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What's in a book's dedication - and how I got dragged around Yeats' land as a teen holidayer

A few days ago I got talking to the fabulous Anne McMaster about the title of Waters and the Wild. For those who know their poetry, they might recognise that I took the title from a line in Yeats' poem, The Stolen Child.

To explain a little about my Yeats background. My mother is a huge fan of Yeats. So much so that she decided one year the ideal family holiday with a bunch of teenagers was visiting Sligo, and lots of his writing sites. Which sounds strange and not quite up there with Disneyland but, actually, that holiday has always stayed with me.

Suffice to say if you have a childhood that incorporates a holiday like that, you'll have a passing knowledge of Yeats' poetry. (An admission: I like poetry to read. I don't write it. I wouldn't have a clue where to start and, frankly, I like my blasters, but I do enjoy a read of it.)

Now, I do think a title is worth thinking reasonably hard about. Despite Inish Carraig's apparent irrelevance to science fiction, for…

On beta readers

One thing I get asked a lot when running courses etc is how to get beta readers, how many to have and what sort of skills they need to have.

Firstly, though - what are beta readers? They're readers who look at the early manuscript and tell me all my horrors. Technically there are alpha readers, who look at the first-first draft, and beta readers who look at the reasonably tidied up version. But, for the purposes of this blog, I'm going to just refer to them all as beta readers.

This is a timely thing to do since I've just put together a team of willing victims - cough, volunteers - for Inish Carraig 2, so it's something I've been thinking about, and the process is reasonably fresh with me.

So, where did these volunteers come from. All 4 were met on one forum or another - two through the sffchronicles, whose writing community I've been a member of for some time and under whose guidance I cut my writing teeth, one through Skypen, a local forum which is now sadly …

On motivation

MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO WRITE


Sometimes going onwards can be a trial. Sometimes getting started can be difficult. Sometimes editing can be a grind. I see so many writers who can’t finish a project. They can start things, over and over. They might even be able to get to the end of the first draft. But keeping going to the end of a polished piece of work can be a nightmare.


1.Get into the habit of writing. I know, I know, I know. Everyone says it. But, actually, until you have that habit where you think, right, now’s my writing time, it’s always too easy to weasel out. To say, ‘well, I wasn’t planning to write anyway, so where’s the harm?’ The next thing you know, it’s a week down the line and you’ve nothing written.
For the first three years as a writer, I wrote something every day, except on Christmas. Every single day. Out with the computer, type something, close it down. I don’t do that now. I don’t need to – after a couple of days not writing, my fingers are twitching and my brain im…

On trying to force things

There's a lot of discussion around at the moment about authors not finishing books and series that they started (usually around Pat Rothfuss and GRRM). Now, I am generally a personal fan of trying to finish things that I start, but I think something that gets overlooked in the whole argument is creativity and how - and where - it happens.

Today I got up with a simple plan. Catch up on a couple of writing emails, record a list of embarrassing moments (sort of getting there) and write the next part of IC2. I'm coming up on 5000 words now, I have a beta team in place, but I didn't have a plot. What I had instead was a sort of mish-mash of possible motivations and character interactions. A couple of antagonists whose agendas I didn't know. And a world not quite shaped.

Normally I write through such small matters and hope things work out. But this time the various strands were all interlinked. I could not write the protagonists without knowing which antagonist was moving ag…

Abendau - relaunch!

I wasn't sure if I'd get this blog out today or not, but things are happening on the Abendau front.

Firstly, I now have the rights to the full trilogy reverted to myself. This is, I will stress, very amicable and very much what I wanted, and I'm very grateful to Gary and all the Tickety boo team for their support over the last few years. This was something I requested to happen.

So why did I want to take this step?

Inish Carraig is under my self-publishing arm, as will its sequel be, and I see that as the more viable option for my science fiction work. (My fantasy is still with Inspired Quill and I plan to trad publish my fantasy in future, too)

When I decided to run a course in the writing business I did some fancy number crunching and the stats for Science fiction were undeniable. The market is predominantly online. The only thing I will lose is Lightning Source's distribution (I use CreateSpace for Inish Carraig and like them, so will put Abendau up with them, too),…

For the love of a good library

This week, discussions about piracy have been rife in many forums. The usual - Piracy is theft, rebutted by the notion that downloading free pdfs of my books isn't stealing, but doing me a favour. I'll not get into that here but talk about something else that's been mentioned as a validation of pirating: getting free books from libraries is the same thing. The reader doesn't pay there, either!

First, let's be clear on something. The consumer might not pay to borrow the book - but the library do pay the author. In the UK they pay both by buying the book and a small amount when the book is loaned out. In other countries, it may only be the sale that is paid for - but that is still a sale.

