Monthly Archives: August 2015

And the winner is….

2015-08-21 15.39.35Last weekend, in conjunction with Fun Junction (and to tie in with the Crieff Arts Festival and the mini book festival that ran within it titled ‘Writers Live‘), I ran a ‘Design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition. All the entries had to be in by the end of the weekend and I’ve had a tricky job on my hands ever since.

Basically I liked so many of the entries I received that I decided to have three winners. The fourth book will be out in November, it’s a condensed chapter story set at Christmas time, and I’ve left space for a short story to fit in along side it. I’ll be starting work on the short story tonight but in the meantime I thought I’d share the winners’ artwork.

20150827135455058_0001Congratulations to Jenny, who’s already had a wee mention in the Acknowledgements in ‘Spark of Dreams’. Jenny even submitted a character description along with her picture so here it is:

“Name: Stormfly
What is it: Dragon
Qualities: Friendly, cold dragon. She breathes ice straight up into the sky to make snow storm clouds and tail whacks the ground and is as strong as an earthquake.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what ‘Stormfly’ gets up to in the story (though I may have to ask Jenny if I can give her a different name as she shares her name with Astrid’s dragon in ‘How to train Your Dragon’). I have to confess that I’ve been hunting for an excuse to put a dragon into Fey to see what happens, so thank you Jenny, I’m really excited about this one.

wpid-wp-1440709009452.gifNext, congratulations to Summer. Summer’s character didn’t have a name but I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the picture. I’m not sure how well this will come across in the image here but basically almost every part of this picture sparkles. The twinkling black sky and the girl in the shimmering party dress already have me setting out a wee starting scene on a frosty night in Fey. Thank you Summer.

20150827135514242_0001Finally congratulations to Grace for her ’10 eyed monster’. I’ve a feeling that this guy is going to have an interesting role to play in the story. My first thoughts picture him living deep in a cave. He comes across as scary and I don’t want to lose that so I’ll need to think hard about what he’ll be up to, in what will basically be a Christmas story. Every good story needs some conflict and I think the ten eyed monster will be just the ticket. Thank you Grace.

It’s going to take me a wee while to get this story drafted up but I’ll be sure to post it on here when it’s ready and it will also be available in print in November. Of course it wouldn’t be fair to ask the contributors to buy a copy so I’ll be sure to set aside a free copy for each of them that they can get hold of before they appear on the shelves.

I’ll contact the winners shortly and will hopefully have their story ready for them in the next few weeks but in the meantime I’d like to ask people to give them a big social media round of applause with likes or favourites on their pictures (you can find them by clicking this link for facebook and this, this, and this link for twitter). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

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The words are Magic

Word magic quote Fynn Jack Reusen and the Fey FlameOK this is an idea that I’ve been running in the background of the books for a while but I wanted to touch base on what people thought to the concept and whether it’s an easy thing to follow. Here’ s the general idea behind the way that magic works in Jack’s world:

  • Characters in the book are characters in a book
  • The worlds in the book are worlds in a book
  • …you get the idea
  • Somewhere deep inside their bones some of the characters know these things, and they can train themselves to change the words in the story around them.

I haven’t made this clear very often in the books for fear of making a children’s book like its overly intelectual. The books areย just adventure stories with bad guys and fate-of-the-world stuff but the philosopher John that hides in my head and over-thinks things (here I’ll flap my BAHons, MLitt, and MPhil around) needed some highfalutin stuff to keep him occupied. For the most part this is all this is but I still thought it might be iteresting to share.

If you’re looking for subtext then you might also get the idea that the Wishmaster is a representation of Stalinist communism, the Reusens began their days trying to enact something like Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance’ (a perfect world with equal opportunuties for all), and there’s even a bit or rationalism vs. impiricism hiding in there (magic: you believe what you can logically think up, matter-world: you believe what you can see). If you read into them deeply enough the first three books basically work as a Philosophy 101 course.

But in essence the books are suppposed to get kids thinking about the power of the words they say. The very first scene in the very first book finds Jack lost and alone because he told his parents he hates them, in Jack’s world (and in many ways in ours as well) words have power.

