Happy Book Birthday>>>

Not so much a rambling, meandering stream of conciousness today, but I just thought it fitting to announce here the official launch of my new book Hell’s Teeth

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As several people who had pre-ordered messaged me to say, it arrived in the dead of night, silently and ominously invading both kindles and letterboxes like a paperback Nosferatu, pages flapping as diabolically as bat wings…okay, okay, i’ll stop.

*PEAL OF THUNDER!*

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH……ahem.

It’s always an extremely exciting time getting a new book out. Something that has been bouncing around inside my mind has, through a rather laborious process, now toddled off into the wide world on unsteady legs. I still find it very strange that we can show other people the worlds we create in our own minds simply by presenting them on slices of dead tree in the form of numerous squiggles whose meaning we have all jointly agreed upon beforehand.

It’s a kind of alchemy really, and i suppose that’s what people mean when they talk about the magic of books.

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Up until the point it’s published, I always feel the story is mine, and only mine. but then suddenly it isnt. It’s out there, unguarded and uncontrolled by myself, in other peoples minds, and they will have their own ideas about it (whether they love it or hate it) They will picture the characters however they want to, regardless of my own mental images. and so on.

It’s both exhilarating and a little scary as a writer. Almost like watching the snot-nosed child you raised go off to college independantly. It doesnt really need you any more, you did your best, you raised it right, you instilled good moral backbone and ambitions, you made it brush its teeth and eat its greens, and of course you spellchecked it.

Now it fends for itself. (although luckily, as far as i’m aware, unlike college students released books dont come back to their authors once a month with an enormous pile of laundry, or send emails asking for emergency funds. They better not anyway.)

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Someone asked me today if i have any particular ‘launch day’ rituals.

Last time i released a book, I had a very nice bottle of Champagne, and afterwards penned the release date on the cork to keep as a souvenier. (the general idea being that one day i would have many of these corks, and could do something interesting with them. Possibly string them together on a necklace like the severed ears of my enemies. or maybe something else. havent quite decided.)

I’ll probably do the same with this one, but unfortunately, new vampire/zombie/apocalypse book launch or not, it will have to wait as i’m (supposed to be) on a detox for two weeks.

It’s just not the same celebrating with homemade veggie soup and a protein shake really, although, unlike many of the characters in the book, it does make me feel quite virtuous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the dean of the college just called, and I have to go pick up my book. It’s been expelled for TP’ing the Headmasters faculty lounge.

You can pick up Hell’s Teeth, if you haven’t already (shame upon you) here:

CLICK ME: I BITE!

Hells Teeth

 

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The Page is Printed…

I recently had the pleasure of being Q&A’d by the charmingly bearded and inked book reviewer Luke Marlowe following his review of Isle of Winds.

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If you want to see what we nattered about, head over to thepageisprinted.com  and check out their ‘Ask An Author’ section here:

thepageisprinted : ask an author

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You can also read Luke’s review of the first instalment of the Changeling fantasy series here:

Isle of Winds Review – Luke Marlowe

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I’d urge you to check out the site if you haven’t already, for a collection of many other excellent and insightful reviews. (i’ve already pencilled in a few books to my ever growing ‘to-read’ list from their reccomendations.)

click here for thepageisprinted.com

 

The curious process of naming your characters

whats in a name

What’s in a name?

As we are famously told to believe, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Well, maybe so, but still…if roses were called ‘warlrus armpits’, I doubt very much people would be quite so eager to stick their noses in deeply.

And what about sleeping beauty? No prince could ever really fall in love with a princess named ‘Briar Walrus-armpits’.  (Princes, on the whole, are rather shallow)

 scared prince

I could go on, but I won’t because I’m making myself heave.

My point is, names are important, especially in fiction. A review I recently read on Goodreads led me to thinking about fictional names and how on earth they come about. The review was lamenting the tendency in some bad writing (especially in the fantasy and sci-fi  field) to name characters with outlandish and unpronounceable names, usually with too many x’s and z’s.)

