Cover Revelations! The Poisoned Well

So, this has been promised and now it is here!Time to give myself a Reprieve from deadlines and celebrate. The cover for The Poisoned Well is ready to be unveiled. I just hope you like it, I’m so excited to share it!

The Poisoned Well is a YA Fantasy with strong romantic elements. It’s also story which features the Myst, a collective of magic users and one of their students, Lyris.

In creating the design, I wanted to keep the cover as simple as possible and I love how sharp it is with a simple image on the background. The gorgeous border is thanks to Daniella, as I was about to start pulling my hair out. There were a few lovely variations created, and even a sneaky preview of fan-art if you noticed it a few weeks ago.

PoisonedWell

I’m literally bouncing with excitement and I can’t wait to keep working on this project and get it ready for you to read!

What I would really love, is the chance to give the book away for review. If anyone is interested in a pre-release copy to review then please drop me an e-mail at fibijeeves@gmail.com or drop me a comment, or message on Facebook! 

Happy Writing

Fibi xxx

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Novel Writing – Starting Somewhere

Writing a longer piece of fiction can feel like setting off on an unchartered ocean. I’ve hopefully compiled a few ideas to stop you feeling Adrift

So, you want to write a story? Not just any story, but the book you feel you’ve wanted to write for years? I would like to say I only have one piece of advice, but then this blog and series of posts with helpful hints and ideas would be arbitrary. So, this is perhaps the most important thing to piece of information. You can do it! What are you doing reading this blog, go write! – Wait, please don’t go! I have advice!

If you are writing an extended story, a novel, an epic ten-part series, or even a novella, you will probably recognise the push and pull of the paragraph above. If not, you’ll soon get used to it. From writing novels, or attempting to, I’ve found that I develop a love/hate relationship with the projects I’m undertaking. On the one hand, they’re just so darned exciting! On the other…when will it end?! Will all the effort even be worth it? What if no one likes it, what if no one except your mum ever reads it? What if you cannot be the next JK Rowling? Despair! Then fall back in love with the words, the story, your characters and the setting again and it’s the worst relationship ever.

This is going to be a series of blog posts about writing that book, or novel. It’s going to cover topics such as getting started, planning, characterisation, world building, editing and include writing prompts and a whole host of goodies. I hope you’ll join me for the ride and perhaps I can even provide something that will be helpful.

Now, I’ve written out a plan about planning – ironic. Yet, what I’m going to base this first post on, is Getting Started.

Now, before you open the cans labelled, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘crushing despair’ that I think writers tend to carry; as with any good relationship, it may be time to set some boundaries with your writing project.

Now, this isn’t, in any way, supposed to limit the scope of your project, and there will be a long discussion about ‘too much planning’ in my next post on this theme. However, I’ve learnt to set myself a few goals when it comes to approaching a new project. If you’re about to launch into yours, (or maybe you’ve already started?) are you able to answer the following questions?

  1. Who is your intended audience?

Child or Adult fiction? Young Adult or New Adult? Steam-punk lovers, or die hard sword and sorcery epic fantasy fans?

  1. What size project are you aiming for?

Is this going to be a gorgeous and concise piece of prose and a short story? What about a poem? Or does it need more space to breathe and could thrive as a novella (under 50,000 words -ish) or is it going to be a full- blown novel? If you’re thinking about publication, then as a rough guide for a debut novelist, you might want to aim for less than 90,000 words. Although, this doesn’t apply to all genres.

  1. If no one other than your mum reads it, is that okay?

Writing to complete a project takes a lot of investment. The most important thing that any of us has, is our time. If you’re going to invest several months of your time on this beautiful planet, hacking away at your keyboard, and wondering where the letter ‘N’ vanished off to (seriously, where has it gone?!) Then are you going to be alright if it isn’t a storming success?

There are a few lessons that I remember very clearly from creative writing courses and one of them is this. Write what you would love to read. This is probably going to dictate who your audience is as well. I love reading YA Fantasy, historical romance, sword and sorcery, old-fashioned crime fiction and children’s literature. What I end up writing is a strange mixture of those components.

At the end of the day, if I’m going to be living in the world I’m writing, it must be enticing – for me at least. Even if not for anyone else. There will be enough days when I don’t want to open the project document and get to work, so I aim to make the project as interesting as possible for myself. When you love something, it’s easier to be passionate about it and keep slugging away. It’s also easier for others to become excited about your enthusiasm and volunteer their own time to read your story.

If you’ve followed the rule of ‘write what you’d want to read’ and you’re pleased with the result; the chances are that you’ve created something where others can share your excitement.

