Monthly Archives: July 2015

Stumbling in a world of words

542826322_0cc5218d63_oI got lost a week or so ago, it wasn’t writers block, I know what that feels like and this was very different. Exhausted, I had just reached the 30,000 word mark of ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ and the end was in sight. I even wrote about how much I enjoy writing endings, I was psyched up and looking forward to writing, then one night whilst writing I was caught almost mid-sentence like a deer in the headlights.

I could still write but it was like the part of my brain that kept a hold of my characters started to unravel, scenes were easy but I started to lose track of how characters would react. I wrote one particular scene that felt pretty good at the time but when I looked back on it I really wasn’t happy.

Marathon runners encounter something called ‘the wall’ at the twenty mile mark; their body and their mind start battling for the last remaining dregs of energy and it becomes difficult for their mind to stay in control of their increasingly lethargic body. They start to make bad decisions, they find it hard to remember why they’re running in the first place, stripped bare of the mental support structures they’ve built up during training they are left to encounter the raw character of the person they are underneath.

I don’t doubt for a second that what I went through was something like a writers version of ‘the wall’, my motivation and capacity to write was still there, I even had ideas for storylines but the tools of the trade, the things that help me tell a story, seemed dulled.

I plodded on but couldn’t keep a grip on the road, I stumbled, tugging at plot lines from earlier in the book for support but still I fell. Unlike a marathon runner, I had time to let my mind recover. I had been on some hard-slog writing and paced myself very badly. I took some time to get my head back into magic and adventure, and enjoy a bit of family time.

One day later I felt rested but I still knew that I wasn’t ready to write, I needed to warm up those imagination muscles. I watched videos of magic on youtube, searched for mystical images on google, I watched the Turtles movie (OK that was kind of frivolous but it reminded me to have fun with what I was writing). On day two I got the laptop out, deleted a day’s worth of scenes, and I wrote some to replace them, then I wrote a couple more scenes, and before I knew it ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ was finished! (it’s still a very basic first draft though)

However, my word count is still short of my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo target, so work has started on a little (almost side-) project that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I won’t share too much at the moment (it a long way off being seen in print) but I can tell you that it’s a wee mini book that I’ll be releasing for Christmas.

It’s a simple little story that I’ve been wanting to write up for a while. It was too big to turn into a short story on here but too short to make into a full Jack Reusen book. It has lots of snow and to be honest the cold weather over the past few days has been a blessing for me as it’s been easier to get into the mindset of warm drinks, cosy blankets, and powdery snow.

Finally I feel like I’m back on track, but it’s going to be hard, I’ve got two days to write 10,000 words. I’m off to plunge back into a land of snow, enchanted Christmas trees, and ‘war chickens’, wish me luck! Thanks for reading, All the best, John

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The cocoon of Writing

2015-07-13 23.20.47So I’m a few weeks into another NaNoWriMo and as I knew would be the case I’ve barely been on here to blog. Part of this is due to my using all my free time to write ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’, however I’ve also just returned from a road-trip through the highlands.

The Highlands of Scotland are not well known for their connectivity and a part of me really liked that. I actually enjoyed a proper break from all the day to day facebook checking, watching blog stats, tweeting, etc. etc. that make up so much of my normal day-to-day life. We camped. Some sites were full of the bustle of people talking as they cooking meals on little camping stoves and played board games. Other sites were tranquil, and still, and so remote that I saw the stars more clearly than I have in years (and it’s hardly like I live with the light pollution of a city).

11217992_511936725623013_2636396095545308916_oHowever, I have to admit that my writing progress slowed a lot in the absence of prompting from my fellow NaNoWriMo participants over on twitter. That said I did get a bit of writing done on my first night in what is probably the coolest place I’ve written so far; a small gypsy caravan in Invernahavon. The kids bunked in a cubby-hole bed under ours, my wife fell asleep reading, and I popped the kettle on the little camping stove.

I took my cup of tea and my laptop out onto the wee outdoor seating area and braved the midges (they weren’t all that bad actually) as I wrote my way through to the end of chapter eight, marking the half way point in the book. The sky was deep and foreboding, I was barely aware of another human nearby. It was just what I always want writing to feel like. I even added a gypsy caravan to the book in tribute to a lovely night’s writing.

