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Rereading

Rereading the books you loved before …

I have a wishlist the size of … well, what’s that’s saying? How long is a piece of string? Seriously, i probably have somewhere between 100 and 150 books on my Amazon wishlist alone. I also have a handwritten list in my filing cabinet.

And … new books are released every week! Lots of them! Can you believe it? I often wander down the book aisles of supermarkets and nip into Waterstones whenever I am in a city that has one just to see the books. There’s always at least one that catches my eye. I will usually take a photo with my phone and then add it to my wishlist or investigate the author further when I get back home.
tbr-pile

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I have plenty of books to be getting on with. That’s a given right? Every book lover knows what I’m talking about. That dreaded TBR PILE (to be read). You could have a thousand books to read and we bookworms will see a book, smell it, and then possibly buy it. It’s a genuine condition; I wonder if any author has ever written about TBR that have gotten out of hand? – RL Stine, possibly Goosebumps idea there.

So why am I being haunted by books I’ve already read. They are done … dusted … they gave me enjoyment … I have fond memories, but new books are calling me. They are lonely and need me as their friend.

I’ll stop with the silly talk now, I promise.

Although, seriously, I can’t stop thinking about books I’ve already read. Every year, on average, I usually reread two books I’ve already read. I get this impulse to reread a fantastic book that I want to re-live all over again.

But this year is different. I can’t stop mulling next to my bookcase and picking out brilliant books I loved and wanting to read them all over again. And while that isn’t really a problem – books are supposed to be loved and reread, but what am I to do with my TBR pile? I’ve got books on order at the library.

Books are universal, I know that. They stand the test of time – especially if they have memorable characters and amazing storylines. At the end of last year (2016) and creeping into January, I already reread Dionne Lister’s new dark fantasy opener Tempering the Rose in anticipation of the next instalment coming out very soon. But I’m already rereading another book at the moment (The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan). AND I’ve picked out the next few books I want to reread too. Namely Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher (which subsequently inspired my short story Ana’s Trial), as well as Sharon Sant’s YA debut Sky Song.

Where do I start? I don’t want to miss the new releases by and fall behind. I’m desperate to read some of them. Especially some of the ones releasing very soon. Perhaps I should take a week ‘sick’ and drag my fridge into the living room, setting up shop so I don’t have to lug my fat ass off the settee. I could read all day every day for a week and satisfy this strange, weird impulse I’ve been having.

What I want to know is: Do you ever get the impulse to reread books you loved? Even when you are in the middle of perfectly enjoyable books already.

The Golden Lyre Out Now

Release Date is finally here!!

BREAKING NEWS

The Golden Lyre is out now!The whole point of having a trilogy is, you know, writing one. Despite a few setbacks, The Golden Lyre is now available. It is Book 2 in my fantasy The Black Petal trilogy, with The Black Petal being the first. A paperback release is just around the corner too for those of you that love a physical book to hold. I will of course update you guys when it is out there in the world.

If you haven’t read the first book then do not worry. You can purchase it right here, or if you don’t mind, there is a ‘Story So Far‘ section at the beginning of The Golden Lyre.

The Black Petal was just the beginning. Choices need to be made.

The Seriburg Wastelands smoulder with ash, destruction, and bodies …

But two bodies stir beneath a phoenix. With all hope of getting home lost, Jack and Blake must learn to get along, to embrace their shared soul. Tricked by an oracle, Jack feels betrayed and embarrassed. Blake doesn’t know how he feels. And Lucia is dead.

Or is she?

When a mysterious bottle reveals a message for Jack, he puts all notion of returning home aside. The Underworld beckons, with its crypts and cells and tortured souls. But if Lucia can be rescued, surely Jack must do all he can? Eliza the gypsy is still intent on creating her own army of gods; should Jack ignore the whispers or find a way to stop the deranged outcast?

The Golden Lyre expands upon the mythological universe of The Black Petal. Meet new heroes and villains, battle past three-headed sea monsters and stand up to the malicious Warden of Hades. You never know, old friends may resurface.

ebook: Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Apple iBooks

Paperback: TBC

I really hope those of you that read it will enjoy it. I’ve packed it full of mythology, and there’s plenty of action bits in too. You really will be taken on a whirlwind adventure: battling three-headed sea monsters, capturing Gods, being in a slave auction, oh … and venturing down into the Underworld too.

HAVE FUN!