I use libraries from both sides of the coin.I read voraciously, as most writers do, and I prefer my books to come from trees. So I use my library. My kids use the library. I like my library - it's a nice, bright clean space with friendly people who like books working there. It&#…

On self belief

As ever, these things dovetail and I've had a couple of online interactions with writers talking about how self belief can be a barrier. This can take a number of sideroads in terms of impact:

1. I don't believe in what I'm writing, and therefore don't have the confidence to keep going.

I think this is incredibly common. Few writers I know don't get to some part in the process without deciding what they're writing is the worst kind of drivel. Some jack it in at that point, becoming the perpetual never-completers, some keep going and hope to write through it, some take a bit of a break and then come back to that idea. For me, each works at different points in the process. Sometimes, too, that project isn't actually going to be a goer. The idea may not work in the form you're trying to work in. The idea might be weaker than it first seemed.
None of this means the writer isn't a good writer, or that they should give up. It just means the project isn…

Mojo matters

I've been quiet for a couple of weeks. During that time, I've been struggling with my writing - and it's difficult to sustain a writing blog when you aren't actually writing.

I've had a short story to do for an anthology that refused to come. I finished the novel I started last year and suspect it needs some space and then more work (the main character's voice doesn't feel strong enough yet). I started and didn't continue with some stuff. And I mused.

Now I am an over-thinker and, when I turn my attention to musing, it can take some time. Thoughts that occurred to me included

I might not have another book on me - and, strangely, I wasn't too concerned at that one. I came to writing to write Abendau and have the bonus of Inish Carraig and Waters and the Wild. If I have no more books out I still succeeded and I'd have no regrets.

I'd take things back to being a hobby - and that has masses of appeal. Fewer hours spent promoting, only taking on …

Those awkward fat ladies

A few weeks ago, I did an apologetic Steve Redgrave Never-let-me-into-another-boat style blog.

There would be no Inish Carraig 2. It wasn't working. It would never work. I was doing it for all the wrong reasons - to please others, not because I had a story in me - etc etc. Sorry, John and Henry. So long for thanks for all the fish.

Most people were very good about it. And then IC's editor, Jeff, put in a comment that maybe I should write the story after the gang had returned to Earth, and a small little lightbulb sounded. Maybe John and Henry had never left Earth....

And then, long suffering Chris, my husband, made a comment that maybe, just maybe, there was a story around the intergalactic trial but that it didn't need to happen on the Zelo planet. And then I started to think about how things must be after the war, and what might be happen, and lo and behold I'm a chapter in with a three-stranded storyline (anyone who has read all my stuff might notice I tend to do th…

Sff cons - paying your way

Right now, lots of my sff mates are boogie-ing at Fantasycon. Next weekend I'll be at Octocon. We are on panels, we are on the programme - and almost all of us will pay for the privilege to do so. Octocon will cost me in the region of €400 - and I can't wait.

Hold on, says my other writing mates. No pay for doing a panel! No expenses: not even travel?

Nope. That is the culture, the norm and what makes sff cons special. The creators don't turn up, do a panel, get paid and go. They do a panel and head to the bar to talk with the other geeks.

You simply do not write sff unless you are a significant geek. I might appear pretty ungeeky but scratch the surface and I've spent a lifetime reading and watching all things sff. And our cons are about the genre more than any personality or knowledge imparted. I get such a buzz out of feeling part of that 'tribe',nothing more is needed.

And the upshot of that? A sff con has a unique feel - a mix of readers, gamers, and watch…

Writing what you love

I know some authors who are very disciplined and able to write for a market. They ride the trends, they deliver a story and cover that is bang on right, and they make a nice living at it. Once, I wished I could be one of them. But as I increasingly come to believe a full time writing career isn't just no longer an aspiration for me but something I actively don't want, it's become easier for me to decide not to follow that model (which is good because my screwy brain won't anyway....)

Last year, I got funding to write a book and that means that that particular book before it sees the light of day is probably my most profitable to date. I like it very much, I enjoyed writing it for the most part, but the last 8 weeks or so were a slog for me. Whatever passion I bring to my writing left the building. I began to fear IT had finally come - the moment when I'd get bored of writing and stop.

Now, all writers go through fits and starts like this. I've never been a beli…

On having many babies

On Twitter, recently, George Martin was chastised for choosing to spend his time on a project that wasn't completing Game of Thrones (he also gets chastised for going to baseball games, travelling and doing anything that isn't being stuck to his writing desk). Couldn't he, the person wondered, hand this new project to someone else. Alas no: George loves all his projects equally.

I love having more than one project. I love that just in the last two days I have heard from people reading Abendau, Inish Carraig and Waters and the Wild. I love that my conversation for each project is different and fresh.

When people talk about Abendau, they talk about the influences on it (Abendau is the joy of cheesy Space Opera on a stick). They talk about the characters and world. They open up the terrifying prospect of convention panels about Space Travel and science (no, no, not terrified at all. Just feeling like I'd like a pocket Orac with me...)

