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Now what?

I hear this question a lot from aspiring writer.

Aspiring writers, the people who’ve just finished a book and who’ve revised it and who are wondering what to do whilst you’ve gone out on submission to agents with your precious book child.  What do you do now? Now you read, you watch movies, you go for long walks, you have thinky thoughts.  Then you sit down and maybe write out story ideas for a new book.  Or maybe you even start writing a new book.

A long time ago now, when I had finished and revised my first ever book, CURSE OF THE DJINN, my friend Kaz wisely said to me: don’t write a sequel, even if you have a bazillionty ideas for a sequel. I stared at her blankly, utterly shocked and horrified that she would say that to me! How could she not SEE HOW AWESOME my book was? How utterly amazing? How charming! How brilliant and incredible? Surely she wasn’t suggesting I’d fail miserably at selling it?

Then Kaz, clever Kaz, explained to me: if Djinn doesn’t sell, it would mean I’ve “wasted” time writing a sequel to a book that’s will never be published. Why not, instead of writing a sequel, (she said) you look through your notebooks and write something completely different.

My reaction:

Yeah. Whatever.

I started on book 2 of Djinn and wrote maybe 10k.  In the meantime heard from some agents, they liked what they read, even an EDITOR expressed interest.  But the feedback was generally: it’s good, it’s fun, it’s new, but it’s not quite there yet / my list is too busy to take on a ms that needs this much work / etc.  All great bits of feedback but all still “no”.

Huh. Imagine that? However, I had my friends and they petted me and fed me and I threw myself into reading more, reviewing more.  And more and more ideas came.  I abandoned Djinn2 and decided to listen to Kaz as she is wise in all things.

And I got on with writing other things.  And I loved it.  Between starting and finishing Blackhart Book 1 I probably wrote around 80,000 words on two other manuscripts.  And they’re not wasted words.  I may go back to them in the future or I may just dump them because you know, it’s only words.  You don’t have a finite number allocated to you, you have an infinite number allocated to you, remember that!

When we went on sub with Blackhart, I asked Juliet what I should do about writing something else.  In a carefully worded email, so as not to break my fragile ego, she suggested I just have fun and write something different. To have fun.  I was like this:

Fun!?

What did she mean with this “have fun” malarky? This is seriouz biznezz, this writing.  But she was right.  Of course she was right.  I decided I’d do what other adult urban fantasy folks have done in the past, take a secondary character from their existing story and write a fun story featuring them as a main character. And oh my days, I had ALL THE FUN.  It blew my mind – the world I’d created felt richer, deeper and wilder and more unexpected in some instances.  I felt relaxed and laughed more at the jokes I wrote into the book because there has to be lols, right?

To be honest, I didn’t think Blackhart would sell. I desperately wanted it to obviously, but I thought that if it didn’t sell, I could pass this new book on to Juliet and she’d maybe be able to sell that.  We exchanged a few more emails about it all and she told me to remember that writing only gets better the more you do it.  It’s like any kind of skill / exercise that you do.  The more you do it, the better you get at it and also the more fun you have because you feel comfortable in that world.

She was right.  The second book I worked on wasn’t part of the deal we sold to Tor but it was a revelation to me because it showed me the trilogy story arc we eventually did sell to them.  And I doubt I would have come up with the story arc if I’d not messed around with the secondary character’s book in the first instance.  Because of well: brain pictures!!!

Writing is weird.  The whole journey is bizarre.  Our minds are labyrinthine and makes leaps and bounds between ideas and thoughts and scenes and characters that we may never expect.  I think we just need to sit back and allow that to happen sometimes. And a lot of times we forget to do that.  The next time you wonder: NOW WHAT? remember to ask: WHAT IF? instead.

“Which of us has not felt that the character we are reading in the printed page is more real than the person standing beside us?”
― Cornelia Funke

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

Banished – Pre-order and cover write-up!

