Posted by childofthehive | Filed under random
If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve spent rather too long at train stations recently. If you’ve looked outside for more than five minutes in the past couple of weeks, you may have also noticed that it’s been a little bit wet. This has led to me hearing a particular message several times: “Due to the inclement weather, the station concourse may be slippery.”
This seems like an odd choice of words. “Inclement” isn’t a word in common usage. I can’t remember the last time I heard it, or “clement” for that matter, used in any other context (at least, until I mentioned this to my family and they started throwing it into the conversation just to wind me up). There are many more common alternatives that could be used: “poor weather,” “wet weather” or even just “due to the weather.”
Does anyone ever use the word “inclement?”
Posted by childofthehive | Filed under random
I write this post sitting on a train. Not the train I’d intended to catch. The route I would normally take is underwater in places at the moment. This has become a bit of a theme this week. I’ve recently started commuting into London for a new job and seem to have picked the worst time to do so, what with tube strikes and floods and signal problems. On Tuesday evening, I was sitting on a train about to leave the station when the announcement came that signal boxes had flooded and the train wouldn’t be going anywhere. Nor would any other train going the route I needed to get home (my home is still above the water line, so I realise it could have been a lot worse).
At times like this, its hard not to think about my books and some of the technology within. The Defenders in Shadows of Tomorrow can fire up a machine and in a heartbeat travel from England to China or North America or anywhere they want to go. Sitting on a delayed train yet again, I find myself wishing I could make my fantasies a reality.
In my last post, I announced a giveaway competition in which I would give a copy of Shadows of Tomorrow to a UK library nominated by you. I only got three nominations, which was a little disappointing. On the positive side though, three is a manageable number. Rather than do what I’d planned, which was to narrow down a longer list through a voting round, I’m going to give a copy to all three.
So the winning libraries are:
- University of York library
- Woodley library
- Barnsley Central library
I’ll be sending all three their copies this week.
As a Christmas present, I will be donating a copy of my latest novel, Shadows of Tomorrow, to a library somewhere in the UK. It could be your local library.
For the next week, until 5th December, I’m taking nominations. Simply leave a comment on this blog post, mention me on Twitter or reply to the tumblr post giving the name of the library. On 5th December, I will close the nomination stage and open it to voting. Voting will close on 12th December and then I will send the book to the winning library.
So if you want to get a copy of Shadows of Tomorrow into a library near you, tell me which library and then get your friends to join in the voting in stage two.
Last week, I announced the availability of my latest novel, Shadows of Tomorrow. As a writer, it’s still incredibly exciting to get a book through from the publisher and see my name on the cover. When my first book, Child of the Hive, came out, I thought that the hard part was over at this stage. After writing, finding a publisher, editing, proof-reading and so on, I thought this meant I could relax and see the world start to see my book.
This time, I’m not so naïve. Despite having a couple of other books under my belt, I’m still pretty much an unknown author. Bookshops can’t afford to fill their shelves with unknowns of unproven saleability; they need books they know will sell. Which means you’re not going to see your novel on the shelves of all the bookshops across the country (unless you’re really lucky and your publisher has the right contacts and, more importantly, is willing to pay). It’s a catch 22 situation. Shops won’t stock you because you’re unknown and you’re unknown because shops won’t stock you. So how do you fix this? Legwork.
I’ve found though that Waterstones are generally very good about supporting local authors. If I go into my local branches and ask them, they’re usually willing to order in a copy or two and sometimes organise a signings. Signings are really great for getting noticed because the shop will order in a dozen or so books and you can be there to make sure people notice it. I also find libraries tend to be supportive of local authors and offer talks and coffee mornings that you can use for book promotion. So with Shadows, I’m playing the game of seeing how many places I can claim local author status.
Then there’s also the web. Trying to get noticed on the internet is even harder than trying to get noticed in a book shop. There are tools that can help and websites specifically built around the idea of sharing book information. I recommend Goodreads. Goodreads are a book review site but they also allow you to do giveaways. You can list your book and people will enter for a chance to win a copy, on the understanding that they will write a review for you when they’ve finished. Because people like free books, you’ll usually get a lot of people entering. Those that don’t win the book will hopefully look into buying it.
Then you’ve got social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. You can tell all your friends about your exciting new book. I find the usual reaction is along the lines of, “Wow! It’s amazing that you’ve written a book. I’m really impressed.” And then they go away without buying it. Still, you’ll find a few who’ll buy a book because they know the author and if they like it, they’re likely to tell other people because they know the author and that’s cool. You also have to be careful on places like Twitter because if you spend all your time just spamming people with links to your new book, you’ll lose followers fast.
I haven’t yet found the magic bullet that will shoot me up to bestseller status, but the way I see it is that if I keep pushing in lots of different angles, at some point I’ll get a lucky break or the word of mouth will snowball. It was Samuel Goldwyn who said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” The same definitely applies here. You have to work very hard to get a book noticed, but the more you do, the more likely you’ll be that you’ll get some luck that will get you seen.
Posted by childofthehive | Filed under Original fiction
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but it seems fitting to return with an announcement for my new novel, Shadows of Tomorrow.
Shadows of Tomorrow is a sci-fi adventure featuring parallel universes, ravenous monsters, martial arts, treason, love and a guy who can remember his future. It’s the story of Gareth Walker, who fights to protect his world from an invasion from another universe, helped by a gift of remembering events that have yet to come. However, when there is an attack he didn’t see coming, his gift becomes suspect and everything he thinks he knows is thrown into doubt. As he is drawn towards a major battle, he is aware of a shadow in future that he can’t see past. Is this his death?
