Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Copper Promise: Some Post Publication Thoughts


The Copper Promise started, in my mind at least, as My Small Self Publishing Experiment. The idea was to produce something longer than a short story that I could pop up on Amazon as an ebook – it would be written, edited, re-drafted, edited, edited some more, and then it would go out into the world and I would see how it would do. Originally this was going to be a horror novella, but that idea became The Snake House instead and was much too long in the end.


Well, in my usual tradition of making everything more complicated than it needs to be, My Small Self Publishing Experiment turned into a serial, and then a series of novellas, and then a series of fantasy novellas that will be, once they are all finished, as long as your average fantasy book. So the project wasn’t so Small anymore; in fact, it had become The Self Publishing Experiment That’s Going to Take Up About Six Months of my Life, Crikey, How Did That Happen?


And so, the first part has been out in the world for about a month, and part 2 is busy being poked into readiness for a release date hopefully at the end of February. And so far, it has been an almost entirely positive experience. Mostly the people who have read it seemed to have enjoyed Ghosts of the Citadel, and I’ve had some overwhelmingly lovely feedback, including blog posts and reviews that have made me very happy indeed. I’ve also received a tremendous amount of support from people (through buying it, spreading the word and general encouragement) which has been genuinely touching and confirms that the writing/reading community online is one of the best around.


One of my favourite parts of having a novella length work out there to read rather than a short story has been watching how people react to my characters – what sticks in their minds about them, which ones are popular with readers and why, and what they hope happens to Wydrin, Sebastian and Frith in the future. It’s exciting, and scary too, because beforehand these characters only really existed in my head and on tattered bits of paper, and now they exist in other people’s heads too, which is a strange and marvellous thing. And it is nice to know that I am no longer the only one who cares what happens to them.


Yeah, it’s been good. So thank you everyone. J And I’m looking forward to sending part two out into the world very soon.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Fantasy Characters I Would Like to get Drunk With

I was talking to the lovely Ren Warom the other day about the potential mead-soaked mess that would be a night out with Wydrin – of all the characters I’ve written, she is the one I would most like a night on the town with. It would be dangerous, that’s for certain, and everyone would likely come home with a certain amount of memory loss, a pounding headache and several more tattoos than they had at the beginning of the evening, but it would be fun. So that got me thinking: which fantasy characters would I most like to share a tasty beverage with?



Tyrion Lannister


Charming, witty, and the cleverest character in a book series full of clever characters, Tyrion would be an excellent dinner companion (and it would have to be dinner as well – I could hardly resist the chance to try out one of the endless medieval banquets continually happening in A Song of Ice and Fire); not only is he funny and shrewd, he’d happily talk books all evening, and you know the wine would be the finest vintage imaginable. Just don’t mention his sister.



Nanny Ogg


Really, who wouldn’t want a drink with Nanny Ogg? (apart from her many daughters-in-law, perhaps). A woman of rude wisdom and deep earthy intelligence, you would certainly go home knowing a few more things than you did previously – mainly about who is doing what to whom, and whether her husband knows about it yet. I imagine drinking scrumpy with Nanny by the fireside, slowly getting sozzled and learning the words to various rude songs, before passing out in a rocking chair just before the sun comes up. A perfect evening.




If you haven’t played Dragon Age: Origins you probably won’t be familiar with Oghren, which, believe me, is a shame. Think of him as a cross between Yosemite Sam, Gimli, and a vat of ale. When you first meet Oghren he is wandering Orzammar as an occasional angry drunk, although once convinced to join your quest and seek out darkspawn to destroy, he fully commits to the cause of drinking and shouting, and quickly becomes one of the more amusing companions to spend time with. In one memorable scene, you can talk to Oghren at the camp site while he apparently ingests alcohol through his skin until he finally shouts “ASSLESS CHAPS!” at you and falls over. I love him.


So tell me what characters you would most like to share an ale with? All genres welcome.


Friday, 6 January 2012

Some Things I've Come to Know About Writing: Or, Stating the Blindingly Obvious


I thought that for my first post of the year I would do a bit of a round up of some of things I’ve learnt about the writing process. I’m not keen on those “These Are The Rules Of Writing, So Listen Up!” posts, so this certainly isn’t one – indeed, the stuff that I’ve come to know about my own way of writing may not apply to you at all – think of it as more of a “Hey chaps, here’s some points I think I should make a note of because you know I’ll only forget otherwise” post.