  1. What is the question?

Stories need a question and they need it fast. Your reader will skim the first lines and decide if they’re going to follow you on this journey. To entice them down the rabbit hole, they need an initial question. Now, many stories will diverge brilliantly from the path I’ll set out now, but the way I approach a new project, is to work out the first question.

The first hurdle is the first paragraph. Why should they bother getting to the end? Therefore, it needs to be something intriguing enough to propel the reader into the first page. Then the first page pushes them into the first chapter… and we’ll get to chapter breakdowns in another post.

Now for some examples:

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. – Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Isn’t that incredible?! This is the opening from Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which by the way, is a wonderful story. The first line! Now look at the questions we’re forced to ask. 1, what is a sad city? 2, what is the name of the city? 3, will the city find happiness? There are three immediate questions in 26 words and they’re enough to tempt me on…

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Four questions in the opening twelve words. 1, who is the man in black? 2, who is the gunslinger? 3, will the gunslinger catch the man in black? 4, Do I want that to happen? Eeeek, I don’t know so I better keep reading!

  1. Don’t worry

Now I’ve raised all the talk about questions, I’m going to tell you step aside from any worry it’s created. The sudden surge of ‘am I asking a question in the first line? Is this a good enough question? What is a question?!’ Because this is just the beginning and the most important thing, is to just get writing. Make your start, aim for a question and forge ahead. After all, you’ve got forever to edit and to bring that opening sequence up to what you want it to be – but what you cannot do, is edit a blank screen.

I hope that this has been useful!  Let me know your favourite openings to novels, or even what you’re working on. I might even share the current opening of The Poisoned Well… I was so pleased that I managed to find a question that could carry the rest of the story along with it.

Happy Writing

Fibi

When the air smell likes ice

Following on from my self-set challenge, here is the third in a series of seasonal flash-fiction. Again, I’m not going to tell what the season is, but I really hope that you can guess.

I love it when the air smells like ice. Dark green pine sways between barren branches and then mountains rise behind. Cars crunch salt, engines purring. It’s an experience, negotiating ice in six-inch heels; challenge accepted.  Coffee cup clutched tight to my chest. The bitter taste of rising steam is mellowed with double cream. Hat pulled low on burning ears and sunglasses paint the sky in gentler hues; lines of pink and gold across frozen blue. There’s another flurry on the horizon. Feet slip without warning. The ground is harder than it looks and less forgiving. Must buy boots.

Part One and Two can be found respectively.

Once part four is thrown up here then I’ll compile them together into a post. I’ll probably even tell you what seasons I was originally aiming for. Fingers-crossed that I’ve managed to avoid my natural inclination to the abstract. I have a tendency to think flash-fiction and then jump across to poetry. So you may have noticed some rhymes sneaking in.  The only problem is, that my abstract is often too abstract for most people to make any sense of it.  So what I’ve been learning is to write simply. Or rather…more simply. If I have an image in mind then just say what I see without trying (and usually failing) to be clever.

Denying Winter

I’ve had twenty years of winter and no it’s nothing to do with GOT, sorry! Twenty years is roughly how long I’ve been dreaming up Burning Embers, writing the universe, drawing the characters, scrapping it all and starting again, and again and then going into fine-tuning and comma placements – before scrapping all of that! It’s been a big project and definitely one of those that’s taken on a life of its own and one day, very soon, I’m going to share it with you.

In the meantime, Burning Embers is set on the cusp of deep winter. It’s a harsh, cold and unforgiving environment and I purposely studied in Canada for a year, so that I could really understand snow. Having been born and raised in Middle-England and the modernish equivalent of Hobbiton, fields, gentle hills, farmlands, small streams, traditional pubs, more fields, snow wasn’t something I experienced much of. Rain on the other hand, is a different story. I’ve grown up feeling like a rain expert and that’s probably something to do with the wide vocabulary that the British have developed to describe water falling from the sky, or sideways – because sometimes the rain is sideways.

Still, working on Burning Embers for such a pro-longed period of time, has meant that mentally, I’m in Narnia. It’s always winter and never Christmas. Descriptions are of frost-covered trees and the crunch of deep snow. So when I decided that I was going to start a new project, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that it’s set in summer. There will be blue skies and butterflies! There will be warm weather! It’s been refreshing to explore a new season and so I thought that I’d combine that thought with my current attempts at flash-fiction.

This has been a very long introduction for a short project, so I hope I’ve kept your attention so far. I want to try a series of flash fiction for the changing seasons.  I’ve given myself exactly 99 words for each. A different season is going to be posted up in the next four blog posts.

I hope that you’ll be able to work out which season is which, because I’m not going to label them, let me know in the comments!

So here they are, my escape from winter, followed by the inevitable return.

