|I remember my school always took World Book Day super seriously. We had events like dressing up as your favourite book character and having prizes for the best one (which was always someone dressed as The Cat in the Hat). I vaguely remember dressing up as Black Beauty, never telling anyone that I had only seen the films and have never read the book, and having a tail awkwardly shoved down my trousers all day. Perhaps this sparked my interest in cosplay.
I also remember every school child in Britain got a book coupon to use on World Book Day, which I usually put towards pony books (are you noticing what kind of child I was?). I don’t know if they still do this, but I hope they do.
As somewhat of a throwback to these memories, my book Traitor’s Revenge is free on Amazon until Saturday. You don’t even need a book token or to cosplay as Black Beauty.
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I was going through an old draft and found this deleted scene I thought readers would like. I initially introduced Shiro and his pet otter Kappa earlier and explained in more detail where he came from.
“Mum, look what I got with my share!” Marina’s voice appeared behind them. Alethea turned to see her daughter. She shared her mother’s thin face and dark hair, although hers was cut short and worn loosely rather than the bun which Alethea preferred. But she had her father’s thoughtful forest green eyes. Now that she was getting closer to adulthood, the resemblance was even stronger, Alethea always thought wistfully. But she was snapped out of her thoughts when she remembered that she was angry with her.
“Where have you been? It’s madness out there.”
“I was only buying a book,” Marina said with a scowl, showing her the title of her new purchase.
“Leif Erikson and the Golden Sea,” Alethea read the title.
“It’s a first edition. It was the last one in the shop,” Marina said.
“This was your father’s favourite book, too,” Alethea said, taking the book and running her hand over the cover.
“Really?” Marina said, her eyebrows raised.
“Yes. We didn’t think much of the opera version, though. The Vikings of Vyborg is much better.”
“Oh look at me, I’m going to the opera!” the teasing voice of Rico Hernández, the Barracuda’s gun master, came as the Hispanic man slid down the flank of the boat to land next to them. “I grew up drinking expensive wine from golden cups and hunting pheasants while riding side saddle,” he said in a mocking British accent.
“Do you think I grew up in the Middle Ages?” Alethea asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Who grew up in the Middle Ages? Are you talking about my village?” Asked Shirokani, the boatswain, as he joined the others.
“It’s nothing. Rico’s being an arse again,” Kei said.
“Right, same as usual,” said Shirokani.
“Shiro, why is your tunic moving?” Rico asked, eyeing Shiro’s chest.
“What? No it’s not…” Shiro said, gripping his tunic, which now that Alethea looked closer, did appear to have something moving underneath it.
“Yes, it is. Is there something inside of you about to burst out?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Shiro said, turning red, before a tiny furry head poked out from the top of his tunic.
“Oh, it’s so cute!” Marina almost screamed as she leant an arm out to stroke the fuzzy creature.
“Be careful, he’s only a baby. He still bites,” Shiro said, drawing out the baby sea otter, no bigger than his palm, out from his tunic to allow Marina to find a safe spot to pet him. Alethea noticed that there were already several bright red bite marks on Shiro’s fingers.
“Seriously? Another one?” Rico groaned. This wasn’t the first time that Shiro had adopted a baby animal. In the two years he’d been on the Barracuda, he’d already adopted a cat, a turtle, and a squirrel. Rico slept in the bunk next to Shiro, and wasn’t always happy about it.
“I had to! He was about to be sold to fur traders. I couldn’t let that happen to little Kappa,” Shiro said, gently stroking the otter’s head.
“It’s a legend from my home. I had a dream that I met a kappa when I was little. Wait…was that a dream?”
“You can adopt as many pets as you want, so long as you don’t bring a parrot onboard,” Alethea said.
“What is with you and parrots?” Kei laughed. Alethea had never told anybody about Redscalp’s parrot and how much she’d hated it.
“Anyway, I suppose you’ve all heard by now,” Alethea said.
“I think everyone from here to Pacifica will have heard by now,” Kei replied, looking out to the dozens of ships which were already exploding out the pods, almost crashing into each other as they headed out in every direction like children on an Easter egg hunt.
