Writing update

Hi guys,

As it’s almost been a year since my last blog post, I figured it’s about time for another update! I’m pleased to report that I have been neglecting my blog in order to write my novels (rather than neglecting my novels to write my blog posts), so although that sucks for my blog, it’s been great for my novels!

I have been much more focused on writing during this past year, and have written almost every day. I’m finally at the point where writing is now a part of my daily routine, and I actually miss it if I don’t get a few words down. For that reason, I have made huge progress on all of my projects this year. My writing tracker spreadsheet tells me I’ve written 66,000 words so far in 2020.

 

What projects am I working on?

I have four writing projects.

  • 1 YA dystopian (Yup, I know these aren’t as trendy as they used to be, but I’ve started it so I’m going to finish it…)
  • 1 romance
  • 2 domestic thrillers

Where am I at with each of my projects?

Thriller 2 – my main focus

This year, I am excited to announce that I am currently taking a novel-writing course: the Faber Academy Work in Progress online course to be precise. I am loving it, and it has gone a long way in making me stick to my writing deadlines. Each month, we are expected to submit a new batch of 7000 words with hopes of ending the year with a full and well-developed draft. I am working on thriller number 2 for this course, which I started during Nanowrimo 2019. I got about 30,000 words during Nano, but have re-written most of it during the course so far. Thriller number 2 currently stands at 43,000 words (I’m at the midpoint), and I am feeling so good about it! Without sounding too optimistic or delusional, I am hoping this one won’t need the massive structural changes that have plagued my other novels. My writing has improved drastically with every passing year, and I’m excited to continue on this upward trajectory.

Romance

My romance novel currently stands at 26,000 words. I am hoping to get it up to 70,000 and self-published by the end of the year. Again, I’m probably being overly optimistic (there’s a theme here…). I have it all planned out and have designed the cover already. It was originally planned as a novella, but the more I wrote, the more I realised I needed more words in order to give the story the space it needed. Thus far, I’ve found it really easy to write, so I’m hoping this continues…

Thriller 1

This thriller is 81,000 words as it stands, but I’m doing a huge rewrite, so I will be editing the lot. I am keeping the main story, but tweaking some of the setup scenes, as at present, it takes too long to get started. I am hoping to have this new draft finished by the end of the year.

YA Dystopian

As you might know, I’ve been working on this blasted novel for six years now. I’ve changed the whole story, characters, tense, POV, and practically everything else (often more than once), but I finally feel like I’m on the right track. As previously mentioned, I know this genre isn’t popular anymore (it was when I first started writing it…), but I will finish it and either keep it as a learning experience or self-publish it (but only if I feel it’s good enough). It is currently 30,000 (‘good’) words, and 60,000 overall. I don’t have a strict deadline for this, as I’m already worried about spreading myself too thin, but I will play around with it in my spare time and see where I’m at in a few months.

 

I’m also happy to report that my colouring book has sold about 55 copies (some in the USA which blows my mind). It’s not a huge sum, but considering I haven’t really marketed it, I’m chuffed.

And that’s it for now! See you in another year, I guess (or hopefully sooner…)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Life update: I self-published a colouring book

So you might be aware that I’ve spent the past five years working on several novels, all different genres (because why not make this writing lark harder than it already is, am I right?). I love writing, and creating images with words; if I didn’t, I would have given up ages ago.

But there’s something else I love and that’s graphic design. I don’t regret taking Graphic Design at University instead of creative writing. It’s such a great feeling, to be able to need something or want it, and have the ability to design it myself. Birthday cards, invitations, planner pages, outline templates. Everything I could possibly need, I can create.

Although I want to be traditionally published someday, I also love the idea of self-publishing some projects, and my graphic design degree gives me the bonus of being able to design my own book covers. In fact, I’ve already amassed several designs for each of my writing projects. I’ll let you in on a little secret: designing book covers for my WIPs is how I procrastinate when I should be writing.

But anyway, I digress. After five years of writing with no publication, I needed a break. A project that I could write, create and publish in a few months. I thought for ages about what my new project could be. I explored ‘blank book’ publishing, but decided against it, due to wanting to provide people with something with a little more substance and quality. What about non-fiction, then? A nice idea, but what could I write about? I wasn’t sure.

Then I stumbled across an idea for a colouring book almost by accident. My book started as a passion project, as it was originally going to be something I created and made for my boyfriend’s birthday. An ‘in’ joke, if you will. But it soon became apparent that it might appeal to more than just my other half. The idea snowballed, and soon enough, after many fun-filled hours of writing and illustrating, my colouring book was finished. Just so you know, it’s a novelty colouring book about an Avocado called Adam and his friend Toast, and it’s aimed mainly at millennials, but will appeal to anyone who likes avocados or cute things with faces.

 

I had an absolute blast making it, and I’m so proud to finally have a finished project. Although I’ve only shown it to family and friends for now, they have been overwhelmingly positive about it, which is great.

I created the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, as I’m not very good at freehand sketching. The drawings are very simple line drawings, and each drawing is single-sided to avoid show-through. Each illustration has a simple sentence above it which tells the reader more about the fictional protagonists! Here is an example of two of the inside spreads.

 

 

As you can see, I was aiming for ‘witty and relatable’ captions, and I hope I succeeded! Some of the drawings are more complex than the above. Some are less complex.

Once the illustrations were all done, I exported them into Adobe inDesign which is where I laid out my book and added the text. It took a while to get everything right (line thickness, choosing a font, sizing the illustrations correctly etc.), but finally, it was finished.