More exciting news to come later, so stick with me folks. And a huge thank you to my new subscribers. Stay safe,

Dan

Q & A with Jack Croxall – #AnchorLegBook

Bestselling author Jack Croxall talks space, Anchor Leg, and LGBT fiction

For those of you that don’t know, I am a huge fan of fellow UK author, Jack Croxall. He’s a fab writer. I often chat with him on twitter, but today, lucky people, I managed to pester him with my questions about his new science fiction thriller Anchor Leg. And no I am certainly NOT jealous that he has a million more twitter followers than me. I was one of the lucky people to get an early read. I was honoured to be asked, and of course I loved the book. It’s such a different direction than his other works; it’s a brave one, but he pulls it off brilliantly.

Anchor Leg Cover.jpg

‘I toss my knife out into space. It doesn’t matter, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.’

Humanity has spilled out into the solar system, into a succession of giant space stations known as the Relay. Seren Temples is a security apprentice running the Relay’s Anchor Leg. Her ship forced off course, sensors detect an automated distress signal. The ship responsible for the signal is a zero-G graveyard. Inside its vast hold, nothing but a single vial of frozen blood.

Anchor Leg is a sci-fi thriller from Jack Croxall, author of Wye.

I know you are wanting to hear more about Anchor Leg so here are my questions for Jack.

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Jack Croxall

It’s been a while since we last heard from you. What have you been up to?

Writing, writing and more writing! I’ve been busy trying to get a handful of projects off the ground, I cameoed in a spooky short film you can watch here, and, of course, I wrote Anchor Leg.

Tell us a little about Anchor Leg.

Anchor Leg is a sci-fi thriller. It follows Seren Temples as her vessel finds a wrecked ship floating over a tiny moon in Saturn’s orbit. Seren is part of her vessel’s security team so she’s sent aboard to investigate. Needless to say, what she finds is all kinds of sinister.

Your previous books (Wye and Tethers) were written for a YA audience. What made you try something aimed at older readers and what surprised you the most about it?

I’ve always loved sci-fi books/films and so I think I just wanted to have a stab at the genre. I suppose I could have gone for a more YA vibe but the story that came to me was very different to what you would typically find in a YA novel. Some of the characters that Seren interacts with, it would have felt wrong to rein them in. Equally, there were themes I wanted to explore that aren’t usually found in YA books. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the sci-fi genre though and the thing that’s surprised me most about it is that I’m keen to do it again. Usually after I’ve told a story in one genre I want to move onto something else immediately!

Seren Temples is a rookie aboard the ship. What is your main character like and why do you think readers will warm to her?

Seren Temples is a girl running away from Earth. Her instinct is to get as far away from what she hates as possible and I think we can all relate to that. However, what is most interesting about Seren (for me at least) is that she’s chosen a life with clear parallels to where she’s come from. A part of her wants to face what’s happened and through the course of the story events conspire to give her the chance to do just that.

I noticed the love arc in the story involving Seren and another female crew member. It’s a brave move having a lesbian main character. Was this something you instinctively knew about Seren from the beginning or did it come about later?

I definitely want to take conscious steps to make my stories more representative but, yes, Seren was always going to be gay. One of the first scenes I had in mind was Seren exploring part of her ship with Abril and I could sense there was romantic tension. I also knew this wasn’t a story about Seren discovering her sexuality; Seren already knew she was gay. This is a sci-fi story where the main character just happens to be gay. I really enjoyed writing Seren and I hope I did justice to that aspect of her characterisation.

What research did you undertake to make Anchor Leg as realistic and as inrelay-map-2 depth as possible?

In a word, lots! Everything had to be fact checked, from background radiation levels to how performing everyday tasks in zero-G would work. Luckily, I know another sci-fi writer (Steve Caddy, author of the excellent In Exchange) who knows a great deal more about our solar system and the mechanics of space than I do. His assistance was invaluable. During one early edit he pointed out that I’d made an entire planet the wrong shape – I didn’t even know planets could be different shapes!

Tell us a little about your writing process during Anchor Leg. Did you make a plan beforehand or did you get stuck right in?

I jumped in and wrote a few chapters but I soon realised I needed a plan. I was building a whole new world of habitations around our solar system (the Relay) and I needed a map of that to stay on track. I also needed a map of Seren’s ship and I had to do a lot of doodling to get some of the futuristic tech I invented clear in my mind. This has definitely been the most work I have ever put into one of my stories!

What do you think readers should (and will) take from the book?

