Saturday, 31 January 2015

#WIPMarathon: January Update

Last report wordcount: I was at 52K of Book 4.

Current report wordcount: I finished Book 4 at 77K, and wrote Book 5 (also 77K). I'd already written around 5K of this in November when I was supposed to be writing Book 3, so I finished in only 22 days. o.O

I'm now at 16K of Book 6.

(Yes, this does mean I've had no social life this month. :P)

WIP issues this month: Juggling projects in different stages is tricky. Juggling multiple plotlines is also tricky. Five books in and my characters are still refusing to obey my outline. :P

Four things I learned this month in writing:
  • Fast-drafting books back-to-back is a great idea. I can work in foreshadowing earlier, check continuity, and I'll be thankful for it later when editing and the foundations of the story are already there.
  • Fast-drafting books back-to-back is a terrible idea. Your brain will explode and everyone will think you're certifiably insane. And Future Emma will really hate me when she realises she has to edit FOUR train-wreck first drafts in a row. 
  • Every book is different. All my first drafts used to be too short and need a ton of extra scenes added, but with the second Alliance book, I'm cutting scenes rather than adding. I seem to be incapable of writing longer books without resorting to adding filler. 80K seems to be my limit, and that's with dual POV. Whenever I try to make a book longer, I end up having to cut things out. (Though admittedly, I've never tried multi-POV epic fantasy.) Just when I think I've got a handle on this writing thing, it surprises me again.
  • Every draft has ups and downs, and it usually has nothing to do with the actual writing. Some days, my brain just hates me. (I'm writing my 20th book. You'd think I'd know this by now...)
What distracted me this month when writing:  Work. Flailing. Being exciterrified (a word I made up) about self-publishing! I got to reveal my book's cover yesterday, which is pretty much my favourite thing ever (except possibly the other Alliance covers. *ahem*).




Goal for next month: Drafting Alliance 6! O_O 

Also, reread Adamant for the 10000000th time to check for last errors. *bites nails*

Last 200 words: I'll have the first chapter of Adamant up on the blog in a couple of weeks, but here are some more teasers! :)






Friday, 30 January 2015

Cover Reveal: Adamant (Alliance, #1) by Emma L. Adams

It's finally time to reveal the cover of my first self-published novel, Adamant! It's no secret that I love this series, and I was so thrilled when Amy (who designed my Darkworld book covers) agreed to help me with the covers. And the result...

*drum roll*





*squeeee*


movie animated GIF

I love it so much I can't even find words. So I'll just post the blurb:

On an alternative 21st-century Earth in which our world is one of many in the Multiverse, the Inter-World Alliance exists to keep the peace between the worlds, and keep the monsters out.

Ada Fletcher is twenty-one, keeps a collection of knives in her room, and is more interested in fighting than her day job as a cashier. She also risks her life on a daily basis, helping refugees from a devastating magical war on her homeworld hide on the low-magic Earth. But when she’s taken into custody by the Alliance, her unusual magic makes her a prime suspect for a supervisor’s suspicious death.

For Kay Walker, whose family founded the organization, there has never been any doubt that his future is with the Alliance – even if it means dealing with sarcastic centaurs and dangerous monsters in the dark Passages between worlds. But when his supervisor is murdered, Kay discovers that a research project might have been the reason, and faces the choice of whether to ignore his instincts or risk becoming the next target, not to mention digging into the Alliance’s history and memories he’d rather keep buried. And there’s something not quite right about the strange, fierce girl he arrested as a suspect.

The last thing Ada wants is to help the infuriating Alliance guard who arrested her, but it soon becomes clear that the Alliance knows too much about Ada’s offworld origins. More, in fact, than she knows herself. Now she has to choose between loyalty to her family, and helping the Alliance save the Earth – and the Multiverse – from a deadly enemy.

I'm so stoked to share the Alliance series! You can pre-order Adamant right now, and it'll be delivered to your e-reader on the 11th March!

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There's also a giveaway! Thank you to Lola at Lola's Blog Tours for organising the cover reveal and promo! :)

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What's Up Wednesday


It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading


I reread The Bone Season to refresh my memory before I read the sequel. The worldbuilding in this series is intricate and unique, and the action scenes were fantastic.

