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.

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.

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?

Learning to Breathe Again

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November’s Jukepop Reading Party is over.

As usual I prepared this month’s reading list with gusto.  My plan was to start on J.A Waters Lyncia.  Unfortunately, this month has been a little tumultuous so I only managed the first fifteen chapters.  I say ‘only’, the JRP isn’t about quantity – it’s about Jukepop authors coming together and reading what they can together in order to support other Jukepop authors in time for the JP30.  It doesn’t matter if you read one chapter or a hundred.  That said, there was a reason I read so little over the weekend.

Some of you may be aware that I have been wrestling with a difficult decision these past few months about whether to defer my home study course for a year to focus on my writing.  What prompted this …?

Well … let me start by saying that I have been a writer since before I can remember.  I’m sure it’s the same for most writers.  More often than not, it feels less like I’m an architect of imaginary worlds and characters and more like I’m the conduit for a thousand different voices, each with a tale to tell.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will admit that I have never considered my ability to write as something ‘special’.  It was just something I did and always had.  Do you consider breathing ‘special’ …?  True, at its most fundamental level, breathing is important; without it you would die, but it is in no way special.  I have also never experienced writers block.  I’d heard authors and friends talk about the dreaded writers block and had always been somewhat confused.  How could one just not write?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gloating nor am I saying I’m an unparalleled prodigy or anything.  There is no doubt in my mind that I have much to learn.  Quite simply, what I am saying is that for me, writing might as well be part of my DNA – like my eye colour.  It’s just one more building block that makes me ‘me’ and I have never given it a second thought.

Fast forward a little to the summer just gone.  I made the decision to give my writing an overhaul.  I dubbed it my ‘Creative Summer’.  I dedicated every spare moment I had to it.  I entered into three competitions – The SWP2015 being one of them.  I didn’t win but I learned so much and that, to me, was the best prize.  Ideas buzzed around my head and I had plans to write more – to self publish, to start a new serial on Jukepop and to continue writing at least one short story a month.  As the month of September rolled by though, there came a distant knell: my home study degree started early October.

Once I started the course, I began to push my writing away.  I had essays to write, chapters to read, tutorials to attend.  After completing the first essay, I sat down to give myself time to write and  … nothing.  I figured I was just tired and would try again the next day.  My husband took our daughter out for a few hours to give me some time and space to harness my craft.  Again nothing.  All of a sudden I was, figuratively speaking, suffocating.  There was no creative air in my lungs.

For the first time in my life I was suffering writers block.  There is no simile or adjective that could possibly begin to describe how unpleasant it felt.

Throughout my life I had always balanced my need to write with work and other responsibilities.  Even during the years when I earned minimum wage and had to work 70 hours a week to pay the bills or after my daughter was born and I was sleep deprived, hormonal and exhausted.  What went wrong …?

I realised then that perhaps I had prematurely pulled the plug on my creative development and I was paying the price.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m learning a lot on my course but it pales in comparison to the personal growth I had made during my Creative Summer.

This left me standing at a crossroad:

The left turn will keep me on my home study degree.  The course will take six years to complete part time.  Putting it off by a year will obviously add another year.  There is the possibility that once my daughter starts school in a few years I will be free to shift to full time and complete it quicker.  There is also the possibility that I can apply to the local university to undertake the course full time and complete it in three to four years but there is no guarantee I will be accepted.

The right turn will take me down a path where I defer my course for a year so I can go back to dedicating all my free time to writing.

Some of you may have seen me reach out on twitter for some advice (special thanks to M. Howalt and Allison Spector by the way!).

After weeks of wrestling and fretting and running countless plans and scenarios through my mind, I have decided that I will take the right turn and defer my course.

There are several reasons for this.  First, it will make me happy.  Second, if I want to be accepted into the Literature and Creative Writing course at the local university, I will stand a better chance if I actually have some work published and the best way to do that is to keep writing and submitting stories be they serials or short stories.  Finally, I feel that neglecting my craft would squander all the hard work I did over the summer.

It’s fair to say that I didn’t appreciate the gift of writing as much as I should have until now.  I suppose people don’t appreciate the air in their lungs until they find themselves unable to breathe.  That changes now.

Writing has opened so many doors in my life.  For example, my love of writing drives me to read which has in turn lead me to some fantastic adventures.  Most recently it has led me to Jukepop where I have read some amazing stories and met some wonderfully supportive authors (who have in turn given me fantastic advice!).  True, education is invaluable, but not all education takes place in the classroom.  After all, the few months I dedicated to writing saw me place in the top ten of the SWP2015 which in turn led to a podcast interview.  Imagine what might happen after a year?

