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On Publishers

I don't want to talk about contracting - I'm not a contract expert and would never give any advice except to take advice, or know contracting enough to be confident. Instead, I want to talk about some of the practices I've seen and, perhaps, give a heads up to those who are trying to decide if a press is for them.

(Suffice to say, checking the press seems solvent, pays royalties, isn't known for screwing its authors, is business like and has been in business long enough to be confident* is good. (*Or, if not, they have experience onboard. I went with a new press and it worked out fine, but I knew my editor had a lot of experience and was giving great advice).

However, (this blog is going to need a Get-out-of-jail contract of its own, soon), what press is right for which author will vary from person to person, circumstance to circumstance, and book to book.

But here's some of the questions I think it's worth asking before signing.

1. What editorial support wil…

VOICES IN MY HEAD

Inish Carraig audio is live, and I’d heartily recommend it. Last week I started, at last, work on the sequel (in between a few other active projects, so it will take a while).
Inish Carraig 2 (working title - Culchies I Spas – country bumpkins let loose in space), isn’t schelduled until next year at the earliest. Actually, schelduling makes the process seem a little more formal than it is – it’s vaguely in my mind as suitable for coming out around then. But there will be no publisher driving it: I will self publish it.
But I’m struggling with my newest work in progress – specifically, I’m not yet hearing the voices in my head that I need to write it. Which means I need to give a little more time for them to grow.
When I wrote Inish Carraig, it was to give me confidence that I could write something other than Abendau. I knew I wanted a writing career and I knew it would take more than one book and more than one world.
I did not expect Inish Carraig to be as popular as it is, and I…

On Reviews

I have several friends whose first books are coming out in 2017 and a few with recent launches, too. More and more the success of a book appears to be reliant on Amazon reviews - and, like it or not, many new authors spend a fair bit of their time obsessing over them. I certainly did.

Note that. Did. I think, as time goes on, a bit more balance comes into the whole process.

Anyhow, for the sake of this blog I went and looked at my review stats. Over my four novels I have 269 reviews (some of which will be duplicates as a few people are kind enough to post their review in more than one place) with an average 4.52 ranking. Which is very nice. (Thanks to anyone who took the time.)

My highest ranked book is Sunset Over Abendau (which is my fav, so yay! Good author taste), then Abendau's Legacy (but it is a very new book so has fewer ratings.)

My most popular book looks like Inish Carraig, which doesn't surprise me. It has a lower overall average at 4.54 but an awful lot more revie…

On giving up the day job

That title will have had a range of responses. My writerly friends are pressing their noses to the glass to see if one of us has become a Free Elf and escaped to writing nirvana of coffees and muses and no daily grind (ha! The coffee bit does seem a staple of being a writer, as to the rest... Hmm...). My mother is poised to pick uo the phone and say, 'You're doing what!' My real-life bosses and clients are blinking and wondering if it would have been nice to know in advance.

Sadly, my message is slightly different. I'm not giving up the day job. In fact - this is going to be one of my unpalatable truth blogs - for most of us, I don't think it's possible.

Let me be frank. Writing earnings are, generally, crap. There are very few big-publishing deals out there in this risk-averse business and, despite me knowing a good few of them, kindle makes very few writers rich. So, yes, there are writers who are writing for a living (more on that later) but the vast, vast m…

On Process

A quicky - I'm on my way out the door for some writerly things.

When I wrote my first book, I followed a linear pattern. One scene led to the next, to the next. I edited in a linear fashion. I didn't plot - but I already knew most of what was planned. I did much the same for Sunset Over Abendau.

For my third book, Inish Carraig, I did a bit more swapping around of scenes, but still the linear fashion was what I followed.

At no point since Heir have I enjoyed a first draft. In fact, I hate them. They slip on me. I don't know the story or the voices or where it's all going. I grit my teeth to get to the end and then, essentially, I go back and start again.

This week, I found myself stucker than usual and I've changed things a little. I now have a list of scenes I think need to be in the main book. I still don't know the ending, or who-dunnit (it's that sort of book) or the plot details. But I know what some of the key scenes will be. So I'm writing them. …

Myers Briggs your characters

As some of you know, as well as being a sff geek, I'm also a bit of a management nerd (hey, a girl's got to earn a crust somewhere...) So when MD Presley offered to come along and guest about using the Myers Briggs Indicator in character development, I jumped at the chance. And then I did it for some of my characters (turns out Kare's an introverted me. How cool.) 


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The phrase “know thyself” is credited to Socrates by Plato, and is an underlining tenant of modern psychology. There are myriad of forms this knowledge can be attained, and the field of personality psychology frequently employs the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to determine 16 different personality types. Since fictional characters are often extensions of the author’s own personality, I personally find the MBTI exceptionally useful when designing my characters.
And yes, I can almost hear you groan through…

Thaddeus White - interview

I’m joined today by Thaddeus White, one of my favourite comic-fantasy writers (check out his Sir Edric series). As well as comedy, Thaddeus also writes epic fantasy and he has a new fantasy, Kingdom Asunder, with a pretty divine cover, which released on 24 November.


