as they have some pretty interesting submission calls going on at the moment. Also, I’d really love to be able to get my urban fantasy ‘Locke & Co’ polished enough that I can start sending it out to agents.

One book from your 2018 to-read list: Obviously Night Blade by Juliana Spink Mills. I finished the first novel in the series, Heart Blade, very recently so I need to get to Night Blade while the first is still fresh in my memory. I know you said one, but I’d also like to check out Haunted Hearts by Amelia Faulkner – ghosts and romance sound right up my street.

Find Em online at ejtett.weebly.com and on Twitter @emizzy. Buy her books here and as Emma Jane here.

 

brianEpic fantasy author Brian G. Turner spent over 20 years researching mediaeval living history before publishing Gathering, the first book in the Chronicles of Empire series. He also visited historic sites, re-enactments, and learned many of the skills his characters use — not least horse-riding, archery, and sword-fighting — to provide for a more realistic character experience. He currently lives in the Highlands of Scotland with his family.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: My favorite writing moment was finishing a first draft of 160k words in less than 8 weeks. Bragging rights = failed, because it has required another 10 months of rewriting and editing!

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: I have no resolution, though, other than to keep pushing to write. I have a lot of stories to tell, but writing always takes so much longer than expected.

One book from your 2018 to-read list: Possibly the biggest book for 2018 will be a re-read of Lord of the Rings. I don’t really have any fond memories from the first time, not least because school friends told me everything about the story before I’d even picked up the book. However, I’m going to keep in mind everything I’ve learned so far about the technicalities of fiction writing, and see Tolkien can teach me something new.

You can find Brian online at the SFFChronicles.com, at his dedicated author forum, and on Twitter @Brian_G_Turner. Buy Gathering here.

 

thadThaddeus White has always loved reading and writing. He’s an avid reader of fantasy and classical history, and also enjoys watching, betting and tipping on Formula 1 (with mixed results). Thaddeus writes epic fantasy and fantasy-comedy, as well as occasionally dabbling in other genres like horror or sci fi. His latest book is Sir Edric’s Kingdom, a comedy that is more fun than a ferret in custard.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: Probably the Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger serial (start of it, just done the first three episodes which serve as an origin story of how the title characters get together, and will add more once I’ve finished my current WIP). It’s an entirely different style to what I’ve done before, high octane adventure inspired by Chinese classics like Outlaws of the Marsh.

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: To start (and hopefully finish) the first ‘chapter’ in a comedic webcomic I’ve begun to put together. Should be 40-50 episodes in total, so a combination of drawing and dialogue which is quite a challenge. Hoping to get the first episode out either this month or next (if so, the resolution will just be for the finishing bit).

One book from your 2018 to-read list: Oathbringer, the third entry in the Stormlight Archives. It came out last month and, although I’ve been waiting for it for a while, I’m currently reading something else so it’s probably next on the to-buy list.

Find Thaddeus online at thaddeuswhite.weebly.com, and blogging at thaddeusthesixth.blogspot.co.uk. He can also be found on Twitter @MorrisF1. Buy his books here.

 

joJo Zebedee writes science fiction and fantasy in a little corner of Northern Ireland. She has a healthy interest in lots of things like reading, and writing, and gardening. She has an unhealthy interest in sexy space pilots, aliens and all things Space Opera. She is the author of sci fi novels Inish Carraig and the Inheritance Trilogy, and the dark fantasy Waters and the Wild.

Favorite 2017 Writer Moment: Publication of a new book is always something a little special, and Waters and the Wild (July, Inspired Quill) was a very personal title, drawing on themes that meant a lot to me and written in a place I wanted to take care to capture well.

But I’ll also mention going down to Dublin with a group of women from Women Aloud NI – a group who focus on raising the women’s writing scene profile in NI. We went down on the translink train, reading all the way, and then joined women writers at the Irish Writers Centre for a day of reading and panels before heading back to Belfast. It was huge fun!

Top 2018 Writer Resolution: To finish Inish Carraig‘s sequel. Inish Carraig is my cult hit about an alien invasion of Belfast, written as only someone familiar with the NI voices could. I get asked a lot for a sequel but I’ve dragged my heels, perhaps fearful of not capturing the magic again.

But I’m now nearly 10,000 words in and the voices are coming back. I’m working in a different way – with a small team of beta readers looking at a chunk each month. That means I’m planning (a little) more and taking more care to hone things.

