My Unconventionally Conventional Publishing Experience Part 1

Back in September 2017, I won the Summer Writing Project. The prize was publication.

Granted, my experience is not typical of most. I didn’t write query letter after query letter, and I didn’t get a full manuscript request. But before you write this off as irrelevant and click away, my acceptance may be more relevant than it first seems, and I learned things that can benefit every writer regardless of whether they are taking the traditional route or the self-publishing/indie route.

For one, the criteria for winning was that I had to have the most readers who read my story from start to finish. A query letter would, in essence, be trying to convince a publisher or agent your story is marketable and viable, but in this contest, I had to prove it with results – I had to show I could gain readers and keep them interested. This meant being savvy in promotion, marketing, and social media.

What many don’t realise is that even if you get accepted by one of the Big Five, unless you are one of their top grossing, big name authors like JK Rowling, or Stephen King, you’re not going to get much help in the way of marketing and promotion. You’ll get the bare minimum and probably more connections than most (depending on the publisher), but most of the work will be up to you until you prove you’re worth investing more in.

So while my experience may initially seem unconventional, irrelevant, and perhaps backwards at times, it does have relevance whether you’re going to take a more traditional route of sending out manuscripts and query letters, or if you’re thinking of self publishing.

This is the first in a series of posts I will be making about my experience. Over the summer I will be covering:

  • Working with the editor
  • Negotiating the cover
  • How to run a virtual launch party
  • Facebook ads
  • Marketing/publicity techniques I used

If there is another aspect anyone wants to know more about, or there is something specfic you want me to address in an upcoming post, leave me a comment.

All being well, I’ll be posting every other week. The first post will cover working with the publisher. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

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2018 Creative New Years Resolutions

Another year has been and gone. You know what that means. It’s time to review 2017’s resolutions and make new ones for 2018.

First, let’s begin by seeing how many resolutions I kept this year. Red are ones I didn’t keep, green are ones I did. Last year’s resolutions were:

Read 40 books

I read 35 books, so I was close. Even still, that is a phenomenal improvement on last year. I’ve been very busy with university work, so the time I usually take to read has been spent on essays or assigned reading. I haven’t counted academic texts for class unless I have read the whole thing, rather than a chapter or two. If I had, I would have read close to 50 books.

Enter at least 4 contests

I entered two this year. One being the Olga Sinclair (not even shortlisted :(). The second being the SWP (which I won). Still, I’ve been incredibly busy this year, so managing 2 contests is impressive.

Get the first draft of my latest WiP finished.

When I first pledged this, I hadn’t been able to talk about what it was as it was entered into a contest. But good news – it won. The project was ‘The Hex Files’ (a working title). I don’t even have a first draft, but I know where it’s going. One of the key reasons for this was the SWP. Once I won, I had to edit, then throw myself into marketing, plan the launch, and so on. I’m still marketing and will be for some time, but I have freed up the time to continue on with this project.

Keep working outside my writing comfort zone but work within it from time to time.

I did this, and it worked well. In fact, I sort of doubled up. I wrote a horror, which was out of my comfort zone as I had never written before, but I combined it with sci-fi, which I was fairly comfortable with following Lexus. The result was my novella Last One to the Bridge, which was published by 1888. I think this was one of the most important resolutions I made because it has helped me develop beyond where I thought possible.

Fix The Brotherhood

Sadly, I didn’t even look at this. One day I do intend to go back to this as I loved this project but I have so much more to learn before tackling it.

Set aside at least 1 day a week for solid writing.

This one I did. I now have what I call ‘Cafe Writing’. Every Sunday my husband watches our daughter, I take myself down to the city, go and sit in a Starbucks, take my laptop, and write. I’ve done it most Sundays and will continue to do so.

Be more consistent with the JPRP

This one started out well but ultimately didn’t happen. I was far too busy. I did start a Facebook group and opened it up to more than just Jukepop serials, but I don’t think this is going to be a reality it the moment.

Result: 2/7

While this is worse than last year, interestingly I have accomplished more than I did in said previous year. I’m published. I won two competitions. I had a fairly successful virtual book launch.

I’m getting closer to what resolutions are better for making genuine progress (which was the whole point of them). With this in mind, I have looked long and hard at what I achieved, what I didn’t, and why. I also considered which resolutions, whether failed or successful, I learned the most from as a writer.

