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What's in a book's dedication - and how I got dragged around Yeats' land as a teen holidayer

A few days ago I got talking to the fabulous Anne McMaster about the title of Waters and the Wild. For those who know their poetry, they might recognise that I took the title from a line in Yeats' poem, The Stolen Child.

To explain a little about my Yeats background. My mother is a huge fan of Yeats. So much so that she decided one year the ideal family holiday with a bunch of teenagers was visiting Sligo, and lots of his writing sites. Which sounds strange and not quite up there with Disneyland but, actually, that holiday has always stayed with me.

Suffice to say if you have a childhood that incorporates a holiday like that, you'll have a passing knowledge of Yeats' poetry. (An admission: I like poetry to read. I don't write it. I wouldn't have a clue where to start and, frankly, I like my blasters, but I do enjoy a read of it.)

Now, I do think a title is worth thinking reasonably hard about. Despite Inish Carraig's apparent irrelevance to science fiction, for…
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On beta readers

One thing I get asked a lot when running courses etc is how to get beta readers, how many to have and what sort of skills they need to have.

Firstly, though - what are beta readers? They're readers who look at the early manuscript and tell me all my horrors. Technically there are alpha readers, who look at the first-first draft, and beta readers who look at the reasonably tidied up version. But, for the purposes of this blog, I'm going to just refer to them all as beta readers.

This is a timely thing to do since I've just put together a team of willing victims - cough, volunteers - for Inish Carraig 2, so it's something I've been thinking about, and the process is reasonably fresh with me.

So, where did these volunteers come from. All 4 were met on one forum or another - two through the sffchronicles, whose writing community I've been a member of for some time and under whose guidance I cut my writing teeth, one through Skypen, a local forum which is now sadly …

On motivation


Sometimes going onwards can be a trial. Sometimes getting started can be difficult. Sometimes editing can be a grind. I see so many writers who can’t finish a project. They can start things, over and over. They might even be able to get to the end of the first draft. But keeping going to the end of a polished piece of work can be a nightmare.

1.Get into the habit of writing. I know, I know, I know. Everyone says it. But, actually, until you have that habit where you think, right, now’s my writing time, it’s always too easy to weasel out. To say, ‘well, I wasn’t planning to write anyway, so where’s the harm?’ The next thing you know, it’s a week down the line and you’ve nothing written.
For the first three years as a writer, I wrote something every day, except on Christmas. Every single day. Out with the computer, type something, close it down. I don’t do that now. I don’t need to – after a couple of days not writing, my fingers are twitching and my brain im…

On trying to force things

There's a lot of discussion around at the moment about authors not finishing books and series that they started (usually around Pat Rothfuss and GRRM). Now, I am generally a personal fan of trying to finish things that I start, but I think something that gets overlooked in the whole argument is creativity and how - and where - it happens.

Today I got up with a simple plan. Catch up on a couple of writing emails, record a list of embarrassing moments (sort of getting there) and write the next part of IC2. I'm coming up on 5000 words now, I have a beta team in place, but I didn't have a plot. What I had instead was a sort of mish-mash of possible motivations and character interactions. A couple of antagonists whose agendas I didn't know. And a world not quite shaped.

Normally I write through such small matters and hope things work out. But this time the various strands were all interlinked. I could not write the protagonists without knowing which antagonist was moving ag…

Abendau - relaunch!

I wasn't sure if I'd get this blog out today or not, but things are happening on the Abendau front.

Firstly, I now have the rights to the full trilogy reverted to myself. This is, I will stress, very amicable and very much what I wanted, and I'm very grateful to Gary and all the Tickety boo team for their support over the last few years. This was something I requested to happen.

So why did I want to take this step?

Inish Carraig is under my self-publishing arm, as will its sequel be, and I see that as the more viable option for my science fiction work. (My fantasy is still with Inspired Quill and I plan to trad publish my fantasy in future, too)

When I decided to run a course in the writing business I did some fancy number crunching and the stats for Science fiction were undeniable. The market is predominantly online. The only thing I will lose is Lightning Source's distribution (I use CreateSpace for Inish Carraig and like them, so will put Abendau up with them, too),…

For the love of a good library

This week, discussions about piracy have been rife in many forums. The usual - Piracy is theft, rebutted by the notion that downloading free pdfs of my books isn't stealing, but doing me a favour. I'll not get into that here but talk about something else that's been mentioned as a validation of pirating: getting free books from libraries is the same thing. The reader doesn't pay there, either!

First, let's be clear on something. The consumer might not pay to borrow the book - but the library do pay the author. In the UK they pay both by buying the book and a small amount when the book is loaned out. In other countries, it may only be the sale that is paid for - but that is still a sale.

I use libraries from both sides of the coin.I read voraciously, as most writers do, and I prefer my books to come from trees. So I use my library. My kids use the library. I like my library - it's a nice, bright clean space with friendly people who like books working there. It&#…

On self belief

As ever, these things dovetail and I've had a couple of online interactions with writers talking about how self belief can be a barrier. This can take a number of sideroads in terms of impact:

1. I don't believe in what I'm writing, and therefore don't have the confidence to keep going.

I think this is incredibly common. Few writers I know don't get to some part in the process without deciding what they're writing is the worst kind of drivel. Some jack it in at that point, becoming the perpetual never-completers, some keep going and hope to write through it, some take a bit of a break and then come back to that idea. For me, each works at different points in the process. Sometimes, too, that project isn't actually going to be a goer. The idea may not work in the form you're trying to work in. The idea might be weaker than it first seemed.
None of this means the writer isn't a good writer, or that they should give up. It just means the project isn…