Tag Archives: Jack Reusen

Friends Of Old St Michael’s Children’s Book Day

This Sunday (25th August, at 12:30) there’s a great children’s books event along at Old St Michael’s Church Yard in Crieff. Positioned right on the site of Crieff’s first ever school.

Somewhere to enjoy a last wee taste of summer

The old school building has been gone for a while but it’s nice to be in touch with a bit of the town’s history; standing where it once stood.

As it looks now it’s a bright, open, grassy spot under a bit of tree cover. It’s a space that a lot of people in the town don’t know about but thanks to the work of the ‘Friends of Old St Michael’s’ it’s looking lovely and fully equipped for all sorts of events (and don’t worry there is cover if we get a spot of rain, they have a marquee set up ready).

Something fun to make back to school a little easier

The whole of Sunday’s event is family-friendly and there’s loads to do while you’re there. Learn to write with a real quill (like Harry Potter!) with Library of Innerpeffray, or listen to a story from an expert Storyteller. You can also travel through time with artefacts from Perthshire’s past from medieval times and the Victorian era.

Along with this you can participate in various art activities and enter a book review competition by sharing a review of your favourite story (with some GREAT PRIZES FOR THE BEST TALK).

And Little Old Me!?

So why am I telling you all of this? Self promotion obviously. I’ll be there as well, talking about the Jack Reusen books and about story-craft (and there might be a free book or two as well).

As you might know from previous posts, I offer bookwriting workshops in schools and I always love to hear what sorts of stories kids have locked up in their heads. I won’t be running a workshop on Sunday but hopefully we’ll get kids excited about writing their own stories, told from their own unique perspective on the world.

If you want to be kept up to date about the event (and you’re on Facebook) you can either mark yourself down as ‘interested’ or ‘going’ on the Facebook event page. That way you’ll be notified of any changes or other updates (plus it helps me feel good to know we’ve got a good crowd along 😉 ). It’s always good to support these sorts of events when they apear in town, hope to see you along on Sunday.

All the best,

John

It’s Here!!!!

Marcus is now available as a printed book, you can pick up a copy from Fun Junction or order one to be delivered to your home by clicking this link (the price is £6.99, which includes UK postage).

If you would like to go back and read a draft version of the full book you can follow this link to chapter one of ‘Marcus’.

An eerie delivery?

On 31st October I received a delivery, one that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I have to admit it’s a little eerie that a dark fantasy/ horror story would be delayed so that it arrived exactly on Halloween but that’s how it went.

So… ladies and gentlemen boys and girls…may I introduce to you the print version of ‘Marcus’.

Set in Crieff, Perthshire, over varying time periods, this story follows the disappearance of numerous children, leading the reader to the slow realisation that something really isn’t right about Marcus.

From frenzied beginnings

I started writing ‘Marcus’ exactly a year ago to the day. This book was a departure from my usual. My other books are fantasy stories but they’re all part of the same series centred around a boy called Jack Reusen.

These books are aimed at children from primary 3 (around 7 years old) and upwards. Aside from the fantasy and (some) locations, there’s only one real thing that ‘Marcus’ has in common with these books.

Every book I’ve written has been the result of a writers community called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November I disappear into my computer and craft a new story. NaNoWriMo pushes writers to complete 50,000 words in one month. So far I’ve never failed (which still surprises me) but I can’t pretend it’s easy keeping the pace to write that much in just thirty days.

In 2017 I decided to try my hand at something new. Not only was I going to write a darker, older, book. On top of that, I was going to use short punchy chapters to allow me to publish it as a serialised novel.

Tuning in each week

I can’t thank those who read my serialised version of Marcus enough. Knowing I had people ‘tuning in’ to catch the next instalment each week kept me on my toes and forced me through the editing process (editing is something I’ve never enjoyed very much).

I felt supported in a way I haven’t before during the run-up to a book release. That’s why I felt so guilty when an oversight on my part led to a month delay on the publication of this book. To everyone who has asked about when the books would be here, I am so happy to finally be able to say ‘now’.

A wee party

I’ve sold my other books at Fun Junction in Crieff and Perth for years. They have given me a ridiculous amount of support and now to top it all they’ve volunteered both shops for book-launch events for ‘Marcus’.

I’m planning on hosting the first one in Crieff (it is the setting of the book after all). More than that; the bulk of my support has come from readers around Crieff so I want to make it easy for people to come along.