“Meeting in the galley,” Alethea ordered.
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It’s here, the blurb for the second Tales From Undersea book, titled Stealing From Thieves:
Pirates rule the ocean. Money rules the world.
In an alternate 18th century, Captain Alethea is desperate to live up to her position on her Pirate submarine, the Barracuda, by chasing down the Vikings of the Fenrir to reclaim the treasure her crew went to hell and back to uncover on a previous mission. So far, Alethea has only succeeded in getting her crew clobbered by the Fenrir’s new chieftain, Inoki Kekoa, and stoking their frustration and distrust in her.
Chieftain Inoki has his own reasons for holding onto the treasure so fiercely. It is his only way of securing a life of freedom away from the colonising Empire which invaded his home and drove him and his husband Undersea.
Captain Alethea has a new idea – ask for help from the Pirate Queen. But the Queen has a different mission for them. They must go undercover as upstanding citizens to steal a priceless necklace. But if they fail, they’ll be kicked out of the Pirate faction and left with nothing. Will the Barracuda crew find their treasure, or will they lose their freedom?
The second book in the Tales From Undersea series dives deeper into the cutthroat world of sea monsters, forbidden romance, and train hijacking bandits.
This book will be coming out around June 2021.
|The first Tales From Undersea book, Traitor’s Revenge, is on sale for only 99 cents (or the equivalent in your local currency) on Amazon until Tuesday. Unlike last time, this deal will be available on all the Amazon sites where the book is on sale, not just the US or UK. Just click on the link on the right hand side to go to your local Amazon store. Click the book cover below to access the sale.|
There are many reasons to write: Money, pleasure, revenge, or preferably all three. On top of these, one of the reasons I write is for the sake of my mental health.
I started the first book in what would turn into the Tales from Undersea series in 2017, about a year after I went through a period of severe depression. I won’t go into the details, but I’m a British immigrant living in an EU country, so you can probably figure out what caused it.
At the time I was working on a novel I’d been writing on-and-off since university. I liked it and enjoyed writing it at the time, but I was becoming increasingly aware that it was full of cliches and probably wasn’t going to be well received if it was published. It also focused mainly on a revolution plot, which was a little too much for me, considering where my mental health was at the time.
But then I got the idea for a submarine pirate adventure book which I started once my mental health had improved to the point that I could write again. Not only was this book exciting, it was funny. It gave me something to be passionate about again. These are some more ways it has helped me:
- Stable routine
I admit I’m still somewhat of a night owl and an insomniac, which makes it difficult to get up in the morning. But getting up mid-morning, writing, and working on marketing and publishing activities in the afternoon is a much better routine than getting up at 2pm when the sun is already beginning to set, lazing about in my Moomin pyjamas for a few hours, then deciding it’s too late in the day to begin anything and eating an entire tube of Pringles. Getting up somewhat earlier has also allowed me to get in some morning exercise to get direct sunlight on my face and prevent winter depression.
2. Celebrating small miracles
My book still only gets miniscule sales. Yet whenever I make a big achievement like finishing a draft or making a sale, I get a hit of dopamine (the happiness chemical in the brain). Even small things like getting a new subscriber to my newsletter or a comment from someone on Instagram saying they like my book’s cover gives me a small hit. Long periods of barely any sales can be depressing, so I wouldn’t recommend a self-publishing career to those who can’t handle that level of rejection. Yet to me, that only makes it better whenever I do get a single sale or review.
3. Dealing with things I don’t want to face
A lot of people assume the things authors put in their books reflect their subconscious desires. If that’s true, authors must be the most terrifying creatures in the world. While a lot of my writing is self-indulgent (it’s fun to imagine myself as a badass pirate captain), I mostly use it as a way to explore things I don’t want to go through in real life. I can live out the fantasy of being a mother, fighting in a war, or falling in love with someone else then come safely back to my own life.
4. Getting outside my own head
This is perhaps the best thing that writing can do for your mental health. While I’m more-or-less recovered from my episode now, I still have moments where I feel overwhelming anxious, angry, or depressed. When I’m writing, it forces me to focus on the task at hand rather than any of these negative emotions. I can’t be thinking about how much I want to hurt myself if I’m trying to figure out how my characters are going to escape from the monster or what the best synonym is for ‘roar’.
