Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Yuletide Theives (a pressie for Crieff Primary)

Jack Reusen John Bray Crieff Primary summer king jenny copland grace russell

Last year I launched a book that is a little different to the other stories set in Jack’s world. It’s about making friends in new places and learning to enjoy new things, but most of all it’s about saving people’s Christmas presents (and even Christmas dinners) from being stolen by a ten eyed monster.
The whole story is the result of a character designing competition I held in Crieff in the summer of 2015. Three winning designs were selected and the story was created to give those characters a home.

Since all three of the winners were pupils at Crieff Primary School I decided to set aside all profits from sales of this book to the school.

If you’d like a wee Christmas story to read in the run up to the big day (and fancy supporting a great wee school) you can get your copy by clicking this link. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think.

All the best, John

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Is there a word for things that stop being cliche?

wonderful-life‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is apparently always on at Christmas but to be honest I’ve only seen the film about two or three times in my whole life. There’s an idea going around that things like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and other classics are on too much. It’s not unusual for people to call what I’d call ‘traditions’ cliche.

Recently they showed ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in a one night only event at our local theatre, mini cinema, and all round entertainment venue; the Strathearn Artspace. I didn’t make it along to their showing (sick kids etc.) but it put me in the notion for it so I hunted down a streaming copy (found it on Netflix) and watched it a few days later.

It was better than I remembered, and far from cliche. It got me wondering whether, especially at Christmas, there’s maybe a shelf life to things being ‘cliche’.

Is there a set time period between something being repetitive and it becoming traditional? I haven’t seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ very many times but there are couple of films that I always associate with Christmas.

‘Elf’ only came out in 2003 but thirteen years seems to have made it pretty traditional for me. ‘Love Actually’ rolled out in 2003 too and I still enjoy it plenty at Christmas.

Maybe I’m a bit of a sentimentalist, maybe I pop on some blinkers at this time of year, but I like a bit of cheese. In fact I’m even pretty partial to some singing Santa decorations scattered around the house.

Are you a sucker for any Christmas ‘cliches’? What film/movie makes you instantly think of Christmas?

Feel free to share in the comments either here, over on facebook, or you can even tweet about it (if you’re into that sort of thing 😉 ). As always, thanks for reading, and merry Christmas folks 🙂

 

A second chance at a first impression (showing off the town) 

taylor park macrosty park bandstand crieff jack reusen john brayA few months ago I decided to rework ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ with the intention of submitting it to a publisher. It’s safe to say the idea of a publisher looking at it is a little disconcerting.

I hadn’t done a full read through of ‘the Fey Flame’ for a long time. I’ve written four more books containing these characters since then and I was surprised to see how many ‘out of character’ things they do/say in the first book (at least from my perspective).

In the course of the other books the characters obviously grew and changed (how dull would a book be if the main characters learned nothing from their experiences?). However, reading the Fey Flame again has made me realise that I don’t know much about who they were before I first met them (if that makes sense). It’s been interesting getting to know this earlier version of these now very familiar characters.

I’m also discovering how hard it is to rework the Fey Flame without at least hinting about what will happen to them. I’m in a constant battle against spoilers.

Once this rewrite is complete I’ll have a shorter, snappier version of the book. (Don’t worry I’m not cutting that much, I just wanted to keep chapter length consistent etc.). I’ve also added a few wee touches here and there in places where I thought it would be nice to know more about some of the characters (Granny Reusen gets a wee mini story about her childhood).

One big change (but one that didn’t take much work to alter) is the fact that I’ve decided to be a lot clearer about the fact that everything takes place in and around Crieff. From the b….. with the W……… at the bandstand, to Jack’s first experience of Fey on Lady Mary’s walk.

All the books are inspired by the (admittedly slightly less extravagant) adventures I’ve had with my family in the town and countryside where we live. It felt only fitting that the books reflect that a little more strongly. If Harry Potter can visit Kings Cross station then it’s only fair that my characters can pop down to walk the Illohound in MacRosty Park.

It’s hugely intimidating realising that the Fey Flame will soon be in the hands of a publisher to await judgement. I’ll be sure to post once it’s been sent through and you can join me in my worries over the following months before I hear back. Wish me luck.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Boy from guitar lessons (it’s nice to be nice)

14224700_10157295428425401_4845612948376145664_nA few weeks ago, on the way out of my son’s guitar lessons I noticed one of the other kids watching me with a puzzled expression on his face, clearly trying to figure out where he knew me from. It’s not uncommon for me, for many years I worked in the local toy shop so a lot of local kids know me but struggle to get who I am out of context.

