New characters and new journeys: upcoming posts

Come with me now on a journey through time and space, and Chunky Peanut Butter Kit-Kats…

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space be cray

Over the next year (and indeed, years) I intend to do a series of blog posts charting the creation of a fantasy trilogy – from the ideas to the planning, to the first draft, to the inevitable scrapping of that first bit, to the 60K point where I traditionally pause to panic, to the revision and the eventual editing. I won’t be going into super specific details about the trilogy for obvious reasons, but I hope that seeing the birth* of The Ninth Rain, to some extent, might be useful or at least interesting in some way.

Anyway, this isn’t one of those posts, more a warning of what might be popping up over the next few months, but it occurs to me as I plunge myself into this new world, that the weird thing is the characters. Or specifically, the lack of them.

Now, I do have lots of characters. Four main ones already, and they are already a treasure and a joy and a pain in my bum. But it’s like the beginning of The Copper Promise. When I started the first Copper Cat book, I had Wydrin, Lord Frith, and Sebastian, but I didn’t yet have Ephemeral, Ip, Crowleo, Xinian, Selsye, Tamlyn and Nuava Nox, Toast, Gwiddion, O’rin, Dreyda, Bezcavar, Enri and Roki, Mendrick, or any of the other characters that were to make themselves known to me over the years. They all emerged from the story, stomping up with big leather boots, or on sinister bare feet, unknown to me until they appeared, sliding in at the edges or appearing in a fanfare of violence; they grew naturally from the story, causing trouble for my beloved Black Feather Three, or just occasionally, offering help. And that’s what I look forward to the most I think – all the new characters I’ve yet to meet. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

 

*seeing the birth – I know this sounds gross. I am sorry.

Cover reveal and blurb: THE SILVER TIDE

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I love this so so much. Every one of my covers has been tremendous, and I owe a big thanks to Patrick Insole and the excellent team at Headline for knocking it out of the park again. THESE DRAGONS GIVE ME LIFE.

Keep reading for more info on THE SILVER TIDE, the sequel to THE COPPER PROMISE and THE IRON GHOST:

Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

British Fantasy Award Nomination EXCITEMENT

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The teeny IRON GHOST – with cave troll for scale

Gosh, well yesterday was a bit exciting. I had just received through the post an early copy of the tiny paperback version of THE IRON GHOST (spoiler: it’s not that tiny) and sat down to admire its loveliness when my @ mentions on Twitter went crazy. I had been nominated for best newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards.

 

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Me, yesterday

I’m over the moon, and it’s an especially good list of nominations, full of friends and people I admire. Also nominated for Best Newcomer are my fellow SRFC co-hort Den Patrick, and Actual Beam of Sunshine Ed Cox (for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade and The Relic Guild respectively) and the wider list is full of fabulous writers and publishers too – TBR piles all over will be newly embiggened!

It’s a pretty amazing thing. As I’m sure I’ve blathered on about before, I never truly thought I would have books published, and THE COPPER PROMISE was such a wild card: a book that stomped all over my plans for writing other books and pushed its way to the front of my head. The fact that people have cared enough about it to vote for it in any way, is very cool indeed, and a big boost to a new author. So thank you, lovelies. You rock.

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Mead, mayhem, monsters, and irresponsible red-heads.

 Soon, I will hopefully have more news for you, and I’ll be able to show you the cover for THE SILVER TIDE too, which I’m editing right now. EXCITING TIMES!

 

The Editing Process: A few random thoughts and a small dog

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Here is a small ceramic dog I saw at the British Museum. I appreciated his innate dogness. He has nothing to do with this post.

Gosh, blog posts. Remember when I used to do those?

In my defence, crazy busy times are afoot. In day job world, I’ve started a new position as a copywriter and I’m currently learning approximately 800 new things a day. It’s quite fun. In writing world, I’m still busily making book 3 (hopefully titled THE SILVER TIDE, you heard it here first) in a readable state for human beings. The good news is, it’s almost ready to send off to my lovely editors. The bad news is, it may break my brain before that happens.

