May 23, 2016

Cover Reveal - Lady Raven Part 3: Blackened Wings

With mere days to go before I send the manuscript to my editor, and plans afoot for crowdfunding the release, I am pleased to reveal the cover for my latest novel, the third part of the Lady Raven saga, Blackened Wings.



Victory comes at a price. Cora Ravenell helps lead the growing rebellion in its efforts to spread dissent and rally more opposition to the Empire. For the first time since her father's funeral, Cora's life has focus and purpose. 

But retaliation is inevitable. 

The Empire reveals its latest weapon, shattering the heart of the rebellion's leadership and scattering its allies to the wind. On the run once more, Cora risks everything to find a way to stop this terrible threat. She and her crew set off on a mission to find the only people who can hold the answer; the last surviving master channellers. 

Laden Fell, now engaged to Princess Idella, pursues the White Raven. Surrounded by the horrors of war, he struggles to reconcile his sense of duty with his ever-weakening moral center. 

And all the while, the Emperor waits, eager to steer Cora and Laden closer to their final confrontation. A confrontation which may bring him within reach of the greatest power left in the world.


May 18, 2016

Funding, Writing, and Updates, Oh My!

Much apologies for my blog silence this year, everyone. I've been neglecting things here while I got things in order elsewhere. So I thought I'd give a summary of how things are, a State of the Author address, if you will.

I spent a lot of time in the last few years pushing myself too hard and neglecting my physical and mental health. You'd think I'd have learned by now, but I guess I'm a pretty rubbish student.


Health


I took some time this year to focus on individual things, like getting back into a sleep pattern that works for me (getting up between 5:30am and 6:30am leaves me feeling so much more relaxed than sleeping in until just before the girls have to get up - which also means my late nights have had to be cut back), as well as addressing some issues with my diet. I still miss keeping a pack of chocolate chip cookies on my desk, but my weight is going down, as is my waistline, so I'd rather be able to fit into my trousers, thanks all the same.

Those who know me well also know I'm prone to stress and I'm very hard on myself when things don'y go my way. Frankly I'm all too aware of the damage stress does to the body, so I'm happy to say that the combination of changing my sleep patterns, improving my diet, and being conscious of how I talk about myself and my career has left me feeling happier than I've been in a very long time.

My back still has issues (sciatica can go to Hell, for real), and I recently pulled a hamstring, so I'm still in some level of pain all of the time, but I'm counting all the wins I can get, and not letting this bring me down.

Gaming


Last year, as I was pretty much running myself into the ground trying to finish two books, I decided to take an indefinite break from running tabletop roleplaying games. I even avoided spending any of my time with video games, focusing all my attention on writing (and coming out with one particularly poor book, as a result, which will never see the light of day).

The GMing bug got me a little while ago and now I'm back at my favourite hobby. I'm starting a fortnightly WitchCraft campaign this week, which is an urban fantasy game involving lots of magic and monsters. And I'm getting a monthly Star Wars game going, using the Fate system.

I've also been chilling out with some video games. XCOM 2 is wonderful, and everything I hoped it would be. I'm waiting for the rest of the DLC to come out before I start my next playthrough, and am considering posting play reports on my progress. Shadow of Mordor, on the other hand, is a fun distraction, but very repetitive. I'm playing it for the Nemesis System and the vague plotline.


Family


Jen is teaching music and working on getting gigs performing her own original songs, which is all kinds of awesome.

The girls own my heart. We're seeing them grow into real people and every moment is amazing.


Writing


This is the big one. I am less than 2 weeks away from finishing Blackened Wings, the third of Cora Ravenell's adventures. Just to clear up any possible confusion; Lady Raven is a tetralogy, a four-part series (I refuse to use the word quadrilogy as it is etymologically incorrect ;-p), so there is still one more book to go after this.

So next up is editing and formatting. This is going to cost money, so I'm looking at my options. It's pretty much certain that I will need to crowdfund this, so I have to decide between Kickstarter, Indie Go Go, Fundit.ie, Gofundme, or Patreon. I'm leaning towards Kickstarter, as it has the higher potential audience base, but the other services also have their own benefits. If anyone has any advice, I'm all ears.

