Natasha Duncan-Drake interviewed me for her Writerly Wednesday blog this week. To see what she asked, what I answered, and a reminder about my books go to:
Natasha Duncan-Drake interviewed me for her Writerly Wednesday blog this week. To see what she asked, what I answered, and a reminder about my books go to:
Just one question and answer this time.
Sequels: Have you ever written a sequel to a story you wrote, and if so, why, and if not, how do you feel about sequels?
Well now. Sequel queen. That would be me.
If I like a story I don’t really want it to stop. This applies to my own work just as much as to stuff I read. If characters and a world come to life they do as we do and carry on with their lives, so there I am, watching and listening. Sequels are just the recounting of what I see and hear. I can turn away for a while, but the stories will carry on and be waiting for me. Sometimes they (or rather the muse narrator/s) hammer on the door. Some short stories are just an account of an event – beginning, middle and end – and I can polish that, present it to readers and close the door. Still, the world behind the door goes on and I can re-enter it any time.
I have to say I love sequels to stories I have enjoyed and happily buy trilogies or even longer series by favourite authors.
My original work includes sequels.
My fantasy detective novel The Scroll was published last year and has just been joined by a sequel, The Market. Then a further sequel, The Crown, is written and awaiting some tweaking, amendments, and a final proofread. The Shore (book 4) is in note form and is swirling round my brain. There will be six novels in the series eventually.
My fae saga has sequels – and a kind of concurrent story that can be read alongside the second book. The first book is ready to format.
I have another m/m fantasy novel that isn’t really finished yet because there is a lot of rewriting to do but there is also a sequel in the pipeline. The Virgin and the Unicorn will be followed by another story in the same ‘verse but I haven’t got time to feed the bunny at the moment (or the unicorn, or whatever).
As most of you know, I also write fanfiction and often think in terms of sequels when challenge-fests or prompt-fests are presented to me. When I’m reading fanfic, just as with original work, I’m always pleased when an admired author writes a sequel.
So sequels? A resounding ‘yes’!
‘The Market’, the second volume in my fantasy detective series ‘The Skilled Investigators’ has now gone ‘live’ on Smashwords and Amazon.
My heroine, an elf called Genef, started her training as an investigator in the first volume, ‘The Scroll’. Her ambition to be a detective became entangled in a very personal case involving a serial killer. She was assisted by her brother, Fel, and a young dragon, Scratch, who was accidentally imprinted on her at his hatching.
After a successful conclusion and the gifting to Genef of two ‘skills’, one from one of the killer’s victims and one from the guild of investigators as she was accepted, Genef was given an assignment that would take her overseas in search of some stolen royal jewels.
Fel and Scratch accompany her in this second story. What should be a straightforward investigation into theft and a retrieval of the goods suddenly turns darker with murder and kidnapping. Fel and Scratch are in danger and Genef is without help, her mentor having remained in Lonis. She solves the crimes but not all the jewels are found, leaving the way open for a third volume.
In fact, there are six volumes planned altogether in the series. ‘The Crown’ is written but needs some editing and minor rewrites before formatting.
When I published ‘The Scroll’ I created some free coupons on Smashwords to give to people who agreed to write reviews there. However, the reviews did not materialise and I have decided this time to keep the coupons for my betas and others who have in some way helped me.
Marketing ‘The Market’ is a conundrum. The book does stand alone but would probably be more appealing to anyone who had read ‘The Scroll’. I am telling you about it here and would love it if anyone reblogged this post. One or two writer friends have kindly offered publicity on their blogs in the form of reviews, interviews, etc.
A word of warning. If you have an e-reader that is not a Kindle, use Smashwords if you’re going to buy! They have various formats, including mobi which can be uploaded to a Kindle, whereas Amazon only deliver to Kindle or the Kindle app.
Here are the pages to visit:
I have been missing in action for some time. I have also been missing on my personal blog so don’t take it to heart. I’ve simply had an incredibly busy year, with family holidays taking up an enormous amount of time and research into autism (my grandson is autistic) the rest. I’m back, with a resolution to do better. The picture at the top of this post is the house we are renovating in Portugal – the main reason for my absence.
