Tag Archives: Hirst Publishing

The Indie Chart with J. T. Wilson

This will be the first guest spot in a while, so who better than fellow Hirst scribe and good friend, J.T. Wilson… I’ll allow him to introduce himself.

The Indie Chart

Hello, I’m JT Wilson, and in 2010 I had the novel ‘Cemetery Drive’ published by Hirst Publishing. It’s been twelve months since I proudly announced my first foray into published writing and in that time I’ve been on a journey where there’s been a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, a lot learned, and a lot of clichés written in the pre-ambles to pieces. So what have I learnt from my life on an indie publishing house? Here’s some of it. Please don’t take this as any sort of guidance or advice: I never said I was a role model.

1. Being published doesn’t immediately mean a one-way ticket to stardom

I held lofty dreams as I wrote ‘Cemetery Drive’ that I would march into my workplace one day with a huge advance contract and announce “So long, suckers! You’ll see me holding the Pulitzer!”or something. When the publishing deal was agreed, I dusted off my speech and wondered if my employers would even get the Pulitzer reference. Perhaps not. Of course, things don’t pan out like that. I realised that I would have to sell somewhere in the region of 10,000 copies to be able to indulge in writing as a career. At last count, I’d estimate sales to be about 150. Still, I’m not alone here: Robert Rankin was still working as an artist and carpenter when the Brentford Trilogy was published; Franz Kafka never did quit his job; and a friend of mine had a book published through Publish America only to receive a royalty cheque for $1.86.

2. Everyone is a writer

When I was publishing stories on LiveJournal and quietly hacking away at ‘Cemetery Drive’, the only other author I knew was the prodigiously talented Die Booth, whose artwork adorns the cover of my book. Suddenly, however, I announced the publication of ‘Cemetery Drive’ and everyone’s an author. Here’s a family member who has always wanted to write a novel (by the way: if you want to write a novel, just, y’know, do it). Here’s a work colleague who’s writing romantic comedy on the quiet. Here’s a professional wrestler who’s already had a cookery book published (I swear I am not making this up). Here’s a guy you wouldn’t think could string two sentences together who writes poetry. It’s bizarre how many fellow authors show up. And that’s before you get to the amount of authors who are with your publisher and doing amazing work.

3. People who have no interest in your book are apparently fascinated at the prospect of a sequel

It’s all very well being a writer and shutting yourself up in an ivory tower where you can write books about being a writer who shuts themselves up in a dark tower, but unless you’re Stephen King, this shit won’t wash and you have to engage with the public in the hope of hoodwinking them into buying a copy of your book. Book signings mostly involve talking bollocks with other authors under the guise of selling, then going to get pie-eyed with the authors/publisher/whoever to toast a successful day’s work, but there are parts of talking to the public too, of course: engaging with your audience and all that. Bear in mind, of course, that unless you’re Dan Brown or JK Rowling, the public in general won’t have a clue about the content of your book so be prepared to explain the plot many, many times over the course of the day. Other people will always be able to summarise your plot better than you will: feel free to steal their summaries for your own use.

The most interesting thing I’ve found from the signings I’ve done, though, is that people will always ask “is there a sequel in the pipeline?” or similar. This is shortly before wandering off, not buying your first one. As nobody who asks this question at signings has ever bought my book, I have no idea what the correct answer is to this question. In my case, the true answer is “I’m writing another book, but it’s not a sequel to this book” but the correct answer could easily be “No, I’m retiring from writing after this” or “Yes, this is the first in a 487-part series.”

4. Nobody will ever appreciate your art as much as you do

The funds for the publication of ‘Cemetery Drive’ were generated by people pre-ordering the novel, which is a massive risk for a debut novel, of course: people are buying the book on the expectation it’ll be good because they think you’re witty or incisive or smart or hot, one of those things anyway. And when they actually read it and like it, and can prove this by quoting segments or lines or plot parts, that’s a shock, although a shock that’s good for your ego.

But as much as people will love parts of your book, people won’t love or even understand all of it and your favourite character or segment might get totally passed over in reviews, brutally edited out of the audio version, and generally unloved. It’s the same as being in a band- you might enjoy playing a four-minute bass solo, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will.

A related point, although perhaps not enough to note separately, is that no matter how long you agonise over whether someone will notice the blatant reference to their characteristics or even their name, you’ll get away with it about 99% of the time. But then, I once played a song called ‘Sarah’ at a gig where the Sarah who the song was about was present, and she never raised it, so draw your own conclusions.

5. A bizarre combination of ego and shyness can occur in some situations

I used to go into Waterstones and look at where my book would conceivably be (next to Jeanette Winterson I’d hoped) on the shelves. Now it’s actually in Waterstones I can’t go in and look. I want to know what people think of my book and have reviews on the website and all that but I’m too shy to pry too much. People have pretty much only said nice things about it and that’s good and all but surely someone didn’t like it? Like who? And why? And yet I can’t bear to ask.

6. Anything is more exciting than work

Whenever I’m asked “what made you decide to write the book?” I don’t know how to answer the question and look away, mumbling awkwardly about compulsion. There isn’t a conscious decision to write. I wrote ‘Cemetery Drive’ because I felt that I had to, and that I had to before the idea withered and died. When I then expanded the story outside of the novel with additional parts, it took an entire week and I was convinced that I’d gone completely insane but I did it because once I’d thought of it, I had to do it. The second and third novels, which are in semi-complete stages, are being written because I feel that I have to write them. Of course, with no deal to write a second book and no clamouring demand for it, this necessity to write exists only within me. Still I am compelled because I am compelled to write.

