12.05.2014

Nation - The Seventh Eren Tale - Is Here

After a brief hiatus (unscheduled, but what can you do?) Eren Tales is returning to form with Nation - the Seventh Eren Tale. For those who don't know, Eren Tales is a collaboration between me and my friend / photographer Brandon Rechten. During the project, which is due to take about a year, we're releasing twelve short stories along with twelve new photos, all designed to compliment Eren proper.

You don't need to have read Eren to enjoy the stories. They're teasers, really, giving you glimpses of the world that Eren's set in, and hints about what Eren himself is like. Nation is the seventh tale (the others being, in order, Shaman, Nightmare, Teeth, Mountain, Bridge, and Ink. Links to them all HERE) and takes place a while ago, somewhere like North America.

The artwork for the Eren Tales has been as varied as the stories. I'm fascinated by the potential of photographs as illustration for children's fiction, and this project's been a great way to learn more about how photos and stories can work together to build a picture and tell a tale. For Nation, things get a bit dark and a bit damp...


I really hope you enjoy the new tale and keep reading as the others come out. And remember, if you've got a story of your own, the 1225 Story Challenge is on right now. Can you tell a winter tale in 1225 words? It's worth a try - and you never know what might happen.

Simon

12.01.2014

I Am a Bad Blogger / 1225 Story Challenge!

It has been ... far too long since I updated this blog. I know. I'm sorry. A lot's been going on, and although Eren Tales has also fallen behind (argh), I have been writing, I promise. I'm working on a few things at the moment, none of which I have a lot to share about, although I can say the following:

  • I did my first school visit. Frost Elementary's fourth grade NaNoWriMo class were good enough to let me crash their party, talk about about writing Eren, and spend some time with the kids, asking them about their stories. It was a fun, bizarre afternoon, and I would 100% do it again.
  • Eren's UK audio book is officially happening. I've heard samples of the potential reader's work, and it is both humbling and mind-blowing that someday, somewhere, people will be able to listen to Oli and Eren battle it out. 
  • Eren was picked as the November teen book of the month by the Independent's Rebecca Davies. I'm thrilled she liked it and chose to share it.

Now, something else happened recently that I've been meaning to blog about. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll already have heard, but Martin Stewart (a man who routinely wears dangerously stylish socks) has signed a book deal with Penguin without writing the book. Specifically, he wrote a short story - one so good that Penguin asked him to turn it into a novel. That book, Riverkeep, will be out in 2016 - but the short story that inspired it all has been around since October 2013. Halloween 2013, to be exact - when the 1031 Story Challenge was born. 


This doesn't happen often, so it's all the more exciting when it does: TBA client Martin Stewart so seduced Puffin UK with his four-and-a-half-page short story, they asked him to turn it into a YA novel! 
In an especially fun twist, Martin wrote the story, titled 1,031, in response to a prompt on fellow TBA client Simon P. Clark's blog. Simon challenged writers to come up with a scary story under 1,031 words—for Halloween (look at the number again). Martin bent the rules a little, but his incredibly assured voice and his ability to build a whole world in just a few short pages resulted in a miniature masterpiece. Don't take my word for it; check out editor Amy Alward's quotes in this Booktrade article.

I'm thrilled for Martin and can't wait to read the book. It's amazing seeing what can come out of something so small, but a great reminder that creating, sharing, and honing your skills is always worth it.

You may be able to see where I'm going with this.

Today is the first day of December (hooray!). On December 25th, it's Christmas (yay!). 12/25? 1225? Yes! It's time for the first ever 1225 Story Challenge


The Challenge

Write a story either (a) in 1225 words or less or (b) featuring '1225' as its theme

Publish / share it before December 25th, 2014.

That's it!

This isn't a competition and it's not an attempt to steal your stories. You retain all rights to you work, and you can either host it yourself on your blog or site, or send me the story to collect together with the other 1225 stories (see the 1031 Story Challenge page as an example)

Is there a theme?

Not really. Christmas / winter / December seem like good themes, but it's up to you what you write.

Does it have to be fiction?

No. Non-fiction, poetry, drama, video, etc. are all welcome. Just tell a story.

How do I send you my story?

If you'd like me to put your story up on this blog, e-mail it to me at simonphilipclark [at] gmail.com

Are publishers reading these stories?

Not as far as I know, but nothing on the Internet ever goes away, and Martin's story is a testament to how truly weird the world can be.

I hope we have fun with this, guys. It's not a lot of time, I know. Everyone's very busy, I know. Give it a go and see what you come up with.

As ever, good luck - and happy writing!

10.23.2014

Why NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is almost here. They have a new website, some amazing inspirational talks, and there's already enough chatter - from bloggers and writers and readers - to know that 2014's going to be another stellar year. I haven't blogged for a while (writing, y'know), but wanted to emerge briefly to ask one simple question: Why NaNoWriMo?

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the name of a challenge / community event held every November that encourages everyone, everywhere to write a novel of 50,000 words in a single month. It sounds hard, and it is, but the community during November, and the support provided by so much of the writing world, makes it a special thing. NaNowriMo has its detractors as well as its uber-fans, but, at the end of the day, it's basically a lot of people having fun, making things, and learning how to be better writers.

I've written about NaNoWriMo before, for sites like Writers' & Artists (and on this blog, actually), and I'd encourage you to scour the Internet for inspiration, advice, and news. There's a lot out there, and a lot of it is very good. As for me, I just want to offer three reasons to give it a try.

NaNoWriMo: Why Take Part?

1. It's as good a time as any to tell your story. When Benjamin Cook began his (very good) Becoming Youtube series, he used the first video to encourage viewers to make their own videos, arguing (more or less) that 'if you're looking for an excuse to begin, maybe this is it.' I think there's a parallel here. So many people want to write, but they don't have the time, or the support, or the inclination to begin. NaNoWriMo is a call to arms, in a way. You want to write a book? it says, Well come on then, let's go.