I created a cover and uploaded it to KDP. I then ordered a proof copy, so I could test out the thickness of the paper and see what cover finish I wanted. I started off with matte, but then decided that the laminated cover suited the colouring book genre better, so I changed it. I also noticed some mistakes. Nothing major, just little things that would have annoyed me had I left them in. So I made some alterations. Ordered another proof copy. And now it’s available on Amazon for the world to see. It is exhilarating, yet also terrifying.

It’s been published for about a week, and thus far, I’ve only sold two copies, both to family. I’d love to sell a few more copies, but the idea of promoting it scares the life out of me. I’m not really sure why; I guess it’s a mixture of being a perfectionist and worrying it’s not good enough (even though I am so proud of it) and being an introvert. The whole ‘self-promotion’ thing and putting myself out there is so far out of my comfort zone, but I know I’ll have to if I’m going to get the audience for it that I hope for.

Now it’s finished, I’m already starting to think of my next mini-project. Another colouring book, perhaps. Or maybe a puzzle book. I’m not sure, and it’s a dangerous game, really, as I’m worried I’ll put my longer writing projects on the back burner for too long. That’s always the risk when you’re juggling several projects at once!

For those of you who would like to know a bit more about my book, you can read about it on Amazon here (this is the UK link, but it is available in worldwide Amazon stores), or on my website here.


Mini book reviews

Hi guys! It’s been a while…

First off, let me just apologise for yet another long absence. There was no real reason for it other than just needing to take a bit of a break to focus on actually writing my books, instead of spending time on blog posts and Instagram! That said, I am still forging ahead with writing my novels (yes, it’s plural now, what have I done…!), and I’m hoping to finish one sometime in the near future (a girl can dream). That being said, I have done a fair bit of reading since I last posted, so I will be doing a few ‘mini book review’ style posts over the next few weeks.

As it’s been so long since I’ve updated you, I’m also hoping to write a post detailing where I’m currently at regarding my writing projects: what I’ve been up to, how I’m approaching them, and my plans for finishing them. I also want to chat to you about my self-published colouring book, which I’m super excited about and had such a great time creating.

I’m so happy to be back!

 

Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Love love loved this book! It kind of reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman), but with a male protagonist instead, which was fab: I think I found a new favourite genre. Andrew was a likeable, quirky character who I found myself rooting for almost instantly, and members of the ‘supporting cast’ were equally as interesting and fleshed out. For some reason, one of the most engaging parts of the novel for me was Andrew’s job: going into homes of deceased people and trying to find who their next of kin were/if there were any. I don’t know why, but I found it absolutely fascinating, and it definitely added another layer to the already well-woven and intricate plot, as did the addition of Andrew’s model train hobby. Highly recommended for those looking for a heart-warming read which deals sensitively with some serious subjects.

 

The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life by Dr Tara Swart

I adored this book. As someone who’s always been into the idea of ‘The Law of Attraction’, but who also struggles to see past the ‘logical blocks’ that stop me from embracing it wholly, this book is a perfect fit for me, as it combines both the whimsical ideas put forward by the law, but also backs it up with more solid, neuroscientific explanations. After I had finished reading it, I was left feeling more optimistic, knowledgeable, and in control of my decisions and my future. Definitely one to read if you really want to believe in The Secret, but need a bit more of a push in the right direction! Just a note: it is very ‘science heavy’, so it’s perhaps not for everyone. 

 

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I loved this book! At the grand old age of 26, I may be slightly too young to have read some of the books mentioned in their heyday, but there were many I did use to love reading when I was younger (Sweet Valley High being my favourite as I am a twin myself…!). This book is not only engaging both visually and narratively, but it is so well researched I think one would be hard pressed to find any other book/website/source of information that covers this fascinating subject in such a detailed and captivating way. It’s so interesting to me to see the development in this particular genre of literature, and thus I imagine there are many others that will enjoy reading this delightful book. Would also make a great gift!

 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Before reading this book, I had hit a bit of a ‘reading wall’, mainly because I am currently in the process of writing my own thriller, which like The Hunting Party, has various narrators, all with their own subplots and narrative voices. I was stuck. I had no idea how to successfully write a book with more than one narrator. And then I read this. I enjoyed every second of this multi-character study, and I cannot express just how impressed I am at how wonderfully it is written. Initially, when I realized just how many narrators there were in this novel, I was worried I might get confused, but I needn’t have been. Each narrator has a strong, unique voice, and unlike some multi-POV novels, all the narrators drive the plot forward. The intimate POVs made it possible to understand how each character saw themselves as well as how they saw each other, and the dissonance and contrast between these two viewpoints was super interesting. I also loved the choice of setting (I spent the past NYE in Scotland and know just how stunning yet isolating the landscape is). Amazing novel.

 

 

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

I loved this book! As an avid reader of psychological thrillers, I was surprised when the blurb for this book caught my eye. Once I started reading it however, I was hooked! It really reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine by Gail Honeyman (the second book to do so on this list…), which I read recently and really enjoyed. Both novels have a wholly engaging, unique and loveable main character, as well as a host of wonderful secondary characters, who you find yourself rooting for throughout. An uplifting read which left me feeling happy and warm. Would recommend.


Author interview – Luke Edison

Hello everyone!

I have another author interview for you this week (my favourite kind of blog post), and this time, I had the exciting opportunity to talk to Luke Edison, author of the YA fantasy novel, Valcarion: Sacrifices, the first book in The Valcarion Series. You can read his full biography and contact info at the bottom of the post.

