Character Interviews: JJ Carson (Fortune’s Well Book 1 – Hangman’s Revenge)

It’s release day for the YA book I have co-written with Sim Sansford! We are so excited to share Hangman’s Revenge with you and can’t wait to see what you make of our protagonist’s JJ and Darcie. To kick off here is an interview with JJ Carson…

  1. Who is your best friend? Until recently I didn’t have a best friend, in fact it felt like all I had were enemies in this town. But then Darcie stood up for me, helped me fight off the bullies and since then I’ve got to know her better. I think she is my best friend. I hope so.
  2. Who is your worst enemy? Well I’ve got a few. I already told you this town hates me. There’s a group of boys who kick my arse nearly every day because they think I’m a freak and Jared Wheeler is the ring-leader, so yeah, him.
  3. What do you think people think of you? I know what most people think of me. They either pity me because my mum is locked up for killing my dad, or they fear me because they think I’m going to turn out to be as crazy as her. Or they just hate me because they think I’m weird. Yeah,, weird. They all think I’m weird.
  4. What do you wish people knew about you? Ah, I don’t really care. They can all piss off. Well, I suppose I’d like them to know that I didn’t kill my dad so I’m not crazy like my mum. But I don’t think they’d care anyway… I suppose, if I’m honest, I wish they knew how lonely I’ve been.
  5. What’s your biggest fear? Turning out like my mum. Losing the plot, turning to violence in a heartbeat, killing someone. I’m dark inside, I know I am. I’m scared it’ll get out.
  6. What’s your biggest hope? That Darcie and I become close. That she sticks by me, whatever happens. And I hope me and Uncle Henry get on better one day. That would really help a lot.
  7. What’s your biggest secret? There is a darkness inside of me and it’s getting worse. I can see it now in the form of a kind of mist. It likes it when I get angry and it can destroy… If people knew about this, they would lock me up like my mum.
  8. What is the worst thing you have done to another person? I stepped in and tried to be the hero – I tried to stand up to Jared and got caught in the middle of something else instead. He was hurting Darcie – I didn’t even really know her then, but I stopped him. Trouble is, the mist took over and now he’s in hospital…
  9. What kind of friend are you? Hard to say, seeing as how I’ve not really had any until now but I’d probably be grumpy and moody I reckon. I’m used to being on my own so I’m not used to friendship. I’m loyal though and I hate bullies, so I’d be the type of friend that would stand up for you even if it got me in trouble.
  10. What are your worst habits? Uncle Henry would say I don’t do enough around the house but I’d disagree. I do loads. I think Darcie might say I’m grumpy, maybe a bit cynical and negative at times. I’ve got a bad temper which obviously I am trying not to let out.
  11. What is one thing about yourself that you would change if you could? Ah, tricky question. I should say the mist, the darkness inside me, because if I got rid of that, I could maybe be normal. But I also don’t want to get rid of it because without it I’m helpless and lost.
  12. What is one thing about yourself that you would never change? Again, tricky. I don’t want to change the mist even though I maybe should… But also my art. I wouldn’t change that. I wouldn’t be me without art and it’s helped me so much.
  13. Where would you like to be in 5 years time? I don’t know. Not here. There is something wrong with this town and the people in it. I’d like to get away… I don’t know where. I can kind of see me and Darcie running off together and maybe travelling, maybe in a campervan or something cool like that! Other than that, I really have no idea. I don’t have a lot going for me, to be honest.
  14. What is on your bucket list? – Hmm. I guess a romance with Darcie would be top, but don’t tell her that. I’d die. Seeing my mum free again would be awesome. Getting on with Uncle Henry would be good too. I’d like to get better at art and maybe travel to some cool places with Darcie.

We hope you enjoyed meeting JJ! If you are interested in finding more, here is the buy link mybook.to/HangmansRevenge


The Chaotic Joy Of Co-Writing A Series

About a year ago my business partner and fellow indie author, Sim Alec Sansford, messaged me asking if I had ever considered writing a book with someone else. The answer was no. It had never occurred to me and I have always wondered how on earth writers manage collaborative writing projects. It just seemed far too complicated and not at all something I would ever want to try. Sim had an idea for a book and wondered if I would consider writing it with him. I think if anyone else had asked me I would have given an instant no. But Sim and I get on really well as business partners at Chasing Driftwood Writing Group and feel the same passion for writing and for our characters. I’d read some of his work and he’d read some of mine, and I had to admit, it felt like we could possibly pull it off.