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Twisted tongue

Which got me to thinking, how do they come about? The names we give to our imaginary friends? Character names falling from the heavens like manna? Whispered into the writers ear by their own invisible muse?  Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Frodo Baggins. They’re all so iconic you really can’t imagine them now having ever been named anything else. Can you imagine Humphrey Aldershot and the Chamber of Secrets? ….nah.

(makes scribbled note of the name Humphrey Aldershot however, because I like it)

I’m interested, as a writer, where other writers get their character names from? Do they just spring into your heads unbidden and fully formed, creatures of their own right and fully grown like Athena bursting from the body of Zeus. (the original dysfunctional family)  or is it a process of trying on different names like various hats, seeing which one finally fits, rolling the shape of the name around your tongue and trying it out like a literary humbug for flavour?

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I can only speak for myself, but In my case, it’s very rare that I will ever name a character by throwing a dart into a phone-book. I’m not very random. I’m a fan of design and suggestion, and I like the power of names, and whether in my fantasy writing for children (and big children) or in my darker works for adults, I like my names to mean something. (if only to me)

 Just the idea of a name in general is an odd one. As someone on twitter way back when pointed out, (i can’t remember who, or i’d credit them here, but it wasn’t me) asking for someone’s name is quite a strange process. You are basically saying ‘please tell me what noise I should make to get your attention’.

 The Changeling series , due to its loose basis in both Greek and European mythology, is an absolute gold-mine for me when it comes to names. I specifically didn’t want to include ANY of the main pantheon of more well known gods and goddesses. You won’t find a ‘Zeus’ anywhere in the Series, or a ‘Hera’, or an ‘Artemis’, (and there is a good reason for that) But it was tremendous fun to choose the names I went with for various characters, dropping little easter-eggs where possible to hint through their names at what role they may plan in the overall scheme of things.

(I say may, because I’m also a big fan of red herrings and misdirection)

 Phorbas for instance, the satyr tutor. I could have gone with Pan, or any of the more well known goat-man names, but I have my reasons for choosing the lesser known.

 Woad, my blue skinned faun was named as an allusion to the cobalt war paint favoured by some Celtic tribes in days gone by.

 Similarly with my Vampire book series. While not overt, I wanted at least a nod to the uber-daddy of all vampires, Dracula, which is why my heroines name is Harkness, (for Harker) the vampire groupies in New Oxford are referred to as ‘Helsings’) and Dr Harkness’ collegue and friend is Lucy West. (named for Lucy Westenra from Stokers novel)

Her abrasive supervisor, Veronica cloves, is of course a link to  garlic, classic vampire repellent, fitting given her disdain for them.)

 Choosing names is a fun game, and one of my favourite parts of the writing process.

 What I find wonderful sometimes however, about the (frankly odd) pastime of making people up from thin air, is when you dont decide on a character name.

When instead, the character themselves just ‘tells’ you their name, and theres no arguing with it.

 If you write, you’ll know what I mean. We only ever really have tenuous control over our characters at the best of times. Often I’m not 100% sure what precisely they’re going to say until they say it.

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 And some names just announce themselves. There’s no Rhyme or reason for me why Allesandro is called ‘Allesandro’ in the Hell’s Teeth novel. Or why Griff, the lab assistant is called ‘Griff’. They just are, and even if, as the writer whos supposed to be in charge of these things, you decide to change the name, nothing else sticks and you end up doing as you are told and going back to the original. Sometimes your subconscious knows best.

 Personally I find it a relief when this happens, as it saves me the work of having to use reason or logic or all those other things which most writers dislike. I am inherently lazy.

 lazy writer

And on the flip side of the coin, there are those characters which simply refuse to be named. These can be extremely frustrating to me.

 For example, there is a character in the sequel to Changeling: Isle of Winds, who, in various drafts, has been through at least seven different names so far. Each time I think, yes, I like this one, this…fits!

Then I feel completely cold to it on the next read through. It sticks in my throat, or knocks me out of the story when my eyes scan over it on the page.

