Monthly Archives: June 2015

Some summer holiday reading

Kindle_UnlimitedIf you have a kindle (or something that can run the kindle reader app) then you can get hold of both of the Jack Reusen books (and a whole heap of books by other authors too) by signing up to a month’s free trial of Kindle Unlimited over at Amazon, here’s the link.

Once you’ve signed up you’ll see that both of the Jack Reusen books come up as free, so you can read the whole adventure so far, for nothing.

Jack Reusen and The Fey Flame‘ introduces you to the land of Fey, as creatures (and other things) make their way through to the ‘matter-world’ (basically our world). Jack and his family have to discover a way of closing a collection of ‘breaches’ between the two worlds to make their world safe again.

‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is a slightly different kind of cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmedadventure. People are losing their ability to dream. Every night more and more people lose the certain something that makes human beings so good at solving problems and creating things; the spark of dreams. Jack discovers that he could be the key to understanding what’s causing this change, and he may even be the only person who can solve it and bring back the dreams and imaginations of hundreds of people.

I hope that both of the Jack Reusen books give you and/or your kids something to enjoy over the summer holidays. Let me know what you think, all the best, John

And…they’re off!

cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmed

Another wee sample of Karen’s artwork

Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is ready! The artwork is done, the text has been edited, all files have been sent off to the printers, and now comes the waiting. (Though the wait won’t be too long for the kindle edition, which I’ll have ready sometime tonight.)

The process for print editions is fairly simple; first they send me a digital proof (which I expect to receive sometime early next week). After this comes approval of the proof, which is kind of an odd thing to do actually; basically I send them an e-mail saying ‘yes I like my own book, send me lots’. Once I’ve told them I like my book it can take seven to ten working days for them to to print up a bundle and send them to me.

I’ll probably end up posting a lot of updates on Facebook and Twitter once I’ve got a tracking number, so if you follow either account expect to see lots of posts about UPS on the day the books head my way.

To be sure that you get hold of one of the first copies you can pre-order one by leaving a comment below (they’re £6.99) and you can either pick them up at Fun Junction, get me to deliver them to you personally, or if you’re further away I can post one out to you.

Writing this book has been a totally different experience than the last one. Knowing that people have read the first, that some readers might be emotionally invested in certain characters (no I haven’t killed anyone, nor do I plan to), and knowing that there are many more books planned, has meant that I’ve had to be very careful with this one.

There are some scenes that had to be big and dramatic and they change characters in ways that might take them a couple of books to recover from. That’s what all these big delays have been about (I originally planned on having the book out in April). The trickiest part has been the fact that two key story lines run from just one early scene involving Fynn and Thea.

They come out of the event changed, but getting the balance between developing a character in that way, and just all-out changing them is difficult. Every change I made to that one scene (you’ll see what it is soon) had a heavy ripple-effect throughout the book, at times it was like playing Jenga with a sledgehammer. After a lot of work I think I’ve got it right and I hope you guys enjoy the journey that both of these characters go on.

Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is darker than the Fey Flame (though not by a lot), my proofreader/editor left me a note about three quarters of the way through the book that simply read ‘this is freakin’ scary!’. Don’t let this put you off though. I’ve left a lot of the scarier scenes open in a way that lets the reader fill in the gaps with their own imagination. This way, readers at my eldest son’s age (seven in a few weeks) will likely find these parts a lot less frightening than their parents.

Overall the story is based around what the world would be like if people didn’t dream, imagine, or come up with new ideas. Some of this is a little scary but mostly I wanted to deal with how important imagination is for everyone. Jack has to navigate a city that doesn’t dream and it doesn’t look like a nice place to live.

I’ve said before that there are ‘zombies’ in this book, but they aren’t undead, flesh-eating monsters; they’re innocent people who are sleep-walking through life and have lost something important because of it. Jack goes through a crisis of confidence but we all know that in the end he’ll have what it takes to help them.

Thea hasn’t been left out either; she gets to be an action hero in this book. Her fight scenes were some of the most enjoyable things I have ever written (though you’ll have to get a fair bit through the book to see them) and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of girl she develops into in future books.

