*switches brain off*

I’m not kidding; sometimes I wish I’d been a plumber. Endless work, a predictable and reasonable wage, instant reward for effort expended: the laws of the universe unfolding harmoniously on a daily basis.

It’s not like that with writing. Apart from the endless work, obviously.

Last count, I’ve written fourteen novels. I think half of them are published. Years of work, as yet unpaid, and people in the business ceaselessly telling you why your latest creation can’t sell, won’t sell, is of no interest to corporate publishing – such as it mostly is today.

I could really moan if I let myself get started but that’s not the point of this post. The fact is, today is a good day. A hopeful day. A day upon which the work feels worthwhile.

It’s taken fifteen months to bring my most recent novel from first line to submittable draft, but a few hours ago I got the nod from my agent that we are finally good to go.

I almost gave up on getting this far but, on Monday, Gallashan will go out to a select group of editors and the waiting game that authors constantly play – as though we love it or something – will begin in earnest once again.

It’s still a little early to share a synopsis. After all, we may get nothing but knockbacks. But if it becomes the case that someone wants to turn this other-world fantasy into a real book, I promise I’ll say a little more about it then.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if that happened sooner rather than later just this once…

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A year has passed since setting down the opening lines of a new work; the windblown seeds of which first drifted into my consciousness more than twenty years ago.

At the time, I’d fasted for four days and nights in a grove of moss-cloaked, lichen-fronded oaks, nestled in the hills overlooking Barmouth, North Wales. The surroundings became a looking glass, a scrying vessel and a wireless connection, through which the voice of the landscape spoke; lyrical, clear and potent.

I left Wales, much healed, and those new seeds came with me. I tried to write the story gestating within in their nucleii but, having only set down poetry before that moment, I lacked the maturity, both psychologically and authorially, to do those mystical kernels justice. That work, much of it hand-written in a spiral-bound notebook, became my first unfinished novel – a failure at the time.

But I had detached myself from among the wallflowers on the side-lines and joined the writers’ ball; committed myself to those reels of joy and disappointment, wherein every dancer turns and stamps alone.

Their germination unsuccessful, the seeds re-entered cryo-sleep for well over two decades.

Until, in 2017, two things happened:

First, on the way to school one morning, I happened to outline the unfinished tale to my daughter, aged nine at the time. She said, “Dada, you should go back to the beginning and write that story all over again.”

And, I thought, yes, I really should…

Second, an inspiring meeting with the gentleman who became my literary agent gave me a reason to begin a new work of Fantasy. The dormant seeds re-awoke and I began to make pages and pages of notes and drawings, determined, this time, to find a way through to the end without getting lost.

Creating a new world over the intervening months has involved all the usual heartaches. This second attempt, however, has resulted in a work commensurate with its mystical genesis among those gnarled, ancient trees. Regardless of whether it makes the hyperspace leap from manuscript to book, it has become a magical artefact; worthy of a reader or two.

For now, as ever, I wait on the opinions of others to find value (of a marketable, monetary nature) in the work that flowed through me between August 2017 and August 2018. Should the gatekeepers find the novel acceptable, I hope you’ll be able to share in the enchantments that came to me in that solitary vigil on a Welsh hillside all those years ago.

For the record – how the Black Dawn became a series

I need to set this up first, otherwise shooting myself in the foot, which I plan to do in a minute, isn’t going to work.

When a writer needs to explain something about their work, whether before or after publication, it’s as though they’re intimating that the work is incomplete. In groups I’ve run and classes I’ve taught in the past, whenever writers read their material aloud, rather than giving everyone an introduction or preamble, I always encouraged them to dive in and let the writing speak for itself.

That’s the pure way, the artistic way – takes some courage but it was always worth it for the feedback from listeners hearing it ‘cold’ rather than prepped.

Ahem. Now then…

*aims Glock at tarsals*

Seeing as it’s been almost four years since the Black Dawn series was published, there’s something I want to tell you.

*squeezes trigger*

Between them, Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman have close to a thousand ratings on Goodreads, which is lovely.

Keeping an eye on Goodreads reviews is a great way for authors to gauge how their work is received by a wide selection of booklovers.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Goodreads, I’d never have discovered that hardly any readers understand why these two books became a series.