And then I wondered what to start with. This is basically my ‘writing’ blog, so it had to be writing-related.
I recently came across a ‘meme’ in my personal blog which encouraged writers to answer 30 questions. exploring their writing. It was designed for the fanfiction writer and I think you were supposed to post an answer every day for a month. More and more, as I read other people’s replies, I realised that my answers would be totally different for my original writing and my fanfiction writing. This surprised and intrigued me and as I enjoy exploring my own and others’ creative process I have tweaked the meme so that my answers are in two parts.
1: How did you first get into writing fiction, and what was the first fiction you wrote? What do you think it was about the activity that pulled you in?
My very first effort at writing fiction was at the age of 5 when I wrote a play – a fairy story – which my mother scribed and produced with her Brownie pack for the entertainment of the village. I was not old enough for Brownies (there were no Rainbows then) but I was allowed to join in, as author. I think there is still a copy, probably in a box in Portugal, but all I can remember is that it concerned a fairy called Bluebell. I had imaginary friends who lived in the trees that lined our vicarage drive, so I must have extrapolated from that to a full-blown story. I believe the Brownies and the village enjoyed the tale.
But I’m not sure drama counts, or the numerous poems and plays I wrote from then on. I played with both drama and poetry on and off, sometimes for my own pleasure and sometimes (as an adult) for work – modelling writing for my classes. I didn’t really approach fiction (except in my head) until I got a word processor. Writing long texts in longhand never appealed. I think my first attempt was a ghost story based around a location and people I knew, and very vaguely inspired by a combination of a story about haunted ruins in Richmond, where my mother was living at the time, and other stories of monsters in TV shows. The story is still on my hard drive and might eventually be extensively edited and shared.
I loved the process of developing a plotline in my head, seeing it take shape and finding out where it would go. I loved meeting characters and found that characters I had created took on a life of their own and became very real to me. I loved researching the background for my story e,g, locations, history, travel, etc. As I said above, my early efforts were all in my head and had been ongoing all my life. The advent of the wordprocessor (and a touch typing course) into my life made a huge difference and my stories got more complex as a direct result. Then a PC, Windows, and my horizons expanded. I took an Arthurian legend story I’d written in response to my annoyance with the national curriculum approach to poetry, got it edited by a writer friend and started to play with the idea of publication, encouraged by my editor.
I ended up self-publishing for reasons that I have explored elsewhere and The Lord of Shalott, which predated some of my other stories but took longer to reach the public was my first ‘real’ work of fiction. (There were other shorter pieces that saw publication in online zines earlier but they were written later.) It’s fantasy, it references other writers (especially Tennyson) and it’s an m/m romance. My favourite topics (for reading) have always been fantasy (and sci-fi or speculative fiction), history, legend, and m/m romance. So it’s no surprise that those underpinned my first steps into the world of fiction writing.
For any new readers of this blog, the novella is available on
or Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/258487
As for the fanfiction part of my writing:
1: How did you first get into writing fanfic, and what was the first fandom you wrote for? What do you think it was about that fandom that pulled you in?
When my daughter told me about fanfiction in 2005 I was very excited. I had been ‘writing’ (or at least composing) fanfic in my head since I was quite young and had thought I was on my own, and perhaps slightly mad. Finding out that other people did this too was like coming home. She also took me to Connotations, a fanfic writer’s convention, the following year or possibly late that year. Meeting other fans and writers was a wonderful experience.
My earliest efforts (in my head) were (in order) as follows:
1. Age about 7 or 8. All new characters I met were at some point transported to the seventeenth century in what would now be called a crossover with Children of the New Forest. I think I might have managed the occasional Mary Sue, as well, and sometimes ventured further afield to join Swiss Family Robinsion.
2. Age about 9 or 10. Retelling/remixes of most of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances with a slash focus. My nine-year-old self must have picked up on the undeniably slashy subtext in Ms Heyer’s work. I had not, of course, heard of the term ‘slash’ and it probably wasn’t in use back then but Md Heyer’s cross-dressing characters must have inspired me.