2015-07-14 11.15.34-2After that we moved around a lot and it became harder to find somewhere to charge the laptop. All in all I fell 10,000 words behind my target in just a few days, but I’m back home now and pushing on as fast as I can. As of last night the gap is just over 5,000 words and closing. More importantly I’m on the home stretch, I used to find it horribly difficult to write endings but it just doesn’t feel like that with Jack; I love writing endings. The pace, the emotion, tying up loose threads, intentionally leaving others open; it’s all such a rush, and I can’t believe I’m there already.

I’ve got a lot of other things to work on and plan for over the next few weeks so I’m afraid that I may still be a little silent on the blogging front. I am back in the land of wifi though so if you fancy a blether on facebook or twitter I’ll likely be able to respond in minutes. A lot of people now have copies of ‘Spark of Dreams‘ and I’m starting to get feedback. Touch wood, so far I’ve only heard good things.

11143402_513173932165959_305962227106098436_oThank you all so much for the support the books are getting, every new reader makes it all the easier to motivate myself to write down more Fey stories. I’ve heard authors gush about their readers before but I’m starting to get what they mean, without you these books would never have progressed as far as they have. As always (and I really mean this) thank you for reading, all the best, John

Crieff Arts festival (Crieff Literary festival?)

crieff arts festivalI’ve just been asked to join an event at the Crieff Arts Festival on 22nd of August. By the sounds of it I’ll be first in a solid line-up of local authors and poets; starting at 10:30am with myself and culminating with one of our best known authors; Helen Grant. I’ll add the names of other authors and poets on here once I know more.

Helen has posted her own description of the arts festival, and what she’ll be up to, over on her blog if you fancy getting a bit of an insight (here’s the link). As for me I haven’t really decided what to do yet. The most obvious will be a reading but there’s a chance that there might be a few readers of the books along for the talk so I might split the talk between reading excerpts and answering questions.

My kids quite often get impromptu stories fresh out of my mind (some of them set in Fey) for bed-time but I’m not sure if I’m confident enough to do the same thing in front of a crowd just yet. Jess Smith (one of the other authors who will be talking at the event) is a live storyteller and I really admire anyone who can do what live storytellers do, there’s something really absorbing about that kind of storytelling. I don’t think this will be my storyteller d├ębut somehow, I’ll wait and see.

If you’ll be in the Crieff on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd and fancy popping along to hear me blether away about Jack and Thea, and read a wee snippet from one (or more) of the books, then pop along to the Strathearn Artspace on the 22nd of August at 10am (that’s when doors open, my talk will be at 10:30). Hope to see you then, all the best, John

National Novel Writing Month update

10,000 wordsJust a quick wee update to say that ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ is now on its fifth chapter. I’m 10,000 words in and counting and the main characters are in for a shock. It’s a lot of fun writing this time round.

After two books it’s a quicker process getting the words down (my typing speed has gone up a lot), which means that action scenes feel more active and descriptive scenes seem more direct for me than they used to. I’m hoping that this makes an impact that people like.

When I was writing ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ I had no real expectations about what readers would think. With ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ I was writing at a point when people had already read the first book, so (to an extent) I could imagine their reactions. The weird thing this time round is that I’m writing book three before I’ve really heard back on what people thought of book two.

In a lot of ways I’m winging it again and the pace I’m having to set to keep up with NaNoWriMo’s daily writing targets means that I’m getting less time to over-think things. Overall it’s an interesting experience, I just hope people enjoy the finished result.

(Wee update on printed copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’, they’re being printed as we speak, based on past experience I’d expect copies to be with us sometime late on next week. Sorry for the delay, don’t forget you can pre-order a paperback, or buy a kindle edition right now by following this link.)

Where worlds are made

251One question that I heard a lot while doing book talks was something I hadn’t been expecting. So many children were interested to know where I wrote. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised how valid a question it was. Why wouldn’t you want to know about a small portion of the planet in which someone had decided to craft their own world.

This reminded me of an interview I saw years ago with Roald Dahl. I think it was on Blue Peter or something like that. They went into his writing workshop which was actually a shed in his back garden. If I can find it I’ll leave a video at the bottom of this post. He seemed so comfortable, and clearly had an unwavering set of habits he used to ensure that he was productive in his writing.

In a way that seems peculiar in itself; a fixed routine and an exacting approach to his writing environment allowed his mind to create such a mind-boggling array of radically different stories as ‘The BFG’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Danny the champion of the World’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, and so many more.

