Some of my favourite reads

Hello avid reader.

Today I thought I would offer you something a little different. Today I wanted to speak to you about one of my favourite series of books that I have ever read.

As you probably know, most of what I write is for the younger audience. Middle grade as they call it in the trade or about 9-12 to you and me.

You may not know however, that this is also the majority of what I read. Don’t get me wrong, I can read big words, I can handle serious topics, but I LIKE young persons literature. The pacing is generally better, there is less filler and best of all they tend towards short chapters. Maybe it is just me but short chapters make me feel more accomplished as a reader.

So it may not surprise you that one of my best loved books series is The Edge Chronicles. If you haven’t read them go out now and buy Beyond the Deepwoods, that is the first of the bunch and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddel these books are truly phenomenal and in my opinion wildly underrated.

Why somebody in Hollywood hasn’t snapped these up to make a movie yet is beyond me, who doesn’t want to see airships and magical woods and devious villains on the big screen?

This isn’t really a review as such, it has been such a long time since I read these books that I couldn’t do one fairly, this is more a love letter to the books.

The illustrations are fantastic and vividly bring the stories to life. The characters are deep and inspiring, there is love and danger and intrigue. Not to mention while being very clearly high fantasy they have not stolen from Tolkein like most. Here they have populated a thrilling new world with an endless array of creatures and races of people none of which feel cliched or tired.

In the days when I was not as much of a reader as I should have been I fell in love with these books and read them quicker than anything else I had touched at that age.

I couldn’t say that it was the reason I wanted to be an author as I stumbled upon that idea much younger but they were certainly the first books that made me say things like “When I grow up I want to write books like these!”

In short, there is little of real substance for me to write here other than the following.

Thank you to Paul and Chris (Yes…I imagine myself on first name terms with these fine gentlemen) and if you haven’t read these books, go and do so, you will not regret the time invested.

Ja Ne
P.s. I am aiming to get a more coherent category section going on this blog as I write more posts. Starting with writing advice, Reading and Lifestyle. Any suggestions or ideas please do comment.


The curse of WANTING to be a good writer

Good afternoon fellow writers, would be writers and just plain old readers.

Today I wanted to talk to you all about something that I feel plagues me, and that isn’t blank page syndrome…oh no. Though, coincidentally, I am supposed to be writing a short story right now and the thought was so scary I decided to do this instead. The matter at hand today is what I would call the desire to be good, always.

There are many exercises that people will suggest to help writers and one of the most popular is a variation of ‘stream of conscious’ writing. For the uninitiated this essentially means to write whatever comes into your mind without stopping to think.

In my time I have been asked to do many such exercises, some where you are given a word to write about, some an idea and others with no prompt at all. This is great for getting your creative juices flowing but I feel that I always stumble at the first hurdle, and I wonder if any of you share this problem.

The problem is, the aforementioned, desire to always be good. Stream of consciousness by its very nature should NOT be good writing. It should not be filled with pretty metaphors and fancy word play. It is an exercise in getting down the ideas from your head as quickly as possible and hoping that a train of thought emerges which takes you in a new direction.

So how does this problem manifest you may be asking? It manifests in TRYING to be a clever writer all the time. Never wanting to put something on the paper that isn’t smart, that won’t make people think, or isn’t going to raise a smirk. Stream of conscious should by its very nature be messy, but I cannot make it so.

Even when writing this blog, which is not prose at all, I strive to write in an engaging way.

I think to sum it up, the curse of wanting to be a good writer, is wanting to be a good writer, always.

What do you think? Is it a curse, or just a sign that you were born to be a wordsmith?

Answers on a postcard.

Ja Ne.

Is self publishing the future? Science says yes

Dear readers, today I want to a broach a subject with you which I know will provoke many reactions.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog I would like to pre qualify it by saying the following. I wish to become a published novelist, by that I mean that I will be sending copies of manuscripts to agents with the hope of securing one. I hope that agent will then procure a publisher to print the book and that it will end up in all of the big bookstores around the country and perhaps even the world. With that you should hopefully realise that I do not, as many unpublished writers I’m afraid to say do, hate the publishing industry.

I do think it has its flaws, just like any other business, but I in no way despise or hate it or the people trying to make money from it.

With that said I shall continue by posing a question.

Q) Is self publishing the future for novels?

A) I think that it is, and over the next few paragraphs I shall try to explain to you exactly why I feel that.

The first thing I shall say on this subject is that publishing requires, to a certain degree, a level of foresight not dissimilar to that of an oracle (name that actual prediction guy.)

This is because when a manuscript is bought from an author to be published it is the start of a long process. There will be multiple edits, there will be cover designs coming and going. There will be marketing happening where they try to drum up interest both inside and outside of the industry (i.e. to booksellers and also to readers.) All in all there is generally a delay of roughly one year before a published book will be available in stores for purchase.

Because of this delay the agents and publishers need to think about not just what is selling now in the world of books, but what they think will be selling in a year or twos time. They need to forecast trends that are not yet here and hopefully hit them by the time the books come out.

So why, you might ask, does this become a suggestion that self publishing would do a better job. It has always happened this way so why change it now?

Well, I think we need to recognise a few things here. First, is the fact that sometimes books don’t sell simply because they aren’t available. Maybe there would have been a trend for Gnome murder mysteries last year if some had been published, but the powers that be did not think it would so they didn’t publish them. The reader can only read what IS published, not necessarily what they would WANT to read if they could read anything.