3. Age about 16. A return to crossovers, this time with Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth as the ‘base station’ where other characters from other novels met, sometimes involving the Lord of the Rings characters and sometimes just using their world. (The world as built by Tolkien and my imagination – the films were a long way in the future.)
This pattern of mental composition continued, adding new books to the mix from time to time. I rarely used films because the ones I saw didn’t inspire me and I didn’t watch much TV – we didn’t watch it at boarding school, my family didn’t have TV until I was 16 and then once I went to uni at 17 I was without again, which continued till my daughter was about 4 and I was in my thirties. Someone took pity on us and gave us an old black and white set…
When I found out about fanfic some kind of floodgate opened in my head. The first story I read was set in Arthurian legend, which has always been one of my favourite fictional ‘verses’. I had been very angry at being asked to teach The Lady of Shalott to nine year olds with an emphasis on grammar, vocabulary and structure, ignoring the fact that the content (and vocabulary) was probably mystifying for many of them. That’s the National Curriculum for you. Anyway, a story had formed in my head as a kind of counter-attack and when I realised there was actually an Arthurian fandom I wrote my story for my daughter as a thank-you for introducing me to fanfic. I have since played with the story and self-published it as original fiction (see above) because of course the legends, and even Tennyson, are out of copyright. I love all kinds of Arthurian legend books and films and have done all my life; it wasn’t a stretch to find myself writing in the fandom. I have no idea how the fandom originally pulled me in – at some point as a child I must have decided that Camelot was the epitome of romance in the mediaeval sense of the word.
At virtually the same time, and also in response to my new discovery of this wonderful world, I wrote a short piece in Stargate SG1 because by now I was enjoying TV shows and I have always loved both fantasy and sci-fi. I particularly liked SG1 because of the exploration of the characters rather than a focus on technical details or special effects. I’d loved a lot of sci-fi, starting with John Wyndham’s books (we now have a large and possibly valuable collection of sci-fi novels) and then TV series like Dr Who and Blake’s 7 and films like Dark Star and Silent Running. So far as writing was concerned, SG1 just happened to be current when I discovered fandom as something I could join in.
So all of a sudden I had this new place to play, meet friends, enjoy reading and art, and discuss, write, etc. Daughter helped me open and navigate a LiveJournal account and the fandom world was my oyster. I still feel a sense of awe, privilege and excitement. I have remained firmly multi-fandom and whilst I sometimes add fandoms to my reading and writing list I never abandon any. However, my two ‘first fanfics’ reflect my lifelong love of both fantasy and sci-fi.
If anyone wants to join in the 30 day meme, let me know and I can give you the list of questions.
Self-published, of course, but then you knew that.
(Takes a deep breath)
Now I need to market it and I’m telling you all about it here in the hope that some of you might decide either to buy it or to recommend it to someone you know who might.
The purchasing details are as follows:
If anyone wants a free review copy, let me know by email or in a comment and I’ll send you a coupon for Smashwords. Obviously you’d then have to review it somewhere – maybe just on your journal – and explain that you had a free copy for that purpose. You wouldn’t have to be gushing about it – any publicity whatsoever is welcome. And obviously I’d have to email it to you to avoid giving everyone the freebie. I tried that with my last publication and it resulted in a lot of downloads and no sales.
(And yes, Chris, I know you have already done a great job for me! Many thanks!)
I am hopeless at marketing. Don’t tell me to get a Twitter Account or a Facebook one. You have to build up a following on those and I haven’t, so it’s too late. Besides, I gather from a lot of writer friends that the amount of work and time you have to put into those is out of all proportion to any sales they might generate. I would welcome any other advice!
The story is the first in a series called The Skilled Investigators. The ‘heroine’ is a female elf who wants to be an investigator (detective in our terms) and has to solve a murder mystery before she can be accepted as a trainee. Her assistants/sidekicks are a teenage dragon who imprinted on her at hatching, and her brother. The brother is gay and provides the romance subplot for the series but there is no explicit sex.
Whilst it has some similarities to urban fantasy books it takes place in a different world so in that respect it has more in common with other fantasy genres. I deliberately set out to blend the two kinds.