2. You won't be alone, even when you're alone. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Hemingway suggested that 'Writing, at best, is a lonely life.' There's a lot of truth to that, and it's probably one of the reasons people don't finish the books they start. It's November. It's cold. You're sitting alone at a computer. Motivation lags, fizzles, and fades. Why bother? What's the point? That's where NaNoWriMo's community helps so much. Forums, videos, local groups, hashtags - NaNoWriMo gives you an instant and understanding writing family, all doing the same thing, and happy to pull you along.

3. It's fun. It is. I promise. 50,000 words is a lot to write in a single month, especially when normal life gets in the way, but some words is better than no words. Yes, there'll be distractions, but a month really isn't that long, and at the end you'll have ... something. Neil Gaiman once wrote:

People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well... 
And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.
It's worth thinking about. You can find a balance, and the words will come. They will. I promise.


What NaNoWriMo Isn't

NaNoWriMo has no dark side, but there are some things to bear in mind if you're going to take the plunge. For instance:

It's not about stress and guilt. Didn't get any words done for a day, or a week, or at all? It's fine. It's not a race and it's not a test.

It's not about beating other people and it's not about beating yourself up. Words written in haste are often ... bad. Editing comes after, and rewriting, and changing the story so it stops fighting back. 50,000 words doesn't make a book. 50,000 good words, in the right order, makes a book.

Actually, on that topic - it's not about writing 50,000 words. Well, I mean, it is, in a way, but I never did. My book, started as a NaNoWriMo and, now published, is still short of 50,000 (by about 7,000 words, I think). Word length isn't the be all and end all. Writing is. Telling a story - that's what matters. Making art and stretching yourself and learning and teaching and taking part in a Thing That Is Good. That, more than anything, is the NaNoWriMo spirit. It's special, and it's mad, and at the end of the day, the world has more stories in it.

So, bring on November. Happy writing, all.

9.30.2014

INK - The Sixth Eren Tale

Super proud to share the newest Eren Tale - INK.


Eren Tales - a series of twelve short stories and photographs inspired by and working alongside Eren - is now halfway done. The first six tales - Shaman, Nightmare, Teeth, Mountain, Bridge and Ink - have been incredible fun to write and produce, and working with Brandon to make sure the tales and the artwork come together has been inspiring / fun / eye opening. Ink has a special place in my heart as the Eren Tale that comes out the same month as Eren was finally published. In fact, Ink ties directly into the book - but I won't give that away. To read all the tales, just head over to the website www.erentales.com.

9.25.2014

Eren's Book Launch and My Very Bookish Week

Man. It has been a crazy, happy, busy, never-to-be-repeated week. Sometimes it's amazing how much can happen in seven days, and believe me, this week has seen a lot. Last Thursday, my book came out. It was a truly spectacular feeling, a mix of relief and mild terror, and I celebrated by not working and generally being on Twitter. On Saturday we had Eren's launch party, and on Sunday I went to Brooklyn Book Festival. This post is a recap and a celebration of my very bookish week.

Book Meets World

Because Eren came out in the UK, but I'm living in the U.S., we didn't do a full bookshop launch. Instead, we threw open my parents-in-law's house and turned the place into an Eren-esque world. My wife, Ashley, did a stunning job decorating the rooms, and along with the food and the (much) wine, I did my first ever public reading (passable) and got to see the first ever reading by someone who knew what they were doing (my sister-in-lawish and drama teacher, Steph. It was marvelous). There was so much more, too - Raffle! Cheese! Helium balloons that make you talk funny! Proper magic all round.



The Story Jar, one of the illustrations from the book
The five Eren Tales published so far, with Brandon's five photos



Booklyn in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Book Festival's a huge deal. Last year was our first time going, and seeing speakers like Lois Lowry, Patrick Ness, and Lev Grossman made it more than worth it. Add to that the almost overwhelming number of publishers, presses, authors, literary companies, artists, and generally booky people who set up shop, and BKBF is worth checking out. Tired from the party the day before, we were - admitedly - a little less enthused that 2013, but listening to the new cast recording of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere made the drive a lot easier (even if Manhattan and Brooklyn driving made the whole thing a lot scarier). Highlights of this year include listening to RL Stine (yes, of Goosebumps fame), seeing Lev Grossman again (whose latest I am avoiding buying because my birthday is coming up, but ... argh) and the exciting addition of spicy Jamaican food that was amazing and made me and my wife tear up while listening to a poetry session.

What else did we do? We won free audiobooks (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Stardust, thank you very much) and chatted to One Story and PEN America, and generally had a good time. Behold:



It Continues

Every day this week someone has put up a review or a giveaway or a sample of Eren as part of the blog tour. Well, that's not slowing down, with posts scheduled across the web for another few weeks. Please do check out the sites that have agreed to take part. I explained all about it HERE and you can keep track of who's doing what using the tour banner.

And ... I think that's it. If you've read Eren, THANK YOU, and I would love to hear what you think, either on Goodreads or elsewhere. For those who want to check the book out, links are below. Thank you again to all who've made this a spectacular week. Here's to many more.

Eren is available now.

9.18.2014

Eren is Released Today in the UK!

I've wanted to write this post for a long time - and now, finally, I get to. My debut novel, Eren, is published today in the UK. It's out in hardback and ebook form, with paperback to come in six months or so.

Wow. In a lot of ways this post is the culmination of everything this blog was meant to do. When I first posted (In March 2012) it was about the shame of writing, and in that first post I said:

"This blog is going to follow me, I hope, and chart the journey from being shy and a little embarrassed about my book to getting it out and published."

