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Okay folks, time for another foodpost, and this time I want to run through one of those sweet treats which are synonymous with fairgrounds, piers and boardwalks. Jam doughnuts, (or jelly donuts if you’re either American or just thrifty with letters)
Some foods are just better all round when eaten super fresh when they’ve just been cooked, and are still warm. and doughnuts are at their softest and most fragrant when they’re first cooked.
This is not a remotely complicated recipe, but I think a lot of people are put off trying to make these themselves because it’s full of potentially daunting things like using live yeast, and leaving things to ‘prove’ and ‘rise’ and so on. There’s also a lot of kneading going on. But it’s really very simple.
Trust me, if I can manage to make them and not burn the house down or poison anyone, so can you. The main thing to remember is that the prep time for this one is a few hours, so I’d advise making the first stage earlyish in the morning giving you time to come back to them later and do the second half cooking them in the afternoon or evening, (you should always eat them the same day, preferably as soon as made.)
So here’s how:
Sift your flour, getting rid of any lumps or bumps, (and try and do this from a bit of a height in order to get some air mixed up in there – only if you have a steady hand and can get most of it in the bowl of course. You don’t want your counter to end up looking like Charlie Sheen’s dressing table)
Also get your other ingredients together,:sugar (which you’re going to use some of now and some later to roll your doughnuts in) , a beaten egg, and your butter, which you want to have melted gently and left to cool a little by this point.
Dealing with the dry ingredients first: put the flour in a bowl, with most of the sugar and the yeast on ONE side, and the salt on the OTHER. (don’t put them all in the same place or the salt will kill the yeast. Kill it dead. and then the whole thing is ruined. Don’t forget, yeast is alive, even though it doesnt look like it is. Kind of like Courtney Love)
Yeast looks like this:
and your bowl should look like this:
Once thats carefully mixed, you want to take your warmed milk:
and mix into the jug the beaten egg and the melted butter, until it all becomes a golden soup of yummy gooiness:
Using your knuckles, then make a well in the centre of your dried ingredients:
You’re going to pour the golden goo in there. (although to be honest, I don’t really get why every recipie which requires wet ingredients to be added to dry ones always calls for a ‘well’, because the amount of goo invariably is far far more than the well could ever hold anyway, and will just go everywhere regardless of your best intentions or the sise of your knuckles.
My opinion, as goes for most of cooking, is to not sweat the details. Remember that cooking is more alchemy than chemistry. You never need to be exact, you’re not making a vaccine, you’re making a dessert. It’s more of an art than a science, so express your gooey chaotic nature with wild abandon.
Mix all that together roughly until it’s combined:
If it looks too wet, add a little more flour, until you finally end up with a pastry ball:
Now comes the first labour-intensive part. You are required to knead this dough for AT LEAST ten minutes. This might sound boring, but just listen to two or three of your favourite songs to time yourself, or alternately a third of any given Metallica song, either way it will give you roughly the right time, and singing along will give you something to do and help pass the time.
If you’re not sure how to knead, it’s really simple. On a floured surface, hold one end of the dough in place with the heel of your hand, and with your other hand, push it away, (stretching it out) then fold it back over and towards yourself and squish it down again.
Turn the circle of dough 1/4 and repeat.
At first, the dough will break off and fall apart, but it will become more and more elastic, like well-chewed gum, the more you do this. You’ll get to know by the ‘feel’ of it when it’s done. But if that sounds a little too Yoda for you, or if you’re a kneading virgin and need some guidelines, roughly ten mins is a good idea. You can always tell when it’s done, as it will be springy and shiny too:
Pop this ball into the bottom of a greased or oiled bowl.
Dont worry that it looks tiny and lonely and lost in there, like some quivering and defenceless dickensian orphan on the cruel streets of old London. This is the interesting bit and the magical powers of yeast. Just cover it with clingfilm/shrinkwrap:
and leave it somewhere warm for AT LEAST an hour.
This time may vary. It could take more than this to rise. it depends how warm the space is where you leave it. If you’re oven has a ‘warming’ setting, (mine does) pop it in there. but NO higher, or it will cook, which is not what you’re after. you just want somewhere warm where yeast sorcery can occur.
Anywhere warm will do, if it’s a hot day outside, best place for it is actually on the seat of your car. It will go in looking like this:
and after an hour, should have doubled in size to look like this:
Check to see if it’s ready, by the extremely scientific and precise method of ‘giving-it-a-bit-of-a-poke’. A gentle fingertip jab should leave a dint that rises back up and dissapears after a few seconds. If this doesnt happen, give it another half an hour of restful warm thoughts.
Now, heartbreakingly, you’re going to take this fluffy swollen lump of super-soft loveliness, and give it another knead, only for one or two mins, to knock most of the air out of it. You should find that it’s incredibly twisty and pliable:
Divide this new ball into 12 mini-balls of roughly (art-not-science-remember) equal size, and drop them evenly spaced into a baking tray. Again, they will look tiny and lonely. Worry not. You’re going to cover these dickensian waifs and strays again and pop them back in the warm place once more. Only for about half an hour this time around:
Once this time is up, they should again have swollen up into fluffy, if alarmingly pallid balls of light and airy goodness:
And thats all the prep done! woot!
The actual cooking part is incredibly fast, and I suggest setting up kind of a conveyor belt system so you have your doughballs, your pan to cook, a bowl of sugar and a final bowl to collect the doughnuts in., all in a satisfying line on your counter.
You can make these in a deep-fat-fryer, but not many people have those anymore, largely because they are deathtraps and usually posessed by demonic forces which mean to inflict calamity on you at any cost and every oppurtunity.
I use a wok instead. Woks are generally benevolent by nature, unless provoked, and hardly ever try to kill you.
Heat up some vegetable oil in one. There should be enough oil so that when you drop your doughnuts in, they DONT touch the bottom (that way lies burned doughnuts and lifelong shame and ostracism)
As i’m sure you’re all aware, cooking oil is dangerous, so at no point leave this unattended. The important thing to remember for this to work is that you DON’T want the oil too hot:
If your oil is too hot, the doughnuts will cook on the outside too quickly, and burn, but still be raw dough inside. This will be a DISASTER
Freinds and family may never speak with you again. You may indeed by shunned by all of polite society and end up living a sorry and solitary life on the fringes of civilisation, berift of companionship and subsisting on grubs and bugs found under logs.
So, no pressure.
Your oil is the right heat when a cube of bread turns brown after one minute of being dropped in.
Cook your doughnuts about three at a time, so they dont roll together and stick:
Another good indication that your oil is the right heat is that there should be a QUIET hiss when you drop them in, and SMALL bubbles forming around the edges of the little floating dough-islands. (No hiss and no bubbles = too cold. loud hiss and big bubbles = too hot.)
Always use a goldilocks sacrificial test doughnut to make sure you’re working at the right temperature.
Flip them over after about 1 1/2 minutes, and check that they are golden brown:
Then cook the other side for a further 1 1/2 minutes.
As soon as they’re done, lift them out and drop them right into the sugar bowl, giving them a good roll around in there.
They should come out of the sugar looking, feeling and (most importantly) smelling like the doughnuts we all know and love:
Drop them in the big bowl, and repeat the process untl they’re all done, and you have a happy heap of goodies.
I could lie at this point and tell you all about the home-made jam I made from foraging in local hedgerows, but to be perfectly honest, I didnt bother this year, as we had such a vile wet and cold summer, berry pickings were not worth the effort, so I just used store bought jam to fill.