This wasn’t one of those times. Laden with bags, guitars, packed lunch boxes, and all the other paraphernalia that parents so often end up stuck with, I waddled along the corridor outside the music room. The puzzled boy kindly held the door open.

I thanked him and was half way through the doorway when he blurted out “Are you an author?”. At first I wasn’t sure what to say, I decided against my regular ‘Kind of, I write kids books.’ Replacing it with a simple “Yes, I am.”

He remembered me from a talk I’d done at his school. When I told him I’m still working on more books he explained that he thought the Fey Flame was great, then he thought for a few seconds and told me that, in fact, it was his “favourite book ever”.

It’s amazing to know that you’ve made something that someone has enjoyed that much. I’m so pleased he decided to share that with me because it made my day. It actually made my week.

Simply telling someone that you appreciate something they have done/made/written can be the most awesome thing, so thank you boy from guitar lessons. Thank you sincerely.

It’s so easy to praise people. Sometimes we need it more than you realise. None of us should be afraid to say a few words that could make someone’s day. So here’s a wee selection of praise I thought I’d pass on:

June: I have no idea where you get your energy and enthusiasm from but you’ve added a lot to our wee town. Thank You.

David: The Artspace is shaping up to be something brilliant. I don’t get along to events as much as I’d like because childcare isn’t always easy but I’ve always enjoyed the things I made it along to. It’s a real asset to the town.

Fun Junction: You guys are awesome. There’s a whole heap of stuff I could list here but mainly I’d like to highlight your awesomeness.

Valentines of Crieff: Superb clothes. Every shirt I owned used to bake me. I wasn’t a fan of dressing smart because it meant a day spent sweltered and sweaty. I have to admit I never spent as much on a shirt before but then I also never wore the cheap ones any longer than I had to. Thanks for helping me feel comfortable in my own clothes.

Marrianne: You are mental but like June you seem to give people the wee pushes they need all over the place. Most of all, on my part, thank you for being a constant wee niggling reminder that I need to get back to my writing.

On that note I’ll get back to my writing. I’m planning on sending Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame in to a publisher soon so it’s getting one last wee polish before it gets shipped out.

Questions to make your brain whizz at Viewlands Primary School

viewlands primary school perth scotlandI’d like to start by saying that teachers definitely don’t have it easy. I use a lot of energy and enthusiasm as a parent but this pales in comparison to what’s needed to engage with the inquisitive minds of a whole classroom of children.

I was recently invited to talk about writing at Viewlands Primary School in Perth as part of their programme of activities for Book Week Scotland. I spoke to four year groups (primaries 4, 5, 6, and 7) and each year group contained two classes which added up to about sixty kids at each talk. It was taxing, enlightening, but most of all it was a lot of fun. Each age group had their own ideas and their own questions.

scottish book week free author talkI was asked about the work involved in writing a book, the methods I use to develop a character, I was asked why I picked the fantasy genre, what my favourite books are, and hundreds of other equally interesting questions.

On top of this some of the older children were interested in the practical elements of writing; we discussed the fast-paced first-drafting I do as a result of my connection to National Novel Writing Month. This gave me a chance to describe some of the difficulties I’ve faced in the past in regards to forward planning (or the lack of it).

viewlands primary school perth scotlandI think the teachers were pleased to hear me sharing some important lessons I’ve learned about forward planning and the difficulties of redrafting rushed areas of my work that don’t contribute to the overall story (I get the feeling that planning ahead is something teachers have to remind pupils about a fair bit).

It was an exhausting and massively fulfilling experience and I’d like to thank Mr Scoogal and all of the other teachers for inviting me along on the day. I had an absolute blast and I hope the children did too.

nanowrimo national novel writing monthI wanted to post about this weeks ago but I’ve been tied up in yet another bout of National Novel Writing Month (guess I’m a glutton for punishment). NaNoWriMo is once again over (I completed my word-count of 50,000) and life is finally going back to normal.

The month was tough and some things I tried in my writing turned out to be a bit of a waste of time. One activity in November definitely wasn’t a waste of time and I’m extremely grateful to all the staff and pupils for the wee injection of energy I got right smack dab in the middle of the writers equivalent of a marathon.

Thanks for popping along to read this, feel free to scroll down to see more posts on writing, and thanks again to all the staff and pupils at Viewlands for having me along, all the best, John