I’d hope to have it out in 2019.

One book from your 2018 to-read list: Just one! That’s not possible.

Let’s see…. The Invasion by Peadar Ó Guilín is high up there. The Empyreus Proof by Bryan Wigmore – I’m dying to see what happens next. Thaddeus White’s new Sir Edric book. I’ve beta read it and loved it, as always, and will enjoy seeing the finished article. And, finally, a debut – I’m looking forward to reading Dan Jones’ Man’O’War due from Snowbooks.

You can find Jo online at www.jozebedee.com and on Twitter @jozebwrites. Buy Jo’s books here.

Winter 2017 Updates

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NIGHT BLADE  has been out a month already! It’s amazing (to me) that I’m closing out 2017 with two published novels. HEART BLADE, Blade Hunt Chronicles #1, kicked off the year in February, and has garnered some great reviews.

 

 

 

It’s been a terrific year, which included some fun blog and web interviews, positive feedback from readers all over the world, and my first ever Con as a panelist (Boskone 54) — I’ll be back in Boston as a panelist in February for Boskone 55!

Upcoming for the beginning of 2018 is a short story in The Last City anthology by DUST Publishing, my first time playing in a shared world sandbox. I’m also busy outlining the third book in the Blade Hunt Chronicles series, STAR BLADE, which I’ll be diving into as soon as I finish the first draft of my current work in progress, a young adult SF crime story.

Some of the recent blog interviews and guest posts for NIGHT BLADE include:

Jamie Marchant: Juliana Spink Mills Hunts With A Blade

Kim Briggs: Interview With Juliana Spink Mills

Katie Carroll: What’s Your Real Story?

Latinxs in Kid Lit: Down The Rabbit Hole – A Brazilian-Brit In The USA

Suzanne Jackson: With All Your Heart

I’m looking forward to a busy 2018, with Blade Hunt Chronicles #3 and #4 to write, as well as a number of short story projects to find time for. And my to-read list keeps growing, so hopefully I’ll clock in some good reading hours, too! I hope all of you have lots of great reading and writing projects lined up for the upcoming year.

Last of all, I wanted to share a few Instagram edits my daughter made for some of the Blade Hunt characters (Raze, Ben, Del and Ash). Aren’t they adorable?

 

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Five First Kisses

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Fiction, even the bloodiest and grimmest of bearded Viking fantasy, is a fertile place for romance. You can find love among the laser blasts, or heartbreak in the shadow of a castle siege. It might be vast and all-encompassing, or tiny and discreet – sometimes barely a hint – but it’s usually around someplace. Stories are about characters, and characters must necessarily relate to each other. Some of these relationships might include friendship, or hate, or camaraderie…or love.

Not all of my examples are from YA novels, but most are. This is because young adult fiction, in particular, is full of first kisses, which makes sense. After all, YA is all about teens discovering themselves and their place in the world around them, making difficult choices, and often saving the day along with all of that. Finding love (however ephemeral), and all of the heady emotions that follow, is often a key part of this experience.

Lila and Kell (A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab):

Schwab’s lovely characters share a bare brushing of lips in the first book, but their true first kiss takes place almost at the end of the second book in the trilogy. By now they’ve fought together, fought each other, escaped death and caused it to others, and this kiss is every bit as dramatic as their lives have been. You can just feel the pent-up passion and frustration jump from the page, and it’s everything that Lila and Kell (finally) deserve. They’re at a ball, at night, fresh off an argument – nothing unusual for these two – and Kell storms off onto an outside balcony. Lila follows to talk about the fight they just had, and emotions finally boil over:

            ‘They crashed into each other as if propelled by gravity, and he didn’t know which of them was the object and which the earth, only that they were colliding. This kiss was Lila pressed into a single gesture. Her brazen pride and her stubborn resolve, her recklessness and her daring and her hunger for freedom. It was all those things, and it took Kell’s breath away. Knocked the air from his lungs. Her mouth pressed hard against his, and her fingers wove through his hair as his sank down her spine, tangling in the intricate folds of her dress.’

The scene goes on, kisses that turn to biting, bodies pressed up against the wall. And ends like this:

            ‘He kissed her until the cold night fell away and his whole body sang with heat. He kissed her until the fire burned up the panic and the anger and the weight in his chest, until he could breathe again, and until they were both breathless.’

There. I think we’re all a little out of breath now, right?