Well, we're here. I still cannot quite believe it. Eren's a book - a real book - and you can buy it in shops. You can read it and share it and love it and hate it. Who knows what people will make of this strange, long-time-coming story? I hope it touches some people. I'm sure it will annoy plenty of others.

There are a lot of people to thank. My agent and my editor, the whole team at Corsair, and all the family and friends who've given feedback, given support, put up with rants and complaints and oddness, etc, etc. I've learned that a book is no more the work of one person than a house the work of one builder. I am so bleeding excited about what's to come. More books - oh, gosh, yes - and then, who knows?

I've already got the U.S. release of Eren to look forward to in (maybe) June 2015, and now there may be an audiobook to boot, and a lot more fun to be had. It's mental.

So ... yes. Eren's out there. What more can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you. If you want to buy it, here are some links. Other than that - I'm off to party, have some fun, and get on with writing the next flippin' book.

Love to all,

Simon.

9.12.2014

The Very Official Eren Blog Tour

My rather snazzy UK publisher has organised a blog tour to celebrate Eren coming out next week. This will be no small thing: It is a month-long, all expenses paid, fireworks and dragons, full-fat, go-on-have-another-piece-of-cake extravaganza, taking up thirty-two blogs, many words, and (hopefully) much fun. There will be some giveaways, some things that I have written, but mostly honest, real-world reviews. The bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour did so because they were asked and they want to - and that means that, I expect, some of them will point out problems with Eren, or have questions about how I wrote it, or think it's a bit silly. I hope some of them like the book as well - but it's still going to be a bit nerve-wracking seeing the posts go up.

To all the bloggers: Thank you. People who love books, who dedicate time to reading and writing and sharing and shining lights on debut writers like me make up an increasingly vital part of a complex industry. That you would read Eren, and share thoughts and critiques, is incredible, and I hope this never stops. The more people who talk about books, the better books will become.

So, here's the tour schedule. Over the next few weeks I might turn up in other places, too, but you can use this as a guide to the Very Official Eren Tour organised by Constable & Robinson. The first post goes up in a couple of days - argh! What will it say? Will they be nice?

Let's all sit back and find out.

9.10.2014

Things Are Coming





Exciting things are happening - and everything's about to get a lot busier around here.

Eren - coming September 18th from Corsair (Little, Brown UK)

9.04.2014

Two Weeks To Go / How Writing Works

Two weeks today my book, Eren, will be published in the UK. That's a scary and slightly overwhelming thought, but it's also the culmination of many years' work. From a simple story in my head, Eren has become a manuscript, and then a book, and soon you'll be able to buy that book, or get it from a library, or steal it from a friend. I don't really mind how people get the story, as long as some of them read it, and hopefully like it.

Since today is the two-weeks-till-publication-day, I've been thinking about time, and about writing, and how it all works. I wanted to write this post to offer advice to people who feel discouraged about their writing - people who feel like it's impossible to juggle 'real' life and writing life. I'm by no means an expert, but I got this far, and that has to be worth something, right?

So here are some thoughts on Making Time to Write, and Getting the Words Down on the Page, and other such noble things.

Act like a professional (and don't go bowling)


One of the hardest things about starting to write is that it often feels silly, inconsequential, self indulgent or downright daft. I know I felt guilty - actually guilty - about writing, as if I were tempting fate with my arrogance. Did I really think I could be a writer? Really? Why didn't I just give up and admit that it was a pipe dream? Why didn't I just put down the pen and go watch TV? I was being so stupid, the voice said. I was being so naive. It was embarrassing. It was comedic. It was so damn stupid.

Those thoughts are terrible, but they happen. I still, occasionally, feel like I'm fooling myself, and that the sheer amount of work it takes to finish a novel is too much. Imagine standing at the bottom of a cliff and looking up. There's always a little voice that says you couldn't possible get to the top - that you're not a bird, damn it, and we all know what happened last time you tried to climb that tree at Auntie Gladys' retirement party, and wasn't that so embarrassing? But there's another voice, too, and it's an odd one, and it's quiet at first, but it says the best thing of all: You know what? You might be able to. You probably could, actually. Why not do it? Why not try?

Trying isn't everything, but it's the start of everything. That's why I think acting as a professional matters. You have to look at writing as more than a hobby. Treat it like a second job. Friends want to go out? You can't - you have work to do. Tired at the end of the day and really want to watch endless reruns of FRIENDS? That'd be nice, but you have a deadline in the morning, and the boss will find out if you try to skip it.

Damn that boss, always looking back at you in the mirror.

So, yes. Sometimes writing it more important than bowling, even if it means you'll miss all the fun.


Remember you're just doing it for fun (and don't go mad)


Yeah, I know - contradictory, isn't it? Well, welcome to life. For everything I said above, you can't let writing become a chore. No one, after all, is making you do it, and for all you might need the money, most of us will have second jobs, or spouses, or other things that take up time. That's okay - in fact, it's crucial. How you can write if you're not out there, living life? What's more, how can you write if you come to dread the thing you used to love? Burnout happens, and no one loves a good despondent whine more than artists, but working too much - writing too much -  will leave you bitter at yourself, and no good comes from that. I work as writer at my day job and my author job, and sometimes I sense - deep down, where things can really hurt - that I need to step away from the words and breathe.

This is the paradox, I think - that you have to be a professional, you have to claw writing time away from everything else in your life, and then you have to watch out that you don't swing too far the other way, into madness and obsession and 'Here Lies Simon, A Writer Till The Tragic End' territory.

The big question, then, is this: How do you find the balance?

I have no idea.

I know that, for me, it means writing every week but not necessarily every day. I know it means having more than one story on the go at the same time, to give me a break, to work different creative muscles, and so I can huffily walk away from one story, if it isn't working out, without having to stop writing cold turkey.

Time is weird. Writing is also pretty weird. Finding out how they work together - how you write stories when other things have to happen, like tea and breakfast and buying clothes and finding out where the children went - is an adventure that begins at the start of every writers' journey. I hope anyone reading this manages to find their balance.

