Monday, 22 December 2014

Glad to be home! (aka hello WRITING and other big plans!)

At home enjoying family time with my zany cats.
Pixie loves to scramble up and down the Christmas tree!


Gosh is it good to be home, and by 'home', I mean online amongst this wonderful community of writers, creatives, readers and friends. I have missed you all!

It's been a long three months away, but I'm relieved to say I'm back to stay. My fourth and final teaching practice is at last finished. It's been the hardest experience of my life - exhausting, gruelling and completely unsustainable, working 80 hour weeks.

Suffice to say I've not had the time to even look after myself properly, let alone think of indulging in writing or my other hobbies. Every day I have missed writing and looked forward fervently to the moment I could begin it all again. That time is now!

I've just got a new office (thanks to my lovely partner who helped me heft furniture all over the place this weekend - and thanks to the cats who as per usual got underfoot!). It's a mess, alas, so needs some reorganisation, but for the whole I now am lucky enough to have a small, cosy and private space in which to work. Plus, as a bonus, I have working internet again - woo!

I plan to get straight back to work on BOC2 (Books of Caledan 2), which is about a third complete. With Christmas being this week, home life is obviously manic. But I will re-familiarise with the story, plot, etc and aim to dive back in as soon as I am ready (and as soon as all the washing up is done after the Christmas dinner...!)

Plus, I'm also thinking hard on where I want to be at this time next year. What do I want to achieve in 2015? Certainly, to finish at least one more book (and more if I can - I have so many ideas!). I also want to share The Tainted Crown more - I just checked my sales and I'm so very close to the 100 mark now! 96 sales since publication in July 2014.

I'm so astounded, overwhelmed and overjoyed that 96 people chose my book. That's 96 more than I ever expected. If I could make it to 100 - well, even if I never wrote another word in my life (not that that's not going to happen! You just try and keep me away from the keyboard...!!), I could die happy, reaching that milestone.

I'd also like to branch into visual/audio work - I'll start posting videos to a Youtube account (not sure of the content, though yet) and will be looking into producing audio only non-fiction work (though this takes a back seat compared to my fiction writing, which is first and foremost!).

I hope that 2015 will be an exciting year, filled with new adventures - for me and my characters!

I definitely need to develop a more solid business plan, with timed and segmented goals so I can achieve everything I want to, step by step, in a timely fashion.

What do you hope 2015 will bring for you?

In any case, I feel very positive and hopeful for the future - that I can create the life of an author for myself. It will be a long, slow and hard journey, of that I have no doubt. But, this year, 2014, was the year I began that journey. I have no intentions of giving up now!

Ciao for now, I'm off to go de-clutter the office so I have space to work. ;-)

Have a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a wonderful festive period and the happiest of New Years!


Monday, 3 November 2014

Progress is progress

Well, back to the real world I went today! It's been a nice week off - enjoyable not to have the time pressure of having to go to work, though I did, in the end spend most of my time working at home!

My mornings of lesson planning over-ran, but I did spend time each day writing. I made sure I added at least 1,000 words to my manuscript each day, so I have added about 7,000 words in the last week, which is a great feeling! Progress is progress, after all.

The first draft for book two now sits on 32,342 words, and I can say is just over a third completed (hopefully!) I  still don't have a working title, though a writing buddy suggested some names all with 'crown' in.

Originally, I hadn't planned to have crown themed titles, but it's an interesting idea I won't dismiss. "The Brooding Crown" could fit nicely as a title, though, of course, being so close to the manuscript, it's very hard to be objective about effective titles, and something I find incredibly difficult.

Besides that, how can you distill tens of thousands of words... many characters and places and events... all into a few words? (I'd love to hear what you think about titling pieces of writing - do you find it easy/hard? What's your process?)

Anyway, I digress! I also fixed some plot issues that had been niggling me. I found that, whilst I was being authentic to the characters, in how they were responding to the rubbish I threw their way, the rubbish I threw wasn't necessarily right for the story I wanted to tell. I'll have to see how the final manuscript fits together to decide whether it still needs further major chopping and changing!

However, this is the beauty of writing - it can be whatever you want it to be. :-)

Other than that, it's been a quiet week of being ill haha. Perils of working in education - the sniffles is an ever present threat!

I also watched "Jobs", the film made of Steve Jobs's life (surprisingly played by Ashton Kutcher, who did a great job), this week. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it, but found it eye opening and a real inspiration.

People like Steve Jobs - who make something from nothing, who chase their dreams, never give up, and make the impossible a reality - inspire me on a day to day basis. They make me determined to always try, though all things worth doing take a long time and much effort to come to fruition.

Anyway, ciao for now! Let me know your thoughts on inspirational people who motivate you do keep aiming for your goals. Also, to those doing this years Nano (upon us again already, it seems!!), GOOD LUCK! May the words flow :-)

~ Meg

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Guest Post at The Writing Desk

The lovely Tony Riches - author of a wide variety of historical fiction, other fiction and some non-fiction books - invited me to write a guest post on his blog The Writing Desk explaining where The Tainted Crown and my writing inspiration comes from and how I got to the finished product.
Check the post and his blog out!
 About Tony Riches
Tony Riches lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, one of the most unspoilt areas of the UK. Like many authors, he began writing short stories and contributing to a range of magazines but when he first read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he was inspired to begin writing books. His first novel, ‘Queen Sacrifice’ was written after looking into the early history of Wales and seeing the parallels to a game of chess, with kings and queens, bishops and castles – and the people becoming pawns in their civil wars.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Striving to seize the day

Hi all,

Hope you're well. Life has been really busy lately - rocketing from zero to what feels like too fast to keep up with!