The other bit of news here is that I recently won a spot in the Date With An Agent event at this year's International Literature Festival, Dublin! I get a private pitch session with the managing director of the Watson Little agency, based in London. I'm pitching Lady Raven, because as much as I enjoy self-publishing, I don't have the reach or marketing expertise to spread awareness as much as I'd like. And while I can certainly gain that expertise, doing so will take time, and I want to follow every avenue I can to get my books into as many readers' hands as possible.

Here's to 2016


Let's be honest, 2016 has taken a lot from us. We've lost artists, actors, musicians, childhood icons. But on a personal level, this year has been getting better for me. And I'm thankful for that.

We've lost many great heroes. That just means it's time for the next generation to step up.

Here I go. Wish me luck.

Apr 25, 2016

100 Years

This weekend marked the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the failed insurgency which left the Dublin City Centre in ruins, nearly five hundred dead, and over two and a half thousand wounded.

The Rising has been touted by politicians as something heroic. Something glorious. But let's be completely clear. It was a blood sacrifice. That was its purpose. To subject the Irish people to such degrees of bloodshed and violent reprisal that public opinion would sway towards the goal of Irish independence.

And it worked, in the end.

Is it something to be proud of? More than half of those killed were civilians. Innocent people who were shot in crossfires, mistaken for rebels, or caught in explosions from artillery.

But that was the plan. A romantic notion of glorious defeat. Of course, no-one told the young men and women putting their lives on the line. No-one told the thousands of civilians who would be injured and killed.

I look at were we are today; a nation whose non-existent government is utterly out of touch with the needs of the people, and lacking in common humanity. Politicians who make and break promises, who dither along while their inaction leaves people to die, who bend to prejudice and bigotry in the name of "fairness." People who have the luxury of regarding every social issue in purely academic terms. Who tell us that we'll all pull through if we live a little leaner, and all pitch in to do our part.

A romantic notion.

Makes me wonder what their plan is. The one they're not telling us about.

Just some thoughts on the 100th anniversary of a blood sacrifice.


Mar 9, 2016

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Mistakes to Avoid in Revenge of the Sith

We reach the end of my Watch & Learn series focusing on the Star Wars prequels. I do plan to write a post on The Force Awakens (for which I'll return to the positive lesson format), but I want to see it again first, so it might have to wait until it's out on Blu-Ray.

It all came to this...

This is not the good movie you're looking for


Class is in session.

Jan 28, 2016

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Mistakes to Avoid in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Last time we looked at the first of the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace, and the mistakes it can help us avoid. Today we move on to the second installment, Episode II - Attack of the Clones. And believe me, we've only scratched the surface of how mistakes such as these can damage your work.

That's a lot of lens flare, considering Abrams wasn't involved.
Class is in session

Jan 21, 2016

Is it Censorship, or is it Creative Choice?

News that Star Wars Episode VII has had its release date pushed back seven months has sparked a number of rumours. Chief among these is that the reason for the delay is to allow for script re-writes that will grant more development and screen time to fan-favourite characters Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron. Apparently the big cheeses over at Lucasfilm and Disney weren't expecting these to be the characters audiences connected with. Sources suggest that executives were sure it would be Kylo Ren who was the favourite, and this fed into the prominence of his merchandise, while toymakers were specifically instructed to leave Rey out, because of the belief that 'boy's toys' shouldn't feature female characters.

And this got me thinking a lot about the way we construct a story, as writers. Especially when writing a series, reader reaction is going to have some influence on your creative choices. Readers might love a character you thought was going to be forgotten. They may have zero interest in your favourite character, the one you've got so many plans for. What do you do?

Do you dig your heels in and write as you'd originally planned? You're taking a risk here. What if readers continue to show no interest in the characters and plotlines you wanted to focus on?

Do you change what you had planned, turning the focus to the fan-favourites? This might be a hard thing to do. Does this count as selling out? Have you compromised your artistic integrity?

There is no one universal answer to this, but it's naive to think that a writer can shield themselves from the influence of reader opinion. Something will change. Once you let your story out into the world, it's no longer really yours. Not completely. Part of it will always belong to the reader, and as you receive more feedback, you will have more factors to consider in all your decisions.