What I'm writing

I finished the first draft of Alliance 5! The end is most definitely nigh! I'd already started this draft back in November, but I've beaten my previous record by writing a draft in 22 days. On the other hand, the editing will probably take a year. I've already decided about 1/3 of it will need to be rewritten... o.O

My writing goal this week: Write... the final Alliance book. The feels, guys. Ahhh...

What works for me

Plotsing and letting the magic happen. :) As you might have guessed from my posts about my crazy-organisational approach to writing, I tend to like having a list or formula to follow for everything, including writing. I always have an outline. But sometimes, I have to divert off-track, or just let things come together naturally. One of my favourite foreshadowing techniques is to have an image or idea repeated throughout the book or series, and a lot of the time, this isn't actually deliberate in the first draft. I'll use a certain image earlier on, and find it kind of reappears throughout the book without conscious effort. So, thanks, brain. :P

Unfortunately, I can't say what they are in this series, because... spoilers. ;)

What else is new

Formatting is evil. >_< It took far too many attempts to get the ebook file of Adamant converted (though I am technologically incompetent). So, that was fun. But I do have a shiny serviceable ebook file now.

Two days till the cover reveal! I can't wait for you guys to see the awesomeness! ^_^

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Cover Reveal: A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris


Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn't believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell beforetNew Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press (www.curiosityquills.com )


Author website: www.christine-norris.com
Author Twitter: @cnorrisauthor
Book Trailer link: http://youtu.be/x1HcaJt2Owg


Monday, 26 January 2015

Book Blitz: False Finder by Mia Hoddell


False Finder
Release Date: 01/13/15
Limitless Publishing
400 pages

Summary from Goodreads:
Cora has been able to detect lies since she was born, she’s…a False Finder.

However when blackmail, betrayal, and lying are all the population has to protect themselves, it makes her dangerous. It also makes her a target.

Because of Cora’s ability, Rogan Carvelli—London’s biggest criminal leader—has been trying to acquire her for years.

Cora has learned to survive and remain undetected—at least until one careless mistake causes her friends to betray her.

Sold to Carvelli, Cora is only left with the help of a secret organisation to escape. She knows nothing about them, but they have saved her too many times to ignore.

However, the closer she gets, the clearer it becomes…
Their motives are far from innocent.


Buy: 

Excerpt 1

“Not my fight? How did you come to that conclusion? You made it my fight when you sold me, Cora. This is your fault not mine, and you only have yourself to blame!” Nick roared, his grip tightening to a new painful intensity.
“I did not sell you. I cut a deal with Rogan and you were collateral damage. I couldn’t help it.”
Even Cora flinched at her words. What she had done to Nick was awful, but it was a necessity if she was going to survive.
“You signed my life away. You ruined my life by forcing me into a god-damned contract that has no loop holes. Not only that, but then you had the audacity to attack me when you escaped Rogan’s mansion last time. That is not collateral damage!”
He didn’t realise he was shaking her fragile body until she let out another low groan.
“You weren’t meant to be a part of the deal. I couldn’t help it. I tried to get you out of it, but there was no way. It was me or you.”
“Don’t bullshit me. You know there was a way out. I did nothing to you but be there and you sold me out, just like your friends have done to you.” His words cut Cora like a knife, slitting her deep.
“You knew too much…you knew my secret…you weren’t meant to survive.” Cora muttered the last line, her jaw tight with anger as she finally admitted the truth she had kept bottled up. He wasn’t meant to hear it, but he did.
“What did you just say?” He was shaking her once more, anger flowing out of him as he was finally enlightened as to why Cora had betrayed him.
“You weren’t meant to survive. You shouldn’t have passed the first test Rogan puts his men through. You weren’t meant to come back. I was meant to be safe.”
“Well unluckily for you I manned up. Not only did I pass every test Rogan threw at me but I worked my way up. I’m now his second in command. How’s that for irony?”
“Screw you,” Cora spat, tired of the conversation.
“You wish. For now though, I think I’ll return the favour you so kindly granted me all those years ago.”
“Let me go, Nick, for old time’s sake. I thought we were friends?” It was a lousy defence and Cora knew it, but it was all she had left.

“We stopped being friends years ago when you shafted me, Cora. I couldn’t care less what happens to you anymore. Now shut up and move.”


