December: The Month I Forgot I was an Author and then Got Meaningful

As some of you might know, I switched jobs in early May, and it’s been an incredibly busy time. This month, it feels like most of the non-work things have been completely pushed out of my head because the level of busyness went up a notch. In fact, it was so busy that when I saw Chelsea’s lovely BookTube review of Small Places, I did a double take and had to remind myself that, yes, I had written that.  

Of course, it’s not been helped by the fact that I’ve been supporting another writer in editing their forthcoming book and – counter-intuitively – changing from UK English to US English, which is tough for a Brit!

So, what’s coming up? Well, Dusk is still sat in a roughly finished state, but it needs editing. I’ve done two rounds of edits, but I still feel like it’s missing some of that state of wonder that I really want to convey. Of course, when you have days when you start work at ten to eight in the morning and finish at half past ten in the evening, there’s little space for wonder, but I’m hoping that the Christmas break will be very restful and help to restore my authorial drive.

And that raises an interesting thought that occurred to me a few weeks ago. I tend to go through relatively existential phases every so often; I was quite religious until about ten years ago, parting ways after binge-reading a number of religious texts and not finding contentment with any of them, or the philosophical books I’d been reading alongside them. I’d steeled myself to there being no one over-arching meaning to life, until I realised that there was perhaps more than a little truth to Brandon Sanderson’s maxim of Journey before Destination.

After all, what if the journey itself was the meaningful part? What if you could aspire to live in a continuous state of both working towards something meaningful, but also enjoy the journey itself? Wouldn’t that be the best kind of meaning? That’s essentially where I’ve gotten to – working towards a continuous state of looking for, and being in wonder, whether that’s reading, gaming, watching films and TV, or writing, because when I’m in that state, it feels like not only a good use of time, but also that it’s contributing to something more meaningful – I feel like I’m experiencing something immensely worthwhile, and that it supports my overall journey to showing that wonder in my books as well. Obviously, this is a fairly lofty aspiration, but is certainly useful in working out what is worthwhile in terms of my free time.

Apologies for going ‘full beam’, and I hope that doesn’t make me sound like some kind of crazed monkish figure, but it’s been a relatively interesting part of my authorial journey, so I figured it was worth sharing.

Stay safe, and a very happy Christmas to you all.

October: Wild Court paused, Dusk in editing

September and October were – strangely – pretty good months for writing. I reached about 90k words, or two-thirds of the way in, to Wild Court and then paused again. I’m not quite sure why this one is being so troublesome, but it’s falling into neat thirds, with a year-long pause between the first and the second, so I really hope this isn’t the case for the second and third! That said, it did allow me to go back to Dusk, the sequel to Parasites, which I started mapping out in early 2020, just as the pandemic started.

I’ve got three different introductions to Dusk, and no clear favourite. Thankfully, the rest of the book is much less troublesome, and after a fair amount of work, it’s now sitting at just north of 105k words (about the same length as Parasites) and I can just about claim that the first draft is finished.

There’s a lot of work to be done; there are at least two parts that just don’t work – one of them is just quite flat, and the other is a plot section that needs relatively major reworking, but I’ve got my eye on them, and they’re first and second on the list of a one-page word document entitled ‘Major Edits’. Admittedly, this document does seem to incorporate minor edits as well, but I suppose I can always retitle the file when I’m done with the major stuff.

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with how it’s come together. Kael and Alessia, along with the other major car crews, embark on an important mission to launch satellites from faraway worlds, gathering intelligence on the structure of the universes, while Basteel and Slyph head across Lyra to Vulpes, Lyra’s farming city, where there may be appearances of a creature worshipped as a deity on the city-ship of Carthusian. Of course, nothing is straightforward on either the rescue mission or the journey across the surface of a damaged asteroid to reach a planet formerly inhabited by a super-evolved species of aliens… 

It’s all compounded by a new threat, a robust and malevolent species seemingly incapable of diplomatic relations, throwing Lyra’s plans into disarray.

I’m not quite sure of when it’ll all come together – I doubt it’ll be this side of New Year, but it’ll certainly be early 2022 at some stage, and I’m also quite excited by the prospect of releasing both hardback and paperback versions, now that KDP allows both, alongside ebooks, of course.

I’ll keep you posted with any details about release as we get closer to the time, but for now, that’s about all. 

September: Small Places and Wild Court

Wow. So, August was pretty wild. I’ve just about recovered from all the amazing reviews, Q&As, features, spotlights, giveaways, Instagram posts and tweets (to name but a few) throughout the month and would definitely like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who got involved. I’m delighted that the book has been well-received, according to Goodreads, which is fantastic.