Ronan and Adam (The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater):

After the longest build-up ever (seriously, it took almost an entire series for Adam to really see Ronan), fans of the Raven Cycle finally got their reward in book 4. I love this kiss scene for various reasons: the first is that, by the second book, Ronan Lynch was already my favorite character. Prickly as a hedgehog, but so vulnerable underneath, he absolutely deserved his happily-ever-after. I also love the way Stiefvater handled the scene. It’s quiet, understated, with no huge fanfare, but so beautifully intense. Adam is sitting on the edge of Ronan’s bed in broad daylight, holding a model car and thinking, when Ronan walks into the room. He sits beside Adam, and holds out a hand for the car. A moment later, he leans over and kisses him. What makes it such a great scene is what comes next:

            ‘Ronan let out a breath, put the model down on the bed beside him, and kissed Adam.

Once, when Adam had still lived in the trailer park, he had been pushing the lawn mower around the scraggly side yard when he realized that it was raining a mile away. He could smell it, the earthy scent of rain on dirt, but also the electric, restless smell of ozone. And he could see it: a hazy gray sheet of water blocking his view of the mountains. He could track the line of rain traveling across the vast dry field toward him. It was heavy and dark, and he knew he would get drenched if he stayed outside. It was coming from so far away that he had plenty of time to put the mower away and get under cover. Instead, though, he just stood there and watched it approach. Even at the last minute, as he heard the rain pounding the grass flat, he just stood there. He closed his eyes and let the storm soak him.

That was this kiss.’

Ahh. Beautiful.

Harry and Ginny (The Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling):

The Harry Potter books aren’t really known for their romance, but there are lots of great moments in there, nonetheless. And one of my favorites is Harry and Ginny’s first kiss. It’s so very much them. Harry’s character, for all that he’s the hero of the series, has an odd, quiet sort of passivity to him, possibly from years of trying to make himself invisible at the Dursleys. And Ginny is everything but passive. She’s one of my favorite Weasleys – the only girl and the baby of the bunch, who can give as good as she gets, and even out-hex her twin prankster brothers. So it makes sense that their first kiss would be all about Ginny riding the emotional high of a Quiddich win, and throwing herself into Harry’s arms – something he’d probably never get around to initiating himself. Ginny takes charge, and it’s every bit as awesome as she is:

            ‘Harry looked around; there was Ginny running towards him; she had a hard, blazing look on her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.’

Pen and Espel (The Glass Republic, Tom Pollock):

Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy isn’t as well known as the other series I’ve mentioned here, and it really deserves to be. Check out my review here. The books are full of great characters and rich worldbuilding, and one of my favorite characters is Pen, a Pakistani teen from London brought up in a traditional household. In the first book Pen is sexually abused by a teacher, and later becomes terribly injured in a supernatural battle.

In this second book, she stumbles through to a mirror world where her face full of patchwork scars is considered the height of beauty instead of something freakish. When Pen finds herself attracted to another girl, it’s a shy, tentative thing – perfectly written considering where she’s coming from, and the issues she carries around. Their first kiss is equally tentative, and I love it for the way it reflects not just Pen’s uncertainty, but the uncertainty of most teenagers (and probably many adults) facing a first kiss with someone they like.

            ‘Pen put her hand over Espel’s temple and wound her fingers into her hair. She hesitated for a fraction of a second and kissed her.

Espel inhaled sharply. There was a terrifying, paralyzed moment, when Pen was certain that Espel was going to push herself away, and then that breath came out again and the steeplejill’s lips gave way under hers. They held the kiss for long moments, Pen’s heart loud in her ears, and then Espel stepped into her.’

You can just feel Pen’s relief when Espel reciprocates. Nicely done, and with very relatable feelings, too.

There are so many great kisses in fiction. These are just a few of those romantic moments that – however brief – can help warm a plotline and add character depth to a story. I promised five, so here’s the last; this one’s a little tongue-in-cheek (sorry! Sorry. Bad kissing pun…) but I just had to include it.

Buttercup and Westley (The Princess Bride, William Goldman):

I’m always surprised by how many people love the movie but have never read Goldman’s masterpiece. This book is so much fun, and worth picking up if you’ve never given it a chance. And here it is, the (alleged) best kiss in history (according to the author):

            ‘He reached out with his right hand.

Buttercup found it very hard to breathe.

“Good-by.”

She managed to raise her right hand to his.

They shook.

“Good-by,” he said again.