Valcarion+eimage   Luke Edison.jpg

Hi Luke, it’s great to have you on the blog. It’s always fascinating to talk to other writers about their writing process, and I’m super excited to be talking to you about your YA fantasy series The Valcarion Series. First up, can you tell me a little bit about the series? What inspired you to write it?

Sure! Well, first of all, thank you so much for this opportunity. Networking and reaching other people who are passionate about storytelling is so valuable to me. The Valcarion Series is something that came about after floating around in my head as a conglomeration of short stories. As a kid, I loved adventure and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had a large imagination. I would daydream in class about what it would be like if I were a hero like Link from The Legend of Zelda games, or how I could merge existing Fantasy or Sci-Fi universes. After inventing my own characters and coming up with a few ideas that were basically movie scenes which I would play in my head, I decided at the age of 16 to sit down and string them all together. I actually tried a first draft of this story when I was about 12, but I kinda burned out and quit – I think the story and my personality needed a few years to mature. It probably also didn’t help that my first draft was hand-written (and embarrassingly illustrated) in a composition notebook! But as the years passed, it all came together! Heck, maybe someday I’ll be successful enough to sell that first draft as a collector’s item! 

Doesn’t hurt to aim high!

So, the majority of the novel was inspired purely by your imagination. Did you spend any time researching before you began writing it?

You know, it’s interesting because as someone who primarily writes fiction, I don’t generally think a lot about “research”. But come to think of it, yeah, a lot of research and applied life experience goes into my books. I’ve always been a history buff, a fan of ancient epics, and I like to take in the details of experiences and stories around me. I suppose that by putting all of those pieces together, I hope to attain the goal of creating a believable but fantastic fictional world with Valcarion: Sacrifices. That’s something I think some writers and fans don’t understand in their books or screenplays; just because something takes place in a fantasy world with different rules of reality, that doesn’t mean you can entirely suspend logic and consistency. The story still has to make sense and play by the rules it establishes. That’s a pet peeve of mine.

It’s a pet peeve of mine also! Creativity when writing is great, but sometimes people don’t understand that what they write still needs structure and believability, even within the context of the novel itself. In order to ensure I achieve this, I spend a lot of time outlining. How about you? Did you outline first, or jump straight in? If you outlined, how did you go about it?

I’m kind of a mixed case of styles on this one. Since the story had been in my head for several years prior to pen meeting paper, I suppose you could say I had a mental outline and story arc, character development, all that. However, once I started writing, the majority of the content just flowed free of any sort of official outline. Once Sacrifices was written, though, I would keep paper next to my bed and write down notes and plot-points for the series. My best thinking seems to happen at night, and by the time I wake up in the morning I never get the idea quite right. Anyway, after writing down all of the series info I needed, I did make a big binder full of the blueprint for all three books which make up The Valcarion Series.

Expanding that a little; could you talk me through your writing process – how did you get from beginning to final draft? 

Wow, getting from beginning to final draft is what tried my patience the most. As an eager 16-year-old, I was ready to send my manuscript to a printer as soon as I finished writing. It only took me two weeks of constant writing to finish my initial draft, but then it took me several years of editing content and grammatical editors in order to make my book polished and ready to go. And in there, there were some lessons for me. On one side of the coin, I would say that writers – especially young writers – need to be humble. Always seek outside opinions, constructive criticism, and be willing to learn and grow. On the other side of that coin, though, stick to your guns when you know something is right. Don’t change the heart and soul of your story, because if you stop believing in your story, it shows in your writing. 

Good advice. Is the final version of Valcarion: Sacrifices dramatically different to the first draft? If so, how and why did you change it? 

So this actually goes well with what I just said about the two flip sides of that writing coin – no, the final version is not very different than the original at all. As a matter of fact, I would say that the first and final versions tell the same story, but the final version is just better, cleaner, has a smoother flow and better descriptions of the same places and people who the first draft introduced. I think it was George Lucas who once said that the Star Wars characters are like his children, and while that may be a little extreme, I think I get what he means. When the story is yours, and it is a part of you, you have to respect it. Even if looking back, it isn’t the story you would write in the current day, that story is a part of who you were when you wrote it. I’m 25 now, and 16-year-old me told a much different story than 25-year-old me would, but I think that’s OK. I think that keeps my writing honest and pure, and hopefully, it makes it more relatable to other teens. 

Interesting point – I hadn’t thought about it like that before! It’s been roughly ten years since you began your journey. During it, what aspect of fiction writing did you struggle the most with?

My greatest struggle to date has been not getting ahead of myself in my writing. Sometimes, I tend to know where I want my story to go, but as a result, I get so frustrated with how slowly I put my ideas into words. It can lead to a lot of frustration and, in the long run, a lot of complacency and a loss of the love which should go into writing. 

That’s something that I struggle with also – sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the journey when you’re trying to get to the destination as quickly as possible. Now looking at the positives; what element did you enjoy the most?

I absolutely love being able to make a story which is meant to manipulate certain emotions and immerse a reader in a setting. Being able to tap into the mind and emotions of fans is a huge thing for any entertainer, and writing certainly fits into that mold. I like to imagine how people would react to the story, and I kind of craft my plot around that. I want my books to read like a movie, and if they’re able to draw people in and make them feel like while they’re reading, they’re actually experiencing something, then that’s perfect!

Exactly. Once the drafts are completed, it’s on to the dreaded editing! How did you go about editing? When tweaking and perfecting a novel, it can be so hard to know when it’s ‘finished’. How did you know when to stop? 