But on the other hand, writing can be massively frustrating and tedious as soon as it feels like work. Whenever I had some free time, I’d work on the book, but if I didn’t feel inspired, I’d just end up reading Wikipedia. Tonight, I was supposed to be editing 20,000 words out of ‘Cemetery Drive’ for the audio version and yet here I am writing this. The comedian Dave Gorman, out of ideas for his novel, learnt about Googlewhacking and wasted his publisher’s advance on meeting Googlewhacks rather than ever writing one word of his novel. If writing seems hard, it won’t get done.

 

In the second of this series, which will be published no later than 2016, I’d expect, I’ll be reporting back on my life on the bestsellers’ list, having a £12million film script and fretting over which yacht to buy. Stay tuned, reader.

‘Cemetery Drive’ can be purchased directly from the publisher, or from any good book stockist. An eBook version is in the pipeline (really? Joe asks.Yes, says Andy, I know things you don’t. :p).

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Getting it out there…

It’s been a week since Seeker was launched and I hear sales (both print and digital) are doing quite well. It’s quite an exciting time, really, with many comments coming my way like ‘it’s worth way more than £10’ and ‘an exceptional fantasy novel’, and my all-time favourite so far, ‘this pulls you into it, better than Twilight.’ A phrase I will never tire of hearing. My publisher and I are currently working on setting up a few signings across Wales and England, and I’ve been invited to a signing in Ireland, too. No dates as yet, we need to wait until the book is properly on the system (which takes a couple of weeks), and then we shall see. I’ll announce the dates as and when I get them, of course.

The launch itself went quite well, I thought, although it began for me the day before. Saturday 19th March; I was visiting my sister in Southend, England, one of the main locations of Seeker, and while there I figured I’d drop a few promotional posters off. One such place is a small coffee shop called Cafe Reviver, run by a friend of mine called Gary Willis. While there, Gary offered the use of his cafe as a place to do a signing – an offer I intend to take him up on later this year, most likely in the summer. So if you’re in Southend during the summer, look out for this bearded chap sitting outside a cafe on Queens Road surrounded by books. From there I popped into the Halfway House, a former place of employment and also a location used in the book, to drop off another poster and catch up with some friends. There I got into a conversation with a former-customer of mine, Linda Knights (all the time I worked there and I never knew her name), in which I discovered both she and her father, Charlie, love reading. They got quite excited about me releasing a book, and promised to pick up a copy as soon as it hit the shops. So, I consider the trip to Southend successful. After my brief visit to the Halfway I was picked up by my very good friends Ryan Hunter and Ben Theobald (who were travelling all the way to Wales just for the signing – that’s dedication!), and began the long journey back to Wales; a journey which proved to be rather amusing, especially when, by the time we reached the toll booth at the Severn Bridge, the three of us we bouncing and singing along with Christina Aguilera and ‘Fighter’. I looked at them, laughed, glanced around at all the other cars and said, ‘can you spot the gay car?’ Shame on us!

The actual launch took place on the Sunday, March 20th, and I have to admit that during the lead up to it the nerves were beginning to set in. Ryan, who was to do a reading (maybe!) thought he’d be nervous. Ha! He had the easy part. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, and after a bit of faffing around regarding parking meters, we met Tim, head honcho of Hirst Publishing, to help him carry boxes of books to the venue. Boxes of my book! What a strange feeling. As soon as we got to his car, Tim ripped open a box so I could finally see my book. And it was awesome! Everything up to this point (the short stories published in the official Doctor Who anthologies, the eBooks, even the proof beta-copies of Seeker) – everything! – paled in comparison. Finally, after many long years I was holding the fruit of my labours. Not only that, but the summation of the dream I’d had since I was sixteen. And yet, somehow, I managed to contain my excitement. I was intent on not being some excitable geek, but rather the seasoned author. Calm, collected, reserved, and maybe, just maybe, a little cool.

The venue was the King’s Cross Bar, and the staff there were incredibly helpful. Setting up the stage, complete with hanging chains, and allowing me to reorganise their tables (which we did put back when we were done!). Flyers were already on every table, just to inform those who came for breakfast. We arrived plenty early, which did mean a lot of waiting around, and an anxious publisher who wondered how many people would turn up, and when, and what time should we start and… yeah, you can imagine. Me, I just took it all in my step, after all we did have plenty of time and there was no immediate rush. Slowly, but surely (as the saying goes), people started to arrive. Primarily there were many I knew, friends and family invited, but there were plenty of others, too, just general visitors to the pub who were a little curious as to what was happening. Alas the first potential disaster struck near the time of the ‘event’, when I discovered that my cousin could not make it to do her reading. It bothered Ryan more than anyone, though, as he didn’t like the idea of doing one alone, so I managed to persuade Jolene Ferries to read the piece my cousin was due to read. Problem solved, disaster averted.

Tim took to the stage to do his introduction, only to find that the mic didn’t work anymore. Another potential disaster that was an easy fix; dislodged batteries, no problem.  In his introduction Tim pointed out that I was the first author he took onboard without even reading their book, simply because ‘Andy was recommended to me by Gary Russell, and if Gary Russell doesn’t know a good writer then who does’. As introductions go, that isn’t too shabby. Cut to Ryan, doing his reading. He said afterwards that his whole body was shaking with nerves, but despite an initial stumble over a few words, I think he acquitted himself very well indeed. This is the passage he read;

She leaned in closer and whispered his name in his ear. Sam reacted with a start, his movement so sudden that Lilly almost fell over, but she regained her balance in time for Sam to rip off his glasses and point at the mirror.