I will, of course, still be taking part in the JRP every month.  J.A Water’s Lyncia will still get a review which I will post in time for Christmas.

I’d like to thank those who helped me overcome this personal hurdle – not only my fellow authors but my husband too (I don’t know how he put up with my mopiness!).

As always, stay tuned for further updates and of course the review of the fantastic Lyncia.

Preview: Prodigal Prince

As many of you know, I am currently churning through four critiques off the back of October’s Jukepop Reading Party.  I have been so incredibly busy I’ve had to delay posting them until this coming weekend.  In the meantime I wanted to post a quick ‘preview’ of something I’ve been working on.

You may or may not know that I have been working on a fantasy/high fantasy serial called ‘The Prodigal Prince’.  I had hoped to have it submitted to Jukepop by October but I’ve been so swamped lately and things didn’t quite pan out.

I do, however, have a prologue ready and would like to share it with you as a preview of the story which I hope to be able to put on Jukepop soon.

I don’t have a synopsis as yet, but I can give a general gist of the story:

It takes place in a fantasy world called ‘Iscellenie’.  The land has come under siege by a mysterious man with dark and dangerous powers called the ‘Ravengift’.   The only thing that can stop him is one who bears the same ability.  The trouble is, the only man with that skill is a banished Prince – exiled almost ten years ago because he was born with said power.  Empress Laina sends Kerchane and Muri (her trusted friends and loyal vassals) to find her brother before the mysterious stranger reaches the capital.  Thus begins the race against time as Kerchane and Muri travel the land in search of the Prodigal Prince.

The Prodigal Prince by Kathy Joy

Prologue

 

As something between fog and smoke, it coiled off the salted, frothy waves and towards the harbour.

From his perch on the Eastern Watchtower, Tanni stared wide-eyed as the seething mass clambered up the boardwalk and over the outer wall. The coastal city of Danza was heavily fortified and hadn’t been infiltrated in over five hundred years. Until now.

He hauled himself to his feet. He may have been a scrawny fourteen year old, but his people needed him to be strong and capable. His first watch had been two weeks ago, so he knew well enough what to do. Although fear tickled his insides, trying to shackle his arms and legs in its frigid grasp, he fought against it, bursting up the ladder towards the bell. He had to alert the city. Danza was the first line of defence against invaders to the continent. If he failed, it was not just the city at risk.

On legs as giddy as a newborn foal’s, he ascended the ladder until he made it to the top. The bell hammer sat atop a crate in the corner. Grasping it tightly, Tanni whirled, ready to strike the huge, cast iron bell only to freeze when he saw a tall, thin man in his way. His skin was tanned and weather worn, hair dishevelled and dark and his eyes glimmered like frosted chunks of obsidian. A long grey and brown cloak was slipped over his narrow shoulders, the hem billowing as though teased by the wind.

“You would be wise to stop.” The man’s voice, though quiet, carried powerfully to Tanni’s ears.

“Wh-who are you …?” Tanni forced himself to speak.

The man smiled dolefully. “Such information is useless to you. It will not make your passing any easier.”

Tanni didn’t respond. Instead his mind churned, trying to find some way to reach the bell.

The tower seemed to grow dark, the boards groaning as though strained by too much weight. Shadows grew from the gaps in the wood like weeds overtaking an old, crumbling building. Tanni found himself unable to breathe, as if all the air in the world had vanished; he couldn’t even gasp.

Slowly, the boy slumped to his knees. The bell hammer would soon glide from his limp fingers. So he did the only thing he could; He threw it.

Although the hammer hit the bottom of the bell, it made enough of a resounding clang to alert those in other towers. Soon a chorus of sharp peals sang through the streets, rousing the watchmen into action.

The stranger sighed, turning to the shadows pooling about him. “What a pity.” He paused, turning to glance out the window near him. “No matter. It’s more fun when they run.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

October’s Jukepop Reading Party List

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As many of you know, I am involved in the Jukepop Reading Party, and I often plan the stories I aim to read.  My current list (in no particular order) for the Reading Party kicking off 24th – 25th October is:

Aconitum by M Howalt (I need to finish the last 9 chapters!)

Neither £egal nor Tender by TP Keating

The Chronicles of Tearha: The Number 139 by Aden Ng

Underground by Ada Redmond

Far Flung by T.C.C Edwards

The Writer by Step Hender

Flocked (Volume 2) by Ryan Watt

The Hand of the Morrigan by Kitty Loy

As before, in order to dedicate more time to reading the serials, I will only offer some brief feedback on the last chapter.  A few weeks later, I will submit a more extensive critique on this blog.

