Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Page 99 Test

Sandra at SS Book Fanatics has very kindly featured Fire on her blog this weekend. I have also written a guest post for the blog, based around Ford Maddox Ford's page 99 test - apparently, you can tell whether you're going to like a book or not just by reading the 99th page. I've put this to the test with a few of my favourite YA novels. If you read to the end, you'll also get a preview of page 99 from Fire...

Check out the post in full here. I enjoyed writing it so much that I might try it out with a few more of my favourite reads! Watch this space...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Arcan Realm - an overview

Residents of the Arcan Realm worship the Air God and have an affinity with the air.

I originally adapted it from 'arcus' a Latin word which can mean rainbow (as well as quite a few other things). However, wikipedia has now informed me that an arcus is also "A low, horizontal cloud typically forming at the leading edge of thunderstorm outflow" which makes the name even more perfect!

Cold! Think icy temperatures, wind and snow - not ideal for Jasmine at all! A huge rainbow can also always be seen in the sky over the capital city.

Many areas of the Arcan Realm are mountainous, and its population tends to prefer being high up.

The People:
Are more diverse than some of the other Realms; there's a much greater variety of skin tones and hair and eye colours, which is why Jasmine, with her olive-toned skin and cerulean eyes, doesn't stand out too much.
They also love to throw huge parties and celebrations; the Arcan Realm has a strong community feel.

Within the capital, Arcans travel by bubble cart:

"They were called bubble carts not only because of their rounded oval shapes, but because of the material they were made with which managed to be translucent while still managing to shimmer with all of the colours in the Realm Rainbow at the same time. Brae keyed in our destination as soon as we got inside. “Welcome to the Inter-City Rail,” an unemotional female voice sounded in the cart as the doors shushed closed. “We will arrive at your destination — the Pepper Street Shopping Centre — in nine minutes.” Brae laughed a little at the message, which he had always found strange, and sat down on the sofa that ran around the edge of the cart, motioning for me to sit beside him. I sunk back and looked out of the wall opposite me. The city was beautiful at this time of day, when the sun hung high up in the sky making everything bright and cheerful. From the height the carts traveled at, you could almost make out the strange second sun that hovered  over the Helian Realm in the distance."

The bubble carts run on  a single track, dipping in and out of sidelines to avoid collisions. They are entirely transparent (bubble like!) offering a superb view of the Realm.

White walls and, quite frequently, glass roofs, to give that all important sky-view; it's a way of feeling like you're outside, while still offering protection from the elements.

Arcan protectors can manipulate the air, summoning gale force winds and twisters with a flick of their wrists. As their powers develop, their hair becomes streaked with silver. They can also more incredibly quickly when necessary. There is an ancient Arcan myth which suggests that their Protectors used to be able to fly, however no one has been able to do so for centuries, so the power is presumed lost.

Features on the Helian, Brizan and Sephan Realms to follow. Let me know if there's anything more you would like to know about the Arcan Realm in the comments. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Fire is now only 77p or $1.24 from amazon and .com So now there's no excuse not to read it!

It will also soon be appearing on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and Diesel (courtesy of smashwords) I will post links as soon as it is up on each. It should be for sale for $0.99, although amazon keeps changing the prices I'm setting and I'm not sure if the same thing will happen here.

Happy reading and please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Helian Style (the girls)

The Helian Realm is hot, so think summer clothes and beach style (not that any self-respecting Helian would be found anywhere near the beach, of course...). Bright colours are popular too, as well as black. I can imagine Roxy and Avery walking around Halia in outfits like these:

Roxy also likes to make statement when she dresses up. These are exactly the sorts of outfits she would wear:

Roxy is intent on shocking the Arcans when they arrive and makes a conscious attempt to dress as provocatively as possible. She would therefore absolutely love wearing the dress below and watching the reactions on their faces as she appeared:

Finally, when I saw this picture, it really made me think of Roxy:

The sources for all these images (and many, many more red dresses!) can be found on pinterest

Monday, 14 January 2013

Arcan Style (the girls)

Coming from the Realm associated with the air, Arcans prefer to wear neutral and pastel colours. Roxy accuses them of being colourless, but they just like everything to feel light and airy.

Early on in Fire, Roxy and Avery accuse the Arcans of being prudish, but this is a Helian misconception. The Arcans only cover up because it's so cold! This is particularly true in Jasmine's case - she wears multiple layers to combat the icy climate:

The picture on the beach is how I imagine her waiting for Brae at the start of chapter two. 