‘It’s you!’ he shouted, then staggered backwards.

Lilly moved quickly to steady him. He blinked a few times, and looked around wildly.

‘What… where… who…?’ His eyes came to rest on Lilly. ‘You. Where am I?’

‘Sam, it’s me, Lilly. Come back to me.’

For a moment he just looked at her, and the hatred written over his face made her heart ache. Whatever he was seeing, or whoever, had caused him so much pain. She placed her palm against his cheek.

‘Sam,’ she said, using her most calming voice, ‘come back to me. Wherever you are, you don’t need to be there anymore.’

Before she realised she was going to do so, Lilly tiptoed and placed her lips against his. At first there was no response, but slowly Sam’s mouth opened and their tongues met. For what seemed like an eternity they remained like that, their tongues gently probing the other’s mouths, but then pulled apart.

Sam smiled at her.

‘Lilly, what are you doing here? You should be at work.’

‘It’s almost seven,’ Lilly pointed out, nodding to the carriage clock on the mantle.

‘Seven?’ Sam walked up to the clock, examining it closely. ‘But it…’ He turned back at Lilly. ‘It was four o’clock when I put those shades on. I’ve been out of it for almost three hours.’

Lilly’s first thought was that she should be worried, but other than some dried blood on his ears Sam seemed okay. Still, three hours…

Ryan may think he was nervous, but it never showed, indeed Ryan received a round of applause for his reading. Then it was time for James Gent and me to take to the stage. James was also nervous and, although I shared those nerves initially, as soon as I stepped on the stage my nerves blinked away. In many ways I like to entertain, and so I sat down, relaxed, raised my mic and just got on with it. Intent on making sure people understood a little something of Seeker and keep them amused, too. Which I think we did a pretty good job of. James asked his questions, I answered them, talking about the themes of sexual identity, and how in many ways the two leads, Willem and Jake, are flip-sides of the same character. We also discussed the difficulties of re-inventing vampires, and promised there’ll be no sparkling in ‘The Garden’. By the end of the discussion I think it’s fair to say that we got across the point that Seeker ‘is good’.

The rest of the launch was taken up by people mingling, enjoying the sun, me sitting at the table signing books (we went through a box of twenty in total), and sending Ryan and Lisa out to blitz the streets with flyers to let people know that Seeker exists. They even nabbed one or two people outside Waterstone’s.  Just as I was about to wrap up for the day, a girl in yellow came over, and bought a copy for her nan, who apparently likes ‘books like this’. I’m hoping so, otherwise it’s a nan who’s in for a bit of a shock. The launch ended with some fun pics of the the remaining group, and my tipsy mother who managed to down a whole bottle of wine in an hour.

It wasn’t until much later that I realised somehow Jolene managed to get out of doing her reading. So, sorry, Ry – she hoodwinked ya! 😉

People keep on asking how many books we sold that day, and I keep pointing out that it wasn’t a sales drive, but a launch. It was all about getting the book out there, making people aware of its existence, and this we did. With the help of freebies from Rainbow eBooks, a prize in the shape of a Rubik’s Cube, and free wine, we managed this in style! So, big thanks to all that came along.

It’s been a week since, and already one shop is stocking the book; The Comic Guru in Wood Street, Cardiff. Sales are doing very well; I went through a box of twenty books myself in two days, and I know that Hirst have received a fair few orders since, not to mention a ‘bunch’ of sales for Seeker in the first two days at Untreed Reads.

If you’re looking for a decent read, then you could do a lot worse than checking it out directly from Hirst Publishing, or Untreed Reads Publishing (if you buy the eBook from UR, you can get the exclusive prelude, Serere, free). The digital edition is slowly appearing in the listings of most e-stores, and the print version will soon start appearing in all good book retailers.

Until I have signing dates and locations to announce, why not pop over the to blog, The Accidental Author, and read Jesse Greever’s interview with me, where I discuss the writing of Seeker and a little of what’s coming up.

One Week to Launch

Just one week away from the launch of ‘Seeker’… Here’s the final excerpt, to whet your appetite.

 

‘I need to talk to you about Curtis.’

Jake’s good humour left him abruptly and he sat up straight, casting a quick glance to the hallway beyond. ‘What about him?’

Willem held up a hand, and said quickly; ‘Don’t worry, he’s not been harmed or anything like that. I’m just concerned for his wellbeing.’ He let Jake relax a little before asking; ‘How many times has Curtis stayed here in the last two weeks?’

Jake thought about this. ‘Three, four?’

‘Three, right. Two of those nights have been in the last three days. I don’t know what’s going on with Ren, and right now I don’t much care, but a kid Curtis’ age needs stability, not pulled from pillar to post.’

‘Agreed. So what do you suggest?’

‘I’m not sure, exactly, but I’m seriously thinking of bringing the Social in.’

Jake’s eyes widened in surprise, although Willem wasn’t sure why. It was a natural conclusion after the last few weeks. ‘That is a seriously bad move, guy, get them involved and Lawrencia could end up losing Curtis.’

‘Want to explain to me how that’s a bad thing?’

Jake shook his head, and threw his cigarette into the back yard, without even trying to stub it out first. ‘How this for a start; if Curtis ends up in Care you might never even get to see him again. He gets put up for fostering, next thing you know he’s lost in the system, just another unwanted child. Name changed. How long before you lose track of him?’