In Inish, the setting comes up all th…

Ask Sir Edric Anything - And I did!

Today, I’m joined by Sir Edric, pretty much my favourite Un-PC knight. Boringly, his new book is out today on special offer at 99p (lots of links below), and I guess that's what I was supposed to ask about (it's ace, by the way, but I should know since I beta-read it and fixed all Edric's dodgy bits), but instead I took the chance to ask Sir Edric Anything, and I went for all the burning questions we need to know.


Jo: You’ve had a long (what age are you, by the way?) and busy life. What would you select as the highlight of your existence to date?


Sir Edric: I’m in the prime of my life, that happy apex where youthful vigour encounters manly experience. Undoubtedly the highlight would be escaping my wife’s lethal clutches, although I suppose other people would mention the Battle of Hornska. I saved the entire world of men and elves from enslavement (and enlunchment) to the Ursk. Sadly, there’s a shockingly small number of statues to me…




Jo: Some storytellers make up their mo…

Funky brain: a short song storyboard

A glimpse into the writer's brain (well this one's)

First a song:

https://g.co/kgs/izfnpc

Hopefully that took you to Muse's Invincible.

Now a scene (spoiler alert for Abendau's Heir!)

This is the scene where the palace is attacked by Kare and co from the port. The one where he goes in barefoot, they cross the parapet and exciting things happen. (They do! You should read all about it!)

This is what really happens:

Opening stanza: Sonly/Kare in the hangar where she puts him to rights
Second stanza: Silom/Kare preparing to line up
Third stanza: the lovely Lichio when Kare tells him he's in charge.

Nice little bit of marching music - leaving the port. Many blasters. Space Opera gloriousness.

Next stanza: Sonly (off screen but poetic licence is okay)
Next stanza: Kare getting his arse over the parapet.

Little slow bit where things get tough. Many many many blasters. Gunfire from all around. Smoke. Soldiers falling off the edge.

Solo guitar fun bit - our heroes getting up…

Inish Carraig 2 - In which I impart bad news

For some time now I've had calls for a sequel to Inish Carraig https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inish-Carraig-alien-invasion-novel-ebook/dp/B012782E0G/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_2So far this week I've fended off four enquiries about it. Which is lovely and I love that so many people love my quirky little book baby.

But there will not be a sequel - or at least not anytime soon.

I have tried to write one. My initial plan was to take Henry, John and Neeta off Earth onto the Zelotyr world. The first line was immense (shite, shite and more shite) but it quickly fell apart. You can take the Belfast out of the boy it seems but not the boy out of Belfast. Which brought me to plan b - another Belfast based story. But that is dreary and stodgy and not at all what the Inish Carraig world should be.

And I have no plan C.

In 2013 I attended a fun panel with William F Nolan, writer of Logan's Run, a film and book I adored. I also read the first sequel - Logan's World - and, whilst I enjoyed it, I didn&…

The perils of being a pantster…

I was writing another blog, but it turned out miserable. TL:DR – the market is tough. Your book might be brilliant and still not sell. Someone else’s might be Fifty Types of Shite and sell. Live with it, keep writing, and see as a lottery: you have more than one chance to win and just cos the first draw didn’t deliver, the next might.
Right, onto happier matters. This morning, as I worked at my Incredibly-difficult-jigsaw-my-husband-bought-me-to-shut-me-up, I had a revelation.
I’m about 20 pages from the end of the third draft of The New Thing (it does have a name, honest) and, as ever, I struggle with endings. Sometimes, as with Inish Carraig, I rush them a little and get complaints (although wanting more isn’t the worst complaint a writer can have), sometimes I get a little muddled about what I want to do at the end and sometimes, as with Abendau, I have no idea of the end. That one took me a quarter of a million words to inform me that Kare… but that would be a spoiler, so I’ll …

When the angels do sing

Last week, I had a bit of a small muse about being at a frustrating part of the writing process.
This week that book has not progressed further, although I hope it will very soon. Instead, I took a break and went off to write something else. That something is the book I hope to become Abendau 4.
Now, this is an odd little book, in the sense I have no real idea if there is an appetite for more in that world. It’s also a challenge because I hope that people could also start the series with this book.
There is a reason for that. A cunning reason that mostly goes like this: Abendau’s Heir is, judging by reviews and my own gut instinct, my weakest book. That stands to reason as it was the first book I wrote. However, the other two books in the original trilogy are strong.
Now, there are many series I’ve read where the first book didn’t do it for me (Bujold and Jodi Taylor come to mind) but I went on to love the rest of the series but this is the digital age where, if a book isn’t quit…