So, I agreed. I figured, at the very least it would be an interesting experience and one I could learn from! Little was I to know how Sim’s tentative request and fledgling book idea would snowball!

Roughly a year later, we have completed two books in a paranormal YA series and we are currently racing towards the finish line of the final book in the trilogy. We never set out to write a series, but we soon realised that’s exactly what it was becoming.

I’ll probably blog again when the books are finished and I’ll spend more time telling you about them, but for now I just wanted to write about how the whole process has worked. Because it’s worked in a really strange and unexpected, dare I say, chaotic way!

So, as you probably already know, I have a certain process when I write a book. It goes a bit like this:

I get a character in my head who grows and grows until they get so real and so noisy, I have to start writing it down.

I start a notebook and start adding the ideas for a story, and it’s the character suggesting the ideas, not me.

When I’m able to start the book, I plan out a certain amount of chapters, write all my character bios, and get going.

I do any research along the way, as and when I need to. The first draft normally takes me about three months then I will spend probably about a year doing further drafts, edits and rewrites. By about draft 5 or 6 I will send it to beta readers and then do another rewrite/draft depending on what they said. Eventually it will go to my wonderful editor and proof-reader, then back to me for another round and then finally I will start to organise the publishing process.

Everything goes in the notebook, so I can have it there handy as I write and can jot down future ideas for chapters and scenes, character info and more. In my head at least, it’s kind of an organised process. It might look messy to anyone else, but it works well for me.

Writing books with another author has been so different!

We started off with good intentions and I even started a little notebook of ideas and character bios so we could keep track of who was who and so on. I also started writing chapter outlines to send back and forth so we could keep an eye on what we had written and ideas we had coming up.

All of this fell by the wayside though as the story took control!

Somehow, and I am really not sure how, we have managed to write almost three books in a year purely by swapping messages with each other on Facebook!

Initially Sim had a vague idea and we started creating a character each. He wanted to write the female character, Darcie and I wanted to write the male, JJ. I’m not sure when we decided that they would have super powers, but we did! I wrote the first chapter purely by instinct and luckily it seemed to be what Sim was thinking too. He quickly responded and off we went. Mostly it has been a really fast process, with us swapping chapters most days or every couple of days. We both work and write our own books too, so I am surprised we got so much done. We did keep each chapter fairly short and snappy and ended most on cliff hangers to set up the next chapter, so I guess we helped each other out a bit there! We really didn’t get too stuck too often.

Every time we read the other’s chapter, we would send a message asking what ideas would work in ours so we didn’t mess up the flow of scenes. We would both suggest stuff that could happen and with every chapter we wrote, more and more of the story unfolded before us. We got really excited and our messages reflect this! Once we got going, there was really no stopping us. We whizzed through the first two books and inevitably our original ideas grew more complex, we introduced more characters and storylines and sub-plots.

I think it’s fair to say that we are both totally in love with these characters we have created and the world they live in. We have created a strange little town called Fortune’s Well, which is loosely based on Sim’s childhood home of Dorchester. I recently visited Dorchester and was so excited to see in person some of the locations we have used in the books!

To start with we were both a bit nervous when writing the other person’s character into our chapter. But as the story grew and the characters evolved, we both felt we knew JJ and Darcie equally. Now I think it just feels natural to write both characters and we don’t feel we have to check with each other that we got their mannerisms or speech right.

So, the usual way I write books kind of fell aside and our original plans for writing these books also got left behind. Somehow we just muddled our way through using messages. I’m surprised it worked but there you are, we are nearly at the end of the trilogy and both of us are so excited to share it with everyone when it’s ready.

It’s been a really refreshing and fun addition to my writing life. Most evenings I work on my current WIP, but if I get sent a chapter from Sim, I will read it, digest it and then respond as soon as I have an idea. This way we have both managed to carry on with our own work as well as our co-writing project. Our series is so different to anything I have written before (paranormal, kids with super powers!!) and that’s been really exciting as well. We both love YA but I normally stick to gritty realism, so to dip into supernatural/paranormal/super powers territory has been the best fun ever. I really love this series and these characters and it’s inspired me to try these genres more in the future.

