What’s been going on in July? Three new projects

I’ve been a bit lax in posting this year, but after some time off, I’m feeling a bit more determined and energised. I’ve been working on three different projects – which you can see in the ‘books’ section – but I’m delighted to be able to tell you a little bit more about them here as well.

First, we have the third (final and as-yet-unnamed) book in the Navigator series; this is the culmination of Parasites and Dusk, which sees Kael, Alessia, Basteel, Caroline and Slyph take on their biggest challenge yet. On the back-foot in the wake of the Tardigrade invasion, they attempt to rally the Lyran forces and come up with an effective plan in the face of complete disarray. As a nation of explorers, fighting is not in their nature, but there is little choice. With Basteel separated from the group by many universes, both groups attempt to re-unite before their entire population is decimated by the near-unstoppable force.

I’ve had this book planned out for a while now, but it’s been a little difficult to get going – hence my flitting between three books at the moment. I’m determined to get back into it and give the explorers the finish they deserve!

Secondly, I’m continuing to rewrite the first book I ever wrote. I’ve been toying with this for years; initially it was all in the first person, and I’d decided to rewrite it in the third. On reflection, I’d like to be truer to the spirit of the original while incorporating elements of the newer content, so I’m starting again, using some of the source material and reverting to first person.

Grace and Vengeance is a curious story, set in a modern world where the faery and humans coexist uneasily, with ‘factions’ in the middle, organisations set up to protect and mediate the effects of the fey. Over the years, the political climate has shifted, and people no longer believe that they can live in harmony with the fey. As tensions build, a beaten down schoolboy is thrown into the middle of this decades-long conflict with a group of friends, and the oncoming storm will either make or break them.

Finally, I’m also working on a fairly chilled out book, The Slow and Gentle Wyrd, which is an Alice in Wonderland-style peaceful adventure, designed to be a beautiful recharge for the winter months. I don’t know if I’ll actually have it finished by winter, but we’ll see! It sees our MC, Sam, fall through a magical door in an airport bookshop, and accompanying a boy on his rite of passage adventure of the Autumn City, encountering wonderful and magical people and places throughout. It’s sheer indulgence, very much inspired by the likes of Lewis Carroll, Clive Barker’s Abarat and Jackie Morris’ books.

And that’s it! It’s been slightly slow progress, but hopefully I’m mentally on the mend and will keep you updated on progress on all three.

Happy New Year! What’s been going on in January?

Happy New Year! I hope that you’re all doing well and enjoyed – or survived as best you could – the festive season. I had a slightly unusual break, finished a job just before Christmas and then going to the states for a family occasion, landing back in the UK on the 23rd. We had a great time, but I strongly recommend that anyone considering getting a red-eye, then dragging all of their bags across London in the middle of a train strike should strongly look at other options!

Thankfully, the rest of the break was much more restful, and I got some great books for Christmas – some of Jackie Morris’ work, which I adore, plus a good selection of non-fiction and fiction, as well as a number of old Doctor Who books that I rescued from my parents’ house and have been working my way through.

After finishing Wild Court last year, I thought I’d take a brief hiatus in the latter months, although I’m not quite sure if it was a good idea. It turns out that it’s quite easy to become discouraged and out of the habit of writing, so I’m very happy to return to ‘work’…

As much as I ever plan what I’m going to write in a year, I have to admit that my plans have changed. I started (and finished) planning a heaven / hell / humans epic fantasy last year, nominally titled The Witch-Lord’s Apprentice. It’s great fun, but it’s essentially stalled for some reason. I also wanted to continue with the Small Places duology / trilogy, but after revisiting my plans for that, I’m just not happy with how they’ve turned out, and think I need to do some serious re-thinking in the interests of being fair to Jamie, Mel and V.

This leaves me with two projects: finishing the last in the Navigator trilogy, and re-writing the first book I ever wrote, which I’ll probably do in reverse order. The latter is a low fantasy novel, where humans co-exist uneasily with the faery, and powerful groups – the faction – work to manage the faery, but are hated by the humans. The story follows a group of school friends who are sent to a research institute for their summer internships, and become embroiled in a conspiracy and political struggle between the factions that has been simmering for decades. I first wrote it in the early noughties, and really love the concept, but my writing has changed a lot since then!

I’m also going to publish Wild Court, which is a fantastical look at the impact of declining empathy in our society. In WC, empathy powers the barriers between our world and the nightmare worlds that border it, and our protagonists are dragged right into the middle of things at the worst possible time. There’s plenty more on my blog about it, and I’m delighted to be able to bring it to you this year. It’s in production, and the wheels are turning, so bear with and it’ll likely launch mid-year.

That’s about it for now, but you’ll be the first to know when things change. Until next time, take care and read well.  

Going on hiatus*

Phew.

We’re there. Kind of.

I’ve finished another two rounds of editing on Wild Court, and am pretty happy with how it looks. Of course, in my mind, that translates to ‘I alternate between warm and contented feelings about it and not knowing if it’s absolute trash and wanting to climb under a rock and hide rather than risk showing it to anyone’.