But … well, in all honesty, I much prefer writing to promoting, and although I should really be focusing on the sequel to Parasites, Dusk, somehow I found myself picking up one of the other urban fantasy titles I started writing a few years back and eventually parked after it ground to a halt around 55k words, or about a third of the way through.

In the last month I’ve powered through another 40k words or so, and it’s about two-thirds done. Wild Court – named after the street in London where a certain secret organisation is located* – is a very different book to Small Places – a bit grittier, a bit more intense in places, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’d love to share details of where I am with it, but that would involve major spoilers – the overall premise is that it’s a fantastical look at the impact of declining empathy in modern society, and follows multiple protagonists in the first person. We meet a timid librarian, a smart archaeologist hunting biblical artefacts, a cowardly millionaire, an all-knowing woman followed by a mysterious cult, and a breathtakingly terrible example of toxic masculinity, all alongside a secret organisation with an incredibly grumpy tutor and a dastardly villain.

I’m not sure when it’ll be done; I’ve slowed a little recently, but I think that the third part will be shorter than the other two, and then it’ll need editing etc – hopefully, we’ll get there by the end of the year, and then I can bounce back to writing Dusk. Sorry about this; I can’t really control what my brain wants to write, although I did get excited during all the Small Places promotion and started to plan out a sequel, so there’s about 60% of that structured somewhere on my computer.

There is no other space in my brain for other writing projects right now. Promise.  

* It’s a real street; check it out – it’s near Covent Garden.

Small Places is out!

It’s been a long trip, but we’re finally here, and I’m delighted to share the book with you. We’re on day three of the book tour with the wonderful Justine and Timy of Storytellers on Tour, and I’m incredibly grateful for all of the time you’ve all spent reading, reviewing and (hopefully!) enjoying Small Places.

If you’re new to the book, here’s the blurb – Small Places joins Jamie, a boy living in a country village, as he runs an errand for a friend of the family to collect medicine from a witch, Melusine, who lives in a hidden forest in the countryside.

Thirteen years later, strange earthquakes and storms are wracking Britain, Jamie’s parents have separated and his mother is suffering from cancer. He returns home to look after her, but receives a mysterious summons from Melusine. Figuring that if she needs him, she may be willing to help his mother, he meets with the witch, learning that the freak weather is being caused by something affecting the earth spirit, Gaia. Mel needs his help to find the source of the problems – and this means travelling to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, hunting down clues, whilst simultaneously putting up with the irritable witch and dealing with his mum’s terminal illness.

As ever, you can see the content and trigger warnings on my site – please do consult them prior to reading, or get in touch if you have further questions.

If you’d like a review copy, please do get in touch – both the kindle and print copies are ready to be ordered, and if you’re already reading it, enjoy! 

One month until Small Places is out!

It’s only one month until Small Places is out! It seems bizarre that I started writing it in late October of 2019, almost two years ago. I wanted to spend some time talking about some of the origins of Small Places. I think I’ve mentioned before that I was on holiday in the New Forest, reading Nevernight, and wanted to write something woodland-themed. I’m very interested in shamanic practitioning, and the human connection to nature, in all its beauty and savagery, so wanted to bring a little of that to the book as well.

I’ve always enjoyed walking in the woodland, and forests have always felt like magical places to me. The stained-glass window that Jamie and Mel see is very real, and very impressive – if you’re ever near the Forest of Dean, it’s well worth a trip!

After Parasites, I felt the need to try and plan something a bit “cleverer” – I really like the Lyran adventure, but it definitely feels a little open-ended sometimes. I wanted to do something more contained, with a tighter narrative arc. As any readers of Parasites will know, I’m a big fan of multiple universes and secret places, and taking this to a fantasy setting was something I’d already considered for another (on indefinite hiatus) novel, but in a slightly different way.

I’ve also always been a fan of the ‘appearances can be deceiving’ trope, so a lot of the horrifying creatures in Small Places are not quite what they seem, and vice versa. Similarly, ever since reading the wonderful Perdido Street Station (and The Scar, which I confess to liking a little more), playing Dishonored and Terraria, I’ve been keen to include aspects of steampunk, which I hope you’ll enjoy. There are undoubtedly influences from visiting the Natural History Museum in London – and the underground route to it from South Kensington Station – as well as various underground vaults in London, including Waterloo’s Vaults on Leake St and the now defunct-Shunt club in London Bridge.