Shadows of Tomorrow is now available for pre-order from Amazon.
Sun Catcher by Sheila Rance is a young adult adventure with a very original fantasy setting. Maia was rescued from the sea after a storm along with her father and so she grew up with the cliff dwellers who’d saved them. But Maia never felt like she belonged and on her naming day the Watcher, the local wise woman, tells Maia that she is destined to be the Sun Catcher. This sets Maia on a journey to discover the truth about her past, the homeland she never knew and the powers she holds inside.
The setting is a fantasy world that’s different from any I’ve read, with giant lizards, hunting eagles, silk that sings dangerous dreams and a stone that can draw down the power of the sun to warm a frozen land.
This book has a lot of the elements I look for in a story. There’s an interesting setting, which hints at a world rich in history and tradition. There’s a group of varied and interesting characters, who each have their own drives and motivation. The plot didn’t really grab me though, and I can’t quite pinpoint why. It does a lot of things right but, while I enjoyed reading it, this book won’t be making its way onto my favourites shelf.
This was Sheila Rance’s first novel and I might be tempted to pick up future works to see how her writing develops.
Posted by childofthehive | Filed under Writing Talk
I’ve recently finished a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I made a point of thinking carefully about the book and working out why I didn’t like it, so that I can avoid any similar issues in my own writing. There were several little things that annoyed me but one big, glaring issue stood out about the plotting.
Major problems are instantly solved.
During the course of the book, the main character would come to face various issues but they would all disappear within a chapter or two, usually with little or no effort on the part of the protagonist. She needs to escape her alcoholic father: she immediately finds a live-in job. She loses her job: a kind stranger offers her a home. She’s told she can’t live there anymore: a friend has a spare room. Someone tries to take her son away: two pages later a solicitor tells her that there’s no legal case.
Problems would vanish as soon as they would appear, usually through someone else being nice to the protagonist or her just getting the thing she wants with no apparent effort. This had two major consequences.
The first was that it robbed the story of drama. There was never any real sense of threat or issue. There was always some safety net magically appearing. I was never worried or curious how things would resolve, so I didn’t feel a pressing need to keep reading.
The second was that it made the protagonist seem like she had little agency in her own life. Problems were solved for her by external forces. She was clearly intended to seem like a strong, independent, self-reliant woman, but she was robbed of that by the author handing her solutions on a silver platter.
My lessons from this is that it’s OK to let challenges linger for more than a couple of chapters and that it’s absolutely vital for characters to solve their own problems – at least some of the time.
Posted by childofthehive | Filed under random
I think it’s important for writers to read a lot. There’s a lot we can learn from other people’s work. My problem is that I tend to read a lot of the same sort of books. I go through vast quantities of sci-fi, fantasy and young adult novels but not a great deal else. So I’ve set myself a challenge. For the next year, I will read at least one book a month that’s something different. It could be genres I usually avoid, author’s I’ve never heard of, classics I’ve never got round to, or anything really. If anyone wants to suggest any books to go on my reading list, feel free to jump in on the comments (yes, you can push your own work).
I’m not going to promise to finish all these books, but I will give them a fair shot.
My first book in this challenge is a drama set a few years after WW2, about a girl trying to escape her alcoholic father after her mother’s death. So far, I’m not enjoying it all that much. I decided to turn it into a learning exercise to work out why I don’t like it. I’ve been paying attention to what it is that I’m struggling with so hopefully I can avoid those same mistakes in my own writing. I’m going to read a little more to see if it picks up (I’m only on chapter four so far) but this is not going to be finding its way into my favourites.
Maybe next month’s book will be better.
Feel free to jump in and make suggestions of things I should be trying.
The Night Itself is a young adult, urban fantasy novel by Zoe Marriott (interviewed in a previous blog post). Mio’s family moved from Japan to London years ago and one of the things her grandfather brought with him was an antique sword. When she was a little girl, he showed her the sword and said that it would be hers one day: hers to protect and hide. But he died before he could tell her the full story of the sword. Years later, the teenaged Mio needed a sword for a fancy dress costume so she took the sword out of hiding, unwittingly unleashing an ancient evil. Now monsters are coming for the sword and she has to learn how to use its power.
This book has a lot of the classic elements of an urban fantasy novel, with mystical elements mingled with a contemporary London setting. It uses a lot of elements from Japanese mythology, which makes it seem fresh and different to this English reader. I also like the idea of a spirit world that reflects the real one, with buildings and elements of the real London represented as cliffs and landscape within the spirit world.
It also has a lot of the classic elements of a young adult adventure, including a strong, teenaged protagonist trying to cope with situations that seem overwhelming. I like Mio as a character. She is capable but in a way that makes sense, drawing on training and her grandfather’s teachings. She’s vulnerable at times but determined and willing to fight for the people she cares about. There are other great characters in this story, my favourite being the fox spirit Hikaru, who’s at times playful and at other times dangerous.
The plot was solid throughout, keeping me turning the pages to find out what happens next. I cared about the characters and what they did and wanted to see how they resolved things.
But the book didn’t grab me by the heart in the same way as the author’s early work, Shadows on the Moon (reviewed here). The story was very enjoyable and I can’t think of anything at fault with it, it just didn’t move me in the same way. I’ll be looking out for the sequel, but Shadows on the Moon will be keeping its spot in my favourites.