2018 Creative Resolutions:

1. Write blog posts regularly.

Anyone following this blog knows I posts once in a blue moon, typically only when something big happens, which defeats the object of having one. I what little spare time I have focusing on my WiP. But blog writing is different to fiction writing, it requires a different skill set, one which I feel can only make me a better writer.

I also want to share my knowledge. I’m no expert, but what little I have discovered might be useful to somebody. I have plenty of topics I have been meaning to tackle, and I’d also like to try regular features such as story and game reviews. We’ll see.

2. Read 40 books.

Yup. This one again. I was so close this year. I’d like to gun for it again. I’ve read some engrossing stories and discovered new authors. Plus I have a ‘to-read’ list pushing 1000, my Kindle has 500+ e-books on it, most of which have not been read yet, and I have about 15 books sitting on my bookshelf that I haven’t read. I am not short of material. And reading makes me a better writer.

3. Get out of my comfort zone, but also work within it sometimes.

This one worked so well last year I’m going to try it again this year. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a second book published?

4. Write 3 more short stories.

I’m not going to focus on entering contests this year. I have a lot to do with Uni, and marketing LOttB, and my current WiP, so I don’t think setting a minimum number of contest entries is going to work. However, writing short stories has dramatically improved my writing, so I don’t want to give up on them completely. I figure if I have a large enough collection of them, if a contest crops up, I could always pop in something I’ve already written.

5. Complete a first draft of ‘Hex Files’.

This was a resolution last year, and I’m dissapointed that I didn’t make it. I really love this project. It ticks all the right boxes for me – it’s different (I’ve never written about a faerie PI before) yet it is grounded in one of my favourite subjects: myth and fable. I love every aspect of this story. I haven’t been this excited by a new project in a long while.

One of the big reasons I didn’t finish it was because the SWP ate up so much of my time. I don’t know if the SWP will run in 2017 given that Jukepop has shut down, but even if it is running elsewhere, I won’t be entering. Every year I have been up against some fantastic entries from some amazing authors who deserve their chance to win. So if the SWP is running, I’m going to be there to support them. That is the spirit of the SWP, after all.

6. Learn origami.

Every year I attempt to learn a new skill. The last few years it has been knitting and sewing. I learned a lot from it. Namely that I am really no good at either. This year I’m going to give origami a shot. It’s something I’ve always been fascinated with, but have never really attempted it aside from the paper fortune tellers that were all the rage when I was a kid. This year I’m finally going to give it a go.

I did have a longer list, including ideas like trying a new genre, but I’ve narrowed it because I feel any more would be too much. True, it would be good to get out of my comfort zone with a different genre but I want to sharpen my skills in the genres I already write in and apply all I learned from 2017.

Did anyone make any resolutions? If so what were they?

And we have a winner!

Important announcement, folks. I won the Summer Writing Project 2017! That means Last One to the Bridge is going to be published!

I could not believe it when I received the email letting me know I had won. I’ll be honest – I expected at any moment to get another saying they had made a mistake, or that they had changed their minds. How could I have possibly won? I had been up against some stiff competition and some outstanding stories.

And yet a contract was signed, and Last One to the Bridge is with my editor. I still can’t get over the fact that I have an editor!

I will keep you updated as thing progress. Hopefully I will be able to announce a release date soon.

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who supported me. I would never have  made it as a finalist, let alone a winner without the help of those who read, voted and kept me focused, offering feedback and advice.

When I announced the results on Facebook within 10 minutes I had more than 20 people congratulate me and wish me well. I was moved to tears. So thank you. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

I’d also like to thank my friends and family, in partcular my husband (who must be sick of me talking about LOttB by now), my parents, and my sister.

You guys are the best.

Three years later…

 

Three years ago I initiated what I dubbed my ‘creative summer’, and I entered as many writing contests as I could (including the SWP) and wrote as many short stories as I could (something I had never done before). I learned so much I decided this was not just a summer thing and pledged to treat writing as a career and to do all I could to grow as a writer.

It has been a rough road, but I have improved in leaps and bounds – recently I won the Colin Sutton Cup for Humour with a blurb and first hundred words from my latest WiP (working title Hex Files) about a faerie P.I. However, it was not enough. I knew I could do more. So I applied to the local university.