Secondly, knowing that to be published and make a living from writing you have to hit these trends (this is a generalisation and in no way a hard and fast rule) then it also limits writers on what they will choose to write. If writers knew they could publish whatever they wrote because there were no ‘gate keepers’ then the breadth of published works may be far greater.

The third and final point I am going to make in this post, is, I think, the most interesting and potentially the one that gets spoken about least. So far, everything I have said is largely opinion based and may or may not lead to more people choosing to self publish in the future. This right here, is pretty much a dead certainty, so let’s get to it.

Right now, the western world and indeed the financial world in any country is very centralised. It all revolves around banks, the people who hold onto all the money in one central place. We have already seen a huge trend towards non-physical currency and this will only continue and get greater as time goes on.

Please note, when I say non-physical I am not talking about bit-coin or any other similar currency, I mean, everyone spends money on their credit or debit card. Very few people carry physical cash and the establishments which only accept cash are becoming fewer and further between.

This to me suggests only one possible future for finance, something like you often see in science fiction, credits. A form of currency that is not based on any physical commodity. If that happens…you don’t need banks, there is nothing to put in a vault so why build vaults and hire people to run them? Everyone could have their money encrypted on some form of memory stick, or card or even just in some form of cloud storage. Basically, it will mean bye bye banks and bye bye the old world of money.

Why in the world would this mean more people self publish you might ask? Well it isn’t a direct link BUT be aware that money is just one of the things that is becoming less centralised. Most modern technology coming out is leaning towards less centralisation, it is just the way the world is going. Now ask yourself, what is a publishing house if not a centralised authority in charge of editing, printing and selling books? You’re right, it’s nothing, because that is essentially the dictionary definition of a publishing house. If everything else is becoming less centralised then why would publishing be any different? There has already been a massive increase in self publishing with things like Kindle and Kobo and that is likely to increase.

As it stands there is still a stigma to self published works and there will be for some time, but it is decreasing and I cannot see it ever doing anything other than decreasing. Until one day, there will be no stigma. Authors won’t fear being called ‘not real writers’ if they choose to self publish because it will be a very real and very lucrative option for them to take.

Finally I would end on a point I heard about at a publishing seminar. 90% of books that are written and sent to publishers (possibly more than 90%) are never published. Those books will never make a single penny in revenue and will never be read by anyone. 100% of self published books are published, meaning that the vast majority of those will sell at least one copy which is infinitely more than they would have sold had they gone to a slush pile to die.

Ja Ne.

On being a professional writer

Good morning all, welcome, welcome. Please take a seat and get comfortable before we get on with todays blog.

I have fairly recently been given the opportunity to write a story in collaboration with an illustrators work to be included in an anthology of short stories and accompanying artwork. This is with a local University and their MA Illustration students so it is not a paid gig as it were. Though the book will be published it is hardly going to be on sale in big name bookshops across the country.

All of the above being said I still take it as a great opportunity to put my work out there, have it read, collaborate with other creatives and just see what happens. Some people may not, some people given opportunities like this squander them. They say things like ‘well if I am not getting paid…what’s the point of worrying’.

To those people I would ask, do you call yourself a writer? Do you even want to be a writer? If you answer yes to these questions you should refer back to my earliest posts in which I told everyone the cold hard truth. Writers write. It really is that simple and if you ever want to be taken seriously as a writer then you need to start taking your craft seriously.

If somebody recognises your writing as being good enough that they want it included in a publication, whether that be a book like the one I am involved with, a magazine or even a website. Take that opportunity seriously.

If you are given a deadline make sure you meet it. Edit your work time and time again before you send it. Do not present something that you know isn’t your best by thinking things like ‘it’s good enough’.

Quite simply you have to act like a professional first and BECOME a professional second.

Ja Ne.

P.s. I will be giving more details of this book once they are available so any of you who wish it can give it a look.

Writers who write different genres to you?

Good afternoon fellow internet consumers,

I thought I would write a blog today about something that has been on my mind for a few days. As many of you will know when I am not writing this blog, I am writing books for young people and almost always these books are fantasy, sci-fi or a mixture of the two.

I was recently introduced to two new writers and they both surprised me by saying they didn’t write fantasy at all. It isn’t what they read and it isn’t what the write and/or want to write. They like to write about the ‘real world’ about relationships between people in our reality. Things which would either be considered chic-lit (sorry to anyone that term frustrates…I didn’t make it up) or perhaps literary fiction.

Some of you who are far less judgemental than me may be asking yourselves why the fact they said this has been weighing on my mind? Well I shall embark upon the tail now and hopefully we can all learn something, myself included.

When I read and indeed when I write, I use that time as escapism. I exist in this world, which forgive me if you do not share my opinion, is just a little bit droll really. I do not own an Airship, a pirate ship or a spaceship. I am not a daring adventurer fighting with dragons and saving princesses. I am not nor can I be the great fabled hero of light who inherits a crystal that allows me to vanquish all monsters…I could go on but I think I have driven my point home.

I think what I am trying to say is that if I wanted to escape into a world where I can go to a coffee shop, meet a handsome stranger or have a trouble relationship with a family member. Well, I would just put my book down and experience my real life. So whenever I pick up a pen to write I escape off to a wonderful and far more exciting world than the one I live in and frankly I cannot understand people who don’t.

After I thought about this for a while I decided that this probably said more about me as a person and any chips I have ony my shoulders than it did about people who don’t write fantasy. In short should we judge people who don’t write the same things as us or indeed don’t see the world in the same way that we do? I think we probably shouldn’t, because the world would be a jolly borring place if we were all the same.

P.s. Even after this period of self reflection…I will probably always still find people who don’t like fantasy a little bit strange.
Ja Ne.