Tag Archives: Jack Reusen

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)

Write all day and you will realize 5 things about yourself that you never knew

Rock_balancing_(Counter_Balance)NaNoWriMo is here again and some of you are probably tired of hearing about it. Trust me it’s tiring on the inside as well. This is my third National Novel Writing event and it marks the writing of my fifth book set in a world that started to take shape only a year ago.

In my last post I talked a about the new book and explained a little about the support that’s helped push me on to write so much in such a short space of time. To absolutely anyone who has bought Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame you have no idea how much it means to me, and for those of you who have picked up a copy of the sequel, consider yourselves responsible for the barrage of books that are about to erupt out into the world.

When you sell copies of your first book there’s always a little voice in the back of your mind that wonders if people are just being nice. When you start selling copies of the sequel it makes you wonder if maybe they really do like to read what you’ve written. Thank you for that.

Anyway, on with the five things I’ve learned through plunging myself into this surprisingly demanding eventy. Here are some things that my last two NaNoWriMos have taught me:

Resilience: When you skip a day of writing it’s easy to beat yourself up over it but this just wastes time and energy that you could use to make up for lost time the next day. The first NoNoWriMo opened up my eyes to the fact that blaming yourself for a slip is utterly pointless, it’s happened. You just need to get back at it.

Time management: This is essential for the completion of a task like NaNoWriMo. After a few slips you start to discover what caused the problem and the vast majority of the time it has a lot more to do with expecting too much of yourself in too small a time-frame. Just because you wrote 1000 words in an hour a few times don’t use that as your gauge for how long it will take you to write 1000 words. Some passages need careful thought, some need extensive research just to get a place or character name just the way you want it. This will take time, don’t short-change yourself on time. Set aside an hour and a half a day to begin with, if you struggle to meet your target word-count add more time, if you speed through with keys blazing you could save some time on editing by going back over it then and there. Be fluid in time allocation but be persistent in working.

Commitment: In the middle of November last year I started calling myself a writer and actually meaning it but I knew that I’d be talking nonsense if I couldn’t even finish my first book. It was like a promise I made every time I said ‘I’m a writer’. Builders build, bakers bake and writers write. It was suddenly that simple. If you’re writing now and want to finish what you started a good first step is to commit to the moniker, call yourself a writer and mean it.

Confidence: You start off cautious, then you get a few thousand words in and suddenly it’s time to tell the world. You write blog posts. You post updates on social media. You tell friends and family. Then you sit down and freak out because you feel like they’re all expecting more of you. To be honest they probably aren’t (this tallies up with the final thing on this list) but this doesn’t stop the fact that you’re writing, you’re really doing it. All of a sudden there’s a new part to your personality, and it feels pretty awesome.

Being humble: This one is hard, for all the celebration of being a ‘writer’ you still need to remember that despite all the hours of work you put in there’s a good chance that the passage that you wrote at 3am after a marathon 5000 word day probably isn’t your best work. When the month is over you’re going to have a lot of work to do, admit that, drop the ego, develop some humility, and make something that you can actually be proud of. At the end of the day, if you can’t admit the faults that you can see in your own work then deep down you’ll never be able to tell yourself that you’ve done your best.

I’ve mainly written this post with fellow NaNoWriMo participants in mind and I hope it helps a bit. As you go through this month you’ll need to dig deep and what you find there will surprise you, but trust me it is utterly, unequivocally worth it.

As always thanks for reading, please feel free to ask questions or pop down a comment in the comments section below. All the best, John

Staying on target

wpid-training_dummy_500.jpgToday I passed 12,000 words of ‘Thea’s Quest’. Chapter six is done and I’m close enough to my word-count target to feel fairly comfortable. It was a hard slog today (wrote almost 4,000 words) but I really feel like it was worth it.

It’s a lot of fun experimenting with what Thea will do in different situations, it’s telling me so much more about who she really is and what the tone of the other books in her series will have.

As I said in my previous post, I won’t have much time for blog posting during all the other writing madness this month but when things go right it’s nice to share. Hope you’re all well, and as always thanks for reading (and for stopping by). 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

And the winner is….

2015-08-21 15.39.35Last weekend, in conjunction with Fun Junction (and to tie in with the Crieff Arts Festival and the mini book festival that ran within it titled ‘Writers Live‘), I ran a ‘Design a Jack Reusen Character’ competition. All the entries had to be in by the end of the weekend and I’ve had a tricky job on my hands ever since.

Basically I liked so many of the entries I received that I decided to have three winners. The fourth book will be out in November, it’s a condensed chapter story set at Christmas time, and I’ve left space for a short story to fit in along side it. I’ll be starting work on the short story tonight but in the meantime I thought I’d share the winners’ artwork.

20150827135455058_0001Congratulations to Jenny, who’s already had a wee mention in the Acknowledgements in ‘Spark of Dreams’. Jenny even submitted a character description along with her picture so here it is:

“Name: Stormfly
What is it: Dragon
Qualities: Friendly, cold dragon. She breathes ice straight up into the sky to make snow storm clouds and tail whacks the ground and is as strong as an earthquake.”

I’m looking forward to seeing what ‘Stormfly’ gets up to in the story (though I may have to ask Jenny if I can give her a different name as she shares her name with Astrid’s dragon in ‘How to train Your Dragon’). I have to confess that I’ve been hunting for an excuse to put a dragon into Fey to see what happens, so thank you Jenny, I’m really excited about this one.

wpid-wp-1440709009452.gifNext, congratulations to Summer. Summer’s character didn’t have a name but I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the picture. I’m not sure how well this will come across in the image here but basically almost every part of this picture sparkles. The twinkling black sky and the girl in the shimmering party dress already have me setting out a wee starting scene on a frosty night in Fey. Thank you Summer.

20150827135514242_0001Finally congratulations to Grace for her ’10 eyed monster’. I’ve a feeling that this guy is going to have an interesting role to play in the story. My first thoughts picture him living deep in a cave. He comes across as scary and I don’t want to lose that so I’ll need to think hard about what he’ll be up to, in what will basically be a Christmas story. Every good story needs some conflict and I think the ten eyed monster will be just the ticket. Thank you Grace.

It’s going to take me a wee while to get this story drafted up but I’ll be sure to post it on here when it’s ready and it will also be available in print in November. Of course it wouldn’t be fair to ask the contributors to buy a copy so I’ll be sure to set aside a free copy for each of them that they can get hold of before they appear on the shelves.

I’ll contact the winners shortly and will hopefully have their story ready for them in the next few weeks but in the meantime I’d like to ask people to give them a big social media round of applause with likes or favourites on their pictures (you can find them by clicking this link for facebook and this, this, and this link for twitter). As always thanks for reading, all the best, John