I turned 25 a couple of weeks ago; a prompt to reflect on life. Life's an odd thing really. I'd never really planned it out, but when I was younger, I was sure that by the time I'd reached this age, I'd have reached whatever career goal I'd been aiming for. It didn't happen! I'm still re-training as a teacher (though thankfully in my final year at last), whilst working and writing on the side.

I really do struggle to find the time to write though at the moment. Such is a career in teaching. Too many things, not enough time. It's important to write every day - I know it to be so (more words is a good thing - practice, meeting manuscript words counts, deadlines, etc). Yet, how is it possible to fit it in?

At the moment my life consists of getting up in the dark to commute to another city - a stressful experience that I genuinely dread each day - to teach my class (and children are tiring! Wow does it take a surprising amount of energy out of you!).

When their day is done, I stop behind to plan, mark and prep for the following day. When I make it home, in the dark (I miss sunlight and the wind on my face, how stupid does that sound?), back through the blood-pressure raising tangle of cars, the family needs feeding, the house needs tidying, or cleaning, or something else, and the school work generally still isn't done, so there's that to do too. I know I'm not alone - this work routine probably describes most of the adult population!

Do I feel like writing though? Not a chance. I vegetate on the sofa and if I have two thoughts awake enough to rub together, or if I can hold a conversation, I'll count that as a success. My brain is in no shape by that point to craft and hone a story worth reading.

I started up a routine last week - get home, write until teatime, then make tea and sort everything else out. It lasted one day. From then on, I was simply too tired to even contemplate getting out the laptop, other than for the teaching things which needed to be done so that I could stand in front of the class the next day, prepared.

I'm not going to lie - it sucks. There's little work-life balance at the moment. I can only hope that it improves with time and practice. I know there's teachers out there that do manage to have a balance between working and doing the things they enjoy out of school. That's the thought I hold onto; that it is possible. I'm a motivated person, determined to do whatever is necessary to reach my goals (and importantly, with an appreciation that these things do take time to achieve...). I'm sure I'll get there - I just don't know how long that will take.

With the arrival of my 25th birthday (a quarter century, halfway to 50, closer than ever before to 30, or whatever other taunt my nearest and dearest joke about), I hope it doesn't take too much longer. Life moves on apace, and you can never really be sure what is around the corner. Plus, I have too many book ideas in my mind, with characters who are getting really to impatient to remain there much longer!

Carpe diem certainly springs to mind. A writer friend of mine, Andy, recently died - a total shock and surprise to all who knew him. The world lost a great man and a brilliant mind that day, who never had the chance to fully realise his writing potential or share his greatness with the world. He was great, of that there was no doubt. You only had to read snippets of his work to think "Wow, that's something special."

It was one of those events that, amidst the upset that causes, and the anger at such an injustice, makes you once again realise the frailty of all that we hold dear and how important it really is to make the most of it all.

So, this week, I endeavor again to do so. It's half term - a week of calm and time alone. My mornings I will fill with all the teaching related stuff I need to do (aka the neverending checklist!). The evenings belong to my family and I .. and the chores. But the afternoons belong to me and to fiction.

I'll be working on Books of Caledan 2, whilst reading too. I've picked up a copy of Sun Tsu's "The Art of War", a fascinating sounding book that I've been meaning to read for years. Plus, I have a hefty reading list piling up on my kindle to catch up on, which I can hopefully make a dint in!

After this week, I'm not sure what will happen in the next 7 weeks of teaching until the Christmas break. I really hope that I can find some time to write, even if it's just on weekends, to keep me sane. It's frustrating not to be able to put into place the ideal routine, but something will be better than nothing, at least.

Anyway, that's enough of my ramblings for now. Don't forget - carpe diem.

- Meg

In memory of Andy Walmsley, immortalized in our memories and his words.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Win free copies of The Tainted Crown!

  Enter the rafflecopter giveaway above to win free copies of my The Tainted Crown, a young adult fantasy fiction.

Please enter and share with anyone who might be interested! :-)

- Meg

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Tainted Crown: half price for 1 week only!

To celebrate my birthday this week, The Tainted Crown is available from Monday 13 October to Sunday 19 October, for just 99p and 99c on Kindle! If you haven't picked up your eBook copy yet, now is your chance to grab a bargain.

Do you know any other fans of young adult fantasy fiction? Please share this with them - I would be very grateful. My goal is to sell my first 100 copies by Christmas - I'm getting close but am not quite there yet!

As ever, thank you for your continuing support. If you've read The Tainted Crown yet, please hit reply and let me know what you think. I'd also be really grateful if you could take a few seconds to rate and/or review the book on Amazon or Goodreads.

Bye for now,


Monday, 29 September 2014

Back into the maelstrom

It's been a little while since I posted. The Tainted Crown is up and running on Kindle exclusively now, so it's also available on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library. If you're a member, check it out for free! :-) I also have some promotions coming up in October, which I'll let you know about nearer to the time.