She made a little nod.

He took a third step, not turning.

She watched him.

He turned.

And the words ripped out of her: “Without one kiss?”

They fell into each other’s arms.

There have been five great kisses since 1642bc, when Saul and Delilah Korn’s inadvertent discovery swept across Western civilization. (Before then couples hooked thumbs.) And the precise rating of kisses is a terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy, because although everyone agrees with the formula of affection times purity times intensity times duration, no one has ever been completely satisfied with how much weight each element should receive. But on any system, there are five that everyone agrees deserve full marks.

Well, this one left them all behind.’

Have Book, Will Read #15

Summer is crawling to an end, and the cooler weather brings the promise of blanket-smothered tea-fuelled book binges. Of course, I did get some reading done while the kids were on school vacation. How about you, read anything good over summer? Let me know in the comments!

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Recent Reads: Magic, swords, and trickery.

V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light, last in her Shades of Magic trilogy, has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and I finally got around to picking it up. I love Schwab’s crisp yet pretty prose, and the cast of characters in this series is fabulous.

This last book finds Lila, Kell, Rhy, and Alucard facing the possible end of Red London, and indeed their entire world. From the battle on the streets of the city, to a frantic adventure at sea, there was so much I loved about this novel, and it was a perfect end to the series that first brought Schwab’s work to my attention.

Another novel by a favorite author that had been waiting patiently on my bookshelf was Shadowcaster, second in Cinda Williams Chima’s new Shattered Realms series. Her first books in this world – the Seven Realms series – are among my absolute favorite fantasy stories. This new series is set a generation later, and although it takes the tale in new directions, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Shadowcaster introduces new characters we didn’t meet in the first book, Flamecaster, and, likewise, some of the characters we met in the first book are absent here. I love Chima’s writing, and thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I confess I’m looking forward to having all the characters come together in – hopefully – the third book in the series.

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows has been on my to-read list for a while, and when my daughter picked it as her summer reading for school, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it. I had read Shadow and Bone, the first in her Grisha trilogy, a while back, and really enjoyed it (I’m not sure why I never finished the series; perhaps it’s time to revisit it). Likewise, Six of Crows is a great novel and deserves every bit of the great press it’s had.

Six of Crows is set in the same world as the Grisha books, just in a different part of it. It has all the sorts of elements I love: a skilled band of thieves, a tricky heist, magic, mayhem, and great characters. It’s YA, but will definitely appeal to adult readers, especially fans of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. I already have the sequel (and last book in the duology), Crooked Kingdom, lined up and ready to go.

Now Reading: Virtual excitement.

I’m currently around a third through Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The book had been on my radar for a while, and when I saw the movie trailer the other day I thought I’d pick it up from my local library. It’s a little slow at times, because there’s a LOT of worldbuilding information thrown at the reader’s head, but the premise and story is so interesting that I’m finding I really don’t mind. Things are just beginning to heat up, and I’m looking forward to see where it’s all heading.

To Read: Phoenix, and Tiger, and Fairies, oh my!

I picked up a three-part serial by fantasy author Thaddeus White called Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger – Episode 1, called Phoenix Rising, is up on Amazon for free as a taster, if you’re interested. The series is pitched as ‘Ancient China meets Robin Hood’, and since I’m already familiar with White’s work and his skills in writing adventure tales, I just know I’m going to enjoy this one!

I also have Jo Zebedee’s new fantasy novel Waters and the Wild on my list, a deliciously dark story set in the Glens of Antrim, in Northern Ireland. I read a very early draft of this one, and I can’t wait to see what the polished, finished story looks like.

Taboo Or Not To Taboo

A guest post by Jo Zebedee, author of Abendau’s Heir, Sunset Over Abendau, Abendau’s Legacy, Inish Carraig, and the brand new dark fantasy release, Waters and the Wild.

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When I started my first book – which eventually became Abendau’s Heir – I had nothing more in mind than writing something that had been floating around my head for a number of decades. What I intended was to confront the concept of the ‘chosen’ one and challenge it. Which meant the poor main character had to go through an ordeal. That ordeal turned out to be a lengthy torture regime, including a rape.

Now, in genre novels rape is the great taboo. It is often used for weak plot reasons. It brings about accusations of gratuitousness quicker than practically any other trope. And, to add to the fun, torture isn’t that far behind it… And all in a debut novel….

