Tag Archives: early years chapter book

Book 3: working title…

moirai_by_pandorasconviction-d4njggqWho doesn’t like a sample of the next book at the end of a book they’ve just enjoyed reading? I know I like a wee taster, if for no other reason than it tends to prompt me to pre-order the next instalment so I don’t miss out.

Well I decided in “Fey Flame” to do just that, it was an easy move since I’d already written the first four chapters of the next book before I published ‘Fey Flame’ (NaNoWriMo needed me to get an extra 15,000 words done before I’d be able to submit).

Well roll around ‘Spark of Dreams’ and we get a wee dilemma: book three doesn’t (/didn’t) have a title, let alone a few chapters to work from. Aside from a fairly detailed idea of what will be happening in the next book, up until tonight, there wasn’t really any substance to it.

Well now there is, I now have some actual, solid, story writing down for it and I’m pretty excited to see how this one plays out.

Anyway, without further ado, may I present to you the working title of book three…

“Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate”

I say ‘working title’ and it is just that, I’d love feedback on what people think of it, especially if you have views on what children might think to it.

I’ll be asking my eldest son in the morning but it’d be great to get a wider perspective on what people think. The story will centre around the families of Fynn, Alyssa, and Granny Reusen and will tell us more about these characters and the magic they wield. What’s more we’ll also get a revisit from the ‘Wishmaster’ (though he may be less nasty in this book).

Anyway, it feels great to have that dealt with. I now have a complete book (along with epilogue and taster) to edit, some artwork to figure out to show off the books and hold them together, plus I’ve got book three taking shape before my eyes. All in all it’s great having a sense of where I’m going next.

Also, don’t forget there’s still the option of getting to appear in ‘the Spark of Dreams’ as a ‘zombie’ (plus some of these characters might get the chance to follow on into book three). There’s not much time so if you’d like to see your name appear in the book I’ll need to know in the next couple of weeks. As always, thanks for reading, all the best, John

Spark of Dreams

wpid-dreams_by_whisperfall-1.jpgSo the spark of dreams is finished, over a cup of tea at about 6:30 this morning I sat down and completed it. I’m currently writing up the epilogue and the taster of the (as yet unnamed) third book. I can’t believe that I have another book under my belt and it’s not even half a year since this all started.

There are a few things that I’m going to have to figure out pretty soon and the one that keeps jumping out at me is the cover. I want it to be subtle and intriguing, with just one symbol of what the book is about and a solid framing effect that I’ll duplicate (with a variance of colour) in future copies of ‘…the Fey Flame’ as well.

This sounds like a simple task but coming up with a universally recognised symbol for dreaming (apart from perhaps a cloud) is not as easy as you might think. So for the next wee while I’ll be editing (which I’m pretty comfortable with) and designing covers (which is a little intimidating).

The big issue is that if I make a mistake with either then it’s on every copy I get printed, so I want to be sure about what I send to the printers. I’d actually welcome any suggestions that people might have for the cover so if you’ve got your thinking cap on pop your suggestion below. The two concepts I’m playing with at the moment are a lumbering outline of a sleepwalker, or a picture of a small torch hidden under a pillow (yes Jack’s torch makes an extra appearance in ‘…the Spark of Dreams’).

More and more people seem to be hearing about ‘…the Fey Flame’ which is just brilliant and has given me the much needed boost I needed for the last leg of ‘the Spark of Dreams’. Book three is a very skeletal plan at the moment and books four to six (Thea’s stories) are coming to me like distant little smoke signals but the great thing is that it really feels like this series could keep on going (if people keep on reading).

Anyway for now I’ll sign off, I’m away to a ceilidh tonight with the family, should be fun. I’ll post again soon with updates on ‘the Spark of Dreams’ (and hopefully some sketch ideas for the cover. Thanks for reading, all the best John

Thea

thea pencilThe polar-bear-girl seems to be a favourite among many readers. In a weird way I feel like a fan too, I know that in reality I created her and that she lives in my mind but I still can’t help but feel that I’m not entirely in control of her (and at least a few of my other characters as well).

This strange sensation is responsible for my change in story arc, not that anyone but me knows what I was planning for the books but suffice to say that what is currently in the works is very different from my original idea for the book series. In many ways I liken it to when I became a parent: I had expectations of what it would be like, what my relationship with my children would be like etc. and in some ways I was right but in many, many, unpredictable ways I was way off the mark.