Life has become busy once more, hence my absence! I've been working on some art, a new website and various other things. Mainly (you may or may not know that I'm a student teacher) my fourth and final academic year of training has begun and so back into the maelstrom I go (willingly and unstressed at this point, that may will change)!

It means that I probably won't have much time for writing fiction over the coming three months as I'll be busy writing lesson plans (and other stuff) instead. I'm intrigued to know just how many words I actually write each week on teaching related stuff... It's probably immense! (No, I'm not sad enough to sit down and work that out though, haha.)

I am keeping my little toe dipped in the pool of writing though, so to speak. My writer buddies and I complete a monthly prompt, so I'll be writing about 1,500 words a month for that. I've found it to be such a refreshing change. Every month is different, and there's no constraints on genre, style, or anything, really. So far I've done Sci-fi and thriller and had a lot of fun! Definitely genres I want to write in in the future. ;-)

I hope that I can also write other things too. Will try to squeeze in whatever I can! Books of Caledan #2 is up to the 25% mark in any case, so a good start has been made. I'm just mulling over some key issues - after plotting the entire thing in detail, some big things may be changing. I think I've let the characters run amok with the story just a little bit too far. The little dears need to be reigned in!

I also have plenty of other book ideas that I'm recording. Definitely books for the future! At least 3 so far - a humorous fantasy, a thriller (based on a writing prompt I really enjoyed), another thriller (Dan Brown meets Indiana Jones-esque?), and a further book whose genre I'm unclear on as yet.

Just need infinite amounts of time, motivation and tea to be able to labour away at them! Who knows if and when that will happen haha. But, it's important to record the ideas so they're not forgotten! I do that on a note app on my phone (as it's always with me) - do you do this? If so, how do you record your ideas? Good old fashioned pen and paper, or a high tech approach?

Anyway, enough rambling for now. I hope you're all well~ Let me know how your own writing is going! :-)

~ Meg

Thursday, 21 August 2014

10 days until The Tainted Crown comes to Kindle Lending Library & Kindle Unlimited!

Exciting news - The Tainted Crown will be available for members of the Kindle Owners Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited to borrow for free under their existing subscriptions from 31 August 2014!

Because of contractual obligations to allow this to happen, The Tainted Crown will not be available on Kobo and Nook from this date, though in the future it will be re-released onto these platforms.

So, if you're a Kindle Library or Kindle Unlimited user, watch out for The Tainted Crown popping up! If you're a Kobo or Nook user and still haven't picked up a copy - now's your chance.

And of course, If you're old school and love print, you can buy a copy of the print version on Amazon - which is also offering a saving of up to 20% on the print list price depending on which currency you buy in. Under the Kindle Matchbook Program, that will automatically entitle you to a free Kindle copy too.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

20 Editing Tips For Fiction Writers

Editing is vital for any piece of writing - be it a short story or full size novel. Here's my 'go to' list of aspects to concentrate on in edits. It's not necessarily in any particular order - usually I'll go with what's most needed for that manuscript first, for example.

Because it would drive you insane to do one single pass over the manuscript for each of these things, I usually try to do two to three each pass, but sometimes do less, if the focus required for one aspect is greater. There's no point rushing - a good manuscript takes (lots of) time, care and effort.
Regardless of whether you engage the services of editors or not, regardless of whether you aim for traditional, hybrid or self publishing, you still need to edit your work to the best of your abilities. I hope this checklist will help!

Let the going insane editing begin!

1. Tense
Pick your tense and stick to it. Will you be using past or present tense (the most commonly used)? Unless you've got a really good reason for switching - don't. Jump on this like a hawk!

It's one of those things a reader will find exceptionally distracting, for example if your character 'jumped' onto a table and then 'dances'. Pick jumps/dances or jumped/danced.

2. Person
Pick your person and stick to it! Will you be using first (I), second (you) or third person (he/she/it)? Again, unless you've got a really good reason for switching - perhaps you're in third person but part of the tale is a memoir, a letter, an interview, or a really gripping first person account (for example) - stick to your person.

This is also a very distracting mistake for readers, who are jolted from the text every time the person shifts.

3. Punctuation
Check your punctuation thoroughly. A missing comma here and there is understandable, but be confident in your use of commas, semi-colons, hyphens, colons, full stops (etc). Punctuation isn't just a tool for separating clauses and sentences, it's a tool for pacing too. Your use of punctuation will (or should!) skillfully draw your reader through your text, neither too quickly or slowly.

Do you use short sentences to increase pace and tension where needed? Do you use longer descriptive sentences to slow your reader down and draw them into the setting/character? Do you add commas and other pausing marks, so that your readers can breathe (physically or mentally) whilst reading?

4. Grammar
Grammar is a tricky one, but its proper use can add a lot to your text. It can refine awkward phrases, sentences and passages, but equally it can be awkward and tricky to use depending on the language you write in. English, for example... is a pain!

One thing to beware of with grammar is to be careful when editing speech for grammar. Real people often don't speak grammatically correctly (and that's fine - it's life!). So, make sure that your own characters have natural speech. You can even use grammar to your advantage here to differentiate between characters - some characters may speak more grammatically correctly than others.

