Closing the Book on 2017

I love looking back over the past year, especially if I can be pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve achieved! (More often than not it’s regret over another year that failed to meet its potential.) But this year, I really feel like I’ve had a shift. I really feel like I’ve stopped thinking like a hobbyist, and started thinking like a business woman. My mindset has totally changed.

So, let’s see what I have achieved this year.

The VisionaryFebruary saw the release of The Visionary, book 3 of The Paper Duchess Series, which was quickly followed by a March release of After: A Post Apocalyptic Story Collection (which has turned out to be unexpectedly popular!)

It was a bit crazy doing two book releases in such quick succession, and I feel like I’ve learnt an important lesson from that. It did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped, but that lesson has led on to exciting plans for 2018.

Edge-LitFast forward to July, and I was at Edge-Lit literary convention. While I was there, I attended a workshop on running literary events, and this sparked a whole heap of ideas I plan to implement next year. It also prompted me to approach the organiser of Edge-Lit with a workshop pitch.

The MothersOctober saw the release of The Mothers, the 4th and final book in The Paper Duchess series. I had officially completed an entire series of books which was quite monumental.

Again, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons through the two years I’ve been writing and publishing the series (which you can read about here), and it’s already making the writing of my next series so much easier in a lot of ways. You see; mistakes are never just mistakes if you learn from them. And lessons are valuable, and something to cherish.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner BadgeNovember proved to be a ridiculously busy month. I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot. This was my 7th year doing it, and I had 3 wins and 3 horrendous losses under my belt. I hadn’t come anywhere close to completing it since having children.

But I felt determined this year. I spent all of October planning, and I put my success down to that. I stormed in at just over 51,000 words by the end of the month. And a very nearly completed novel draft (which is now completed).

Sledge-LitNovember also brought around Sledge-Lit, the Christmas edition of Edge-Lit literary convention. Remember that workshop pitch? This was my first ever time as a guest author, and my first ever time on a discussion panel. I also ran a very successful worldbuilding workshop which I’ve had amazing feedback from. You can read more about my Sledge-Lit experience here.

The Paper Duchess Series Box SetAs if that wasn’t enough for one month, I also put together and released The Paper Duchess Complete Series Box Set. This was not nearly as easy as I’d anticipated, and I spent days fiddling around with the coding and the format to get everything working properly.

But, I did it, and people can now get the entire series in just one file. Phew! What a year!

2017 has also seen a lot more going on, both on and off stage: promos, newsletters, giveaways, author takeovers, secret plans, upping my social media game, bettering book delivery, having a short story accepted for an anthology, and I could go on forever. It’s been so busy. And December isn’t going to let up either.

December has already seen the completion of my next book’s first draft, The Smudger, which was mostly done in NaNoWriMo. As long as editing stays on track, I’ll be sending it out to my beta readers before Christmas. And that means I can spend the festive period with my feet up (at least, as much as a mum can!)

I’ll see you in the new year to talk about my plans for 2018 (the non-secret ones, at least!)

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Sledge Lit and Me (Part 2)

Sledge-LitKick off by reading Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 1)

Following the morning’s panel discussion, I ran a workshop on Worldbuilding. The truth is, I could very easily write a year-long course on this, so squeezing it into a session of just under an hour was not an easy task.

Throwing in a group discussion exercise, and a writing exercise meant that I wasn’t able to time it perfectly, but I had a plan B up my sleeve in case I ran out of time, and a plan C in case my script fell short on time. Which it did. So I simply gave out the handouts I’d prepared, and we started going through the extra topics on that. I think it was pretty seamless.

Worldbuilding is something I can happily nerd out over completely, and this workshop allowed me to indulge that. It was exciting to share my passion, and to get other people excited over something I love. And best of all, as one of the attendees said, my “excitement was infectious”. I couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

All of the attendees were great: creative, engaged, and keen to get involved. I couldn’t have hoped for a better group. The atmosphere in that room was electric, and we all went out of there absolutely buzzing with inspiration and ideas.

The feedback I’ve had has been amazing, and made it all totally worthwhile. Really hope I get the opportunity to do more of this.

Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 1Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 2Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 3Edge-Lit 3 Workshop Feedback 4

Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 1)

Sledge-LitSaturday 25th November saw the third instalment of Sledge-Lit, the Christmas edition of Derby’s bi-annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror literary convention. I’ve been attending the events since 2014, but this one was my first time attending as a guest author.