That makes for six re-reads of all 123,000 words, which is quite enough for anyone to lose sight of whether a book is any good or not, encouraging beta feedback or no. I’ve done some loose formatting to make it query-able, drafted up a synopsis and query letter and submitted it to a load of agents.

In the dream scenario, obviously, one comes back interested and we progress to trying to find a publisher. In the other scenario, I’ll have it formatted, commission some cover art, manage a book tour and sort out review copies, having it self-published on Amazon. Either way, you get to read it.  

I’m keenly aware that I’ve been doing this for a while, and it’s been ages since I’ve not had a book on the go. I’m also aware that I need to write Parasites 3 and Small Places 2, not to mention all the other concepts I’ve been throwing around, but that I’ve been doing this through a variety of stressful jobs, not to mention a pandemic. Although Parasites was only published three years ago in 2019, I started seriously writing my first book in 2011, so it’s been over a decade!

So I’m going to try taking a break, or at least, slowing down or not pressuring myself to write and edit so much. I’ve been pushing myself a bit relentlessly, at the cost of enjoying the process, so while Wild Court is being queried, I’m going to take the rest of the year off – unless I really feel like writing. I have a full-time job as well, and I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to ‘only’ have life admin to do; writing always looms over you when you’re a writer, and I’m not keen on that feeling. 

Anyway, I hope to bring you happy news of one sort or another at some point – I’ll leap back on here if I get as much as a whisper of a full manuscript request – but in the mean time, I’m going to catch up on my gaming, my reading, and maybe put my feet up a bit.

* Isn’t ‘hiatus’ a strange word? I don’t think I’ve written it that much before. Too many vowels.

April – Dusk is Live!

Dusk is live!

[Full disclosure – this post contains minor hints as to what happens in Parasites]

I’m absolutely delighted that Dusk, the sequel to Parasites, is now live on the Amazon store. It’s been a fun book to work on, but for a while, I wasn’t sure if it would actually get written! The last two years of the pandemic has been a difficult time to write in, and Dusk was fairly problematic at best. Now that it’s here, I’m thrilled with it; the cover art came off brilliantly, and it all looks fantastic.  

One of the major challenges with Dusk was how to bring back – and continue – some of the themes, characters and mysteries that I’d started in Parasites. I had a number of notes for continuity from Book 1, but I certainly hadn’t planned it out the entire trilogy in depth. I needed to explore things like the unresponsive creatures that the duo finds, the continuity of the communities that Kael and Alessia come into contact with, and I also wanted to spend a lot more time exploring Lyra itself, all the while, driving the main plot forwards.

Then there were broader things to look at, like what happens when you add more resources to a resource-poor world; what do they do with these resources, and what does it do to the social and political climate of the planet? I really wanted to spend some time with the various colonies and outposts that Lyra established. What would they be like? How would the colonists behave? Would they have their own cultures? All of this gave me a pretty broad canvas to play with, and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed tinkering with.

However, it was pretty clear that the overall plot of the trilogy couldn’t move forwards if we spent all of our time on Lyra, so that meant splitting up the main crew. I’d already spent a bit of time writing as Slyph in Parasites, and in Dusk, we see chapters from not only Kael and Alessia, but also Slyph, Basteel and Caroline, Basteel’s partner in crime. K&A are fairly calm and happy-go-lucky in Parasites, but when the tension ratchets up, and things really matter, it’s a test of their characters – and an opportunity to explore what they’re really made of.

 Now it’s out in the world, I’m keen to know your views on it – what did you think, what did you like, what didn’t you like?

February: Dusk is almost here!

We’re getting close.

In December, I’d been through two edits of Dusk. I’ve just finished the fifth (I think – it might be six) and am ready to declare the core manuscript finished. Editing is generally something I don’t really enjoy, and for me, is a sure-fire way to remove whatever enjoyment I take in reading (especially after the third or fourth re-read!) but I’m taking the fact that I still enjoyed parts of Dusk after the last re-read as a good sign.  

There are still a host of things to do; it needs a cover, it needs a map, it needs print formatting, the physical version will need a look over. We’ll need to sort out the details of whatever promotional stuff – tours, giveaways, gifts etc need to be sorted, and I’ve just been working out minutiae like the copyright page, the content and trigger warnings, so on and so forth. But we’re really close!

And … I’m also leaning towards the possibility of plunging on with the third book in the trilogy, rather than trying to get back to finishing Wild Court, the other urban fantasy novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for a few years now. WC (oops…) has been on/off for a while now, and although I’m making steady progress, it’s something I’d rather work on when I feel passionate about it, rather than forcing myself to finish the last 40k words.

We’ll get there.

Anyway, that’s about all the news I have at the moment – stay tuned, and we might even do a cover reveal for Dusk at some stage soon…

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. 