It’s the same with my characters, I put them together in my head, trying different combinations of personality traits, tastes, etc. to see what functioned well for the story but perhaps because of the pace of writing that Nanowrimo requires of a writer I somehow ended up with some very independent characters. Perhaps the most noticeable of these has been Thea.

Originally I wanted a girl who would not be subordinate, I distinctly wanted to avoid anything damsel-like, I wanted her to have a degree of authority on what was going on so I made her older than Jack and way more informed about Fey. At the same time I didn’t want a mini adult so I tried to ensure that, emotionally, she is still able to be affected by events. The result (I hope) is a very human girl with some very inhuman/non-human traits. This combination is a lot of fun to write and I’ve already decided that the non-human part of her needs its own story arc.

Books four through to six will now be themed around Thea and the first of them will be out early next year. I’m still deciding whether to simply call Thea’s books ‘Thea Icebärvolk and the…’ or to stick to something snappier like ‘Thea’s … (a Jack Reusen Adventure)’. Part of me wants to hold on to the Jack Reusen link since the books are set in the same world (and we’ve already got this lovely web site fixed as jackreausen.co.uk to show the books off) but there’s plenty time to think about that.

What do you think to giving Thea her own trilogy? In general what female characters in children’s literature do you see as good role models for young girls? Feel free to jump into discussion in the comments below, all the best, John

Book 2 Progress

wpid-imag1323_burst005.jpgThis is just a quick wee update. I just started writing the final chapter, we’ve had zombies, a race against time, heroism, and some big revelations about Jack’s world. To be honest I’m pretty pleased about how this book has gone there are obviously some kinks to be ironed out but that’s what editing is for.

I expect that tonight my first draft of ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ will be complete. I’ve made the decision this time to do the first edit run before I hand it over to my beta testers, that way I’ll (hopefully) avoid wasting their time with typos etc. and instead they can focus on the story and tell me about continuity errors and the more glaring problems in plot that I might not have noticed.

Book three is also an issue for me now as I want to put a preview at the end of book two just as I did with book one. With this in mind I’m going to have to set some facts in stone about a book that’s only in planning at the moment. The alternative (and the option I’m warming to) is that I start work on book three whilst book two is getting beta tested. That way I’ll know what’s coming next and I’ll even have time to add some tiny hints inside book two before it goes to press.

Another issue I now have to deal with is cover design. Now that there will be two Jack Reusen books sitting side by side on the shelf I want to be sure that they look unified in some way. With that in mind I think I’ll be putting together a overarching theme to the cover art for the Jack Reusen books.

Once its decided I’ll get book two’s artwork finalised and once that’s off to the printers I’ll rework ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ to have a fancy new cover. I’ll also take that opportunity to deal with the odd wee typo that has come to light since it went to print.

Once again I’m in the strange little window at the end of writing a book where I feel less and less like I have any say in what happens. The characters and the plot have taken me to a point, and if I try to fight against it the book will sound convoluted. Right now I’m fully caught in the flow and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’ve finished reading ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ yourself please feel free to contact me in the comments on here, I’d love to hear what you thought to it. All the best, John

The zombie horde approaches

zombie-499924_1280Zombies in an early-reader chapter book are proving an interesting challenge. I’ve just finished chapter eleven of book two (‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’) and I’m having a lot of fun with my ‘zombies’ (as I’ve already said I’m a big zombie movie fan). I like to think I’ve kept the content creepy and exciting without making anything that would count as inappropriate for a younger audience.

Even if some scenes prove to be a little too grown-up I’ve got plenty of opportunity, once the book is done, to go back over it myself and make changes. Then comes the input of my grown-up ‘beta testers’ (who should iron out anything else I’ve missed) and then there’s my young beta testers (who will be brutally honest of something doesn’t work). The younger beta testers will provide the real test to see if the thrill is sufficiently high without leaving any hints of terror (I’m not trying to write a thriller).

This past week has been a bit manic, to be honest I’m amazed that I’ve had time to get any writing done, but I’ve managed to get through a few chapters. Though I’m sad to admit that I’m not finished the first draft yet despite the fact that I’d planned to be at this stage.

I have to keep reminding myself that missing a self-imposed deadline is no excuse to stop trying to reach my goal. I’ll have to pick up the pace soon though as I need time to edit, finalising the first book for publication took nearly a month of editing for ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘. The longer it takes me to finish my first draft the later into April we’ll be before we see the finished product. I’ll just have to keep on plodding on.