It’s been crazy, unexpected, exciting, challenging, messy, and above all else chaotic, but I have loved every moment of it. So much so, that we have already decided to work on another series together when this one is finished. This time its based on an idea I had that came from a short story I wrote. I think that if writing together worked once, there is every chance it will work again!

I will post about these books another time but for now, here is the blurb Sim came up with!

In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out.

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood. Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within.

Why is this happening?

Where has it come from?

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?

Guest Post #11 Dreaming of Another World

Welcome to another guest post for my regular feature Dreaming of Another World. This feature was originally inspired by a post I wrote about how lockdown made me imagine and long for another kind of world, another way of doing things. So, I invited other creative people on to The Glorious Outsiders to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Here is a thought provoking short story from author Val Portelli. At the end of the post you can find Val’s author bio and links to her work.

The Grass is Always Greener

‘Shush, I want to watch the news.’

‘I don’t know why. It’s the same thing every night. Who would have believed six months ago.…’

‘Quiet. It’s starting.’

‘Good evening,’ the dulcet tones of the presenter began the broadcast. ‘The Leader announced today that with the devastation of our planet showing little signs of receding, further emergency measures will need to be put in place. These will include the temporary reduction in food allocation and have a knock-on effect on travel. Those who have already received a confirmation of their bookings will take priority, and the committee are working flat out to accommodate others a soon as possible. Please join us tomorrow for further updates.’

Marcia switched off the appliance and sighed.

‘I knew we should have booked while we had the chance, but you insisted we wait for a better deal,’ she said to her husband. ‘Have we left it too late?’

Dane tensed, hating that Marcia was upset but not knowing what to do about it. They had discussed the trip endlessly, weighing up the pros and cons and saving every spare penny so their dream would be everything they envisaged.

‘I’m sorry, love. The discount for going out of season was too good to ignore. Another four weeks and we would have been on our way. Who would have guessed this would happen? The whole universe has gone crazy, but don’t give up. I’ll sort it out somehow.’

‘No, it’s not your fault,’ Marcia said, going over to give him a hug. ‘No one could have predicted this would happen. When we made our plans, life was normal and we assumed it would carry on that way. I should have told you I wanted a crystal ball for my birthday, then I could have said “Told you so.” As it is, we’ve got to take our chances with everyone else who’s in the same boat. We’ve got the advantage we’re prepared. Tomorrow we’ll register and the first space that comes up we’ll take it. Agreed?’

‘Agreed,’ Dane said, determined to spend as much time online as necessary to make sure they got away as soon as possible. Although he tried to stay positive it wasn’t easy as daily life became more of a challenge. No longer able to work as further restrictions came into force, they were forced to exist on half the income they had enjoyed previously. At times they were

tempted to dip into their savings, but that would mean they would be unable to afford their dream, so they made do, and tried to stay positive.

The increasing heat made them feel lethargic, and concentration difficult. Usually they were happy in each other’s company, but being confined 24/7 they were both snappy and unreasonable. Weeks passed until one day it all got too much and Marcia took out her frustrations on Dane, blaming him for everything going wrong. He retaliated and soon they were in the middle of a full-blown row. In temper, she threw two plates in the sink which promptly smashed, he shouted at her for being unappreciative and destroying the crockery set he had worked so hard to buy. All their pent-up anger and bitterness spewed out and he spent the night sleeping in the spare room.

The next morning the atmosphere was quiet and tense. They spoke to each other only when necessary, both too stubborn to make the first move and apologise. That evening Marcia felt tears welling up as she was cutting their last remaining vegetables for a meagre meal. Unable to see clearly, the knife slipped and blood spurted out from the gash in her finger.

‘Darling are you alright?’ Dane asked as he rushed to her side.

‘They were all we had left,’ Marcia sobbed. ‘Now I can’t even feed you properly.’

‘Hush, it’ll be fine. I needed to lose some weight anyway,’ Dane joked as he took her in his arms and comforted her, until with a final hic-cup she managed a weak smile.

‘If we had any other ingredients I could make a black pudding,’ she said, ‘or perhaps we could turn into vampires and not have to worry about food.’

‘That’s my girl. You can bite me any time you like, but first we should clean up that cut. It looks nasty,’ Dane responded as he went to fetch some antiseptic and a plaster.

With harmony restored between them, he salvaged what he could for their meal, and on impulse brought out their last bottle of wine.

‘I know we were saving it for a celebration,’ he said, ‘but I think we need it tonight. Perhaps it will bring us luck. Sorry sweetheart, I shouldn’t have taken my temper out on you. Cheers.’

