21 December, 2012

Blog 2012

    It's the season when the tradition of getting nostaligic for the past year and/or ambitious for the following year really comes into its own. Any half-decent writer will be writing a pithy, poignant and insightful blog post, perhaps with a nice little quotation at the end to inspire their readers to move onwards and upwards into the coming year.

    I'm not going to do that. I suppose I'm not feeling particularly pithy right now. So instead,I've made lists. I love lists. A well-made list is a loyal friend. Here are some fun blog facts and a few links to conversations you might have missed on this blog (not too late to join in!) and to other blogs that rock:

    Most commented blog posts of 2012:
    1.  That Would Be Myself - our grammar hang-ups and difficulties
    2. An Agent - my good news moment of the year
    3. Fancy Fonts - deciding which font to use next
    4. Morality in Fiction - do we have double standards when it comes to reading and writing?
    Most viewed blog posts of 2012 (in addition to the posts given above):
    1. The Shortest Story Ever Told - celebrating flash fiction
    2. On Losing the Plot - my struggles with the first draft of my novel, The Art of Letting Go
    3. Do I Need to Become a Twit  - deciding whether I should join Twitter (I did! Join me - @ChloeTellsTales)
    4. Collective Nouns - a discussion of our favourite... well... collective nouns.
    5. An Interview with... Alasdair Firth - talking to the MD of a new independent publisher
    Weirdest Google searches that have brought people to my blog:
    1. 'i so totally want to drink'
    2. 'the heavens and touch them' (19 page views!)
    3. 'and or think leads to student' (14 page views!)
    4. 'angry people'
    5. 'to avoid the mud' 
    I am upset that this is how people find me, when Freya has people turning up on her blog by searching for 'cool writer'!

    Some blogs I've read in 2012 that you should read too:
    1. Write, Edit, Seek Literary Agent - from the fabulous Writer's Workshop, a must for any writer who intends to do these three things.
    2. Mammalingo - a witty, lively insight into the world of parenting. (I'm not a parent but find it hilarious.) Melissa writes for various American publications and even re-blogged one of my comments on her blog recently. She's a lovely lady.
    3. Literary Engineer - Suzi is a YA writer who has been doing a fabulous series of posts on extraneous words that sneak into our writing. Go and search for 'sloppy writing 101' on the blog whenever you're editing your own work. I promise it'll help!
    4. From Sand to Glass - Martin makes every Friday extra-fun by posting a list of pictures from the internet that have made him chuckle. I look forward to it every week!
    5. Chronic Introvert - Alice is new to the world of blogging so I'm going to encourage you to go and say hello to her! She is 18 and out to prove that you don't have to be old to be good at writing. Having read her opening YA novel chapter (yes, she's written a novel already!) I was stunned at the maturity of her writing. She could do with a team of other writers of all ages to welcome her into the blogging community and share some tips - couldn't we all? Go on, make her day :)
    Some non-writing blogs I've been enjoying this year: Bottom of the Pecking Order, Science and The Sacred, Becoming Raje, Joanna Lucy Illustrates. And of course, I have loved catching up with all my writing friends on their personal blogs too. Hooray for community!

    If you run a blog, please leave a comment with a link to your favourite post from this year and if I haven't already read it - I will!  (If you don't run a blog but have a favourite post from somebody else's blog, feel free to post that instead!)

    I haven't made lists of goal and resolutions for 2013, but as my far-flung ambition to get an agent in 2012 actually came about in a startling and surreal manner, I'm going to go all out and say I'm hoping for a publishing deal this year! What are you hoping for from the writing pixies?

    As this will probably be my last blog post this year... Have a blessed Christmas, and a Merry New Year to you all!

    "I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking." - Dorothy L. Sayers

    17 December, 2012

    Is Non-Fiction Better For Us?

    My attention was caught recently by this article in The Telegraph about how "Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye from their curriculum in favour of 'informational texts'." Informational texts, apparently, are things such as manuals and inventories. These new standards are being part-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    When entering the "real world" as adults, the children of today will come across far more non-fiction than fiction. Reading a bus timetable, filling out job applications, understanding electricity bills - these are the fundamental reasons we teach children to read. But does that mean schools should be spending less time on fiction and more on non-fiction?

    Non-fiction, of course, comes in many forms. Some of these are very similar to fiction: they tell a compelling story that grips the reader (this is particularly true of the extraordinarily popular so-called 'misery memoirs'). The only difference is that the reader also knows that they are true. Reading well-written non-fiction can be brilliant. One of my favourite books - the story of civilisation and why certain populations ended up with all the power - is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. And there are great books for children too. Just look at the Horrible Histories books - non-fiction that has captivated successive generations of children.

    So non-fiction is good. But what about fiction. Is fiction actually important? Of course it brings a lot of joy and is wonderful escapism for adults and children alike, but why actually teach it?