Since I’m here, and editing is very much on my mind, I thought I would share some random and not entirely helpful* thoughts on the process.

Summarisation’s what you need

It occurs to me that although I know a lot about how other writers write, I don’t necessarily know much about how they edit (outside of ‘remove words, make better’) so I have no idea whether how I work is normal or totally batshit.

Soooo. When the first draft is done and a bit of time has passed, I will grab a notebook (usually a soft cover school exercise book, those are my favourites for this bit) and in the back I will note down everything I already know needs to change. There are always a few things, bits and pieces that have been bugging me the whole way through the first draft but haven’t had time to go back and change. Then, I will read the whole thing through again, summarising each chapter in black pen and then underneath in red pen I will make a note of all the big things that need to change.

Now, since I am weak and unable to resist, I will also do cosmetic edits as I go; chopping out the crap, tidying things up, tweaking dialogue. There will be a few more rounds of this sort of thing, but I usually need a couple of goes to catch everything.

Then, when I reach the end, I go back to the beginning and address everything I’ve highlighted in red pen, and anything that was written in the back of the notebook at the beginning that hasn’t been sorted yet. The useful thing about having these summaries of each chapter is that when you’re looking for a particular event or character moment later on in the edit, it’s much easier to find. Also, if you’re required to write a synopsis for any reason after the first draft is done, HELLO HANDY SUMMARIES.

Oh god continuity

Truly, the bane of my life when it comes to editing. Writing a book is a massive mental balancing act, and it’s natural that you drop a few balls here and there. Hehe, balls. So when you get to chapter 30 and remember that in chapter 7 someone shaved their head, but since then you’ve been lovingly describing their flowing auburn locks… This is a particular pain in the arse if like me, your book is heavy on weapons and the result of weapons flying about. People are continually pulling their swords out (steady on), putting them away, sustaining injuries or just losing their dagger under the rubble of an exploded building, and you have to keep track of all that. What is brilliant is that eventually a copy editor will read through the manuscript and point out all the ways in which I have been an idiot but for the next book, I am going to draw little pictures of my characters and as I write the first draft I will mark, with a red pen, all the various places they are injured. I’m not even kidding.

Accept Your Limits

I find that editing exhausts my brain in a completely different way to writing. Writing feels more like a trance state, when it’s going really well – words flow, your head is somewhere else, all is good – whereas editing is more like a heightened state of awareness, where your focus is narrowed down to a tiny point. If I do it for too long, my focus starts to bleed and my eyes slip over the page without catching the things I need to change. This is incredibly annoying, especially when you’re speeding towards a deadline and you have very little time to do anything.

It’s annoying, but it means it’s time for me to have a cup of tea, or a browse through tumblr, or watch an episode of Thundercats. Or even just time to stop for the day and go and have dinner. Or maybe, write a blog post about editing.

 

 

*almost certainly not helpful

A Brief Sentimental Post on Finishing a First Draft

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Ephemeral is ready to melt your faces!

So I reached STAGE SEVEN with the third book yesterday – which is to say I finished the first draft. I tend to find the last few chapters difficult (they always take much longer than I think they will, for a start) so this weekend was one big writing sprint fuelled by chocolate, chocolate ice-cream, tea and eventually, mead. I typed THE END through a haze of honey wine and tears, and it has to be said I’m fairly glad no one was there to witness the sobbing mess I was by that point.

That’s not to say that the end is necessarily sad (I can’t comment either way in that regard because SPOILERLZ etc) but it was a very emotional moment to bring closure to a series I’ve devoted years of my life to, and to characters who are as close as family to me now.

Now there is an actual shit-ton (the correct technical term, I believe) of work to do, and I’m very much looking forward to editing the living heck out of final volume of the Copper Cat trilogy, until it is the best possible thing it can be. There will be more tears before I’m done, no doubt, and more mead.

For the moment though I will take a brief break to poke the sodden goo that is my brain back into working order, and to come to terms with the fact I’ve now got the bones of an actual trilogy on my hands. Crazy times.

