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On sequels

On Sequels

I've written two sequels to date and, by and large, I enjoy writing them. One of the hardest things for me, when beginning a new book, is getting to know the characters. Once I have them nailed - as in they live in the dark hole in the back of my brain that seems responsible for writing books - I can, generally, happily write a new book about them.

Up until now, however, my sequels have all been in the Abendau world. Not only do I know the characters insanely well - I can slip into any of their point of views easily - but the first book hadn't been released so there was no weight of expectation. If I write another in that world - and my plan, eventually, is a second trilogy based around the younger generation - it will be because it has exploded out of me and I'm writing it because I need to and I love to.

The sequel I'm starting to work on is different. It's to Inish Carraig, it's been asked for and will follow up a book that is popular and the one …

What’s in a cover?

This week, and coming soon to an Amazon near you – honest! I just have a few hoops to jump through first – I updated the cover to Inish Carraig. I’ve also, a few months ago, had a new cover designed by Gary at Tickety boo for the Abendau trilogy – and this is the cover I think best represents the trilogy.
Here’s that cover: 


I’ll talk about why we went from a spaceship to a picture of a person, looking determined and dogged first.
A spaceship is a great cover image for many Space Opera books. It tells, clearly, what genre the book is in, it states who its target audience is. But! There are a zillion Space Opera books with space ships on them and, frankly, they don’t tell the reader much about the story. Which is fine if you’re playing with the SO tropes and writing a conventional, space-based, story.
Which Abendau isn’t. It’s a big sprawling story about people, centred on one man. Anyone picking it up to read about space battles will be sorely disappointed. Which is why, when it c…

Filtering things

I apologise in advance of my rant. Feel free to have a cuppa, go and vote (if you're in the UK), read a book, whatever, and completely ignore me.

My long-suffering critique partners will assert that if there is one thing bound to annoy every writing gene I have on my radar, it's filter words. But, generous soul that I am, I can tolerate them in critiques - that's why we go through the hell of such matters, after all - and in my own first drafts. But when I read published books absolutely full of them, I get a rant on.

Now, let's get this out of the way. I know there is, sometimes, a place for filter words. If you want to keep the reader distant from the character, they're a tool for that. If you want to ape an older style, yes to keeping them in (remember, omnipresent narrators used to be the norm). And if you want to write in omnipresent, filter away.

But! If you want to write a book with close character interventions that will pull a reader into the character,…

Writing a sense of place

Capturing the sense of a place


'It feels very rooted in its landscape' - Bryan Wigmore

'Take this book to the Glens of Antrim and read it with the waves crashing on the shore' - Annie Rose


In my first reviews of Waters and the Wild, a theme is emerging of how strong the sense of place is within it. I'm pleased about that, and relieved. I love books with a really strong sense of place* and hoped to achieve the same when I set out to write Waters and the Wild. I hoped to capture not just the look of the Antrim Glens but the feel of them too.

How does a writer go about capturing the land in a book? How do they make it real enough that a reader can imagine being there?

Here's what works for me:

1.
It's not enough to just describe. To pull a reader into the story enough that they can feel part of the setting, the writer has to play with the senses.

Take this passage from Waters and the Wild:

'The hill was bleak, the wind raw. What heat there had been from th…

On Belonging

This is a blog that's been circling me for a day or two, about themes and the like, and where they come from. What we take from our own selves and put into our books, sometimes unconsciously.

As many of you know, I'm from Northern Ireland, that divided little part of the world that challenges and rewards, often in equal measure. Many people think the divisions here are over religion - and they do, indeed, follow religious lines - without realising the deeper rifts that drive them. Our culture, our upbringing, our beliefs. Our need to belong.

Belonging is important here. You belong to a community. You might well belong to a religion. You belong to the UK, or Ireland or, increasingly it seems, Northern Ireland (where I have always put my identity and sense of belonging). It's important to work out where you belong, here, in the maelstrom of myriad beliefs. And it's important to recognise others have their own right to belong to wherever - or whatever - they chose to.

I s…

LAUNCH PAD!

I’m in the middle of launching my fifth book, Waters and the Wild, and I thought I’d talk about what goes into a book launch – not just in the interest of shameless self promotion, but also in the hope of sparking a few thoughts in others facing the same thing.

I think this whole launch-thing is easier with later books but they do miss the crucial buzz of a first book where people find out about your shady existence as a writer and are excited to try the book. For book one my family and writing friends were the main cheerleaders and sources of the ra-ra-ing that went on.
For later books, I find that has expanded somewhat into actual – get this! – readers. I also have an awful lot already in place. Goodreads page, check. Amazon author pages, yes. Which makes getting reviews in early a little easier – and thanks to everyone who has taken a review copy.
So how did I go about deciding what to do with this book and who to approach? Apart from my now patented method of blag-say-yes-panic-…

LINES IN THE SAND

Being the sort who can’t write books that are all the same market, I’ve found myself straddling the various worlds of publishing.
This week, I’ve been knocking around some indie resource sites. Trad authors, take note – if you ever want to know how to market yourself and your book, go talk to the indies. They know so much about how Amazon works, where to get reviews, about blog tours and hops, mailing lists and loads of other goodies. The work they put into marketing their books – with no publisher support, remember – and building their brand is jaw-dropping. I have huge respect for them.
So, of course, me being me and wanting to do well at this writing lark, I should have immediately ran off and explored All The Things. But I didn’t.
Why not…?
Partly this is to do with the law of diminishing returns. I’ve tried multiple book sites that list my book on offer (speaking of which, Inish Carraig is 99p next week… just saying…) and, frankly, the returns are rarely much more than I spe…