“The dreaded editing” is completely accurate. I sent my book off to two trusted content editors, and then had several people read and review it for me. That was basically just so that I knew it made sense to other people – it was clear and I hadn’t fooled myself into thinking that the story had a good tempo to it. The changes I made after those reviews were minimal, but they helped a lot in areas of description and imagery. It was a phase which required a lot of patience because as a young guy with little cash and big dreams, I needed to work around other people’s schedules. That was hard. Then, I sent my book to a grammatical editor. She went through, corrected any spelling inconsistencies or misplaced punctuation, and at that point, I was pretty happy with the storyline. I had constructed the overall outline, and I knew that I didn’t want to change the overarching feel of Valcarion‘s world anymore – I just wanted to make sure it was as professional and clean as possible.

That’s refreshing to hear as a lot of writers don’t like to hear constructive comments, let alone act on them!

Aside from this series, do you have any other projects on the go?

Oh yeah! I have a few projects in the works – mostly Fantasy or Sci-Fi, but I also do have an interest in historical and political commentary. I have a few irons in the fire, I just need time to crank them out and get them published! 

I have two more futuristic Sci-Fi stories which are all mapped out – I’m really excited for them, actually. They’re more gritty and mature, and they deal with different themes to The Valcarion Series. Then I have something closer to historical fiction, set in the real world with a twist. It’s a story based off of my college years with some details changed, and it has some really fun elements and some pretty raw emotion and (hopefully) real-world adventure aspects to it. In all of my writing, I like to use real experiences, impressions, and lessons learned from my life. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to straight up write about yourself, but if you can remove you the author from the situation and treat yourself as a character in a book, then you get this really neat balance between fantastic adventure and relatable realism. 

New projects are always so exciting, however, self-published authors can’t forget about their previously published books, which still need regular promotion. As a self-published author, do you have any book promotion tips for other indie authors?

Absolutely! I recently signed on with Black Rose Writing, but before that, I was self-published for about three years. There’s a lot I could say here, but I think the biggest things are; 

1) Get yourself a nice, sleek, modern website. If you can make the site, great. If you need to hire someone, that’s fine, too. I don’t like spending money, but a good website is a must. Fans need a place to go to in order to learn about you and your writing. 

2) Network network network. Search YouTube, FaceBook, Instagram, and other sites for people who would be good to work alongside. Find people who review your book genre, reading enthusiasts, book clubs, and offer your time and effort to further their content. That way, it’s a win-win. That’s how I found Twin Creatives in the first place, so it works! 

And finally, what advice would you give to writers beginning their writing journey? 

Don’t quit! Remember your first love, so to speak. Remember the excitement you had for whatever it is that you want to write about, whether fiction or non-fiction. Try to share that with people, even when you yourself no longer feel it. Successful writing which leaves a big impact is a choice, not a feeling. You’ll grow to absolutely hate aspects of your project, because chances are, as a writer you want to write and not market, negotiate, calculate, and all that other boring yet necessary stuff. In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explains that a professional chooses to show up each day. If you were a worker at McDonald’s, you’d show up each day and flip burgers for your 8-hour shift, because that was what you had professionally agreed to. Similarly, as a writer, you have to choose to show up each day and do whatever is necessary to further your craft. Quite honestly, I’m still working on that! But it is so important – perseverance is what separates people who dream about success from people who are successful.

Some inspiring words there. Thanks again for answering my questions, I’ve had a great time learning about you and your writing and I’m sure your advice will help and inspire other writers. Good luck with everything!

 

Luke Edison    Luke Edison is a twenty-five year-old author who resides in southern New Jersey, where he grew up alongside four siblings in a home that was never lacking adventure.  During his sophomore year of high school Luke began writing a story that he had mapped out in his mind several years earlier, Valcarion: Sacrifices, as the first book of The Valcarion Series. Though Luke enjoys multiple art forms such as pencil sketches, song writing, and acting, his love for story telling is his most prominent and well-favored artistic interest. When not writing or studying as a college student, Luke enjoys activities such as terrain-park skiing, wakeboarding, surfing, camping, and hiking.

Though he has many passions in life, Luke’s primary goal may be found in his desire to positively influence the lives of many readers by successfully making a name for himself. His desire is to use his writing as a tool to reach teens and young adults and to build his public personality. Like the protagonists in his writing, Luke hopes that his actions as a public figure will impact the world around him in ways which encourage and inspire people across the globe.

valcarion.com

facebook.com/TheValcarionSeries/

instagram.com/the.valcarion.series/

youtube.com/channel/UC-fxyV1S8XrUm14pSjdwQ9A

 


Things you should know before you begin your debut novel

Just a fun post for today, based on what I have learnt during my writing journey. It’s been three years since I started my current WIP, and although I’m not deterred by the length of time it’s taken me to reach this point, there are a few things that would have sped up the process a little, had I known them before I launched in. But alas, it’s too late for me, but perhaps they may be of some help to you…!