I was at a great function on Saturday, at Charters School in Sunningdale.  I took part in a panel of three great UKYA/MG writers (Will Hill, Conrad Mason and Rob Lloyd Jones) and I got the chance to interview these three guys about their books and their writing.  It was a fab event and it was preceded by Holly Smale talking about her book Geek Girl and before Holly, we where blown away and entertained by Laura Dockrill, author of Darcy Burdock.

BPD5yohCUAAygyD.jpg-large

Rob Lloyd Jones, Conrad Mason and Will Hill along with kids from Charters School

It was a superb day and the first time Charters School held a literary day like this in conjunction with their Summer Fete.  To be honest, I hope the turn-out and enthusiasm of all those attending in the audience and on stage was indicator enough that everyone had a great time.

Thanks too to Carol of Waterstones Windsor who sold the books of the authors attending and who is such a geek girl, it was fun to hang around with her between events.

Whilst the event was underway I got a text message from my friend Sarah Bryars saying: DUDE, YOUR BOOK IS UP FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON.

It took a few seconds to sink in.  Then my hands started shaking and the world around me went fizzy and honest to goodness, when I checked by typing my name into the search box in Amazon, lo and behold it was there.  Along with the ISBN code and the description of the book and everything!!!!!

So here it is, the link (for pre-order) but in case you’re wondering if it’s worthwhile clicking on the link, here’s the cover copy:

Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

It sounds mental, doesn’t it? O.o. And it all came out of my head, which makes it scarier still.

Getting this on Saturday, as I’m getting into the swing of writing book 2 (tentatively called VOWED), was such a kick up the pants and so exciting. It made me tingle all over and no, it wasn’t just the fact that it was blazingly hot either!

All of this is literally one step further into making my dream a reality and, shocking for a writer, there is no way really to express my feelings adequately apart from in a gif.

 

 

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

And I’m back!

We had a brief jaunt to this place:

And it was rather splendid.

We did a lot of walking and a lot of just being in the place and experiencing it.  We ate some tremendous food, saw some amazing views from the top of the Rock and travelled to Brooklyn for ribs and pulled pork and it was delicious.

A few pics:

 

Top of the Rock

Stand

Brooklyn Bridge


We would very much like to go back – the people we met were invariably friendly and kind and generous with their time and quick to help out a stranger.  Especially a thanks to the chap outside the Bedford Subway trainstop who took time to google Mable’s Smokehouse’s directions for us.

But we’ve now been back for almost a week which means getting ahead with stuff.  Mark’s working on his new novel (I’ve read snippets and it’s ridiculously good) and I’ve received my second round of edits from Bella The Editor that I started this weekend.

Needless to say, in Casa de Jager, the next few months will be all about writing and plotting and planning.  I have printed off one of the most amazing blogposts ever from Libba Bray about plotting and writing.  This is the link – go read it if you’re into that kind of thing.

Stuff I’m up to for the next few weeks too include:

- hosting a panel over at Charters School, Sunningdale.  I’ll be in conversation with Will Hill, Conrad Mason and Rob Lloyd Jones.  This is the link to a blog about it.  Clever Darren from Bookzone for Boys roped me in to chat to these three great authors about their books.  Do feel free to come along – the events the entire day are all free, but you will need tickets!

- then in August, along with a host of great talent, I’ll be at the Nineworlds London convention – and it looks like a stellar line-up of writers, film and comics people.  I’ve seen the prelim schedule but my events haven’t yet been confirmed yet so I’ll keep you up to date on that. 

And I think that’s it for now.

Hopefully I’ll be able to report progess on Book 2 soon as well as tell you more about Book 1 and when to expect covers and proofs and such like.

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

And it’s done. For now. Also, a title.

Lola's cupcakes

Lola’s Cupcakes

It’s with MUCH excitement and trepidation and fear and anxiety that I write this blogpost to say that I’ve finished the first round of edits for the Book 1 in the Blackhart trilogy and sent them off to my agent and editor.  I celebrated by having a mini red velvet cupcake from Lola’s.