Looking back at my notes from 2019, I still can’t quite figure out where Mel came from. As a child, I grew up with the Chronicles of Narnia, and my brain tells me that the closest analogue is a well-meaning witch in a BBC series called Simon and the Witch, both of which are a long way from Mel’s personality! She’s my wife’s favourite character in the book and potentially mine as well, and I’d be very interested in telling more of her story someday. 

Any book is a huge combination of inspirations and prompts, but I do hope that if you’ve got an advance copy, you’re enjoying the book – and if you read it next month, that you also enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please get in touch with any questions.

Two months until Small Places is live!

It’s two months to go until Small Places is out on August 3rd! There’s been a lot of progress – the paperback copies are now finished and looking great. Most of the merch has arrived, and I’ve got a range of bookmarks, grimoire-style notebooks, witches hat lapel pins, fantasy notecards … and one steampunk scorpion to give away. Everything looks incredible, and I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out. You can see some of the content below – please excuse my amateur photography.

The tiny steampunk scorpion is probably my favourite here – it’ll be given away during a certain book tour later in August, so stay tuned for details!

I’m really delighted that review copies are now available, so if you’d like one, please let me know. I’d love to hear what you think about the book, so please contact me if you have thoughts, or would like to run a Q&A at any stage.

I’ve tried to leave plenty of time before launch – hopefully the fact that we’ve got two months until the official date will mean that there’s time for long postage delays (for some reason, Parasites took about five weeks to get to Canada, and three weeks to India) as well as time for you to get through your lengthy TBRs before August! That said, please don’t pressure yourself to speed-read – it’s more important that you enjoy the book 😊

In other news, I’m continuing to make slow progress with Dusk, although it’s always tough to split your attention between promoting one book and writing another (not to mention ‘actual work’ and life admin!) but we’re getting there. I’m feeling a little happier with how it’s working out, and hopeful that things will accelerate in future. Without giving too much away, our heroes are divided fairly early on in the book, so there are two parallel stories to follow. I’d written (and been dissatisfied with) one stream, and then started to write the other afresh – so once that’s finished, it should be faster to work with the other one and upgrade it, using some of the earlier details. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll keep this site updated with my word count etc.

Small Places is coming!

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that Small Places, my new urban fantasy novel, is available for pre-order, ahead of its launch on Amazon on August 3rd. Small Places joins Jamie, a boy living in a country village, as he runs an errand for a friend of the family to collect medicine from a witch, Melusine, who lives in a hidden forest in the countryside.

Thirteen years later, strange earthquakes and storms are wracking Britain, Jamie’s parents have separated and his mother is suffering from cancer. He returns home to look after her, but receives a mysterious summons from Melusine. Figuring that if she needs him, she may be willing to help his mother, he meets with the witch, learning that the freak weather is being caused by something affecting the earth spirit, Gaia. Mel needs his help to find the source of the problems – and this means travelling to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, hunting down clues, whilst simultaneously putting up with the irritable witch and dealing with his mum’s terminal illness.

It’s been an instructional (read: slightly painful) process, but I’m thrilled that it’s finally here. Looking back at the process, I finished the first draft on New Year’s Eve of 2019, and ran through preliminary edits by March … and then the pandemic happened and things *really* slowed down. Beta readers enjoyed it, but I did a relatively major re-write after my chief editor (and long-suffering partner) suggested a tweak that affected the entire book. Nonetheless, it’s a better book because of it, and thanks to the changes, we (most significantly) get to meet Jamie’s mum, which also affected a hundred and one other things throughout the book – including the ending!

As ever, you can see the content and trigger warnings on my site – please do consult them prior to reading, or get in touch if you have further questions.

If you’d like a review copy, please do get in touch – the kindle versions are ready for pre-order, and the paperbacks will be ready soon; I had a proof through today and they just need a little tweak. There’ll be a blog tour running with Storytellers on Tour from the 1st August, and merch, goodies and other bits and pieces are also in the works – so stay tuned!

February: Lots of good news and bad news, often together

Hi bookfans!

In the interests of complete transparency, there’s going to be nothing about writing in this post for one easy reason – there’s been no writing. You might remember back in October that I mentioned I was struggling with burnout from my (non-writing) job; well, it’s been worse than I’d imagined, and this month I left my job. Obviously, the good news is that I’ve got another one, and hopefully it’ll be less soul-sapping.

The bad news is / was that it’s been stressful. I called a doctor yesterday because for the past fortnight, I’ve been getting chest pains, headaches, and it’s been progressively harder and harder to breathe throughout the working day. Being a long-time asthma sufferer, I’d put this down to the onset of a chest infection, but without the cough. I’d even get the ‘brain fog’ towards the end of the day and be snappy and grumpy (huge apologies to my long-suffering partner).