That hadn’t occurred to Willem; he had only been thinking that Curtis was in danger around Jimmy, and unfortunately by extension his sister. ‘Worst case…’

‘Scenario? Yeah, I’m hearing that a lot. Someone needs to consider these eventualities, Will, cause it seems like your brain isn’t functioning properly at the moment.’

‘Oh, come on, just ‘cause I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit?’

Jake didn’t answer; instead he stood up and left the kitchen. Willem narrowed his eyes, but followed nonetheless. The two of them stopped by the lounge and looked in on Curtis, who had fallen sleep watching CBeebies.

‘Tell me, Will, do you really want to lose that kid? ‘Cause I know I don’t.’

Willem stepped back and rested against the wall. He closed his eyes and let out a breath of air. Now he thought about it, Jake was right. He opened his eyes and looked at Jake, who was still looking into the lounge. Jake loved Curtis; as far as Curtis knew Jake was as much his uncle as Willem was. Blood didn’t matter in this case; it was the familial bond that counted. ‘What do you suggest?’ he asked.

Jake never took his eyes off Curtis. ‘Speak to her, work something out. I don’t know the details, but there is shit going on you’re not aware of, guy, and I’d lay money on Lawrencia waiting for help from her big brother.’ He looked back at Willem, and there was something in his eyes that made Willem believe him. ‘Maybe you can become his legal guardian, temporarily at least, until she gets rid of that dead weight?’

Now it was Willem’s turn to be surprised. ‘Come on, really? Even if Lawrencia did agree to that, how can I look after him full time? My workload is…’

‘Not insurmountable. Way you tell it Steve is amazing at his job, so I’m sure he could take a whole load of weight off your shoulders there.’

‘I suppose.’ Willem mulled it over, and he had to admit the idea did have much potential. Jimmy would never stand for it, but Jake would no doubt happily take care of that, and once Curtis was out of harm’s way Willem didn’t care two shits about what happened to Jimmy. Getting Lawrencia to agree, though, that would be a tough one. She’d take it as a personal attack.

‘Okay, let me think this over, and when I get back we’ll talk more.’

‘Cool.’

The launch takes place at The King’s Cross, Mill Lane, Cardiff, from midday to two. All are welcome to attend; not only will Andy be on hand to answer any questions, but he will also be discussing the themes of the series, as well as why it is that vampires are still so popular, and the difficulties of finding new things to do with such an old myth.  Copies of the book will be on sale, which Andy will happily deface at no extra cost. For every book bought and signed, a place in the free-prize draw will automatically follow.

From 9pm, the usual Sunday night karaoke will be taken over in celebration of the book’s release; and it will be a Vampire Themed night. The three winners of the prize-draw will be announced throughout the night!

‘Seeker’ is published by Hirst Publishing, and will also be available as an eBook through Untreed Reads Publishing (who have also published an exclusive eBook prelude to ‘Seeker’, available now).

 

‘Seeker’ launch…

My new (and first) novel is launched two weeks today, and this is an open invite to anyone who loves to read. Booksellers, journalists, reviewers, you’re all welcome. The launch is taking place at The King’s Cross, Mill Lane, Cardiff, CF10 1FF.

Enjoy this extract…

Ste sat down and started leafing through the sheets of paper that were on the desk. ‘What’s next, then?’

‘Well,’ Willem began, giving up on even considering a fourth chair, ‘I want you to take notes, make sure we get everything said down. Don’t want to slip up on this. I’m still finding it hard to believe that Kurt would try to scam me like this, it’s so not a Kurt thing. And yet the evidence…’

‘… Pretty much says string the idiot up by the short and curlies,’ Ste said, all trace of humour gone. ‘And haven’t you learned from last night that people often step out of character?’

Willem thought back to last night on the webcam, and nodded. Yep, that was definitely new for him. ‘Maybe, but there are character types that people usually fall into, read about it on Wikipedia. Let me see; melancholy, sanguine… erm…’

Ste nodded slowly at this. ‘Right,’ he said, even slower, ‘and we all know that Wiki is written by experts in their fields. Only, you know, not. People are not like characters in a book, dude, you can’t define them so easily, slotting them into particular personality types. People shift and change their attitudes, their desires, everything, all they need is the right… incentive.’

There was distant smile on Ste’s face as he said this, but Willem wasn’t sure he wanted to know the why of that. Instead he kept his tone light. ‘You really are the insightful professor of life, aren’t you, Mr Krueger?’

‘What can I say, Will, I’m multi-talented. And you know, there’s plenty going on in my world you’d not believe even if I did tell you. Not unless you experienced it yourself.’

Willem narrowed his eyes. ‘Is that an invite?’

‘Don’t know, dude, wouldn’t be up to me. I’d have to ask Robin.’

‘Right, the mysterious Robin. Anyway, what did you say the other day about your mixer menu?’

‘True that.’ Ste nodded, lips pursed in thought. His face broke out into a wide grin. ‘Maybe I’ll have to speak to Robin. I know he wants to meet you.’

‘You two talked about me?’

A dark shadow passed across Ste’s features, but an instant later it was gone. He leaned forward. ‘Anyhow, I meant what’s next with you and Charlie?’

‘Oh. Him,’ Willem said, waving a hand as if Charlie was the last thing on his mind. Ste was clearly not convinced by this attempt at indifference, so Willem sat down in the chair he’d prepared for Kurt. ‘Gonna meet up with him this weekend.’

‘Ah.’ Ste sat back and steepled his fingers, with a smile on his lips.