I’ve often asked myself if I would have the guts to write something just as hard hitting as Abendau again. If I’d have known then what I know now (that many people would find the book too dark, that it might define me as the dark little bunny in the writing group), would I do it again?

On the face of it, Waters and the Wild, my latest book, is a million miles from Abendau. There is no torture. There is no rape. The darkness within it is subtler and less confrontational to the reader. But there are still themes within it which will challenge a reader and which were not the easiest to write about.

Firstly, the book has a main character dealing with the day-to-day reality of coping with a mental illness. Whether she is mentally ill or whether fairies really do speak to her is largely irrelevant – because, whichever it is, it causes compulsions in her, bring anxiety and fear, causes her confusion and disassociation. That Amy has had these thoughts, or has heard these voices, since she was a child, is redolent of our modern era – where teenage mental health problems are growing and our services (where I am, at least) are stretched and support is often patchy.

But the thing that Waters and the Wild does (which has been picked up in even the earliest reviews) is question what that does to a wider family. The repercussions of mental health difficulties – not just Amy’s – reverberate through the book. No one is unscathed by it – because we are not islands and when someone we love struggles, we can’t just close ourselves off from it.

Up to this point, I’m on safe ground, I feel. I researched. I got feedback from people who were more knowledgeable than me and acted on it. I researched some more. I drew on whatever personal knowledge I have, or have been privileged enough for people to share. As with Abendau, I’m confident the themes that have arisen have been dealt with carefully, with thoughtfulness and honesty.

That’s before the book is released, however. Once it goes out as a published book, I no longer own that book.

With Abendau, I hoped I’d be recognised for writing a thoughtful trilogy about a character’s journey. Mostly, though, I’m known as the lady who writes great torture. Those 3000 or so words in a sea of 250,000 are what define the trilogy. With Inish Carraig, my Belfast-based alien invasion novel, I’ve had to come to terms with people reacting to a reflected Belfast in the book. It’s not why I wrote it, but that’s okay. It’s what resonates with so many readers.

What, then, for Waters and the Wild? I hope the dark mythology will stand out but, looking at early feedback, the character interactions in all their quirked and strained ways, are coming to the fore. The mental illness themes, too, are resonating. We’ll see where they all settle down and what the book’s identity becomes.

What I do know is that, for me, it’s only by writing challenging themes that a multi faceted book emerges. Which I suppose answers my question. Would I tackle hard themes again, knowing they might cause discomfort, and put some readers off?

Yes. Yes I would. Because I should be honest to the story, the characters and their theme. And I hope readers will find that I have been.

***

You can buy Waters and the Wild here.

Add Waters and the Wild on Goodreads.

Follow Jo on Twitter @jozebwrites, and check out her wonderful blog posts on writing and publishing at her website, www.jozebedee.com

Small Press Publishing

*Based off my notes for the April 2017 Barnes & Noble panel on Publishing Your Book that I took part in, along with authors Carrie Firestone, Stephanie Robinson, and Jessica Haight*
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Publishing Your Book panel participants

 

Yesterday was #smallpressday2017. Congratulations to all those hardworking small presses out there! Keep up the good work!

What is a small press?

When you’ve been part of the writing community for a while, as I have, it’s easy to forget that many of the publishing terms that we author-type people tend to toss around can be pretty obscure to those who are unfamiliar with the industry. For instance, I get a lot of people asking me what I mean when I say I’m published by a small press. I’ve been asked several times if that’s the same as self-publishing. No, I tell them, it isn’t. Of course, self-publishing is a perfectly valid option, if approached in a professional manner. I have many writer friends who have self-published, or who are ‘hybrid’ authors (both self- and traditionally published), and who thrive within that format. But that’s not the publishing model I went with for my Blade Hunt Chronicles.

Heart Blade (and the upcoming sequel Night Blade) is published by Woodbridge Press, a small Canadian publishing house. A small press follows the same model of ‘traditional publishing’ as Penguin Random House, or Simon and Schuster, or any of the big giants. The difference is the size and scope of the company.

What can you expect from a small press? Like any large press, you can (and should) expect editorial input that contributes to a polished end product. This may be only a copyeditor, or it may include other sorts of editing. For Heart Blade, I had a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. Other things you should expect include professional cover art, professional layout and design work, etc.

What you should NOT expect: to pay for any of this from your own pocket. Just like with a large publishing house, in the traditional model the money flows TO the author, not FROM the author. If you’re paying for any of it, you’re looking at some form of vanity press, or one of the many companies that facilitate things for self-published authors. Again, that can be a valid choice, as long as you make it with your eyes open and know exactly what you’re getting into.