The Iron Ghost – Well and Truly Launched

Well, that was the launch that launched. That launcheded. Launched right up the bracket. Good lord.

The Iron Ghost is out in the world, and now that the dust is settled I thought I would do a quick round up post of the last two weeks – what I remember of it at least, which is mainly a sense of mingled joy and panic. There will be pictures and links mostly, and a big fat THANK YOU to all of you lovely people who supported me over the last fortnight.

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O my god it’s full of stars

 

First of all Den Patrick and I kicked things off at Kingston Waterstones, where we essentially interviewed each other, signed some books, and consumed these ridiculously gigantic hot chocolates. It was bigger than my head. Big thanks to Neil Atkinson and Waterstones Kingston for hosting us and being lovely.

Next up was Super Relaxed Fantasy Club. The last time I read at SRFC, there were about ten people in attendance – it’s grown a little since then, so I was very glad to see a lot of friendly faces when I did my reading and Q&A. I also got to tell people “This is the book where everyone gets laid!” which always pleases me.

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I have yet to take a decent photo at SRFC. Here is Den, I assume, gesturing.

And then the launch! I rocked up to Forbidden Planet, was generally alarmed by the number of people there, and then signed lots of books and doodled increasingly erratic dragons. HUGE thanks to everyone who came along, it really meant a lot and I had the best time ever, basically.

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That rare thing: A sober photo of me at the launch

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The queue!

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The amazingly beautiful (and tasty) dragon biscuits!

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The gorgeous drinking horn given to me by the fabulous Edward Partridge, along with amazing mead amazing people gave me <3

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I don’t know. This just seems to be the sort of thing that happens to me at the pub…

Anyway, there are a lot more photos of me on that night, none of them particularly dignified. I was hungover for two days, and it was totally worth it.

I had a breather after that, and then up to Milton Keynes where I hung out at the Waterstones there. A dalek came out to meet me, which I thought was a nice touch.

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Daleks apparently approve of sword and sorcery based fantasy. Who’d have thought it?

While all this was going on, I was also writing blog posts like a boss. They came out all over the place and if I’m honest I completely lost track, so here’s a quick list of them all in case you were curious/collecting them all/really desperately bored at work and in need of something to read:

The Friday Five at Pornokitsch: Five Cartoons that will Improve your Life

The Pinocchio Factor at Tor.com: The non-human and the search for humanity

Putting the Fun in Fantasy at FantasyFaction

Watership Down, or the Film that Made Me at Civilian Reader

A Tourist’s Guide to the Best and Worst SFF Cities at Gollancz

Interview over at Joanne Hall’s blog

Interview over at Fantastical Librarian

and bonus material, two blogs on this here site:

What happens when I’m stuck: Writing and Dick Jokes 

The Eight Stages of the First Draft

 

Phew, that was a lot of waffle, wasn’t it? Huge thanks to everyone who hosted me over the last couple of weeks, you are all absolute stars.

So, The Iron Ghost is out in the world. There have been some lovely reviews and mentions knocking about already –

The Independent (would you believe it!)

The British Fantasy Society 

Fantasy Faction

Starburst Magazine

Jet Black Ink

The Iron Ghost was a scary book to write. I never expected to be published, let alone to be writing a sequel to a published book, and I sweated blood and chewed lumps out of my desk and generally agonized over it, but in the end I loved that book. It’s very strange and wonderful to see it now, sitting on the shelf next to its sister, and I can’t thank enough the people who have read these books and taken the characters to their hearts. All your support – the kind words, the general enthusing, the reviews – has meant the world. And I’ll see you back here for book 3, I hope!

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My babies!

This week: What am I even doing?

Stuff and things are happening! And will continue to happen this week, so I’m going to write some of them down here (mostly for my own reference because I am easily distracted at the moment.