5. Spelling
Spelling is another must-check. Again, one or two mistakes might (and probably will) slip through the cracks. But if your manuscript is poorly edited for spelling, good story or not, it will be put down by a reader.

Ensure that the manuscript is well edited for spelling generally, but also take extra care to spell character names/places/technical vocabulary correctly. Some authors recommend use of a style sheet (a list of all key names, places and technical vocabulary) to refer to with ease for this purpose.

6. Sense check
This ties in with many of the other points - spelling, grammar, punctuation, tense person - but is just as crucial. Did you mean to say, "sand trickled through her fingers," but instead said, "sad trickled through her fingers"?

This is an edit where your brain really need to engage when re-reading your text. Don't just decode the text, concentrate on understanding it, translating it. Does it say what you think it says? Does it say what you want it to say?

7. Plot
This is a story development related issue. Sometimes you can fix this before you draft, by well plotting your story beforehand, finding and ironing out the mistakes. However, if you're a seat-of-the-pants type writer, you might prefer to write your first draft and then fix that. Both approaches are fine - it's whatever works for you, as long as you address it somewhere.

Your plot needs to make sense. There shouldn't be any gaps where characters, places, events or time are missing or out of sync. A timeline is a really useful way to ensure you have control over your plot and you can coordinate all your characters well. If they're anything like my characters, they need to be shepherded with stern looks and prods to make sure they're where they should be, when they should be.

8. Pacing
You need to ensure your story is well paced throughout. Are there bits where you cant be bothered reading? Why is that? They probably need cutting/fixing. Is your entire book action packed and your heart hammers all the way through? You might need to work in some downtime from all that drama. Even an exciting plot can become dull/too much if not well paced with some slower parts to ease tension and let the reader catch their breath.

One way to approach it is to imagine your story as a movie - can you imagine the entire thing without skipping over bits? If you find any part boring, your readers probably will too. Give them a reason to continue reading by making every word count.

9. Character development
Your characters should develop naturally over the course of the book. They should be recognisable as the same character by the end of the book, but they should change in some way, for example emotional/physical development, relating to whatever your main plot concerned.

10. Character voice
Character voice should also be easily discernable and consistent throughout. Does your character speak/sound the same at the start and end of the book? Unless that's part of the character development you've included, then the answer should probably be yes.

For example, some characters might use contractions (I'm, don't, can't) or slang (Innit man! Ey up?), some characters might not. By skillfully combining elements of realistic speech you can give your characters each a distinct spoken voice that will allow you to create dialogue scenes where you don't even need to label which character says what (which can then helps the flow of the scene for your reader).

11. More spelling, punctuation, grammar and sense checks
Sadly, one pass rarely picks up all the mistakes! (Wouldn't that be nice and easy...) This is one you really need to keep going over, with either an eye in the background during other edits (if you see a mistake, fix it, don't wait - you might forget), or as several edits where these are the primary focus.

12. Chapter/scene length
You may already have a clear idea of how long you prefer your scenes and chapters to be. It's worth flicking through your manuscript and seeing how consistent your chapter length is (or not). Variance can be good, however, if one chapter is 100 pages or 20,000 words long... you might want to consider shortening it!

This ties in with pacing and plotting, as you can use your chapters and secenes to keep enticing the reader to carry on reading. Your chapter ends shouldn't fall flat/answer all the readers questions - make sure they intruigue the reader enough to continue with some suspense, mystery, danger, conflict, dilemma (etc).

13. Entry hook
The book needs to start with a hook. Simple. Most readers judge a book (once they've picked it up having already judged and liked the cover/blurb enough to give it a try) on the first paragraph, or the first page at most. If you don't hook that reader then and there, they won't read the rest of the book, unfortunately. A killer opening is key. Rewrite this as many times as you need!

14. Plot resolved
This is a basic thing, but one not to overlook. Is your main plot resolved? Do you give the reader a positive or negative ending? Perhaps a twist? Perhaps a bit of a resolution, but you also end on a cliffhanger? (Aka write a sequel or angry readers will hunt you down!)

Readers will be so immensely annoyed if they've read your entire book, become emotionally entangled with your lead character and their crisis, only to never find out what happened. This doesn't have to dominate the story - I've seen advice to spend anywhere from a paragraph, a page, right up to the last 10% of the novel resolving the main plot. But resolve your plot and resolve it well. Leave a reader satisfied, even if it's not a happy ending.

15. Subplots resolved
Similarly to plot resolution is subplot resolution. Have you left any loose ends? If so, they should be purposeful (aka write a sequel or angry readers will hunt you down) or so minor that your reader doesn't care (although if your reader won't care, it's worth asking whether the subplot is important enough to include in the first place).

An unresolved plot is a surefire way to annoy a reader bigtime, but unresolved subplots will also be of great frustration.

16. Telling vs showing
This. Is. HARD. Only practice (and lots of it) will help you with this! Readers should be shown, not told how characters feel. Readers are clever; they understand subtle undertones without needing each character's feelings clearly labelled. Instead of expressing that a character is fearful, perhaps instead describe their body language, or use description to paint a particular scene.