That’s me for the night. I’m going to see if I can fit in some writing tomorrow morning before the kids get up, but recently they’ve both been up before seven each morning which doesn’t leave me much room for writing. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that I’m not bombarded in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning.

Anyway progress report 27,184 words and counting amounting to 11 chapters in total completed. I’ll keep you updated as the book grows. Out of interest what time of day do you feel the most focussed? Would be interesting to chat about in the comments below, I always used to be a night-owl but I’m starting to enjoy being up early to write as the birds start singing. Anyway feel free to share your own feelings in the comments below, all the best, John

Would you like to be a zombie?

Close_Gate_in_Case_of_Zombie_OutbreakBig spoiler for ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ coming up…there are ‘zombies’ in it. I’ve got ‘zombies’ in inverted commas because I’ve tried to aim along the lines of slightly frightening, irrational people rather than terrifying undead corpses stalking the earth in search of brains. The books are for kids of five and up so, you know, I should probably avoid the brain eating.

So, there are no dead people and there is no brain eating. Other than that I’m running a few standard zombie movie scenarios in the course of the book: the general ‘something’s not quite right’ feeling evoked by the early stages of classic zombie flicks, leading on to irrational people chasing the heroes, and then our heroes are locked in a house with a horde trying to get in. Hopefully I’ve kept the scariness balanced enough for it to be exciting but not nightmare-inducing (don’t worry I’ll test it on my own kids first).

So here’s the fun bit: I was wondering if anyone out there wanted to volunteer to be a ‘zombie’. If I get a big influx I’ll need a way to decide who gets in, so feel free to give me an idea of what kind of behaviour your ‘zombie’ might display.

Here are a couple of examples, a lady with a fixed ‘plastic’ smile, her eyes gazing right through you as she makes paper aeroplanes out of important documents from her briefcase. Then there are two men queuing for coffee who attack each other over a packet of sugar but who forget their fight completely and limp away when someone interrupts them, one limping from being kicked in the butt.

Both of these come from the early ‘zombification’ stage but you could describe your zombie however you like. The basic idea is that people are losing their senses, getting lost in irrational, repetitive, and even dangerous activities (with a slightly comic twist). The best three will make it into the book. I’d particularly like to see ideas for members of the ‘zombie horde’. I look forward to hearing your suggestions/submissions (make sure you pop them in the comments below so I can find them easily), all the best, John

And as simple as that, here they are…

wpid-imag1318_burst002_1.jpgThe books have arrived! The official book launch for ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ will be in Fun Junction in Perth this Saturday (21st February). I’ll be reading excerpts from the book and talking about stories and writing. There are three sessions scheduled, at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm and they’ll go on for as long as kids look interested.

My last few nights have been spent reading through the book to find the best, most exciting parts to share with those of you who can make it to the launch. I can’t wait to see what kinds of reactions I’ll get on Saturday.

I’ve also been working on book two (while not chasing up book deliveries etc.) and I’m fairly happy with the book’s progress, though I’ll need to knuckle down on Sunday if I want to meet my deadline of the end of the month. Provided I can get it done by then, I’ll have four to six weeks to edit it and neaten it up (and beta test it a little/lot) before sending ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ off to the printers.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday in Perth (if you can make it along), all the best, John

Reusen Writathon

starling-216086_1280Just in case it looks as though I haven’t been doing anything I thought I’d pop down a wee log of progress for book two (‘…the Spark of Dreams’). Currently I’m sitting near the end of chapter five with 11,846 words.

Today’s words written so far are 1,186, not a huge amount this morning but Jack has just met four new characters: a boy with no arms, a hedgehog girl, a fawn, and a bird-girl with her own special skill.

They all took a bit of work for me to be happy to start writing about them so that was a good portion of this morning’s activity.

Now stopping for a spot of lunch and then it’ll be school-run, feeding the kids, getting homework done and bath night, then hopefully sometime around nine I’ll be back at this keyboard to get to know more about these new characters.

In the mean time I’d love to hear what people think to my using a character with no arms and what kind of things you think might be worth thinking about for him. Pop your responses in the comments section below.

Until tonight, thanks for reading, all the best, John

One week on

wpid-wp-1422646240603.jpegThis time last week ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ went live on kindle, since then I’ve sold a lot more copies than I expected to in Jack’s first week. I’ve also had a few people reserve copies of the print edition which should be on the shelves soon (printers’ schedule permitting).