‘Ah what?’

‘Nothing, just glad to see you’re doing something about this. Been a long time.’

Willem nodded. He couldn’t argue with that, really.

‘Yeah, that’s right. Jacen.’

Willem whistled. ‘Now there’s a name I haven’t really thought about in a long time.’ And it really had been a long while, Willem realised, a good three years in fact. Jacen and Willem hadn’t worked out too well, obviously since they were no longer dating, mostly because Jacen couldn’t deal with Willem’s commitment to his work. Jacen wanted to go off and do stuff, experience the world a little, and he wouldn’t have it when Willem tried to explain they’d have plenty of time for that later when they were financially secure. Jacen had quickly found someone else, quite an adventurous guy from what Willem had since heard. ‘I wonder where he is now?’

‘Probably off doing what you should have done a long time ago, Will,’ Ste said, and let out a gentle cough.

‘Still not too sure, though,’ Willem said, wondering what it was about Ste that made him want to open up so freely. ‘I mean, Ren’s fucked off again and I’m stuck with Curtis tonight. Not that I mind, since I love spending time with him, obviously, and better him being with me than around Jimmy, but what happens when I’m away? She can’t just knock on my door whenever, then.’

‘So?’ Ste held his hands up to ward off the words that were about to erupt from Willem’s mouth. ‘Seriously, it’s not your problem. You have your own life, and every once in a while you need to remember that.’

‘That’s a selfish attitude there, Ste.’

‘Probably, but as someone once said, once in a while you need to give yourself permission to be selfish. You can’t carry everyone all the time. Eventually you’ll buckle, and I hate to break this to you, Will, but you’ve been buckling for a while now.’

 

Mr Busy Returns

Okay. So I’m back…

Followers of this blog will remember how I said right at the beginning that I am rubbish at keeping up with blog entries. I think it’s fair to say that a gap of three months is all the proof needed. Although, in my defence, I have been very busy in the interim. Thus, this entry will be a bit of an update, bringing all you lovely readers back up to speed on where things are with my various projects.

First of all, ‘The Garden’ saga begins very soon indeed. What is it? I hear you ask. Well, essentially it’s a four-book urban fantasy/horror series, and book one (‘Seeker’) is being published in print and electronic formats simultaneously by Hirst Publishing and Untreed Reads Publishing. It is a series I was ‘clearly meant to write’, according to my editor at Untreed. Here’s the blurb…

Meet Willem Townsend: London-based entrepreneur; loyal friend; loving uncle. He seems to have everything going for him, but deep down Will is trapped by work, family, and the sheer mundanity of daily routine. Stepping outside his comfort zone he begins an internet romance and, despite the reservations of his best friend Jake, Will arranges to meet his lover for a weekend getaway.

The weekend passes, and not a word is heard from Will. Jake organises a search for his friend, fearing the worst, and as Jake’s frenetic hunt progresses, he begins to realise that Will may have meant more to him than he was willing to believe.

In Southend, a naked man is found in a garden, suffering from a trauma that he cannot recall. And when the memories come flooding back, they are borne by blood. He holds the key to a secret world where the price of entry is death…

The book launches on March 20th at The King’s Cross bar in Cardiff, and will be on general release (both in print and eBook) from Monday March 21st. You can currently pre-order the book directly from the Hirst website. Those of you wishing to attend to launch, can find out more about it on this Facebook page. Everyone who attends the launch and gets a copy of the book signed automatically gets entered into the prize draw, the winners of which will be announce throughout the Vampire Themed Night bash at the King’s. One of the prizes will be a coupon for a free copy of the exclusive eBook prelude being published by Untreed Reads…

 

Which brings me to, ‘Serere, A Prelude’.

The novelette will be released at the beginning of March, and will only be available online (it will not be available in print – at least not in 2011, if ever), and serves as a introduction to ‘Seeker’ specifically, with a few hints of things to come in book two (the title of which will not be announced until near the end of 2011, for reasons which will become clear to those who read ‘Seeker’). And, as a taster, here’s a small excerpt from ‘Serere, A Prelude’…

Isobel Shelley waited, as she promised she would, but it was getting dark and the rain had started to fall. Not that either thing bothered her personally, but it was terribly inconvenient. She lifted her lantern, which she did not really need, of course, but appearances were important, and looked out to the northern carriage way. The Green was quiet, most people safely indoors, sheltered from the cold, but Isobel could not be sure she wasn’t being watched. Newington Green, home to the free-thinkers and dissidents, had history, and the people who tended to gravitate to this place knew better than to take things for granted. Probably one of the many reasons she loved living on the Green.

The sound of hoof beats crunching gravel drifted over to her, and she focused on the approaching shape. A gig pulled by a single horse, two people jostling about in the carriage as the wooden wheels managed to find every ditch and trough in the path. Both figures were dressed in the finest cloth, one looking down, his head bobbling about as if he were asleep, but the second, holding the reins in his hands, was looking firmly ahead, mindful of the mood of the horse. The gig slowed, and stopped right next to Isobel. She smiled, finally able to see the countenance of the young driver.

Young and as radiant as ever, Hareton Wesley smiled down at Isobel, and tipped his bicorn hat. “Miss Shelley, you are still a diamond of the first water, I see. A pleasure indeed.”

Isobel curtsied slightly, with a smile of her own. It had been some time since she had seen anything of Hareton, and was not displeased to see him once more. “Young Master Wesley, an’ you and the gentleman like to follow me?”