About the Author
Mia Hoddell lives in the UK with her family and two cats. She spends most of her time writing or reading, loves anything paranormal or romantic, and has an overactive imagination that keeps her up until the early hours of the morning. 

By the age of nineteen, Mia had published nine books, including the Elemental Killers series and the Seasons of Change series. Since then, her books have charted on numerous Amazon Bestseller Lists, and she has also had poems published in a many anthologies. With an ever growing list of ideas, Mia continues to create fictional worlds through her writing, and is trying to keep up with the speed at which her imagination generates them.

She also designs book covers and banners on her website M Designs 

Author Links:
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Friday, 23 January 2015

Cover Reveal: Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty

Cover Reveal: Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty #M9BFridayReveals
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Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
by Amy McNulty
presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Nobody's Goddess
In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.
Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.
add to goodreads
Title: Nobody's Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty
Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author
Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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(Winners will receive their book on release day)
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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What's Up Wednesday



It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading


I read Ready Player One, which I really enjoyed. Then I read Firefight, the sequel to Steelheart, another fast-paced and action-packed read with some great twists. Then I read Ensnared, the third fantastical and awesome instalment in the Splintered trilogy.

What I'm writing

Oh, Alliance Book 5... I'm probably going to go into withdrawals when I finish this series. :P

My writing goal this week: More words on Alliance 5!

What works for me

Limiting how much time I spend on the Internet when I'm drafting. I'm at the stage with this series where I'm juggling so many elements that between this and freelance work, my brain is completely occupied (also, I'm not sure if it's just me, but I'm finding social media incredibly draining lately). So if I've been quiet on the interwebs, this is why! The difficulty is when you're solely responsible for promoting your upcoming book as well as working on a draft...


What else is new

Only I could catch two colds at once. Immune system, I am not amused. I have deadlines. *cries*

I'm preparing to put Adamant up for pre-order next week! It's set for the 30th but it might go up a couple of days early on some retailers (I'd rather be too early than too late, though!). That is, if Smashwords approves my file and the Internet stops crashing. (The Cursed Book strikes again. I've had so many near-disasters with this book that at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up on my doorstep to stop me hitting the publish button. :P)

I'm also organising a release day promotion for the 11th March - sign-ups are open here. It's so close! o.O 
I'm alternating between flailing madly and hyperventilating. EEK! :D

Monday, 19 January 2015

Some tips for planning a series!

When planning my latest series, I noticed that there were very few blog posts on the subject, so after several people asked me to write one, I thought it couldn’t hurt to write about my process.

When I get an idea for a new book, I like to decide fairly early on whether it’ll be a series or a standalone. I’ve only ever written one standalone (a YA fantasy) - I’m naturally drawn to big, world-spanning ideas which would take several books to do justice to. But sometimes when reading a series, I get the sense that it’s being dragged out too much, and that fewer books would mean a tighter, better story. People talk about “middle book syndrome” (usually when discussing trilogies) and I think that can happen when an author tries to stretch a story too far, resulting in filler and a slow pace. To avoid this, I try to plan in advance.

Firstly, there are two types of series. One is effectively one long story broken into smaller sections which are, usually, complete stories in themselves (the Harry Potter series comes to mind) and are intended to be read in one order. And the other is a series of interconnected self-contained stories set in the same world (a famous example is the Sherlock Holmes series) which can be read in any order. I write the first kind of series, where each book builds on the last, until it comes to a natural end-point. Some writers expand their books into longer series when fans demand it, others write the first book and figure the rest out later. But as an outliner, I always want to figure out as early as possible how long a series will take to complete. It depends on the following:

1. Overarching idea. If it’s a big, world-spanning idea, I need to figure out how many books it will naturally take to resolve the overall plot. From the beginning, I knew the Alliance series would be at least five or six books because of the nature of the plot: it’s big. There are several entire worlds involved, and various conspiracies, conflicts and earth-shattering - possibly literally ;) - secrets.

2. Characters. The central characters need to be strong enough to carry the series over the course of more than one story and to undergo believable development.