I took the chance to ask a few questions about the world Kingdom is set in. Firstly, I wanted to know about writing the project.
You have written other books in this world (Bane of Souls, and Journey to Altmortis) – how did it feel to work in a parallel story, rather than in the more conventional series format?
A: I like the approach of having independent books (or, in this case, trilogy) set in the same world. It means you can keep the advantages of past world-building and, when desired, pick up old characters without needing to worry about constantly keeping a very long story thread running (which can also cause delays, as we’ve seen with some mega-fantasy series).
You have a number of female characters in the book – ho…

Stephen Palmer - My year of almost total relaxation

When Stephen Palmer announced he was taking a year off writing, it intrigued me. As someone who finds it hard to switch off, I wondered if it had helped his creative process and, if so, how. Since he has his rather gorgeous (check out that cover!) Factory Girl trilogy coming out, it would seem it certainly did no harm. 


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 In January 2016 I vowed not to write anything for a year. And I nearly managed it. Jo recently asked me to elaborate on why and how, so…
Why did I do it? Well, between September 2013 and January 2016 I had one main creative project on my mind: the Factory Girl trilogy (The Girl With Two Souls / The Girl With One Friend / The Girl With No Soul) and its accompanying novel The Conscientious Objector. Although I had written a large scale work before – Urbis Morpheos and Astra Gaia together were a couple of hundred thousand words at least – and Memory Seed / Glass / Flo…

PANELLING

This blog is by request. Imagine. I had a request! Anyhow, a very good writer friend of mine (who can out themselves if they want to, or not) has been invited onto their first panel next year, and wondered what it was like to be on a panel.

Now, hands in the air in admission time. I'm not a hugely experienced sff panellist. I've been on a panel at 4 conventions (around 10 panels in total, I reckon.) But when I'm working to eat I've moderated panels, sat on panels and had my fair share of experiences.

So, what to expect and what to do:

1. Conventions are busy, run mostly by volunteers, and rely on a certain degree of self-sufficiency. You will get looked after - normally there are people allocated to the guests and to answer any questions - but you will not be in the position of asking for blue smarties in the dressing room. If you can, get to the convention early enough to work out where things are, what the room is like, and whether you need to set anything up.

2. Res…

STICKING WITH IT

On days when I put my earning-money-to-eat hat on, I train people on management skills (I do other stuff, too, but I digress). And one of the big themes of the last 5-10 years has been the concept of stickability, and how employers often find it lacking in employees, and how they'd like to see it being developed more in our schools and colleges.

I like to think I have reasonable stickability. I especially have it when people advise me that I'm not able to succeed at something (perhaps that's bloodymindedness - or perhaps they're really the same thing), and that something is a thing that I'd like to have. (Let's be clear. I will never stick at climbing Everest. I've never had any desire, whatsoever, to climb a mountain. Or do a marathon.)

What it turned out I really, really wanted to do with my life is write books. Who knew? I didn't, right up until I started in earnest. The gap I never knew I had in my life was suddenly filled.

The thing is to write boo…

Mixing my stories

Here I am, one chapter into something new. It's a literary-feeling paranormal set in Donegal, with all the bleak loveliness that brings.

Which makes my genre-mixing very weird. By the time I get this out, my career will look like this:

A space opera trilogy
A science fiction thriller
A literary dark fantasy
A science fiction thriller novella
Either a literary paranormal, or a YA science fiction, depending what happens to which
Then a fantasy duology with a little touch of steampunk. And somewhere in there, if I get the time and inclination, a sequel to Inish Carraig and maybe something new in the Abendau world.

Once, I'd have tied myself in knots worrying about this. Am I mad, mixing genres? Would I lose the readers I already had.

I really don't worry so much anymore. I write for me, and tell the stories that cry out for me to tell them. That people seem to like them is a huge bonus and means a lot. But I can't write to a formula. My passion for writing is the characte…

Collaborative working - Weaving This Twisted Earth

This week I'm joined by Dion Winton-Polak, editor of This Twisted Earth, a shared-world anthology I recently enjoyed very much. I asked him along to talk about creating - and managing - such a project.



Weaving This Twisted Earth.

‘A mountain of brightness piled behind her now; a myriad threads of all that might be. The Moirai took up their work once more and, satisfied, resumed their collaboration.’
-from The Fates, Disarrayed (Anon.)

I must have been mad.

What other explanation could there be? I’d already learned that I wouldn’t make any money putting out a small press book, courtesy of last year’s royalty cheque. (It didn’t cover the cost of the brain cakes. Don’t ask.) It’s one thing to get back on the horse – gaining experience, building a c.v. – but who in their right mind decides that their second ever book should be an open-subs shared-world anthology where All Of Time has become tangled up? I mean, all the wading, the brain-freezing breadth of concept; the sheer logistics o…