Category Archives: Book Progress

AAARRRGGGHHHHHHH!

poiewrhkejbfkjfYep my brain is near bursting, in just over a week we see the start of ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) the event that started all of this, and I still have so much to do.

Karen (the awesome cover illustrator) is working on covers for the next two books in the series as we speak and I’m battling my way through the editing process in pursuit of completed drafts in time to start writing the first book in Thea’s series. It’s all go and can’t wait to share both of the new books with readers over the next couple of months. ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ should be out in November and DUN DUN DUN…(new title reveal!)…’Jack Reusen and the Christmas Fox’ will be out just before Christmas.

NaNoLogoOne thing that I’ve learned over the past year is that writing and editing (you skip editing at your peril) at this pace is tough and sadly leaves little room for school visits etc. The weird thing though is that without school visits I’m not really sure how kids will hear about the books.

My target audience are children aged seven or eight years and up and as far as I know not many of them read blogs or hang out on facebook and twitter. Without school visits I’m really reliant on word of mouth from you guys who stop by this blog to find out what’s happening with the books.

With this in mind I’m sorry to say that Thea’s first book might arrive a little later in the year than ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ did. I want to give myself time to get out and talk about the books more in the new year so if you would like an author visit for your school (or even a writing workshop/Q&A) please get in touch.

Sorry for not being on here much over the past few weeks, I completed a rework of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ (to go with Karen’s mysterious new cover) and as I said earlier I’ve been on editing duty for the next two books. As things start to loosen up over the next few weeks (or, more likely, as I begin to lose my sanity) I’ll no doubt be on here a lot more, and hopefully my posts will be full of updates on how it’s all going. As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Well that was intense!

Camp-Winner-2015-Twitter-ProfileLast night I wrote a bundle of words, they were all in an arrangement that I liked and for people who read English they will hopefully make sense. However, probably the most important thing about those words (at least for the time being) is that one of them happened to be the 50,000th word I wrote last month!

Once again I’m a NaNoWriMo winner and now I have a third Jack Reusen book, a Jack Reusen Christmas special, and there’s even a first chapter or so drafted for the first book in Thea’s trillogy (though I was so tired by that point that I’m fairly certain I nodded off pressing keys so I’m not sure what that’s going to look liiiii8iuijjjjiiujujuijke).

Once again National Novel Writing Month was an even mixture of a total blast and ‘that thing that makes me feel like my brain is about to melt out of my eyes’. What’s more I’m now going to be fairly confused if someone tells me they like my new book. I may accuse them of hacking my laptop to get at one of these new early drafts.

I now know what happens to Jack and co. next, and after that, and even a little after that, so expect some mini spoilers and short stories set after Spark of Dreams to be appearing on here in the coming weeks.

Speaking of short stories, I’m also running a competition in conjunction with Fun Junction in the run up to the Crieff Arts Festival. If you know of any children who would like to create a character (either pictures, descriptions, or both) that has a chance of appearing in a Jack Reusen short story then keep an eye out on here for more details. The easiest way to stay informed is to either ‘like’ the Jack Reusen facebook page or follow the Jack Reusen account on Twitter.

Today I am alarmingly tired but happy. I hope the new instalments are a fun read when I get them out into the world. ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ should be ready in October. Thanks as always for reading, all the best, John

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

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

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.)

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

Printing has begun!

moving letters printing pressThe proofs for ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ have been approved and sent to the printers (there were a couple of technical issues but I’ve cleared them up). Unusual things happen to almost every main character in this book and I’m looking forward to hearing what readers have to say about it.

I’ve given hints about what the Spark of Dreams will be like at least a few times so I won’t repeat myself here, though I will hint at one little bit of information from the very end of the book. After a quiet few weeks sorting books and helping library patrons, Bob the librarian will meet Granny Reusen. If you haven’t read the first book that won’t much sense, and might sound a lot less interesting than it is, but trust me, it spurs on a really cool story line that I’m writing right now for book three.

I know this wait has been a lot longer than I promised, I just wanted to make sure the story would work properly and I feel like it’s there now. I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll keep you up to date on where the books are and when they’re likely to arrive, and if you want to pre-order a copy you can do that by clicking this link.