3. Genre, to some extent. Certain genres, especially sci-fi and fantasy, are more likely to be part of a series because they are often - but not always - based on big ideas. If you’ve created an expansive world packed with exciting conflict, wrapping it up in one book can be a challenge. On the other hand, romance novels are more likely to be standalones. The danger of dragging out a romance in a series is that obstacles can start to feel contrived. (On the other hand, I’ve noticed quite a few romance authors having success with the second type of series, where each book is focused on a different couple but set in the same “story world” as the others.)

So, here are some of my tips for planning and writing a series.

1. Give each book its own storyline. Many readers hate cliffhangers, especially if they picked up the book without realising it was part of a series. It’s fine not to resolve everything in the first book, but I try to create one major problem to solve per book, and then have some other, bigger conflicts to leave hanging in the background until it’s their time to come forward. A lot of authors use this method - again, the Harry Potter series is a great example. In the first book, the conflict revolves around the Philosopher’s Stone and is solved by the end. But the ultimate series goal - defeating Voldemort - doesn’t fully come into play until later in the series. As each book is a complete, satisfying story, readers don’t feel cheated or impatient. This is a great lesson to learn.

2. Raise the stakes with each book. One danger is repetitiveness, so to avoid this, I try to plan so that each story’s conflict builds on the previous ones. This is really tricky, I admit. But think of the series as one big story, with its own three acts, and plan accordingly. The first act is setup. The second builds the conflict, and the third is the climax. The first book in a series has its own major conflict which is resolved by the end, but it's also an introduction to the series as a whole. The second ups the stakes, introduces more of the world, sometimes new characters and settings. And in a trilogy, the third is where the climax begins and the stakes are sky-high. Managing the timing over a longer series can be a challenge, but you can still use the three-act structure as a guide.  This blog post is a great help. I also used this post on planning character arcs across a series. And to write a synopsis, this post is a lifesaver!

For the actual planning, a lot depends on your own writing method. Even if you're a panster, I definitely recommend writing down certain things like character appearances and the "rules" of your story's world (if you're writing fantasy) - trust me, you'll need them later on. Personally, I'd recommend a series notebook, or a document in Scrivener, which I use to plan all my books now. I create separate folders for each book, and others for characters, settings, and a "series bible" with the rules on magic and the various worldbuilding areas.

I outline based on the snowflake method, where I'll start with a one-sentence summary for each book, centred on the main conflict. Like I said, I want the stakes to get higher with each volume, so by figuring out what the conflict actually is, before anything else, I can hopefully avoid issues later down the line. There'll always be one huge conflict happening either in the background or even in plain sight, which will take the whole series to resolve. Each book then needs a smaller dilemma. With the Alliance series, Adamant starts with a murder (which then escalates into something bigger). The second book involves a more high-profile killing (which again escalates), and the third involves the fate of an entire world. And so on. 

I then write a paragraph-long summary for each book. For each main character, I also write down their goal, motivation, flaw and conflict, in each book, and then a one-paragraph summary. Now I've written more than one series, I know I have a habit of wandering off-outline, but the one thing that stays the same is the main character's arc. An excellent resource for planning a novel/series based on the main character's flaw is Libbie Hawker's book,  Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing. By keeping the main character's journey at the centre, I find it easier to work out what direction the story will take even if it ends up looking very different to the original outline.

Then I write a synopsis for each book, which I expand into an outline. I don't plot every single detail, and I like to leave space in case the characters take the story in directions I didn't expect. Sometimes things just naturally come together as I'm writing, so I make a note of them in the Scrivener file and carry on. Obviously, this is only one way of doing things. I sometimes just write short synopses for sequels before drafting the first book, and expand them into outlines later. With the Alliance series, I've been revisiting my outlines after I complete each book and adapting them to fit with any changes I've made. I always do this while drafting, which is why I consider myself a "plotser" - I know the main pieces of the plot and the key background information, but not every single scene, and sometimes my characters surprise me. 

I also like to draft series books back-to-back if I can (as I'm doing with my Alliance series) in order to minimise inconsistencies and make sure the foreshadowing works. But this is because I'm self-publishing. If I was querying the first book, I'd then move on to a new project, because the first book might not sell (I've made this mistake before, spending a year drafting the sequel to the first book I queried, before I realised the whole series was deeply flawed). On the other hand, it can be an advantage to have synopses for the other books in the series ready if your agent or publisher asks for them. And, of course, it can be hard to leave your characters behind once you've finished the first book. Ultimately, it's up to you as the writer.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

Adamant Teasers!