A fearful character might have wide eyes, folded arms and crossed legs (closed body language), shaking/shivering/tremors, pounding heart, rushing adrenaline, a dry mouth, be shrinking into themself/cowering (etc). The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman is an excellent compilation of emotions and body language examples to help you if you're stuck.

17. Description 
Description can be a blessing and a curse. Too little and the story is bare. Too much and the story is cloyingly, sickeningly, overwhelmingly full of descriptions to an offputting level.

In a first draft, write what you think. Feel free to go overboard it can always be cut later (or more can be added if needed). This ties in with pacing - does the description slow down the pace too much? If so, it may be getting in the way of a great story and need some pruning.

18.  Speech tags
 "Dialogue can be tricky," she moaned. Often, simple is best with dialogue. Bizaarrely, despite there being so many good speech tags you could use - shouted, screamed, whispered, sobbed (etc etc etc), often the best to use is simple, old 'said'.

The reader's eye glances over this; it's invisible, effectively. Use of other words only makes the reader's eye pause/catch, disrupting the flow of reading. So, use other tags sparingly, when they are most effective.

"Dialogue can be your best friend, though," she smiled. Another trick to learn is that words cannot be smiled/frowned/cried/and so on. Words can only be said with the action of the mouth and voice combined.

So, this sentence should instead be two: ' "Dialogue can be your best friend, though." She smiled.' It's worth going over your manuscript with an eye focusing on this. I guarantee one character at some point will be trying to smile/frown/nod their words!

19. Senses
Engage your characters' senses to bring scenes to life. What do your characters smell, hear, see, touch, taste? Are your characters sitting down for a meal? Boring!

Make the pungent, tangy smell of mushrooms rise into your character's nose, causing them to salivate as they eagerly take a bite from the dish, their eyes closing in delight as it melts upon their tongue. Much more enticing! (Warning: This may make you hungry!)

20. Did you enjoy the story?
This sounds silly, but ultimately, even though you've been through your story so many times by the time it's finished that you really want to tear your eyes out or at least never see your manuscript again EVER... You should still enjoy your story. It should still consume you.

This is the time to go with your gut instinct. Is it as good as you can make it? Does it all feel right? If you have a little niggle that something is wrong, don't ignore it. Identify the problem, and address it. It's your story - only you can make it the best it can be. Make sure you're telling the story you wanted to tell.

Further reading
I would highly recommend the following books to help with fiction writing:
Orscon Scott Card - Characters & Viewpoint
Orson Scott Card - How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
James Scott Bell - Plot & Structure
Renni Browne - Self Editing for Fiction Writers
Stephen King - On Writing

Thanks for reading!
I sincerely hope this was a useful post! If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear from you. Is there anything you'd add to the editing process? Anything you'd take away? Any recommendations for fiction writing books?


Monday, 4 August 2014

Books of Caledan: Book 2 Progress

Well, the Tainted Crown has of course, just been released, but that doesn't mean I'm slacking or taking any kind of break! Book 2 of Caledan is well underway and in fact is 100% outlined and 100% plotted!

I don't have a working tite yet (being an author, I did have some title ideas written down... but being a scatterbrained author... I have no idea what I did with them!).

Anyway, whilst I've been busy polishing and publishing and promoting book 1 (mmm, alliteration), I started sketching out the outlines for book 2 in March, coming back to this in May after my semester 2 university assignments were done and dusted with. I created a timeline, which helped things flow so much easier and was able to then arrange all the various viewpoints (as The Tainted Crown is written in a mostly sequencial manner, flicking between viewpoints, the rest of the series will be the same - similar to how Game of Thrones is organised).

Then, once I really had the bones of the story, plotting in detail was much easier! Things changed - some things merged, others were dropped, others added (and now I've plotted I'll be going through and trimming all the fat off again and making sure all that's necessary is included) - but the story is now fleshed out in detail.

The plotting is actually a whole 30,281 words just by itself!! So, I estimate the final manuscript will be about 90,000 words, a little shorter than book one (but we shall see...!).

In any case, the plotting itself only took a total of 24 hours and 3 minutes, giving an average of 1,259 words per hour. Not a fantastic average, not a terrible one - but one I'm happy with, bearing in mind that the slowest part of any story writing is writing and figuring out what's going on at the same time.

The only thing I want to improve is the time over which that plotting occurs. So, that 24 hours was done across July - a whole month. Really, I need to streamline that in future, into maybe two weeks, and then down to a week - because less time plotting = a shorter writing process = more books, sooner! :-)

That's the next book though - let's not jump too far ahead! For now, my challenge is to finish draft 1 of book 2 in August. Can I do it? Challenge accepted! :-) Wish me luck!

Ciao for now,


Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Tainted Crown Launch Roundup!

The Tainted Crown launch is all finished, and wow, what a launch it's been. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of people who've well... cared!

As an unknown, debut author, it's always going to be difficult to break out, to get overnight fame and fortune (ok, it's impossible, let's face it), and things always start with your family and friends, but like a stone dropped in a pond, the effect hopefully ripples outwards far and wide.

It's been wonderful in any case, to have people support me in this - I really appreciate it! I've taken my first steps into the world of being an author - an indie author at that - and it's one of those things that you simply can't do alone.