1) You are not going to complete your finished manuscript within 6 months

Yep, Naive Heather did actually believe she could have a polished, completed and awesome novel within 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, you could easily finish your first draft in that time but your manuscript will be nowhere near as good as it could and should be. But why? This question leads us nicely on to point two…

2) You will improve with time

And with practice. Even if you think you know enough, you will never know everything, hence there’s always room for improvement. If you write consistently, you will be constantly improving. This is a good thing for your novel but a bad thing for your deadline. Please bear in mind that as you learn and improve…

3) You will likely stray from your outline

Even if you’ve spent months outlining, chances are, as you’re writing (and hopefully getting better at it), you will encounter flashes of inspiration that you didn’t have when you were planning. That plot device you loved? It doesn’t fit your character as well as you thought it might. That character you thought was necessary? She’s dead weight. But remember, straying from your outline isn’t a bad thing, as long as you bear in mind that…

4) Story structure is important

Don’t worry, structure won’t inhibit your creativity. Like it or not, satisfying stories follow certain structures – beginning, middle, and end, with rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. For this reason, it’s vital to understand structure before you begin, so it’s wise to read widely on the subject. But don’t just stick to reading about structure…

5) Find out as much as you can about how to write a good novel

There are so many awesome websites and books on the subject so just Google it and get going! As stated before, you can’t possibly know everything before you begin, but it’s good to get a solid handle on the basics: POV, structure, character, tense, genre etc. I have beta-read for several writers before, some of whom didn’t even know how to use full-stops (there were none in the entire novel…!), let alone understand what POV was and why it was important. I wish I was joking…

6) Bonus point: no matter how ‘finished’ you think your book is, you will pick it up several weeks later and realise that long-standing scene you love is actually rubbish

To be honest, it’s pretty blindsiding. You’ve been sure about said scene since day one, so why is it only now, on day 700, that you realise it doesn’t actually make sense/is written terribly/doesn’t fit with the rest of your tweaked manuscript. It feels a bit like having the rug pulled out from under you – I mean, you were practically finished, and now you have some major restructuring to do?! It is scary but it is normal. So don’t worry, you got this!


Author interview: Alex Owumi

Hi guys!

I’m super excited about this week’s blog post as it’s something a little different…an author interview! I love nothing more than to chat to authors about their writing processes, so when I was lucky enough to be approached by best-selling author Alex Owumi to discuss his latest book The Fire Raven: The Winter Vendetta, of course I jumped at the chance. Alex is currently doing a blog tour for the new book in his The Fire Raven trilogy, a thriller/suspense series following protagonist and assassin, Raven Winter. Check out the covers for all three books and Alex’s author bio below!

Alex Owumi was born in Lagos Nigeria, and moved to the United States at the age of eleven. He is the best-selling author of Qaddafi’s Point Guard: The incredible story of a professional basketball player trapped in Libya’s civil war which was an international bestseller. His debut novel The Fire Raven had a top five debut on the Amazon bestseller list under Thriller/Suspense. He is also a professional basketball player in Europe and currently is playing in the British Basketball League.

 


Hi Alex, I’m very excited to have you on my blog! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, I can’t wait to get to know a little bit about you as an author and of course, your new book. Let’s launch in with the first question…

First things first, you’ve had a very interesting life – have you always wanted to incorporate writing into said life, or is your interest in writing something that developed later? What inspired you to launch a writing career?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer since childhood. My parents used to make me read great books as a child and I knew this was something I wanted to do. I knew I was going to start my writing career in my mid-twenties and it was my parents that gave me the extra push.

That’s awesome! Sometimes having that support is all you need to push yourself forward and get writing. That said, it can’t have been easy to fit writing a trilogy into your daily life, and I’m super impressed that you’ve done it so quickly. It’s taken me three years to reach the third draft stage of a single book! Some might say I need to get on with it! Can you tell me a bit more about your writing routine? When and where do you write? How do you find the time?

I usually get up around 7am and start writing for a couple hours just to get my creative juices flowing. I continue to write around 8:30pm for another couple of hours. I write mostly at home because of the comfort level. I believe people make time for important things. Writing is important so it is a priority in my life.

I think that’s a philosophy we should all incorporate into our lives! Now, the age-old question (and perhaps my favourite) – do you outline or improvise? Can you talk to me a little bit more about how you approach your first drafts?

I like to outline but most of the time I improvise. I can knock a first draft out in about 4–5 months but focus on getting the story down more than making corrections. I really write a lot and when an idea comes to me I just can’t stop going.

I love it when that happens. I guess that’s how you felt when you wrote The Fire Raven Trilogy. This new book is the last in the series – how did you come up with the idea for the trilogy? And how did you find writing a trilogy in comparison to writing a stand-alone book? Do you have any advice for budding series writers? 

The Fire Raven trilogy was a childhood story I came up with back in Nigeria. I’ve always had dreams about writing about a female assassin and I knew it was time. Writing a trilogy was difficult because you fall in love with some characters and you don’t want it to end. I think writing a stand-alone book would be easier on the emotions. My advice for trilogy writers is that you must be invested in the characters. Don’t be afraid to kill someone off from time to time.

Brutal! One final question – are you working on anything else at the moment? 

A: I’m working on another book at the moment. I have a problem – I just can’t stop writing! This next book will be a stand-alone book and will be released sometime next year.

The Fire Raven: The Winter Vendetta is out now!
You can check out the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdIR1FUIfPk

Reading-related school displays

Hi guys,

I’ve got a bit of a different post for you today! Before we dive in, I’ll give you a little bit of background information.

As you may or may not know, I’m a freelance graphic designer. Before going freelance however, I worked full-time as a graphic designer in a publishing marketing company in London. Although I love graphic design, working in and commuting into London took SO much time, I felt I had no time to write. So, being young, stupid and still living with my parents, I quit my full-time job and took a local part-time job in the hopes that it would give me time to focus on my own goals (mainly writing my novel and building up a base of freelance clients). What was this part-time job you ask? You probably didn’t ask, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you did… I am now working as a ‘display technician’ in a secondary school.