I honestly didn’t think I would be accepted. I never finished college and didn’t have much of a portfolio, but I was delighted to receive an unconditional offer of acceptance. The course I will be taking is English literature with a foundation year. As it has been more than a decade since I was in education, I felt I needed that foundation year to help me adjust. However, I am free after that foundation year to switch subjects or even try for a combined subject. I hope to get a portfolio of work together and apply to the English Literature and Creative Writing program. I have got a year to apply what I have learned and get my butt in gear. No pressure.

As you can see, a lot has happened in the last three years. Even still, I am still determined to improve further, starting with being more active on blog writing. Starting a brand new adventure as a mature student seems like the perfect opportunity. With this in mind, I intend to keep a regular blog detailing my experience as a mature student, offering the perspective not just of somebody older, but also what it is like to balance study needs, home needs, and the needs of a young child with autism. I also intend to get back into creating reviews for novels, novellas, serials… everything and anything.

More details will follow soon. Wish me luck!

Creative Resolutions for 2017

Last year, I set myself some New Year resolutions that centered around my writing.

So how did I do?  I’ve colour coded the text – green text represents a resolution I kept, red represents one I didn’t.

1. Join a writing group.

Check.  I did this one.  I’m now vice-chair of the group as well.

2. Write at least one short story/flash fiction story a month.

I was off to a good start, but alas, I did not manage this one.  One short story a month seemed manageable when I put together my resolutions.  Unfortunately, having a toddler greatly limits your time – having a toddler with special needs limits it even more.  Don’t get me wrong – I tried.  I used fiction squares.  I pantsed.  I planned.  I just couldn’t get it together into a viable story. 

3.  Enter more contests. 

Linking in with the above resolution, it seemed that if I was writing more short stories I should do something with them, so I decided I would try and enter on average one contest a month – entering a total of 12 contests in the year.  This was a good idea at the time.  If you enter enough contests/magazines/journals, your chances of winning/getting published go up.  But because I was finding it hard to find the time to write the stories, I had nothing to submit to these contests and in the end, I only entered three: The SWP, The Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition and The Colin Sutton Cup for Humour.  I didn’t win the first two and I won’t find out if I won the third until February.

4. Publish Lexus

I barely looked at Lexus.  It requires a lot of work to get it to where I want it to be, especially now I’m free from the confines of the SWP.  Then it needs a professional copy edit and proofread, especially as it will be self-published.  So no, I didn’t even remotely get Lexus in a position to be published and it looks like it will be a back burner project once again.

5. Keep a writing journal.

This one I kept … sort of.  The original pledge was to write in a journal every day.  Once again, it just wasn’t practical.  Still, every time I did get a few minutes to write, particularly during my cafe Sundays, I wrote in the journal.  There were times I missed entire months – this was when I was working on a project and so was writing in the project notebooks, so I’m going to count this one as ‘passed’.

6. Read more.

Check.  In fact, super check.  I kept tabs on my reading by signing up to the Goodreads reading challenge.  I set myself a goal of 20 books for the year.  I decided on this number because I figured I could read at least one book a month and then rounded it up to 20 to make it challenging.  I read 30.  That’s ten more than I planned even after rounding it up.

7. Get out of my writing comfort zone.

Oh holy hell did I do this! Although I didn’t get round to writing the plethora of short stories/flash fiction I had hoped I would, I did work on a few new projects and boy did they get me out of my writing comfort zone!  First was ‘Karma’, my entry for the SWP 2016.  It was a contemporary supernatural ‘feel good’ story.  I’ve never written one of those.  Then came Finding Annabelle.  Not only was it first person (I haven’t written anything first-person in about 15 years) but it was also a genre I have never, ever written before – mystery.  It’s proving so hard that I am actually starting on a different project to get the hang of it (more on that at a later date).  I went from being drop-kicked out of my comfort zone to being jettisoned-out-of-the-atmosphere away from it.

The problem with resolutions of any kind is that it is all too easy to set goals that seem realistic but require more work than you realise.  You want to quit smoking?  Pick up a new skill?  Make more friends?  These goals and others like them are all common resolutions and are certainly all admirable, but let’s be honest – all the examples I gave are not something you can achieve in a year even if you pick just one of them.  It can take even the most determined person many years to kick an addiction.  Picking up a new skill can take an estimated 6-10 years to master.  New friendships (or certainly meaningful ones) take many years to cement.

