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Showing posts from 2018

On tenacity. And agents.

Around two years ago, I wrote this blog: 
In it, I’m resolutely unfazed. (And, no, this blog is not a disguised ‘I got an agent!’ post. Trust me. You won’t miss that one.) In reality, I crawled through most of 2016 with a focus on getting my Abendau commitments done and done well, and try to sell Waters and the Wild. Oh, and retrieving what I could from the whole sorry Inish Carraig saga (which, perhaps, turned out to be my happy ending – that little book and world is my pride and joy).  I completely underestimated, misunderstood, whatever, the effect losing an agent would have on my career. I took the steps to keep going, but lacked the clear direction we need to give impetus. My focus went onto each book, not my overall career (luckily, in my non-writing professional world the ship was steady).
Perhaps, after Inish, another writer would have decided the self-published world was the one for them. But des…

I've moved!

Just a quick note to those who follow my blog - I've moved it over to, under the blog tag. I just wanted everything in one neat place, but the content is the same, the feel is the same, and I'll be linking to all the usual places.
Thanks so much for reading my witterings! Please pop over to the new blog!


On Confidence

I think one of the hardest things, as a writer, is to become confident in what you write. Too often we seek external validation to gain confidence and, when they're missing, it can be hard.  

I don't have an agent. I did but it didn't work out. I don't have someone in my corner telling me I'm great and that they've got my back.

I don't have a huge sales base. I tick along, I do well enough but I'm not sitting at the top of the bestseller lists - nor do I expect to. I'm (mostly) self published, I write (mostly) weird sff set in a small region.

I don't have thousands of reviews (although I probably do have a few hundred, so I'm not complaining) BUT those I do have tend to be on the very good side of the equation. That's an important one, that one - in the absence of other indicators, the fact that people who do read my work like it has been a big validation. And, once in place, that validation can begin the self-confidence process. But, j…

Finding the place

I enjoy writing my sff set in Ireland, not least for the research and the finding of appropriate places. One of the reasons HBO chose Norn Iron for Game of Thrones was the access to the amount of different locations, all close to each other.

For Inish Carraig 2 I'm having a lot of fun finding the places I want to set the scenes. So far, I've pulled out an old airfield, Portstewart Strand with its stretching beach.

Now, these are all lovely locations to use but for some of the scenes I want something a little bit special. My idea, without giving too many spoilers, was to find a place where some post-invasion survivors could have made into a compound where, survialist style, they've come together for safety. My first thought was to use somewhere remote, perhaps some of the mountains, but that didn't suit what I wanted in the end.

At which point, I had a brainwave. Not too far from me there are 3 railway viaducts all meeting in a single place. That place is remote enough …

On writing what you like

Firstly, look away if you want to become a bestseller. Look away if you want to make money at the writing game.

This week, on a forum, someone (I'll name and shame her, shall I? The fabulous Milly-molly-mo, although she also has a more normal name) referred to writing your own sub-genre, like Jo does.

Hmmm. I wasn't at all sure about that. I mean, sure I know I can have challenges regarding writing in a single identifiable genre, to a single market etc etc, but I don't know that I'm as bad as all that.

And then I wondered, why do I actually care? Why don't I celebrate that if you read a Jo Zebedee book, that's what it is. Something quirky from the dark depths of my mind. Something that I must have enjoyed writing, or I wouldn't have worked so hard at the sodding thing.

And here's why I think being a one-woman twisted bookshelf is a good thing:

There is a better chance of me getting a few quid on the lottery than actually making a decent living at writin…

On alchemy

Like most writers, I have a few works in The Trunk, the virtual box under my bed where works that don't work lurk.

I have two, in particular. One is a YA sf thriller I started when I was still repped by a YA agent and thought I should probably write something for that market. I like it okay but I've never really got to grips with the characters or the speculative elements. It also reminds me too much of a tough time, writing wise, when I was left in a limbo that I'm only drawing out of now, and I suppose that steals the will to continue with a work.That one, I think, will stay where it is for now.

My second trunked novel is a more challenging scenario. This one is a sf. I love the concept, I love the characters, but it's just not quite working. Part of that is a structural issue - this is a mother and daughter's combined story, told mostly by the daughter through a link to her mother's memories - which I have never fully managed to solve. Part of it is the need…

Process? I have to have a process now?!

I'm a character writer. I can't write a story until the character chooses to appear in the black hole in the back of my mind that an entire town lives in, as far as I can tell, and starts to talk to me.

I don't do character sketches. I don't muse on what type of person they'll be or how I'll add edges to them, or make them sympathetic. (That does mean that not everyone will dig the characters I write, but that's okay. I don't dig everyone I meet, after all). They just happen.

Yesterday, for instance, an entirely new charactrer made themselves known to me. They're a friend of Neeta's in Inish Carraig. They're skinny and streetwise and they're going to be a handful - and I've yet to write their point of view yet. (I might never, but I still hear their voice). They're one of three new characters so far, all of whom have appeared pretty well rounded from the first instance.

This means when anyone asks HOW to write a character, I fin…

The morass that is publishing

It's been a week of online discussions about authors' income, where various friends are placed, where I am placed, who has an agent, who has a trad deal, who made nothing on their last book, who made something, who made lots (ha! haven't actually had that conversation, anywhere...).

During that week I've learned lots of things. Like, for instance, if I had a big publisher I might not be allowed to bring out material, unrelated to the book the publisher has, and expand my writing output. In other words, if I went trad, I couldn't be a hybrid writer, picking and choosing the market as per the project's needs.

For me, that means two things. Firstly, I would lose my freedom to publish as I'd like to - and as much as I like to. But, more importantly - all those little short stories related to worlds, the Christmas freebies, the ability to expand and promote wherever feels best, would be lost. And yet, I'd have a big publisher and a bigger income. Perhaps. Or…

On Influences - 40 years of Blake's 7!

This week is, apparently, the 40th anniversary of Blake's 7, that shaky-setted, pirates in space series.

Apart from making me feel incredibly old, it also made me nostalgic (Rumours of Death might go on tonight for old time's sake) it also made me reflect on where we take influences from and why.

It's no secret that B7 was a huge influence on Abendau (along with a load of other sf from the 70s-80s like Star Wars, Dune, and the older, classical Space Operas). There are a number of B7 Easter eggs through the trilogy - Kare is named for Kerr Avon, my baddy was a woman because, after Servalan, deliciously evil male rulers lack smack. There are other, subtler, references - the shifting sands of Abendau were partly inspired by Sand and when I had to abandon my good guys somewhere awful where better than a quarry?

But it was also a huge influence on the type of characters I develop. Characters who question, who have moral codes of various ilks, who feel real. Characters with past…