And also, maybe, that you'll read my book at some point.

Eren is Available to Pre-Order:


You can also add it on Goodreads by CLICKING HERE

8.22.2014

Bridge - The Fifth Eren Tale

Happy to share that the fifth Eren Tale, Bridge, is now live. You can read it by clicking HERE or visiting www.erentales.com.

As always, Brandon's provided some fantastic art for the story. Behold!


We're five tales in now, with the sixth due to come out next month on the same say as Eren (September 18). It's immensely satisfying to see the whole project coming together and gathering pace - and we still have a good six months to go.

So, please do go check out the story, enjoy the art, and have a look around the Eren Tales site. I'm pretty proud of what we're doing, and can't wait to share more stories with you all.

They told you to climb the mountain, and to shout your story to the wind.

8.21.2014

Many Confused Thoughts About Eren Being Published

I've been planning to write this post for a while, but every time I think about it I worry the words won't come out right. There's a lot of things I want to express but - despite being, y'know, a writer - it's difficult to capture certain things adequately. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, and I want to get it just right, and I know when the words are wrong, that I'm stumbling a bit.

Eren comes out next month, and although I've known this for a long time - that the book will be published, that it will be published on this particular day - the imminence has added an entirely new factor. It surprised me this week to realise that now, for the first time, I'm actually getting nervous - scared, even - about the whole thing.

The reality of Eren being a book has finally, actually hit me, and it all seems a bit insane. It's a book that's been with me - and only me, really - for so, so long. This thing, this idea of having a book published, has been my dream for all of my adult life so far (I am only 28, I know, but still...) and, honestly, so much of my childhood. I came to books late, but I latched upon the idea of sharing my books with the world pretty fast. I've spent years writing, dreaming, cursing and getting better. It's easy to look back; it was hard to look forward and see any future where Eren would be read. Now we're counting down to that future in days, not years, and ... I mean, what do you do with that?

This week, copies of Eren went out to book bloggers and reviewers, many of whom will be wonderful enough to write about it as part of a blog tour. I went shopping with my wife / sister-in-law (two people, not one. Come on, now) to buy things for the launch party. I signed the first actual copies of the book. I have an agent and and an editor (two, actually, thanks to a US deal) and a publicist and many other things that I always wanted but never really believed would happen. I'm so thankful for these people, who guide and support and challenge me.

And earlier this week, thinking about Eren and bookshops and readers, I was struck by a single thought:

What if they hate it? What if this doesn't work?

What if it's not very good?

I know it's normal to think all those things. I'm a pretty up-beat guy but still, as an author, it's usual to face doubts and fears about your work at some point. I know, also, that some people will hate the book. Some people will like it. That's how art works: it's a reflection of a world, but not the world, and that means people react differently. Putting something out in the world has to count for something, but Eren is an intensely personal thing - a part of me, I guess - and sharing that with strangers is ... odd.

I'm very, very happy that Eren will be read. I'm also somewhat unsure what that means. Is it my story, still? Am I over thinking things? (Probably). I've never done this before, and I never will again - not with a book like Eren.

So, these are my muddled, excited, nervous thoughts. I'm apprehensive and giddy. Maybe things like this are why writers get a bad name. Either way, the die is cast, and next month - 28 days' time! - Eren, my book, will be published, and from that point on I guess it won't be quite my book anymore.

It's going to be an interesting month.

8.13.2014

Review: There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart

It's time for another review. As 2014 trundles on, the number of We Are One Four'ers whose books are actually out is slowly increasing, but one guy - Ryan Gebhart - was way ahead of the pack, publishing his debut novel back in April. There Will Be Bears, a coming-of-age-ish, dealing-with-life-ish middle grade adventure, won great praise from Kirkus and readers alike, and I've been meaning to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, now I have, and what a good thing it was.

First, a bit about the book:


Thirteen-year-old Tyson loves hanging out with his roughneck Grandpa Gene, who’s a lot more fun than Tyson’s ex–best friend, Brighton. These days, Bright just wants to be seen with the cool jocks who make fun of Tyson’s Taylor Swift obsession and dorky ways. So when Grandpa Gene has to move to a nursing home that can manage his kidney disease, Tyson feels like he’s losing his only friend. Not only that, but Tyson was counting on Grandpa Gene to take him on his first big hunt. So in defiance of Mom and Dad’s strict orders, and despite reports of a scary, stalking, man-eating grizzly named Sandy, the two sneak off to the Grand Tetons. Yes, there will be action, like shooting and dressing a six-hundred-pound elk. Is Tyson tough enough? There will be heart-pounding suspense: is Grandpa Gene too sick to handle the hunt, miles away from help? And, oh yes, there will be bears. . . .


I've said before that reading books by people you know - even if you only 'know' them online - is fraught with the potential for disaster. What do you do if you don't like a book? Leave an insipid review? Leave none? Lie?

Maybe one day I'll find out. Lucky for Ryan, I was engrossed by this book. So engrossed, in fact, that I failed to notice a man had come to a complete stop next to me, lawn mower still roaring away, because I was sat where he needed to work. Think you can't fail to notice heavy machinery just because you're reading? Think again - and here's why: This is a brilliant book. Tyson's an genuine and self-deprecating kid, one who's also disarmingly honest about himself and his life. He's not afraid to show how he feels, and that's a huge strength, even if it causes problems with his friends and family. Ryan's managed to capture something special here: a narrator who's just as self-obsessed as any thirteen year old, but one who's been forced to care about other things, too, and does so entirely believably. I guess the main question of the book is two-fold: Will Tyson end up alone, and will he go on the bear hunt that's been promised for so long? These two things - friendship and family, and the rite of passage - are big and important things, but that doesn't stop There Will Be Bears from being funny, witty, and down-to-earth. His friendship with Bright - his best friend for so long who seems to be changing - is one of the best things in this book, I think. It's captured well, right down to the awkwardness of feeling uncool even though you're doing things that used to be cool, the strange balance young guys have between needing friends and not wanting to admit it, and even the dumb in-jokes we all have that still mean so much. I've seen some readers draw back from Tyson's sexist or not-P.C. remarks when he's with his mates, or talking back to a teacher. I think anyone who's actually spent time with thirteen year olds will recognize these things for what they are: genuine world-building and solid characters. Is Tyson a bit of a jerk? Cocky? Well, yeah. He's also patient and self assured and oh my gosh the ending of this book is so good.