Make an incision into the doughnut with a blunt butter-knife, wiggle it around to create a cavity, and spoon jam inside, closing up with a squeeze of your fingers afterwards. (some people pipe the jam in using an icing bag, but I can’t be bothered. It’s easy enough to do with a spoon)
and there you have it. Twelve perfect, gorgeous smelling light and fluffy and still warm doughnuts. all of which BY LAW have to be consumed immediately by yourself, freinds and family, even if you all get full and start to feel a bit sick.
Hope you found the recipie simple and easy to follow, and as always, please do let me know how it turns out if you try it yourself 🙂
Autumn is definitely here in my corner of the world. The woods are slowly turning to gold, the air is getting crisper, and most importantly, i’m tracking roughly two tons of mud into the house on my boots after every dog walk.
One of the best things about this season is definitely the food. Darker, colder nights combined with forgiving, bulky wool jumpers all allow for justification to stuff our faces with plenty of hearty stews, cobblers, hashes, and soups (screw you, light and citrusy summer salad, your days are numbered. We want warm carbs!)
If you’re anything like my lot, Autumn means foraging. Digging through brambly hedgerows for blackberries, collecting conkers in their spiky little shells, and MOST importantly, scrumping. (apple picking for the uninitiated). My house backs onto plenty of apple-hunting grounds, so this blog is going to tell you what to do with this:
yup, it’s weekend, which means another super-basic food post, and this week i’m making
you will need:
This whole endeavour takes about 1hr 30 mins (including prep and cool down time) but it’s a ridiculously simple but yummy thing to make.
Take all the skins off your apples. It doesnt matter if the skins are blemished or spotted, these are not supermarket apples, and i’m very much in favour of the ‘ugly fruit and veg’ movement. You’re not going to eat the skins anyway. as long as the flesh inside the apple is clean and firm, you’re good to go. get a paring knife and go Hellraiser on those cheeky pommes.
Core and pip them too, and throw all the chunks into a pan. If you’re not overly familiar with advanced apple science, you may note with alarm…or even bone-chilling fear…that as quick as you are peeling and chunking them, they are turning brown before your very eyes. This is perfectly normal apple behaviour. They’re just oxidizing. If you were making a fruit salad or other cold dish, and wanted to keep your apples green-white, this is easily achieved by dropping them into lemon juice, which stops the natural discolouring process. Here though, you’re going to cook them all imminently, so it makes no difference if they are brown, blue or rainbow speckled.
Once all your apple bits are in your pan, and the golden sunlight is streaming in through the window in a suitably satisfying autumnal manner, add three quarters of the caster sugar to the pan:
You can also add a couple of Cloves. (not too many because this is going to stew, and as I learned making mulled wine at Christmas, Cloves can be seriously overpowering. maybe about two, and remember to take them OUT again once the cooking is done, or they will keep flavouring the dish until you end up with a clovapocalpse. They look like this:
You can also drop a cinnamon stick in too. I preferred to use ground cinnamon, because I could mix it through as it cooked:
Your pan should now appear beautifully appletastic and contain every autumn colour, texture and smell in exisitence:
Try to make sure your chunks of apple are all roughly the samel size so that they cook at roughly the same rate, and DONT cut them too small or you’re just going to end up with applesauce. You need to let this stew on the hob GENTLY for about 30 minutes. You don’t need to add any water, the juices from the apples will release, nothing will burn, honest, as long as you stir it occasionally.
and when I say gently, I mean REALLY gently. super-lowest heat possibe:
after half an hour, in which you could a) write a sonnet b) watch Rick & Morty or c) organise your coloured pencils into an OCD rainbow (i did the last one) check the apples are cooked by mashing them a bit with a wooden spoon. They should be soft but not pureed.
Put them into the serving dish and leave to cool on a windowsill next to one or two loveable cartoon bluebirds. ( be careful to ensure the window isn’t open. If there is one thing life and cartoons have taught me, it’s that there is INVARIABLY a charming but cunning fox in a checkered waistcoat just waiting to make off with any home-baked goods left unattended on a windowsill. You have been duly warned)
While the filling is cooling, you can make the topping ( the crumble part)
and of course:
mix all the topping ingredients in a fresh mixing bowl:
and using your fingertips, rub it all together until it resembles breadcrumbs. (try to be as light as you can doing this. You don’t want to use all of your hand, as your palms are generally quite warm. Your fingertips are naturally cooler, being extremities, so you are literally tickling the ingredients until they comply. You can even make tickling noises as you do this if you choose to, although the fox in the waistcoat peering in the window may judge you rather demented if you do so.
It should end up looking like this:
When your apples are cooled, and you have preheated your oven to 150c, pour the crumble over the apples and spread evenly. (You want to do this JUST before you stick it in the oven. dont put the topping on and leave it for ages before cooking, or the crumble will sink in and go soggy, which is vile and dissapointing. when you put the topping on, it needs to cover the apples, but DONT push it down, or it will all mix underneath.
Now all you need to do is bake for around 30/40 minutes, and it’s done. Go by sight. You want it golden brown, with texture like sun, just like the song. Too pale and you’ve got Ghost Crumble. Too Orange and youve got Trump crumble.
spoon into dish and lose yourself in the heady and dizzying aromas of nommy nomminess:
You can serve this with Ice-Cream, double cream or whipped cream if you wish, but personally I have something of a vendetta against cold toppings on hot foods. This is supposed to be a cosy winter warmer, a crisp and spicy hug in a bowl, so I prefer to serve it with hot custard:
As always, drop me a message if you try this, and let me know how it turned out. Reccomended reading would be anything cosy, a little magical and autumnal, such as some Fae fantasy 🙂
If you follow me on other social media outlets, you will probably have heard me bemoaning how I’d like to broaden my experience here there and everywhere, and get the most out of my interactions with people, sharing not only my writing, discussions about other books etc, but also other passions and interests.
Many of you know that I like to cook and bake and make things, often random and experimental, and my IG stories are often full of fleeting mini-videos and tiny tutorials on what i’m cooking up. the problem is, these are not permanent and I get frequent DM’s for more info or more detail (or just more foodporn)
To that end, whenever I post a food-related pic over on Insta, or Tweet about something I’m making, I’ll now be linking it here to my blog, where (should you wish to) you can follow along, with useful things like lists of actual ingredients and you know…..method…such as it is.
I’m not saying I’m a great cook, but I am enthusiastic, and I love making things. Even if they end up looking like something only a mother could love, they usually taste nice (we shan’t mention the corned beef hash / pasta experiment…..not ever. My other half still hasn’t forgiven me for that)
So moving on swiftly… if, like me, you often feel like this:
but want to play along anyway, today I’m going to be making:
You will neeeeeeeeeed:
First, you have to make the rice. simples..
Remove rice from packaging. (This is a crucial step. Do not misunderstand instruction and get head caught in ceiling fan.) You want to rinse the rice over and over…and over…in a sieve under cold water until said water runs clear. De-starch that mo-fo. Then:
Pop the lovely clean little pearls into a pan (medium size) and cover it with 700ml of water. Bring it to the boil, and then as soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to LOW (literally as low as it can go, the limbo of flames) and cook this super-gently for 20 minutes with the lid on. (check it a couple of times to make sure it’s moving around and nothing is sticking to the bottom or burning, but try not to agitate it TOO much.) After 20 mins, the rice should be tender, like an Elvis song or a wistful sunset, and all the water should have been absorbed. so it looks like little fluffy clouds like this:
Leave it to cool enough that you can handle it. (but not manhandle it… it’s tender, remember, show some consideration!) While this is cooling, you can move on to making the magic stuff that will hold the rice in it’s shape and give it that unmistakable nori/sushi flavour.