Personal growth is usually gradual.  Those goals, both the examples and the ones I set myself at the beginning of 2016, are by no means unattainable but they need to be broken down into smaller steps.

I managed 4 out of my 7 resolutions.  Keeping just over 50% of my goals doesn’t seem good but I’m not worried.  Not by a longshot.  When I made those resolutions, I didn’t know what my limitations would be.  That’s not to say I don’t want to challenge myself, but it’s important to know your limits if you want to surpass them – more importantly, you need to know which limits you cannot do anything about.  In my case, there’s not much I can do to increase how much free time I have BUT I can make resolutions that help me use what time I have to the fullest.

So, in light of this, I have set some goals that I hope will be challenging but realistically achievable if I set my mind to it:

Read 40 books

Last year I set it to 20 and made it to 30.  I think if I push a little more, I can make it to 40.

Enter at least 4 contests

I managed to enter 3 this year.  Adding one more will present a little challenge.  That’s an average of one contest every three months.  Hopefully, given the time I have available, I’ll be able to manage 4.

Get the first draft of my latest WiP finished.

I can’t talk much about my new project as part of it was used in one of the contests I entered this year, but after the results are announced in February, I plan on releasing some details.

Keep working outside my writing comfort zone but work within it from time to time.

It’s important to push my limits, but only when I allow myself to occasionally indulge in writing what I am comfortable with will I see how much I’ve improved.  I am hoping to do this by working on The Gatekeeper and The Brotherhood.  Which brings me to my next resolution …

Fix The Brotherhood

Ah yes, my old friend.  Although it’s not been my primary focus for a while, I think it’s finally time to give this series a huge overhaul.  I was never hugely happy with it but I couldn’t put my finger on what wasn’t working.  With what I’ve learned and the feedback I got from friends and the folks on Jukepop, I think I’m ready to finally resolve the issues.

Set aside at least 1 day a week for solid writing.

This one is going to be tricky.  It’s fine term time when I have childcare 3 days a week.  The holidays are going to be tricky, but it’s important to keep writing.  I have lots of other responsibilities as well, and I’m going to have to learn to balance them.

Be more consistent with the JPRP

The JPRP is currently undergoing some changes.  In order to do this, I am going to create a Facebook group where in the last 7-10 days every month, members agree to dedicate some time to reading each other’s work.  It will also not just be for JP stories.  Instead, it will include work on any other medium such as Inkitt, a few chapters of a WiP, or a few short stories ready for a contest.  I plan on creating the group early in the new year.

Have you made any resolutions?  If so leave a comment and let me know what and why.  Similarly, if you’re not, leave me a comment with why.

Happy New year!

Karma

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Since the end of last years Summer Writing Project I have been thinking about what kind of story to enter this year.  I spent weeks, sometimes even months drafting up an idea only to drop it because it wasn’t quite right before finally settling on this one:

 Karma

Karma is a simple story about redemption.  It’s not a very original premise; it has been used in countless books, movies and plays.  There are many reasons I have chosen such an overused concept, but more on that later.  For now let us talk about the story itself.

It focuses primarily on two characters: Jack and Gwen.

Jack has spent his entire life looking out for number one (himself).  When he is killed in an accident, he finds himself in the afterlife, or more precisely, in limbo.  Unfortunately for him, if he wants to get into paradise, he must do a little ‘community service’ to make up for his heinous ways.  He is therefore assigned to help Gwen, a young woman who stands on the verge of a dark and difficult time in her life.

So, why did I choose this particular story?  Well, tales of redemption are so common because we can all relate to them.  We’ve all done things we wish we could undo.  That’s why Charles Dicken’s  A Christmas Carol has stayed relevant more than a century and a half after it was first published.  It has been retold and re-imagined countless times.

The theme of redemption is also a common core aspect in many tales too.  It spans all genres and has featured in pretty much every medium through which a story can be conveyed – you’ll find it in works ranging from The Bible right up to the video game God of War and beyond.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though.  While this story is far simpler than others I have written, it is by no means an easier road.  Such a powerful and universally felt subject matter will need to be done with finesse if I am to do it any justice.  It MUST be combined with characters who have real emotions and drives and dreams and fears and hopes.  A straight forward story like this has no room for error.  If something is even a little off, it has nothing to hide behind – no winding sub plots or expansive, epic worlds or even edgy/quirky concepts.  There is a reason why some tales of redemption echo through the ages while others are quickly forgotten; The simpler an idea, the more it tests a writers mettle.  That is the challenge I have set myself.