Guys, it's less than two months until Adamant releases! I can now confirm that Adamant will be published on the 11th March 2015, and will be available on Amazon (Kindle and paperback), Smashwords, Kobo, and (eventually), Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and more. And it'll be available for pre-order from the 30th January!

So, I need your help! I'm having a cover reveal and pre-order promotion on the 30th, and I need as many bloggers as possible to sign up and help me spread the word! This might just be my favourite cover design yet! You can sign up for the cover reveal here.

I'm also organising a promotion for Adamant when it releases on the 11th March and offering the chance to sign up for an advance review copy! If Adamant sounds like something you'll enjoy reading, you can sign up here.

And here are some teasers. :)






I can't wait to share this series!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

What's Up Wednesday



It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading


I've been super-busy with freelance work and critiquing, so I haven't had much time for reading this week. But I ordered my copy of Ensnared by A. G. Howard, the last in her Splintered trilogy, so I'm looking forward to reading that!

I did read Victoria Schwab's short story, Leave the Window Open, which I loved. Next on the list is Firefight by Brandon Sanderson.

What I'm writing

Alliance Book 5! All the words! I'm at over 30K already, but I kind of cheated a bit because I wrote about 6000 words of this in November when I was supposed to be working on my NaNoWriMo book. :P But let's face it, I'm addicted to this series. I'm at that borderline-obsessive stage again where I'm wandering about not really paying attention to the real world because I'm thinking about the plot all the time.

My writing goal this week: More words on Alliance 5!

What works for me

Being insanely busy. It's weird, but I seem to get more work done the more I have going on. The months where I'm juggling a ton of freelance work, critiquing, and other things outside of writing are also the months when my wordcount is highest. I think it's because typically, I want to write whenever I'm supposed to be doing something else.  :P

What else is new

Freelance work is back in full swing, and I'm working on some exciting projects! Other than that, various self-publishing-related things (eeeep!). Driving myself crazy trying to learn formatting. My street team have already seen the cover and blurb for Adamant, and a cover reveal/pre-order promo is coming later this month! Sign-ups are open here. :)

Monday, 12 January 2015

On writing, cannibalism, and my first book series!

...bet that title caught your attention. :P I've wanted to blog about my first ever book series for a while - the one I spent ten years working on, and ultimately shelved. For those of you who know I'm twenty-three and are head-scratching a bit, yes, that does mean I was working on the series from the age of nine until I was nineteen. So, ten years. It started as an interconnected group of short stories centred around a particular group of characters - I wasn't actually writing a novel at nine, though that was the year I decided I was going to be a writer. I got to know these characters really well, and whenever we were asked to write a story at school, I always wrote about them. The stories became longer and longer until I finished the first draft of what became my first novel, which took almost two years.

I'd also started several other novels, but never finished any of them - this was my first clue that I needed two things to finish a book: passion, and an outline. Of course, the story was rough - it was my first novel attempt, so it was more of a random string of events and characters that I'd thrown together because I liked them. And then, when I was fifteen, I read my first writing craft books and learned about the reality of publishing. It looked impossible... but I was going to try anyway. I'd need to rewrite my book, because I knew it wasn't ready. I spent three years improving my writing craft and re-planning the series, but ultimately, the only way you can learn how to write a novel is through trying and failing and trying again. So when I was eighteen, I rewrote the book. And... it worked. I'd planned this huge six-book epic and the first book actually came together. I dared to hope I might be able to publish the story I'd been dreaming of the past nine years.

Unfortunately, there were issues with it. It was set at a boarding school (*cue groan*), the worldbuilding wasn't well-thought-out and I'd saved the most creative parts for future books in the series. The first book looked like a less-magical Harry Potter with telekinesis and demons. And that hit me smack in the face a year later, when, frustrated by rejections, I sent the book for a paid literary analysis and it came back with the suggestion that I start afresh with a more unique concept.

Ouch. 

The thing is, I'd known there were issues with it. And the rest of the report was fine. Every issue was fixable - a more compelling emotional journey, more description - I'd known those were things I'd struggled with. But originality? That's something indefinable.