Is it wrong to stick to your guns and keep things the way you wanted them, regardless of what your readers want? No, I don't believe so. However, it's foolish to do this without accepting the risk that you will lose readers, and arrogant to assume that what readers want doesn't matter. No book or movie is perfect, and we shouldn't pretend our own work is any different. If someone later points out something they regard as a flaw, we must accept that our work is flawed, and decide if we're content with that, or if we want to do things differently in the future.

And neither is it wrong to change what you were planning. The term 'self-censorship' gets bandied about an awful lot. Any time I talk about the Bechdel-Wallace Test it is almost a guarantee that someone will make a comment about self-censorship, and ask why a writer should have to change their work just to satisfy what they see as an arbitrary condition. What's arbitrary or unimportant to one person, however, is an essential issue to another. We have to decide whether our own biases should determine what we write, or whether we're open to seeing things from another perspective.

Deciding to change something in response to feedback is not self-censorship. Nor is it self-censorship to make a decision in order to promote a particular idea. These are creative choices, made by artists who value not only their own ideas, but the feedback of their audience.

I believe completely in an author's responsibility to be honest about their work. So whether you're certain your work will be the best it can be by sticking to your original plans, or you want to do whatever it takes to make your readers happy, or you fall anywhere between those two extremes, write the best books you can. Accept both praise and criticism, because no matter what choice you make, you'll never receive all the praise you want, and you'll always receive more criticism than you'd like. ;-)

Jan 8, 2016

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Mistakes to Avoid in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

It's a new year, and a new set of Watch & Learn posts are coming! Having already looked at the lessons writers can take from the original Star Wars trilogy, I'm going to delve further into the Star Wars saga, and look at the prequels. As I've previously mentioned, I have no love for the prequels, and they are widely regarded as bad movies that miss the point of what Star Wars is all about. But just because something is bad, doesn't mean we can't learn from it. So for the prequels, we're going to look at the mistakes made, and why it's important for writers to avoid these in their own work.

We start with the beginning.

Remember when we thought this movie was going to be good?
Disclaimer: I'm aware that some of the issues I'll be raising in these posts are addressed in comics, books, tv shows, or video games. However it's important as a writer to never assume that a reader has any information other than what you present them with. That assumption can lead to lazy writing, and leaving readers confused and unsatisfied. So we will be examining these movies without the context of additional media, judging them on their own merits. That being said, as these are prequels released out of chronological order with the original trilogy, we will also assume that the intended audience will have seen the original trilogy.

Time for some hard lessons. Class is in session.

Dec 16, 2015

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Lessons From Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

It's finally here. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has premiered. It is a new world, a new story. I won't get to see it until the 23rd, so you can rest easy and read this article without fear of spoilers.

We started this special Watch & Learn series with A New Hope, learning about making your world feel real, keeping the reader focused on character emotions, and an introduction to themes and symbols.

Next we looked at The Empire Strikes Back, and saw how to address character development, letting the reader see the villain's strength, and the continuing development of themes.

Today we reach the final chapter of the original trilogy.

The Force is strong in my family...

Class is in session, let's see what we can learn.

Dec 9, 2015

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Lessons From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits cinemas next week. I can't remember the last time I was so excited for a movie.

Continuing on from last week's post, today we'll look at The Empire Strikes Back.


Class is in session.


Dec 4, 2015

Watch & Learn - 6 Writing Lessons From Star Wars: A New Hope

We're on to the final countdown now. It's December. In just a couple of weeks, we will finally get to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ba da-da daa, daa. Ba da da daa-daa. Ba da da daa- daa...
I cannot hope to contain my excitement. We have a diverse cast of new characters. We have the return of on-location shooting and practical effects. We have Han and Chewie, the Millenium Falcon blasting across the screen, Leia as the leader of the Resistance, and everything looks amazing.

So I want to indulge my reborn passion for Star Wars here, and devote the last of this year's Watch & Learn posts entirely to Star Wars. Since I have little to no love for the prequels, we'll be focusing on the original trilogy. And more to the point, I will not be including reference to any of the changes Lucas has made over the years. No young Anakin at the end of Jedi, no extra Jabba scene, no freaking Big No from Vader when he turns on the Emperor. Han didn't just shoot first in this classroom: Han shot, and then Greedo died. End of story.

With that out of the way, let's get stuck into Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.


There is NO WAY Lucas always planned for Leia to be Luke's sister...

Lock your s-foils in attack position, class is in session.