There’s not much more I can say except keep an eye out for further updates.  Oh – and good luck to all prospective entrants to this years contest.  We had some fantastic stories last year – those who won really deserved to do so.

The Jukepop Reading Party

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During the SWP2015 I decided I would bulk read as many of the entries as I could (I had previously been tied up with my own entry).  The idea caught on and thus the JPRP was born!  I decided it would be neat to carry it forward.  Like many of you, I have countless serials on my bookshelf that I keep meaning to get round to but for one reason or another I just haven’t gotten there yet. The JPRP is a great chance to become familiar with different authors work and get through some of the titles that have been gathering virtual dust on your virtual bookshelf or even just get through more of a serial you haven’t finished yet.

With that in mind, I want to spread the word and get as many people as possible involved with the JPRP!  To help that along I thought I would clarify exactly what the JPRP is and what you should do if you decide to join in.


 

Q. What is the JPRP?

A: Basically it is a mass global group reading session.  Participants take the time to read through as many Jukepop serial chapters as they possibly can.

Q. Are there any rules?

A: Nope.  Just read as much as you can and be sure to vote.  If you feel so inclined, feedback is always appreciated but it isn’t mandatory.

Q: Is there a minimum amount I should read?

A: Absolutely not.  Just read whatever you can, even if it’s only one chapter.

Q: Am I supposed to read specific serials or work by specific authors?

A: No.  Read whatever serial tickles your fancy.  I usually aim to get through a serial that has been on my bookshelf for a long time or one that I have fallen behind on, but you can choose whichever you like.  It’s up to you.

Q: When is the JPRP?

A: The JPRP takes place on the last full week of every month, running from Monday-Sunday.  There is no specific time to start.  Just read what you can when you can.

Q: Why then?

A: Quite simply it is because it ties in with the JP30.  The aim is to support authors on JP but also to give them a little boost.  One or two extra votes can often mean the difference between second place and first place.

Q: Is it only JP authors who can participate?  What if I don’t have a story published on JP?

A: No, you do not have to be an author to take part.  Although most JP members are authors with work published on Jukepop, there are some who are content to read the vast catalogue of serials rather than submit their own work.  All you need is to be registered on Jukepop and be willing to read.  That’s it.

Q: Are there any prizes or incentives?

A: Only the satisfaction that you have helped and supported another human being.  I am considering issuing an award for whoever reads the most chapters each month but it will not take effect until March’s JPRP.

Q: Is this an official Jukepop initiative?

A: This is something I am running to encourage support.  It is not affiliated with Jukepop.


 

I hope this clears things up.  If you have any further questions regarding the JPRP, please leave me a comment!

 

New Years Resolutions

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I don’t usually make New Years Resolutions.  Well, I do, but they’re usually jokey ones like ‘give up smoking’ (the joke being that I have never smoked and therefore will keep the resolution without even trying – you know like when people say ‘give up sky diving’ etc) .

Many of you may remember I made a difficult decision after suffering my first bout of writers block.  So this year I have set myself some goals.

In no particular order, here is what I have decided on:

Join a writing group

This one has been on my mind for a while.  I have been unable to attend a physical writing group for some time due to many factors such as money an familial responsibilities.  This year, I’m going to make an effort to attend one.

Write at least one short story/flash fiction a month:

This is a resolution carried over from my Creative Summer.  It was important because I had never written a short story before.  At the advice of an old friend, I wrote the kind of stuff I enjoyed reading – epic, sprawling stories with ever expanding worlds and a plethora of characters and winding sub plots.  Forcing myself out of my comfort zone and focusing on the basic elements of story telling really helped so I intend to carry this forward.

Enter more competitions:

When I was ten, the schools in my local area hosted a writing competition for students aged 10-18.  The prize was £50.  I entered and I won.  Prior to my Creative Summer I had not entered one since.  I’m not sure why.  I guess I have been so focused on my writing projects, fearing distraction, that I have shied from them.  Over the summer I entered three.  I didn’t win but I learned a lot, so I intend to keep this going throughout the year.  It will tie in nicely with my aim to produce one short story a month too!