The cold isn't an issue for the Arcan Protectors though. Their association with the air means that they feel the cold no more than Roxy feels the heat of flames. Devon and Imogen wear things more like this:

And, of course, Arcans love to party. One of the key elements of an Arcan party dress is that it needs to sparkle. At Brae's welcome home party, I imagine Devon and Imogen wearing something like these:
While I think that this would be perfect for Jasmine (with a white blazer on top!)

Sources for all of these images can be found on my Pinterest board (along with lots more pictures!)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Fantasy Worlds

Do you prefer fantasy stories set in an entirely fantasy world, or ones in the real world with a fantasy twist?

This is a question I've been thinking about a lot recently and I posted it on a fantasy writers group on google+, where it got a fairly balanced response. Most people seemed to like writing about both, but there was a common consensus on the need for familiarity and real-world elements in every fantasy story.

I love the way that Cassandra Clare includes real world references in her books, particularly Simon's pop culture references, which are often completely lost on Jace and the other Shadowhunters. We, the reader, feel that we understand something  the fantasy characters doesn't and can laugh a little at their expense.

“Kyle wants to be a rockstar. I think he's working the one-name thing. Like Rihanna." [Simon]
"I have no idea what you're talking about.”  [Jace]

“Thank you,” Simon said. “It’s a joke, Isabelle. He’s the Count. He likes counting. You know. ‘What did the Count eat today, children? One chocolate chip cookie, two chocolate chip cookies, three chocolate chip cookies . . .’”

There was a rush of cold air as the door of the restaurant opened, letting in another customer. Isabelle shivered and reached for her black silk scarf. “It’s not realistic.”

“What would you prefer? ‘What did the Count eat today, children? One helpless villager, two helpless villagers, three helpless villagers . . .” 

I love these moments; they make the books even more amazing. 

Clare also has to come up with clever solutions for keeping her 'real world' and 'fantasy world' separate; the glamour of the Sadowhunter buildings, for example. A similar technique is used by one of my/everyone's favourite authors, JK Rowling. I can't imagine Harry Potter being half as good if it didn't have that 'real world' grounding . I love that we discover the Wizarding world along with Harry; it makes Rowling's descriptions and explanations more authentic.

On the other hand, I adore the sheer scale and detail of George RR Martin's 'Song of Fire and Ice' series. These books, I believe, are fantasy at its finest. Everything has been carefully thought about and vividly depicted. Martin overlooks nothing and the strength of his world really brings his characters and plots to life.

Fire is set in a completely fictional world. While I was writing, this was something I had to constantly remind myself: my characters couldn't say 'what the hell' because they had no concept of hell. I had to make my own phrases instead: 'flames' is a prevalent Helian swear word and the Arcans say 'what the air?' a fair bit. I also had to edit out problematic words like 'stoic' - unless I had wanted to come up with my own version of Helian philosophy...

Another thing I had to put a lot of thought into was animals. Should my world have the same animals as the real world, or its own? I decided that creating a whole set of new animals would be unnecessarily complicated for a reader to follow. Instead, I used a few mythical ones and Greek or Latin variations on the names of ones  that actually existed, just to keep things different.

For the most part though, creating my own world was an amazing experience. I could invent anything I wanted. My world has two suns,  its own, unique geography and a colourful history of wars and politics, as well as new forms of transport in the Arcan Realm.

I would love to hear your views on completely invented worlds Vs contemporary fantasy and also (once you've read the book) you're opinions on the world I have created. 

Friday, 11 January 2013


Two days, two 4-star reviews!

I am overwhelmed by the amazing response Fire is getting and I am pleased that readers are enjoying it as much as me. It's always nerve wracking to hear what other people think, but so far it has all be brilliant.

I have now added a review page to the top bar, with links to the reviews and a couple of my favourite quotes. If you're thinking about reading Fire, but want to know what others think first, check them out.

Just as exciting was Caroline Lawrence (author of the amazing Roman Mysteries series) tweeting about my book! I can't even begin to put into words how happy this made me; it was amazing.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Buy for free Now!

Fire is currently available to download for free as an epub at smashwords! 

This offer will only be available for a couple of days, so download it now!

epubs can be read with Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions and more. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Blogs, blogs and more blogs

That's right, I have spent the last few days tirelessly searching for blogs that would be open to reviewing Fire. The thing is, I love it, my friends love it, the few friends-of-friends who have now read it love it. But what I really need is for people not connected to me in any way to love it. Preferably people who will be able to promote it to other readers...

Saying that, I did manage to build up a pretty big readership on Wattpad. I posted the first eleven chapters on there and got lots of great feedback; within a week Fire made it into the top ten fantasy stories, which was amazing.