I sold some copies on day one, which is always good, and reached my first three milestones - to sell 1, 10 and 25 copies (start small, haha). I've now sold over 40 copies (day 1 purchases + preorders), so hopefully on the way to smashing the next milestone - 50 copies (and then 100 copies, here I come!). Start small, work big, eh?

I've not quite made my first £10 as an author (a financial milestone), but again, on the way there. It'll be a while before I recoup my publishing costs, I know that - but to be honest at this stage, it's a labour of love, because there's no financial incentive there at this early stage of my writing career. Start small, work big. I'll get there with time, effort, and putting out more good books. :-)

Other notable features of launch day were:
  • An international bestselling author (one of my own favourite authors) agreed to accept a copy of my book! I'll be sending him a copy the moment I receive my next copies in just over a week! Who knows, this could be a great opportunity. :-)
  • My friends and family rallied round to check out my book, like and share my facebook and twitter posts, hopefully giving me a little bit of traction and putting me in front of a wider potential audience than I could reach alone.
  • I had a really fun twitter chat using #taintedcrown on launch night! Only a few attended, but we had a good hour of fun and not entirely sane banter.
I'm already looking forward to launching another book ... need to write one first though haha!

Coming next: Book 2 of Caledan progress!

Thank you so much to all those who took part in the launch. :-)


Friday, 1 August 2014

Fancy a free eBook AND a free autograph?

Did you know that there's a really cool way to get not only a free eBook copy of The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan, but a free autograph too?
The Tainted Crown print edition is proud to be a part of the Kindle Matchbook program, which means that if you buy the print edition of thebook through the Amazon store, you can get a kindle copy absolutely free.

What's even better, I also use to offer digital autographs, so, if you have any eBook version of The Tainted Crown, you can request a personalised autograph directly from me at no cost! These can be viewed online, downloaded as PDFs and downloaded directly onto your eReader.

I hope that you'll give Kindle matchbook and Authorgraph a try!


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Tainted Crown is Officially Released!!!

The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan is officially on sale! Woohoo! You can find it on Amazon in print format, in the Amazon Kindle Store, in the Kobo eStore and the Nook eStore.

Don't forget, the book is launching with promotional pricing until 6th August - up to 50% off list price! 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Save the date - Twitter launch party for The Tainted Crown on 31 July!


To celebrate the launch of my book The Tainted Crown on Thursday 31st July, there'll be a launch party on Twitter! You can join me on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm BST (7-8pm GMT) using the hashtag #taintedcrown in your tweets to join the chat and Twitter's nifty search feature to keep track of the conversation.

The launch won't just be about The Tainted Crown, however - it's an opportunity for avid readers and writers alike to come together to celebrate good fiction, meet likeminded people and share a great evening.

There'll be prizes too for those attending - I'll be giving away free ebook copies of The Tainted Crown, and if enough join the chat, one lucky winner will get their hands on a signed, first edition print copy - absolutely free!

I hope to see you there!


Monday, 21 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - 10 Days Until Release - Chapter 3 Revealed!

It's now only 10 days until The Tainted Crown is released, so to celebrate, I'm releasing Chapter 3!

I hope you enjoy!