I’m guessing most of you have never heard of a ‘display technician’ before, but basically, I make and put up all the displays around the school, mainly in the classrooms and corridors. I get to be as creative as before, only I now also have time to work on my writing, which is amazing.

So today I thought I’d show you some of my ‘book’ related displays! English, reading and book displays are my favourite ones to do as I’m obviously passionate about the topic. I also think it’s super important to try and convince teenagers and young adults to read, especially in this age of Netflix and smartphones.

The below display is up in an English classroom and is perhaps my favourite. As you can see, it takes popular books (such as The Hunger Games) and suggests books that are similar, so the students can find a book which hopefully they enjoy as much as the original. I had a lot of fun making this one, and you might even find it inspires your next read!

This one is in the same classroom and is The Hunger Games themed (obsessed, much?!). This is obviously much simpler. You can find the poster printables on this fabulous blog here. The idea with this one is that the teacher will fill the blank space with student work. Did you know, in England some students study the first book during their lessons? Sounds so much more fun than any of the books I remember studying at secondary school…

Last but not least is this display. Again, pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a really easy way to display books in a way that will hopefully encourage the students to read.

And that’s a wrap for today. I’m also currently working on a super exciting blog post, which should hopefully be up sometime next week!

Happy reading guys!


Mini book reviews

Hi guys!

You know the drill! Below are some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. As I haven’t reviewed in a while, there are lots of books, so I’ll probably split the reviews across one or two posts. Let me know what you think!

 

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Lies She Told by Cate Holahan – 5*

Lies She Told centres around the life of author Liza Cole, as she attempts to write a novel – which she hopes will be as successful as her previous bestseller – whilst simultaneously dealing with the death of her husband’s business partner, among other personal issues.

This novel follows an extremely interesting structure. The chapters alternate between Liza’s P.O.V in the real world, and the P.O.V of Beth, the main protagonist in Liza’s novel. We are, therefore, following both Liza’s actual story, alongside her fictional story. At first, the similarities between the two are small – a shared feeling or a similar setting for example – but after a while, the similarities become more pronounced, leaving us to answer the question: what is real and what is fiction?

I personally love this structure. As a writer myself, we’re forever told that elements of us, our personalities, feelings and life stories will inevitably bleed into our fiction, so not only does this structure work in terms of building tension and results in an awesome novel, it also subtly explores several interesting elements of writing, which I find very clever and engaging. As well as this, the structure offers us, in essence, two novels to read at once, both of which I found clever and full of suspense. The alternation also serves to increase tension, as you jump from one cliffhanger to the other. I always looked forward to the next chapter in both stories, and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Lies She Told will appeal to anyone looking for a unique and engaging thriller, or anyone searching for a novel that’s a little bit different. Must read!

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All Things New by Lauren Miller – 5*

All Things New follows the story of Jessa, our protagonist, as she attempts to come to terms with the after-effects of a terrifying accident, and the physical and mental scars left behind.

Long story short, I loved this book. It’s so sensitively done, it’s hard not to, and I believe the comparisons with The Fault in Our Stars and All the Bright Places are justified. It tackles several very difficult subjects carefully and beautifully, weaving a sometimes heart-breaking yet hopeful tale that’s part love-story part coming-of-age. I’d recommend this to everyone.

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Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas – 4*

Last Seen Alive follows main protagonist Libby as she swaps her tiny flat in the city for a large, sprawling house by the beach, for what she hopes will be a relaxing get-away. As expected, things don’t go to plan – this is a thriller after all – and the holiday soon turns into a nightmare.

This is a fabulous book, which I very much enjoyed reading. Rarely do I reach the ‘twist’ of a novel without any prior ideas as to what the twist might be, but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case here, and the twist was shocking yet still managed to maintain believability. Douglas has cleverly managed to allude to it throughout, creating tension and suspense, and laying a solid foundation for the later revelations.

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Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell – 5*

This book was incredible. Dark, twisty and sometimes horrifying, but incredible. I loved reading it and flew through it in a single day. My heart was thumping in my chest throughout and I’d absolutely recommend it to everyone – the fact that it’s so believable makes it all the more shocking.

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The 100 by Kass Morgan – 3*

This book was OK and kept me interested throughout, but to be honest, I felt like it lacked something. There seemed to be an awful lot of nothingness (no real plot) and ended with a cliffhanger. I enjoyed it as a ‘listening whilst doing other stuff’ audio-book but may have stopped reading if it was a paperback. I probably won’t read the rest but I’m interested to see the TV show. * UPDATE * The TV show is incredible! I think it might even be my favourite programme…!

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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond- 2* DNF

I’m sure others would enjoy this novel as it offers all the standard things you would expect from a thriller – interesting protagonists, intriguing premise, conflict and unanswered questions. Despite this, this novel wasn’t really my cup of tea, due solely to the fact that I don’t think the intelligent protagonists would have ever opted into the pact in the first place. They seemed to ask almost no questions and didn’t think it was weird at all. I liked the writing and characterisation, but feel I would have had to suspend belief whilst reading to actually enjoy it properly. Thanks anyway to the publisher and author for the ARC!

UPDATE: Apparently this book has sold its movie rights…!

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No Filter by Orlagh Collins – 5*

Emerald, our female protagonist is likeable yet somewhat troubled. She’s forever checking her social media accounts and lusting over those sometimes-elusive ‘likes’ ‘hearts’ or ‘shares’. My prior experience of novels that try to emulate the social media age is wholly negative, but this is one of the rare books that actually manages to be ‘social media savvy’ without being boring or try-hard. Both protagonists are well-rounded, and I think Collins has done a fabulous job of writing in two distinct voices (which is hard to do right!).