*proceeds to Muppet flail a la Kermit* 

I enjoyed doing the edits – I was allowed (and encouraged) to add a lot of words to the manuscript to bring it up to approximately 100k.  The final tally is 106,000 words and I hope they are good words.  I added a few scenes which we agreed were crucial to the story which I actually glossed over in the manucript Tor bought.  I realise it’s unusual to be allowed to add words when doing edits, so I’ve utterly luxuriated in it being able to do that.  Hopefully they aren’t rubbish words.

I’ve also received the nod from Bella to share the name of the first book with you.  And that is:

The Blackhart Legacy: Book 1 – Banished 

There’s all kinds of meta-reasons for this title which you’ll see when / if you decide to read the book next year.  But mostly, importantly, it deals with what Kit Blackhart does as a job: she banishes monsters back to where they belong.  She’s kinda  a teenage Judge Dredd…meets the Brothers Grimm. So don’t expect too much kissing and running through fields of flowers singing happy songs.  Not in my world, at least!

Okay, enough about me!!

Shout-outs about some other things now:

Byzantium – this movie starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirise Ronan is incredible.  We caught it on Sunday past and it blew me away. Slow burning, sexy, incredibly sad and poignant with a strong through-line, Gemma and Saorise are superbly cast.  It’s not your average vampire story and I’d like to see more thoughtful stuff like this that will rejuvenate the bled-out vampire flicks we’ve been getting of late.

Nick

Nick in Grimm

Grimm – the TV show has been on wonky ground in Series 1 and bits of Series 2 were a bit odd but suddenly it’s kicked off and both Mark and I are loving it.  It seems like everyone’s now settled into their roles, they know where they’re going and what they’re up to and it really shows.  Monroe really is my favourite character as he is just so incredible genuine.  As for Nick, the lead, he’s really started to grow on me, especially when he’s Angry Nick.  I like the way they’ve written his character development and his bromance with Monroe.  It feels great.

 The 100 and other CW shows – I’m not sure if any of these shows will come to the UK but I would love to see The 100 hit our tv screens.  The trailer looks very interesting!

This weekend at Forbidden Planet the legend that is Stephen R Lawhead will be signing copies of his new book.  Stephen Lawhead is one of the first fantasy authors I read growing up in South Africa.  I borrowed a copy of In The Hall of the Dragon King from someone and basically, after that, I knew I had found a genre (I didn’t even know what genre was back then) that I utterly loved reading.  It was hell getting the other books in the trilogy but dammit, I got them and I read them and I loved them utterly.  I reordered a copy of ITHOTD for him to sign for me on Saturday and I will do my utmost to contain myself and not freak out.  I mean, it’s bloody Stephen R Lawhead!

Then, keeping with the fantasy theme, if you’re a fan or if you know of someone who’s looking for something new to read, may I suggest Amy McCulloch’s debut? The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is old school fantasy with a great main character and a very well developed and believable world.   The book’s published for the YA market and it’s just so good – it will appeal to older teens and is packed full of cross-over appeal.

We’re heading off to New York soon and I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather.  As you do.  I even bought new shorts as I’ve been told NY gets muggy in summer.  I wonder if I’ll cope? Also: we’ve got Mets tickets.  Baseball, baby!

 

NY Mets

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

Figures

Snoops!

Snoops!

Bear with me – I just need somewhere to make a note of this so I can check back on it for my own sanity.

MS now stands at 94,977 words including edits thus far. It started at 88k. I’ve edited 151 pages out of 314 pages. That equates to 46,347 words out of 94,977 words. Hoping that final count of ms will be around 100k+.

Wordcount

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

The next step: everyone panic!

I’ve been lucky enough to have met my editor socially (still not used to saying that or writing that) a few times now since I joined Team Tor.  This was due to me turning up at loads of events Bella also showed up at.  We even dressed alike at one event and that was a bit embarrassing; clearly the assimilation pills I took when I joined are working.