I'm not going to spoil it for you, so I spent most of this review focusing on the people and the writing. The plot, though - let me tell you quickly - is intense and balanced and just the right side of unpredictable. The title's no lie, I promise, but don't think you've got this book sussed: it's an adventure with real guts, a page-turner in the best sense.

So, yes. Big thumbs up for this book. Well done, Ryan - can't wait for your next one (There Will Be Bears II: There Were Bears? Think about it.)

***
Other Recent Reviews:

Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

8.11.2014

Writing When You Know Nothing - The Art of Letting Go Blog Tour

How do you go about researching a book? Does it matter if things are accurate - cities, facts, the way things work? I'm turning over m'blog today to a fellow writer - a fellow debut writer - to answer just that question. Chloe Banks' debut novel, The Art of Letting Go, came out last month, and Chloe's already written some great posts on how failing made her better and the importance of a strong voice in writing.

The Art of Letting Go tells the story of Rosemary, whose peaceful seclusion is disrupted by the man she hoped she'd managed to be rid of decades earlier; only this time he’s lying in a coma and Rosemary must decide whether to let him live, or let him go. In the midst of her secret dilemma  she meets an abstract artist who is used to manipulating shapes and colours to make people see things differently. But what else is he manipulating? And can he help Rosemary see her own situation in a different light?

The Art of Letting Go is available as a paperback and an e-book here.

Now, over to Chloe...

****

If you gave me a lifetime to do it, I could never write a historical novel. I just know that within 48 hours of publishing the masterpiece that took a decade of painstaking research, somebody would be on Amazon telling the world that I am a buffoon for not realising a word I used on page 278 wasn’t invented until six months after the events in my book took place.

I do, however, want to write modern novels that are accurate. In The Art of Letting Go, my main character Rosemary spent the first three drafts happily running up and down steps cut into sandstone cliffs in Sussex. In draft four I checked the geology of that particular stretch of English coastline – it’s chalk not sandstone. Similarly, Rosemary regularly visited a hospice, right up until the moment my mother-in-law pointed out that I probably meant a private hospital, not a hospice. God bless in-laws who happen to be nurses.

All these minor details are one thing, whole areas of expertise are another. The Art of Letting Go might not be a historical romp or a police procedural, but it does have an abstract artist as one of the principal characters. I know nothing about art. In the first draft, I tried very hard to skirt round the subject of painting as much as possible – alluding to it, but never directly addressing it. And it was ridiculous. For something so fundamental to both character insight and theme, to avoid it would’ve made the whole novel pointless. So I set about reading.

I didn’t spend six months visiting the major European art galleries, but I did read a lot about abstract art movements. And as I researched, I found something odd. Not only was it enjoyable to be learning something new, but the story developed in ways I hadn’t imagined. Instead of using art to add a little detail to the narrative, art began to direct the narrative instead. As I read about how painters manipulated colour and shapes, I could see parallels with the way my characters manipulated people and situations. Art began to twist its way through the novel and hold it all together, creating a subtext I was barely aware existed in the first draft. I ended up having to cut the amount of art in the book, rather than add to it.

When I look back now, I wonder how I had the audacity to write a novel about something I know zilch about. And perhaps the answer is that I didn’t set out to write about art; I set out to tell the story of an artist. So while I’ll never perhaps choose to write in a genre that requires months of background reading, I now look forward to researching the ideas behind my latest projects (currently involving heart transplants, train derailments and arranged marriages). If nothing else it has the potential to make me sound more intelligent at parties. Who was the founder of neo-plasticism, you ask? Why, Piet Mondrian of course! So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read up on how to steer conversations on to the topic of 20th-century art movements. See you at the bar.

Do you enjoy research? Have you ever come across (or been responsible for!) details in a book that are just plain wrong?




Chloe Banks lives in Devon with her husband, son and an obsession with words. She started writing for a dare and forgot to stop until it was too late. She is a prize-winning short story writer and a first-time novelist, represented by The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.

7.22.2014

Mountain - The Fourth Eren Tale

A quick note to say that the latest Eren Tale is now online. You can read MOUNTAIN, along with the first three tales, right here. Photographer Brandon Rechten's done another great job providing art for the story - see some below, and be sure to check out more of his work on his website.

You can also read a blog post about taking the photos and writing the story HERE.

Enjoy!



7.19.2014

Review: Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz

Hands down one of the best things about being a debut author is the friendship of other debut authors. Like terrified, ego-filled puppies, we stick together, watch each other, and generally make an interesting bunch (and yes, sometimes, a bit of a mess).

There's also quite a lot of books going back and forth.

A few months ago I reviewed Kat Ellis' BLACKFIN SKY. Now, I've had another chance to take a sneak-peek at an upcoming book - HOOK'S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz. Jealous? You totally should be.


First, a bit about Cap'n Heidi:

Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014. A sequel, HOOK’S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in fall 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in 2016.

And a bit about the book:

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

Now for the interesting stuff - my review.

