Tag Archives: Jack Reusen

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

Crieff Arts festival (Crieff Literary festival?)

crieff arts festivalI’ve just been asked to join an event at the Crieff Arts Festival on 22nd of August. By the sounds of it I’ll be first in a solid line-up of local authors and poets; starting at 10:30am with myself and culminating with one of our best known authors; Helen Grant. I’ll add the names of other authors and poets on here once I know more.

Helen has posted her own description of the arts festival, and what she’ll be up to, over on her blog if you fancy getting a bit of an insight (here’s the link). As for me I haven’t really decided what to do yet. The most obvious will be a reading but there’s a chance that there might be a few readers of the books along for the talk so I might split the talk between reading excerpts and answering questions.

My kids quite often get impromptu stories fresh out of my mind (some of them set in Fey) for bed-time but I’m not sure if I’m confident enough to do the same thing in front of a crowd just yet. Jess Smith (one of the other authors who will be talking at the event) is a live storyteller and I really admire anyone who can do what live storytellers do, there’s something really absorbing about that kind of storytelling. I don’t think this will be my storyteller début somehow, I’ll wait and see.

If you’ll be in the Crieff on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd and fancy popping along to hear me blether away about Jack and Thea, and read a wee snippet from one (or more) of the books, then pop along to the Strathearn Artspace on the 22nd of August at 10am (that’s when doors open, my talk will be at 10:30). Hope to see you then, all the best, John

Where worlds are made

251One question that I heard a lot while doing book talks was something I hadn’t been expecting. So many children were interested to know where I wrote. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised how valid a question it was. Why wouldn’t you want to know about a small portion of the planet in which someone had decided to craft their own world.

This reminded me of an interview I saw years ago with Roald Dahl. I think it was on Blue Peter or something like that. They went into his writing workshop which was actually a shed in his back garden. If I can find it I’ll leave a video at the bottom of this post. He seemed so comfortable, and clearly had an unwavering set of habits he used to ensure that he was productive in his writing.

In a way that seems peculiar in itself; a fixed routine and an exacting approach to his writing environment allowed his mind to create such a mind-boggling array of radically different stories as ‘The BFG’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Danny the champion of the World’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, and so many more.

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas

Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

It turns out that there are a number of writers who like to write in sheds and outhouses. Unfortunately I’m not one of them yet; my garden is too small and I don’t own a shed. But above is a selection of famous sheds (nabbed from an article in the Guardian).

wpid-imag1669_1.jpgAfter that distinguished list here is a picture, for anyone who is interested, of the place where Jack Reusen and his friends came to be. I’ve left it in its natural state: laptop, cup of tea, and chocolate all of which are essential for my writing (though I have been known to forego the laptop).

More NaNoWriMo tonight so I won’t be leaving a particularly long post. If you’d like to ask me any questions about the books, or characters, or about writing in general, please feel free to leave comments here, on Facebook, or on the Twitter account. As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

I found the Roald Dahl video on youtube but it was taken down, so here’s a different one that still shows the inside of his hut. The thing I like most about this video is that it shows that even the best of us procrastinate (in fact Roald Dahl seems to have perfected the art):

The woods in the cabin

stair-type-diagonal-concrete-and-glass-house-18-thumb-970xauto-28307I’ve been asked a few times about Mick’s cabin. It’s described it as having the wood growing out of it and I imagined a really natural feel to the whole place. In my mind I wanted to give the impression that Mick had camped in the woods and then just decided to just extend his stay indefinitely.

I didn’t really imagine Mick’s cabin being so modern but this one is still really cool. You can click through on the link (just click the image) to see more pictures of this amazing home.

Ordinarily a writer would research these sorts of pictures before writing but I already had a pretty clear image in my mind when I started. All the same it’s nice (and a bit weird) to be able to find pictures that feel like they’ve somehow poured out of the books. I hadn’t really expected something like Mick’s cabin to be real.

595643074d2041dd79504696786e89b8The open fire is one of my favourite mental pictures; thinking of Sparky napping on a thick cosy rug beside the fire while the others discuss their plans. I found this image and instantly thought it captured the feel of that part of Mick’s cabin, even though I pictured a chimney hanging above it it’s still amazingly close to what I had in my head.

Other than that there was the tricky issue of how to deal with trees inside a home. These images are pretty close to what I was thinking.

living-the-highlife-adults-treehouse-5-photo-080601010521oWhen I thought of trees growing everywhere one of the more unusual things was how a kitchen would work with branches in the way. This picture is very similar to the idea I had for Mick’s kitchen and it’s nice and neat (no banging your head while you make a coffee) whilst feeling really natural. This is a good match for the site of Fynn’s growing coffee addiction and Tam’s (slightly aggressive) introduction. By the way the link I’ve attached to the image file takes you to a really cool page about ‘grown-up’ tree houses (it’s well worth a look).