In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar with the oil:
then add the sugar and the salt.
Cook this over a medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool for a little while, and then pour this over the rice in the big saucepan and mix it all up. Stir it in well.
Be warned: your rice will look and seem very wet and you may start to despair at your own fumbling attempts, and begin to question your place not only in the kitchen, but in the universe at large. dont worry…it’s supposed to look and feel that way. If you start to feel jittery at this point, do what I do, and look at calming photos of Nigella Lawson licking spoons on Pintrest for five minutes until you’ve calmed down.
Gather yon ingredients, and get ready for the bit that makes you feel as though you’re back in playschool and allowed to play with your food without the all-too familiar reproachful stares
You’re going to want to slice your veg into long thin strips. Everyone knows how to slice veg, but this is after all a step-by-step, so here’s a cucumber tutorial (which is not something you want to type into a google search engine…trust me) :
take your bamboo mat and lay out a nori sheet, rough side UP..
Make a little rice bed. If you’re not a ham-fisted and impatient writer, you might want to make yours much neater than I do, but I’ve decided these are decidely bohemean rolls, with a wild and free spirit and the wind in their hair as they gallop free across the plains…
next, line up your fillings roughly in the middle, like so:
then ROLL THAT WILD AND FREE BO-HO MO-FO UP!
When you unroll it, by processes of alchemy, sorcery, necromancy and basic physics, you will be left with tubular cylinders of satisfying girth:
Rinse and repeat this incredibly fun procedure until either
a) you run out of rice, or
b) you get bored:
Veering with wild abandon from any proper method or established discipline, I suggest now popping your noriwangs in the fridge for maybe ten minutes, just to give the rice and fillings time to settle and cool and gel a little. this will make it easier when you then take them out, and with a SHARP blade, slice them into gorgeous little fat discs of tantalising nomminess like so:
Now, I have the appitite of around twelve regular humans, so I will happily eat ALL of these to myself, with minimum crying and self-loathing, but for the purposes of the article, I should state that all volumes mentioned here are suggested to serve 5 people (laughs softly)
And thats IT! witness your pretty creations!
(I also made some laughably ugly salmon too, which although I wont take you through it, here is a mini steps:)
I also marinated some OTHER salmon in teriyaki while I did all this:
then just grilled it lightly:
I like Salmon. can you tell?
I hope you enjoyed my super basic guide to make these. They’re incredibly easy, and look pretty, which is all you can ask, really. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can experiment and make them prettier and prettier. Here are some examples of ACTUAL chefs who know what they’re doing, and make my mouth water just looking at them
the main thing is to play around:
and if you make any, let me know how they turn out. (and how many you eat to yourself) 🙂 Suggested bookstagram reading to go with your midnight nori-roll treats: Sushi and Beyond by MIchael Booth, an excellent Japanese food travelogue. go look it up, and enjoy!
Until next time, here’s a list of traditional ingredients to stuff your little slices of heaven with. bye for now.
Book three of my Urban Gothic dystopian series is coming, and although i’ve already released a short teaser trailer over on Twitter and Instagram, here is a full length booktrailer for you to whet your appitite:
and of course a short teaser extract:
‘I don’t know what was the most confusing part about finding an uninvited and extremely naked vampire tied to my bed, retaining modesty only by a crumpled corner of artfully draped silk sheets. The naked vampire himself, pale as purest chalk in the moonlight; the fact that he was handcuffed, something I’m sure I would have remembered doing; or the silk sheets themselves. I mean, I certainly didn’t own any silk bedding. My life wasn’t a Jackie Collins novel. This could only imply he had brought them with him, which filled me in equal measure with anger at his arrogance and a grudging admiration at his dedication to scene-setting. I entered the room slowly, reaching for the taser in my bag as casually as I could manage. I forced a smile, as though vampires broke into my apartment and lashed themselves to my bed all the time…no biggie.
‘Hello again, Dove,’ I kept my voice light. ‘Most people go for coffee first you know, traditionally. Before surprise bondage.’
Dove stared up at me playfully, head tilted on his shoulder, his pale eyes catching the moonlight like chips of mica beneath his cherubic flop of yellow hair.
‘Things have gone…south…at Sanctum,’ he said, looking more amused than concerned. ‘This…is probably going to take some explaining’.
. – Pale Children: book three of the Phoebe Harkness series.
For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you will know that from time to time, I like to invite a fellow writer into my luxurious subterranean blog chambers, sit them down in a leather wing-back chair before the roaring fire, close the heavy drapes against the night outside, and pick their brains, author-to-author. Previously I’ve chatted at length to the wonderfully Becky Wright about her work across different genres, from time-slip to witchcraft. (if you haven’t read it yet, go check out the blog post.
This time around, I’ve been visited by one of my nicest real-world freinds, the gothically-inclined writer of fang-filled chillers, Beverley Lee.
Bev is a genuinely lovely, warm and freindly person, so heaven knows where all the darkness in her writing comes from (but wherever it is, we’re all grateful for it) I’ve toured odd village graveyards with her, and encounted both very strange barmen covered in garlic and creepy knitting, and I’ve dragged her all around Oxford on a very hot day (for which i’m sure shes still hasn’t quite forgiven me) so at least this time around, we are sitting down comfortably with a glass each of something that (from a distance at least) resembles red wine. Read on and see what we chatted about…
Hi Bev, thanks for coming in for an author-talk with me.
Hi Shay, thanks for the hot seat this month, which with the weather we are having is not far from the temperature of the sun….
That’s why I haven’t lit the roaring fire today. (settles back into creaking leather wingback chair, sticking slightly) and I can see the bag of Jelly-babies you brought me are melting a little. It’s all a bit Dante’s Inferno. Anyway, heat aside. The idea of these chats is to give people a chance to get to know you and your works, and to give a little flavour of the kind of thing you write, so…let’s start off discussing your book series. You’re currently two thirds through your Gabriel Davenport Series, can you sum up briefly for us what the series is about? Blurb me!
Okay! The Gabriel Davenport Series is about what happens when a twisted branch of fate descends on a normal family and rips their world apart. It starts with Gabriel as a baby, and the events that happen shape the life he is to lead. Without giving away any spoilers, it’s also about darkness and the thin, blurred line between that and the light, where nothing is quite as it seems. It’s about secrets and loyalty and consequences, and how Gabriel deals with each one as the series progresses.
Secrets definitely play a big part in your books! *eyes a magpie tapping suspiciously at the window pane* I want us to talk about the two books in the series so far individually, as for me, although they are two parts of one story, in some ways they feel like very different animals, and not just because of your shift between them from third person to first person.
Let’s start off with book one. The Making of Gabriel Davenport struck me as initially on reading as a chiller/ghost story/paranormal initially, then moving more into vampire fantasy toward the last third of the book. What was your intention when setting out? Did you have a genre in mind? A mood? Or just a story to tell?
My intention was just to tell a story. I knew it would be dark and a little disturbing but I was honestly surprised when readers started to call it a horror novel. And I was doubly surprised that people seemed genuinely terrified when reading it. I didn’t know when I started out how it would unfold, but I did know *that* ending. The menace in the story is a very important factor and it took on a life of its own. I was very aware that my antagonist had its own reasons for how it reacted and thought. The ‘bad guy’ always needs a back story!
That’s so true! Gone are the days when bad guys could get away with twirling moustaches and cackling about evil plots. Readers need to believe characters. We want to know why they pull wings of flies, so I agree it’s important to have a decent backstory and motive for any good antagonist. This is how the best bad guys are made!