I got this book in the post last week. I have now finished this book and convinced two other people to read it. That should tell you a lot. It's a brilliant read - fast-paced, unpredictable, witty, and even a little moving (not that this sea-hardened rogue would ever admit to such emotions). Jocelyn's journey from bored ward to stifled student to - of course - adventuring pirate is wonderfully handled. I felt her pain at being cooped up, at feeling like Greater Things were going on without her, and I felt the relief when she finally managed to escape and chase her fortune. That's an important point to make, by the way - Jocelyn escapes, and is not rescued. She's strong, well rounded, and clever. She does what she needs to, fights for what she believes in, and spends the entire book demonstrating perfectly well that the best young women have no need for flying boys when they're already planning their next escapade. Heidi's writing is just right for this tale and I genuinely felt the itch to grab a sword, head for open water, and see what I could make of my life.

There's two things I want to especially praise about this book. The first is the narrator, and the second is the many minor characters that pepper the pages.

The narrator - a sarcastic, impatient, somewhat dark-humoured fellow who seems to know a bit too much about poison, daggers, and the best way to dispose of a body - has no time for children, no time for cats, and serves as a brilliant storyteller. I loved the voice Heidi's created, and the sense that you're sitting in a richly furnished room (perhaps with several questionable objects displayed. That gun above the fireplace couldn't really be loaded, could it? Could it? And that's not real blood on the map. That would be silly, right?) listening to a crotchety, but very clever, uncle. It drew me in and kept me laughing. For children, it's a great way to keep them gripped and never condescend. There's definitely a couple of jokes for the more grown-up readers among us, too.

The several minor characters that Jocelyn comes across - Miss Eliza, the king of the Karnapine people, and even the Neverland mermaids - are just as believable and well-written as Jocelyn. They're irritating, honest, sympathetic, and useful. Children's books can sometimes be bloated with extraneous characters, and it might have been tempting to do so when the whole of Neverland was at her disposal, but Heidi's created an entire world that's unique and alive. Heck, Neverland actually is alive in this book, and the few hints we get about its moods, its nature, and its sense of adventure, leave me wanting more. There's already a sequel planned, and I for one cannot wait.

Finally, Heidi's take on Peter Pan - and the fact he's mostly not in this story - was just right. Jocelyn has a quest, and it's a good, old fashioned Quest with a capital Q. She has to avenge her father's death, but she also has to learn about him, to find a link to the distant man she dreamed of, but one that might not be quite so perfect as she'd hoped. There's honesty in this book - about parents and their flaws, love and its limitations, and wishes and quite how tricky they can be. It's surprisingly mature, but then some of the best stories are, I suppose.

You can probably tell I liked this book.

Sadly for you, it's not out till September 14, 2014. For now, why not add Heidi on Twitter, and add HOOK'S REVENGE on Goodreads. You can also visit Heidi's rather snazzy website at http://heidischulzbooks.com/

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some treasure to steal polish.

7.14.2014

How the Internet Changed My Writing

Presumably, if you're reading this, you're a writer who uses the Internet. Writing about the net on my blog might be a bit meta, and a bit dumb, but it's something that's been on my mind a lot recently.

So, here's a blog post (the first in a while - I know) about how the Internet changed my writing.

This Blog


I started this site for a couple of reasons: firstly, to have somewhere to call 'home' online, to shout out to the world and to store my own thoughts. I dabbled with LiveJournal in uni and had a different (now defunct) Blogspot site about books while I was in Japan, but this site - this one - was always different. This represented my Serious Writing and my forays into being a Serious Author. It started, as I've pointed out before, with a post all about how terrifying it was so tell people you're a writer (The Shame of Writing?) That post was put up in March 2012 (bloody hell, has it been that long?) In a satisfyingly prophetic way, it included the line:

This blog is going to follow me, I hope, and chart the journey from being shy and a little embarrassed about my book to getting it out and published.
Well, it's done that, and then some. Oh, it's been redesigned, and it's gone weeks between posts, but it's grown into something I really care about and am proud of. It has my stories on it, and it has had other people's stories on it (a huge privilege). It has interviews with other writers and links to people and projects I care about. I think the real joy has been seeing how flexible this space can be. I write about writing, and about books, and I run competitions, and I just let it be - a space that's mine that represents a small part of who I am.

This blog been hugely instrumental in bringing Eren to life. I started blogging so agents and editors would be able to find me - so that if my name came up, and they wanted to know more, it would be my decision what they found. From there, my writing life has expanded. Knowing other writers - like those in We Are One Four, the Fearless Fifteeners, or just stand alone friendships - has changed my universe, helping me learn, helping me improve, and connecting me with some of the most creative and dedicated people I know.

If you don't blog, I would really encourage you to try it out. Get involved with other writers' blogs - comment, share their posts, think about what they say. Probably because we all love to procrastinate so much, the online writer community seems endless and eternal and entirely mad.

Twitter et al


Social media. It's a bit of a headache and a bit of fun, all rolled up into something far more confusing. I have Facebook, and a (much neglected) Tumblr, and even a (deservedly neglected) G+, but Twitter has easily surpassed everything else in terms of usefulness, enjoyment, and sheer 'gosh this is good'-ness. At first glance it can seem baffling and chaotic, but the mass of advice, hints, news, gossip, inspiration and jokes from established authors, newbies, agents, editors, and everyone else has been invaluable. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of books, look at Twitter. Here, again, I've "met" people - other debut writers - who have changed me, providing support, encouragement, and plenty of celebration as we've all taken steps toward publication. The fact is, this is the world we live in. To share news, I go on Twitter. To solve a problem, I go on Twitter. It's a huge part of my life.

Publishing Short Stories


I have a few stories on this site, sure, but they're only the beginning of my creative world. From the pieces I have in anthologies (published by companies I found online, who took online submissions) to the Eren Tales project I'm currently overseeing with a friend, the web's been instrumental in getting my art out there in the world. Stone Crowns Magazine, for example, published my story Billy McGuire's Faerie in their free-to-download magazine. That gave me access to an entirely new audience - and some great contacts at a company dedicated to telling stories. The Internet has made storytelling more open source than ever before, but with audiences getting increasingly hard to reach, online magazines offer a clear, targeted channel to readers.