As always thanks so much for reading and feel free to leave any questions or comments you like in the comments below, all the best, John

Off to ‘Elsewhere’

I won’t be blogging tonight, firstly because I’ve got loads of prep to do for my talk tomorrow, but also because I’m heading down with the family to see this:

If you’re in the Crieff area they’re hosting shows in Mungal park (part of MacRosty park, you get to it by crossing the bridge). Shows are at 6pm 21st Aug (tonight) and then at 2pm and 5:30pm on Saturday (22nd) and the same times (2pm and 5:30pm) on Sunday (23rd). OK I’m off to the show, hope to see some of you there, all the best, John

Goodreads

2000px-Goodreads_logo.svgI’m now officially a goodreads author. They were brilliant at helping me link together my books and even created a wee page to show the ‘Jack Reusen’ series in its own light. It’s a great wee (OK not so wee) site which helps you track down books that you might like based on what other readers have said about them. I’m looking forward to experimenting myself as it’s always tough for me to figure out what to read next.

I’m a dad, I work full time, and I write books (and blog about them, and do book talks on them) in my ever shrinking spare time. Because of this I don’t get much time to sit and read and when I do I like the book to be something really special that I can get lost in for a half hour or so. I can’t wait to see what kind of suggestions I start to see once I get a few reviews written up.

Speaking of reviews (wink wink) goodreads does have my books listed and they’re sitting there with no reviews attached to them at the moment. If you feel like popping over clicking on the stars and writing a few words that would make me a very happy part-time author.

Even if you’re not in the mood to write a review I do recommend checking out goodreads. It’s genuinely a great resource for readers, plus it allows you to connect with your favourite authors via their author pages (that is, if they man them). Short post tonight, more prep for Crieff’s mini book festival for me. I should also point you towards the arts festival programme, there is literally a heap of stuff on this weekend and you don’t want to miss it (Faerie folk are even taking over one of Crieff’s parks!). Thanks for reading, all the best, John

Playing to an empty room? (and some info about competitions)

theater-105573_1280Just a short one tonight as I’m getting my ideas together for my book talk at ‘Writers Live!’ on Saturday. Basically that’s the main thing on my mind at the moment; will people come to my book talk? The idea of talking to an empty room is far more daunting than the thought of talking in front of a big crowd.

So far responses on the events page seem promising so I’ll try and hold back on the anxiety, also I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the entries for the competition I’m running in conjunction with Fun Junction.

I’ve actually got two different competitions running in conjunction with my book talk for Crieff Arts Festival but only one of them ends this weekend: The ‘Design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition is being run in conjunction with Fun Junction (where entries can be handed in). Simply design a character to feature in a Jack Reusen book. I’ll write the character into a short story which will appear on this site soon after the arts festival, but it will also be appearing in print and released inside a book that’s due to come out just before Christmas (I’ll post the title of the new book tomorrow night ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

You can submit a picture, a character description, or both. Just in case you don’t get a chance before the talk, I’ll also be bringing a big pile of paper and pencils along to the Strathearn Artspace on Saturday so that children (and adults if they want) can draw up their characters and hand them in either to me on the day. You can also drop off entries at Fun Junction up until 5:15pm on Saturday (if you want to take your time drawing/writing). Judging will take place this weekend and entries should either be dropped in to Fun Junction, or scanned and sent digitally to either the Jack Reusen facebook account, twitter account, or to jackreusen@hotmail.co.uk.

The second competition will now be running until the end of August: Simply explain what you liked most about ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ on the facebook page to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of either ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘, ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ or (if you don’t mind the wait), you can get an early release, signed edition of ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ when it comes out in the Autumn.

If you haven’t already, please pop along to the events page on facebook and say whether you’ll be able to make it along to the book talk (if I know that people are coming I might be able to relax enough for that ‘humming’ noise in my ears to go away ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Why Fantastic 4 is failing (and why Batman vs. Superman will follow suit)

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I haven’t seen it, to be honest I might even like the movie when I do, but one thing I know already is that 20th Century Fox made a mistake. It was just too soon for a reboot, especially on a movie that failed to perform as well as other superhero franchises the first time around. The numbers are looking bad for the movie on it’s second week out in the world.

The Fantastic Four has never been my favourite comic book team but neither have I had anything bad to say about them either. Overall I give all of the characters a loud resounding ‘yeh they’re OK’. However, even an ‘OK’ superhero franchise is better than a bad one, or even worse none at all, so what do I think has gone wrong here?

It’s all about emotional investment; viewers watched a movie (2004), and then a sequel (2007), from that point on most of us might have expected to see a further instalment (after all it would round out to a nice trilogy). However, our investment, both emotional, and in terms of time spent, has been wasted on characters that have now been binned. Even if the previous Fantastic Four movies weren’t the best movies ever, I was still in a position of wanting to see what happens next. Now there is no ‘next’, and there never will be.

