What Did You Get For Your Birthday?

It is now less than ten days until the release of ‘The Figment Wars: Search for the Caretaker’, my second young adult fantasy novel! I’m involved with a couple of fantastic upcoming acting projects and today happens to be my birthday!

 

If I could just shift this persistent cold, I’d be over the moon! Seriously, I’m *this* close to declaring it ‘man flu’.

 

In all sincerity though, this is a nice little birthday blog where I divest myself of a few musings. If you’re still reading at this point, well, the more fool you.

 

I’ve never been one for making a huge fuss of my birthday. I’ve not thrown a major ‘party’ for my birthday since my 18th (and that I barely remember for reasons you can no doubt fathom for yourself). We usually reserve the big celebrations for those birthdays of apparent numerical value. 18,21, 30 etc. Few will hire an entire hall, a DJ and get specially shaped balloons for somebody’s 32nd birthday.

 

It is something of a double edged sword at times. On the one hand, I might have thrown a huge bash for my 30th because it’s a socially accepted milestone. On the other hand, there’s the “Oh damn, I’m turning 30 and what have I done?” epiphany. I’ve had that feeling, we all have, where we stop to take stock of our lives and that little voice tells us we haven’t done enough. The milestone has come around and we haven’t achieved what we wanted to, and before you know it the next milestone will be upon us and we won’t have finished what we were supposed to have achieved at the previous milestone! Aaaarrgghhh!

 

When I turned 21, I wrote a letter to my 30 year-old self. I put it away safely, never really forgetting the existence of the letter but over time managing to forget the contents. Obviously I opened it two years ago. I’ve never shared the exact contents of the letter with anyone, nor am I about to now so don’t get your hopes up. It was generally full of my hopes and aspirations at the age of 21. A few had been met, a few forgotten about and a few had changed to one degree or another. That’s what life is. Change. What meant the world to you ten years ago might barely register with you today. In short, I am not the same person I was back then.

 

That’s why ultimately I’m glad I’ve never really made too much of a fuss about my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no recluse. I love getting together with the people who are close to me, but that’s the sort of thing we should be doing multiple times a year, surely? As often as possible. Sometimes the only thing we need to celebrate is the fact that we are here and we are together.

 

So, what did I get for my birthday? A year older. I don’t wish to say “and a little wiser”, because ultimately I’m still figuring it all out. Same as everyone else.

 

Besides, it’s a horrible, horrible clich√©.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Anticipation

The second ‘Figment Wars’ book is out soon!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have it at last. A release date for the second book in the ‘Figment Wars’ series!

Date

Lots of lovely people have been asking about the sequel for years and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for their patience. The next instalment in the adventures of Thomas, Isaac and Emily has been a long time in the making. Lots of time and hard work has gone into it, which ultimately brings me to the actual subject of this blog. Anticipation.

 

Life is a series of events. This much has always been true. Some good, some bad, some entirely dependent on your own point of view. Usually the good and the bad tend to come in reasonably sparse intervals. When a flurry of good things all happen at once we call it a winning streak, when we’re struck by a cavalcade of misfortune it just feels like the universe is conspiring against us. Generally though, life consists of tip-toeing from one event to the other with a balance of expectations on each.

 

We can’t get all the bad things out of the way and have done with them. We can’t just attend one long string of dentist appointments then expect our teeth to be sorted for the rest of our lives. Many people, if given the choice, would love to only have good things happen to them, one after the other. An endless string of good fortune. How very dull. Some of the greatest works of art known have come from heartbreak, despair and at times, downright terror.

 

Having something to look forward to, be it a concert, a party or just a catch up with an old friend, is what gets us through the moments of misfortune. They are made all the more enjoyable because of those times when nothing seems to be going right, rather than in spite of them. Even when these plans are months in advance, thinking about them, looking forward to them, gets us through the heartaches.

 

This has all been my own, roundabout way of saying why despite my overwhelming urge to divulge everything about the upcoming book right now, I won’t. I’ll be striving to give myself and my loyal readers something to look forward to. We have a date for release in the not too distant future, but over the coming weeks you can all expect to discover the title of this book and an eventual cover reveal. Work has also begun on a book launch event and there will be a few giveaway competitions too!

 

The countdown has begun! Let’s all share this wonderful feeling of anticipation together, as we get ready to start the search …

 

 

 

Top Tips for Proof Reading

My little set of tips for helping you get through the proof reading stage.