The thing I’ve always found about these events, is that every single time I leave them I am filled with inspiration, enthusiasm, and ideas. And this summer’s Edge-Lit left me with an idea for a workshop. So I emailed Alex, who organises the events, nervously awaited a reply, and that was it, I was added to the line up.

Well, there was just one more thing.

Alex asked me if I’d like to also be on a panel discussion. I said yes straight away (well, straight after I got my husband to tell me to stop being so silly over it all). If I’d given myself time to think about it, I’d have probably wimped out. My whole background is in theatre, I practically grew up on the stage. But I have always, and still do, suffer from terrible stage fright. And there’s one huge difference between being on stage, and being on a panel. On a panel, I have to be myself. There’s no costume, no script, no character to hide behind.

To my great relief, I was sent the panel questions beforehand, giving me a chance to, in my own time, construct answers to them. I brought my prompt sheet with me, because my stage fright does tend to shut my brain down completely. Of course, what I couldn’t prepare for was when the questions were opened up to the audience.

Sledge-Lit 3 Panel Discussion

Although I was shaking the whole way through, I was put at total ease by both my co-panellists, and the audience, and I managed to coherently answer the questions thrown at me. That’s why I love these events: Edge-Lit is a small, tight-knit, friendly, and supportive community of people that only want to see each other succeed.

Now read Sledge-Lit and Me (Part 2), where I talk about my worldbuilding workshop.

The Best Thing I Got from Edge-Lit 6

Edge-LitEdge-Lit is Derby’s annual romp into the world of speculative fiction in the form of a fantastic and friendly literary convention. It also marks my annual escape into the world, and a day that I get to only think about me. My special day that I get to totally nerd out with other people who are nerdy about the same stuff as me. Wonderful.

As is the way with conventions that you’re a regular at, it gets easier, and more tempting, each year to simply sit in the bar chatting. But, for me, it’s all about finding a balance.

Edge-Lit offers some discussion panels, guest speakers, book launches, and workshops. And a goody bag, of course. So it would be amiss of me to spend the entire day simply chewing the fat. You see; balance. Because while some great stuff happens in the sessions, equally great stuff happens out of them too.

With the noted omission of some familiar faces, all the usual crowd were there, and it was so good to catch up with them. But I also made sure I caught a panel, a guest speaker, a book launch, and a couple of workshops. It’s just a shame Edge-Lit don’t have a cloning machine at the front desk, It would have been handy to have been able to be in two places at once.

Everyone talks about the ‘post con slump’ or ‘the comedown’, and it’s true. This one special day that you’ve planned for and looked forward to for ages is suddenly over and real life returns. Like Christmas. But there’s one very important, and very exciting thing that I always come away from Edge-Lit with. Ideas. Loads and loads of ideas.

Like I said, great stuff happens in the sessions, and I came out of those with pages and pages of notes, but great stuff happens out of them too. The networking. Everyone discussing projects, collaborations, opportunities. It’s brilliant. It’s inspiring. And those conversations have fuelled me with plans, and things to mull over, and motivation. That’s what I love about Edge-Lit; all the shiny new ideas.

The Feminine Grotesque (Edge-Lit 5)

Edge-LitOn Saturday I was at Derby’s bi-annual speculative fiction event, Edge-Lit. This is my third year attending its summer instalment, and it was yet another fantastic event where I could be my usual book-nerdy self without judgement.

While I admittedly spent most of my time in the bar (everyone here pretty much knows everyone, so it means a lot of the day is spent shaking hands, hugging, catching up with friends, and getting introduced to people), I did go to a couple of very interesting panel discussions, book readings, and one workshop which I was very excited about.

The workshop was led by Maria Lewis, a journalist and author all the way from Australia. She was raised on werewolf stories, a love that became an obsession, and, according to her website, harbours the belief that unicorns exist. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Her werewolf novel, ‘Who’s Afraid?’, is out now.

The feminine grotesque is a concept I’ve been fascinated with since I read Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Sexing the Cherry’ at university, sixteen years ago now. As Maria pointed out, if you think about female monsters (whether human, supernatural, or animal), they are usually presented with the usual Hollywood sex appeal we’re all force fed a diet of. Even while tearing someone’s throat out, or ripping them limb from limb, there’s something inherently attractive about them.