Sorry for the long post, as you can probably tell, I’m a little excited about launching the latest Jack Reusen book. I really hope you like it (when the books finally get here). I’ll keep you updated here and on the Facebook and Twitter accounts about when to expect them. In the mean time I’ve got a school book talk to prepare for. I’m off to Comrie Primary on Monday (my school between the ages of five and seven) and I’m really hoping the children there enjoy their introduction to Jack and his friends.

All the best, thanks as always for reading, cheers, John

A word explosion for your enjoyment

Not a real post here (too busy editing), just sharing this word-jumble (from wordle) that features all the most popular words in ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ (size=frequency). It might give you an idea about some of the content.

spark of dreams word jumble4

Running tally of progress: final edit=p132 of 275 (don’t worry this bit doesn’t take that long), cover is done (thanks to Karen) but I’ve got a couple of minor tweeks to do once I have finalised page numbers (matching spine to book width). Once these are done the book will be good to go. I’ll pop a wee update after tonight’s editing session to keep you posted. Off to edit now, wish me luck, John

Spinning a web

wpid-imag1532_burst001_1.jpgAs you all know the book is progressing; it’s on final draft, lined up for printers, and just being amended for corrections from proofreaders. I’ve been freaking out recently at the realisation that I’m creating a book series rather than just an individual story.

When I first started out writing the Jack Reusen books I had the most basic plan, intended to turn in to just one book, but as ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ come together I realised that I’d gathered together a lot of information in the background that translated into other stories.

Having an entire world to create is obviously a lot of fun, however it’s also huge challenge. I hadn’t realised when I started how much I was going to have to know about my own world. Even at this stage I’m having to think ahead by quite a bit, to make sure I don’t make a mistake that closes off a good story later on. It’s hard leaving room for something to happen in future books without feeling vague or, worse still, leaving readers with too many unanswered questions.

Book one came with a few big questions but by the end of it most of them seem to have been answered. Book two is definitely a different animal as Jack’s world expands and we start to learn more about how the various kinds of magic he encounters work, a lot of questions arise that might not be answered for another two or three books.

When I think about it I realise just how many of the plots for later books rest on what happens in this book; not only am I leaving seeds for ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’, I’m coming to realise that ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ has become something of a launching platform for an entire book series.

The formatting is done, some key issues are being debated over with my proofreaders, and the book is already in the kind of shape it needs to be to be send off to the Printers. It’s almost time and I’m sorry that you’ve all had to wait for so long, please bare with me, there really isn’t much left to do.

If you have any questions about the books, or about the writing process in general feel free to leave a wee message in the comments below. All the best, John

Should a book series end?

vsThink of classic kids books (pre Harry Potter) and we find an even mix of two kinds of series. On one hand we get authors writing seemingly endless collections of books, on the other we get relatively short collections with a fixed end point.

Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, and Rev. W. Awdry wrote in a way that left the reader with no sense that any one book was to be the ‘last book’. We see a big difference between these and books like the Narnia series, ‘the Lord of the Rings trilogy/quadrilogy’ (though not exactly children’s books), ‘Little Women’ (and its sequels), and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (and ‘Through the Looking Glass…’).

Maybe the thing that makes the biggest difference is the fact that characters in these continuous book series don’t seem to age (or they at least age at an extremely slowed rate), the other books noted guide the reader through a journey with the main character that often looks like a coming of age story. This leaves me stuck, I want to let my characters age and develop but I really don’t see myself closing off the series at any point.

I’ve got a world growing around Jack and his friends and family that shows no sign of shrinking. Ideas for books far into the future, when Jack and Thea are teenagers, and even adults, are already taking shape in my mind, but how do I let them grow without limiting myself to some future ‘end point’?

Thankfully Terry Pratchett has shown me the way. His Discworld series went on as long as he did and it’s open nature somehow lets it live on in the minds of readers. Commander Vimes, Lord Vetinari, and Tiffany Aching are still doing their own thing in my mind and in the minds of millions of Pratchett readers. Despite leaving things open Pratchett managed to allow his characters to grow and develop (and age) as the series went on. It’s comforting to know that I was never forced to see these characters ‘end’.