Speaking of bad guys, I know you quite well in the real world, you were one of my first ‘bookish’ besties on Social media and we’ve tramped around a few spooky village graveyards and such a couple of times. Anyone who knows you on social media universally acknowledges that you are a lovely bright and warm person, and I can attest to this in person, so what is it in you that makes you want to explore the darkness? What’s the lure of the dark side for you?
Ah, there’s a darkness inside all of us! I call it my balance and I’ve always been drawn towards the thrall of darker fiction. Maybe it’s because it’s like a forbidden fruit, we’re not supposed to want to taste the juice, but anything forbidden has its own unique charms? It also doesn’t come with a rulebook. I can play in the shadows and not have anyone tell me that it’s not accurate. Darkness completes me as a person and as a writer.
Plus of course I know you’re secretly wicked, but you made me promise not to tell anyone or you’d reveal where I hid those bodies. So I’ll play along and we’ll just all agree you’re lovely!
There are a lot of themes we could talk about in TMOGD, Loss, destruction of family, hubris, metamorphosis. Do you set out with a ‘message’ in mind? Is there something specific you want, or hope people will take away from your books?
I really didn’t set out with any message. I’m a huge believer in that different people take away different things from the same story. It’s part of what makes words such magical things. But there’s definitely a thread of loyalty running through it, and how far the human spirit will battle for survival, even in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances. So if there is a message, it might be ‘stand in your corner and fight.’
I love that! All of your characters feel like fighters to me. One of the strongest elements I found in both books in this series were how your characters feel very alive to me, especially those who reside at the manor, but you have a sparse descriptive prose which is actually incredibly difficult to pull off well (though you manage it magnificently) What makes a character interesting to you, and where do you think they come from?
Ah, thanks, Shay. I’m a terrible overly descriptive writer if left to my own devices. I can waffle on for hours about sunlight streaming through a window…But I knew my series had to be sharp and fast paced so had to reign in the wordiness to fit. Interesting characters come in many forms. All of the ones in both Gabriel and Shadows blazed into my life and refused to be pushed aside. It’s that thirst to be heard that excites me, even from a secondary character. I have a real soft spot for Ella, my housekeeper. Her first scene with Noah and the sandwich still makes me smile. Where do they come from? Gosh, now there’s a question. They’re just there, waiting their turn to slide into the right story.
I do often wonder if all us writers have multiple personalities. I have no idea where mine come from either, but you have to listen when they speak. Do you have a favourite character from your stories? Mine is obviously Moth, because everyone loves a complicated bad-boy.
Oh, hard question! That’s like choosing your favourite child… As a writer I think we love all of our characters, for different reasons. So I’m going to flip this question around and tell you why I love a few of mine. Gabriel, of course, who will always have a special place in my heart. He was the one who coaxed me into believing that I could actually do this writing thing properly. Noah Isaacs, my man of the cloth, father-figure to Gabriel and long standing friend of Edward Carver, is the character most like me. He’s incredibly loyal and is always willing to put himself out for others, even if this is a detriment to himself. Olivia Taverner, hot-headed student of the paranormal, because she’s fierce and courageous, is never afraid to speak her mind and is probably the character least like me! My master vampire, Clove, for gifting me with the joy of a mind that has seen so much and for being both deadly and delicious. And, of course, Moth. Who wasn’t supposed to have more than a minor role, but who stormed in and demanded his own little slice of the action.
So quite a few favourites then! (I suppose it would be a bad sign if you didn’t get on well with your own imaginary friends.) But conversely, are there any characters you have written who you found initially difficult to get a handle on? Or who took a while to speak to you properly? Occasionally I’ve had a character who felt sketchy and a bit of a puzzle for ages, until just one epiphany about backstory, or one character-trait suddenly slips into place and they suddenly become ‘real’ to me.
My antagonist in Gabriel was quite stereotypical until I found out its backstory. Then I realised that it came to be what it was purely by an act of fate. It almost mirrored what had happened to Gabriel. Once I had the back story it became much more rounded and I learned to understand its motives which helped a lot as the story progressed. Teal took a while to take hold because of his quietness. But he was the one who gave me the main thread for Shadows and once I had that his character blossomed.
I think sometimes the quieter characters have the most to say. I love playing with empty space and unspoken words.
Regarding style, there are echoes of Anne Rice in your writing, with the familial interlocking relationships of Cloves and his charges, and also of James Herbert, with your chilling and often poetic descriptions. Who would you say your influences have been?
I’ve definitely been heavily influenced by Anne Rice. The Vampire Lestat is in my top five books, and that gothic expressiveness is very evident in my writing. But I take my influences from other great writers too – Neil Gaiman’s magical realism because he makes me believe in the impossible. Stephen King for showing me that even minor characters can be compelling and that setting is key. James Herbert for teaching me about the slow build of menace. A couple of honorary mentions go to Arthur Conan-Doyle, whose The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first story to scare me, and George R R Martin, for putting epic into modern high fantasy.
Whatever we read is fuel for any writer’s imagination and we bleed part of it into our own veins.
I agree, the more you read, the better you write, and I think the more you write, the less you emulate others and start to find your own voice. We all have our favourite writers and writing styles that appeal to us in particular. What, to you, constitutes ‘good writing’?
Anything that makes me ‘feel’. You can have the greatest story in the world but if I don’t care about the world created or the characters I will really struggle to get through it. Give me feels and you’ll go on my automatic to buy list. As I said above I can fall into the overly descriptive trap if left to my own devices. But I know that if a book goes into too much detail it can lose me. Give me atmosphere and just tell me there was something in the dark. My imagination can fill in all the blanks!
Rejecting our own verbosity is a problem for every writer I think. Stephen King got it right when he tells us ‘kill your darlings’ cut and cut and cut. We all hate editing but we have to control that urge to make the reader see ‘exactly’ what we are seeing as we write. Easier said than done!
Your second book, SITS takes us further away from the human world and much deeper into the vampire society, which was exciting to explore. How thoroughly do you flesh out your world-building before you put pen to paper? Do you know every inch of the dark worlds you create, or are you feeling your own way along in the shadows with the reader? Are you a planner or a pantser, as the saying goes?
I have a very basic outline that I work to, and certain things that I want from the world I create. I’m a manic note maker and have books filled with scribbles but only some of them make it onto the page. I much prefer to discover my world as I write, along with my characters. It adds an excitement that I’d truly miss if I had everything mapped out. In Shadows, the world of vampire politics only unveiled itself when a certain antagonist came into play. That led to a huge, very dark plot twist which might never have come about if I’d tried to keep to a plan.
Sometimes the best plot turns are the ones we writers don’t see coming ourselves, I agree! Stories are alive after all; we only guide them as best we can.
One of my absolutely favourite characters in your writing is Gabriel’s mother. I love her whole character arc and her almost classical tragedy. Gabe has a succession of potential father-figures too, throughout the tale, with varying approaches and degrees of success. How important is a sense of family and belonging to Gabe, and what drives him to find a place to belong?
I think a sense of family and comfort is very important to Gabe. The events of his past are always ghosts in his present. He can’t outrun them, made more acute by his mother’s poignant presence. Gabe always had that insatiable curiosity in him that wanted to know more about his history, even though he was secure in his adopted family. But balanced with this confused need for deeper knowledge is the anchoring stability from both Carver and Noah. The events that happen to him are constantly changing the dynamics of family, but in the end he only craves what we all do, a place that accepts him and that feels like home.