Overall, I’d describe this novel as a ‘modern-day Romeo and Juliet’, which I understand is a little cliche, but to be honest, that’s exactly how I’d describe this wonderful book. The plot is deep, occasionally heart-wrenching and is populated with well-thought out characters and conflict. Loved it!


Using a Kindle to help you edit

Hi guys,

This is going to be a fairly short blog post, but I really wanted to share something with you that I’m finding super useful during my editing process. I participated in Camp Nanowrimo during July, which was awesome. Having dragged my third draft out for well over a year, nano forced me to write consistently every day (which I rarely do) and I’m now left with a finished story. 66,000 words later, it’s now time to edit, alter, expand, cut and tweak my draft until I’m happy it’s the best it can possibly be. No sweat, right?

Having used the notecard outline method previously, I’m happy with the actual plot of my story, hence my editing from now on will focus mainly on subplots, characterisation, foreshadowing and dialogue. Although I know roughly what I intend to achieve during this draft, when editing, it can be hard to know exactly where to start and what to do. Personally, I like to write and edit chronologically as I see no point in writing and polishing a later chapter, only to find out it no longer fits with the rest of the novel. I therefore know I want to start editing from the beginning of the novel, but how exactly should I get started?

Well, there are many ways I could attack this draft. I could simply read it chronologically on screen and alter as I go or I could print it off. Although I do intend to print off my novel, I will not be reading it from the A4 printed sheets.

So, what will I be doing instead?

I have sent the Word document to my Kindle, and I’m reading it as I would read any other eBook.

And honestly, I can’t believe the difference it’s making to the reading process. For some reason, reading it in said format makes it so much easier to spot the elements that need changing. The problems seem so much more obvious when reading on this device.

Once you’ve spotted the issues, you can make notes one of three ways. You can:

  • edit as you go, I.E, have the word document open at the same time and alter as you read.
  • edit directly on your Kindle using the ‘note’ feature and then refer back to these later when editing the Word document.
  • handwrite any changes on a printed hard copy after first making them in the Kindle version.

I tend to use a mixture of the second and third option. The second option is good for when you’re on the go, and the third is perfect if you prefer hand-written scribbles to on-screen notes.

How do I get my document onto my Kindle?

This is the easy bit. Simply download the Send to Kindle App, set it up using the instructions and click and drag your document into the window. It will then appear on your Kindle. Easy as pie. I recommend sending it as a Word document as although you can send PDF’s, they appear in a fixed format on your device, so won’t look like proper eBooks, more like smaller versions of the A4 PDF (not ideal). If you work in Pages (Mac) like me, simply export your Pages doc as a Word doc using the export function (RTF may also work). I also fiddle about with making each new chapter start on a new page before I send to Kindle, to make it look even more like a real book, although this is more procrastination than anything else. (Note: If you want each of your chapters to start on a new page and your original document is in Pages, export it to Word before you play with the chapters, as your Word doc will look different to your Pages doc).

Once it appears on your Kindle you can then treat it like any other book – you can even adjust the text size and font as you would normally. All that’s left to do is read! Try to look at your novel with fresh eyes (hard, I know) and, as you go along, any bits of stilted dialogue, typos or bits that don’t make sense should jump out at you. When you find these areas to improve, note them down somewhere (as discussed earlier) and then apply your notes to your original document later. To use the Kindle note function, all you need do is press and hold down on the word and ‘note’ will pop up. You then use the Qwerty keypad to type your comments. You can even view all your notes at the end and export them into a document (see this link for more info).

And that’s it! Even if you don’t end up using this method to do your editing, it can just be nice to see your novel ‘in context’ as if it were a real, published book.

How do you usually edit? Comment below!

 

 


Mini book reviews

Hi guys!

Just a quick post today. As I’ve been reading a lot recently, I thought I’d write some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. Let me know what you think!

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The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis – 4.5*

As with a lot of recent novels, this book employs the ‘unreliable narrator’ trope, which I personally enjoy, but only when done right. I can happily confirm that this book is one of the ones which uses this technique successfully. As I was reading, I often felt one of the narrators (Jemma, our main protagonist) was being purposely misleading and, having read a book recently which flat-out deceives the reader (see Under Your Skin…), was worried that this book would take the same course. It doesn’t and in fact, uses the unreliability of Jemma to develop her as an interesting yet flawed 3-dimensional character. I found her character intriguing, which is good as the reader spends a lot of time ‘in her head’, despite there being several other minor narrators and a little bit of head-hopping, all of which add depth to the story.

At no point did I guess the ending (which is a feat these days..!) and when all was finally revealed at the end I felt a chill run down my spine. I can pretty much guarantee that you will have no idea as to what will happen in the end, and when you do find out, it will smack you in the face (in a good way, of course). Would recommend to anyone interested in domestic thrillers or unreliable narrators.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 5*

Heartbreaking, eye-opening, complex and sometimes chilling. Honestly, this book left me speechless. I read it all in a day. It feels weird to say I enjoyed reading it due to the subject it covers, but I did. It kept me hooked the whole way through and I think Asher dealt with a sensitive subject in a clever and absorbing way. I would recommend this book to anyone, although trigger warning (suicide is the main theme).