Of course, there are fantastic examples of the feminine grotesque; such as Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, the ghosts in ‘Crimson Peak’, or Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Red Queen (she excells at the feminine grotesque characters, such as in Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter), but we’re more often shown the combination of deadly and sexy, dangerous and alluring, cabalistic and intriguing.

The workshop really got me thinking about the creation of a true feminine grotesque, and inspired me to up the ante with characters from both my current works in progress: ‘The Visionary‘ (The Paper Duchess Book 3) and ‘The Memory Trader‘. So watch out for some truly fearsome women soon!

What are your favourite examples of the feminine grotesque?

Edge-Lit 4 Roundup

Sunny With a Chance of ZombiesThe Book Launch

Yesterday, I was at Edge-Lit; Derby’s annual (well, soon to be bi-annual) speculative fiction convention. Packed full of panel discussions, workshops, and book launches and sales.

I was there, once again, with KnightWatch Press, and this year we were launching the Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies anthology. The launch was for several of the press’ anthologies: Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies of course, along with Chip Shop Horrors, Killer Bees from Outer Space, and Nice Day for a Picnic. Yes, KnightWatch are not your typical horror publisher! There was also a reading by Terry Jackman, from her novel Ashamet, Desert Born. The launch was fantastic, and had a really good turn-out.

zombie

And, of course, it wouldn’t have been complete without a real-life (albeit undead) zombie, and some brain cakes. Well, it goes without saying, right? And, despite shaking like a leaf, my book reading went very well. In fact, it couldn’t have really gone any better (wink, wink. More on that another day.)

So, a huge thanks to KnightWatch Press, to Theresa Derwin and Steve Shaw, and the wonderful Dion Winton-Polak, editor of Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies. Also, my fellow Sunny reader on the day, Louise Maskill, whose story Run, Rabbit is also in the book. And of course, a massive thank you to Alex Davis and the whole Edge-Lit team.

So, the launch was great; we ate cake, we conquered our fears, we signed books, and we made new friends. Here’s to the next one!

The Panels

While the book launch kept me tied up for some of the day, I did manage to make it along to a number of panel discussions. I love this part of the convention, and I eagerly sit there, with pen and notebook, ready to grab useful hints, tips, insights, and soundbites.

The first panel, Into the Grimdark, featured authors Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gav Thorpe, and Sophie Sparham, plus Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books. It was a really interesting discussion about the elements and tone of grimdark fiction, and its place and future in the world of literature.

Adele Wearing pointed out that “Writers can’t help but respond to the world around them”, that the choice is to “either go in with escapism, and the lighter strands, or you reflect what’s really going on.” She added that “there is a mood for more flawed, everyday heroes, without the heroic persona.”

They all agreed that the genre is evolving, that it’s becoming something more playful, and satirical. Despite that, Adrian Tchaikovsky noted that “it is easier to write stories where everything’s horrible, because the conflict is given to you on a plate.”

The Looking Back panel discussed how much history is required in fantasy fiction, and it reiterated some of the points raised in the grimdark panel. This one featured authors Stephen Deas, Freda Warrington, Joanne Harris, Tom Lloyd, and Angus Watson.

Freda Warrington stated that “it’s almost impossible to write a book without history”, and, indeed, neither the panel nor the audience could think of an example. Joanne Harris went on to say that both stories and history—words that, in many languages, are almost identical—are a “shared narrative of being a human being, and the planet, and the cultures that we all come from”, that “they are entirely the product of their creator, who is entirely a product of their own time”.

They also discussed how historical accounts can’t be trusted, because they are written from particular perspectives, often embellished, twisted and changed over time. There are also huge gaps in our knowledge and evidence of the past. Joanne Harris pointed out that “history is as speculative as science fiction”.

The Death House signed by Sarah PinboroughThe third panel I attended, Monstrous Regiments, looked at the monster in horror fiction. It featured authors Adam Nevill, Sarah Pinborough, Mark Morris, and Alison Littlewood.

Such a panel couldn’t have avoided a debate on the zombie trend, and Alison Littlewood pointed out that their appeal was because “they’re not just zombies, they’re actually us. There’s an emotional connection”. Adam Nevill added that readers enjoyed “the fantasy of being a survivor”. But Sarah Pinborough personally found “much more emotional resonance” in ghost stories.

But there was clear agreement that readers didn’t want the old tropes and cliches, with Mark Morris concluding that they want “something different and new”.

All in all, another set of great panel discussions, and I only wish I could have attended more of them. Still, there’s always next year…