Pazyrak – well, this is new!

OK, so it’s been a while.  But here we are again with  a whole new project.  And since I’ve been away from WordPress it’s had an upgrade and now I’m not entirely too sure how to edit anything on here any more.  Mistakes will be made, possibly public ones, but I’m up for the learning curve.

So…. this new story is about the legend of the Siberian Ice Maiden.

I was unpacking a box of new children’s books that I’d ordered for the library (always the nicest part of the job), cutting the masking tape and inhaling that new-paper-and-ink smell like a good Cuban cigar, and one of the books fell out and landed at my feet.  It was about ancient mysteries and landed open at a page about a woman who had been buried with full ceremonial honours on a Siberian plateau in the 5th century BC.  But amazingly her body had been fully preserved in the permafrost.  Even more amazingly, she was covered in fantastically beautiful animal tattoos.

So I started to read up on her and it just got more and more interesting and I had more and more questions about her.  Why did she have the tattoos?  What did they mean? What made her so revered in a society where women didn’t normally have that kind of status and why had she died young?

Then I spent a long time thinking about the story I wanted to write and whether it should be set in Siberia or a Siberian-style fantasy.  Reality makes sense because it’s about a real person and multicultural fiction is trending at the moment.  Then again, I’ve never been to Siberia and some elements of myth and fantasy kept creeping into it.  So that’s what we’re going with.

Then I trawled around the vastness of the internet looking for a face.  There were quite a few, including good old Zelda, Warrior Princess! But I’ve settled on this one.  At least that’s how she starts off looking.  She does have some inner-Zelda qualities though.

Pazyrak Girl

So that’s a start.  Let’s see where we end up.  Camp Nanowrimo starts tomorrow and I’m aiming for 25,000 words by the end of April.


Damage is out on Kindle (finally!)

OK, I admit, it’s been a while.  I’d like to say I’ve been trekking to the Arctic, saving whales or launching a pop career but sadly none of this is true.  Instead I’ve just been beavering away like a, well, like a little beaver and doing the thing I said I would do, which was to put Damage out on Kindle by Easter if nothing else happened with it in the meantime.

So now it’s out (Yay!!) – or at least it should be tomorrow once it’s been moderated by the little Amazon elves.  And that means I can let it go ( I feel a song coming on!) and get on with the next thing.

let it go gif

It’s weird.  It’s  bit like raising a baby bird and releasing it into the wild – and hoping it doesn’t fly smack into a tree or get shot down in flames (both of which could happen, I guess).

angry bird splat

Congratulations to Temple West :)

If SwoonReads weren’t going to pick Damage I wanted them to pick Velvet by Temple West, and that’s exactly what they did.  I’m SO happy for her.  It’s not just really well written and refreshingly different, but Temple has such a great profile too.  Her blog posts are funny and we’ve had a few laughs on Twitter too.  I really wish her all the best and if she’s ever in the UK we’re definitely getting her to do an author event for us.  I bet she’d do it really well and I’d love to go for a drink with her afterwards!

Meanwhile back in Damageland several thought have been going through my head.  Should I try something different?  Write something for younger children maybe?  I’ve got about five other projects that I’ve started, but for some reason I haven’t got really stuck into any of them and I had to sort out why.  The answer seems to be that I’m just not done with Aiden and Cerys yet.  There’s too much story potential there and now I’ve created that world I can’t just let it go.  I just haven’t quite nailed my technique enough yet.

Interestingly when I started the final edit a couple of weeks ago I could suddenly see what wasn’t right with it, in a way that I couldn’t before, so that’s encouraging.  I’m not quite at the top of the learning curve yet.

So I was on the bus last week going somewhere (can’t remember where) and had another one of those literary lightbulb moments.  When Aiden and Cerys meet in Damage they’ve had a whole load of bad stuff happen to them in the past.  Aiden’s tragic relationship with Louise is another whole story in itself.  So that’s what I’m going to look at next.  I suspect Damage was too ‘New Adult’ for SwoonReads.  But by going back and writing about Aiden and Louise when they were 16/17 it puts it firmly in the Young Adult category.