Onto the subject of cannibalism, seeing as that's the title of this post. Well, I put that first series away, but I knew there was some good stuff there. I had whole folders of character profiles and old drafts and I really didn't want to let them go to waste. And then, in late 2011, I had a sudden idea - what if I took the creepy demon concept, and rewrote it as a YA, set at a university?

Yes - that's how the Darkworld series was born. By taking just one aspect from the first series I wrote, it spawned a whole new series. I also took some other details - like the character of the fortune-teller and some backstory stuff and certain events that were supposed to happen later in the series. I'd fully outlined the whole thing, and it looked like it wasn't going to waste after all. The characters were new, as were most of the plots, but I picked out certain details from that first series and got to give them a whole new life. The creepy monsters from Walking Shadow are from a story I originally wrote at school when I was eleven.

I'm a big believer in reusing ideas. For me, a novel concept comes to life when several ideas mash together, and if I'm stuck, I go through the old drawers of notes and outlines for that first series. There's so much in there waiting to be mined. My children's book, The Clockmaker's Key, uses several characters from that first series, as well as the concept of alternative universes I've been playing around with for years. But the majority of the story was new - I'd just taken certain aspects and reused them.

And I'm still doing it. I have dozens of half-started ideas and concepts waiting for the right inspiration to hit. Even some of the drafts I wrote last year, I feel like I didn't do justice to the idea. So there's a chance I might rewrite them from scratch later - or just mine them for ideas. Cannibalise.

This is also why I keep idea notebooks. Anything could be the inspiration for a future book, so whenever I get an idea or thought, I write it down. Years of keeping these notebooks mean I have pages and pages of potential future story ideas. Some ideas need years to percolate, and like I said, most of my stories come from a bunch of different thoughts colliding. This is something I need to remind myself whenever I get worried I'll never be able to write another book. Because I have seven years' worth of ideas collected in notebooks, just waiting for their time.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Why I decided to self-publish the Alliance Series

Adamant was my fifteenth drafted novel. Of the other fourteen, only the Darkworld series (five books total) is under contract with a publisher. I’ve queried four of the other novels and shelved three. I’ve been writing novels for over ten years, and until 2012, I always dreamed of an agent and a traditional publishing deal. Then, after two years of rejections, three shelved projects, and making about every newbie error possible, I wrote Darkness Watching, an upper-YA urban fantasy/paranormal novel. It was a story I wanted to tell, and really wanted to publish. I was a student and didn’t have the time or money to commit to self-publishing, but nobody was buying paranormal or urban fantasy… except small presses. So I queried a select group of indie publishers, and I was offered a contract with Curiosity Quills in February 2013. Happily, CQ have been brilliant to work with and have offered contracts for the other four books in my series.

Yet I’ve still never had interest from an agent, and subjectivity seems to be the major cause - all the agent feedback I've had in the past two years has been positive, and always comes back to "I just didn't love it". Understandably, agents really have to love a book to take a chance on it. But with six publishing contracts in hand, glowing feedback from professionals, and still not so much as a single full request, I did find myself questioning why I invested countless hours in researching agencies and crafting query letters and yet I seemed no closer to achieving my goal, four years and fourteen manuscripts after I started querying.

At heart, I’m a control-freak, as far as my career is concerned. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the idea that subjective outside opinions have the power to decide my entire career. What would happen if I never wrote a book which an agent connected with? Or if they liked one book, but nothing else that I wrote? Or if I wrote a series and then the publisher cancelled it at the second or third book? (All things that, sad to say, I’ve seen happen more than once over the past few years.) I don't write in popular genres, I write weird fantasy and sci-fi. People have commented on the originality of my plots and the worlds I create in my books... but that doesn't make a bestseller.

Writing is how I make sense of the world. It makes me feel like I’m in control – and for someone with anxiety and OCD, that’s pretty important. The submissions process takes that away. And while getting a traditional deal would undeniably be worth it, I reached the point this summer where it was starting to mess with my productivity to know that I was spending months drafting, revising, and editing each project, only for it to be taken out of my hands and indefinitely put on hold. My inbox was becoming one huge anxiety trigger, and it was completely distracting me from making any progress. Subjectivity is a fact of the business for writers at all stages of the journey, but the idea of spending another year writing, editing and shelving projects in the hope that one of them might, someday, lead to a “yes”, just felt too much like placing my future in a lottery. There’s never been any question that I want writing to be my career. I’ve treated writing as a job since I was fourteen, and now have three books published and three more under contract. I'm more than happy to make compromises and I totally understand the traditional publishing process - but I also understand that in the current age of publishing, writers have other options, and need not commit to one path for life.