On Saturday Den Patrick and I sauntered on down to Kingston Waterstones and did a little chat about books, covering things like magic, horror, diversity and how weird Alien would have been with Harrison Ford in Ripley’s role. It was lovely to see The Iron Ghost in an actual shop for the first time, and we signed some books too. Huge thanks to everyone who popped along and the lovely booksellers (and I will have to go back because Kingston has items of HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE that I must look at further and also a Five Guys)

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Den and his Lego mini-fig, which had a unicorn costume. He wasn’t best pleased.

I have been doing things on the internet.

Over at Tor.com I wrote a post called The Pinocchio Factor, about non-humans and what their struggle towards humanity means in terms of story and identity (which sounds mega serious but is mostly about Data from Star Trek). I am dead proud to have a post on Tor.com because they always have tons of interesting stuff on there.

I was interviewed over at the lovely Joanne Hall’s blog, where I had a minor rant about diversity in fantasy…

And at SF Signal I wrote a guest post about my five favourite women in fantasy who don’t have time for your nonsense.

And for Civilian Reader I wrote a blog post about how important it was for me to watch Watership Down as a kid so it messed me up good and proper.

There was also a little blog about the writing process that people seem to have enjoyed, so I’m going to blatantly plug it again here. There you go.

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Pretty cover is pretty.

And on Tuesday the 24th of February I will again be teaming up with Den to do a reading at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club – normally we host the meet-up of course, so there is a particular kind of pressure to not be really dreadful at this. Hence, my reading will be very short. Hooray!

Thursday is the big one. On the 26th of February at 6pm I will be launching The Iron Ghost at Forbidden Planet. I will sign books for anyone who wants one (I have been working on a new dragon for this book..) and there will be biscuits and the pub afterwards. It would be truly awesome to see you there. Yes, YOU!

 

 

What happens when I’m stuck: writing and dick jokes

“So you’re writing for the sake of writing?”

Wydrin leant over the table, pushing the point of her dagger into the swirly centre of a knothole. The writer shrugged.

“It’s just to keep my head in the book. If I don’t do a little bit every day, it gets harder and harder to get back into the flow of things.”

“But what you’re writing right now,” Wydrin nodded towards the fat leather bound volume that sat on the table between them, “doesn’t advance the story in any way. This is just you pissing about, isn’t it?”

The writer shrugged, and then realised that she’d already shrugged once in this section and turned it smoothly into a slight tip of the head. “I prefer to call it practise rather than pissing about.”

“It’s the same as training,” added Sebastian. “You use your sword every day and you get used to the weight of it in your hand. Fighting becomes easier.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about you using your sword every day.” Wydrin grinned, triumphant that she’d been able to get a dick joke in so easily. “Famous for it. Sir Sebastian Carverson, they say, you know he barely leaves his sword alone! Must be rusty with use. Surprised it doesn’t just drop off.”

“On the contrary, I oil it carefully every day.” Sebastian patted his sword belt fondly. “You have to take care of your weapon.”

“Ye gods, you two.” The writer sat back, shaking her head. “Frith? You have an opinion on this?”

“On oiling swords?”

“Frith.”

The young lord cleared his throat. “It seems to me that by writing for the sake of writing you are in fact, procrastinating. None of this is helping your cause. Currently, in the book you’re supposed to be writing none of us are even in the same room, let alone in a tavern called the Preening Fox.”

“Preening Fox?” Wydrin put her pint down. “I thought this was the Bloody Cock?”

“Please, don’t,” Sebastian waved a hand at the writer. “You’re just giving her an excuse to reel off ridiculous tavern names.”

“The point is,” continued Frith. “These words you are writing now will eventually be lost, thrown in a pile somewhere, and meanwhile we’re languishing in whatever terrible fate you have concocted. Usually with grievous wounds you’ve forgotten about.”

“Exactly,” said Wydrin. “Essentially, you’re doing a bunch of work right now for no profit. That’s no life for a mercenary.”

“Are you saying that writers are mercenary?” asked the writer. There was ink on her fingers so she wiped it on her trousers. “We’re not subject to the copper promise ourselves, you know.”

“Are you even paying for these drinks?” Wydrin nodded towards the half-finished bottle of mead placed precariously close to the writer’s book.