J. K. Rowling has basically said that she won’t write any more harry Potter books. She has absolutely every right to decide what she writes and when she writes, but I can’t help but feel saddened by this fact (I’m sure a lot of people do too). I like to hope that if Jack Reusen manages even 1% of the fandom Harry Potter has seen I’ll be able to keep his world alive and running.

There is no one big bad guy in Jack’s world, no clear obstacle that he’ll eventually one day overcome. I plan on putting my characters through all kinds of conflict, danger, adventure, discovery, and excitement for as long as I can. Perhaps some book series should end, there’s sometimes a natural point that feels like the time to say goodbye to the characters, but I don’t think authors have to write like this.

What’s your favourite type of book series? Do you like a clear and concrete close to the story, or do you prefer to feel as though there might be another chance to revisit the world just around the corner? Feel free to discuss your favourite book series, and what you like about them in the comments section below. As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

The three Rs

image

My teachers were fantastic but there were limits to what we could do in the old curriculum. Things have changed a lot since I was a kid and, though I might be in the minority, I’m happy to see it.

There’s a lot more creative expression and personal engagement between children and their work. I’ve seen this at my son’s school and at my book talk at Our Lady’s in Stirling too. Across the board children are being encouraged to interact with their subjects on a personal level.

Not only are kids producing class demonstrations and talks but they’re also engaging with media via technology which offers a broadening of knowledge of their subject.

I have never been the biggest advocate of ‘three Rs’ learning (reading, writing, and arithmetic). For starters, whoever named the program clearly didn’t know how to spell (it’s r, w, and a, anyone with a basic capacity for anagrams could get ‘RAW’ from that).

Anyway, I think ‘RAW’ should be taught in the way that it’s used, viz. in the act of expressing ideas and investigating the world. Every time a new challenge arises that highlights concepts in maths or English this provides an opportunity for a deeper learning experience with much higher chance of retention.

Probably more important is the function that education is supposed to perform. Most people agree that education is intended to provide a degree of preparation for adult life.

The new skill set needed in the world our children are going to is radically different than it was when I was in school. Presentation and information processing skills are becoming vital components of so many careers, if we tried to teach this on top of the three Rs then they’d be on an eight hour day. Something had to go.

What do you think? Would solely concentrating on the three Rs in this new information orientated world be misguided? or do you stand by the more rigid education methods of the past?

Book sales

Not my image, click picture for sourceI’ve held back from talking about book sales on here. From reading other writers’ blogs I get the feeling that it isn’t really the done thing. This blog is designed to highlight the world of Jack and his friends so perhaps this isn’t the place for this. However, I’d also like this wee blog to give potential writers a real idea about what it’s like to be a self-published children’s author, so here we go.

So far my book sales have kept me happy. They’re nowhere near providing me with a living yet, but as an incentive to get me to write more they’re really fantastic. This week I’ve sold three books (two hard copies and one kindle edition).

That might not sound like much to some people but given the amount of time I’ve actually been able to put into showing the books off I’m finding this pretty promising.

On top of this I’m being asked more about the books by parents, both whilst picking my kids up from school and while working in the toy shop. I get the feeling that people are actually hearing about the books from parents and children who’ve enjoyed reading ‘…the Fey flame‘. Somehow that feels better than a load of sales gained by a big ad campaign.

If you’re a new or aspiring author and you’ve opted to try the self publishing route expect to get sales in direct relation to the amount of effort you put in to getting your book known, and to the reception that your book gets from those who have already read it. I always notice a jump in sales when I do a book talk, show it off on twitter a bit, or simply when (like the other day) someone is good enough to tell others that they’re enjoying Jack’s world.

If anyone reading this would like to know more about what’s involved in the early stages of a self published book feel free to leave questions in the comments section and I’ll give you feedback on my own experiences.

Of course I also welcome comments from anyone who is in the same boat as me or even people a few steps beyond this point. It’s always good to hear how other writers deal with getting their book known. As always, thanks for dropping by, and don’t forget to follow the Jack Reusen account on twitter, or alternatively you can like the official page on Facebook to be kept up to date about the books. All the best, John