The gentleman in question looked up, clearly not asleep. An austere looking man of some fifty years (which certainly meant he was older), he raised an eyebrow at Isobel and edged his lip in the form of a very slight smile, which looked somewhat strange on such a Friday-faced man. Hareton looked at him, no doubt awaiting instruction, and the gentleman nodded. “As Miss Shelley says, so shall it be,” the gentleman said, in an accent that sounded almost German, although it had a cadence that Isobel could not quite place. She was not particularly well travelled, but accents did not usually stump her so. “Do lead on, dear lady.”

“As you wish,” Isobel said and tuned away, lantern still held aloft, and led the way across the Green.

 

Next up, although announced elsewhere, I can finally announce it to all those who read this blog; at the end of 2010, after much hard work and much discussion, Untreed Reads Publishing have secured a licence to produce original eBooks based on Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889. This steampunk series will consist of two novels which bookend four novellas, written by well-known genre authors. I am the series Commissioning Editor and Creative Consultant, which means I’m responsible for putting the whole thing together. Quite a task it’s proving to be at the moment, but amazingly good fun, too. Further information will be released over the forthcoming months, including a definite launch date.

Due to the busyness of me, this does have a knock-on effect on Legacy which was being released at one book a month. So far three volumes are available, and can be purchased here, with all proceeds going to Cancer Research UK. Volume 2.2 will be delayed a little while, but as soon as I have time in my schedule I shall get on to it. Once again, I will keep you updated on developments there.

Magrs on Paddytum

As everyone knows I have been pushing this book an awful lot over the last month or so, and now top author, Paul Magrs, has added his voice to the extraordinary appeal of Paddytum.

So, everyone, pop over to Paul’s blog and have a butcher’s. Then pop to Hirst and pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.

Let The Sale Begin

It’s October! Do you even know what that means? It’s my month. Yup, it’s true. I’m an Autumn baby after all, and to make things even more interesting Hallowe’en is just around the corner. And for a fan or all things supernatural and horror… well, you can guess where I’m going with this, right?

To celebrate the coming of All Hallow’s Eve, my ePublisher, Untreed Reads, is having a month-long sale. That’s thirty-one days for you wonderful people to browse through their horror and mystery shelves and buy buy buy. Selected titles have 25% off all month long, including my two eBooks. So, do the right thing before the Witching Hour is upon you, and gobble up my tales of the macabre.

Off Flesh & One Mistake

Also, for today only, my print publisher, Hirst Publishing, is having a 10% off sale on all products (except ‘Auton’, which is doing exceptionally well without the need for a discount). This means you can all pop over and pre-order my forthcoming novel, and claim your 10% off simply by typing the word ‘friday’ into the coupon box at the Checkout.

Seeker: The Garden Book One of Four

As my Welsh relatives would say, ‘you can’t fault it’, and they’re right!

Writers’ Wednesday

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday, a new weekly guest spot for my author friends who have been invited to come and talk about anything they fancy. All readers like to see how their favourite authors tick, me included, and so to launch Writers’ Wednesday I am very pleased to welcome my favourite author of September, Tricia Heighway. As followers of this blog will know, Tricia wrote the novel Paddytum, released less than two weeks ago, which has quickly become my favourite book this year. She’s here to tell us a little about the origins of Paddytum as well as introduce us to something called NaMoWriMo…

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How I Wrote (most of) My Novel in a Month

by Tricia Heighway

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo?  Two years ago I hadn’t either.  Well, I won’t go into detail, because you can find out all about it by visiting the site, or looking on Wikipedia.

I’ve completed (or won, as we ‘Wrimos’ are supposed to say) NaNoWriMo for the past two years.  Without it, I doubt I would have one completed novel, never mind four.

I did NaNo for the first time in 2008, using it to write the Young Adult novel I’d had in my head for a few months. I finished that in sixteen days, and, having told everyone I’d be novel-writing for the whole of November, decided to use the remaining fourteen days to write another one, this time without any preparation.

Last year, I managed fewer words (well, TWO 50,000 word pieces of fiction is pushing it), but my murder mystery story (which I have never even looked at since because I hated the thing) came to nearly 70,000 words.

So, when Paddytum was accepted for publication by Hirst Publishing in January this year, I knew I had a daunting task ahead: Paddytum, at the time, stood at 11,000 words, and I knew that I had to extend it by at least another 60K to turn it into a decent-length book. But, I had the training and the tools to do that, thanks to NaNoWriMo!

Paddytum started life on a brilliant Canadian-based collaborative fiction site called Protagonize.   I wrote the first chapter or two as a bit of fun, and as a collaborative story. The trouble was, nobody wanted to collaborate. People kept coming along and reading it and saying; ‘We like this – add some more!’ And over the next two years, that’s what I did – very, very slowly.  It was only eight chapters long when Hirst agreed to publish it, and I had absolutely no idea where it was going or how it would end.  I did know what the ‘big secret’ was, however, and I was starting to have an idea or two how I’d develop it.

So, I started planning ‘PerPadWriMo’ (Personal Paddytum Writing Month).  PerPadWriMo was to take place in March, and I set a target of 62K words, just 2,000 words a day. Easy!  I would use the rest of January and all of February for thinking up a plot, write it in March, and ‘rest’ the book for two months, coming back to it in June and July to revise, re-write, edit and polish it.

Phase One: Planning and Pre-writing.