 Publish Lexus:

I had already been working my way to self publishing Lexus (most likely on Amazon). In the months leading up to Christmas I had a good look at the story.  I had been limited by the novella word count limit of the SWP2016 and so there were scenes and characters that could have done with a little more pizazz. Now I have that chance to make Lexus something better.

Keep a writing journal

This one is a little odd for me because in a way I do keep a writing journal.  Every project I work on gets a notebook:

Notepads
These are the notepads for projects I’m currently working on.  I have 36 notepads in total.  I may have a problem …

When I need to figure things out, I sit and think and plot ideas as I think them.  However, this isn’t something I do every day.  To help with the creative flow I will aim to keep a writers journal to chart my creative journey.  Writing down insights that have nothing to do with projects I am working on could lead to new projects and it’s also a way for me to document my personal struggles so that I may draw on them for future or current projects.  My aim is write whatever comes into my head.  I even got given a gorgeous notebook to write  in for Christmas:

notebook
Ain’t she a beaut …?

I was itching to write in it the moment I unwrapped in it so this is a good start!

Read More:

A very obvious and common one I know but I have noticed that over the years I have really cut back on my reading.  The reason?  I’ve been trying to keep myself focused on writing.  This is a tremendous shame because reading is a great way to recharge my creativity and improve my writing skills, so on top of attending to the Jukepop reading party every month I have set myself the target of reading at least one book a month – starting with Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.  I have more or less all of his books on my reading list (which gets bigger and bigger each day – currently there are 300+ books of all genres (including graphic novels). Yeah that’s going to take some getting through.  I’m not sure I’ll manage it in a year but I’ll have a damn good stab at it.  My list includes titles from the likes of Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dean Kootz,  Bill Bryson, Stephen Baxter, and Ursula LeGuin.  I’m hoping to read work from lesser known authors too.  I’m even hoping to start reading some super hero comics.  As you can see my taste is somewhat broad and I intend to expand it further.

Get out of my writing comfort zone

When I started writing short stories during my Creative Summer I was not so much pushed out of my writing comfort zone as drop kicked out of it.  I had never written a short story before.  Was it possible to tell a story in 3000 words or less?  Or how about 1000?  Or 300?  Some of the word count limits in the competitions were really daunting.  Nonetheless I sat down and I worked on my idea.  The first short story I wrote was about 5000 words.  The competition it was intended for only allowed 3500.  So I looked at it, cut parts out, read some short stories to see how they managed to get vital details across and went at it again and again until finally I had shaved it down to 3150.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment.  Better still, I applied what I had learned to Lexus and experimented with exposition and wound up in the SWP2015 top ten!

With that in mind, I am determined to keep trying things that make me uncomfortable and unsure.  At the time of writing this, I reached another milestone.  I wrote my first 100 word flash fiction and I am working on a new project where I experiment with a different narrative style (more on that later).


 

So there you have it!  My New Years Resolutions!

Has anyone else made any resolutions?  Feel free to write a comment either on what you think of mine or what yours are.  Also can anyone recommend any good books or comics?

Review of Lyncia by J.A Waters (Part 1)

My initial plan last month was to read Lyncia by J.A Waters.  When I didn’t get through all of it I decided I would read the rest over the Christmas period (which coincided nicely with the December Jukepop Reading Party).  Then Christmas rolled up.  Having a two two year old is exhausting enough as it is, but Christmas is a particularly difficult and overwhelming time for young children.  I got so rushed off my feet that I lost track of time and I didn’t get to read any serials.  I missed the reading party.

I am determined to finish Lyncia, but for now, allow me to review the first fourteen chapters that I got through.

Serial Status: Finished.

Spelling/Grammar Rating: 1

Lyncia

Jukepop Synopsis:

A story on gods, death, pain, and adventure. Completed on 18 November, 2015.

Lyncia Eyresin is about to play host to a strange array of visitors, and some of them have frightening powers beyond her comprehension. Life is full of choices and chances, and Lyncia’s will lead to maddening oddities and a spiraling descent.

But on the world of Nalan, the fall may never end.

So Lyncia begins a struggle to understand the world as it truly is. Buried stories tell of concealed gods and sunken relics. Cracks in the known history reveal a shattered past. Somewhere in the truth, Lyncia will find power.