I feel short-changed, as I suspect many marvel fans do. I also feel (to a certain extent) cheated out of a satisfying end to a decent (though not exactly ‘fantastic’) storyline. Why on earth would I bother convincing my wife to come and watch yet another superhero movie, handing over my money, and then sitting through a couple of hours of storytelling, when I have prior experience that tells me that I could very well be wasting my time.

It could be the best movie ever made and still I’d be reluctant to go. In fact I would be even more reluctant to see it if it does turn out to be an amazing movie because I can’t be sure whether Fox will make a sequel or simply yank the rug out from under me yet again. This brings me to my prediction about Batman vs. Superman:

Brandon Roth’s Superman (2006) was promptly (OK not promptly but in movie terms pretty closely) followed by a revamped (and very dark) Henry Cavill (2013). I kind of liked both movies but the revamping bugged me and now this Superman mark III (Christopher Reeve’s Superman may have predated it significantly but he left a very solid impression) is being combined with yet another revamped character to create a ‘Super-revamped’ mash-up.

Superman mark III will be up against Batman mark…(I literally have no idea any more, there have been so many). To be safe just consider the fact that The Dark Knight Rises came out in 2012, making this reboot the quickest I’ve mentioned so far. Waiting four years to reboot a character really doesn’t do WB any favours with fans.

I find it easy to believe in Disney’s faith in the Marvel universe they’re building. Sadly, as a fan, I simply don’t believe that either Fox or WB believes in their franchises as much, not enough to commit to telling a story, even where a movie in the middle of that story fails. As a viewer walking into the cinema to watch a Fox or WB superhero movie I will always be asking myself “Why am I here? Is this just another blatant ‘Hail Mary’ pass from a studio that is desperately trying to claw out the same returns as The Avengers?”

And there’s the clincher; the real reason these films flop: if the studios don’t care then why should the fans. As a solid Superman and Batman fan I’m sorry to say I probably won’t be attending the cinema to watch in 2016.

I might catch it on DVD or buy a digital copy on Amazon a few months later, but by then the studios will already be calculating returns and dropping sequels. They’re not willing to wait for the fans who (quite rightfully) have reservations about the story the studio is telling. Once again we have yet another nail in the coffin of superhero franchises that belong to studios who have stopped caring about the stories they are trying to tell.

Sorry for yet another movie rant but I couldn’t help it. Do you see Batman vs. Superman becoming a big hit? I sincerely hope I’ll be eating my words come next year but what I’ve seen so far isn’t changing my mind. At the moment it really feels as though they’re all rushing in before they’ve figured out what story they want to tell us.

As always thanks for reading, and apologies again for the rant, all the best, John

3 Tips on Dealing with a bad fit in your writing

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Sometimes you’ll feel yourself stumbling when writing, and one of the worst stumbling blocks can arise where something, or someone, doesn’t fit the story in the way you originally planned. So what do you do when a character doesn’t quite fit the situation which you’ve plunged them into? Here are three hints (in no particular order):

Conflict: Find conflict and resolve it (pick your pace depending on importance of character to the story). This sounds simple but it can be a fantastic way to bring a bit of excitement or intrigue to dull or lifeless scenes and characters and it’s often a great way of moving your plot forward a little.

Mirroring: Sometimes a character will lose contact with who they are and what they’re supposed to be about. Here you can use ‘mirroring’ to draw them back on track; basically find a pivotal scene that helped establish that character at some earlier point (probably the more distant the better) and return to something similar. This approach has a two fold benefit; either this will highlight an organic change that’s already occurred in a way that will allow the plot to move forwards, or it will pull them back from changing too far from who you need them to be and what you need them to be doing.

Lighten the the load: Sometimes a character starts doing the work of two or three characters. Where your plot needs brains, heroics, strength, wisdom, hope, naivity, innocence, etc. you may find that your character is taking on too much. At best they’ll seem very changeable with hard to read emotions, at worst they’ll appear volatile and unbelievable. Here you’ll need a secondary or even tertiary character to lighten the load, let them take on some of the work of moving the story along and allow your main characters to become more established and easier to follow.

Complexity is great, and absolutely essential to a useful, versatile and lasting character but it can also get in the way of getting to know them. Don’t overdo the additional characters though, as you don’t want a humongous cast of characters to keep track of (especially in a children’s book).

There are other things you can do but these three should help neaten up what’s going in your book, and hopefully make your work a little easier too. Anyway, I hope this helps someone out there, or if nothing else that you find it interesting to read about how I work with my own characters. Thanks for reading, all the best, John