Here are some more ‘forest in the cabin’ pictures from the moonworkshome site. Just to close off this wee post. Let me know if this is similar to what you pictured when reading the books. All the best, John

castle-in-the-trees-photo-5-photo-080601002142o 47ab3092929974b6b992420bd40cecf2

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

Write your book at a virtual writers camp

camp_logo-290f133f1af2562198f3a75b662feb03In just a few days I, and thousands of others, will embark on the beginnings of a mindboggling cacophony of stories. July is the month for Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you pledge a word goal and a genre and then look forward to the weirdly competitive edge that your writing has been missing.

I say ‘weirdly competitive’ because there’s no sole winner, and you find yourself routing for precisely the people who are doing better than you. In a slightly masochistic way, you’ll find yourself enjoying the successes of those who challenge you challenge you the most. As you push yourself to smash your daily recommended word count, there they are, always a couple of hundred words ahead, but without them you’ll drop back to a hundred and fifty words a day with an ‘at least it’s something’.

NaNoWriMo gives you results; do it right and you’ll finish the month with a solid, real, piece of work but it doesn’t work without a couple of ‘spotters’. Thank goodness it’s virtual, allowing you match your wits with people on other continents just as easily as you can with someone you can meet with for a coffee and a ‘word sprint’ (where you write as much as you can in a set period of time, basically racing each other). I already have a friend in the states set to join me on the adventure, and I welcome any other writers or would-be writers who fancy getting that book finished once and for all.

Please consider signing up, it’s a genuine rush watching that word count go up by significant leaps each day. It’s the movement that pushed me on to launch the Jack Reusen series, and absolutely anyone can do it. Sign up in readiness here, set your word count goal, pick your genre (by no means does it have to be a children’s book) and get cracking. Honestly, if you do it right you will have that first draft done by August.

If you fancy some support along the way, feel free to follow and chat to me on my personal Twitter account. I look forward to sharing the highs and lows of writing a book with whomever of you feels up to it. 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.

Comrie Primary

image

Today I was at Comrie Primary School for a book talk. It was lovely to revisit my first primary school, and odd to see how different the school looks now I’m not four feet tall.

By the sounds of it there are a good few budding authors among Comrie Primary’s pupils and they had a lot of interesting (and some very practical questions) about writing.

That’s the fun thing about these kinds of events. Aside from getting a bit of feedback on my writing, these talks definitely help me build self-awareness as an author.

How do you make a character? Why do you write in this genre? What should someone do to become an author?

It’s tough sometimes; some of these questions are relatively easy to answer, yet I feel a little under-qualified to answer others.

What do I do if I want to be a writer? I was tempted to answer ‘you write’ but that’s too glib (and dangerously close to sarcastic) an answer for a budding young writer. The truth is that there doesn’t seem to be one way to ‘be a writer’ but even that would be an unsatisfying answer.

Instead we got into discussing some surprisingly practical elements of the writing process: from sentence structure and grammar, to royalties and the earning potential of writing. It was a surprisingly thorough discussion to be having with primary school children.

I’ve just been informed that the pupils have decided to create illustrations of some of the characters from the book. I look forward to seeing the results and will hopefully get a chance to share them on here if I can.

Of course; if you know any children who have read the book(s) and who feel like sending in pictures of characters these are more than welcome (adults can send things in too if they like).

I love doing school talks so if you’d like me to come to your school please get in touch and we can try and arrange something.

As always, thanks for reading, all the best, John

Some summer holiday reading

Kindle_UnlimitedIf you have a kindle (or something that can run the kindle reader app) then you can get hold of both of the Jack Reusen books (and a whole heap of books by other authors too) by signing up to a month’s free trial of Kindle Unlimited over at Amazon, here’s the link.

Once you’ve signed up you’ll see that both of the Jack Reusen books come up as free, so you can read the whole adventure so far, for nothing.

Jack Reusen and The Fey Flame‘ introduces you to the land of Fey, as creatures (and other things) make their way through to the ‘matter-world’ (basically our world). Jack and his family have to discover a way of closing a collection of ‘breaches’ between the two worlds to make their world safe again.

‘Jack Reusen and the Spark of Dreams‘ is a slightly different kind of cover with blurb and barcode 2 trimmedadventure. People are losing their ability to dream. Every night more and more people lose the certain something that makes human beings so good at solving problems and creating things; the spark of dreams. Jack discovers that he could be the key to understanding what’s causing this change, and he may even be the only person who can solve it and bring back the dreams and imaginations of hundreds of people.

I hope that both of the Jack Reusen books give you and/or your kids something to enjoy over the summer holidays. Let me know what you think, all the best, John

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