Find out more about Nalan here:
http://nalanwiki.watersartistry.com/

WARNING!  THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

What was done well:

Although I only got through what was essentially the start of our heroines journey, I found so much I liked.  The characterisation was fantastic – particularly the sublime balance J.A strikes with Lyncia, the titular protagonist.  She’s wilful but not to the point where she is spoilt.  She is strong, both physically and mentally but this has come from years of hard training.  Lyncia is also keen to take over ruling from her father so she can keep the times peaceful and do what is best for her subjects.  That said, I get the impression that she isn’t quite ready to rule just yet (more on that later!).

This brings me to the thing I liked to most.  The first few chapters gave me the impression that this was going to be the story of a princess fighting against a patriarchy not just for herself but for the greater good of her people, all the while learning various hard truths that would eventually mould her into a wise and powerful ruler.  Then we witness her shocking murder and suddenly all those expectations go out the window.  Lyncia is reborn as an unwilling prophet with a whole new set of problems: a frightening voice in her head that is actually a god that is forcing her to be a prophet and can control her actions, a new body and to top it all off she has to come to terms with the fact that her own father had her killed.  This kind of sudden misdirection is a difficult one to pull off but J.A does this masterfully.

The beauty of it all is that the plot hasn’t changed all that much from where it started.  The focus has altered but at its core, the story hasn’t.  You see, even if we had stayed along the lines of a strong and formidable princess fighting back against a patriarchy, Lyncia would still have her work cut out for her.  It’s clear that while she has a greater understanding of politics and leadership than most, she is missing vital bits of wisdom.  Look at how she reacts to her fathers decision to go to war.  She flat out refuses this is a solution.  Unfortunately, issues like these don’t have a clear cut answer.  I’m certainly not advocating war.  It’s never a good thing.  But sometimes, particularly in a world such as Lyncia’s, it is a lesser evil that can cut short years of extended suffering.  As a potential ruler Lyncia needs to understand that and be ready to make difficult and sometimes harsh decisions.  When she becomes a prophet, this core issue is still there.  In fact one thing I noticed is just how grossly Lyncia underestimates the influence of religion in the machinations of power.  As a prophet (even a reluctant one) she’ll be treated to some invaluable lessons that will help her on her journey.  More importantly she’s starting from the bottom.  As a princess she was in a privileged position where it was unlikely she knew the full extent of her people’s suffering.  Lyncia has the chance to really get to know her people and in turn her kingdom and hopefully she might even pick up some street smarts on the way.  And that is what will help her win the day … assuming she is willing to learn.  I guess I will have to wait and see.

What Could Have Been Better:

I’d like to place a mini disclaimer here and state that the following ‘criticism’ is the result of hours and hours of re-reading in order to find some kind of general weakness (well done J.A!).  After all, I believe that even the best piece of work has room to improve.  Similarly I believe that even a story I don’t get along with has something good in it.  This is why I always try to find at least one good thing and one bad thing.

So … what is this one thing?

Well, I noticed that it takes eight chapters to reach the event that kicks Lyncia into her ‘Heroes Journey’.  The story itself is only fifty chapters long, which means it takes almost a fifth of the book to get to where the plot begins rolling.  The eight chapters aren’t short either.

I’m not saying this is ‘wrong’.  After all, there are no set rules on the ratio of beginnings, middles and ends (that I’m aware of anyway).  It’s not even like what happens is irrelevant filler either.  There is no rambling on.  We need to see Lyncia in her lessons, we need to see her go to the temple and witness the miracle and we need to see her cause havoc at the meeting.  I just think that J.A might want to examine the story more closely to see if there is a way to bring the reader closer to this pivotal event.  My personal suggestion is using a small prologue where we begin with Lyncia dying.  We don’t necessarily have to know it’s her; there can be brief details that hint at who the dying character is that the reader can slowly put together as they read through the events that led to this calamity in the next eight chapters.

That’s it.

Overview:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lyncia and wish I’d had time to read more.  The characters are well thought out, the setting, plot and drama play out really nicely and there is a real balance of fantasy here.  It’s not overplayed but we can see we are in a fantasy realm.  Lyncia is certainly shaping up to have some interesting concepts and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys well crafted fantasy fiction.

Incidentally if anyone is interested, J.A Waters has a wiki where he provides some stunning illustrations and information about the world of Nalan.

He also has other serials on Jukepop that you should check out: