Elliot Pie Wins Two Chill With A Book Awards!

Hi guys,

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. I do actually have some draft and half-finished posts written, but have not had the time to polish them up. I’ve been very busy with work-related projects, and my own writing.

However, I wanted to write a quick post to let you know that Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has won two Chill With A Book Awards! Having won a Reader’s Award, it was automatically entered into Book Cover of The Month award for March and won that too!

Chill Logo Cover of the Month Award 2019

I am, obviously, over the moon. Many years of work went into this novel, with numerous rewrites, and revisions. It came very close to being picked up by two traditional publishers but in the end I published with Pict Publishing, an all-women indie publishing collective. It’s just always nice to have the hard work recognised, as it gives you a confidence boost and the kick up the bum you need to keep going!

Anyway, I better get back to work and I promise I will have some new posts for you in the upcoming weeks!

 

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Results of 2018 Reading Challenge and Why I’m Not Doing One in 2019

I completed a reading challenge in 2017 and enjoyed it so much I decided to do another one in 2018. I spotted the perfect one when it was posted in a Facebook group I belong to. The challenge was 40 books for 40 years and was set up by a group of book-loving friends who were all turning 40 in 2018. As I was also turning 40 in 2018 I thought this would be a great challenge to join in. Here are the books I chose. As you can see, there is one missing! I will explain why I am not doing a challenge this year at the end of the post.

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1)A book about ww1Barefoot on The Cobbles by Janet Few (a bit of a cheat as the book was not specifically about WW1 but it did cover that time period and I really wanted to help out a fellow indie author and read her book!)

2)A non-fiction book about sport – knew I would struggle with this one, and despite a few helpful suggestions from people towards the end, I ran out of time, plus couldn’t be bothered!

3)A Crime novelSix Stories by Matt Wesolowski – absolutely brilliant, highly recommended, unique format, incredibly creepy and Hydra by the same author is wonderful too. His next book Changeling is on my to-read list!

4)A book for adults written by a predominantly children’s authorThe Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. I’ve never read Harry Potter but was curious to read this and I was pleasantly surprised. It kept my attention and kept me entertained when staying overnight in the hospital with my son!

5)A sequel to a book you’ve already read – Force of Nature by Jane Harper – a slight cheat again, as it’s not really a sequel, but it is her second book and contains the same main character!

6) A book that’s been on your TBR pile for more than 12 months – Release – Patrick Ness – one of my favourite authors, so this was an easy one and did not disappoint

7) An autobiography – Johnny Cash – I’m a fan, plus it was an excuse to read a book I’d bought my mum for Christmas! Really enjoyed this

8) A Carnegie medal winner – One by Sarah Crossan – a quick google of Carnegie medal winners and I liked the sound of this. It was a very quick read, written in verse. Pretty good.

9) A historical novel – The Finest Hat In The Whole World – Colleen Parkinson – an easy choice, as the author is a friend of mine, and this book is incredible! I don’t normally read historical fiction but this was an epic family saga and I couldn’t put it down.

10) A book that is about Summer – Jackdaw Summer by David Almond – my son and I love David Almond and are working out way through his books, so this was an easy and very enjoyable choice. Also a quick read!

11) A book with a prominent character who is LGBTQIA – Symptoms of Being Human – Jeff Garvin – This was a book on my to-read list anyway, so it was another easy choice and I really loved this book. YA at its best.

12) A book with a number in the title – 11.22.63 by Stephen King – I love Stephen King so when I saw this title I knew it was the one to read to tick off number 12. Great book!

13) The final book in a series – Bonds of Blood and Spirit – Legacies – When I was a reviewer for the sadly defunct site Underground Book Reviews, I picked this series to read as it sounded so different to anything I normally go for. Vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. This was the last in the series and the last book I ever read and reviewed for UBR! Fantastic series.

14) A book from a genre you normally avoid – Jackson by Tracy Podger – This is a romance book, I guess, but a very hard-hitting gritty one. I’d seen it come up in some groups I’m in on Facebook and although I never read romance or erotica, I decided to pick it for this challenge as it sounded pretty interesting. It was a really good book and it was really good to try a genre I normally avoid!

15) A children’s book you didn’t read as a child – Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – I somehow missed this as a child but thoroughly enjoyed it for the first time as an adult!