As proud as I am for not only completing but self-publishing my first novel, it soon became apparent that there were a lot of things I did wrong, and a lot of things I can learn from. These are just a few which I’ll be applying for my future books, and which may be beneficial to other authors:
Abandoning ideas can be a good thing
People always tell you ‘don’t give up’ and ‘always finish a book’. There is some good sentiment in these statements, but I think it’s more important to recognise when you should give up or abandon a project which isn’t working.
For me, I spent years working a novel which I was proud of at the time, but looking back it contained every YA book cliché. Rebellious princess? Revolution? Non-human and borderline creepy love interest? Yep, it had them all.
When I first came up with the idea which would turn into the Undersea series, I was reluctant to give up on the book. But after much reflection, I realised that letting it go to work on this new project was the right move. While there are still some things with this new series, I’m not happy with in hindsight, reception has been much more positive, so I’m glad I didn’t release that cliched book as my debut release.
Plan from the beginning
While I decided early on that I wanted this series to be a trilogy (with the possibility of further books in the future), I didn’t plan out each book in the trilogy until I started the first draft. This has held me back as I’ve wound up with dozens of different characters and sub plots to juggle and resolve cleanly in the final book. Many character arcs have gone a different direction than I intended and some foreshadowing in the first (now published) book I’m now wishing I had cut out. If I write another series with ongoing continuity, I’ll do much more planning from the start so I don’t end up writing myself into a wall.
The final draft is never the final draft
You would think that once the final draft is done, it’s over, right? Oh, how wrong I was! There are still edits, proofs, print copies, copies in different formats. These are all the files in my ‘final version’ folder:
And that’s for just one book.
No matter how low your expectations, you’ll still be disappointed
This one is going to be difficult for other authors to swallow, but is precisely why we need a thick skin. I knew that as a debut author with virtually no platform, my sales were going to be low at first. But I thought I might get at least a few on release day. Maybe a few people would read my blog or see my social media posts.
I opened my Amazon account the next morning and… nothing. My first sale didn’t come in for a few days, and that was me buying a copy of my own book to check it for errors.
Part of it, I have now learnt, was that it takes a few days for Amazon’s system to pick up a book, add the ‘look inside’ feature, and start including it in search algorithms. This is why next time I’ll go for a ‘soft launch’ to give Amazon a few days to register the book before I start promoting it. I’ll also focus more on looking for ARC reviewers to look at the book on release (contact me if you want to join my ARC team, btw).
Sales have picked up a tiny bit thanks to some promotions, but are still nothing most days. But I’m not discouraged. This is just part of the process. I’m going to keep writing whether I ‘succeed’ or not, so it really doesn’t matter.
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You’ve probably heard a lot of authors say that the characters take charge of the plot and hijack the story. Some even claim that they don’t intend for their characters to fall in love but they do it on their own.
It happens to me far too often. I don’t intend yet another romantic subplot on top of all the others I have already. But the characters go and fall in love anyway, then the romance becomes a major part of the story. With the Undersea series, I always intended for romance to be a major part of the story and to have a diverse range of relationships (straight, gay, interracial, mermaids, and so forth). But two secondary characters called Rico and Shiro seemed to fall in love entirely on their own. The more I wrote them, the more I realised they would need their own subplot in the second and third novels. It’s ended up becoming one of my favourite parts of the story to write and a major part of the plot. I’ve even come up with new spin-off books for these couples.
Most likely it’s just my subconscious realising that those characters are a good fit for one another, have good chemistry, or the subplot would benefit the story. But sometimes it does feel as if the characters really have become the masters of their own narrative.
Sale for UK readers
In keeping with the Valentine’s theme, Traitor’s Revenge will be on sale for only 99p during Valentine’s weekend in the Amazon UK store. My last sale was only applicable for the US store, so I didn’t want any UK readers to miss out.
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I haven’t posted many actual updates since the first book in my series came out. Rest assured, I’m already in the swing of the next two books in the series.