I had my beginning. I still needed a middle and an end. I had already decided that my main character was going to be a happier chappie at the end of the story than at the beginning, so I just had to decide how to get him there.  I bought a couple of new notebooks. (I had dozens of notebooks already, but I never need much of an excuse to buy stationery.)  One was A4, for my notes and planning, and a second A5 one, which I called ‘The Paddytum Diaries’, in which I decided to write every day, for ‘thinking aloud’ about the plot.  For six weeks, I thought about the story, wrote ideas for scenes and characters, plot twists, either in my head or in one of the notebooks.  In the last week of February, I sat on my bed with a big piece of cardboard and a pad of Post-it notes, and jotted down a scene on each post-it – just a couple of words or a sentence – referring to my notebooks. When I’d run out of scenes, I arranged all the post-its on the cardboard, until I had them in the correct chronological order. When I was happy with the sequence, I wrote the scenes down as a list in my A4 book, so that I could cross them off as I wrote them.  The final stage was to rewrite my existing eight chapters, ready to start the ‘new’ writing on March 1st. I’d also taken my ‘proper’ diary, and noted against each date in March a running total of my prospective word-count for each day, so that I could track my progress and see whether I was on target.

Phase Two: Writing it.

I did the majority of the writing in the mornings, starting as soon as my children left for school, and carrying on until around lunchtime, with an option to continue in the afternoon if I hadn’t done my word-count for that day.  I began, always, by doing some more ‘thinking-aloud’ in the Paddytum Diary, not just about the writing itself, but also about my mood, how I was feeling about the whole thing. If something from ‘real life’ was on my mind, I got that out of my system before I started to write. There are a good few rants in the Paddytum Diary!

One of the most important things I’d learned from NaNoWriMo was ‘Don’t Look Back’.  Once the writing was done, I forbade myself from looking back at a single word of it, not even to correct a single typo.  This is vital!  Once you start looking back over what you’ve written, you’re on the slippery slope to self-doubt, which leads straight to the lake of ‘Why Am I Even Bothering When I’m Such a Crap Writer?’  Don’t do it!  You’ll just end up with an abandoned novel.  Looking back is the main cause of failure during NaNoWriMo.  Rule One is: ‘Don’t get it right, get it written.’  There’s plenty of time afterwards to get it right, and I’d allowed myself two months to do that.  That’s why it was so useful to write in the diary, because it helped me to focus on the process without being tempted to look back at my work.

At the end of each session, I filled in my word-count, in both diaries, and worked out the surplus or the deficit.  I fell behind a bit during the first week; I hadn’t got into my stride yet – but from day 10 onwards I was ahead, managing an average of 2,200 words a day.

Sometimes, I found myself deviating from the plot and the scenes listed in my notebook, when the characters took me off in a completely new direction. When that happened, I kept writing, following the lead of my subconscious, but I still carried on as if I hadn’t been sidetracked at the next session, writing the scenes in my planning notebook but not getting rid of the deviations, confident (well, sort of) that I could tie everything together during the rewrite.  One of the amazing things about writing is that something that doesn’t make sense when you’re writing it makes perfect sense when you come back to it.  I knew there’d be plot holes, and I knew there’d be things I’d have to cut and things I’d have to add in order to patch the holes. But during the writing stage is not the time to discriminate.

At the end of March, I had written 68,510 words, exceeding my target by over 6,000. Job done.  Well, not quite.

Phase Three: The Edit

In April and May I did other things, leaving Paddytum well alone.  I spent June editing, concentrating on a different aspect on each ‘pass’. The first edit was for typos, the second for grammar and punctuation. I went through it about ten times in all, gradually trimming scenes, cutting, and sometimes adding. The word-count went down, and then up, and then down again.  At the end of June I was told I could launch my book in September if I had it ready by mid-July, and I felt that this was possible, as I was sure I was almost there.  On the next read-through, I decided it didn’t have enough conflict, so I added two new characters and a few more scenes.  The finished manuscript was around 87,000 words when I sent it to my publisher, feeling somewhat bereft now that it was out of my hands (and my control).

Now the book is out there, and people are beginning to ask about the next one.  Eek! The logical thing would be to dust off one of my three NaNoWriMo novels, except that I don’t much like them.  I think of them as my ‘practice’ novels. Starting something brand new would be far more exciting.  And this year’s NaNoWriMo begins in 33 days time. Bring it on!

Text © 2010 Tricia Heighway
Photographs © 2010 Lucy & Tricia Heighway, All Rights Reserved

Death Run

Cemetery Drive by JT Wilson; a review.

This is the debut novel of JT Wilson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a recent convention in Swansea. Joe is a very warm, and increasingly funny guy, full of great anecdotes and random facts, with his very own take on fashion. His novel is very like him; it’s warm and welcoming, with a level of humour that increases the deeper you get into it, and it’s full of great and random facts and anecdotes about life. It also follows its very own style.

Cemetery Drive follows the crazy road-trip towards death of Robbie Adams and Alexa Ribiera, two people with very different outlooks on Death. Robbie is intent on committing suicide, but not just any old slash-the-wrist kind of suicide, oh no, for he has to go out in a blaze of glory so that he will forever be remembered, since Robbie is convinced his seventeen plus years so far have been pretty much a waste, and he doesn’t see that changing any time soon. Alexa has somehow cheated Death, although she won’t say how initially, and is now, as a result, seemingly immortal. Only she doesn’t want to be. And so after a chance encounter Robbie and Alexa decide to go on a road trip in an attempt to escape Death, whom Alexa is sure will be after her. Or something like that!