16) A book originally published under a nom de plume – The Secret Path (Spooksville Book 1) by Christopher Pike – a google search brought Christopher Pike up as someone who writes under a pen name. I’d forgotten about his books, but I actually devoured tons of these as a young teen! I didn’t really enjoy this one though, or his writing style, now I’m an adult. I kind of skim read this.

17) A book recommended to you by a friend – The Minotaur Hunt by Miriam Hastings – My favourite indie author Kate Rigby recommended this indie book to me and I’m so glad I read it, as it’s a fantastic example of how amazing self-pubbed books can be! A disturbing examination of mental illness, I couldn’t put this down.

18) A book with a title featuring the weather – Black Storm by Mark Gillespie – Mark is an author I’ve been following for some time. I try to read as many of his books as I can, but he writes so many, it’s a job to keep up! If you like dark post-apocalyptic, dystopian and alternative history, in short, sharp bursts of action, this is the author for you.

19) A book whose title begins with the first letter of your name – Clay by David Almond – Another David Almond book, so I was happy. Just love his work!

20) A book you chose solely by the cover – Ink by Alice Broadway- beautiful cover and intriguing blurb, but this left me underwhelmed. I just couldn’t care about the characters of the story, so won’t be reading any more in the series.

21) A book where the illustrator is credited on the front cover – The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F Harrold – a kids books in the vein of David Almond, but not as good, I picked this up for one of my kids and as it is full of beautiful illustrations, the artist was credited on the front cover

22) A book published in the year you were born – Still I Rise by Maya Angelou – I don’t normally read poetry, but this was a real treat and worth doing the whole challenge for.

23) A book set in a country you’ve never visited before – Girlhood by Cat Clarke –set in Scotland. I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t made it yet. My daughter bought herself four books by this author and I read some all. Some were better than others, but my daughter got more from them than I did.

24) A book based on or inspired by a true story – Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis – a different tragedy unfolds here, but this was inspired by the Hillsborough tragedy, and Jane Davis is a fantastic indie writer I follow. I’ve read quite a few of hers now and they never disappoint.

25) a book translated from another language – Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – Wow, this was different. Creepy, eerie, dark, confusing.

26) A Book of short stories – Paisley Shirt by Gail Aldwin – I rarely read short story collections, but I should make more effort, This was a real treat written by an author I know.

27) A book about a culture you don’t know much about – The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri – I’m sorry to say I didn’t finish this one. I just couldn’t get into it and sadly none of the characters interested me.

28) A collaboration novel (2 or more authors) – Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King – another slightly disappointing one. It was good, but not great, and it was the characters that let me down. I just struggled to care about them!

29) A book by an author you’ve never read before – Mexican Whiteboy by Matt De La Penna – I think this was on my to-read list for some reason, but I’d never heard of the author and it was a pleasure to discover he has more than one book out as I really, really enjoyed this. The characterisation was spot on. I will definitely read the rest of his when I can!

30) A book with an alliterative title – Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay – bought this for my daughter as she had been enjoying the TV show, but sadly I didn’t really enjoy it, or the TV show.

31) A book you spotted on bookstagram – The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz- having read and loved Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe, I spotted this on Instagram and knew I had to read it. It was brilliant and I love this author!

32) A fantasy novel – The Oscillator – JK Neve – a brilliant, short, YA fantasy novel written by a guy who comes to my writing group, this was an easy choice!

33) A book set in space – Space Police by David Blake – spotted in a Facebook group, knew it would help tick this one off, but it wasn’t my kind of book

34) re-read a book you read as a child – My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards – I loved these books as a child so it was great to read this one again!

35) A book of poetry or a book written in verse – With Double blade – Jean Gill – again, don’t often read poetry, so it was good to be dragged out of my comfort zone and I really liked this

36) A book considered a classic in your favourite genre – The Pigman by Paul Zindel – My favourite genre is YA, and this was a pleasure to read.

37) A green book – Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – This came up when I googled ‘green’ books, and as I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, it was an easy pick, but I didn’t really like it, sadly. It just didn’t do much for me.

38) A 2018 debut novel – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – Brilliant YA book written in poetic verse, I devoured this and loved every page.

39) Read a holiday-themed book around the time of that holiday – Pet Sematary by Stephen King – another slight cheat. I chose Halloween and this is a spooky book, but not one specifically about Halloween. Was great reading it again though, and it prompted me to watch the old version of the film again.