Seasonal Flash-Fiction – One

The sky is a tapestry of falling rain and threads of smoke. Leaves drift in slow spirals between heavy drops. Grey puddles spill off the path and into sodden grass, tramped with muddy boots and wellingtons. Water gurgles in the roadside drains and steals away with sycamore seeds. Conker shells burst, shining chestnut nestled between layers of bronze, amber and fading green. Interwoven clouds in faded lines and jagged blue tears. Pale sunlight peers through the cracks and paints the tarmac gold. The umbrella snaps to attention, stolen from a desperate grasp, whipped up, away, lost to the tapestry.

 

Tied into the Daily Prompt Denial

Slim Grip on Reality

In response to the Daily Prompt: Cling

Rough seas rise up, dark and murky. Toes stretching in a frantic search for solid ground and arms flail for the coarse grip of rope.

The submissions are sent and my author-neurotic self is running circles, yelping oh my god, oh my god what if no one wants it! What if it’s not worthy, what if I’m not worthy?! Years of hard work and effort wasted? What will I say? How will I explain that I have failed? Once I’ve found a moment to breathe I remind myself that if traditional publishing is not my route, then the world won’t end. In the words of Obama, the sun will continue to rise. In the words of myself, of the things that are certain in this world, it’s that there is always change. Sometimes it just seems to take longer to get arrive. (Sometimes it feels like change got on the wrong bus and is now on a circular route and stuck in M25 traffic, but hey – it’ll get here.)

My journey as a writer will continue. Having simply finished the manuscript and sent it out, I feel rejuvenated (and then terrified) but mostly rejuvenated to start new projects; exciting projects! The second book in the series, a selection of short pieces for radio, a collaborative novella with an intended publisher in mind! Exciting, exciting, exciting!

Burning Embers will also, one way or another, live on. I believe that as Young Adult Fantasy is has a current market. As a genre it’s a saturated market, but I have to believe that I’ve got a unique voice to offer and a story that my readers will fall in love with, a world they won’t want to leave and characters that they’re desperate to champion. That is after all, the dream.

So, in the moments after the panic and in between the project planning, I look at self-publishing options. This blog was always supposed to explore the traditional and the non-traditional and so today I’m going to share a few things that I’ve recently learnt about self-publishing options.

  1. The book needs an ISBN if I’m going to do this. It’s not strictly needed for e-book but I’m vain and prideful and I want to hold my book in my hands! If I want to sell a printed version, it needs an ISBN and then and ISBN printed barcode – this means it can be sold. Hooray
  2. I want the ISBN to be registered in my name. This means I retain the rights as the publisher as well as the Author – double win.
  3. I need to generate more of an online presence. Kew twitter feed, reviewing other peoples works, finding an audience of peer reviewers (how do I find you lovely people?) Beta testers! I need to create a circle of people who are going to be just as excited about the book as I am. To be honest – this works in both versions. If there’s an agent or a publishing contract out there for Burning Embers, then building this circle up is still going to be important.
  4. I would like Burning Embers to be available as an ebook, and in print. I’d like it on Amazon and I’d also like it with Neilson and Gardeners, so that this way the big chain stores have a chance in stocking it. You have to fill out a lot of appropriate paperwork and there is still no guarantee, but if the book is not with a wholesaler/distributer – it’s not going to happen.
  5. I would really like someone to do a lot of the hard work for me. You have to send five copies of your printed book out to specific libraries here in the UK so that it’s legally listed. It’s something I’m capable of doing but right now my brain hurts.
  6. I would also like someone to make the copy-set pretty. This is also beyond my skill.
  7. Could they make the cover too?

So this is what I’m looking for, and I don’t have an enormous budget. My list of demands are the above plus 100 copies of the book. A press release, merchandise and other things I think I can probably do. I’ve even worked out how to get a paypal button on here, wordpress, so that I could sell and distribute the book myself. I’m doing a lot of research and maybe I’ll never need to use it. Perhaps though, I will.

If you’re considering self-publishing, do all of the reading. The pages and pages of PDF’s offered on the company websites. Compare them for the services they offer and the rights that you retain. If you get 100% royalties, that’s awesome, but do you own the ISBN?

It might be construed that I am procrastinating as I wait for replies to return to my inbox. I know myself though, I need to keep my mind busy. Research into a positive outcome is currently my life line and I’m going to hold on dreaming, for as long as I can.

If you have any advice of finding that circle of reviewers, I’d love to hear it!

 

I wonder…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.

Helpless? Maybe more excited and confused. Definitely confused. Decisions are difficult to make.

In the wee hours of this morning I stumbled across a writing competition with an ultimate prize of publication. Hooray! The competition is with Nerdist and runs on the premise of your book being crowdfunded.

Say what? Take two?

Now I thought I was fairly internet savvy but today has been the day I learnt about crowd funded publishing. I have to admit, I’m very excited!