As I said above, I've also hosted story competitions here on the blog, inviting others to share their tales and stick to a theme. It was fantastic to read the results and see what creative collaboration could do.

The M Word


Yes, marketing. You can't avoid it. I need Eren to sell so I can make money, so all the folk who worked on Eren can make money, and so I can tell more stories. How do you get people to buy your book instead of some other book? You pique their interest, make sure they know your name, get them familiar with the story. How do you do that?

No idea.

What I do know, though, is that online giveaways - like the one I'm doing right now, yes - have reached far more people than I ever could by myself. Whether it's sharing the Eren Tales as they come out, offering up advance copies of the book, or taking part in query competitions for writers hoping to land an agent, my Internet life has shown me that if you're genuine, and you believe in your book, talking about it - and being willing to stop talking about it when you're helping other people - will have a good effect. The key is to know when to stop - to recognise when 'sharing' is becoming 'promoting'.

And Now...


I know there's more to come. I still write guests posts for Writers & Artists, and as Eren gets nearer (two months, guys. Two months) I hope to have some fun, creative things to share. Hopefully - touch wood - this blog will stay, even if it changes and adapts. It's nice having a home and an outlet, and it's nice seeing that things work if you give them time and let yourself listen, as well as talk.

Maybe I'll do another 'State of the Blog' post in two years' time. What'll the world look like then? I can't wait to find out.

7.10.2014

Win an Advanced Copy of EREN


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eren by Simon P. Clark

Eren

by Simon P. Clark

Giveaway ends July 24, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

6.23.2014

TEETH - The Third Eren Tale

With less than three months to go until Eren hits UK stores, many exciting things are happening. I'm still on a high from news of the U.S. deal - but you'll have to wait for more info on that. When I know dates. I'll be sure to tell you all.

The third Eren Tale went live today. This one's called TEETH, and Brandon Rechten's stepped up again with some fantastic artwork:


Eren Tales (www.erentales.com) is a series of twelve short story / art collaborations being released monthly, six before Eren's UK hardback publication, and six before UK paperback publication. They're meant to act as teasers - so if you just can't wait till September, head over and check out the Third Tale today.

6.12.2014

Eren Deal News

I am very excited to announce that U.S. rights to Eren have been sold to St Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan. That's right - Eren's coming to the U.S.!

Here's the official announcement from Publisher's Marketplace:

Children's: Fantasy
Simon Clark's debut EREN, about the power and danger of stories, in which a 12-year-old is whisked away to his uncle's country house in the wake of a scandal and encounters a captivating creature in the attic whose attention comes at a sinister price, to Sylvan Creekmore at St. Martin's, by Sophie Brewer for Constable & Robinson and Kate Hibbert at Little, Brown Children's UK.

You can follow St Martin's on Twitter (@StMartinsPress), and I'll keep you updated on any more news as and when I have it.

I am rather excited about all this. I can't wait to work with St Martin's and see Eren start to take over the world reach new readers. Ahem.

(There's also less than twenty-four hours left to win an ARC of Eren. Who wouldn't want to do that? Sad people. That's who. Good luck!)

Tonight will be spent in celebration. Yeah!


6.11.2014

Three Things I Write (And Three I Don't)

Happy Wednesday, all.

I've been tagged in a new blog chain. This time it was by Mike Revell, whose children's debut STONEBIRD will be published by Quercus in 2015. You can check out his site HERE and his blog HERE. Mike had some great answers to this blog chain's questions (What are three things you write? What are three things you don't write?) so do go check out his post.

Just before I get into my answers, I want to share an Exciting Thing. With Eren only a few months away now, advanced copies have been going out. One copy went to none other than David Almond. My rather brilliant editor, Sarah, has worked her magic, got him to read it, and he's been nice enough to offer us a quote for the back of the book. Behold!

"Eren caught my attention from the very first page. I really enjoyed it. Sure-footed, distinctive, strange, poetic. Simon P. Clark is a truly interesting new voice." (David Almond, author of Skellig)

I am phenomenally happy about this. It's weird when people say nice things about your books, but it's weirderer when those people are childhood heroes.

(You can still enter to win an advanced copy of Eren, by the way, over on the Eren Tales blog. The Third Tale - Teeth - will also be going up some time next week. There's so much going on.)

Nightmare - The Second Eren Tale
Now, to the blog chain.

Three Things I Write

Short Stories. I'm a big fan of short stories. I buy collections of them by my favourite writers, and I've always written them myself. I think they're important, especially for new writers. They force you to work on your pacing and your voice. When space is limited, the crap gets cut, and what you're left with should be only the best. Some of the most amazing stories I've read have been short stories. With the right technique, and a master storyteller, they can do amazing things. It's also a great way to keep fresh, to experiment with new forms and styles, and to test out ideas. 

Children's Books. I may well write for adults in the future. I've certainly started 'grown up' novels in the past. Right now, though, the things that interest me the most, and the stories I want to tell, and aimed at, and about, kids. It just kind of happened. I don't intend to stay here all my life, but I can't ever see myself giving it up. It's brilliant.

Monsters. Maybe this is because I wrote for children, or maybe it's in spite of it, but boos have to have monsters - and monsters with real teeth, too. There's Eren, of course, but I've also written shorter pieces (some of which are on this site) about ghosts, and Death, and mysterious shattering women, and men who eat rabbits, and women who know the world is going to end. I think it's the darkness I enjoy - the fact you can hint at the fact there's so much more the reader isn't being told, and might not ever learn.