40) Start a book on your birthday, a book that simply takes your fancy! – The Outsider by Stephen King – I got this as a birthday present so it was the perfect choice and I really really enjoyed this one.

So, there they are. The good and the not so good, as well as the slight cheats and the one I didn’t read! I’m proud to point out that there are 12 indie books in this list! It was great to be able to tick books off from the challenge and help out my fellow indies at the same time. This was a great challenge and I mostly enjoyed it, however, I’m not doing one this year. Last year, most of my reading time was taken up by trying to complete this challenge and by editing my own books on my kindle. Therefore, my to-read list of books I actually want to check out is ridiculous! I need to tackle that this year and I don’t want to read any books that are not my kind of thing. It is good to get out of your comfort zone, and I admit that the poetry, short stories, romance and historical fiction books I read for this challenge were all a pleasant surprise, but at the same time, you know what you like, don’t you? I know what I like, and what I am always searching for is compelling, well-written and character driven books, in almost any genre. Hard to find at times!

So, folks what did you read in 2018? What was the best book you read? The most disappointing? Did you discover any new authors? Are you going to take part in a reading challenge this year? Please feel free to comment and share!

Who Is My Reader?

One of the first pieces of advice I recall hearing when I started my indie publishing journey in 2013, was; ‘know your audience.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Know your audience, know who your reader is. Once you know who they are you can figure out how to find them, where they hang out on the internet, what social media they are likely to be on, what tags you can use to get their attention, who to market your books at and so on.

I remember struggling with this at the time though. And I’m still struggling now. Back then, I had written The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Parts One and Two, but while it was with beta readers, I very quickly churned out The Mess Of Me. The two were written side by side for a while until eventually The Mess Of me won the race and was released first.

The Mess Of Me has a 16-year-old protagonist and is essentially a book about growing up and the many teenage issues that go with it. At the time though, I didn’t think of it as Young Adult or as being aimed at teenagers.  I just listened to the voices in my head, as I always do, and they were young.  I soon figured out that not categorising and marketing The Mess Of me as YA was foolish and ridiculous. I had to get my head around something then. Was I a YA author? Did I just write YA?

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I didn’t have a problem with this as I have never grown out of loving YA books, and although I read a lot of genres, I do frequently return to YA and always feel like I am coming home. The problem was the next book. Though also having a teenage protagonist, and dealing with teenage issues, it was far harder to classify. Partly because the teenage narrator grows up and becomes an adult, and partly because there are two narrators for Parts One and Two, and the second narrator is an adult. In my head, this book was never aimed at anyone. I just had it in my head and wrote it.

I’ve got to be honest, this has mostly been my approach since too. This Is Nowhere features a grown man, but every other chapter dives back into the past to when the character is a young boy and teenager. I always felt like this one was probably better suited to adults though, so I categorised it accordingly.

The Tree Of Rebels was the first and only book I wrote with a deliberate audience in mind, and I think I mentioned on here several times while writing it, that this made it the hardest book to write. It sort of altered how I felt about the book. It was like I was trying to write to please someone the whole time.

The Tree of Rebels

Since then, I returned to just writing what I wanted to write and not imagining the reader first. This is fine when writing, but presents all sorts of problems when the time comes to publish the book. What categories and keywords do I choose? How do I market it? What genre is it? How do I find the people who will like this book?

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is a classic example of why I am still in such a muddle and still struggling to find my readers. It has a young narrator, but also an adult one. The adult themes, for me, make it more suitable for adults than teens, but Elliot’s day to day life and outlook are something that will more than likely resonate with young people. I still find it hard to describe the genre of this book. Definitely coming-of-age but also contemporary women’s fiction? Maybe even UpLit?

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With Parts One and Two of the new, revised The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series almost ready to be released, and Parts Three and Four being polished up in the background, my mind has once again returned to my elusive reader. 2019 will continue to be busy as I plan to release YA novel, A Song For Bill Robinson and possibly it’s almost finished sequel, Emily’s Baby. My list of novels is growing longer, but I still don’t know who my audience is. It’s tricky when you cross over so many genres. Most of my books cross into two or more, with psychological thriller, suspense, crime, coming-of-age, mystery and dystopian all regularly showing up.