Book 2 – Stealing From Thieves: I got feedback from beta readers which was mostly positive, but did point out some things to correct, which I have done. The book is almost ready to begin the editing phase. I did plan to have this book finished by the end of 2020, but the feedback took longer than I anticipated. Now I’m planning to have it published by Midsummer this year, and hopefully to have the paperback ready to publish at the same time as the e-book.
Book 3 – Outcast’s Alliance: I’m looking over the first draft which I wrote at the end of last year. I expected it to be full of plot holes and errors, which it is, but not nearly as many as I feared. Dare I say it, it’s actually pretty good. Or at least it will be once it’s edited. Once I’ve finished making notes, I’ll be starting the second draft. I plan to have this book finished and ready to publish by the end of 2021.
Other books: I just can’t help myself. Even with these other two books to write and one to promote, I’m still developing ideas for future books in the series, and other series. I just don’t know which one I will work on immedietly after I’ve finished this current trilogy. I’ll probably leave it up to whatever the readers want the most. I’m already planning two one-off sequels to the first Tales From Undersea trilogy focusing on some of the secondary characters who have already proved popular with readers (and with me!). I’m also planning a dieselpunk trilogy set in the same world but moved ahead to the 1920s and set in an underwater version of New York City. A non-related series I’m also developing ideas for is a series based upon the Jules Verne books (can you tell yet that I like Jules Verne?). But that is still in the very early stages of development, so I can’t say anything else about the plot or characters.
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For everything 2020 was, it was at least a great year for staying in and reading. I topped my personal best by reading 52 books this year, according to Goodreads. These are some of the best books I read this year (note that this is ‘books I read in 2020’ and not ‘books that were released in 2020’):
- Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I watched the tv show before I read the book, which is the opposite of what I usually do. But the tv show was good enough to get me to read the book, and I really enjoyed both, for much the same reasons. It was just the sort of hilarious book I needed this year. And I can’t help but ship Crowley and Aziraphale.
2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Another Neil Gaiman book. I loved this one for its creepier atmosphere and the surprising twist which I almost didn’t believe even after I had just read it.
3. The Daemoniac by Kat Ross
Not only do I enjoy a good lady detective book (I’m actually planning one myself) but I also adore Victorian settings, gothic storylines, and Sherlock Holmes re-tellings. This book has them all. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author.
4. You by Caroline Kepnes
I love the Netflix series, and the book doesn’t disappoint, either. It has some differences from the show, but also has more of an insight into Joe’s head, which makes him ten times creepier.
5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
This one had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and I finally got around to reading it. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. If tend to find that when the reading community on Tumblr is constantly recommending something, I should probably check it out. That was definitely true for this book. I loved the bleakness of the remote setting (it almost reminded me of Craggy Island!) and the unique and often terrifying take on selkies.
6. Last Battle of the Icemark by Stuart Hill
I don’t see many people talking about this series anymore, which is a real shame. It has a compelling cast of characters, worldbuilding based upon several different historic cultures, and an exciting story. This last book was particularly exciting, and I loved seeing what happened to Medea.
7. Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine
I finally read the last book in my favourite series, and what an ending it was! It was the perfect way to end the series, except for the fact that my favourite couple didn’t get married! I was sad to hear that Rachel Caine passed away at the end of last year, since she was my favourite author and a large inspiration to me and many other writers. I still hope that readers can still find and enjoy her books, regardless.
What were the best books you read in 2020? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? Tell me in the comments!
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I hope that everybody had a fun and safe Christmas and New Year and that you’re now getting back into the swing of work. Or maybe you’re still working through those Christmas sweets!
Traitor’s Revenge, the first Tale From Undersea, is now out in both ebook and paperback format from Amazon. Formatting and putting together the physical book myself was a real headache, so I’m especially proud now that it’s done. I know that the international mail service still has a lot of restrictions and delays (I still haven’t received all of my Christmas presents!) so I hope they will be resolved soon. I will also be doing a ‘wide’ release on other websites soon.
I’m also hard at work on the next few books in the series. I even started working on an additional novella during my Christmas break, when I was supposed to be resting!
Here’s hoping that 2021 will be kinder to all of us!
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