Three Things I Don't Write

And They All Lived Happily Ever After. I've never been convinced by happy endings. Where's the uneasy feeling that the tale will continue even if you close the book? Where's the creeping doubt that the monster might come back, or that it has a mother who's bigger and stronger and not very happy? Bring on the ambiguity, the unsettling pauses, and the feeling that the story isn't ever quite done.

It Was All A Dream. Not because I think it's cheating - after all, dreams are mysterious and unknowable and very useful for writers. No, the reason I don't like this approach is that it diminishes what dreams are. It's makes everything OK because it was just a dream. Just a dream? No. Dreams are dark and strange and real. "It was a dream," is the beginning of a story, not the end.

Morals. I'm not sure stories are meant to specifically teach one thing. Fairy tales are intensely moral, of course (though the original versions often had a far starker lesson than modern versions), but that's often a side effect of the way they're built up. There's something off-putting about a story that sets out to teach children A Thing About Life. It also opens the door to condescension. Who needs that, really? I'm with Philip Pullman on this one - wind the story up, like clockwork, and set it going.

5.30.2014

The Second Eren Tale Is Here - Win a Copy of Eren

Exciting things have been happening.

Nightmare - the second of the twelve Eren Tales short stories - is now published. If you want to read it, and see the artwork my friend Brandon Rechten came up with, just click here, or visit erentales.com

While you're there, have a look at the Eren Tales blog, where we're running a competition to win an advanced copy of Eren. Anyone can enter, and it's running for the next two weeks, so go - go! - now's your chance to see what I'm been harping on about for the last year and a half!

And ... that's it. Enjoy the tale, and keep watching for the next ones. Six are coming out before Eren's hardback publication in September, with the other six leading up to paperback publication. If you like words and stories and dark tales and mystery, they should be right up your street.

S

5.28.2014

Eren Is a Real Book

Perhaps one of the most exciting things that will ever happen to me happened last week - on Friday, to be exact. I got home early, ready to pack and take a trip to Martha's Vineyard, an island up by Nantucket. A package was waiting for me - a package I'd been waiting for for a couple of weeks.

You may well be able to guess what was in it:


Yes - Eren! My Eren - my book. Real and in my hand and with pages and words and everything. It was a fantastic moment, and one I won't forget for a long time. It's something I've wanted for so long, and now that it's here - now I can show people a book with my name and Eren's story - it all feels a bit odd indeed.

I even have some reviews coming in. There's this one from The Sprout, and a great one from Kat Ellis - and hopefully, more to come. 

Oh - the second Eren Tale - Nightmare - will be up in just a few days. Watch this space, friends. 

S


5.15.2014

Review: Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

Coming soon...One of the unexpected bonuses (bonii?) of being a writer is the increasing number of books on my shelves that are written by people I actually know. It's satisfying, and very strange, to see the names of authors, or have books lying around, and know that if I really wanted to, I could call them up and discuss the plot.

Maybe I should start doing that. 4 a.m. phone calls where I shout angry questions about character development would, no doubt, make me very popular among colleagues.

Anyway - with that in mind, I want to make more of an effort to review and spread the word about new books by folk I like. I reviewed M. P. Kozlowsky's The Dyerville Tales not too long ago (and it's actually published, now. Go, buy it. You won't regret it). Today, I'm talking about Kat Ellis' Blackfin Sky.

First, a bit about the book:

When Sky falls from Blackfin Pier and drowns on her sixteenth birthday, the whole town goes into mourning – until she shows up three months later like nothing happened.

Unravelling the mystery of those missing months takes Sky to the burned-out circus in the woods, where whispers of murder and kidnapping begin to reveal the town’s secrets. But Sky’s not the only one digging up the past – the old mime from the circus knows what happened to her, and he has more than one reason for keeping quiet about it. 

If I didn't know Kat, I probably wouldn't have read this book. It's not the sort of thing I would have gone for. I'm not a huge YA guy. I'm not a huge mystery guy

I'm also an idiot for overlooking books like this. If Blackfin Sky's anything to go by, I have a lot of catching up to do. It's a fantastic read - gripping from the first page (where Silas, a disdainful haunted weather vane - yes, you read that right - catches sight of a dead girl who's not dead) to the last (which I'm not going to spoil for you). I finished the book yesterday and, I have to admit, took a longer lunch than I'm technically allowed. I was too wrapped up in the climax - and it's a good one, guys. There are so many different threads to this story, and so many questions, but Kat manages to bring them all together at the end like some sort of mad puppeteer. It left me wanting more, but not feeling frustrated. That has to be the mark of a good book, right? I want sequels and prequels. I want to know more about Silas, and Bo, and what's up with Jared, and I want to know now.

Maybe I will make that 4 a.m. call...

Two things especially surprised me about this book. Firstly, I started caring a lot about certain characters. Whether it was Kat's writing (never flowery, always well paced) or the sheer inventiveness of the story, I don't know, but one scene in particular (involving an open grave and a mob of boys who are keen to see it refilled) had me balling my fists and imagining, there and then, the terrible vengeance I would enact upon those who did wrong. I got a bit worked up, I'll admit, and had to take a break. That's a good story. And then something happened later that made me feel bad for thinking those things. I only have so many emotions a day, Kat. You can't do things like that.

Secondly, Blackfin Sky is funny as hell. The banter between the characters, and Sky's description of her mother especially, are bang on. There's sarcasm, jokes, and awkward teenage moments we can all relate to. The fact it's happening alongside danger and confusion only makes it better. Yes, there's romance too, but it's natural and never forced. Sean seems like good guy. I'd let him date my sister, if he wanted.

You can probably tell I quite liked this book.

Kat's running a release day giveaway over on her site at the moment. You should go enter. If you don't win, you should buy this book. It's a great debut - and it's coming out in the U.S. in September, too.

Congratulations, Kat! Now hurry up and write your next book.