Downside to small press

Your main downside is going to be reach. A small press will have a much smaller marketing budget than a larger company, and visibility will be limited. Your book deal probably won’t appear in Publisher’s Weekly, your ARCs (advanced reader copies) probably won’t reach any of the big reviewers, and your book itself may not even be in physical bookstores.

Another downside is impermanence. Of course a large press can also go under (and when they do it can be spectacularly catastrophic!), but a small press is far more likely to go bankrupt, or just quit the business. Make sure you get decent reversal of rights clauses in your contract in case this happens to you.

Upside to small press

You don’t need to have an agent (query letter phobics, take note!). Most small presses take direct submissions from writers. Some have specific submission windows, some take all-year-round subs, but they rarely deal with agents, because for an agent there’s not much point in a book deal that’s going to be worth either a tiny advance or no advance at all.

A small press is more willing to take risks on subject matter. With Heart Blade, for instance, I had two agents tell me that no publishers were interested in demons, angels, and vampires; that this sort of thing was all over and done with. But a small press such as Woodbridge can take a chance on something they like. UK press Kristell Ink is a good example: they’ve been publishing some really innovative fantasy work that might not have stood a chance in one of the bigger publishing houses. And Tickety Boo Press have invested heavily in space operas and science fiction (among other genres).

The ‘risk factor’ is especially important if you write something niche. For instance, Aqueduct Press specializes in feminist literature in all genres. Headmistress Press is even more niche: they only publish lesbian poetry. If you think your manuscript may be hard to pitch, perhaps a small press is for you. Do your research – there are many good small publishing houses out there.

Another advantage of a small press is it’s a lot more agile and fluid than a large press. If you get a publishing deal with a large press, it can take anything from 18 months to 3 years before your book comes out. A small press can go from signing to publication in a matter of months. So if you’ve written something time sensitive – maybe about a recent or upcoming world event – a small press can be a good fit for you.

Small press caution!

Study all your options. Look into the different publishing formats and models out there. If you decide that a small press may be the ideal home for your manuscript, then put all those researching skills to good use. There are plenty of less-than-savory companies out there, and that’s where resources such as the SFWA’s ‘Writer Beware’ page, or the Water Cooler at Absolute Write, can be invaluable in helping you avoid the scammers and find a good, legitimate fit for your work.

Also, dip a toe into the small press waters by reading a few authors who have chosen this publishing model. Get a feel for different companies by investing in the work they publish. At the very least, you may discover some hidden gems (check out the #smallpressbigstories hashtag on Twitter for inspiration). If you find a writer you like, help spread the word (and stretch the tiny marketing budget) by sharing your discovery. All of us small press authors thank you!

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Have Book, Will Read #14

After a ridiculously long hiatus, I’m back with more mini reviews. Have Book, Will Read has been on hold for way too long, and I figured it was time to dust it off and let it out of the dark, dismal e-basement its been hiding in. I’ve read a lot of great fiction since my last book update, and here are a few of the highlights.

Recent Reads: A little bit of this, a little bit of that… A little bit of everything, really.

First off, something I don’t read a lot of nowadays, though I’ve definitely read my share in the past: romance. Suzanne Jackson’s The Beguiler is a fantasy story, set in a world and time reminiscent of our Regency period. Told in Jackson’s clean and elegant prose, this is the tale of Rebecca Vasteer, a young witch living in a society that has outlawed witchcraft. On the run from both the town marshals and the feared Rangers, Rebecca is saved by a Witch Trader with reasons of his own to stay out of the Rangers’ way.

This isn’t a light and summery love story. Jackson’s world is rich and dark, filled with tales of witch magic and the brutal Ranger skills that aim to contain that power. The story is deliciously unpredictable – every time you think you have the plot figured out, it twists away once again, keeping you guessing every step of the way.

I finally got around to reading the last book in Jo Zebedee’s terrific Inheritance Trilogy. The third and last volume, Abendau’s Legacy, does a great job of tying up Kare Varnon’s epic story in a wonderfully realistic manner that’s neither too neat nor too pretty. This is the final confrontation in a war that has lasted since before Kare’s birth, and what a ride it is!