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 in June? Dusk, Wild Court and Small Places progress, life issues and gorgeous books

June has been a fairly crap month writing-wise, and there’s not a lot to report on the writing front. I’ve written a measly eleven thousand more words on Dusk, the sequel to Parasites, taking it to 37k, and unfortunately progress on Wild Court has stalled again. Thankfully, despite not really being able to travel far, I’ve had a few ideas for the sequel to Small Places, and even tentatively titled it, but my structuring ran out of steam after what is probably the first third of the book!

After a fairly long dry spell, I’ve been writing more again in the last few days, but I think lockdown has definitely taken its toll. I suspect that, like others, needing to feel in control of my own life is something of a pre-requisite for functioning like a proper human being. I’ve really been trying to look after myself – running does actually help me, and I managed to see (socially distanced) friends the other day, which was a lovely slice of normality.

However, there’s still trouble brewing in my ‘real’ job. I’m working fewer hours, which is something of a double-edged sword. I have more time to write, but am slightly dreading my next paycheque! And despite working fewer hours for the last few weeks, I’ve just not been motivated to write.

Still, I’m hopeful. I’ve written more in the past two days than I have in the preceding two weeks, so with any luck it was just a small dry spell. As you might have seen from my Instagram, I’ve also been very lucky to get the Illumicrate version of The Last Wish and the Folio Society version of Howl’s Moving Castle. They’re both absolutely gorgeous and I’m looking forward to diving back into them – although I’ve also been reading the much-lauded Six of Crows and am just reading Crooked Kingdom, alongside Nora McKinney’s A Natural, which has been quite a change of genre for me!

Small Places is still being beta read, although one of my betas seems to have disappeared – so I can’t yet share a release date. I’m so keen for it to be read, but (especially since I’ve started to plan the sequel) I only want it out once it’s ready.

As ever, please take care, look after yourselves and read bloody amazing books.

What happened in May? Dusk, Small Places and Wild Court updates, pandemic problems and amazing books

April and May have been strange and difficult months, so I’ll start with the book stuff to avoid boring anyone with the personal updates if that’s not what you’re here for.

First up, progress on Dusk (Parasites sequel) has been a little slow – I’m on about 26k words, up from 15k this time last month. When I was working on Small Places, I once wrote twelve thousand words in two days over the Christmas break, so I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed at that … but in fairness they were very different times.

That said, I’m fairly pleased with how it’s coming together, although it definitely needs editing; I wrote a Basteel chapter that clocked in at about 4.5k words on its own! There’s a reasonable chunk of the book that takes place on the rest of Lyra, which was something I really wanted to do after finishing Parasites. You only really see Vega in the first book, so I wanted to explore a little more of the rest of the planet. 

We’re also coming close to the three-month deadline that I set for querying Small Places, so I may well be looking for beta readers and other bits and pieces soon, as well as setting a publishing date! With all the stuff that’s been going on, I tend to forget about it, then remember it quite fondly. I’m just not sure whether to do a last (sixth? seventh?) re-read before getting it out to a beta, but time will tell…

Finally, I’ve also started looking at Wild Court again, the low fantasy WIP I parked around the 50k word mark in the middle of last year. It’s now around 26k, although I’m finding that re-writing and re-editing a novel is much harder than writing it from scratch!

Onto the other stuff: I don’t know if any of you are gamers, but I remember when the first Baldur’s Gate game came out and there’s a narrated chapter break where there’s a reference to a journey being ‘an unfamiliar blur to your fractured nerves’, and that’s really how this month has felt. In mid-April, there were some difficult discussions at work where a few of my colleagues and I were faced with the possibility of a 40% pay cut. Thankfully that didn’t come to pass, but our physical office did close, so I had to go into London to pick up a few personal things that I’d left there.  

I was half expecting it to be apocalyptically quiet, but there were people around – lots of construction workers, and a small number of people travelling like me. There were maybe ten people in total on my train, so I was able to socially-distance quite easily.

My wife was furloughed fairly recently, which was initially stressful, but she’s now really enjoying it! We were supposed to be on holiday between two weddings a few weeks ago, and perversely, on the day my friend was supposed to be getting married (now postponed), he got hit by a car. He’s doing ok, thankfully.

I also found out that a guy I knew a while back had died, which was really awful. I hadn’t seen him for a long time, but he was a great guy, impossible to dislike. The silver lining was that I did get to attend the funeral remotely, which was very sad – but I was glad I could.

I don’t want to end on a negative note, so I’ll also add that I’ve been reading a lot more during lockdown; I’ve just finished the slightly disappointing Agency by William Gibson, but did re-read the magnificent The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is just a masterpiece. I’m now reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, which I’ve enjoyed before – I’ve got a weakness for South African Sci-Fi (Chappie and District 9, anyone?). As you might have gathered, I’m also a bit of a gamer and Terraria has been absorbing a lot of my time recently – the final update launches today, which I’m quite excited about – there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything!

I do hope that you’re all staying safe, well and healthy – take care.