He mirrors my Robin in that sense, who is also ‘looking for a place to belong’ and a way to come to terms with who he is in the world. I wonder sometimes if this trait in characters is a reflection on our own feelings as writers. We’re always a bit on the outskirts, looking in, trying to find a place to belong. (or maybe I’m just head shrinking because of the heat – and the sugar-rush from these jelly-babies)
Describe a typical writing day for us. Do you have a set routine, any habits?
I’d love to say that I have a certain time of day where I go through a set of inspiring routines, then sit down to write – but really I write at any time. The only habit I have is that I need to have tea at my side. It’s what fuels my muse, I swear! When I’m drafting I aim for about 1,500 words a day but that doesn’t include the time spent scribbling notes or constantly going over ideas for scenes in my head. I’m always *writing* in the sense that my characters are with me constantly, whatever I’m doing.
It’s not something you can switch off, right? Everything is fair game for inspiration. Like myself, you draw a lot of inspiration for story locations from places in the real world. How important is it to you to get that first hand research for places, and how do you translate the mood or feelings into words?
I love the grounding influence of using real locations. There’s something so enticing about standing in a solid place and imagining your characters there. My descriptivism come into play a lot in scenes like this. I like to use all the senses to draw my reader into the midst of it. If I’m using a real location I need to do it justice too. I will take lots of photos (as I know you do!) and make notes, both mental and scribbled, to look back on. Sometimes I’ll combine locations though, as in the crypt in A Shining in the Shadows, which draws influence from the Undercroft at York Minster, the crypt at Winchester Cathedral, and my own imagination.
I love so much that our story worlds collide in such strange ways. Without giving too much away, York Minster’s Undercroft plays a big part in my next instalment in Changeling too. Great minds think alike! We should have made a daytrip of it.
You’re incredibly active online on social media, (much more so than me, and I feel like I live online as it is) I’m often staggered you manage to comment on almost everyone’s photos, (I do try to, but I’m always two or three days behind!) while you’re also running twitter, tumblr and everything else. How on earth do you find the time to maintain such a visible presence, and still find time to write? Are there secretly two of you?
Ha, I never sleep…Seriously, I often feel like I’m always running two steps behind! I actually gave up on Tumblr because it confused me terribly *writer confession*. Supporting other authors is very important to me as we’re all in this together. The writing community (especially on Instagram) is like family to me, and I give back as much as I can, as I’m incredibly grateful for everything that’s been done for me in the past. And I watch very little TV. My typical day starts and ends with social media with a hefty dose in between, even if I’m travelling. Chasing illusive Wi-Fi seems to be an obsession…
Very well said. The writing community is definitely a second family to me. I was surprised how supportive we all are of each other when I started out. I had a preconception that everyone would be undercutting each other, trying to outshine one another and at each other’s throats, but It’s the exact opposite. Social media is a great way to connect with other writers and we all get on so well, no matter how diverse our genres. Not only that, but outside of ‘writing’ there’s great life-support there two. Those guys helped me through my recent impalement. I think we all support each other awesomely.
How important, to you as an indie author, do you think social media has been in raising your profile and getting your books out there in the world? Is there anything you would do differently with hindsight from a marketing perspective?
It’s been the single most important thing. Without it I could never have created an interest for my books. As an indie author, making any kind of mark out in the big literary world, is incredibly difficult. Without my supporters buying, reviewing and shouting out my books, I would have been lost into the ether before I started. Marketing kills me. I’d probably try and learn more about the whole process before I’d published, but truly, as the lines keep changing, it’s all just winging it!
You’re not missing much with marketing, trust me. I have publishers doing god-knows what in the background but I haven’t got a single clue what actually goes on. I just smile and nod and go where they tell me. We’re all always happy to shout each other out though. There’s never a reason not to champion a book, if it’s worth shouting about.
Right, quick fire round! You have ten words to sum up your series and pitch it to me, go!
Re-evaluate everything you thought you knew about the night. It watches. (Eleven, sue me 😉 I hate these things!)
I SUPPOSE I’ll let you off with the extra word, seen as it’s you. Still get a penalty point though. So aside from your own work, what are your favourite reads of the moment? Do you have a favourite type of book, or are you a genre-hopper?
I am absolutely loving the Darker Shade of Magic series from V E Schwab right now. It’s sharp and generous storytelling with a refreshing take on magic and such wonderful world-building. Characters that make me ‘feel’ and who are elegantly conceived. I wish I’d thought of the concept first, damn it.
My go-to reads are always dark fantasy/horror, but I’ll pick anything up if the story calls to me.
I haven’t read any Schwab yet. (I’m always a couple of years behind whatever is trending) but I’ve only heard good things so far.
You’re signed to an agency these days (hopefully with an agent who’s a loveable Rottweiler like mine, they’re worth their weight in gold) but you started out Self-published initially. Has publishing your own books been a blessing, as you have more control than if you had gone through a traditional publishing route, or a curse due to the amount of legwork required to go it alone? (or a mixture of both)
A definite mix of both. Publishing myself has given me a lot more freedom as to where my books are sold, pricing for promotions, inclusion in book blogs, etc. But it’s extremely hard work and very time consuming. And that time could have been spent writing. So that’s where having a traditional publisher would have been worth its weight in gold. Plus, they have a lot more fingers in a lot more pies!
And Royalties and advances definitely free up your time for more writing, which is what your voracious readers demand. We all love reviews, obviously our books need them to be visible and to be seen and heard. I used to obsess over them, and made myself take a few steps back after a while. How important to you are reviews or feedback? Do you handle them well, good or bad?
Reviews and feedback are lifeblood to any writer. Honestly, each one gives me a little high. This week I passed the milestone of 100 reviews on Goodreads for Gabriel. Achievements like this always help if you’re having a little dither about whether you are good enough some days. I’ve had a few reviews that haven’t been too complimentary, but I have to remind myself that reading is very subjective. Did I seethe a bit? You bet I did…
That first ‘bad review’ is always horrible, I agree. We just have to learn to take it on the chin. You can’t please everyone. I always think if just one person loves my writing, I’m doing it right, even if only for them! With two books under your belt now, what advice would you give to a new or aspiring writer just starting off on the journey you are on?
Never stop believing that the story you have to tell deserves to be seen. There’s so much pressure out there on new writers, so many ‘rules’ that they are supposed to adhere to. It’s very easy to try and mould your story to fit into every box. But trust it. Trust your characters to carry it to the place it needs to be. Love it and hate it and nurture it. Because it’s a word child and it needs to be born.
Writing is definitely a compelling need I think. But what would you be doing with your life if you weren’t a writer?
I’d be a hermit. Hold on, that’s probably the same thing 😉 After a career path that has involved banking, the civil service and education, I’d be fulfilled in a job that makes me feel whole. Of course, owning a book store would be top of the list, the kind with a comfy little coffee shop attached, but I’d also like to work for a conservation organisation like the National Trust. Books and nature are my favourite things.
At what point did you sit yourself down and decide to become a serious novelist, rather than just an idea to try it? Was there an event, or series of events that led you to roll up your sleeves and take the plunge?
I was at a point in my life where I knew that if I didn’t pluck up the courage and take the chance, I would forever be wondering if I had the potential. I didn’t want to be one of those people who look back on their life and wonder ‘what if?’ Gabriel gave me the courage to put myself out there (and as an introvert that’s a very scary thing.) And before I had finished writing it I knew there had to be a sequel. I’m sure there are lots of different definitions about the term ‘serious novelist.’ If it means that you can’t see your life without writing and story and the constant, glorious shadow of character, then I’m holding up my hand.