It’s starts off in a very disjointed fashion, but after the first chapter which leaves the reader none-the-wiser, and possibly having second doubts, the story soon levels out. On the downside, I found that there was so much more to this book than we were shown. A much bigger story was going on, and of the months Robbie and Alexa spent on the road we see so little off, merely snapshots of that trip. This leaves the reader feeling as though he never got to see them really hook up, and certainly not fall in love – ‘cause by the end of the book it’s very clear they have fallen deeply in love, in their acerbic and sarcastic, sexually charged manner. What we do get to see of their journey, though, is certainly interesting. They are being pursued by Zan, who’s a soul that got stuck in Limbo and entered the employ of Death; it’s his mission to collect the souls of the lay person while Death takes care of more important cases. Zan gets increasingly frustrated in his search, and occasionally seeks the help of demons Beelzebub and Astoroth, a pair of wise-cracking goof balls. Quite possibly the most inept demons I have ever read about, and although they are, in some ways, a bit caricature, they still made me laugh each time they appeared. Fortunately Robbie, Alexa and Zan are well rounded characters, with plenty of hidden depth and full of potential. Robbie is a particularly good character; a bit odd ball, but he follows his own logic and that keeps him interesting.

Ultimately it was a fine debut, but I do feel the best is yet to come from Joe. That this book came from a short story puzzles me; I imagine many elements were added to the mix when Joe turned it into a novel, and as a result it left the book feeling like only half the story it ought to be (and at only 157 pages it is a relatively short novel). There was something very grand and epic going on in this novel, especially the stuff off Earth, and it’s a real shame we did not get to see Joe explore that more. I for one, look forward to his next tale, and wait for him to really unleash the story within!

Cemetery Drive is published by Hirst Publishing, at £7.99.  You can purchase a copy directly from Hirst, or any good book stockists, including Waterstones and Borders.

http://www.hirstpublishing.com/Cemetery_Drive_by_JT_Wilson/p384445_1157065.aspx

Bear in Mind

Paddytum by Tricia Heighway; a review.

It’s a double-edged sword having so many author friends. We all like our books to be read, and so we often trade. ‘You read mine, I’ll read yours.’ Sounds like a fab deal, right? Tell me any avid reader who would balk at such a thing. On the flip side, though, what happens when you read a book written by a friend and you hate it? The grammar makes your skin crawl, the punctuation displays a serious lack of even the most basic understanding of the rules, and worst of all, the story is such a yawnfest it’s a struggle to reach the end. You’re left in the unenviable position of having to give your review and possibly wound your friend. You could just lie and say how wonderful it was, and be very generic, or you could be honest and try to be constructive. Alas, some authors have fragile egos, so a lie is often the best way out.

Having become a friend of Tricia Heighway, and having already pre-ordered Paddytum, I knew I was taking a risk since this was her first novel and I had yet to read a single word written by her (Facebook not withstanding). I was pretty sure I was going to like the book from the moment I first read the blurb and learned it was about a talking teddy bear whipping its owner into shape. Sounded like the kind of quirky idea I’d love. But there was nothing to say Tricia could pull it off!

Well, no sugar-lies are needed here. I can say, in all honesty, that I loved every single bit of this book. In fact, I will go so far as to say this is a truly special kind of novel. There is such an innocence in the prose, in the humour, in the characters, that’s it’s very difficult not to be pulled straight in. Humour is a tough thing to convey well in prose, being such a subjective thing, but Tricia pulls it off incredibly well. Mostly because the humour springs from the characters, especially the lead, Robert Handle, whose ineptitude at life creates much of the humour. Life is funnier than people generally realise; we do such silly things on a daily basis, without even considering what it is we do, and why. The sheer silliness of life is not lost on Tricia, and she indulges in it swiftly. Any person who still lives with mummy well into their forties is, without doubt, a tragic and often pathetic figure. Sometimes there are good reasons behind such a situation, and Rob’s own reasons add a very sad dimension to his life. His father was killed when he was eighteen, and as a result two people were left behind, so caught up in their own grief that they were unable to help each other. Rob turned in on himself and shut the world out totally, barely venturing out of his bedroom unless forced into it. His mother shut herself down in a different way, internalising her pain, masking it in anger.

I think what makes this book so special is the clever way the humour and the tragedy is merged together to create a wonderful study of loss. It’s a very British thing to cope through humour, and even when we reach the emotional climax the humour is still evident. It’s not thrown in your face, it’s just there, a natural extension of the characters and situations. The story is truly believable; it carries at its heart an honesty that is compelling. Even though, on the one hand you have a tale about a teddy bear that discovers its voice and guides its owner into sorting out his life, on the other you have the very world in which Robert inhabits, the one of disastrous encounters with people previously only known online, the failed first romantic relationships, the first real job and discovering a hitherto unknown talent for being able to say the right thing. Everything about this story just feels real, and you could believe it happened to someone you know.

The end is also powerful, as we get to the heart of the problem and the truth of Paddytum is revealed. I had a few theories throughout the book, and worked out the correct explanation moments before the story revealed it. It’s a conclusion handled with deftness and immense skill, so much so in fact that I found myself slowing down towards the end as I did not wish the book to finish. But, all good things must end eventually, and Paddytum is no exception. Fortunately, it ends with a brilliant final scene, and the last line is a scorcher.

More please, Tricia!

Paddytum is published by Hirst Publishing, at £7.99.  You can purchase a copy directly from Hirst, or any good book stockists, including Waterstones and Borders.

http://www.hirstpublishing.com/Tricia_Heighway_-_Paddytum/p384445_1157030.aspx