 To me, this is usually a sign that I don’t know the character well enough yet, or that I myself am not altogether certain of their motives. As a yardstick, I always know I’ve drawn the character to my own satisfaction when the name finally fits them as perfectly (if impractically) as the proverbial glass slipper.

 Perhaps it’s just me. Maybe only I obsess over names this way, but I doubt it.

 Anyway, I’m off now for a nice cup of tea to and to dip into my copy of Humphrey Aldershot and the Goblet of Fire

Pre-order your Vamps for Fangy-Freshness

It’s been a little while since I prattled on here, but just a quick soundbite to announce the good news that Hell’s Teeth, Book One of the Phoebe Harkness Series, is now available to pre-order on Amazon:

Preorder here. (clickety-click)

Hells Teeth

I’m very excited by this, not only because it’s the first in my Oxford-based paranormal mystery series, which is so very different in tone and voice than my other series, the Fantasy Changeling books, but ALSO, because, if you decide pre-ordering sounds like a good idea, you can take advantage of the pre-order price, which is a whopping 99p /99c (depending where in the world you are reading this from)

To put that in perspective for a moment:

99p in today’s post-budget Britain will get you either:

  1. A Bus ticket to get you from somewhere soggy and grey to…somewhere else soggy and grey – OR – a damnably entertaining paranormal novel filled with vampires!
  2. A sub-par birthday card from a late night petrol station. (the kind of card that wont stand up) – OR- a violently macabre urban gothic adventure novel!!
  3. Almost (but not quite) two bags of semi-stale hula-hoops from the office vending machine – OR a grizly novel trawling through the dystopian and dark underbelly of Neo-oxford society!!!
  4. A soggy and lonesome cheezeburger from the 4am motorway drive through which tastes of…nilishm and…mold – OR- a kickass action-packed tale of vampire doomsday cults, genetically degenerate zombie-ghouls and exploding rats!!!

The choice is clear (inserts glow in the dark fake fangs)

Hope to see you in New-Oxford soon then! and for those of you who follow me on various other social media platforms, (you weirdo stalkers)  I’m also celebrating the release by giving away a signed paperback copy once it’s out in the world. (signed in pen- not blood i’m afraid – curse you health-and-safety.)

Details of the Giveaway will be up on my Goodreads page once the release date is here, (30th March) until then, if you can’t wait to sink your teeth into Phoebe and her undead adventures, i’ll see you on the pre-order side of the street.

(unless of course  you really really really want that soggy cheeseburger of course. In which case, there’s no hope.)

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Hell is coming to Oxford

(Cue giddy fanfare with various shrill trumpets)

Yay! Have had confirmation that Hell’s Teeth, my new Urban Gothic novel and book one in the ‘Phoebe Harkness’ series, is being tied up in a blood-stained bow as we speak, and should be going to presses ASAP.

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We are looking at a release date around Easter, (more solid confirmation as soon as I have it) but the book itself should be available to pre-order online through Amazon around the end of next week.

So if you are a lover of near-future dystopia, vampires, post-apocalyptic plagues, feisty heroines and the beautiful and stunning city of Oxford, come and join Phoebe  in her one woman battle against a nebulous serial killer.

Tell your friends…tell your enemies…perhaps don’t tell your therapist though. (they always read too deeply into these things)

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What’s your reading space?

Everyone should have somewhere a little bit sacred, private and calm to do their reading and writing.

Here’s mine:

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I am, of course, lying.

That’s not my reading space. In fact, it’s a bit much.

To be perfectly honest, how many globes does one person really need? Unless you’re planning on depicting some rare planetary conjunction using models (which i don’t know about you, but I haven’t had to do in aaaaaaages) then surely one is enough. – other than the globes however, this is nicely understated…Maybe add some comfy bean-bags?

But I’m getting off topic already.

I was chatting with some online friends (I don’t have the other kind, too much hassle) and several people, it came out in conversation, have a certain chair in a sunny corner of a certain room, or a book filled nook. A dedicated and private or ‘sacred’ spot to do their reading in.