The book explores the growing tension between Earth’s population and the population living in the giant habitable space stations that make up the Relay. Even though everyone is human (no aliens in Anchor Leg) the two factions are becoming increasingly suspicious of and aggressive towards one another. 2016 was a strange year and it almost feels as though some societies are more inward-looking than ever. The future I depict in Anchor Leg is not a pleasant one. If humankind doesn’t start sharing resources, tech and knowledge, if we keep looking out for number one and treating other people as the enemy, I honestly feel a future like the one in Anchor Leg is on its way. If readers take one thing from the book I hope it’s that we need to be more outward-looking, more inclusive on a global scale. We need to be less prejudiced and more mindful of what we could become if we’re not careful.

If you were aboard the ship, what area would you fit in to? Who would you befriend and how do you think you would react when the ship comes across the seemingly abandoned Scylla?

That is a great question! I think I would probably work in Horticulture, growing lots of nice food for everyone (I love gardening). I would definitely try and befriend Bakalar, head of Security, because I’d need someone to look out for me. However, when news of the Scylla came through I doubt I’d be volunteering for the rescues mission. I’d probably be a wimp and stick with my tomato plants!

Any Last Words?

Thank you for having me on your site, Dan!

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For those of you interested in finding out more about Jack and his work you can head on over to his website, or tweet him via @JackCroxall. Anchor Leg is an Amazon exclusive release and is available for kindle worldwide.

More Time For Writing

New Year New Beginnings – Making more time for writing

2017-animation-red-glitter2017 is here people! It came by so quickly. If you’d blinked you would have missed it. I actually fell asleep on the settee at 11pm – which makes me officially boring responsible as I had work the following day. 2016 hasn’t been the year most people wanted – I for one let it slip by without much progress. There were too many excuses at hand. I was tired, I was busy, I was working the ‘day job’, Brexit … let’s not go there shall we?

I haven’t set myself new year’s resolutions as such, but I have put a plan in place to give myself a kick up the backside and get back into a fluent, smooth writing process. 2016 was the year for writing in dribs and drabs, writing only when I felt like it. This year I will force myself to try new things and write like a writer should.

And hopefully I want you guys to do the same. Because writers should be doing exactly that – WRITING.

 

I know what you are thinking – I do. Time is the bane of every writer. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. We could all band together and suggest inventing an extra two hours a day on Dragon’s Den or something. A 26 hour day; how does that sound? But short of that we need to use the extra oomph and spirit we all seem to get at the beginning of the year and put it to good use.

We need a plan.

I’ve made a plan. I have, honest. And it goes a little something like this:

  • Set the alarm early – an extra 1 hour 30 mins to be precise.
  • Set another alarm for exactly two mins after that, because I was the reason the snooze button was invented.
  • Make coffee, turn on computer, and sit bum on chair.
  • Write for exactly 1 hour – do not do a word count. It’s counterproductive.

And there we go. Simple, right? I know!

writing-checklist-216x300I realised that I am not an ‘after work’ writer. What I mean by this is that I am so tired after work I feel as if I wouldn’t be able to write productively. And mirroring that, I am not a morning person either. But once I’ve had a coffee I can function – I’m good to go. I give myself roughly 15 – 20 minutes to roll out of bed and get myself that coffee. Once they are under control, I really am good to go. I have a quick read of what I did the previous day … you know, to get myself back into the groove. I crack my knuckles, I really do. I then type.

I know you know what I’m getting at here. We writers tend to make every excuse in the book, but deep down we realise that to get writing we need to make time to write. The excuses need to stop.

If you write better in the evening, put the kids to bed and put aside that hour to write. The washing up can wait until the morning. If you are a morning person, set that alarm early and get writing. If you write on a laptop take it upstairs with you before bed so it is ready for you in the morning. Put it on your bedside cabinet or just underneath the bed so it can be easily reached – that way you can trick yourself that you’re not really getting out of bed.

DO NOT CHECK SOCIAL MEDIA

 

This is really important. Banish it. Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, whatever the new craze will be this year – do not go on it until the hour is up. You can easily set another alarm for when the hour is up. Trust me, the cute cat videos and the funny kid swearing at her parents video can wait. If you love social media, that can be your reward for completing the hour.

social-buster

What do you need to do to get writing? Huge complicated plans aren’t necessary. Hell, plans tend to take all your effort and you don’t end up sticking to the bloomin’ thing anyway. See mine above? It’s simple and it’s all you really need.