So, who is my reader? What sort of person reads my books and likes them? I only have a small audience, so it’s hard to speculate. But I suppose really, my reader must be someone quite similar to me. I imagine them as slightly scruffy, or at least not terribly groomed and over bothered with appearances. They probably make an effort when they can, and they probably berate themselves fairly often about sorting out some kind of ‘look’, but it never really feels urgent to do so. They are probably young at heart. Stuck in the past, tinged with nostalgia, reluctant to admit and give in to adulthood. I think they are a music fan. They probably like all sorts. They’re not narrow-minded about it at all. They’ll listen to anything, but they have their favourite era of course, and their favourite songs. They see life in songs. Soundtracks are everywhere.

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What else? I imagine them as liking animals and nature. Not in a really obsessed, or professional way, just in that seeing a bird or a deer unexpectedly will really make them smile and have a better day. I think they enjoy being outside, all weathers too. Being outside makes them feel more alive.

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I think they are introverted but friendly and warm. A bit cynical and suspicious at times. Prone to the odd dark mood. Likely to panic about once a month about how the world is utterly doomed. But they always brighten up and soldier on. Despite being naturally shy, they are really interested in people, genuinely intrigued by them. They love a spot of people watching and love a character-driven book they can really get their teeth into. They are looking for stories about humans they can relate to and empathise with, and they are looking for characters to fall in love with, characters they wish were real.

They want to disappear inside a book and come out feeling different. They don’t want anything too formulaic or predictable. I think they are a bit of an eccentric at heart. They probably talk to themselves.

This is how I imagine my readers to be and I shall continue to do my best to try to find them. What about you? If you are a writer, do you know who your audience is? If you don’t know, does it make it harder to sell your books? If you’re sure of your audience, tell me about them. What are these people like? If you’re a reader, do you imagine yourself as part of a genre tribe, full of similar and like-minded people all connected by an appreciation of mysteries, or romance, or horror?

Please feel free to comment and share!

Stuck Inside A Story (For 28 years…)

That’s how it feels. That’s what it is. Stuck. Trapped. Held prisoner. I can’t get out. But do I really want to? Evidence would suggest not. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I have done. Created a world, created characters, used some magic and a lot of hard work, an imagination I can’t control, and there you have it, an alternative reality I can’t escape from.

I had no idea this would happen when I started writing as a child. My first attempts were hand-written stories about lost and abandoned animals, heavily influenced by my love of Watership Down and other similar books. I didn’t write my first story about real people living real lives until I was 12 years old. What happened to tear me away from my quaint tales of lost dogs and runaway bunnies? Well, weirdly, this.

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And this.

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Watching The Lost Boys gave me a few vital ingredients for the story that would go on to hold me prisoner for the next 28 years. It gave me the main idea, the main concept and it gave me some characters. Or at least, it inspired me to create characters who would turn out to be the kind of people I wished I knew in real life. As for Stephen King, it was around this time that I started my collection and was well on my way to becoming a truly obsessed fan. Add to that strange mix, the recent divorce of my parents, the usual teenage angst and rebellion, and I had me a story. Remember the bit in The Lost Boys when the younger brother realises his mother is dating the head vampire? That’s where the idea for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side came from. It wasn’t called that back then. It wasn’t called anything for ages. But I kept thinking…what if your mother was dating a monster? Only not the vampire kind, the real-life kind? And what if no one believed you? And what if you only had yourself and your best friends to try to battle this person? It was a weird mix of asking ‘what if’ questions, my parents’ recent divorce playing on my own fears, a dewy-eyed fascination with the actor Corey Haim, and a love of horror and fascination with the darker side of human nature that spawned this tale.

In my mind, my main character Danny, who is 13 at the start of Part 1, looked a lot like Corey Haim, who I was quite a bit in love with at that age. Once I had him in my head, his character started to grow and evolve, and I think I wrote that very early first draft pretty quickly. I remember it was my absolute obsession for a while. I hated to be away from that story. I’d rush home from school and up to my room to pick up my notebook and pen. I’d write endlessly and passionately. I suppose at the time I had no real idea of what I was doing. I was sort of trying to invent friends, I think. People I was intrigued by, people who had drama in their lives. I felt like I was a character in the book too. I was so proud when I finished it. I even started a sequel. I showed my English teacher and she read it and gave me a merit certificate I had to go up in assembly to collect. I remember being embarrassed but happy. The certificate said I had written a novel. At age 12! I don’t think I have the certificate anymore, but here’s the book.

