Tag Archives: jack reusen and the children of fate

Reminding an Author about writing: Visiting Braco Primary School

This post is long overdue. I normally like to post about a school visit within a few days but I’ve been swamped with writing/book related work over the past couple of months.

Finally, I have a little breathing space so I thought I’d pop on and talk about my visit to Braco Primary School.

I was lucky enough to get to talk to the whole school. The children were brilliant, welcoming, and they asked some really interesting, and surprising, questions (like ‘Do you talk about ethics in your books?’ and ‘How does an author make money?”).

Everyone likes a story

multi colour rainbow shoes john bray author crieff perthshireI don’t always talk to younger year groups, as the Jack Reusen books are aimed at children aged 7 years and up. However, I came prepared with a wee story I wrote a while ago called ‘Drip the Bogey Ogre’ (you can read the whole thing by clicking this link). The primary ones and twos were lovely and we had a fun five minutes or so talking about my shoes as well (I wore my multi-coloured shoes).

From there I went on to talk to the older school. There seems to be a collection of would-be authors in the older school and they all had questions about improving their writing and about aspects of the writing process like motivation and inspiration.

I hope I didn’t sound too repetitive but one thing I kept going back to was the fact that writing is like exercise; you need to do it regularly to be in good shape, and you have to have good quality ingredients to put into it.

With writing, you get out what you put in

Just as a healthy body comes from regular exercise and good nutrition, so too does a healthy capacity for writing come from writing regularly and consuming only good quality books.

These sorts of things always have more impact when you use an example. I shared an experience from when I was writing ‘Marcus‘ last year. At the time I hadn’t written a horror story for young adults (12 and up) before so I started reading around to get a feel for the topics and limits associated with that age group.

Some books I read were fantastic but there was one (it will remain nameless) that was less so. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story but I didn’t see what it was doing to my writing until editing time came along. It turns out that the chapters I wrote whilst reading this particular book were some of my worst, characters grew flat and I found it hard to get my bearings. Much editing was needed before they went public.

This was my takeaway advice for Braco Primary’s writers; do everything you can to make sure that what you are reading is good. Combine this with paying attention to the world around you in your own way. Understanding what your own point of view is will enable you to find your own voice. However, you’ll find that, only by reading work by experienced and talented authors, will you be able to make that voice as articulate and coherent as it can be.

Thank you for the enthusiasm boost!

Not only was my visit to Braco Primary an enjoyable one but their questions and enthusiasm for writing gave me a much-needed boost in the midst of this year’s NaNoWriMo (something that’s always welcome).

Thanks again for having me Braco Primary. I hope you enjoy the first two Jack Reusen books and I hope to have book three ready in the near future.

Visit to Fun Junction

On the 20th August, as part of Crieff Arts Festival, I’ll be doing an author’s visit to Fun Junction in Crieff. This will be the first time I’ve done one in a while so I’ve decided to make the most of it. 

Fun Junction has kindly agreed to offer prizes for a new ‘design a character competition’ (three £10 vouchers up for grabs). I’ll also be running a crossword competition where you can win signed copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame’ and ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’.

On top of this I’ll be sharing a work-in-progress excerpt from book three (‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’). I’ll only be able to read this a couple of times on the day as the excerpt is longer than the usual readings. If you’re a fan of books one and two please try and make it along at either 1pm or 2pm to be sure to hear the sneak peek.

I’ve also ordered a reprint of the first edition of the Fey Flame. These will be the last original copies I’ll be printing. From then on the new edition will be released, featuring Karen’s amazing new cover art (along with some slight edits to the content). 

You can pre-order the new edition or get one of the last signed copies of the first edition on the day. I’ll also have plenty of copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’ to buy on the day too.

So here’s a basic run-down of what to expect on Saturday 20th (this coming Saturday):

From 11am I’ll be in Fun Junction to sign books, read excerpts of the first two books, provide entry forms for both the ‘design a character’ competition and the crossword competition.

At 1pm I’ll read an excerpt from the new book and I’ll be happy to talk about writing in general to anyone (child or adult) who might be interested in knowing more.

At 2pm I’ll be reading from ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ again. I’ll be packing up sometime after this but I’ll be sure to leave entry forms for the wordsearch and ‘design a character’ competition at Fun Junction. Entries will still be accepted until the following Saturday.

Last year the winning characters were included in a Christmas story which was released on Christmas eve. This year I’ll be including the three winning characters in another story, but this time it’ll be released in spring 2017. 