Some people read in bed, some go to libraries in their lunch hours. Some people read at the gym (on the stationary bikes, one assumes, not while deadlifting)

Personally, I read commuting (which I seem to do an awful lot of) and I also read in the bath. (It being the the only room in my house which has a working lock on the door.)

This can lead to problematic issues such as wobbly-paged paperbacks, but I think paperbacks are made to be dog-eared, folded and battered, like a favourite old teddy which has been loved so much it only has one eye remaining and smells like squirrels.

I’d be interested to know what reading sanctuaries other people have. Does everyone read at home? Do your read while jogging or driving? (audio books, obviously) While fencing? (I don’t recommend this one.)

As a writer, I (lazily) do a lot of my research online these days, rather than the traditional visit to the library and ensuing ‘research montage’ (you know which one I mean. The montage with dissolve edits showing piles of books growing steadily larger on the desk, occasional cuts to the clock on the wall showing the passing of time, and the inevitable ‘taking off glasses and rubbing at tired eyes’ – yes, that montage.)

I do feel guilty about this sometimes, as though i’m cheating a little researching so much from the interwebs at home, but it’s just so damnably convenient.  You can drink coffee without paying for it, and you dont have to wear pants, which are two selling points right there off the bat.

I did however, have occasion  to bodily go to my local library the other day , as it’s recently been renovated, and I realised once i got there that I’d forgotten what a beauty it is. It really is a stunning and inspirational place to both read and write in.

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For a start, it’s a sexy building, as so many libraries are. Alabaster and marble complexion, sweeping elegant arches, saucy pediments etc…and after the recent renovation it’s now a prefect blend of ancient and new:

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(I love the entrance)

It made me wonder why i’d fallen out of the habit of going there in the first place.

A lot of people, it seems, spend many years, through school, then college, then University, practically living in a library. (eating – sleeping -sobbing softly – depending what you’re studying – I‘m looking at you, antidisestablishmentarianism) and then once the studying years are done the relationship with the library ends. abruptly and awkwardly, like a bad relationship. You finish your Uni course, leave your library card on the dresser and sneak out quietly in the morning while the library is still sleeeping. You dont even call.

Harsh.

Poor library. You never really set foot in one again. This is a shame, and I think, given my recent tentative visit, i’m going to try and spend more time here and reconnect with what I used to love so much about it.

True,it might not be as click-convenient as sitting on my laptop at home with coffee and a dog jumping up at my heels every two seconds, and they are fairly strict about the ‘wearing pants’ rule,  but it’s inspirational just to be surrounded by so many amazing books, in such a pleasing setting.

So wherever your reading (or writing) space is, or however many Wikipedia pages you have bookmarked, (yes we all use it for reasearch, but remember kids, Wiki is a good starting point…it’s a diving board. It is not the pool) and whether you happen to be a schoolchild, a student, or a fully growed-up grown up, remember what the writer Tom Angleberger had to say about libraries:

‘A school library is like the Bat-cave: it’s a safe fortress in a chaotic world, a source of knowledge and the lair of a superhero. True, the superhero is more likely to be wearing a cardigan than a batsuit, but still-‘

And if you can’t get out to a library, and for whatever reason you don’t have a sunny nook or perfect sun-dappled garden swing for your reading space, make sure you MAKE a space.

If need be, improvise:

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Cover reveal: ‘drum roll….’ HELL’S TEETH

It’s always a good day when you get to do an official cover reveal, so ready your ‘squeeeee’ for the first cover proof of ‘Hell’s Teeth’.

Hells Teeth

Hell’s Teeth is the first in my new Urban Gothic paranormal series, following the misadventures of Phoebe Harkness. Talented scientist, socially awkward hermit and magnet for trouble.

Join Phoebe in the fortified city of post-apocalyptic Oxford as she searches for a cure for the global ‘Pale’ virus which destroyed much of humanity, whilst juggling  the horrors of amorous vampires, doomsday cults, serial killers and public speaking.

Hell’s Teeth, book one of the Phoebe Harkness series, will be coming soon (watch this space for more info.)

and again….squeeee!