As always, one of Zebedee’s strong points is that she does a great job of showing us the consequences of her characters’ actions, crafting tales with just enough of a dark underbelly to please both ‘grimdark’ fans and those who like a lighter touch to their space opera.

I’d read the first two volumes of Claudia Gray’s YA Firebird series last year, and been blown away by this exciting tale of multiverse hopping and true love. The concluding book, A Million Worlds With You, hits the ground running after the cliffhanger she left us with in Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

Marguerite Caine and her allies across the multiverse have to stop the Triad Corporation before thousands of worlds are doomed to annihilation. But Marguerite is faced with additional challenges: an evil doppelganger from an alternate dimension, intent on her destruction; and the battle to keep her beloved Paul from completely falling apart after his soul was splintered and put together again.

An interesting – and challenging – read was Nik Abnett’s Savant. The first few pages are hard going: Abnett throws us straight into the deep end in her world, and its highly specific language and terms. But once I settled into her tale, I found I was fascinated by this story of love and devotion at a time where everything is highly compartmentalized, institutionalized, and methodical.

Savant is set in a future version of Earth where a living mind mesh cloaks the planet, defending it from alien invasion. When one of the ‘Actives’ that maintains the shield is compromised, global government races to stabilize the system. This is not an easy story, but it’s definitely one well-worth reading. You can read my SFF World interview with the author here.

For fantasy lovers in search of something a little more traditional, Exile by Martin Owton is a good bet. This first book in the Nandor Tales introduces young master swordsman Aron of Darien, an exile without a homeland, and with an oath of revenge to fulfill. Aron gets sidetracked into a quest to rescue the heir of Nandor, and soon finds himself in the thick of another land’s problems.

Duels, daring rescues, subterfuge, magic, and the (lovely but distracting) temptation of love. In Exile, Owton delivers a nicely polished tale, with all the classic elements that fans of epic fantasy will enjoy. The second volume, Nandor, is already out, and I look forward to continuing the story.

I need to mention a non-SFF ARC I read recently. Out in June 2017, Carrie Firestone’s The Unlikelies is a contemporary YA with a lovely, feel-good, summer vibe to it. This is the story of a group of high school kids who become friends at a Rotary Club ‘Home Grown Heroes’ lunch, and decide to put their summer vacation to good use with a series of ninja-style anonymous good deeds.

Firestone’s novel deals skillfully with some pretty dark themes (bullying, heroin addiction), balancing them out with friendship, romance, and some incredibly funny moments. Her snappy dialogue shines throughout, as do her diverse and lovely characters.

Now Reading: Guts and Glory.

I’m currently in the middle of Snake Eyes, by Hillary Monahan. Part of the Gods and Monsters series by Abaddon Books, this is the story of Tanis, a lamia who gets tangled in a war between her own kind and the vengeful Gorgons. I was a little reluctant about this one at first, as I know of Monahan’s reputation as a horror writer, and I don’t really do horror. But – dark, bloody, and foul-mouthed as it is – this is more of an urban fantasy, and I’m finding it hard to put down. The pacing is relentless, and Monahan’s descriptions and dialogue have me straight out laughing aloud at times.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve also been dipping in and out of Journeys, a fantasy anthology by Woodbridge Press that has one of my own stories in it. With a stellar line-up of authors, this is a great read for fantasy fans – and not just because I’m in it. There’s a bit of everything, to please all tastes, and it’s been interesting seeing what directions my fellow authors have chosen to take.

To Read: There’s magic afoot…

I currently have a ridiculously long to-read list – and that’s just considering what’s already loaded on my Kindle, or sitting in paperback or hardback on my bookshelf. So here are just a couple that I can’t wait to start.

I’m a huge fan of Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels, and the last one left Alex in a really dark place. I’m part excited for and part dreading the new volume, Bound, because Jacka is a master at making his characters suffer. If you love urban fantasy, and haven’t tried Jacka, please do!

Another urban fantasy novel I recently picked up is the latest in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, Magic For Nothing. So far, McGuire has introduced us to Verity and her brother Alex. Now it’s time to meet the youngest Price sibling, Antimony. Ever since Book 3 in the series, when we switched from Verity’s story to Alex, I’ve been hoping for a closer look at the infamous ‘baby’ of the bunch, so I was delighted when I found out who the protagonist of Book 6 was going to be.

A quick shout out to Rick Riordan, whose latest novel, The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo, Book 2), recently landed in the bookstores. I’m a absolute fan of Riordan’s work, and my kids know that their mother always gets first dibs on any new novel. I’m sorry, did you say ‘It’s a kids book’? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my unapologetic fangirling.