The winners will receive a £10 Fun Junction gift voucher, along with signed copies of books one and two.

I hope you’ll take the time to pop up on Saturday. All the best, John

Falling for the Villain

438px-Villainc.svgNot long ago I had a twitter conversation with ‘Amber Medley‘ (a fellow NaNoWriMo writer). The basic idea was how to move forward in writing (tackling the dreaded writer’s block). I suggested a technique I use where I take a character out of the book and look at what they do in different settings.

Eventually the conversation moved on to how we draw believable characters, especially villains; viz. not writing a bad guy who just goes ‘Mwahahahah!’.

The interesting point that came up was the fact that the more human your bad guy gets, the easier it is to like him/her and, as a writer, you typically don’t feel you should like your villain.

I have a confession to make. Originally the primary villain of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ (the ‘Wishmaster’) was going to be the overarching bad guy for the series. The ‘Wishmaster’ was to follow Jack throughout the book series, building in malice and in his capacity for harm in natural stages until Jack would have no choice but to face up to him in a huge final showdown.

This sounds dangerously close to the story of another non-magical boy who discovers he can do magic and faces off against a deadly foe. You can imagine my relief then when, at some point in November 2014, I sat down with a cup of tea, started my writing for the night and, for the first time, was properly introduced to my ‘Wishmaster’. I had gotten him all wrong.

He was still just as dangerous, still as malicious, and cruel, but then I started to realise what had brought him there; a need to share his gifts with others and his discomfort at finding that others actually got by fine without his gifts. He had grown resentful of these people’s lack of gratitude and I suddenly understood who he was and the story he needed to need to tell me.

I still couldn’t let him take over my first book, and I still needed him to take a back seat for ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ but I made him bide his time. I knew his story now and I knew where he was going to have to go. He would remain a frightful memory for Jack and his friends for a while. After all, their story was just beginning. However, I was sure to set aside space in ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ and, to an extent, in ‘Thea’s Quest’ (Book 4).

I grew to care for my villain and in doing so I grew to enjoy what I was writing a lot more. It gained more depth and I found it easier to connect with all of the characters (even bit players).

During my twitter conversation the other day ‘Amber Medley‘ pointed out the fact that she was worried about growing to like her villain but if I hadn’t grown to like mine I don’t know if the books would have moved forward at the pace they did. Perhaps sometimes it pays to like the villain.

NaNoEdit? Over a year of Jack Reusen books

birthday-candlesNo it’s not Jack Reusen’s birthday but it is just over a year since Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame went out into the world, and today marks another landmark too; it’s my birthday.

When I turned thirty I decided that before I hit forty I would write ten books and one album. If you count my philosophy book (don’t worry you don’t have to read it, but I’m thinking it counts) then to date I’m six books in, so not going too badly.

I’ve got a new job so I’ve had to give April’s ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) a miss. On top of that I still have two of those six books to edit properly, with that in mind the actual writing bit has taken a back seat.

To be honest it would be great if the folks at NaNoWriMo made an editing month as well. I’d be surprised if anyone can finish writing a book in just one month and still be able to walk away with something in final form.

Each of the books I’ve already released have had at least three edits, it’s a gruelling part of the process and it definitely would have been beneficial to be able to talk to others going through the same thing.

Maybe this post could count as a plea to the nice folks at NaNoWriMo, or simply to other writers out there who are at the same stage. It can be a bit of a lonely and thankless task at times, and it’s definitely nowhere near as satisfying as the huge rush of creativity that you find in the actual writing bit. It would be great to share this part of the process with others in the same way that people do with NaNoWriMo.

Today I won’t be thinking about editing too much, it’s my birthday so I’ll be spending some time with the family. However, I’m aware of how much I still have to do so if any other writers out there fancy going through the editing process together in May (after this round of ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’) then let me know.

Perhaps we could set up a twitter hashtag or something to tie our experiences together, maybe #nanoedit (it looks like it’s had a bit of use already). If you aren’t a twitter user feel free to post updates on the Jack Reusen Facebook page or in the comments for this post.

In the mean time feel free to pop over and see some of the things I’ve learned since I started writing here, one issue that was particularly difficult for me was simplifying plot, you can get an idea about the ways I’ve found to get around this by clicking this link.

Apologies for the silence on the blog post front over the past wee while, I’ll try and be better.

As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

Thea’s Quest

11703059_507851296031556_3727381389049552295_nYep, the beginning of Thea’s story is already taking shape. The fifth book set in the world of Fey now has five (very rough) chapters and it’s surprisingly different from Jack’s books. This month also marks the one year anniversary of the very beginning of Jack’s (and Thea’s) adventures. I still can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by and I’m really thankful for the reception the books have had so far.