I’ll hopefully have more news for you very soon, thanks for being patient with me, all the best, John

The cavern keeper

8232497112_ddaba4ccc5_bHere’s a quick wee glimpse into a place that will be very important in book three. I hope you enjoy it:

These caves were his. It’s not like he actually¬†owned them or anything, but in the same way that a town, a school, or a stadium can ‘belong’ to someone, these caves belonged to Magus Hypologismos (people called him Logi for short, you can see why).

Logi was no stranger to the outside world. As a young man he had toured the globe with a group of Lutin traders (we might call them leprechauns). They exchanged exotic wares from one country to the next, and Logi saw more of the world than he had ever expected. He had three favourite memories. There was the time he had been invited to hunt with centaurs in Laconia, riding onto their horsey backs and gripping onto their broad human shoulders for support.

Further east he had eaten a feast of spiced meats and rice with a genie, sitting in the desert sands around the fire-pits of Mishan. After the meal the genie had entertained him with displays of incredible magic making the sky dance with light and the moon change its colour to shine like a giant gold coin hovering in the sky.

Possibly Logi’s greatest memory was in fact the moment that began his adventure back home to the caves. Whilst sitting in a sanctuary in on the mysterious island castle of Por-Bajin, he was invited by a jadatski (rain master) to a modest dinner of pickled cabbage. They debated into the night, and right through to dawn about whether the golden scrolls of Kubai-Khotim were real.

The scrolls were said to be able to tell the future, and Logi had made it his mission to find them. Sadly in all the centuries that followed he had still never found them.

Logi had enjoyed a colourful life, but his travelling was over, and now these ancient caverns were his home. Books and scrolls weighed down the shelves that lined every wall. Orange lanterns added their flickering light, making the ancient texts appear to dance and move, almost as though they were alive. Logi often wondered if some of the movements really were just a trick of the light.

Logi took the stairs down to the deeper chambers, where the most ancient and powerful texts were housed. No one but the Magus (Logi himself) was allowed down here and he hadn’t had a request for any of these texts in centuries. All the same it was one of the most comfortable places available to him, and he often sneaked down here to sit in the huge throne-like chair and enjoy the peace.

Thick books with gilted spines surrounded him like dusty jewels, their leather dyed in all manner of colours. Logi sat back in the quiet, enjoying the rainbow of books flickering by the light of the lanterns. Then something moved, it didn’t just look like it moved; it really moved.

Logi stepped closer to inspect. It couldn’t be a creature of any sort; the enchantments protecting the library wouldn’t even let a dust mite down here without permission. All the same Logi knew what he saw, something had definitely moved.

In the silence Logi could even hear his shoes creak. A sudden ‘thwap’ echoed around the chamber as a thick scroll dropped onto the hard stone floor and began unravelling. Logi leaned in closer and was astounded to see fresh words appearing on the paper, as though being written from inside:

The families are reunited. The children of fate grow closer to learning their heritage but dark days are ahead and they may have to pay for the mistakes of their ancestors. One will return to claim these scrolls, and once again wield the knowledge of what is to come. He prepares even now.”

The writing stopped.

Logi sat down cross-legged on the polished stone floor and lifted the scroll, allowing a simple ‘Hmmm’ to escape his lips. All those years and the scroll had been right here under his nose the whole time. Whatever it had been up to seemed to be over for now. In the several hundred years that Logi had patrolled these tunnels (aside from the odd holiday), he had never once witnessed a book, or scroll, write itself. He didn’t have anything else planned that day, so he relaxed into a big leather chair, rolled out the scroll, and waited.

Hours passed, but Logi had centuries of experience in patience. The writing began again, it looked like some kind of heading this time:

What has come before…

After that the writing came quicker, Logi’s eyes struggling to keep up. As the story poured out in front of him, words escaped his lips: “What is a ‘TV’?” “Who is Tam?” and “This ‘macaroni cheese’ sounds amazing, I wonder where I might get some…”

Logi read on and on, getting more involved still. Perched on the edge of his seat he actually yelled out “Run Sparky! Run!”. He relaxed, things seemed better now, the characters appeared to be safe. He settled in and read on.

The writing slowed, the last few lines had been about three men getting on ‘motor-bikes’ (whatever they were), and heading for an underground library. Logi got the feeling he might find himself a lot more involved in the story very soon.

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