Wild Court: An Introduction

A young aristocrat safeguarding a terrible secret, sponsoring an archaeology graduate obsessed with angels. An all-knowing orphan worshiped by a mysterious cult. Britain’s finest example of toxic masculinity and an introverted librarian. Together with a retired demon hunter, they’ll face the apocalypse.

This is the (very short) blurb for my new urban / low fantasy book Wild Court and to say that I’m absolutely delighted to have finished the first draft is quite an understatement. I thought that it’d only been four years in the making, but looking back at my notes, it’s been closer to seven, if I disregard its very early origins.

This book started off as a dream. A very bad dream, but it essentially formed the basis of the bestiary that I wanted to play with, and sat stubbornly in my subconscious for quite a few years.

Then I took a difficult job near Holborn and took to taking long walks at lunchtime to clear my head. Although I disliked the work intensely, I loved the area. I could reach Covent Garden, the Piazza, the Royal Opera House, Waterstones and Hatchards in Piccadilly, all in my lunchtime. Then one time, I walked past Wild Court, just off Kingsway, at precisely the same time as I was wondering how on earth some of my colleagues could be so devoid of humanity and empathy, and an idea took hold.

What if it was endemic? What if empathy really was declining? There are some scientific signs and studies that say it is, but I was thinking more about it as a source of inspiration. What if empathy and kindness served a purpose? What if that decline could have potentially disastrous consequences, and what if there was an order of hidden magicians, monitoring this decline and helping to remedy minor breaches of the peace? What if said order was squirreled away not far from where I was standing, just round the corner from Belgo and Leon, and maintained training facilities in completely inconspicuous, sprawling industrial parks like those in Bracknell?

Suddenly I had more than idea, but it just so happened that we were going away on holiday the next day, so – as I do – I bought a large notebook from Paperchase and began to scribble notes. I wrote thirty-three pages of notes somewhere between London and Edinburgh, and from there, began to flesh out the storyline.

Characters seemed to fly into my head; readers of Small Places might recognise facets of Jamie about one of the MCs, but given the timeline, it’s actually the other way around: Jamie reflects Ben. I do like my characters to have comedic foils, and wanted to turn this all the way up, so we gained Matt, a loud, laddish character with twin streaks of toxic masculinity and loyalty a mile wide each. I needed someone with significant brainpower – two someone’s, actually – so we have Alice, a researcher who has dedicated her life to unravelling a mystery, and Chloe, a mysterious orphan worshipped by her own personal cult.

I changed jobs, and all seemed well, until the new role also came with its own problems, and things slowed. I went on holiday to Aberdeen, with the ambition of making it a writing holiday, but ended up doing quite the reverse; I’d been finding it harder and harder to write, and eventually simply stopped, deciding that I’d come back to the 50k words that I had down at another time. In the meantime, I wrote Parasites, and then Small Places and parts of Dusk.

Then, during the late pandemic, I felt the urge to come back to Wild Court – there was a particularly bleak section that I thought was quite fitting to where we were in time, and I scribbled down another 40k words or so, but again, pausing because of more job-related difficulties.

Finally, with yet another change of job, and the launch of Dusk out of the way, I started to blurt out entire chapters, writing 16k words over the long Jubilee weekend. I missed the celebrations, but I think it was worthwhile.

Now I’m starting the editing process. We’re getting there. I hope to bring a few excerpts when I’ve done some polishing, but for now, rest assured that there’s monsters and magic and librarians and archaeologists and snark and dad jokes and villains and eccentric millionaires and retired demon hunters and found family and stark wildernesses and forests and an all-knowing woman worshipped by her own cult and Norway and Bracknell and dick jokes. It’s been a labour of love, but I really, really love it. I hope you do too.

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!

Editing is not my strong suit…

When I was a kid, I read Maggie Prince’s Memoirs of a Dangerous Alien three times straight because I couldn’t bear to leave the world it was set in. Later, I found my sister’s hardback copy of The Time Traveller’s Wife, read it and immediately set out to find a signed paperback copy and read it all again, in all its sharp, painful beauty.

Unfortunately, it turns out that reading your own book – in the name of editing, of course – four times in a row is a sure-fire way to fall out of love with it. And maybe I’ve pushed it too hard.

I was supposed to go away with some friends at the weekend, but after a long, hard week, decided that I needed some self-care. And again, of course, that’s exactly what I didn’t do, finishing a third edit of Small Places and immediately starting on a fourth, only pausing on Sunday afternoon once I’d made the hundred and fifty-eighth change.

(In fairness, there are just over 72,000 words. Messing around with a couple of hundred each time isn’t awful)

But it did occur to me as I switched my brain off to enjoy a Fast and Furious film (guilty pleasure) that it probably isn’t the nicest thing to do to myself. So I’m slowing down a little. I’ve made a list of possible agents to query, but maybe I’ll do another edit first. Perhaps it’s best to wait until I’ve stopped dreaming of line edits and woken up thinking that there’s a massive plot hole somewhere in it.

I’m fairly sure there isn’t a massive plot hole in it.

Who knows – if all the agents say no, then it’s full speed ahead with self-publishing and you could be reading this by summertime.

I think my brain needs to recharge. And I know book blogging is hard for you guys, so please, look after yourselves as well.

I will if you will?