Write Every Day/Don’t Write Every Day

Yes, I shall start off by being very vague and indecisive! Write Every Day is one of those writing rules that gets bandied around quite a lot, and largely it does indeed make sense; the more you write, the better you get at it. However, I have come to realise that it’s just as important not to beat yourself up if you don’t manage it. Writers have lives too, with day jobs and families, relationships and birthdays and video games, and there are days when you just can’t do it. For example, I have found that I’m pretty terrible at writing at the weekends, but quite good at writing in the mornings before work. So I devote my mornings to stories, and don’t get all guilt laden on a Saturday when I’ve done nothing but sleep and eat toast and push goats off of mountains in Skyrim.


Your Muse is a Flighty Cow

Like every romantic idiot that wore a lot of black jumpers and stared moodily out a lot of windows as a teenager, I do love the idea of a muse; that a winsome, mysterious figure will tap me on the temple on a dreary afternoon and fill my bonce with the greatest idea there has ever been. It’s bollocks though, unfortunately, or at least, it is for me. It’s true that I’ve had the occasional idea drop fully formed into my brain while I’m having a shower or waiting for the bus, but mostly ideas come from thinking a lot, all the time, and writing bits of ideas down and herding them around until they actually work. The key is: don’t wait for your muse. She’s probably off gambolling in the woods somewhere anyway.


Finish It/Or, the 60,000 Word Wall of Pain

I’ve written six books and finished them. With every one of them, I got a sizable chunk of the way in (usually around the 60,000 word mark) and I suddenly found that I violently hated it. Hated everything about it. Hated the characters, didn’t know who they were or what they were doing. Didn’t know or care where the story was going. Worse than that, it was suddenly very clear that everything I’d written up to that point was a massive pile of fetid garbage. How could I have been so deluded to think it was worth writing in the first place? WHY?

This is the dangerous time. It is a demon of writing. The voice that tells you, always at least once during the writing of a book, that you’d be better off scraping the whole thing and starting again.

Do not listen to it. It will say, “Oh hey, what’s this other idea your flighty muse just appeared with? That’s a lot better than this one. Look at it, all shiny and new and not stinking of garbage. And I bet it would be twice as quick to write as well...”

Do not listen! Squash that demon, keep going, and finish. I have written six books, and in truth I probably only really like 3 of them, but everything I’ve ever written to completion has taught me loads and has been invaluable.


Do Not Let Them Taste the Unbaked Cake

Or, resist the temptation to send your first few chapters around to friends to gather their opinions. This is hard, because you might want to know if you’re heading in the right direction, or it might just be that you’re proud of something you’ve done and want to share it, but either way, it’s best not to. Your first draft should be a secret, private thing that only you ever see, so that you’re allowed to make huge mistakes, and the story is entirely yours. Other opinions so early on could change the flavours and make it taste funny.


Be Brave!

Because in the end, you can’t please everyone. It’s a terrifying thing, to share your work with the wider world and watch as it raises its eyebrows in a sceptical fashion, but we are word-warriors, book-wranglers, and story-smiths. We can do this. Tell your stories, listen to your characters, and when in doubt, add a three-page long fantasy banquet. That’s what I do (there's even a mini one in The Copper Promise, no honestly, go look...)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Guest Post! Emma J. Newman and His Black Heart: A Split Worlds Story



Hello everyone! An extra special thing for you today (after weeks of putting up with me talking about the same thing every week) - a rather fabulous story from the awesome Emma J. Newman (@EmApocalyptic on twitter). I first met Emma at a launch for her short story collection, From Dark Places, and believe me, she writes stonking short stories. You're in for a treat. And so I will hand over to Emma...

This is the tenth in a year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen hereYou can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here. 

His Black Heart

Carn Brea, Cornwall, 1861

Denzel listened to the booming pulse of the beam engine pumping the water out of Dolcoath mine. As he arrived for his shift in the pre-dawn darkness, the huge black engine house was only visible as an absence of stars.

"Mornin' y'Majesty," he muttered, doffed his hat. His fellow shift workers thought him strange, but it was only polite to greet the Queen of Cornish Mines properly. In the twenty years he worked there he'd never had an accident, because he paid the proper dues to the correct parties. He might doff his cap to the Bassett family if he saw their carriage, but he felt no respect for those getting fat off their labour. He respected the mine's solid beams and pumps, and the Buccas and the Knockers who kept him safe every shift in return for a morsel of food.

"How's your little'un Denzel?" Jack asked as they queued for their turn on the man engine.

"Better," he said, a smile slipping free. Tamsin's fever had broken just before he'd left the house, as he was putting his wrapped pasty into the pail he'd heard a thin "Da?" from the corner. It was the first time she'd spoken in two weeks. He gave her a little milk and kissed the damp black curls atop her head with tears in his eyes. He couldn't bear to lose another.