I’ll get some food and drinks on and we’ll make a night of it. If you would like to come along please let me know (Facebook message, Twitter, leave a comment below, or simply send up smoke signals, whatever works). I’ll do everything I can to keep you up to date on the details of the book launch.

Fun Junction Perth will be running a late-night opening on Thursdays so I’ll also run a slightly different event through there as well.

It’s such a relief to finally have the books in my hands and I really hope you like the print edition (it has some changes from the web version). Please leave any comments or questions you like. I always like hearing from readers.

Once again, sorry for the delay, and thank you for bearing with me for so long,

All the best, John

P.S. Now I’m off to start another NaNoWriMo. I’m returning to familiar ground. Looking forward to getting back up to speed with a certain wee boy, a shape-shifting polar-bear girl, and an ‘owl man’ who always knows what to do. Wish me luck! 😉

Free Author talks for schools

free book talks author scotland perthshire john bray jack reusen

I recently passed my driving test (at the tender age of thirty-five). The surest motivation in the weeks leading up to it was school book talks. I’ve ran school talks before but I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to get to the talk on foot, by bus, or on more than one occasion I managed to wangle a lift from a teacher (thanks Mr Scoogle!).

Now I’m fully mobile. I can get to the most remote little primary school in the middle of nowhere if I’m asked to. It’s a wildly freeing feeling and I can’t wait to see what it brings.

I’m aiming to have a new batch of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ (book 1) printed up over the next few weeks and then I’ll be all set for book talks wherever the call is issued (within reason). For this reason my schedule will mean that the first talks will take place some time in October.

I’m based in Perthshire (Scotland) and I don’t charge for book talks but I do fund them by selling copies of the Jack Reusen books at the talks themselves. I can set up a pre-order option for teachers so that pickup and signing etc. is as smooth as possible.

However, I’m also happy to turn up on the day with a batch of books. That said, pre-order ensures that I have enough books on hand at the talk (I can also pre-sign books to help reduce wait time after the talk is finished).

Talks can be themed around the methodology of writing, book production, story-telling, research, or I can simply talk about the books (this allows me to cater to classes from primary 3 and upwards). I’m also happy to discuss a more regular visit schedule for things like writing or book making workshops (though I may have to charge a small fee for these to cover travel, and resources, etc.)

If you would like me to visit your class (or other children’s group, club, or organisation) to talk about writing and stories please get in touch using the form below. I look forward to hearing from you. All the best, John

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

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

Questions to make your brain whizz at Viewlands Primary School

viewlands primary school perth scotland

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 talk

I 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 scotland

I 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 month

I 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

Writing advice this Saturday

Are you three chapters into writing that novel but on the twentieth edit? Do you have extensive notes planning out a whole book but still haven’t written one paragraph? Have your writing efforts left you with a folder full of half finished chapters and sprawling notes? Well so have mine.

I’ve been trying to ‘be a writer’ since I was a kid. I started to take it more seriously in high school and actually made a solid attempt to write a novel while I was at uni.

However, I fell foul of a myriad of problems that I’ve come to recognise like old friends. I would over-plan, spending all my creative energy and leaving nothing for the writing itself. Then, to compensate, I would try to write in a free-flow style only to find my direction-less flow of words draining into stagnant puddles with no hope of turning into anything.

If this isn’t common of all writers I’d be very surprised. It seems like a necessary part of what we all go through. We all need to find the right pace and discover ways of retaining the creative spark in our writing whilst ensuring that our text actually means something (even if it is just to ourselves).

On Saturday I’ll be doing book talks and chatting about writing for most of the day. It’s part of Crieff Arts Festival hosted at Fun Junction in Crieff, and since I write kids books I expect I’ll be giving a lot of early advice (‘pay attention to your favourite authors’, ‘keep observing the world around you’, etc.). However, I’m also more than happy to offer advice (or even simply to mutually commiserate) to grown-up would-be writers.

I am not a break out success but neither are most successful writers (even J K Rowling still had to do the rounds with school talks to get the word out about Harry et. al.). I can’t be sure whether the Jack Reusen books make me an official ‘writer’ or not but that’s something that doesn’t bother me as much any more. I write and some people read it, and even better some of them seem to like it (at least that’s what they tell me). For me that’s enough.

If you’d like to come and bend my ear about writing you are more than welcome. I’m also considering putting together a sort of combined digital & ‘real world’ writers support group in the town. I’m aware that there are a few such groups already but I figure it can’t hurt to have more support for writers, plus developing the digital angle would make it easier to stay in touch.