I’m right there with you. I always think you can tell a good writer as we would STILL do it, even if we weren’t getting paid to do it. to ‘not write’ is unthinkable. The stories must out. (although I admit, it’s nicer to be paid to do it than not.) What, for you, is the best part about the writing experience? And the worst?
The best – The anticipation of where the story might lead. My writing is a very organic process. I have points I’d like the story to reach and I work with my characters to get to each one. Sometimes they comply, but sometimes they take a complete deviation. And that’s when some of the true magic appears. They will say or do something which can take me onto a new path. That’s exactly what happened with Moth and Teal in The Making of Gabriel Davenport.
The worst – Editing when you’re down to the nitty gritty of searching for words you’ve used too often. By this time it’s usually around draft seven, and I’ve reached the point where I’ve developed blinkers on the story. And that final read through when I minutely pick apart the printed proof. Somehow seeing the story as an actual physical book always brings up some tiny typos, no matter how many times you’ve edited.
There’s a definite editing snow-blindness point we all reach, that’s for certain, and yes, when we get the physical copy that’s when the spelling mistakes wave at us from the page! Ah well, the story matters more. It’s not a school essay. What are your plans once the series is finished? Can we expect similar genre or a different direction? What does the future hold for Beverley Lee? Other than a nice cup of inspirational tea?
Of course. You can’t get rid of me that easily! Future projects will definitely carry a dark vibe. I don’t think I can write without that underlying vibration. I’ve nothing concrete planned but lots of little ideas nibbling. Right now, Gabriel and company mean there’s not much room for anything new to start shouting, but I like to think the seeds are geminating 😉
Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball, to be able to skip forward a few years and see where I’ll be. But that would take away all of the magic, because the destination is not as important as what you find on your journey.
The same process as writing the story applies to the writer’s own journey I guess. We can plan and aim for where we want to go and be, but life will take its own path, and the fun is certainly in all the unexpected twists and turns. I hope In a few years, crystal ball or not, we’re still gabbing away online and pouring out stories.
Thanks so much for coming in and spilling your soul today Bev. It’s been a pleasure. I’ll get the mop-bucket out in a second and sort out that spilled-soul, although in this heat, it might just be sweat. I’d open a window but I don’t want to let that magpie in. it doesn’t look trustworthy.
*swivels on chair like Vincent price to face imaginary ‘camera number two*
Hope you’ve all enjoyed me picking Bev’s brain like a carrion crow. If you haven’t already, please do check out the Gabriel Davenport Series, both books are available online (click the linky-dinks below) and go and say Hi to Bev all over the internet on Insta/Twitter/Facebook etc. She really is lovely (in whisper…just don’t cross her)
(Click the pics below to be taken to Amazon)
And don’t forget, Bev and I are hosting the Shayverlee six-word story challenge on Bookstagram in July. (see my previous blog post for details) it will be great fun, we are kind and loving hosts and promise not to get the cat-o-nine-tails on you for your literary efforts! Unless you really deserve it of course.
Today is my birthday
(I might be lying, I might very well have drafted this previously and had it ready to post…you’ll never know…muahahahaha) So…just a general update on a few bits and pieces for you today. Talking about Kindle V Hardback, (fight-fight-fight-fight!) a brief word about Litsy, (fear the new and unknown!) and an invitation to join my story challenge. (all the kool kidz are, bro) so…first thing first:
How do you prefer to read your books? There still seems to be such a divide about this, (although i’m happy to say it’s getting narrower. It’s less of a grand canyon of opinion now, and more of a space-between-uma-thurmans-eyes gap. Still noticable, but not something you can’t deal with)
It boils down, nuts and bolts, to this: would you rather a) Have a slab of light beam glyphs into your eyes to make you dream while awake? or b) do you prefer to gaze at thin slices of dead tree covered in synthetic squid-bile patterns until you hallucinate?
basically, Kindle or Hard copy.
There are arguments, (often heated amongst the bookish, often violent, occasionally fatal and always entertaining) both for and against either story-delivery-method)
People say they love the convienience of Kindle, the fact that you can store 18 billion books on a slim tablet and take them anywhere, and of course the fact that e-books are much much cheaper, therefore those on a budget can read many more. others feel they are souless trinklets that cheapen the book experience and ruin your eyes as though you were staring into the ark of the covenant with Indiana Jones.
Others prefer the ‘feel’ of a physical book in their hands, and it’s all very tactile, with the smell of paper and the rustle of pages. These people can get pretty carried away. when they start licking bookspines I back away. but on the flipside…tree-murdering villans!
( and then of course let us not forget there are also those who buy books with the sole and only intention of having them ‘look pretty’ on shelves, usually ‘rainbow-filed’ but with no intention of ever actually reading them – we dont like these people. These people disturb me. They are the same as those who collect and pin butterflies under glass. Yes, it’s pretty to look at, but you’re kind of missing the point. Books are meant to be read. Dreams and thoughts given physical form, and butterlflies are meant to…well…flutter by. to deny either their natural purpose is WEIRD)
Anyway, here is where I personally come down on the Kindle vs Hard copy war: I like BOTH
(gasps of shocked astonishment)
Yes! This is possible. It is allowed. It’s not illegal, nor is it against the laws of nature. This is not a civil war where one must swear allegiance! The same rule applies for the ENDLESS Marvel vs DC argument (I enjoy both, equally) and Austen vs Bronte (again, I like both, equally.)
These things are not mutually exclusive!
A rule in my house is generally that kindle is a good way to try out a new writer you might not know yet, and then if you do like their book, you then buy the hard copy too. (so that you can read it again – i dont care what anyone says, things ‘read differently’ on ebook and hard copy)
After that of course, you can put the copy on the shelf, in its correct rainbow place, where it will look pretty…just next to the butterflies.
People do ask me quite often, as a writer, whether I prefer people to buy my books as ebooks or as hard copy, and honestly, the answer is that I really dont care.
Technically I make more money on a kindle-copy sold than I do on a hard copy, because it doesnt cost the publishers as much money to produce, so therefore cut is less, (therefore my agents cut is less and my royalties are higher, on a book by book basis at least.)
But on a hard copy, the cost of producing the physical book is reflected in the price to the reader to buy it, so a physical book will earn more, therefore the publishers earn more, and although my royalties are smaller on a book-by-book basis, they are the smaller portion of a larger profit (if that makes sense) so these things tend to even out.
(This might differ for Indie or self-published writers, as they dont have Publishers or Agents taking cuts and commissions, but on the other hand, they have to pay for their own adversiting and have to pay to have their books editied and published themselves) I’m not indie or self-published, so I can’t answer for them, you’d have to go ask one, but I would imagine it’s a simiar balance overall.
If I had to choose a favourite, (which I dont, but lets be theoretical for a moment) It would be physical copy, for one reason alone.
You can tell how big a book is. (thickness and heft)
These things are hard to judge on an e-book. For example my first three books in the Changeling series (pictured below) all look and feel the same on kindle. It’s only when you get the hard copies that you can see how they have gotten progressively longer as the series has progressed.
(and yes, before you ask, book four is going to be roughly the size of a house-brick. dont say I dont give you your moneys worth of story)
Another reason to love hard copies more are that I love bookmarks, and I like to fold pages and read in the bath. It’s hard (and expensive) to fold a kindle or Ipad, and reading them in the bath can be fatal 🙂
The next thing I just wanted to briefly mention in this blog post is the new Social Media platform for booklovers, Litsy.