Thea is such a different character to write about. I now have a character that instantly understands all of the basic things about Fey, she’s a lot less surprised by magical creatures and events than Jack was and I’m really enjoying the fact that I can just let odd things happen and then drive the story forward. It was always fun to share Jack’s awe as a new world unfolded around him but there’s something really liberating about just taking that magic for granted now.

The new book series will be released more slowly than the first as I now realise just how demanding it is to do all of the additional stuff required of a book. First there’s editing, then there’s talking about the books (because otherwise how would people hear about them), and alongside all of this I need to go over cover designs etc. with Karen but to be honest the bulk of the work there is on Karen (she knows her stuff so well, I barely need to go into any detail with her, she just gets it).

Talking about the books is definitely the most fun of the two ‘non-writing’ jobs associated with writing, I’ve been for school visits, held an in-store book launch, joined in with an authors event to do a book talk at the Crieff arts festival, not to mention a steady stream of communication with readers through this blog and the social media profiles I set up for the books over on facebook and twitter.

The big bad EDITING job is never a thrill and it’s this that has prompted me to spread out my book releases a little. I’d rather be able to spend more time chatting about the books and doing a wee bit of editing each week than be locked to the computer almost every day desperately trying to catch up with editing. At least for the foreseeable future I think we’ll be on about two book releases a year. I just don’t think I’ll be able to do four in one year again for a while.

Speaking of editing the next two books are on their way but it is taking a while. Though it’s less work this time through (I’m definitely learning from my mistakes), it’s still work. I’m going to try and get Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’ away to the printers in the next couple of weeks (should be printed by the start of December) and ‘Jack Reusen and the Christmas Fox’ should arrive a week or so later (it’s a Christmas story so definitely want to get a rush on that).

In the mean time I can share a wee bit about Thea’s Quest (though it probably won’t be out until next summer). In Thea’s first book we find that the polar-bear girl has discovered some pretty impressive powers (even more impressive than turning into a polar bear). She is struggling to understand them though and she’s having an even harder time learning to control them. Her quest will take her to parts of Fey she’s only ever heard of in stories and her journey will teach her a lot about herself and her friends. Where the Jack Reusen books introduced us to a strange other world, Thea’s books will take us on a voyage steeped in ancient magic and even older stories.

I’m really enjoying the research for these books, I started looking ahead to some of the places Thea might visit earlier this year, I even posted a few sample pictures on the Jack Reusen facebook page. I desperately want to get the third and fourth books out before Christmas so I probably won’t be blogging a whole lot over the next few weeks. Every spare minute I have this November is going to be spent on books. Hope it all works out, wish me luck. As always, 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 😉 ).

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 😉 ). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

The Illustrator: Karen MacAllister

karen macallister 1Back in April of this year I wrote a post asking for an artist or illustrator to help me by putting together a more striking cover for ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams’. I even titled the post ‘Artist/Illustrator wanted’ but I was surprised at how few people got in touch with me but suddenly out of the blue Karen sent me a message on facebook. She asked me about my plans for the cover and we messaged back and forth about themes, colour palettes, and what kind of images I specifically wanted to see on the cover.

karen macallister 4She sent me some sketches within 24 hours and it instantly felt like the right fit and once she sent me colour samples I was definitely looking forward to seeing the finished product. Karen used her experience to simplify some of my design ideas and pulled the cover together into something intriguing, bold, and exciting.

To be honest we didn’t even meet in person until she was dropping off the original cover sheets for me to get scanned (well that’s not completely true, we actually had met before, as I found out that Karen had actually helped out in my first year German class at High School, small world).

karen macallister 2Despite the fact that we only communicated via facebook messages Karen nonetheless seemed to know exactly what was needed to get the cover exactly right and I couldn’t be happier, she’s even agreed to create a new cover for ‘…Fey Flame’ (which is actually already finished and I honestly can’t wait to show you, it’s amazing) and she’s also agreed to creating a cover for ‘Children of Fate’ once it’s ready. If you’re looking for some amazing colour work and a bold yet intriguing style then I can wholeheartedly recommend that you get in touch with Karen.

karen macallister 3For more of Karen’s work just click on any of the images featured here to visit her blog (and I hope that she doesn’t mind me borrowing them to add to this post) and if you would like to commission her to create something amazing for you then follow this link to her professional site. As always thanks for reading, all the best, John