I’ll be in Fun Junction from 11 until around 3 or 4 (depending on how busy it is). If you would like to talk writing, please pop along for a chat. All the best, John

A new beginning

Karen (the cover illustrator) and I did an official/unofficial launch of the new cover for ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ a couple of days ago. It was great seeing the reactions on social media and I’ve been singing Karen’s praises since.

I thought I’d use this post to point out that the cover isn’t the only thing that’s changed. I’ve also spent a fair bit of time trying to shrink the book down a little. The font is still the same (hopefully easy to read) size, but I’ve edited the word count down a bit to make it easier for kids to get through a chapter.

The finished result should be a book with chapters that are just over two-thousand words long (Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone is about five-thousand a chapter) which should work well for children who are just past first chapter books (which are about a-thousand words per chapter). As a rule of thumb I’d say the starting age for readers will be about seven or eight years old. However, children as old as ten and eleven (and some big kids of unspecified age 😉 ) have said that they’ve enjoyed reading the books too.

It’s taken me a while to figure out readership. When I first wrote the books I was writing as a parent who reads books to his kids. I wanted a book that I would find meaty and enjoyable whilst being short enough per chapter to retain my son’s interest. With this in mind I told people that the books were for children aged five or six and up, and I’d say they’re still fine for that age, if you’re the one reading (though ‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of dreams is a little scarier than the first).

However, I’m coming to realise that my readership is starting to include an age group of readers who are a little older than my son and I’m finding this an odd experience. For starters I can only guess at what will keep them interested as I have no recent experience of which books appeal to an eight or nine year old. 

Here’s a check-list of things in book one (and a little beyond) that seem to have gone down well at book talks:

  • A girl who can turn into a polar bear (and who eventually learns some awesome magic) CHECK
  • A tiny man who can knock out a powerful Eldar with one kick (and who rides a ‘war chicken’) CHECK
  • A Granny who won’t think twice about slapping a bear of a man right across the face for mistreating animals CHECK
  • A boy who discovers more about himself and his family in three days than most people do in a lifetime CHECK

In talks in schools these things seem to always get a good response and so it’s been a tough job figuring out what subsequent books will involve. I don’t want things to become formulaic but at the same time I don’t want to ignore the ideas that have gone down well in the past. I like to think I’ve managed a decent balance by taking these characters and throwing them into the middle of two very odd situations in the next two books, (‘Spark of Dreams’ is a ‘zombie’ book, and ‘Children of Fate’ will be similar in tone to a disaster movie).

As I say, I like to think that these ideas have worked well for the most part (at least from what I’ve heard from readers) but I’m always interested to hear advice about the books and about what seems to be able to keep kids interested and entertained. I’m in the middle of editing the third (and fourth) book(s) at the moment so I genuinely value any feedback you might have. If you’d like to share your thoughts please take a second to add a comment below or over at the official facebook and twitter accounts. As always, thanks for reading, 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.

The Yuletide Thieves (A Christmas Adventure)

Christmas-Tree-Books-1Happy Christmas Eve everyone, or as people in Iceland call it ‘Jolabokaflod’ (or “The Christmas Book Flood”) where people give each other books as presents and you spend the rest of the day reading.

This sounded so great that I decided that today was the perfect day to publish “The Yuletide Thieves (A Fey Adventure)”. It’s based on characters designed by local children in the ‘design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition this summer. Here’s a link to the new book on Amazon (just click this link).

We follow a girl called Summer who loses something important to her on Christmas eve. What’s more, she’s not the only one losing special things. With the help of an ice dragon (called Jenny), an Elf (called Grace), and a strange boy called Sandy, Summer sets out to reunite everyone with what’s special to them at Christmas.

There isn’t print edition at the moment but I’ll be giving all profits from the sale of the Kindle book to Crieff Primary School.

1450919225617You can also sign up for a free trial of ‘Kindle Unlimited’ (click here) which will give you free access to a heap of different books AND you can read Kindle books on almost any device with apps and software available here. (Don’t forget that the other Jack Reusen books are currently available for Kindle and both a free for Kindle Unlimited members 🙂 )

Happy Jolabokaflod everyone, all the best, and Merry Christmas, from John

(Image credit for the cover image goes to http://s9.photobucket.com/user/Kassiah/media/SwoonyBoys/Christmas-Tree-Books-1.jpg.html)