The working title so far is either Don’t Look Down.  Here’s the opening. It’s Aiden’s suicidal moment, that he tells Cerys about at the end of Damage:


If I move just another step I’ll be right at the edge. If I move two steps I’ll fall. One step or two?

I take one.

My trainer scuffs the loose stones and they bounce over the rim. I see them go but I don’t hear them hit the bottom. One step or two?

I compromise. I take a half-step with my other foot. My toes are together, like a diver on the high board. But I’m not thinking about divers. I’m thinking about Louise. I’m wondering what will hurt me more. Another step forward or a step back.


This was a seriously stupid idea and I’m swearing as wipe the sweat out of eyes and fight with the extension cable. I’m tempted to blame Bam for not checking we actually had an electricity supply near the stage. I’m tempted to blame Bam for the whole thing to be honest. I can’t believe he set us up for this gig, and I can’t believe I agreed to it either. I realise I’m actually angry with myself but I don’t want to admit it. We’re not ready….

Luckily we’ve got a week’s holiday in Portugal coming up and I think I might be busy.  I need to finish the third edit of Damage and get it up on Amazon.  Then I need to plot out the prequel and if I have any time left I need to finish the first draft of Distance, though I’m happy to stick that away for a bit.




DAMAGE: The Little Book That Possibly Still Could….

So, we’re all waiting for a big announcement from  Swoon Reads to find out which manuscripts got picked for publication.  I don’t think it was DAMAGE sadly, as I’m sure they’d have been in touch by now if it was.  After all, you wouldn’t announce a new book unless you’d got the author to sign a contract beforehand, I’m guessing.  So, as we’re less than a week away from the big reveal it’s looking extremely unlikely.


So, how do I feel about that, and wherecupcakes does DAMAGE go now?  I started off really loving the Swoon Reads community.  Lots of supportive writers happy to critique each other’s work and leave constructive feedback.  Loads of books to read, most of which made me feel that DAMAGE deserved its place in the top ten and several others that made me feel I still have a lot to learn!  It was great to log-on every day after work and see how my book had gone up in the ratings.  It was fun to read the daily blog too, although it rarely had much to do with publishing. It was more about cupcakes and kittens for some reason.

welcomeBut after six months I’m feeling a little bit jaded with it.  Most of the books on there are obviously American.  It’s an American-based website after all. But, whilst it’s good to get that perspective I found that was the problem after a while.  It wasn’t very multicultural.  Nothing wrong with each individual manuscript, but collectively they make up onekind of world view and I find myself craving other ones now just for comparison.  I want to read something set in India or Australia or Norway.  One thing’s for sure; I think It will be a long, long time before I read another ‘high school’ drama!  Now I fully understand why Paranormal and Dystopian are such popular genres. If you build your own world at least it will be unique and interesting!

So if I was on the  Swoon Reads team which books would I pick and why?

1) Velvet by Temple West because I love her characters.  They made me laugh out loud and cry a little bit too.  I love the fact the main character thought the vampire guy was gay because he was so attractive, and the ending was awesome too.  I also think Temple would do fantastic author events!!

2) Solstice by Jane Redd because she built a great Dystopian world that seemed fairly unique and totally believable and her writing style and plot progression were pretty much flawless.

3) Damage, because if the new big genre is supposed to be tragic realism (aka Fault in our Stars) then Damage is all about that.  It’s about life and death and it’s about my friend Lester who drowned when he was 24, even though someone in the lifeboat had hold of his hand.  He still went under.  And I went under too for a while.  It’s about people who choose to be survivors no matter what, and about people who can’t cope with what life throws at them.

4) Miles to Go by Marisa Kanter because she writes really well and her book totally fits the cute US YA romance brief.  I quite like the USA road trip plot and started following it on Google Maps!

So, what next for DAMAGE.  Well it was never destined to sit in a drawer and since it’s been up on Swoon Reads it can’t go back in the drawer in case someone out there decided to copy it.  So it’s going up on Amazon next month after one final edit and we’ll take it from there. and then maybe I’ll write some fan fiction about the Musketeers!