ON DODGING BULLETS

This publishing world is full of bullets and as I gain more knowledge of the world I see more of them, some dodged by sheer luck, some by good advice, and some by research.
That research is something I’m knee deep in. I’m taking a new course about approaching writing as a business, about things a million miles from your muse, like percentages and contracts and sales bases.
One thing that this week’s research threw up was just how much debut authors are struggling in the market – especially debut authors under the traditional publishing houses. Their share of the debut authors’ market has dropped from 22% to 9% over 2014-16 (authorearnings.com).
Just stop for one minute and think about that. You go to the trouble of finding an agent, of getting a big publisher, and then you find out that you’re getting such a low share of the market (and, let’s be honest, debut author income is small anyway…)
Many moons ago (it feels that way, anyhow) I got a response from a big 5 house who cons…

On local communities

I’ve talked, lots of times, about the importance of online support and communities. It’s an important, and valid, subject. Gone are the days of needing a UK publisher and a US one (unless you’re traditionally published and with an agent, where that model still applies). For self publishers, and many of those with small and medium presses, the book is available throughout the world. (I felt like doing a He-Man: “By the power of Kindle!” right about here. I almost desisted.)
What I’ve talked about less is building local networks.
Once, they were the mainstay of any author. Getting a book out meant gaining the support of local booksellers, of visiting reading groups, of having your local press do a little bit of coverage about you. There was no internet, no kindle – your name had to build slowly and surely, like tentacles on an octopus, reaching and reaching.
Then, in the rush to be on facebook and twitter, to have sales in America (and, to make a living as an indie author, you do nee…

Cover - Waters and the Wild

This week I finally (! I'm not a patient person and sitting on this one has been killing me !) revealed the  cover to my next book, Waters and the Wild (out in July from Inspired Quill)

So, let me preen for just a moment before I go on.

Preen, preen, preen, lovely, lovely, lovely.

Okay. Done.

You'll have picked up I really love this cover. Why? Well, firstly, it captures the place and setting so well. It would have been easy, in a book about fairy glens, to have the fairy cliches dominate. But that would have missed the subtleties of the place (and story). Yes, we're in fairyland. But that fairyland isn't just the scenic glens - it's muddy lanes, under dark skies, with shadows all around. It's on bleak hillsides, next to burial cairns. It's in sea caves and gardens. In this story, the fairies are everywhere.

So, I love that we have a laneway, in the glens, with encroaching shadows. And I love that it has Amy on the front cover.

I don't open the st…

Inish Carraig - a self publishing journey

About 2 years ago, I took a decision. I decided to ask my then agent (although we were going through the motions, having already decided to part company) to pull Inish Carraig from the remaining editors looking at it. We'd been on submission over 6 months and the comments coming back patently indicated it wasn't hitting the market it was subbed to (which it wasn't - it had been a crossover novel turned into a YA novel and subbed as a crossover....)

I decided to publish the book myself. I thought it was too good to sit in a trunk somewhere. I wrote Inish on a whim, had fun with it and was surprised by how solid the final book felt. I wanted to share it.

How did it go?

Well, firstly - by the time Inish Carraig came out I knew it was a book to be proud of. My beta readers loved it, my editor advised me it was solid, many of the publishers had nice things to say about it. One editor - at a big 5 house - liked it a lot and mused on it for months before rejecting as they didn…

On giving up

Last week, in a national newspaper an author dared to set out the reasons they had decided to give up after their second book on the market didn't achieve what they hoped it might. I won't link to the original article, partly because it's all over the place, anyway, and partly because the sentiments within it aren't what I wanted to write about (I could blog about stickability and bemoan the lack of it, but not this week)

No, what I wanted to talk about was, partly, the reactions I've seen all over the internet about it - few of them generous. They've ranged from (and I'm paraphrasing)

the writer had it lucky, they had an agent, they were already doing better than most
How dare the writer think they were going to make it in two books, this takes years
They're a quitter, and we're not
Their expectations were so high, they set themselves up to fail.

I'm not saying there mightn't be a grain of truth in some of this. I don't know to be hone…

Carolyn Hill, Beneath the Skin - interview

I'm joined this week by Carolyn Hill, author of the sf-romance, Beneath the Skin. I found it a really interesting take on the sf genre, leading with the characters, and jumped at the chance to ask Carolyn a few questions.  

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 Both leads are challenging characters in their own right – did you have a preference writing either, or did any present difficult challenges?
The novel is told mostly from Aleta’s point of view, with occasional scenes told from Riven’s viewpoint.In the initial draft, there wasn’t much of Riven’s view, because his shapeshifting was a secret that I was keeping from the reader as well as from Aleta, but as I revised the drafts, I decided that I wanted to let the reader know his secret long before Aleta figures it out.
Aleta doesn’t know who she is at first; she has been robbed of the adolescence during which most of us begin sorting out who we are and who …