It isn’t intended for the young adult market in particular – I was thinking more of the Tanya Huff/Seanan McGuire/Lynn Flewelling type of reader when I was writing – but it would be, I hope, attractive to older teens looking for coming-of-age stories, either to do with career choices and training, or to do with LGBT issues. As I said, there is no actual sex in the books but plenty of romance and angst. And whilst it is fantasy, there is very little magic.
However, what I really wanted was to merge fantasy and crime and dragons, and hope I’ve succeeded. Anyone who wants to read that kind of merger would, I hope, enjoy the story.
I have finished the sequel – it is just waiting for the dreaded formatting and will probably be published later in the year. The third book is at the ‘listen to your betas and do some amendments’ stage. The fourth consists of some messy notes and the fifth and sixth are just plot outlines. That’s it: the whole series.
The formatting has been a nightmare. Smashwords and Amazon have different views on how to present your manuscript, neither of them really get to grips with the latest version of Word, and it all took a lot of intense concentration interspersed with panic. But it seems to have worked.
I’d be really grateful if you could think of anyone who might enjoy the series and direct them here – or to one of the purchasing pages, though probably here as the offer of a free review copy extends to strangers.
So I’m on some kind of home straight with at least two novels. Beta work has been done, text amended to meet various concerns, proof reading done, by me and one of my ‘editors’, and now I have to format for self publishing. It’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions and we’re already in March.
The tedious bit is altering everything so that it has indented paragraphs (preferred for fiction) with no line spacing. Word happily indents previously unindented stuff but I can’t get it to remove all line spaces. Modern versions of Word won’t move between styles easily. The trouble is that for fanfic, especially for AO3, and for travel writing (currently for blogs but possibly for publication) I’m used to writing in block paragraphs. Same with any non-fictional writing I’ve ever done and that’s quite a lot. I tried training myself to use the other method and then had the reverse problem (fortunately on a short fanfic). From now on, I’ll remember to start off in the correct format but for stuff I’ve already written it’s a question of going through and manually altering it where necessary – which gives me yet another chance to spot typos but is boring in the extreme. And until I truly accepted the fact that I would need to do manual edits I was on the way to anger-management classes. Yes, I know there are ways of correcting the text in Word but they take as long as manual editing.
The frightening bit is the formatting for chapter headings and an index that will work for Smashwords and Amazon. Very technical and even one incorrect keystroke can throw the whole thing into disarray (at which point Smashwords/Amazon reject the book and you have to start again). Also, I was using an e-pub program to check, and a much published friend tells me that particular program has been ‘stealing’ work and breaching privacy so I’m going to have to think again. It was bad enough for my novellas; now I’m dealing with novels. Plus, the rules for Smashwords and Amazon aren’t quite the same so you have to do everything and check everything twice.
The other frightening bit is the covers (I design my own), the first ‘front’ pages with all the stuff like copyright info, dedications, etc. and the end pages with links to other works. Plus the afore mentioned index. Smashwords and Amazon keep changing the ‘rules’ so you can never relax. Covers have to work for e-books and also for advertising thumbnails so the sizing is crucial. It also annoys me that after all that hard work Amazon still makes the default first page on Kindle the first page of the story and you have to scroll back to see all the other stuff!!
I keep thinking of all I have to do and then going away and writing something else to cheer myself up. But I’ve chosen self publishing deliberately and must get my act together!! *g* I also need to re-read my own post of November 2012 – and I notice nobody leapt in to guide me through it all!
Once again I’m ‘advertising’ on behalf of a friend. I haven’t yet read any of the contents but I know her poetry and it’s good.
Glitterwolf is a UK-based literary and arts magazine celebrating the work of LGBT contributors from around the world. They publish fiction, poetry, art and photography.
This year they are also bringing out a special Halloween Issue with four variant covers to match the four main stories. The issue is full of seasonably themed fiction, art and poetry, including three poems from my friend Kat Soini, a Finnish poet.
FREE TASTER of Glitterwolf: Halloween
To download a taster of the issue, featuring roughly half of the full table of contents, you can
If you enjoy the taster, then please consider buying the full issues, which are now available for purchase on Amazon.
If you feel like spreading the word about this in your own journal/elsewhere, that would of course be hugely appreciated.