I spent the wee hours researching like a demon and this is what I have found. Inkshares, a US based company. You submit an idea, a draft and if you reach enough pre-orders (1000) they publish you book and it’s released out into the big wide world. It seems to have the benefit of traditional publishing too. Amazing.

In the UK there is Unbound.  A very similar model of funding with UK distribution.  However with Inkshare you retain your rights, with Unbound you don’t. I have to admit, as much as I feel lured by the promise of UK distribution, I feel a bit frightened by the prospect of having to be in a film to promote the crowd funding; eeek!

US…UK…US…UK….

Or do I hold out? This is so tempting because I am SO CLOSE to finishing the manuscript. I feel as though I’ve been celebrating the writing of the; ‘last ten chapters’ for weeks. And I’ve been behaving. I’ve been a good writer, very well behaved and dedicated. Every week I’ve signed of a chapter and plunged forward in the story. It’s so close now, I can almost taste it. I need to will to resist crowd funding for just a couple more months. Then I’ll be sending my manuscript out to agents.

There’s more information comparing the different types of crowd funding here and apparently this place is pretty nifty for long term funding here. I found them very interesting articles. I’m still fighting off the lure. Oooh and another place… Publishizer…  but then do I have to work out how to put it into print as well? Or does Publishizer do that for me? Does anyone know?

Just wondering, dreaming… could I reach 1000 pre-orders? Testing the waters here, would you want my book?

Note: Mum, you can’t just say yes 1000 times.

Extra note: Hana, you can’t either!

Speak now! – Or this will be a very silent story…

I have been informed that I’m quite good at writing dialogue. This was news to me, as I hate it. I never would have expected that detesting something would lead me to be good at it, but there we go. So why or rather how, has this happened?

When writing Chapters of Manuscript 1 – I’ve decided to name it this for the time being, as it’s getting rather confusing referring to other WIP’s and manuscripts. Anyway, when writing Manuscript numero uno, I would know that a dialogue heavy chapter would be coming up. Events had happened, results were due to come and discussions needed to be had. This would fill me with absolute dread. I started elongating the previous chapters so that I wouldn’t need to get to that particular hurdle. I’d rather write around and around in metaphorical circles than attempt the dreaded speech. Some of those sentences were okay, but most have been cut now.

But I couldn’t put it off any longer; I’m referring now to a particular chapter near the start of the story where a long and fairly complicated exchange took place – and it had to be written. Chapter named, headed…time to start the words. Excellent. I wrote several very very very long introductory paragraphs leading up to the impending conversation (my new cunning plan, have a long introduction and really ‘set the scene’ of the chapter – genius!) Or so I though, for about a week – until I realised that should actually just get on with it!

Facing my fear.

The benefit of disliking dialogue so much is that it somewhat improves my dialogue. It’s not exactly sparse, but the characters say what needs to be said in-character but concise.  That’s quite accurate to how people speak though, right? Unless telling a story or anecdote with added frills of hilarity, we don’t tend to go on and on and on to make our point. Unless there is reason, or character quirk.  For example

“Would you mind getting some milk from the shop? It’s on your way home and we ran out yesterday,” said Sam.

This is all very interesting; it reveals a lot of information. It sets a bit of character. But would you ask your flatmate to get the milk like this? Would you not just say:

“Can you grab some milk?” Sam asked.

The other information, although lovely, can be cut out. It’s all just bumph. Whoever Sam is addressing, will, I assume, know where the shop is.  The fact that they run out yesterday? Wouldn’t they know that to? Also, what does the reader really gain from those tidbits. If the local of the corner shop on the way home from work, is important – then surely it deserves more than just an aside in a random conversation?

Let’s say that Sam was talking to Steph and the location of the shop is in some way, vital. The reader MUST know this. Well then, Steph should probably be visit the shop on her way home from work. The reader will remember that more.

That is my advice on writing for the month. I know I’m not particularly qualified to preach but I thought I’d share some of my own processes.

What I also learnt from facing my phobia of dialogue, was that I need to let myself breathe. If I have to write the dialogue – I really should just do it. If it’s awful, fine – I’ll re-write it. I might have to take hours and hours when editing to get written, what actually needs to be written, and the way I want it. But you can’t edit something that isn’t on the page. Sometimes you just need to put something down, so that you can carry on and not lose momentum. The first draft shouldn’t be perfect. Well, aim for perfection but accept that sometimes you won’t be 100% satisfied with every  word that you drop, with pain staking care onto the page.

To recap then…

1 Get on with it.

2 You can’t improve on something that doesn’t exist

3 Remember to breath, first drafts are imperfect and they should be

4 Dialogue is evil – but it can improve over time

What do you think? Does anyone else have any hints or suggestion for writing dialogue?