DAMAGE Version Three

When my mum critiqued DAMAGE version one for me last year she didn’t hold back.  It was three pages long and covered everything from small grammatical errors to a whole chapter that was told the wrong way.  That’s when I learned how valuable a critiquing partner can be.  So, despite my Troll rant, I have to admit that all the comments I’ve received are useful, even if some of the ones via social media aren’t always phrased in the nicest way.





So last weekend I started on another edit, taking  out some of the back-story and internal monologue from the beginning section and trying to work in a few more low-key interactions between Cerys and Aiden so that he’s not quite so distant.  I think the aspect of writing I’ve struggled with most is what scenes, or parts of scenes, to put in and what to leave out or summarize.

But I’ve had two critiques now that say they don’t think Cerys is a well-rounded character and that stumps me, to be honest, as I thought characterisation was my strong point.  The story’s told in the first person specifically so that the reader can get right inside her head and Cery’s personality is carefully developed throughout the book so that she changes and grows in confidence in response to the things that happen to her and the way Aiden helps her.  Her internal monologue is necessary because she’s hiding so much from other people.  If you don’t hear what she’s thinking you wouldn’t know when she’s lying or being evasive.  So the idea of reducing that internal monologue is hard, but it’s obviously putting some readers off.

I need to go back and re-read All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry which has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal this year.  In that book the main character has had her tongue cut out and also can’t read or write, so her story involves a lot of her internal thoughts.  So how does Julie Berry do that successfully?  I’ll have to re-read it this weekend and figure it out.

all the truth that's in me

Always More to Learn ………or ‘Don’t Murder the Trolls’!

So there I was, one week before the good people at Swoon Reads decide which manuscript(s) to publish and it had all been going well on the site.  My ratings were great and my reviews had all been pretty positive.  Then today I got a bad one.  It was bad and it was long!! Jeez,  it was long; possibly the single longest paragraph I’ve ever read in fact.  She didn’t hold back either. It was like being repeatedly hit over the head with your own hardback!

And so, as I sat at my computer feeling a tiny bit tearful I realised I’ve learned a few more things about the process of writing.  Here are the things I learned today in the order they went through my head.

1: I am the worst writer ever and I was only kidding myself that I was any good.

2: What right does this upstart have to criticise my book when she’s never tried writing one herself.  I bet hers would be so much worse.

3: Most people who read a book will not have written their own one. These are the people we are writing for, not other sympathetic authors.  Other authors are probably more likely to pick up on the themes and subtext of your story or at least see what you were trying to do.  Your average reader may just not get it at all.

4: Everyone is entitled to their honest opinion and criticism is ‘constructive and helpful’.

5: Even though I’d love to reply with an equally long and detailed response in the same acerbic tone as hers, I am (deep breath) a professional and will reply in a professional way even if what I actually want to ask her is Why in God’s name did you read the whole book if you were hating it so much?!   I will always try my best to suck it up and be nice, no matter how hard that may be.

6: Even best-selling authors who’ve sold millions get slated.  Not everyone will love (or even understand) what you’ve written. I know this when I go to my book groups and give them a book I’ve totally loved and half of them hate it – or the other way around.

7: But I’m not a best-selling author and maybe my book really is complete rubbish after all…

…and finally…

8: It could be worse.  If this was the X Factor I’d have to deal with the rejection on live TV!!

Anyway, this time next week I expect we’ll all find out what the Swoon Read staff really think and which ones they loved.  It’s their opinion that counts in the end.  I wonder if they know how strung-out we’re all feeling right now.  I hope so.








DISTANCE isn’t finished yet but I took some time off to play around with a cover idea.  I wanted something that matched the cover art for DAMAGE a little bit.

Now, obviously, in a perfect world, I’d just arrange a photo shoot with Vinnie Woolston on a scenic stretch of motorway somewhere with a bike and a guitar.  Sadly, back in the real world, I’m limited to photos from Shutterstock, so this is what I came up with.  It’s not perfect but it’s OK.  But comments are always welcome!