‘It was my fault. I’m sorry. Whatever happens, we’ve still got our dream. Cheers to a brighter future.’

Once they had cleared up, he logged on as usual, prepared for another disappointment. To his amazement a vacancy appeared, two seats available, leaving in three days’ time. He was shaking so much his finger could hardly press the “book” button. Half excited, half gearing himself up for disappointment he sat biting his nails until the confirmation with full details appeared, when he let out a loud whoop of delight.

‘What’s happened? Tell me,’ Marcia said as she came rushing in to ask what all the commotion was about.

‘We’re going, we’re going,’ Dane shouted as he picked her up and twirled her round the room. ‘In three days’ time we’ll be leaving this hell-hole planet for good, and on our way to earth. No more 40 degrees heat, no more confined to the house, no more food restrictions, no more rulers dictating what we can and can’t do. We’ll be free to wander about and enjoy life the way it used to be.’

Neither of them truly believed it would happen until they received their immigration papers, medical confirmation for a clean bill of health, and were seated in the space craft ready for take-off to a new world. Life on earth was their dream finally coming true.

It was only as they exited the craft and joined the queue for new arrivals, they were able to learn of the restrictions affecting their new planet. Global warming meant average temperatures were similar to home, the virus meant food shortages and confinement, with additional regulations affecting their every move.

The grass is not always greener.

A huge thanks to Val for sharing this story with us! You can find out more about Val and her work below. If you have a blog post, short story or poem on the theme Dreaming of Another World, then please get in touch!

Author Bio

Despite receiving her first rejection letter when she was nine, from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, Val continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy. The completion and publication of her first full length novel helped save her sanity during those difficult times.

Six books and various anthologies later, she is currently working on her long neglected 100,000 word plus manuscript, in between writing follow ups to two of her earlier novels with the intention of making them into a series. She writes in a variety of genres, although the weekly short stories she posts on her Facebook author page tend to include her trademark ‘Quirky’ twist.

Val lives on the outskirts of London, where she provides a free restaurant service to various generations of foxes who have obtained squatters’ rights since her dogs passed over the rainbow bridge. She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they encourage sales, and help to pay the exorbitant supermarket chicken bill to keep her visitors fed.

In her spare time she studies how to market her work to a wider audience, before resorting to procrastinating on social media, and seeking advice from the unicorns she breeds in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

Links

Amazon author page https://author.to/ValPortelli

Voinks blog and Val Portelli web site. http://www.Voinks.wordpress.com

Quirky Unicorn web site. http://www.quirkyunicornbooks.wordpress.com

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/wwwgoodreadscomVal_Portelli

Twitter https://twitter.com/ValPortelli

Indie Author of the Month – Sim Alec Sansford

It’s time to celebrate another indie author and this month I am welcoming Sim Alec Sansford to The Glorious Outsiders. Sim was one of the masterminds behind last years very first Blandford Literary Festival – a fantastic literary event I was honoured to be a part of. Sim has also just released his debut novel, Welcome To Denver Falls. Here, Sim tells us how it feels to finally be a published writer, how music is a massive inspiration and how supportive and welcoming he has found the writing community to be.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest release is my debut novel, Welcome to Denver Falls.

The story follows photography student, Harper Andrews, who leaves the comfort of her college campus behind, and ventures to the mysterious town of Denver Falls. Plagued by haunting dreams and unsettling visions, Harper faces a race against time to unlock secrets of the past in order to save her future.

There is a lot of suspense and a little romance, but it is really a tale about friendship and self-belief. That’s the message I hope resonates the most with readers.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

My first experience with publishing was in November 2019, when I published my first short story, The Storm, online. Growing up, as a young writer, I found it difficult to know where to turn for support. This prevented me from sharing my work. In early 2019, I heard about a local writing group in my town and decided to put my fears and anxieties aside. I took my short story along with me, and the reaction from the other writers was an incredible confidence boost. I was fortunate to make some great friends who ultimately talked me through the process of publishing my work online. It was a mountain to overcome the fear of sharing my work but, it is most definitely the best thing I have ever done.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

To be completely honest, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write. There was something about books that I found absolutely magical and I knew right away that I wanted to be part of that magic. Whether I was writing, editing or even publishing, I knew someday, somehow, I was going to be part of that world… and I guess now I am, and that’s a really amazing feeling.

