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.



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.


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.


Win an Advanced Copy of EREN

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eren by Simon P. Clark


by Simon P. Clark

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