Here’s the truth: Continue reading

Paper. Hats. Lots of paper and hats.

Since my last post, I have been like a man lost in a room piled high with A4 paper.

It was a large room, more of a gymnasium really, and it was VERY full. To make matters worse, someone wearing a hat that said ‘Writer’ on it had typed an idea all over those sheets of paper – a pretty outlandish idea, if you ask me.

Anyway, someone had to go into that room wearing an editor’s hat (and NBC/HAZMAT suit) and sort the mess out. That someone was me.

But, to be fair to all parties, the person who filled up all the sheets of paper with the outlandish idea in the first place was also me.

It’s a good thing I have so many hats, so that I can do all these jobs. I have a vacuuming hat, a grocery shopping hat, a laundry hat, a school run hat, an ironing hat, a dusting hat, a cleaning the litter tray hat, a cooking hat and a washing up hat, among many others.

Fortunately, the one hat I don’t have to wear at the moment is an agent’s hat. I’m happy about this because I really don’t like the agent’s hat and doing the things that wearing it makes me do. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone who is willing to wear the agent’s hat for me and do all that agent’s hat-wearing stuff – one of those things being reading an early draft and then sending it to people who like to wear commissioning editor’s hats.

Hoorah!

However, wearing the agent’s hat could mean that he doesn’t like all the pieces of paper enough to show them to people in commissioning editor’s hats. This, I feel quite strongly, would be a Bad Thing.

On the other hand, the man in the agent’s hat might throw his hands in the air and yell “Far out, writer’s hat-wearing dude! Awesome bits of paper, and all in the correct order! I’m going to show people in commissioning editor’s hats what you’ve done here.” This, I’m almost certain, would be a Good Thing.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, it’s another little milestone that takes the process from finished first draft to finished first submittable draft.

And, now, I put on the first of my waiting hats – there are many, to be worn at the several waiting stages of the process to come.

*twiddles thumbs*

*Thinks paper and hat thoughts*

The End = The Beginning. (Maybe.) :-)

Some weeks ago, I began a new novel, the details of which I posted here. Then I disappeared. Novelists do that.

This is me reappearing and saying, “Tada!” because the first draft is complete.

Having shown my agent the six-page outline in August, I felt confident to get on with the writing. I went at it daily for about eleven weeks, only missing days when it was unavoidable – perhaps five or six absences across the whole stretch.

The novel had to come in at under 150K so that it won’t be too long to sell (mss above this word count incur a significantly higher printing cost). I squeaked in at 146K, leaving some wiggle room.

There’s a good deal of editing to do before there’s a presentable draft, then it’s time to wait for a verdict from my agent. A thumbs-up means the piggy goes to market next year. A thumbs-down…well, let’s not talk about that.

Anyway, I’m back so, “Hello and hope you’ve been well!”

Rate and review call from authors everywhere!

Read a book recently? Do you, like me, LOVE books and stories?

If so, and you haven’t had the time to do this yet, go and rate the books you’ve enjoyed. It only takes a few seconds to do and, whether you realise it or not, it makes a difference.

These days, consumer-led assessment of quality affects everything – Tripadvisor is a brilliant example of this – and the publishing business is no different. Your rating of a book affects the purchasing choices of the people who come to a product after you. They’re much more likely to risk their hard-earned wages on something that other people have liked and rated before them.

Why is this important? Because it could mean the difference between an author staying an author or going back to her day job. This is as true for me as anyone else.

So, please, if you’ve got a spare moment, leave a rating of your favourite books and keep the people who write them in a job!

And, if you have several spare moments, go a step further and add a review to your rating. It all adds up to something.

Something wonderful.

A thought for #NationalWritingDay

Writers – of fiction, I mean – occupy the territory between magician, court jester and shaman.

They take the things we cannot clearly see about ourselves and make mirrors so that we can look at those things, at least a little more clearly.

It’s paradoxical, isn’t it, that though we, as writers, set out with fabrication as a goal, we can end up revealing something pure and unadulterated? And yet a writer of non-fiction, someone who strives for precision and factual detail actually blurs reality simply by passing it through their own lens.

Great fiction imparts great truths with a subtlety and depth that non-fiction never can.

So, get on with your writing and seek the truth wrapped up in stories…