4. What is your typical writing day like?

To sum it up in one word: emotional.

I don’t think I have experienced anything else in my life so far that can cause such a whirlwind of emotions. For the most part, my writing days are pretty exciting. I love nothing more than escaping into the mind of my characters and quite often they will end up surprising me by taking things in a different direction than intended. Then there come the nagging thoughts… that sentence doesn’t sit right… But if that character does that it will change this?… Does that sound like something they would say?… How would a reader respond to this?… And so on. On a good day, I can just sit for hours typing away on the keys and before I know it the story has written itself. The trick is to not sweat the small things, just write. The rest comes later in editing.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

Usually, it starts with an image. Just a quick snap shot or a short scene played out in my head. Quite often triggered by music which is something I rely on quite heavily when I need to set the tone for a story or a character. My latest release began as a small scene in a daydream; a young girl in a forest alone, then a man appeared and asked her if she was lost. It was only a small image, but from that I found myself asking a hundred questions… Who is this person? What is she doing in the forest? Is she good, evil, both? Where is the forest? Who is the man? What are his intentions?…

From there I slowly map out a plot in my head and create a playlist of songs that help capture the mood of the story. These songs then help me add new scenes, be it by interpretation of the lyrics or the way they make me feel. I tend to map most things out in my head starting with a beginning, middle and end. For the rest of the story, my way of expanding plot is just to write. I see where the story takes me and slowly over time new ideas and characters are added.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Definitely the connections I have made with other writers, readers and creatives. I have met some incredibly talented people that I am proud to call my friends. Their knowledge and experience have been invaluable to me and I am able to provide them with new perspectives that perhaps they have never considered. It really is a fantastic community to be part of.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

Being self-published comes with a lot of challenges, mostly financial. Without the push of a major print, it can be expensive to promote your work, and it is often disheartening if you spend a lot of time and money on an ad campaign that returns few results. The important thing to remember is one new reader is one more than you had before. You have to stay positive and stick at it.

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

Of course, I love all of my characters, but I have to say that Abigail Millar is my favourite. She first appeared in my book, The Willow, where her story serves as a prequel to Welcome to Denver Falls. It was actually only after I had written the book that I realised just how much I had in common with her. While I have not ever made three wishes on a creepy willow tree in the middle of the woods, she really resonates with me. She’s strong and determined, and I love that.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from music. I am a big fan of reimagined songs and love the new (often creepy) twists that the artist put on them. Bands like Until the Ribbon Breaks, and Denmark + Winter do this particularly well.

10. What can we expect from you next?

Currently, I am continuing the story of Denver Falls in the form of a second book, and a weekly series on my blog titled Welcome to Denver Falls: Soul Mate.

Though I do have a few old projects that I would love to bring to life. Particularly a supernatural dystopian romance I have been working on since my teen years. I have an eclectic group of characters in that story, and I’m positive readers will love them as much as I do. However, for now, my focus is on Denver Falls.

11. Tell us three facts about you.

I would be completely lost without music.

I’m a little bit psychic.

I value friendship over everything.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

JUST. DO. IT.

I waited far too long to put my work out there for fear of the reaction… Are my stories any good? My characters compelling? Will people steal my ideas? Do I need to stick to a word count? What if I never get published? The truth is, the only person standing in your way is you.

Pick up the pen. Grab your phone or computer. Whatever you have to do, but just start writing. Don’t worry about the end goal too much, just enjoy the journey.

Writing, like life, is all about growing and changing. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. It is your world and you’re in control.

Thank you so much to Sim for joining us on the blog today as our Indie Author of The Month. If you would like to find out more about Sim and his work his bio and links are below!

Born and raised in the county town of Dorchester, Dorset, Sim began scribbling away stories on scraps of paper since before he can remember. He spent a lot of his childhood on adventures walking the dogs in the woodland surrounding Thomas Hardy’s cottage with his family. Something about the cottage and ‘the man what wrote stuff’ who had lived there sparked a fire inside him, it was from there he began to focus on writing more seriously. 
In 2012, Sim signed up to Open University to study Creative Writing alongside working full time. He isn’t quite sure how he made it out alive, but he graduated with honours and began using the skills he had acquired to edit and redraft old work. 

http://www.simalecsansford.com
Twitter.com/simsansford 
Instagram.com/simeon_alec
Facebook.com/SimAlecSansford