So, you’ve had an idea for a story. You’ve scribbled down notes. You’ve drafted a basic story outline. You’ve tapped your keyboard into oblivion writing the entire thing, crafting your story with painstaking attention to detail. You think the hard work is over. It’s only just begun.

 

The truth is, be it a story, an article or indeed anything, nobody really likes having to read it all over again. Once you’ve transferred this big, galumphing thing from your brain to the page you’re not always in the mood to revisit it. After all, it’s all good, right? You’d have seen any mistakes as you went along, right? Wrong.

 

Proof reading is a vital step in the writing process that must not be overlooked. I speak from personal experience when I say there is no worse feeling than putting your work out there to discover mistakes in the text. Mistakes, however, are our greatest teachers. Here are some little tips that have helped me personally when it comes to proof reading.

  1. Read aloud. Yes, this may annoy your neighbours, flatmates, significant others but I have found that reading the text out loud allows for greater analysis. When you read silently, a sentence can often read in your head the way you originally intended it to, but in reality it does not. Reading aloud stops you from skipping or skimming over potential mistakes.
  2. Take breaks. If you’re proof reading a large body of work, little and often is the best way to go. Reading for too long in one go increases the chances of you missing something due to fatigue. Go grab a drink, a snack, take a walk. Your work will be waiting for you.
  3. Keep track. With my last novel I began keeping track of how many times I had proof read each chapter. This makes it easier to return to proof reading after a break with a quick glance at your chart or list.
  4. Do it again. You will eventually get to the stage where you think it’s ready. That little voice in your head will tell you all’s well. Agree with that little voice, but give the text one more proof read for safety.
  5. Get help. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. Find someone who is willing to have a look at your work. Give them a physical copy wherever possible. Be patient and don’t rush them. They are doing you a favour in agreeing to have a look at your work.
  6. Be kind. Sometimes when you look back at your work and find multiple mistakes it can leave you feeling a little down hearted. Don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just make sure you’re the kind of person that takes the time to fix them.

 

As a general note on the process of proof reading and my own approach to it, there are many schools of thought regarding proof reading each individual chapter just after you’ve finished it. There are certainly benefits to looking over your work while it is fresh in your mind, but personally I find that a little time away from your work allows you to be more detached from it and see any errors or ways to improve what you’ve done. Ultimately I do the bulk of my proof reading once the whole piece is initially ‘complete’.

 

So there we have it. My own little ways of coping with having to read my own work over and over again. I do hope they’ve been of some use to you, but however you go about your proof reading, just remember that nobody’s prefect.

Just So Busy!

A little attempt to excuse my absence from the blog and an update on what’s been going on!

My deepest apologies, to myself first and foremost, and then to anyone who might be reading. It’s been two months since I last blogged. When I began this I promised myself I would strive to write an entry at least once a month. As June and July came and went there were times when I thought to myself “Must write something before the month is out”, but something else always managed to pop up and demand my attention.

 

The other problem is the agony of choice. Deciding what to blog about has proved to be a task in itself. This entry is a little attempt at breaking the cycle and giving a general update as to what’s been going on and what is to come!

 

Acting wise, rehearsals for Sodbury Players’ production of ‘The Audience’ by Peter Morgan have been going very well indeed, with just over a month until opening night. We believe we may be the first amateur group in the UK to put on this production and it has already been attracting high ticket sales. I strongly urge anyone who’s looking to see this production not to wait too long before securing your tickets! I’ve also been kept busy with rehearsals for our rendition of ‘George and the Dragon’, a piece of street theatre we put on for the Sodbury 800 celebrations. This was an enjoyable piece, a mini-pantomime as it were, with plenty of slapstick and mildly suggestive humour! I’ve also been writing a One Act play, though this is very much in the early stages.

 

Speaking of writing, work on the second installment of ‘The Figment Wars’ continues apace. There was a point where it could be a coin toss that decided which I was going to proof read on a given night, the One Act or the manuscript. I have been greatly touched by all the enquiries as to when this second installment will be published, and rest assured that as soon as I know, you all will!

 

My marketing endeavours have been revamped, with new leaflets advertising my school workshops on the way. I’ve also put in an order for custom made stickers, to be used at various events. If there’s one thing that several years of working with children has taught me, it’s that everyone loves a sticker!

 

Many events are on the horizon, the most recently announced is Em Con Derby, where I’ll be at table 21 selling and signing copies of ‘The Figment Wars: Through the Portals’. This event will represent the furthest afield I’ve been so far to sell and promote my book. Having done an Em Con before, I am greatly looking forward to this one!