If you’re a book-nerd like me, or if you’re already part of the Bookstagram community on IG, you will probably either already be on here, or you will at least have heard of it being bandied around.
In essence, it’s similar to IG, with the difference being that it ONLY relates to books and posts about books. (you can either upload a Blurb, a Quote or a Review.)
There has been a lot of chest-beating about an exodus from Insta due to changes to the Algorythm or too many ads etc, (and frankly some of it has been a little hysterical) so I’d just like to say, in my opinion, its the marvel/dc – austen/bronte argument all over again. (you…dont…have…to…choose…one!)
I have joined Litsy, because i’m bookish and I like book things, and I can handle another social media platform without quite having a total mental breakdown. if you can too, excellent. if you cant, or dont want to, thats cool too, and I will still hug and love you. Feel free to come and find me over there if you like and say hi. But to confirm, I will NOT be leaving the Bookstagram community on IG.
That’s my spiritual home, it’s where most of my freinds live, and it’s a great and fun community. It’s where, as a writer I do a HUGE chunk of promoting my books, competitions, giveaways, bookmerch etc, but its also where I share my life with people (dog walks, Landscape and nature pics, architecture photos and any other random nonesene that pops into my head.) I love being able to do that, and it brings me much closer to both my readers and to other fun writers who have become firm freinds. There’s no scope for any of that ‘wider-life’ stuff on Litsy.
But Litsy is a place I can copy all of my specific ‘Bookish’ posts too, and have them all neatly arranged and pretty in one place together (next to the pinned butterflies and rainbow-books)
So for once and for all, it isnt an ‘either-or’ its not like cheating on your signifigant social media other. It’s just another way to have fun and to make the most of your reviews and bookpics. (and you know how much I like bookpics) 🙂
My final update for you, before I let you all escape (i’m aware your cup of tea is going cold there) is just to let you know that next month, over on bookstagram, I will be running the third monthly ‘Shayverlee six word story challenge’
This is something I thought up a while back, and managed to rope my good freind and fellow author Bev Lee in to help me co-host. Between us we’ve run this monthly challenge twice now, and it’s been a great success and good fun all around.
The basic idea is that, between us, we have thought of a word prompt for each day of the month, and people who play the Shayverlee challenge have to make a story either based or or inspired by that prompt in exactly six words. It can be quite challenging to express something in such a constraint, but that’s half the fun, and some of the entries in previous months have been both diverse and inspirational. If you’d like to join in this time around, please do head on over and give me a follow, and let’s see your creative juices flowing next month. come join the creative collective 🙂
thats all from me today folks. have a wonderful weekend. i’m off to eat my own body weight in birthday cake. x
Hello Erlkingers and Helsings,
Just a very brief update post today, as Britain is gripped in the throes of a heatwave, and i’m trying to minimise movement. Even light typing is generating so much heat that my keyboard keys are melting like liquorice left on a hot car dashboard, and making sweat pour in niagra-like torrents between my shoulder blades.
It’s very warm.
We dont deal very well with heat here in Britain. Come to think of it, as a country we dont deal well with any kind of weather. The smallest hint of snow and our trains grind to a halt, a breeze strong enough to blow over plastic garden furniture and newscasters are warning us all to stay indoors and avoid all non-essential travel to escape the gale-force winds. The only weather we seem able to manage without complaint and hysteria is light drizzle, which is the status quo for my lovely country. We dont like it, but at least we are used to it, you know where you stand with light drizzle (usually somewhere damp) and it gives us, the british people, an excuse to indulge our favourite national sport, which is complaining about the weather.
(honestly, non-brits. if you are ever trapped in an awkward silence with a british person and dont know what to say, talk about the weather. we LOVE it.)
But it’s not drizzing today, it’s roasting hot and sunny, roughly equivalent to the surface of the sun, or a hot metal slide in any childs playground (they are scientifically proven to be the same temperature) and believe me when I tell you, for someone who is currently laid up in the house on crutches, and unable to get to a sensible place like a country pub beer garden, thats a world of bleurgh.
Ice-cream vans all over the country are spontaneously combusting. Several beer-gardens have now become their own closely guarded fifedoms and are surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Her majesty the Queen has ordered that Mount Snowdon be destroyed and melted down to provide enough ice to cool her flammable swans, and the pale and pasty inhabitants of my island are doing what we always do when faced with a little sun, which is stripping off immediately and exposing our fish-belly-white bodies to noonday heat until we achieve the desired shade of beetroot red. (given that we all resemble some kind of albino subterranean mole-people naked, this takes about three minutes) But the resultant peeling sunburn will give us all something lovely to complain about tomorrow. – and after discussing the weather and tutting about people pushing in queues, complaining is our other beloved national sport.
I guarantee you will hear at least one English person every day while this weather lasts breathlessly utter the phrase ‘ooh, I like it hot…but not this hot’, or exclaiming with indignation that ‘it’s very close today! very close indeed!’
(this in itself is a curious phrase. It’s not like we have the equivalent for cold. when it’s freezing we dont say ‘It’s pretty f****ing far away today mate! It’s bloody distant, that’s what it is!’) – before adding in a grumble that we like it cold…but not this cold.
Anyway, housebound as I am, i’m avoiding the sunburn and traffic jams and people sweating in offices which seem to own only one geriatric fan for each floor, and am instead sitting blogging, occasionally with my feet in the paddling pool. Cause that’s the rockstar life.
Wonderful news regarding Chains of Gaia, which has been out in the world now for just over a week, as it has entered the Amazon Bestseller charts. This is incredibly gratifying to me. it’s good to know that my book is working hard, even if i’m not. The first instalment of the series, Isle of Winds, is also back in the Bestseller charts, which is largely due to it’s inclusion in the wonderful world of Bookbub.
If you dont already subscribe to Bookbub, I urge you to do so. it has some great deals and i’ve discovered a whole lot of good books at great prices through it. (plus they clearly have tremendously good taste as they carry my books from time to time) 🙂 You can definitely pick up a few good summer reads there to take to the beach with you while you get the beetroot look on the go.
In other book-related news, after a long break away, I have re-joined the world of Goodreads. I havent reviewed anything over there yet, but if we are not already freinds on there, please do feel free to come and seek me out (JamesFahyAuthor) as I am an incredibly nosy fellow, and I want to know what you’re reading, if you liked it, what you’re reading next, and your credit card details (including CVC number on reverse) just innocent info-gathering of course.
That’s all the update for now. Stay tuned for later in the week, when I will be posting my second ‘Authortalk’. (a series of blog posts where I chat, writer-to-writer, with some of my favourite authors, both traditional and Indie. (and occasionally hybrid). I’m not telling you who I have in the hotseat, you’ll just have to pay attention and find out. 🙂
I’m now off to my shady garden, where expiring pigeons are sizzling melodically in the trees, to smell the summertime smells of burning ice-cream trucks nearby and listen to the dog panting in the shimmering heathaze. Dont get me wrong, she likes it hot, just not this hot, and its terribly close.
It is in fact, imminent.
My newest Novel, book three in the Changeling Series: Chains of Gaia was officially ‘launched’ on the 12th. This is known in writing circles usually as either ‘Publication day’ (pub-day ..means something different to us boozy brits) or as a ‘Book Birthday’.
Book Birthday’s are always a bit exciting for authors. We’ve slaved away at the story in private for god-knows how long. It’s been through countless different drafts, endless different edits. It’s been scrutinised by our literary agent, it’s been plucked over by our publishing house, preened by our editors, but even so, up until this point it’s always secret and safe and still ‘ours’.