P1030058

My 1940 Dutch Fairy Tale Book

It’s been great chatting to her in kinda off-time about various things and the more we chatted the more I’ve come to realise how much I trust her vision for the first Blackhart book and the series.  She asked really pertinent questions and is really quick on the uptake when I explain my world’s mythology to her.  I sent her some photos of the Dutch fairy tales I received as a gift from my friend Mieneke to give her an idea of my sources.

But then, this Friday past I got sent through my editorial letter and my manuscript edits too.  And, as luck would have it…my printer decided to mess around.  I went into a full on muppet flailing panic.  Thankfully I was alone in the office so no one could point and laugh at me.  However, I got the edits and the editorial letter printed off and carried it home, feeling hugely smug and going “oh yeah, baby, who is grown up now?”

I read through the editorial notes whilst I sat on the train rocketing along past Brixton (book 2 is set here) and Dulwich and I felt my heart swell with pride and excitement.  These were my words Bella was talking about.  My characters and the the mad situations I put them in.  And together we’re going to make it – hopefully – better and brighter and more enjoyable for readers yet to come.

I couldn’t stop smiling.  The manuscript itself looks not too bad, I convince myself, only lightly bled across with commentary and mark-ups.  I kinda expected a bloodbath.  My deadline is okay and doable, I tell myself, counting the days and figuring that I can easily take time off work too as I am owed a lot of days carried over from last year.  With that in mind, I puttered around the kitchen making dinner for friends of ours swinging by and whilst we were having dinner I kept smiling a smug secret smile.

This is the next big step for me and the book and it’s like I’ve just unlocked a gaming achievement.

I realise this is not the usual way edits are welcomed, but then, bear in mind these are my first ever edits from Bella.  The edits I worked on with Juliet last year feels a long time ago now and I’ve been pondering a lot of changes, some minor, some slightly bigger, to the manuscript and I’ve spoken to Bella about those too.  Now I can get stuck in, chop, change, amend and hopefully make better.

And I’m not even remotely panicking.  Nope. Not at all.  It’s just bloody exciting.

Mirrored from Liz de Jager.

Ruminations

From Neil Gaiman's A Writer's Prayer

From Neil Gaiman’s A Writer’s Prayer

Warning: today’s blogpost is mostly NY Resolutiony stuff and a bit navelgazey – feel free to wander away.

These were my resolutions for 2013:

  • Write more.
  • Read more.
  • Relax more.
  • Hang out with my dear friends more.
  • Make more friends.
  • Exercise more (sadly had to put that in).
  • Spend less time procrastinating & self-doubting.
  • Be more frugal and use the library more.
  • Support good causes.
  • Cook more exciting things!
  • Take up photography / take my enjoyment of photography more seriously.
  • Enjoy London more.
  • Travel to new places!

The bits in bold type are things that are actually happening.  I am writing more and I’m reading more, far more than I did when I ran My Favourite Books.  I’ve put “Relax More” in italics because really, that’s hard to now with three books that need writing.  Oh, how little did I know and expect back in December.  Silly girl, Liz!

However, I’m tying “relax more” in with the bolded “hang out with my dear friends more” because really, that’s what relaxing for me is about.  Movies, long chats in hidden basements of secret restaurant shops in London with good friends and fixing the world.   The new friends thing is kinda new and a bit odd because I’ve joined two new websites:

Author Allsorts

We’re a group of UK-based picture book, children’s and YA authors and illustrators who’ve got together to blog about what we do and why we do it

OneFourKidLit 

OneFour KidLit is a group for children’s and young adult authors with books debuting in 2014.

I’m very proud to be part of both of these blogs.  I know some of these people online via Twitter and Facebook so being part of two great groups like this means suddenly a swathe of great support and newly minted friends.  I win this resolution, right??

But in all seriousness: there is so much to learn as a noob, but that’s actually related to how much you’d like to do and how active you want to be.  I know some authors just have their heads down and get on with it.  Me, on the other hand, I quite like being part of a group and finding out how things work before it’s my turn to you know, go out there and do it.  I like doing my pratfalls with back-up, basically.

