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New year, new focus (and a first sneak peak...)

The mince pies are done. In a couple of days the kids are back to school and I'm back to the desk.

2016 was the year of Abendau, with the final books of the trilogy released (and gaining great reviews, thankfully - many of which mention my maturing as a writer over the books - which is a relief after 4 years between writing book one and book three). But for now, Abendau is finished. It is a world I may return to sometime. But not yet.

2017 has a new focus - in more than one way. Firstly, it will be a slower year. I have a release in July but nothing before. I might, time allowing, have another later in the year, a sf collection, but, really, I'm in no hurry.

Why not? Me who is normally hell for leather? Well, firstly, my job must come first for a while - it pays while writing, frankly, does not. There is something in this, perhaps, a message to those who love books. Writers get a tiny amount of the book's value (even on Amazon, where 75% sounds great but where overheads must be met or a publisher's cut taken). Consumers look for books as cheaply as they can seek them. As long as writers - especially debuts - struggle to attract the price of a coffee for their work, the less likely it is that they have the time to write.But, also - I no longer feel to succeed volume is key. Quality is key. And for me, that means editing time and maturing time. I have four books out there for people to explore - for now, that's plenty and gives me time to enjoy my next release and not race frantically for the finish line (and time to write something new.)

Secondly, my debut fantasy book comes out in July. Set in the Antrim Glens, it follows Amy who, when she was five, was stolen by the fairies - now, they want her back. I call it a fairy-fuelled roadtrip through the Glens, an area I know well and the very essence of fairyland but it's about more than that - it's about the land and its people, the shaping of us through our past, about secrets and fragilities, about trust and hope.

Writing fantasy is different from sci-fi but I've really enjoyed it. It gives more room for me to delve into the characters and world, and I've really loved the process of combining our own world with another, one perhaps seen only in the corner of our eyes.As perhaps expected, my fairies aren't cute, glittery things but darker, more malevolent. The Irish sidhe aren't gentle, as those who live near them will attest - and I do love to explore the dark little corners of our world.

Have a look at the prologue below - I'd love to know what you think.


I never knew panic could make ice jump into my throat and cold fingers crawl up my spine. That it could change me from a rational, normal mum, unpacking in the caravan at the start of our holiday, into a harridan who screamed at my husband for losing our daughter; at my young, stunned son for needing me; at the police to do something – anything – to find her.

That was the first time, the time when everything changed, and the memory never fades: Phil running through the site, Mark beside him on coltish legs, struggling to keep up. Phil’s panicked eyes meeting mine, Phil who’d always been strong. He ran up to where I was, standing on the caravan’s step clutching a pair of tiny dungarees, just perfect for a five-year-old girl. Before he spoke I knew he’d been away too long and … I knew.

“Amy’s gone,” he said, his words strained. He sucked in a breath. “We need to call the police.”

“Gone where?” I didn’t scream or yell. Not then. It wasn’t real yet.

“From the little glen,” he said. “The one at the top of the site.”

Amy’s glen, where she’d spent the last summer enchanted by ‘fairies’. We’d encouraged her game, not knowing, then, what it was really about.

Mark had been the one with the sense to run to the rangers' lodge, and the ranger on duty called the police. All Phil could say, over and over, was that it wasn’t possible for her to be gone, that he’d been watching her, that there was no way out of the glen. Mark agreed and the bile rose in me because – it was possible; they had lost her.

The search went on all night. Helicopters droned over the forest. Floodlights swept the glen. Voices shouted: “Amy! Amy!” An officer gave her description on the radio; they thought someone had taken her. Another asked for a photo, and when I didn’t have one they called my parents. I watched lights dance over the forest, back and forth, and couldn’t focus on anything except the creeping knowledge that I wouldn’t see her again.

They found her after dark, in the glen, curled under an overhang of trees. Someone came to the van where we were having another cup of tea – I’ve never drunk tea since – and I ran across the site, the grass whipping my ankles. I climbed the stile into the glen beyond. A policewoman helped me over; she was shaking her head, saying it was a miracle, that no one knew how they’d missed her. I heard Phil ask where she’d been found, heard him say he’d bloody known there was no way past. Clever Mark checked it really was Amy.

I left all that behind and walked into the circle of police. There, in the middle of the officers, her face dimpling when she saw me, Amy waited. The ice in me broke – shattered – and I ran to her. I picked her up and spun her round until she laughed.

“Where did you go, sweetie?” I asked when I put her down. I crouched in front of her and gave her a box of raisins – I knew she’d be hungry. As she went to take the raisins I saw something in her hand; a golden acorn, perfect except for a crack in its side, its metal catching the moonlight.

“Where did you get that?”

“From the fairies,” she said, her eyes solemn. “I found it.”

My heart stilled. Amy never lied. Phil, now beside me, bent in front of her and stroked her hand. I watched, tense, as he said, “Tell the truth, honey.”

“I did.” She gave a little smile, a dancing one, and said, “I was with the fairies.”

Mark stared at his sister. I saw him taking in her eyes, her hair, the cunning smile. He looked her up and down, and then grinned, an eight-year-old’s grin that wasn’t scared like mine.

“Cool,” he said, drawing out the word. “Can I be their prince?”

But he wasn’t their prince: he couldn’t be anything to them. They only ever wanted Amy.


Anonymous said…
I enjoyed the prolouge of your novel. It could go anywhere. :)
Joanne Zebedee said…
Thank you! That's what I hoped for!
Olli said…
Lots of promise here
I still haven't finished Abendau, so much to read, so little time.
Joanne Zebedee said…
I feel your pain.... :)