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He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly – 5*

Intriguing, unique and not at all predictable, He Said/She Said is part twisty thriller/part courtroom drama with a little bit of eclipse chasing sprinkled in for good measure. The characters are relatable and charming, yet flawed, and the relationships created by Kelly are intricate and believable. The main couple, protagonists Kit and Laura, are perhaps my favourite – I think Kelly manages to capture the ‘met-at-uni-been-together-since’ relationship delightfully. Although the novel explores distressing themes at times, it does so with the utmost care and sensitivity, resulting in an emotionally-charged book which raises some important questions and issues. A very clever, enjoyable and emotionally-complex read. I loved it!

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Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – 3*

This book was completely different to what I expected, hence I’m finding it quite hard to review. The book is obviously amazingly written, fabulously plotted and creates a vivid and wonderful sense of place and time, but I couldn’t help but find it a little hard to follow sometimes, due to the vast amount of characters and the ‘omniscient head-hopping’. What one expects to be the main plot (the missing girl) although constantly there, is pushed to the background as the writing instead focuses on the effect this has on the village, more so than explicitly about the crime itself. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very interesting choice made by the author that ensures the books stands out, although may be a little disappointing for anyone expecting a ‘crime thriller’. Overall, this book is written wonderfully but sadly will not appeal to everyone due to its unique narrative style.

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Boundary by Andree A Michaud – 5*

A beautifully written and suspenseful literary work of which I enjoyed every page. Murder, mystery and folklore weave with vivid imagery and expertly created characters in this hauntingly memorable exploration of adolescence, sexuality and community. A time consuming yet massively rewarding read.

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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – 3*

Do Not Become Alarmed is a book unlike any I’ve ever read before, in a number of different ways. The narrative style is unique – as opposed to having one main character which the book follows throughout, this novel utilises a ‘head-hopping’ style of narration. Although not my favourite style, it works for this book, as it effectively allows us to experience the novel’s events from the POV of several of the characters. Although this sounds confusing at first, it’s not, as the characters are well-developed, believable and distinctive, and each bring something new to the story. It’s an impressive feat to manage to successfully write in this style, as I have read many books with multiple narrators that don’t work. That said, I think the novel would have been just as interesting (and perhaps easier to connect with) if it was written from the perspective of two of the protagonists, perhaps one adult and one child. This however, is just a personal preference of mine.

The writing is descriptive and vivid, the storyline is captivating and Meloy’s writing style is competent and enjoyable, although may take a little time to get used to at first. Although I would recommend this book to others, I would warn prospective readers to leave any expectations at the first page – to fully appreciate this book, one needs to read and enjoy it for what it actually is, as opposed to what they might expect it to be.

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Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant – 3*

I loved this book right up until the last chapter. The writing was awesome, the narrator was engaging and I was hooked. That was, up until the reveal. WTF is up with the ending? No spoilers, but it was such a disappointment. The rest of the novel had been building up to the climax, so why did I feel that the climax and the ‘answer’ to all of my questions came out of nowhere and were added purely for shock value? I’ve noticed this with Durrant’s other book, Lie With Me, in which she did exactly the same thing – chose the most shocking ending and ran with it, despite its unbelievability.

It’s such a shame because I love her writing style, her creation of engaging characters and her ability to insert humour into her books. I was excited to spend my next Audible credit on one of her other books, but I won’t be doing that now 😦

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The Ridge by John Rector – 5*

Part Linwood Barclay, part Hemlock grove, this is hands-down one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. As cliche as it sounds, I read it in only a couple of hours and not once did I guess the ending or any of the twists, although expertly weaved flashbacks and carefully placed clues ensured that the eventual conclusion and reveal was satisfying and adrenaline inducing.

The writing is detailed enough to build a strong sense of place, but not too much so that the plot is bogged down by description, and the twist is one of the best I’ve ever read. Rector expertly creates a world which, on the surface seems idyllic, but it’s not long until the cracks begin to show, leaving the reader with spine chills and goosebumps aplenty.

I would 100% recommend this title and will be actively seeking other titles by Rector. Everyone should read this novel!

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The Last Girl by Joe Hart – 4*

I would describe this book as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale meets Scott Westerfield’s Uglies. Surprisingly enough, it works! I particularly enjoyed Hart’s third-person present narration – his ability to conjure up an almost tangible image using simple yet well-chosen words is a rare skill, which deserves applause.

One slight gripe I do have is that the middle of the novel dragged a little too much for my liking. The fast pace which I had grown accustomed to petered out and became almost painfully slow – I found myself skipping pages of description in several instances, hence why I have awarded 4 stars not 5.

It’s all too easy to leave too many unanswered questions in a series, but I’m happy to report that this was not the case with The Last Girl and I was sufficiently happy with the ending of the novel.

I would recommend this title and will hopefully get around to reading the rest in the series.

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The House by Simon Lelic – 5*

Part murder-mystery, part domestic thriller, The House is a purely unique thrill ride, of which I enjoyed every page. Written in a conversational style, this novel’s structure and narrative voice is fresh and new – the chapters alternate between our two unreliable narrators and protagonists, Jack and Syd, as they try to figure out what on earth is happening in their new house. The style is evocative of a kind of ‘journalistic conversation’ between the two, a style unlike anything I’ve experienced before and it works well, effectively portraying the vague sense of unease at the beginning of the novel, the paranoia and violence in the middle, and finally through to the explosive climax of which you won’t see coming. As tense as it is clever, The House is a wonderfully-crafted, clever and heart-wrenching novel, which will leave your heart racing.

Fun Fact

A quote from this review attributed to me can be found in the paperback version of this book!