However, all this blog-approaching has given me another problem: to KPD Select, or to not KPD Select... For those of you who don't know, KPD Select is Amazon's 'deluxe account'. It's free to join and it allows you to offer your book for free (5 days in every 90...) and enrolls your book in the Kindle Lending Library. In return, you give Amazon exclusivity. I do plan on only selling my book via Amazon, however, to get reviews (and thus more readers), I need to be able to give my book to bloggers. As far as I have been able to work out from reading the forum posts on select, giving your book away for free violates the exclusivity.

It seems a little extreme to sign up, then bombard bloggers with emails telling them that, if they would like to read and review my book, they need to download it from amazon on a particular date (although that would boost sales figures...) It's just too much hassle for them, which is fair enough, when I'm the one requesting the review.

Instead, I'm contacting as many blogs as I can now, giving a copy to anyone who will take it (seriously, if you're interested, email me!) then in a week or so, I'll enroll in select, so that I can give it away for free to everyone.

If you have any thoughts on this (or experience) please comment below, I would love to hear them.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Day 2

Yesterday was amazing. I spent the day seeing Fire on Amazon, getting my first sales and telling as many people as I possibly could that I have published my first book. One of the highlights was definitely having my profile on Goodreads upgraded, so that I am now listed as an author, as well as seeing Fire on the site.

I was also kept really busy updating every online profile I have with information about the book and links to this blog. You can check out my various accounts on the links page.

On that note, if there is anything you think this site is missing, or anything you would like more information on, please comment on this post and I will look into adding it.

Right now, I had better get back to promoting!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Available to buy now...

It's up! I searched for my name and it appeared - best feeling in the world.

Check it out here

The first four and a bit chapters are available as a free sample, so at least give it a try!


Fire is (self) published!

Or, at least, I've clicked go on Amazon - now I'm just waiting for it to appear on the site! I'm really struggling to contain my excitement at the moment and am joyfully updating my status/description on every site I'm on with my new credentials.

And look how awesome the cover is! I just hope that it comes out as well in small on Amazon - that was one of the things it was really hard to judge during the process.

The end was also a little anti-climatic - I hadn't really appreciated that I was clicking the final 'save and publish' option until it told me that it would be appearing on the site in 12 hours.

It wasn't as easy a process as I had been expecting either, mostly because whenever I converted my book to HTML (so that I could then convert it into an Epub) the formatting kept changing. And I really didn't fancy being the only author on Amazon with spaces between their paragraphs rather than an indent, or hyphens instead of em dashes. It just wouldn't have looked professional.

But anyway, I'm off to update Goodreads and bake a celebratory cake. I will post a link as soon as there is one!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Preparing to Publish

I'm nearly there...

This week, I've been working hard to get 'Fire' ready for publication. I've given it a final read through, to make sure that there's no errors (fingers crossed I've got them all...)

I've also been putting a cover together. The hardest part, by far, of this, was working out what it was actually feasible to do. I didn't want to buy a stock image, as then the same photo could appear on any other book. There was an image of a girl on fire, that I found on Pinterest and would have loved to use, but I couldn't find the source anywhere. I also don't know anyone who looks remotely close to how I image Roxy or Jasmine. Instead, I enlisted the help of my brother, sister and fiance and got creative. My brother got a new DSLR camera for Christmas and I got him to take photos of my sister and I with our hands, outstretched, in focus, and the rest of us blurred (since neither of us look right for the characters...) My fiance then fired up the chiminea (in the very cold garden...) so that we could take our own pictures of the flames.

Once we had sorted out the images, I opened up Photoshop to try and turn them into something remotely professional looking. I'm quite pleased with the outcome. It was by no means my first, second or even third attempt, but I got there in the end, with a lot of really supportive and constructive feedback from my family.

However, my next issue was that the cover looked to bare: most books have series titles, tag lines or quotes from other authors on the front. Since the last option was definitely out and I'm not sure that I was to advertise Fire as the first in a series on the front cover, we decided that I needed to come up with a tag line.

Cue hours of brainstorming, a lot of cliches and (again) lots and lots of help from my family and we came up with something which suited the book and sounded intriguing: Is Control over the elements a gift, or a curse? I liked this because it links to both protagonists, isn't too girly and (hopefully) engages the reader.

Maybe I'll post some of the funnier, rejected options next time. I'll also include a copy of the cover; I only had a copy of the Photoshop file on my laptop - I need to work out what format Amazon need it in so that I can save it as something else.

Only a few days until publication!