The response to Jack’s world has really surprised me and I’m really touched that so many people have shown support for my wee book series either by buying a copy, or simply by liking the facebook page and following on twitter.

On top of this I now have two book talks booked for the coming weeks. One of these might be expected (for those of you that know me anyway), as it’s a book reading/talk and signing at Fun Junction in Perth.

The other event came as a real surprise as a teacher that I know who works in a Stirling school asked if I could join in with their World Book Day event which draws in three schools. Needless to say I jumped at the chance.

However, of all the brilliant things that have happened this week I have to say my favourite is the fact that one of my son’s friends at school came up to him and told him that his dad’s book was ‘awesome’. He’s six and he’s been reading it himself after his mum bought a kindle copy this week.

That was the whole point of writing this and I hope he’s still enjoying it. It still feels kind of odd knowing that there are people out there who know Jack, and Fynn, and all the others. Part of me still feels as though the characters just live inside my head, it’s lovely to think that they’re now alive in a bundle of other people’s heads too. That probably sounds a bit weird but you know what I mean.

Anyway thanks as always for reading, if you’ve had a read of ‘…the Fey Flame’ I’d love to hear what you thought of it in the comments below, Cheers, John

Is ‘Middle Grade’ fiction a saturated market?

middle grade middle school fictionUp until last night I had never heard of ‘MG fiction’ (or ‘Middle Grade fiction’) and no, apparently ‘middle grade’ fiction isn’t a way of describing so-so quality writing, instead it’s a way of describing your reader base. MG is another way of saying that a child will be in middle school when they read your book. We don’t really do ‘middle school’ in Scotland though so I had to look this up.

A whole new demographic is being recognised by publishers, as they decide to aim certain books at the years preceeding ‘young adult’ (basically eight years and up). Last night I (virtually) met  a whole bunch of MG writers almost by accident over on twitter.

Every Wednesday at 8pm (GMT) there’s a twitter get together under the hashtag #ukmgchat and I just happened to log in just in time to catch the last ten minutes, but they were an eye opener. So many authors had the same feeling as me about this category of fiction; despite a peculiar perception by some non-authors that this is a ‘saturated market’ our experience says otherwise, and our wish to write for that age group has not been squashed.

In my experience as a book buyer at Fun Junction I find it extremely hard to find new books to fill our ‘early chapter books’ shelves. there are staples like ‘Beast Quest’ and the ‘Rainbow Magic’ series, and there are some high profile authors in there but kids that age can get completely hooked on reading and so they come back to the shop, having read our usual fayre, asking for more and all too often there isn’t any.

The MG fiction market isn’t saturated, instead it is filled with a selection of (albeit very good) tried and tested books that most avid MG readers have read by the time they’re nine (at least that’s what I’ve found). So to say the market is ‘saturated’ is a little misleading, and even if it were ‘saturated’, kids reading now may not identify with fictional children written ten, twenty, or more years ago. At the very least the endless changes in society and technology mean that fiction has to keep up if it wants to look authentic to young readers.

Jack’s adventures are definitely aimed at the younger end of (and a little below) the MG reading level but I could still picture it on the bookshelf. That said there are a few things that differentiate Jack’s adventures from the general notion of what MG fiction includes.

For starters early romance seems to be an emotional issue and plot issue in a lot of MG fiction. There isn’t even a hint of romantic feeling in any of the younger characters in Jack’s adventures (at least at present). Romance isn’t really part of my overall plan for the series, at the moment the characters are just having adventures and learning about themselves, but I’ll have to see what happens as Jack grows up.

Next week’s #ukmgchat is apparently going to be focussed on early romance, if nothing else it could be interesting to see how other authors deal with the relationships of characters who fit in that age category, though I’m sad to say I won’t have much input of my own (at least in relation to the Jack Reusen books). Nonetheless who’s to say that I won’t keep Jack’s world going for years, I intend for him to grow up in that time (I won’t keep my characters ageless) so perhaps I could take notes for events far in the future.

Do you feel like the MG area of fiction is a ‘saturated market’? or, like me, do you think it has more to do with the presence of solid powerhouse books and authors that dominate the reading level? As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

DON’T FORGET: ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ is available in both paperback and in digital format. You’ll make me as happy as a kid in a boxful of bunnies if you click on this link to pop over to the ‘books’ page where you can find out more about the book and get details on how to get hold of your copy. I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed writing it 🙂