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

It turns out that there are a number of writers who like to write in sheds and outhouses. Unfortunately I’m not one of them yet; my garden is too small and I don’t own a shed. But above is a selection of famous sheds (nabbed from an article in the Guardian).

wpid-imag1669_1.jpgAfter that distinguished list here is a picture, for anyone who is interested, of the place where Jack Reusen and his friends came to be. I’ve left it in its natural state: laptop, cup of tea, and chocolate all of which are essential for my writing (though I have been known to forego the laptop).

More NaNoWriMo tonight so I won’t be leaving a particularly long post. If you’d like to ask me any questions about the books, or characters, or about writing in general, please feel free to leave comments here, on Facebook, or on the Twitter account. As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

I found the Roald Dahl video on youtube but it was taken down, so here’s a different one that still shows the inside of his hut. The thing I like most about this video is that it shows that even the best of us procrastinate (in fact Roald Dahl seems to have perfected the art):

The woods in the cabin

stair-type-diagonal-concrete-and-glass-house-18-thumb-970xauto-28307I’ve been asked a few times about Mick’s cabin. It’s described it as having the wood growing out of it and I imagined a really natural feel to the whole place. In my mind I wanted to give the impression that Mick had camped in the woods and then just decided to just extend his stay indefinitely.

I didn’t really imagine Mick’s cabin being so modern but this one is still really cool. You can click through on the link (just click the image) to see more pictures of this amazing home.

Ordinarily a writer would research these sorts of pictures before writing but I already had a pretty clear image in my mind when I started. All the same it’s nice (and a bit weird) to be able to find pictures that feel like they’ve somehow poured out of the books. I hadn’t really expected something like Mick’s cabin to be real.

595643074d2041dd79504696786e89b8The open fire is one of my favourite mental pictures; thinking of Sparky napping on a thick cosy rug beside the fire while the others discuss their plans. I found this image and instantly thought it captured the feel of that part of Mick’s cabin, even though I pictured a chimney hanging above it it’s still amazingly close to what I had in my head.

Other than that there was the tricky issue of how to deal with trees inside a home. These images are pretty close to what I was thinking.

living-the-highlife-adults-treehouse-5-photo-080601010521oWhen I thought of trees growing everywhere one of the more unusual things was how a kitchen would work with branches in the way. This picture is very similar to the idea I had for Mick’s kitchen and it’s nice and neat (no banging your head while you make a coffee) whilst feeling really natural. This is a good match for the site of Fynn’s growing coffee addiction and Tam’s (slightly aggressive) introduction. By the way the link I’ve attached to the image file takes you to a really cool page about ‘grown-up’ tree houses (it’s well worth a look).

Here are some more ‘forest in the cabin’ pictures from the moonworkshome site. Just to close off this wee post. Let me know if this is similar to what you pictured when reading the books. All the best, John

castle-in-the-trees-photo-5-photo-080601002142o 47ab3092929974b6b992420bd40cecf2

The Children of Fate begin their adventure

maiden__mother__crone_by_mentat0209Camp NaNoWriMo has been on the go for three days now, and from day one I decided to try and hit the ground running. I’m happy to announce that chapter 1 is written and as of last night the third book in Jack’s adventure is sitting at about 3,000 words long.

The Wishmaster is back, Jack has some tough decisions to make, Fynn is off for a cross-country adventure with Mick and Ryan, and Alyssa, Borrin (and Jack) have their hands full teaching Borrin’s apprentices (and Thea) some very important lessons about the Reusen power.

I’m in my element, this is my favourite part of the job. A whole new story to tell and even I don’t know exactly how it will go. I want to push on and make as much progress as I can. Sadly this might mean that blog posts might be shorter (and possibly less frequent) for a while as I concentrate my spare time on writing. I’ll try and keep the page updated as often as I can with details on the newest book, and I’ll keep you up to date regarding the release of ‘the Spark of Dreams‘ in paperback.

If you ever want to ask questions about the books, the characters, or writing in general I’m more than happy to talk about it here, over on facebook, or on the Jack Reusen twitter account. Plus I have to add that Camp NaNoWriMo is only in it’s first few days and I’d love to hear from anyone in the Perthshire area (or nearby) who would like to meet up for a writing session. Thanks as always for reading and I’ll try and be back on here as soon as possible, all the best, John