He lit Jack's helmet candle, his friend returned the favour and Denzel took his place on the wooden tread. As he always did when he grasped the handle, he silently thanked the man engine about to carry him into the deepest workings of the mine. His father had had to climb down hundreds of feet of ladders, reaching his pitch half exhausted before he'd even begun the shift. Now he and Jack and the others just had to stand and step on and off bits of wood in the right places. They'd all turn into lazy buggers if they weren't careful.

The air was warmer the lower they sank. Some said the deepest shafts were getting too close to hell and one day they'd blast their way into the devil's parlour. Denzel smirked at the thought. Old Nick wouldn't dare come through the hole if it happened; everyone knew he was too scared to come into Cornwall.

He worried about Tamsin, hoped the neighbour would take good care of her during his wife's shift at the mine. Then he realised he'd left his pail on the kitchen table, the pasty warm within it.

He swore and hit the handle. First time in twenty years he'd forgotten his lunch. As the spike of anger receded, it left worry behind. Was it a sign? Was Tamsin's recovery false? Would there be an accident today? What did it mean?

"Means you forgot your pail," he muttered to himself, trying to keep the fretfulness at bay.

When they finally reached the bottom, the air was thick with powder smoke from the last shift, he'd be coughing up black lumps by the end of the day. Down this deep, it took too long for the blasting fumes to clear, they couldn't afford to wait before starting the shift. The candles flickered in the gloom as they trudged their way through the tunnels. He peeled off his shirt when he got to his pitch, left in only his flannel trousers and boots, sweat rolling down his back already. He got to work, the air so thick with dust he could barely see the end of the drill steel, missing it a couple of times as he tried to hit it into the rock. He wiped a drip of sweat from his eyebrow and tried again, the hammer striking true and the steel driving into the rock, settling him. He worked through his lunch break, not wanting to stop and sit there, hungry and miserable. "Sorry," he called into the shadows down the tunnel, imagining the Knockers waiting for their tithe. "I forgot m'pail. I'm hungry too."

A chip flew up at his face from the next strike, it hit his helmet a couple of inches above his eyes. He set the hammer down, wondering if it was their revenge, and took off his helmet to check for damage. Embedded in the stump of clay holding his candle in place was a shard of 'black tin' ore. He pulled it out, finding it was shaped like a heart, like the one his wife had embroidered on the handkerchief she'd made him for Christmas.

The black heart was the size of his thumbnail, he decided to take it home for Tamsin to tuck under her pillow as she got better. This was a good sign, the tunnel giving him a gift, as if to reassure him all would be well.

The rockfall came without warning. No creaking joists, no tell-tale knocks, just a terrible roaring noise and then pain. The candle was snuffed out, it took him a few moments to work out he was on his back, a terrible pain radiating from the side of his head and weight pressing down on his legs. The gentle patter of falling dirt faded until he was left in the silent darkness.

He could still breathe, even though the air was foul. He could feel blood running down into his ear, if he hadn't taken his helmet off to pull out the heart, his head would have been better protected. He followed it back to the moment he forgot his pail. It had prevented him from tossing a pasty scrap to the Knockers, and in their anger, they'd failed to warn him about the fall.

He became aware of a sharp pain in the palm of his hand, discovered the heart had cut him as he'd clasped it tight in the fall. He traced it with his thumb, its surface slick with his blood and he knew he couldn't die down there, he couldn't leave his last child.

There was no prayer in him, his faith had left him a long time ago. How his wife still sang in church for a God who took three boys and two girls from them he'd never know. The Knockers were angry with him, the Buccas wouldn't grant a wish without food either. Who would help him?

The darkness pressed in, so complete he kept blinking to check if his eyes were open or shut. He wondered whether he'd fallen through to hell, the devil taking him for all the angry words he'd shouted at God over those tiny graves.

There was nothing to call upon, nothing to focus on other than the sharp edges of the black heart and his blood bathing it. "I swear," he whispered, "if I live to see the sky again, I'll mine more tin than any other bastard 'ere. I'll put every last drop of my body into this mine." He'd live to give his girl the best start in life he could. "I swear it."

The heart was warm, he fancied it pulsed with his own heartbeat as he slipped closer to the pit of sleep and death, but then a shout, a tumble of rocks a few feet away and then a chink of light fell onto his hand. "Denzel!" Jack shouted.

"Here," he croaked, gazing at the black heart in the sliver of candlelight. "I'll keep m'word," he whispered. And he knew he'd never forget his pail again.



Thanks for hosting Jennifer (I want to call you Senny…)! I hope you enjoyed the story. If you would like to find out more about the Split Worlds project, it's all here: If you would like to host a story over the coming year, either let me know in the comments or contact me through the Split Worlds site. Em x