 

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I started rewriting it after that. I had invested in an electronic word processor. It was the most exciting machine in the world to me! I could sit there and tap away and watch my words appear on this mini screen, before hitting print and then holding typed pages in my hands. What also happened to me at that age was that the story crept inside my brain. It kept me awake at night. It was company. I was never, ever bored. I’d look forward to bedtime because I knew I could lie there and think about my story before I fell asleep. I watched the scenes in my head like a movie. I heard them talking and arguing. Inevitably I came up with new ideas and extra bits, but mostly I just let them play it all out, and most of those imagined scenes have never made it into any of the books. It was just me, a fly on the wall of a made-up world, watching them live.

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Here’s one of the many pictures I drew of the characters. Only some of these made it into the final version.

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I rewrote that book again at aged 16. I’d started and not finished tons of other stories in that time. The book had opened a floodgate, forging a lifelong addiction to writing. But that one story, I couldn’t ever let it go. I rewrote it again at 19. I thought about it constantly during the non-writing years of balancing early motherhood with self-employment. The same story, the same characters always in my head, coming back to me night after night. I was 34 before I finally returned to it. I started writing in notebooks again, just like when I was a kid. Snatching spare moments, writing before bed, suddenly entirely addicted all over again, but this time it had to come out, it had to be finished.

I finally released it in 2013. The Mess Of Me snuck in and was released first because The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was so long and needed so much work. But finally, it was out. A real book I could hold in my hands! I’d done it. So now they would fall quiet, surely? I’d stop thinking about them. I’d stop playing out more scenes.

Well, no, not exactly. Before I knew it I’d penned a sequel, This Is The Day and released that too. That should have been the end of it it, but yet, it still wasn’t. The story itself was so enticing to me, and I was so invested in it, I couldn’t stop imagining other endings, and I guess, truth be told, in my head I did not want it to be over. So the stories went on. Every night, hi guys. What’s happening now?

I wrote an alternative ending in 2016 and included it in Bird People and Other Stories.That was supposed to draw a line under it, but it only made things worse. Now I couldn’t get the thought of other endings out of my head! What if this happened instead? What if? What if? For the fun of it, I started writing a screenplay in a notebook. Brand new material that led on from the original ending of book one, slotting in and delaying the ending, but finishing up before This Is The Day. This was only supposed to be for fun. To get it out of my system. To indulge myself even more than I already had. What the hell, what did it matter? It was for fun. I didn’t have to explain that to anyone!

Except now I do. Because that screenplay became a total obsession. I carried that notebook around with me everywhere. I grabbed every spare moment I had to write into it, getting this new story out. I absolutely loved it. I was so excited about it. I just couldn’t put it down. So eventually, after a lot of thinking and plotting, I came to a decision. I would do it. I would split the book back into two parts and this new material would be part three. Part Four would be This Is The day but it would need some reworking. Then suddenly, parts five and six emerged…

I’ve now accepted the truth. And that is that this story and these characters will never let me go. They are part of me and part of my life and I’m going to leave each book open, just in case I want to revisit it again.

There are new characters introduced in Parts Five and Six, and these also get their own spin-off book or possibly series with characters from both appearing in the others. So, as you can see… this thing could run and run.

So, if you are interested in reading this story, which began when I was 12, followed me through my life and has now evolved into at least a six-part series, you can start with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part One which is available for pre-order on Amazon now and is released on 9th November. This is a reworked, revised edition. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Two is also available for pre-order now and is also released on 9th November. Both at the special introductory price of 99p.

I plan to release the brand new Part Three in January an Part Four in February. By then I hope to be into the second or third draft of Part Five…

And the weird thing about this story is that I wrote it purely for myself, I indulged myself entirely, became utterly lost and absorbed and have still been unable to climb free from it. So I don’t really expect anyone to buy it, and I don’t really mind if they don’t. It feels weird to even try to plug it if I’m honest. Like this one is just for me. Like this is my mind, my imagination, my daydreams and to imagine anyone else wandering around in there is almost unsettling. And if it holds me prisoner for another 28 years? I think I’m okay with that…

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