When the angels stop singing

Currently, I hate the sight of my work in progress. It’s not its fault. It’s a nice piece of work and one that I’ll enjoy going back to at some stage. It’s just a stage in the process.
For me, the writing process goes something like this:
I have an idea. It’s a great idea. I can’t wait to write that idea – and if I have to wait because I’m finishing something else, I’ll hate that.**
I’ve just hit 20,000 words and there is no more story in me. I’m looking at a scribbled page of notes in the hope I’ll work something out. I think I’ll grab ten coffees and see what happens.
This is really, really crap. Like horrid. Take my keyboard off me and get me out of this misery.
Okay, it’s better than I thought.
This is great! I can sub it to anyone and they’ll say yes!
Oh, damn, why did I sub that? How could I ever have thought anyone would go for that piece of crap?
I’ll just fix it.
Oh, now it’s in a mess.
This makes no sense!
I’ve lost all sense!
I hate this thing and never want to s…

On genres and reading

I've never talked about the importance of reading to being a writer. It's something I hear mentioned all the time, that you can't be a writer if you don't read. Now I don't like can't statements and I am sure there are writers who buck the trend. But, for me, reading and writing go hand in hand.

I was the child who walked into a lamppost because I was reading. Who has missed many, many train stops. Who brings anticipated reads on holidays because it's a treat to have time. I read - everywhere. In the bath, in the bathroom, in bed, in the car. I read the back of cereal packets if I have nothing else.

I also don't always read science fiction and fantasy but I have read a lot. For instance, I say I'm not a big epic fantasy fan but I've made my way through Lord of the Rings, some Sanderson, Rothfuss. I've read Grimdark (ironically far from my favourite genre, although I like the humour), portal fantasies, young adult stuff, mythic stories, Iris…

3 little things

I have so many writing thoughts whirling through my head that I haven't even titled this blog yet. I'll see what explodes first, before I do.

The sort of things that have been traipsing through my mind this week are related to the writing business, to brand and markets and to reviews. Perhaps the three are linked. If so, let's see -and then we might have a title.

1. Brand. I am brand Jo Zebedee, just like every writer is brand xyz. But brand Jo Zebedee is a bit mixed up at the moment. There is sf writer, who writes Abendau, there's a YA writer, who wrote Inish Carraig and a few other unreleased goodies in that demograph (and never markets themselves as YA, one of the biggest book markets there is) and there's the Irish writer, who writes fantasy with an Irish touch that would probably appeal to that market.

Which means that, when someone moseys off to my author page, my range is becoming increasingly confused. Do I expect a lover of Abendau to love Waters and the W…

On Stickability

Sometimes the going - at anything - gets tough. In my day job (a management consultant when we're being swish, a management nerd when we're not) stickability is identified as a key requirement in the modern workplace and one not always met.

I think I'm quite lucky with my stickability - which is, I think, sometimes mistaken for drive. It has been my long-held belief that trying hard is only one part of the equation - keeping trying is the other, and bigger, part of success.

Of all the areas of my life where sticking at it has been most needed, it is with writing. I've set up a business and that was easier than finishing a novel, and then a trilogy, and then more novels. Honestly, getting an agent only to lose them (careless I know) led to probably one of the most bleak days of my professional life. Sending out the emails to tell people what had happened, letting the news out on Social media, was all hard enough to make me slink off.

And yet I didn't. I brought the …

When the Middle Ages and Modernity collide

Today I'm joined by Thaddeus White, one of my favourite indie writers. His new book, Traitor's Prize, a sequel to Kingdom Asunder came out this week. It's his fourth novel in that world, mixing the fantastical and a realistic version of a medieval world, guided but not constrained by history. Even then, there are some conflicts between what most people think today (or how they perceive the medieval world) and what actually happened and this blog is an interesting one, exploring that. 
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Mercy and brutality is a difficult area to try and grasp. We live in a very civilised world (not perfect by any means, but compare it to a time when beating a pig to death was considered a fun game and it’s not hard to appreciate the difference). There were often strong reasons to exercise mercy or be brutal in medieval warfare. The former could encourage people to switch sides, knowing they’…

Non-agented writers - how does that work?

Just last week, a great writing chum of mine, who knows his way around a bit of PR, commented that I'd done well to get as much visibility for my new book, Waters and the Wild, (you have bought ten, right? You should because it's getting the most awesome reviews) without being agented.

Let me very clear, right from the start. I wanted to be agented. I'd still quite like to be agented. This is not an agent-bashing blog, far from it. I am not anti-agents: it seems they're rather more anti-me. This is frustrating - my books have all done well, for being with indie publishers/self-published but, more to the point, the reviews are stellar. People, when they find the books like them and recommend them. But still the agented world and I are not linked, probably for the simple reason that my books and a big publisher are not seen to be a good match.  

Let's go back a couple of years. I was, as is quite common, agented for my second novel. I then received a publisher's…