I’ve thought long and hard about self-publishing, as I know the worst mistake to make is to publish too soon. After I finished the Darkworld series, I moved onto YA and MG projects that I felt were more suited for traditional publishing, but I kept the option at the back of  my mind. So I waited, researching the process, and kept querying. I thought my middle-grade fantasy adventure, The Clockmaker's Key, might be the one to land me an agent, and my critique partners and beta readers agreed. After I'd polished it to the best of my ability, honed my query letter and synopsis and formed a carefully-targeted list of agents, I began querying in August. I'd had an idea for a new Multiverse series that had been bugging me for months, and I decided to make it my "sanity project". 

When I'd finished planning the Alliance series, I was left with a dilemma. I could carry on querying, but if no one wanted my quirky MG fantasy, which is a genre agents are actually looking for, then the odds weren't great for my adult urban fantasy/sci-fi/Multiverse hybrid. And I thought: this is it. I didn’t want to put this new series through the long progress of hope and disappointment until I lost all connection with it. I loved this series, and I wanted to publish it. Self-publishing was still a leap into the dark, because if my work didn't appeal to agents, it was entirely possible it wouldn't appeal to readers, either. Yet people responded positively to the concept, and I've absolutely loved interacting with readers who've enjoyed the Darkworld series. And ultimately, reader feedback means more to me than near-miss rejections.

So I planned the series with the conviction that I’d be able to finish and publish all six books, whatever happened in publishing. I want to have fun with it, and I wanted to take back that control. I felt totally empowered to give it my absolute best effort, with none of the crippling self-doubt and confidence issues that plagued every other project I’ve worked on since finishing the Darkworld series. I threw myself headlong into the story, and I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written.

And I’m publishing it. This year.

Of course, the rest of the Darkworld series is under contract with Curiosity Quills, and I have several other projects completed, too. And I’m not ruling out traditional publishing, not at all - in fact, if I hadn't invested so much time into this project, I'd still be querying. I write middle-grade books as well as YA and adult, and I know I’d only be able to fully reach my audience if I published through a mainstream publisher. But my YA and adult novels don’t have that handicap. The truth is, it’s difficult for writers, traditionally-published or otherwise, to make a living at this business. And at this point, I’m ready to make the jump into self-publishing. Ultimately, I want to share my stories. I’m enough of a workaholic, hyper-organised control-freak to want to be in control of the process with this series, and I’m a hundred percent committed to putting out the absolute best work I can. Once I was certain of all these things, the decision was easy to make. I’m excited to join the indie team! ^_^

Resources I recommend for writers interested in self-publishing.

The last three are available in a collection, The Indie Author Power Pack: How to Write, Publish & Market Your Book, which was only 77p (99 cents) on Kindle when I bought it – a bargain!


Look out for some more blog posts from me in the next few months, on planning a series, the self-publishing process, and my new writing process as an indie author!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

What's Up Wednesday & IWSG



It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading


Over Christmas, I finished rereading the Harry Potter series, and also read the following books:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - an awesome MG fantasy adventure, really creative and fun.

Gone Girl - Wow. This book was all kinds of messed-up, but I couldn't stop reading it. I ended up reading the whole book in a few hours, finishing at four in the morning and getting slightly angry with it, then wandering around in a state of freaked-out paranoia for a day. Now that's what I call a book hangover. :P It was very clever and well-written, if not the kind of book I'd pick up again to read for fun!

Rivers of London - a really enjoyable urban fantasy/mystery. I've been on the lookout for more urban fantasy that does something different (and isn't romance-centric) and I can recommend this one!

A Thousand Pieces of You - a well-written YA parallel-universes sci-fi with great world-building.