 

‘do you wanna build a… no, no we dont’

Dammit Elsa!

Such was the plaintive cry rising from the corners of Britain yesterday as, in the early days of what passes for Spring in our noble Isles, snow and ice blanketed the country once again in a smug reminder that winter isn’t over until winter SAYS it’s over. and if we were getting any ideas about picnics in the daffodils and frolicking baby lambs, we better back that up and pack the daisy dukes away.

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Personally I’m a massive fan of snow. It makes everything look pretty, otherworldly, and a little bit magical. it transforms even the most mundale and familiar landscapes of our daily lives into something else. It’s all a bit Narnia, minus the Tilda Swinton (more’s the pity). this is especially the case when you live up near the moors, in the middle of nowhere, but no matter how pretty and enchanting it might look, it does tend to take the country by surprise every time.

Public transport grinds to a halt, gritting shortages are hysterically babbled from local news channels, and nobody want to actually leave the house to go and play in the snow as (let’s all agree) it looks a lot nicer than it feels. – it’s a crime that snow has the audacity to look so inviting, and yet be so very, very wet.

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Snow is best enjoyed from inside a warm house, with hot chocolate or Irish Coffee, a warm cat, dog, or goat (depending on your preference) curled at your feet, or even better, from inside a bed with a heated blanket. (minus the animal – people will talk)

Luckily for me, I’ve been DYING of vicious flu virus all week and have been practically housebound for four days, like a poorer version of Howard Hughes. I have been feeling dreadfully sorry for myself, shuffling around the house in a woollen wrap muttering to myself like some Dickensian character, so when it snowed this week, the plus side was that I got to lie in bed, feeling sorry for myself and occasionally sniffing in a weak and pathetic, yet endearing manner, watching the snow fall outside. (a far more magical experience, all will agree, that commuting on a wet bus or train feeling the slush slide from the shoulder of the rainproof-overcoat-wearing commuter next to you and onto your nicely absorbent woolen sweater)

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So the moral of the story I suppose is that when it snows, it helps to be poorly, holed up in bed and hallucinating gently on quite a few painkillers, if you want to feel all cosy and whimsical about it. The plus side is, like the bedbound writer in Misery, I’ve actually got some decent headway on writing during my sickbed week. woo hoo! (always a silver lining)

The irony is that I’m writing a lot about ice and frozen wastelands right now. Maybe i should switch to golden sun-kissed sands and hope for a heatwave to follow.

So my advice, enjoy the snow while it lasts, stay indoors, order enough marshmallows, and if possible, curl up with a good book and steadfastly refuse to come out until you see blossom outside the windows.

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Isle of Winds; a 5-star review

L.K. Smith

When I was approached by Jack Butler from Venture Press asking if I’d like to review a book by an author I’d not heard of, I was excited. I love discovering new, talented writers. I did, however, have reservations about it being a YA novel. There have been many I’ve read which infantilise both characters and the reader, and often show the characters behaving only as stereotypes. However, the appeal of reading a new author’s work far outweighed my reservations, so I dived in. Without a doubt, I’m so glad that I did.IsleofWinds

Isle of Winds is the first book in James Fahy’s Changeling series, and what an opener it is! In an attempt to avoid spoiling what I felt was an enchanting and engaging book, I shall keep this review brief.

Changeling takes the reader on a journey between this world and the Netherworlde—a world existing parallel to our own, and accessible by…

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Happy World Book Day

It’s the third of March, which makes it officially World Book day 2016!

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It’s such an inspiring day, especially for Children, (and those of us who write for them) to dress up as their favourite Characters, discuss or discover new books, or find out for themselves how books are put together, and more importantly, how they can get involved in their own storytelling.

There are tons of resources, videos, ideas and events over on the World Book Day website, so you should take a look and be inspired. (whether you have kids yourself or are a big kid at heart.) – not that I’m suggesting you should go into work today dressed as Lord Voldemort or the White Witch…

…no, actually I am completely suggesting that. 🙂

follow the link to find out more:

World Book Day Site: click me!