What is getting in your way? Do you socialise in the evening or spend time with your loved one? Tell them your passions and dreams of being a writer, of completing that first novel, of a brand new idea that sure to be the one. Let them see what it means to you and explain that they’ll have to wait for that one hour a night. If they love you and support you they’ll happily leave you alone.

Have writers’ block? I’m afraid we’ve all been there. But again … there is only one simple solution. You have to write yourself out of the block. If it’s rubbish, full of errors, and not really coherent, it doesn’t matter. It’s a process. It’s a way of getting you from A to B. You can flesh it out later. You can fix the grammar and the spelling mistakes later. You need to free your mind and just write. Ideas flow from writing – I mean hell, I suddenly think of brand new ideas and other fabby things while I’m in the middle of writing something else. I simply have to push it aside and tell it to wait.

Stay strong with the new routine. If like me you are going to set an alarm early, well, it will be difficult. Your body will want sleep. After the first couple of sessions you’ll start to feel the extra push. But STAY STRONG. STICK WITH IT. I mean the first week could be enough to make you cry and revert back, but it will get easier. The writing will come. Your mind will wake quicker, your ideas and plan will be easier to express without struggling to think of how to phrase this sentence or word.

And at the end of the month, or the end of three months, or even a year … you’ll have a first draft. An odd, clumsy, error strewn first draft. But a first draft nonetheless that you can shower with love. You can nourish each chapter with knowledge of what follows.

Make 2017 the year you change the excuses into a proactive routine. I believe you can do it. Be sure to let me know your goals and ways to improve your writing 2017. You can tweet me @dan_pentagram 

It’s the End of the Year

Insert ‘New Year New Me’ ramblings. No seriously. I need to start again.

This is the time where most people start to think about what they’ve achieved this year, and then what goals they want to set for the year to come. Lose weight, learn something new – possibly a new language, be more positive, spend more time with family … enjoying life; these are some of the things common to a lot of people.

2016 has been an up and down year for me, as I assume it has for many people. A lot has happened in the world: Brexit here in the UK, Trump beating the odds and becoming president-elect in the US are but two big news events that have soured most of us. On a personal level, and more importantly, on a writing level, I’ve not accomplished what I wanted to. I went through a tough time of hating writing and despising the words I did write.

I started a brand new project and managed to get about 10,000 words into it before deleting the whole thing. That wasn’t a happy time. I focused too much of my energy and time on the negatives of 2016. What I should have been doing was focusing on the positives.

Of course my two short stories were released – Ana’s Trial and Hatred. Hidden. I actually sold more books this year than any other year, which was fantastic. I really enjoyed writing about Ana and her father. I’ve had a few messages of support from readers who would love a much longer novel about Ana. And of course, Hatred. Hidden. was an old short story reworked and the praise received has been such a relief. It was always one of my strongest short stories to feature in The Caseworker’s Memoirs.

So what does 2017 look like for me?

Well I plan on making some changes to my routine which I’ll blog about at a later date. I’ll also be featuring in my first ever vlog – and oh yes, the sequel release. How could I forget to mention that? If you enjoyed my 2015 YA fantasy novel The Black Petal, the second instalment in the trilogy, The Golden Lyre, will be released in February.

I hope you guys all have a fantastic Christmas or holiday. Share some of your pics to me on Twitter! I’d love to see them. Stay safe too. And look out for stray donkeys … I’ve heard they can be pretty dangerous when they’re hungry. You may look like a carrot – I’m certain they don’t see in colour.

I <3 Twitter

Have we all become lazy when replying to someone on Twitter?

Upon checking my email today I discovered a new blog post by crime writer Rebecca Bradley. You should definitely head on over and check out Rebecca’s fab blog – it’s all things crime and murder and gritty storytelling. Anyway, her most recent blog post talks about the the ‘heart’ function for ‘liking’ a tweet.

And it got me thinking.

To be honest, I did notice that you used to star tweets if you liked them, and now you heart them, but I never really thought much about why it changed. That whole thing passed me by, but according to Rebecca, a lot of people weren’t happy about the change. Possibly because the heart symbol does symbolise romance and love.

But that isn’t what took me by surprise. What did was how Rebecca admits to ‘hearting’ tweets as a response to someone who has tweeted them.