I’ve blogged my first introductory post at OneFourKidLit and you can read that here.  My first blogpost for Author Allsorts will go live on 1st May and although I know what I’ll be blogging about I’m not sure I should say for fear of you lot laughing and pointing at me.  So you’ll have to wait.

The items I’ve underlined are things that are ongoing and occasionally hard work – exercise, less time procrastinating, being more frugal and using the library more.

The italics items – support good causes and photography – utter fail for me.  I’ve not donated much to charity since the start of the year or rather, not in the way most people would think.  I tend to pass on a lot of books to Matt’s school’s library and I know the books are finding a good new home there, but it feels a bit like cheating.  For the next few months, into Autumn, the house will be tidied stringently and we will be donating clothes and more books, dvds and cds to our local charity shops.

As for photography – pfft.  Please! The last time I did something was when it snowed so much and we almost froze to death walking around the local cemetery.  Pretty pictures though!

Enjoying London and Travelling to New Places – all of this is ongoing too.  Today for instance I walked all around Warren Street Station area and got horrifically lost.  I found tiny empty side-streets and wandered around them mewling like a lost sheep…until I found the correct building.  It was all planned, of course, me getting lost.  As for travelling to new places – well, we’re heading to Edinburgh in May and then to NY later this year.  Those are new places! (We’ve been to Edinburgh a few times but it was so long ago it counts as new). We are also visiting Oxford later this month on a silly daytrip.  I need some museum time at the Pit Rivers and the Ashmolean too, just because.

That’s it, my quarterly check-up on how things are going with my NY resolutions.  Not too shabby.  I shudder to think what my 2014 resolutions will be: breathe breathe don’t panic breathe breathe.

Mirrored from Liz De Jager.

Random giggle

Saw this on FB and well, true / not true?

Quest

Mirrored from Liz De Jager.

Launches, books, pictures

Since we shut MFB at the end of 2012, both Mark and I have been reading practically nonstop.  Mark’s been devouring contemporary action thrillers and some light urban fantasy and near-future science fictiony type stuff.

I’ve been reading crime thrillers, urban fantasy, non fiction books about crime and research books on folklore and also swathes of books for teens and younger readers.  Also: graphic novels, lots of them.

A lot of the books we’re reading comes from our existing collection of books but some of it comes from our local library.  I know the books I have on my shelf but walking in to the library is a breathless event because you just never know what you may find.

I’ve also been able to attend two great launches in the past few weeks.

My good friend, Mo O’Hara (Maureen Oakeley before she got famous), had the launch of her My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish at the pretty Tales on Moon Lane a few weeks ago.

Here are some photos from the evening.

Nail

My scary snarly nail for Mo’s launch party

Mo with Frankie

Proud author Mo O’Hara with her book

George and Mo

George (Tales on Moon Lane) holding THE cake and Mo with Frankie

It was such a lovely evening – loads of SCBWI folk attended, but also a lot of Mo’s friends which was great.  Super fun to see adults trying to comprehend the madness of a children’s author’s book launch.  There was much green zombie juice to drink too, which definitely helped the very loud and super excited atmosphere.

Friday past was Sarwat Chadda’s book launch for his second Ash Mistry title:

The book is called ASH MISTRY AND THE CITY OF DEATH.  I mean, how could you not want to read it? Here’s the stupendous cover:

Sarwat’s enthusiasm for his books, characters and writing is infectious.  He’s one of those guys who really thinks about what he’s doing but he kinda hides it behind a facade of silliness.  I’ve got you sussed, Sarwat! You can’t lie.  CITY OF DEATH sounds incredible and according to Sarwat, it’s very much a homage to Mowgli in The Jungle Book.  I can’t wait to read it.  (I’m lying, btw – I’ve not yet read book one – SAVAGE FORTRESS – because I’m waiting for the third book to be out so I can read them all in one go!!)

Here are some books I bought recently and some that I’ve been reading:

Hidden Things

I forget where I read a review of Hidden Things.  I loved the cover and the write-up sounded great, so I bought it ages ago.  Once I got stuck in I just could not stop reading.  Definitely a slow burner and none of the supernatural elements you find in Hidden Things is leery or too in your face.  Mr. Testerman is super restrained as he walks Calli through this world and I fell for his writing in a big way.  Also: you’d want a girl like Calli on your side when the world goes pearshaped.