Chapter 3

Midmorning sunlight streamed into the small clearing where they had slept. It was late spring, the fifth month of the year, and the sound of animal and insect life could be heard in all directions. This place was far from any of the man-made roads that linked the hubs of civilisation together: on any other day, a tranquil haven.
Soren awoke, disorientated and groaning at the stiffness of his body. He was surprised to find Edmund nearby in deep concentration, attending to something on a small smokeless fire. Soren took half a breath, about to question why Edmund had joined his hunting trip, when he recalled the previous day’s events.
Edmund turned at the sound of his movement and met his measured glare.
“Your Majesty.” Edmund addressed him formally. Soren opened his mouth to reply, pausing in surprise as he registered what Edmund had called him.
“Your Majesty?” Soren questioned, unsettled by the apprehension he saw in Edmund’s eyes. “I’m ‘Your Royal Highness’, no more,” he said, but he knew Edmund would not have said it mistakenly. “Explain yourself.”
“It pains me to inform you thus.” Edmund gestured at their surroundings. He stalled, mouth gaping as though he could not find the words. “Your mother has passed away, God rest her soul.”
“Impossible,” Soren said, but he knew the strange events of the night before would not have been without dire cause. Soren tried to frown, but his face had frozen. “I saw her yesterday - she was well.”
“I saw her… body… with my own eyes.” Edmund rubbed his hand across his face, dragging tears away from his eyes.
Soren could not move; his head held a thousand questions and yet emptiness.
“You want to know what happened,” Edmund said, “but you do not know how to begin asking. Am I correct, sire?”
Soren nodded, still not believing him.
“Then I will start where I must; at the beginning...” said the older man. “Forgive me; I do not wish to cause you pain, but I will not lie to you. Your uncle Zaki has been moving in shaded circles. I am sure you have noticed his repeated attempts to disrupt your grandfather’s peace treaty with the southern countries. Your mother thought little of it, believing him simply to be disagreeable at times, but to my mind he is too sly.
“I set a watch upon him although your mother disagreed with my actions, believing not a bad word against him. Only my long and trusted relationship in her council led her to accept my wishes. I am thankful that even though for her in the end it was all for nothing, you are saved for the kingdom.”
Edmund paused for breath, whilst Soren stared at him, silent. “We watched him for many cycles of the moon; his comings and goings and visits and visitors. All for nought, it seemed, until one day he met with an esquire of his wife’s father. King Harad has ever sought to add us to his growing kingdoms, even since your mother pledged Zaki to Demara. She intended it as a sign of our allegiance and equality but not of our submission.
“Nevertheless, Harad realises how close he is to Caledan’s throne and he is an ambitious man; well matched to Zaki it would seem. The esquire left behind some correspondence, which your uncle failed to dispose of quickly enough by his own hand and our eyes within his household procured this for me at great personal danger. I could not believe my eyes, reading of the king’s wishes to subvert Caledan so that Zaki may gain the throne and cause Caledan’s royal bloodline to fall into Harad’s lineage.
“Harad means to send men under his banners immediately after Zaki gains the throne to ensure success, though no details of how Zaki would achieve this were laid out. I took this straight to your mother, presuming as always her swift action would curtail his treacherous plan, but her denial was total; she could not comprehend the depths of his treachery. Who would believe their own brother capable of such a thing?”
“And what then?” the young man questioned in a low voice; hardly daring to ask as he averted his eyes. “When was this? I had heard nothing... I understood that uncle held the old views that women should not inherit, if only to further his own prospects but surely he wasn’t so evil as to act upon it?” Soren shook his head in a daze.
“My apologies sire,” Edmund said. “This occurred only yesterday. I had to act with utmost haste and took the letter straight to your mother as I could not be sure Zaki would not miss it.
“She commanded me to leave her. I rallied the high council, warning them that we would most likely need to swiftly secure the throne now events had progressed apace. I presumed she would ask for your council, or others, but I did not realise you were absent until much later.
“After that, things blur. I called the Royal Guard to arms in secret, in case there was need of their help, but I believe Zaki must have had huge support from some of the council members and their retinues. As your mother summoned him to her chambers that afternoon I presume to reassure herself this could not possibly be true, it was clear he had done the same with his own men. They rose too quickly for it to be otherwise. He must have decided that then was the time to act.
“I hastened back to your mother’s chambers, begging her to let me sit in on the meet, to protect her, but she would hear no word of it with her guards and attendants already about her. She sent me away and all I could do was urge the head of the guard to join me to protect her. I did not realise she would call him to her, alone. By the time we returned, it was too late. Her chambers were empty and Zaki was gone.”
“And my mother?” Soren breathed with dread. “Tell me,” he said when Edmund met his gaze with a horror Soren had never before seen there.
Edmund licked his lips nervously before he continued. “She was already dead,” Edmund said as tears rolled down his cheeks. Soren gazed at him, feeling numb.
“How?” Soren forced himself to ask.
“A blow to the head.”
She was clubbed to death like a badger. Soren could not comprehend it and instead she sprang into his mind’s eye, smiling at him as he had seen her last before his departure on the ill-fated hunting trip.
“There was no time to care for her,” Edmund said, as Soren listened with a morbid fascination, still unable to connect Edmund’s words to his mother. “Caledan, perhaps now more than ever in recent years, stands on a knife-edge. I could not find either you or your sister; alas I feared the worst.
“Your sister, dear sweet Irumae, was already gone when I reached her chambers. It was clear that there had been a struggle but the fact there was no body or blood heartens me. We can only pray that she is safe, but with you alive and free, Caledan has hope.”
Edmund looked up, but did not meet Soren’s eye. Instead his eyes glazed over, unseeing, seeming to speak to himself. “So many others have passed. The fighting in the great hall was violence and brutality, as I have never seen the men of our Kingdom commit. What should have been friend sat with friend feasting and laughing was foe against foe cutting down man after man in a great gash of blood. This was a trap, waiting to spring into action. Every traitorous man knew his orders. I saw council member after council member loyal to the crown mobbed and cut down, whatever the cost in lives, so that their voices were silenced.
“I can only guess at the outcomes that this may have on Caledan. I cannot imagine what plans Zaki must have to explain this to his advantage.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - Promotional Launch Pricing

The Tainted Crown will be launching on 31 July 2014 with a promotional offer on ebook pricing, where you can receive up to 50% off the full price ebook!

The offer will run for the first week of publication, between 31 July and 6 August.

You can preorder on Kobo now, or snap up your copy for just 99p, $1.99 or €1.49 on Kindle and Nook between the above dates (other currencies also available).

Don't forget, whilst you're waiting for release, you can also read chapters 1 and 2 here.

Bye for now,


Friday, 11 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - 20 Days Until Release - Chapter 2 Revealed!

It's now only 20 days until The Tainted Crown is released, so to celebrate, I'm releasing Chapter 2!

I hope you enjoy!



The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan

Chapter 2


“Seize him!” The three men raced towards Soren, weapons drawn and battle cries ringing in their throats.

The prince froze beneath the portcullis. His bow lay uselessly unstrung and lashed to his saddle. Soren struggled to draw his blade, assailants almost upon him, when a fierce cry behind them announced the presence of another. They turned away for a fatal moment of distraction.

“Prince Soren!” the mounted figure’s voice echoed through his helmet as he charged towards the fray.