When Book Birthday arrives, everything changes. That’s when we release the story off into the world, giving it to Amazon and bookstores, and Kindle clouds and the world in general. It’s not just ‘ours’ anymore. It’s out there in the wide world, naked and afraid and fending for itself like a bird kicked out of the nest. The release date is always a mixture of ‘proud-parent’ and ‘aprehensive worry’.
So yes, it’s a bit of a big moment. And so traditionally, with a book-birthday, there’s usually a LOT for the writer to do on the day.
Normally there’s a run up of teasers and promos and other hype to whip up interest. My publishers are normally tweeting and blogging and securing features for me in things like Amazon sales, Bookbub, advertising here there and everywhere and promos. I myself will usually also be dancing around every form of social media I operate in, spinning a hundred plates and making my presence felt on Insta, facebook, twitter, etc. My agent will be checking ARC and beta readers, eagerly awaiting initial reviews and I will be trying desperately to answer promptly the eight million direct messages i get about the book or the launch day.
It’s fun, hectic, busy and usually a bit of an exhausting and chaotic whirlwind, with maybe, just maybe, an oppurtunity later on to celebrate with loved ones (the tradition in my household has previously been to have a bottle of chilled fizz-pops to mark the occasion, and the cork saved and dated)
This time around however, with the release and Book Birthday of Chains of Gaia, things were a little different for me.
If you dont already follow me on other social media, you might not already be aware that I spent my book birthday in hospital, where i’ve been for over a week following a rather grim accident that left me rather smashed to bits.
To cut a long story short, (so as not to bore you if you ARE already aware of recent events) as a brief recap, what happened was this: I came off my mountain bike at high speed flying down a very steep hill, unable to turn out of a bend fast enough, and threw myself over a set of iron safety railings. I’m sure it was balletic, maybe even impressive, to witness, but the end result is that I ended up impaled like a vampire, shish-kabobed through my torso on said railings. I also broke my right hip and punctured my right lung. (hat trick!) In short, and to use traditionaly British understatement I was a ‘bit of a mess’, and were it not for the amazingly calm and collected actions of the bystanders on the scene, who stemmed my bleeding, kept pressure on, and called for aid, it’s fairly likely that would have been my last ever bike ride, or indeed my last ever anything.
BUT, (spoiler alert) I didnt die. (internet high-fives all round) and after a few days in the High Dependency Unit, having my lung drained and reinflated (ewwwww) and having operations and procedures to mend my broken hip, to put new stuffing in me and sow back together the hole in my side left by the railing, I am now well and truly out of the woods and off the ‘might-die-any-second-now list’. All is well, and I am slowly on the mend. (phew!) and besides, i’m going to have a kick-ass scar that i’m already making up elaborate stories about fending off wild shark attacks. silver lining!
The point of telling you all this being, I spent my Book Birthday in hospital (ironically waiting to be released that day, same as my novel).
This meant that all the above hoo-hah usually accompanying launch date went out of the window. While I was able to maintain some kind of a sporadic online presence on social media to some degree, it was still surreal to be getting notifications from readers in Australia to say the books had arrived on their kindles (they get them first due to timelines) while I sat in pressure socks and hospital PJ’s slurping NHS jelly from a plastic spoon. There wasnt really much more I could do.
What I did find both suprising and awesome, was the way freinds and fellow writers rallied around, some of them posting teasers or announcments about my books on my behalf, others even going to the lengths of creating their own promo videos for my book. All things which I’d normally do myself but wasnt able to. It’s all rather humbling and sweet, and it’s a definite sign that when it comes to writing, authors, readers and bloggers genuinely DO support one another. It’s a wonderful and caring community and I’m proud to have made such firm freinds in it.
My freinds and family have been a godsend while i’ve been in hospital, both those loved ones who spent every waking moment physically there with me, holding my hand and enduring my constant complaining about the bad food and morphine induced gibbering, and also those online buddies, who went out of their way to keep me entertained and from going completely stir-crazy while laid-up, either with daily videos of their outdoor adventures so I wouldnt feel so cooped up, or their long rambling chats about nonsense long into the night. You all know who you are, and you’re all awesome people.
My point is, in this long and rambling blog post, that as book birthdays go, this one was fairly ‘unique’ and i’m sure i will remember it for a long time to come!
I’m back home now, laid up on crutches and with strict instructions not to do any cartwheels for a while, and already I’m seeing such trememdous support for Chains of Gaia.
The first two reviews are in, and you can read them at the below links if you like, or on Amazon. I’m happy that so far, Chains seems to have found a good home amongst my Erlking readers.
Another lovely thing when books are born, is that people all over the world tend to send you photos of your book in their world. ‘Bookstagramming’ as we call it in the business. Here’s a selection of those i’ve seen so far for Chains. They’re all epic!
if you havent picked up book three yet, as always, the link is below for you. otherwise, happy reading and i’ll see you online. back soon with a new Author-talk interview for you. watch this space.
Just a quick one this time around, to let you know that Chains of Gaia recieved it’s first ever review by awesome and rather hilarious New York Book Blogger Chandra Claypool of ‘Wherethereadergrows.com’
It’s a fine line to tread as a writer, obsessing over reviews. I used to do it a LOT more, but when I noticed bald spots appearing and uncontrollable hand-shaking and mumbling (more so than usual I mean) I decided to try not to stress about them too much anymore.
That being said, while, like any writer, I’m always grateful for anyone taking two minutes out of their day to review one of mine they’ve read, there’s always a certain level of trepedation about the FIRST review for a new book. (especially one that isn’t out until 12th June). So it was with great relief and weary-flopping-down-into-a-chairness that Chains’ review cherry was popped as follows. (off for a stiff brandy now)
PS: If you havent already read on her blog, (and if you’re not following her, why not??) I also managed to answer roughly a million and seven questions in an author Q and A. the link is at the bottom of this blog post. hop on over and say hi to the oft-mispronounced ‘Merican. She’s charming and witty, (though has no internal GPS as we discovered in a recent tour of my home city). x
Ever have that feeling of going back to some place familiar and comfortable – like being tucked into your childhood bed? Well here I am, back in Erkling, with Henry, Hestia, Woad, Aunt Irene, Inky… I’m HOME.. and ready for another adventure to the Netherworlde.
This time they must retrieve the Shard of Earth and in the process have to deal with centaurs, a minotaur, dryads and new parts of the Netherworlde (just to name a few). New characters are introduced – Ffoulkes has to be the most annoying and narcissistic character I’ve seen in a while (but damn I love him) – and surprises are peeking around every corner. Once again, we see the author’s sense of humor come into play with various references freckled throughout the book and through the friendships and relationships between the characters. Woad’s always been one of everyone’s favorites and his simplistic, yet wise, view of the world is always refreshing (as is Inky’s loyalty to him). I’ve always liked Aunt Irene but she vaulted up my list for a variety of reasons. We see Robin still struggling with his role as the Scion and controlling his power, yet maturing and becoming more confident by the minute. I always find it fun and endearing to watch characters grow book by book in a series and the author does this without fail.
Fahy brings adventure, humor, emotion and action which keeps the pages turning. I literally kept swiping left hoping more pages would appear at the end, but sadly they did not. Swipe, swipe, swipe…nothing. I suppose I will have to just wait for the next installment… until then I’ll live my life by picking things up one at a time, socks and underpants. And hey, you guys, as you get to reading this book, send me a hex message so we can discuss.
Thanks for such an epic first review 🙂
You can read our chat, and lots of other interesting things concerning books, food, and life in general from Chandra, at the below link. Go check her out, you won’t be dissapointed.