Englishman's Cameo

I saw a review of Madhulika Liddle’s most recent book in one of the newspapers here at work.  I loved the sound of the writing and the world and the era it’s set in and decided to give the first book “The Englishman’s Cameo” a whirl.  Well, I loved it – the world, 17th Century India, is rich in detail, to the extent where, even in the middle of winter here in the UK it felt as if I was there, in this warm arid place.  The locations are evocatively described and a lot of terms used aren’t translated into English but that doesn’t matter as it’s used in context so you understand what the author refers to.  The main character is imminently likeable and  I had to fend a colleague off as he wanted to nab the book from me.  I made him buy his own copy.  The bloody cheek.

Books!

On Saturday Mark and I came in to town to have a celebratory lunch with Sarah and her hubby and it was wonderful.  I ate until I wobbled around like those bobble-head dolls.  We bid them adieu late afternoon and en route to the station we swung by Forbidden Planet where I got treated to two lovely titles.  I’ve started Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce and already and bah, it’s ridiculously good.  Damn you, Graham Joyce! *waves fist impotently at the skies*

And Sunday was Game of Thrones Season 2 marathon.  From my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it seems a lot of friends opted to do this as mostly the weather was vile and grim.  And what better way to while away your time than to wander around Westeros and hate Joffrey and love Tyrion and crush on Jon Snow?

Mirrored from Liz De Jager.

A week on!

So, a week on from Tor acknowledging me as part of the League of Tor Authors, and it’s been pretty damn amazing.

Tor Mug

Celebratory Tea Mug from Mark

It is a learning curve, going from blogger and fan to noobie debut author.

Here’s stuff wot I did:

1. smile so much I had to go buy stronger face cream to combat the wrinkles that seemed to set in overnight.

2. say thank you to what seems to be a thousand people online and in real life.

3. have grown up conversations about an author photo.

4. scour my pinterest boards and set up super secret pinterest board loaded full of covers of books I love, images I love to hand over to Tor’s design team.

5. I signed up to be part of onefourkidlit.com as they invited me along – this is truly flattering.

6. got invited to be part of  a UK based kidlit author blog being set up – this is so exciting my mind boggles – also: flattering.

7. evaluate reading time vs writing time vs “down” time and realised for real that there is now no longer down time.

8. wrote around 5 thousand words over 4 days on book2 and kinda hoping I’m not screwing it up.

9. got emails from my family that, although they are thousands of miles away, made me feel loved and amazing.

10. started working very hard on the second bedroom to pull it into some kind of order so that Mark and I have a room that will be inhabitable if friends need to stay over.

11. tell people I work with about the deal and explain to them a bazillionty times that no, I am not JK Rowling or JRR Tolkien.  Geez!

12. how incredibly exciting and yet frightening it is when people you know well and who you’ve met as a blogger (and they are either a blogger or an author whom you’ve long admired) and they say: really looking forward to reading it when it’s published.  And then your brain goes into melt-down.

13. still, with the smiling and wrinkles.

14. remember to buy more waterproof mascara as it turns out I go all emo when I get good news.

15. realised I need to keep a series bible for characters and creatures that inhabit the Blackhart world.  *gulps*

No celebratory meal has yet been devoured – that will come soon.  In the meantime both Mark and I are being strict with ourselves food-wise as we have to look spic-and-span for a wedding in May and then our NY trip too later this year – where will eat All The Things.  *dreams of bagels*

We are also wondering what to do about a holiday later this year.  I would just like to go somewhere warm – and am secretly hoping the UK will get to bask in some lovely sunshine, because that would be amazing and it would mean trips to the beach with Sparrow, writing in the garden but also evening bbq’s and salad.  *quietly dreams*

Please, weather gods, get it sorted, right?

 

Mirrored from Liz De Jager.

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