“Well, not really…” The writer cleared her throat. “You can’t say I don’t keep you in continual booze. Hardly a scene goes by without something alcoholic in a flask appearing. Look, if you lot were behaving yourselves then the words would just be flying by, and various terrible things would be happening, and you’d all be making heroic choices, I’ve no doubt. But this evening I only have half an hour to write, and everything you’re doing at the moment is so bloody… complex.” The writer took a deep breath. “Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and talk to you all. And for some reason when we do this, it’s always in a tavern.”

“The Windy Miller,” said Wydrin. “I think that’s what it was called. Or the Truculent Sheep.”

“And so tonight when I get home, I can think to myself, well I didn’t get a huge amount done today, but I spent some time with my head in the world of the book, and there’s only a finite amount of that time left now.”

“We’ve been together a long time,” said Sebastian. For a moment the tavern grew quiet, as side characters who hadn’t quite made it into this section faded briefly from existence. There was the crackle of the fire, the smell of stale beer, and the company of old friends. “What will you do, when you’ve finished playing with us?”

“Hooray!” cried Wydrin. “And we’re back with the dick jokes.”

My Complicated February; Or, my book is nearly here, HALP

This is going to be one of those posts where I have a lot of different things to tell you, so I’m chucking them all together in one place. Efficiency FTW!

Firstly, enormously excited that The Copper Promise was featured in FantasyFaction’s Top 50 Fantasy Books of 2014, and it made the top 5! Seriously, I spent all of yesterday in some sort of stunned daze about this. There are so many great writers on that list, it has blown my tiny mind.

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Secondly, Sorrow’s Isle is out now and available to download for 99 of your human pennies. It’s a short story set in the world of The Copper Promise before the events of the first book, and it also includes a little preview of The Iron Ghost (which is out in 26 days, ye gods, the terror).

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So yes, tomorrow is February, which is the month where I officially start to panic in a big way. The Iron Ghost, the sequel to The Copper Promise, is out on the 26th. Aieeeee. So if you haven’t read The Copper Promise yet, that’s practically loads of time to catch up… I’m doing a few signings and stuff where I will attempt to scrawl a dragon in your copy (please note I am usually very nervous at these things so the dragons may be somewhat wobbly. I think it adds to their character).

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First up, on the 21st of February Den Patrick and I will be teaming up to chat about books and nonsense at Kingston Waterstones, where you can pick up copies of Den’s excellent books in the Erebus Sequence, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade and The Boy Who Wept Blood. It’ll also likely be the earliest you can grab a copy of The Iron Ghost too!

Then on the 24th, Den and I will be taking over Super Relaxed Fantasy Club for the evening, with readings and Q&As and lots of chat. As usual we’ll be at the Sky Bar at the Grange Hotel in Holborn from 6.30pm.

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On Thursday the 26th of February, it’s the big one for me – launching The Iron Ghost at Forbidden Planet! We had such an excellent time last year with The Copper Promise I am super excited to do it again, whilst also slightly terrified at the same time of course. There will be pub shenanigans afterwards, and possibly the spectacle of an overwhelmed author clutching both books to her bosom and calling them her “precious babies”.

So, February. Highly likely to kick my arse all over the shop, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing The Iron Ghost out in the world as well as catching up/meeting people for the first time. I hope I will get to see you all at some point!

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Exclusive Short Story Pre-order and Sorrow’s Isle Cover Reveal! Ahhh!

Fancy a short story set before the events of THE COPPER PROMISE? On the 29th of January, the e-short SORROW’S ISLE will pop into being, and you can already pre-order it here!

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It’s a tale of dark omens and ancient secrets, and it features Wydrin and Sebastian at the very beginning of their adventuring career. There’s also a little sample of THE IRON GHOST in there in preparation for the big book’s arrival in February. For 99p!

Writing short stories set in this world, and particularly with the characters all fresh-faced and innocent (well, innocent-ish) is enormous fun. I hope you enjoy this little taster!