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I’ll get there, eventually!

Journeys Anthology

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I’m thrilled to have a short story in a brand new anthology by Woodbridge Press, to be released on February 15th. Fourteen fantasy road tales by a fabulous list of authors. And a stabby little story by yours truly, called ‘Fool’s Quest’. The collection has been edited by Teresa Edgerton, and should be a truly drool-worthy addition to any fantasy fan’s bookshelf.

Stories byJohn Gwynne, Gail Z. Martin, Julia Knight, Jacob Cooper, Steven Poore, Dan Jones, Anna Dickinson, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Juliet E. McKenna, Juliana Spink Mills, Samanda R. Primeau, Davis Ashura, Charlie Pulsipher, and Thaddeus White.

E-book pre-orders are already up, with a special 99c/99p promo price. Paperback coming soon!

Amazon US/ Amazon UK

Add to Goodreads

 

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Gorgeous cover art by Tom Edwards

 

(Not So) Bad Boys and Girls

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I recently tore through the entire Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. This was serious binge reading of the ‘don’t come up for air before you’re done’ variety. I love (Love, LOVE) all of her characters from the first to be introduced, Blue, to latecomer Henry. But my hands down absolute fave has got to be Ronan Lynch.

What is it about those fictional (not so) bad boys and girls? I’m talking about those characters that are all rough and tough on the outside, with a center core of sweetness. The ones who give off all the appearance of a grumpy porcupine to their fellow characters while we sit on the sidelines silently screaming, “Just love them already!”

Take Han Solo. (Put your hands down, I’m not actually offering him!) When we first meet him in New Hope, he’s all, ‘Oh, I’m so bad, I’m the baddest badass smuggler around.’ But by the time the original trilogy is over, we all know him for what he really is: yes, grumpy and irritatingly stubborn. But, at the same time, loyal, caring, and 110% a secret Hufflepuff. (Shut up. You know Han would be a Hufflepuff. Just sayin’.)

The aforementioned Ronan Lynch is another one who’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. When we meet him in The Raven Boys, he’s all snark and swearwords, a shaved-head-and-tattooed bad boy supreme. When The Raven King rolls around, we know better. Sure, he’s still a street-racing punk with an attitude bigger than anyone I’ve seen in a while, but he has this amazing capacity for love and for goodness, and if by book four you haven’t fallen for this dreamer, then please, what is WRONG with you?

How about those (not so) bad girls? Like Kate Harker from Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. In This Savage Song, Kate’s all sharp edges and nails you wouldn’t trust anywhere near your eyes for fear she’d gouge them out. A gangster’s daughter on a mission to prove herself, Kate could just be one of those thoroughly bad to the bone girls that crop up every now and then in fiction. And nothing wrong with that, but. But. She isn’t. There’s sweetness, somewhere under all those rock-hard layers, and longing, and a desperate need to love and be loved. I can’t wait for the concluding book, Our Dark Duet, to come out in June.

And hey, let’s not forget Disney. The House of Mouse can (not so) bad with the best of them at times. One of my fave princess movies is Tangled, in part for the creative use of frying pans and for the World’s Best Horse. But a big part of the appeal is bad boy Flynn Rider, especially when we find out that under all that sass and ego, he’s actually the adorable and sappy Eugene.

Yup, show me a character who’s a prickly marshmallow, and I’ll show you me in a molten puddle of goo. Or, well, maybe not, because no one wants to see that. But I do tend to melt for the difficult ones, for the tough guys and girls with all the secret hidden vulnerabilities. They’re so hard to resist. Especially when they tip you a smuggler’s wink and whisper, “I know.”

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“Frying pans. Who knew, right?”

BookNest Fabulous Fantasy Fundraiser

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The team over at BookNest.eu are raising money for Doctors Without Borders (Médicins Sans Frontières). 100 fantasy authors are donating signed and dedicated books for a combination lottery/auction event that you can take part in by donating on the fundraiser’s site. It doesn’t take much to join in – for as little as 1 pound (around 1.2US$) you’ll be included in the lottery.

That’s 100 books! 100 authors (including me!).

Click HERE to see who’s taking part and to donate.

MSF do a really great job, operating in difficult and dangerous situations, and are always in need of donations. In case you are not familiar with their work, here’s an overview from the MSF website:

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.”