But, I fell into the trap, for a while, of using it randomly for the other things. For saying thank you, for ending conversations, for liking what someone said to me. And I’ve realised, as I realised last week in this post about wanting Twitter to be more sociable, that I was just being lazy. Why couldn’t I tweet the words, Thank you, or That’s great!, or Congrats! Wasn’t that what Twitter was for? To be able to converse in short snappy sentences? That was the point of the 140 character limit, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that why we loved it and signed up in our droves? Now we’re getting lazy and not even finishing conversations properly.

I Heart You Twitter – Rebecca Bradley

Do you know what? Rebecca is absolutely right! We have become lazy. I do exactly what she says above. Instead of saying thank you or replying to something nice someone has tweeted to me, I ‘heart’ it instead. I’ve never given it a single thought until after reading Rebecca’s post. And you know what – it made me feel guilty that I may have offended somebody by ‘ignoring’ them with words.

I may slip occasionally, but from now on I will try my utter best to reply in words alongside hearting a tweet.

What about you guys, have you become lazy? If you don’t follow me on twitter, come and join me @dan_pentagram

Snow #WinterIsHere

snow-msSo I’ve been reading Snow by Marcus Sedgwick (Little Toller Books, 2016) and it’s got me thinking about snow … a lot. OK, so yes, I am a huge fan of Sedgwick’s YA work – The Book of Dead DaysSnow White Blood Red, and The Ghosts of Heaven to name just a few. But it has been a while since I’ve read nonfiction. And this title popped up on my Amazon page and I thought: Why not?

It’s a good book. A short read, but very interesting and very informative. I’ve learned things I never knew about snow. It gets you thinking more about the different types of snow and of how snow has appeared in the Arts throughout history. I’d definitely recommend it if nature and science are your kind of thing. The Snow on Snow artwork by artist Peter Brook is also effective.

I guess more than anything though was this little passage here. It struck home to me thoughts I’d been having for a few years, but didn’t have the knowledge or statistics to back them up.

” … it’s impossible to avoid a matter about which the scientific community has had much to say … the changing nature of our climate. There seemed to be more snow in my childhood … But were the winters worse then?”

Were the winters worse then? Sedgwick is older than me by almost twenty years, but despite this, I have thought for a while that there seems to be less snow around than when I was eight or nine. I remember running off to a nearby park, throwing snowballs at my friends, swiping the thick layers of the cold stuff off the swing seats, as well as seeing who could hold onto the roundabout the longest without sliding off – don’t worry, the snow cushioned us all. We would wear gloves that seemed to only make the cold worse; soaking up the snow as it melted and freezing our little fingers off.

Snowmen competitions in the street were also a much enjoyed pastime. Raiding the fridge for carrots to stick in the faces an almost covert operation as we didn’t want our mothers to know what we were up to.

“What you up to?”

“Nothing.”

“What you got in your hand?”

“Nothing.”

“Show me.”

Shows carrot.

“Put that back where you got it from.”

“But … why?”

“Because I said so.”

Seriously though, there seems to be much less snow nowadays. This book has got me thinking about what my daughter is possibly missing out on. She’s a few days shy of eight herself and I don’t think she’s ever been out to play in snow – not the thick amount of snow that used to fall when I was her age. She hasn’t experienced the magic of it, the pureness of it. Nature has a way of adding to your creativity. Games were much more creative when the ground was blanketed in the stuff.

It also seems that it will snow later now (or earlier in the year depending on how you look on it). Snow was a friend that usually showed up unannounced in December time. Now you’ll be lucky if any come down before late January. Do betting shops even take bets now for a white Christmas?

I’m not nearly educated enough to talk at length about climate change and whether or not this is why there seems to be less snow around, but I think it would be foolish for anybody to ignore that it could possibly be a heavy factor. With Earth’s temperature always rising, will there ever be a time when snow becomes extinct? A thing of the past?

Of course it’s naive to ignore how much of a nuisance snow is for adults, but putting the roads and the services and the damage snow causes aside for a moment, revert back to your child, innocent mind for just a moment. I think I miss how I saw snow when I was a kid. Snow was magical, it was a symbol of what was to come. Snow meant missing days of school and just losing yourself in the fluffiness of it. None of us cared that our gloves and clothes were soaked. None of us cared you couldn’t watch out for dog mess on the ground. Because snow, for a while anyway, closeted everything in its shroud. The world seemed to stop for snow and that was great.

If it snowed tomorrow I would layer up the clothes, put on a hat, and go and chuck myself in it. I’d lay there, look up into the sky and breathe in the silence only snow can offer. Snow is a beautiful thing. We should savour it in case it does go away and never comes back.

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