After a chat on the phone, the doctor eventually concluded that it was stress, at which point I really just felt like bursting into tears – more with relief than anything (chest infections are horrible, and in some way, it was reassuring to have the stress validated).

I have some time off between jobs – again, double-edged sword; I won’t be getting paid, but I’ll have time off to recover and (hopefully) get back into writing a bit more. I’ve been trying to be kind to myself (which I’m not great at) and am mulling the idea of some therapy during my time off – I’ve never tried it before. I also treated myself to some noise-cancelling headphones, which are quite nice for escaping the world from time to time! I’m hoping that at some stage during the time off, I can travel, although the UK is still on full lockdown for some time. We’ll see.

Although I’ve not been writing, I have been reading. Like, a lot. I read through the Stormlight Archive, including Edgedancer, Dawnshard and Rhythm of War (rollercoaster doesn’t quite start to cover it!), the new Becky Chambers (love), Red Rising, Golden Son (also love) and the Path Keeper (by N.J. Simmonds – didn’t get along with it).

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this before, but I have a bit of a thing for PC peripherals – I went through a big mechanical keyboard phase, and have just changed my mouse from the Corsair M65 to the Logitech MX Master, which is excellent. I didn’t think I’d ever swap from the Corsair, but the Logitech was a gift, and I’m very much enjoying it. I’m always up for a chat about peripherals and PC building!

That’s quite a long post, and I’m sorry that there’s nothing in the way of writing updates. I’m hoping that recovery will pave the way for a better, healthier me, and better, smarter books. I hope that you’re all ok, and surviving your respective lockdowns alright.

What happened between November and January? Small Places edits, Dusk re-writes

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted, and it’s been a relatively productive time. Although Christmas was not what I was expecting, we nonetheless had a cosy, happy time, despite not seeing friends or family. It’s been a shock being back at work during January, but I think that’s true universally!

After a preliminary read of Small Places back in October by my chief beta reader (my wife), I decided to make some fairly sweeping changes to it. That meant a few rounds of edits and re-reads, before passing it back to her and another beta reader. The beta reader suggested a few minor changes, but my wife is still halfway through – although the feedback has been largely positive. I’ve been encouraged by both of them to re-query, so although this means that it’ll be delayed for slightly longer, hopefully what comes to you will be a slicker, better book.

I’ve also started a Dusk re-write. Last year, I’d written around 69k words, but one of the characters felt very flat, and it felt like I’d lost the sense of wonder that I enjoyed conveying so much within Parasites. I’ve restructured and re-built a lot of it, and although a lot of the previous work will stay, there have – again – been some fairly radical changes. I do hope that this means a better reading experience and a more enjoyable book in the long term.

Editing always feels relatively frustrating to me, almost as if I’d got the words wrong in the first place, but I’m gradually learning not to watch the word counts and simply try to enjoy the process, write the best thing I can – rather than simply producing a book, producing something I really like. I’m not sure if that’s clear, but last year I’d certainly fallen into the trap of feeling bad about not writing as many words as I theoretically could. Perhaps it’s different when you’re a more skilled writer, or a writer with a deadline, but I’m sure that for me, it was probably a product of pandemic stress!

What happened in October? Burnout, character development and holidays!

Hi everyone!

I’ve just got back from holiday and can honestly say that I really needed it. I’ve not written a single word this month, and have slowly been coming to the realisation that I’m struggling with a reasonable case of burnout from my (non-writing) work, which has gradually been sapping my creativity and ability to write to my own satisfaction. Needless to say, I’m going to be taking it as easy as possible in the coming weeks and months.

My wife is still reading Small Places, and in conjunction with a creative writing refresher course that I saw on sale on Udemy, I’ve realised that there are a number of elements that need relatively serious revision. Despite having been through three beta readers and a large number of edits, there’s still significant room for improvement, particularly when it comes to character, which isn’t something that comes naturally to me.

After struggling with the protagonist for a few weeks, I had some good inspiration – of all places – halfway down the A1 on our way back from holiday, so I’m hoping that I can make sense of my scribbled notes (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving at the time!) and make it an even better book to read.

I did also make some progress on the setting and characters for The Witch Lord’s Apprentice, although that’s still very much in early planning. I’m annoyed that I can’t share Small Places with you now, or that I haven’t gotten any further with Dusk, but life happens. I hope you’re all managing ok, staying safe – and if you’re interested, there’s a few holiday snaps from Scotland below.

The view from our Airbnb!
No-one for miles 🙂