Before we touch on the impending reviews, I wanted to talk about something that really made me think when it came to my reviews.  Aden Ng wrote a blog post that touched on what a good, constructive critique should be and also how some authors seem unable to handle negative critiques, leading them to lash out at the reviewer.

I am going to be reading the work of JP authors that I am unfamiliar with – I have never read their work before.  They may indeed be unfamiliar with me.  With this in mind, I would like to stress to them that these ‘reviews’ should be taken as an opportunity to grow as an author.  They are not formal – more an extension of the comments function on Jukepop.  They will be honest but fair.  Authors will not be treated to an ego massage, nor a written ‘bashing’ of their work – neither of these things are useful.  Instead you will receive a balanced critique showcasing the strengths and weaknesses of your work.

In order to do this I will point out what I liked most and what could be better, rather than what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad’.  The reason I take this approach is:

  • a) In my experience, stories are very rarely ‘bad’.  It might perhaps need a little work, but it is infinitesimally unlikely that it is beyond redemption.  I have yet to read something where I couldn’t find at least one thing I liked in it.
  • b) Work on Jukepop is generally unfinished/ongoing, so I can’t critique it the same way I might a book I bought from a shop.

To me, Jukepop is an online writing group – people offer up their work because they know that it needs a little TLC before taking it further.  Jukepop authors rely on feedback from unbiased third parties to point out things they have missed.  I know from experience that when you comb though the same chapter countless times, the innumerable drafts can merge together, meaning continuity issues and erroneous spelling and/or grammar can and do slip through the net.  Although I will point out spelling and grammar errors, it is important to note that it will merely be a passing comment in the review; I will state that you had some and move on.

My focus will be on what works really well and what could do with improving – whether this is plot, scene, setting, character, dialogue, pace or anything else that may stand out.  These (in my opinion) are by far the most valuable pieces of feedback an author can receive at this stage.  A writer needs to know what parts of their story could use work but it is equally important to see what really shines.

So essentially, you will not find any maliciousness in my reviews.  They will be honest, but they will be fair.  I have already posted two critiques if you want to see the sort of thing to expect:

I am really looking forward to this months Reading Party.  I have decided to focus on serials that have been sitting on my JP bookshelf for a while that I have really been meaning to get into, as well as stories that I’m close to finishing ( I have a problem with stories ending – I often put off reading the last few chapters because when a story ends, especially one I am really enjoying, I go through the five stages of grief!  It really feels like I’ve lost a dear friend).

I might not get through everything, but I know I will thoroughly enjoy trying!

I hope to see many other Jukepop authors/readers joining me in the Jukepop Reading Party.  You don’t need to set such an intimidatingly long reading list as I do and you certainly don’t need to write extensive reviews for each serial; This is something I choose to do in conjunction with the Reading Party.  You could simply aim to get through that one serial you’ve been meaning to finish for some time.  It’s up to you.  Jukepop is such a fantastic community – the Reading Party is just another extension of the support fellow authors show one another.

The Jukepop Reading Party kicks off this weekend!  Good reading to everyone who joins!

Summer Writing Project 2015 Results!

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Alas I did not win the SWP2015.  However, I do not look upon it as a failure.  No, I choose to see it as an opportunity.

I am going to self publish Lexus on Amazon.  I had already decided that if I didn’t win the competition I was going to do this for two reasons.

First, in the contest I was limited to a 40k word count.  The limitations on length meant that there were certain aspects of Lexus that could have been better.  For example, there is a big rivalry between the titular character Lexus and another pirate called Vendetta but this doesn’t come across in the story.  Instead, she acts as a minor hindrance where before she had been a major obstacle.  Also, J.S.T (the protagonist’s sister) wasn’t as much use as she had been in the original text.  She’s just there, like a cardboard cut out, going through the motions. ‘Yeah I’m the protagonist’s sister, don’t mind me.’  The reason?  A 40k word count limit.  There were so many amazing scenes that got pushed aside for that very reason, leaving some characters severely under developed.  Having said that, I would still like to keep the story quite focused.  I will not be adding any additional characters.  Instead I will extend, add or lightly amend scenes.

The second reason is that I enjoyed writing it, and many people enjoyed reading it.  I really think I’ve found something with Lexus and with the right amount of work, who knows.  It could even become a best seller one day.  I even have some ideas for spin-offs, sequels and prequels.

So a little disappointed but not deflated!

Lexus will be on Jukepop until the end of October.  I know I have a couple of people still reading it, so I will let them finish.

Until then, stay tuned for further updates!