 Soren moved automatically despite his confusion, unsheathing his sword as his mount plunged forward and slashing the first man’s side as his horse kicked out in the close confines, stunning the second. Before the third could react, the stranger had dispatched him, stabbing the second who lay dazed on the floor, just as Soren cut down the first. The stranger removed his helm to reveal the sweaty, battle-stained face of the queen’s chief advisor.

“Sir Edmund!” exclaimed Soren, keeping his dripping sword ready. His horse pranced, nostrils flaring and mouth frothing. “These men wear the mark of House Varan; what’s the meaning of this? Whoa Miri. Calm, girl.” He tried to soothe the agitated mare beneath him with shaking hands as his heart pounded erratically.

“We must leave. Now,” said Edmund, but the prince did not move. “Do you trust me?” Edmund pressed, leaning forward in his saddle. Soren nodded. “Then do as I say. Ride with me now!" He urged his horse into a canter through the gate.

“What’s happened? What of my family?” called the boy after the man, but Edmund did not reply save to press his stallion harder. Soren dug his heels into Miri to keep apace, asking again, but to no success.

“Why do you return so early from the hunt? Where are your guard?” Edmund asked the prince grimly as they rode through the secluded grounds.

 “A boar gored Sir Hark’s son, so we abandoned the hunt to see him safely home. My guards took him to the healing houses.” Soren would have grimaced at the memory, but the sight of his friend with half his thigh hanging loose paled into insignificance. Instead of the boy’s agonised face, the man he had just killed sprang into his mind, his eyes full of pain, hate, and determination as he dropped to the ground, life fading. I just killed a man… but he was trying to kill me. Both concepts were incomprehensible to Soren.

“Well thank the heavens you arrived not a moment sooner or later,” replied Edmund, distracting Soren. “Fate delivered you to my hands today."

Through the landscaped trees, the perimeter wall of the castle grounds came into view. Here, the wall that eventually joined Pandora’s great city walls was a mere ten feet tall and four feet thick, defended more by the precipice beyond it than its own strength. 

Edmund jumped down from his horse with an agility belying his age - Soren had never seen the fifty year old move with such speed. To Soren’s astonishment, Edmund began to scrabble at the ivy that grew in vast quantities along the wall, sweeping it aside and ripping it from the wall in bunches. Soren began to wonder if he had been right to trust Edmund without question, but before the thought could materialise Edmund turned around with a frantic expression.

“Come help! We must find the door.” Edmund wandered along the wall as he searched through the ivy. Soren frowned to himself, but brushing aside his bafflement, dismounted to help.

“Aha!” The discovery came before Soren could begin. Metal rattled, wood clunked and the rusty lock screeched as Edmund threw his weight backwards to pull the heavy wooden door open. “Come! Follow me.” Edmund made to lead his horse by the bridle through the wall but Soren seized his forearm.

“I just killed a man!” Soren exclaimed. “A man wearing colours loyal to the throne, yet trying to harm me... Why?”

“I will explain, but I cannot now. Please, come with me; it is not safe for you here. I will beg you if I must,” Edmund implored.

Soren released him, surprised at the fervour from the usually taciturn man. “What of my family?”

“I will explain.” Edmund beckoned him again as Soren faced him, uncertain. “Trust me.”

Soren considered the unwavering faith his mother placed in Edmund. He was swayed by that, but it was with a sinking heart and growing unease that Soren followed Edmund through the gate.

It was a perilous climb down the cliffs in the fading light; impossible but for the narrow ledge that guided men and horses down. Soren was distracted from the blood - someone else’s - that speckled the hem of his fine jacket by Miri, who had to be coaxed, pushed and shoved almost all the way down. The horses skittered on the narrow track, taking fright every time their passage dislodged small scatterings of stones that cascaded down the precipice to their side.

Every time the horses balked, Soren’s heart leapt into his mouth, fearing that he would be pushed off the path, but before the sun had fully set they reached the ground. Edmund wasted no time in mounting, warning Soren to take care on the uneven ground. Soren mumbled with dull acquiescence. The descent had been excruciatingly slow and he was tiring after his intense day.

At least we have time, for tonight, to travel slowly,” Edmund said. “No one will seek us here.” But, over the drumming hooves, Soren did not hear.

Two leagues to the north lay the dark bulk of woodlands that Edmund made for. As the cooler shade of the tree canopy enveloped them, their shadowy figures melted into the forest, the thick cover claustrophobic in contrast to the open, rolling knolls they had just left. Soren halted Miri. Edmund reined in his own mount, glancing back.

Framed by the trees on the fringes of the forest were the vast expanse of water, silver in the moonlight, to Soren’s right, the sweeping plains to his left. In between lay the great hill upon which the city of Pandora stood, a huge bulk in the darkness covered with pinpricks of light. Nothing seemed amiss. The night was tranquil. Soren followed Edmund to be swallowed by the forest.

They rode until Soren was lost in the dark. The older man had been silent for hours and rode so fast that Soren was forced to push Miri to her limits, despite his worry that she would stumble and lame herself on a stray root or rock. Soren wondered at Edmund’s urgency, but he was to exhausted to question him. Instead, when they stopped in a hollow at the base of a rocky outcrop, he dumped Miri’s saddle and bags onto the floor, turned her loose, and slumped against a tree, snoring.