 

All in all, I have been very busy striving to bring ‘The Figment Wars’ to new readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little blog, this little attempt to make excuses for my absence. Hopefully next time it will be a great deal more focused!

Em Con Worcester 2018

A quick review of my day selling and signing at Em Con Worcester

Slightly belated, I’ll admit, but here’s a nice quick blog reflecting on a brilliant day selling and signing at Em Con Worcester!

 

First of all, it’s always a joy to return to Worcester. It was where I studied to become a teacher and I have many fond memories of the city. I also have some hazy memories of my first year, mostly Fresher’s Week I believe. Truth be told, on returning to Worcester I found it wonderfully eerie to walk those familiar streets and feel as though I’d only been away for a weekend, whereas in reality it has been several years.

 

Now, to the convention itself!

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I arrived with about forty minutes to spare before the doors opened, which was fine given that I only had a certain amount of things to set up. Barring a minor disaster transferring my books from car to stall (I’m never trusting collapsible boxes again), I was rather pleased with how my stall was looking. The roller banner saw its first event, and although it made the table look a bit uneven all there on its own, I’m confident it will soon be joined by another banner.

 

The definite highlight of the set up was John Rhys Davies, coming around to every stall before the event opened with a word of greeting. I’ve not yet done many of these events from this side of the trader table, but I can certainly say that this was a great surprise. John Rhys Davies is a true gentleman, making time for everyone at these events.

 

The doors were flung open and the crowds let in. Over the course of the day I talked to some lovely people, handed out many business cards and, of course, sold a few books. I even had a repeat customer from another event enquiring as to when the sequel will be out! Rest assured, as soon as I know, you will all know! Suffice to say I left the event with considerably fewer copies of ‘The Figment Wars: Through the Portals’ than I came with (which is just as well, considering my storage box broke on the way in).

 

All in all, this was a very good event. A strong start for Em Con in Worcester and I sincerely hope that it will become a regular occurrence.

World Book Day 2018

My thoughts for World Book Day this year!

It’s that time of year again! World Book Day is almost upon us. That one day we set aside to appreciate the books we enjoy. Though frankly that should be the sort of thing we do on the other 364 days of the year too. That’s my prevailing opinion, but it certainly doesn’t mean I eschew the idea of World Book Day. Let me clarify a few thoughts.

 

Having one day declared a day for books does not mean that we have to ignore these wonderful little collections of words bound to paper for the rest of the year. Indeed, schools all across the world regularly look to children’s books for inspiration in their lesson and activity planning. Almost any book can act as a link across the curriculum. Reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle with a young class not only encourages counting but links into minibeast hunts, life cycles as well as learning about fruit. At the older end of the spectrum, I recall in-depth discussions on the subject of racism, past and present, brought on by our class reading ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ by Mildred D. Taylor.¬† Stories bring all sorts of subjects into the classroom and act as a catalyst for further learning whatever the time of year.

 

That being said, I still believe in the importance of World Book Day. Used properly it can be a vital tool for the promotion of reading for enjoyment to children. A day of fun activities where children can bring in, read and discuss their favourite book is something to build up and look forward to. It was first marked and celebrated in 1995, and even I vaguely recall the introduction of free book tokens being introduced at that time. It didn’t take long for the idea of dressing up as book characters to come around, but by the time it had caught on in Primary schools I was firmly in Secondary school. It wasn’t really until I started my training as a Primary school teacher in 2005 that I became fully aware of the excitement it generated.

 

The cosplayer in me fully embraces the notion of dressing up as your favourite character. However, this year it has become abundantly clear that high streets shops are offering ready made fancy dress costumes designed for World Book Day. I can’t help but feel a little uneasy at what looks very much like the commercialisation of World Book Day, but then it could be argued that that’s how the economy works. Books themselves aren’t given out for free at the shops.

 

I appreciate that not everyone will have the time or resources to put together a costume from scratch, but I do feel that planning a costume with your child and working on it together must be a more fulfilling experience than simply buying one. That, of course, links in to a raging debate in the cosplay community regarding whether costumes that are bought count as cosplay (it is my opinion that they certainly count). Steering back to World Book Day, what is most important is that it is fun for the children.

 

Whether their costume is bought or homemade, to have fun as their favourite character and to engage with books is paramount. We read as adults because we enjoy it, and the excitement of World Book Day can help to create a lasting impression in children’s minds. A single, simple truth that will set them on a path of discovery and enlightenment.

 

Reading is fun.

 

Have a fantastic World Book Day, whatever your plans are!