The Invisible Library - This was one of those rare books that ticks all the boxes for me. A magical library, alternative realities, adventure and magic. It's one of those concepts I wish I'd thought of, because it's so awesome. The protagonist works as an undercover spy for a secret library that collects fiction from different realities. I have absolutely no idea why I hadn't heard of this book until I found it for only 99p on Amazon - it had "Emma bait" written all over it.


(Side note: ALL THE BOOKS about alternative universes (especially set in London) seem to be popping up all over the place, naturally because I'm self-publishing my own in two months! I've run into four in the past week alone. I don't rule out reading in my own genre and I love this kind of story, but I've had to resort to making a list of Reasons Why My Book Is Different just for peace of mind. :P)

What I'm writing

The Alliance series! I finished the draft of Book 4 on Saturday (77K in 27 days), and moved right onto Book 5! I'm already a mess. (I pull no punches. Sorry, characters. ;_;)

My writing goal this week: As many words as possible on Alliance Book 5! 

What works for me

Goals, challenges and being a crazy organisation-freak. I use my calendar to mark progress using star stickers, and I have a diary to make note of things on specific days. And then I have a notebook with a general list of things that need doing each month. For example, in January, I'm proofreading Adamant, formatting it and making it available for pre-order (before February, I hope! ^^); editing Nemesis; finalising blurbs and sending them to my cover designer; setting up my author street team AND drafting/outlining the other books in the series... which is a lot to juggle when you have a memory like a sieve. 

1. I set writing goals wherever I can. I started with 1500 words per day as a minimum, then increased that to 2K. I also did Camp NaNo in April and NaNoWriMo in November, the YA Buccaneers Writing Bootcamps, Ready. Set. Write., and the monthly WIPMarathon updates. Accountability has made a huge difference!

2. Even in busy times, I tried to write every day, and it added up. Being in the habit of writing every day reduced the fear of forgetting how to write. (Apparently, having written 18 books still doesn't make it go away, though!)

3. Not every idea worked out as planned, but I kept writing through all the setbacks, until I landed on an idea I really loved!


What else is new

The usual Christmas shenanigans, including seeing the family and meeting my cousins' insanely fluffy and hyperactive puppy. Also, presents (book vouchers! DVDs! Pretty new dragon calendar!). Pretending to be sociable and definitely not sneaking off to write when everyone was watching TV. ;)

My boyfriend and I went to watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, which was good, but again, I think it could have been one film, not three. (Though we'll probably end up trying to marathon all six films when they're out on DVD. :P)

Then my immune system decided to punish me for pulling crazy writing hours to finish my draft by giving me a cold. So I've been sitting around shivering and watching Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, and Death Note.

And... I think it might be 2015? o.O Aka, the year I self-publish for the first time (!!!!). 

Picture

It's also time for IWSG! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the creation of Ninja Captain Alex, and is a great way for writers to share their worries, support and encouragement.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Emma, a speculative fiction author, freelance editor and proofreader, a book-hoarder and a restless dreamer. I mostly write urban fantasy with magic, monsters, and alternative universes. I also love travelling, gaming, anime, Studio Ghibli, Harry Potter, LOTR, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the Avengers, and anything Pixar makes. I have a BA in English Literature with Creative Writing and I'm working towards a Masters in tormenting fictional characters. ;)

As I said (and announced last month), I'm self-publishing my adult contemporary fantasy series this year! I've been planning this for a long time (and I've actually been researching the process for over two years), but it's nerve-wracking, all the same, to put a book out into the world without a publisher. On the other hand, it's exciting. I've met and worked with some wonderful people, and having complete control over my book is even more empowering than I expected.

There definitely seems to have been a doom-and-gloom atmosphere in publishing over the past few months, with so many articles on how much more difficult it is for new writers to sell books. I've experienced this firsthand with my small press titles, and it's the reason I've invested my entire publishing budget into editing and cover art rather than marketing - everything I've tried in the past two years just hasn't paid for itself. Sometimes it seems a little crazy to be launching a new series independently at a time where everyone seems to be struggling! But at the same time, this is something I've always wanted to do, and it feels so much more like progress than watching my inbox waiting for that elusive "yes" from an agent. I knew this series was far from mainstream, and having published several books with a small press means I already know the process of getting a book ready for publication. I've a post coming up on Friday with more detail about my reasons for self-publishing, and I'm looking forward to launching the Alliance series!