    There will be some kids at school who love reading fiction and, if they struggle with other areas of schooling, it might be what saves their education. So for them, it has an obvious, tangible benefit. But I would say that it has benefits for all children. A lot of cultural references come from famous books and, in my opinion, fiction encourages development. I wouldn't want to live in a world where the adults were once teenagers who never had to use their imagination; whose sole entertainment came as a complete package on a screen - images and sounds spoonfed to them, rather than created in their heads from words on a page. Fiction - both reading and writing it - discourages lazy thinking.

    I have nothing against non-fiction being taught in schools. I think it's a good thing for children to read examples of concise and interesting non-fiction that they can learn from. I'm just not sure plant inventories and manuals are really necessary. You can teach a kid to write an essay; you can't teach them to love learning. Children can leave school merely educated, or they can leave inspired as well. 

    What do you think? Is fiction actually important? Or is it a luxury? 

    13 December, 2012

    Creativity and Obsession

    Do creative people need to be obsessive about their art?

    It's healthy to take time away from the desk!
    I find it hard to think of myself as a creative person. My background is in science and I've never been particularly arty. I don't live in a commune or have dream catchers hanging in my windows. I pretty much never suffer from existentialist crises. I suppose, however, as somebody who creates stories, I am creative. But does that mean I need to be obsessive? Do I need to write every day? Does writing need to be the first thing I think about in the morning?

    "I've been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good." Barbara Streisand

    There are tonnes of quotes out there from famous people about being obsessed by what they do. And I'm just not sure they're right. Absolutely you must be passionate about your art. Definitely you need to commit time and energy into learning the craft of what you do. But passion is not the same as obsession. Obsession is not healthy. I watched an amazing talk on nurturing creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert, about how it's not OK for us to accept that creative people are depressed or mentally unstable. Sure, historically many have been, but that doesn't mean it's OK. Obsession kills either the creativity or the person. Maybe you disagree? Maybe obsession is just what it takes to be successful.

    "Obsession led me to write. It's been that way with every book I've ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge." Anne Rice

    In some ways I want to be obsessed with writing and proud of it. Don't we all want that story of how much we sacrificed to succeed? Isn't there a little part of us that wants people to admire us for emerging from writing a novel draft with a pale face and nervous twitch, physically and emotionally drained? I feel inferior to other writers by announcing that I'm not obsessed by writing. But I know full well what it's like to be obsessed by something - truly obsessed - and I wouldn't say that to achieve that state would make me a better writer.

    I don't write every day. I do go on holiday. I don't think of writing all the time. Maybe that means I'll never be a great writer, but I think it means I'll be a happier person, and hopefully a person who will love writing for life without burning out. I have no sympathy with people who bemoan their lack of success without putting in the time needed both to improve on their art and show it to the world. But there is a line between passionate commitment with a good work ethic, and obsession. In a world where Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is destroying many people's lives, I think we use the word 'obsession' too incautiously.

    I love writing and I'll work as hard as I can to get better at it, but I won't be its slave. I don't agree with Meryl Streep that obsession is an attractive thing. I don't agree with John Waters that without obsession life is nothing. Instead, I think I agree with the artist Jim Dine:

    "I do not think that obession is funny, or that not being able to stop one's intensity is funny."

    But perhaps I'm wrong. Do we need obsession to create good art? What are the signs that somebody is obsessive, rather than passionate? Do you think it matters?

    10 December, 2012

    Merry Bookmas!

    My husband and I have been debating whether or not to get a Christmas tree this year. I love to get a real tree and it's the only Christmas decoration I actually like. We also tend to use it as a card holder - standing up all our cards in its branches. BUT for the first time since we married, we are not actually going to be home on Christmas day. Luckily our dilemma was solved when I saw this post on the author Charmaine Clancy's blog Wagging Tales. Thanks Charmaine - great idea!

    Here are a few photos of our Christmas "tree". My husband is an engineer and I'm a writer, so it seemed appropriate...

    Playing a game of book Jenga

    Some of the fabulous authors helping to make our Christmas

    The finished article

    An angel's eye view. Who doesn't have a Dr. Seuss book somewhere?

    How will you be decorating your house this year?

    06 December, 2012

    Fancy Fonts (or not)

    I'm bored of Georgia. Not the country or the American state, but the font. For the last two or three years I've done all my writing in double-spaced Georgia 12-point and I'm beginning to get sick of it. I chose Georgia because it's clear  to read on paper, and also easy on the eye when looking at a screen. But several million key strokes later, I'm ready for a change.

    Agents and editors hate fancy fonts. They don't want to read something that looks as if it was written in a child's handwriting - even if the narrator of the story is a child. They just want something clear, inoffensive and unremarkable. Times New Roman (modelled by this blog post, and very similar to Georgia) is ideal. In general, if you are submitting something on paper, you want a serif font. I'm no design expert but my understanding is that - like Times and Georgia - serif fonts are the ones with all the little flicks on the edges of the letters which makes them easier to read on paper. Sans serif fonts - without the flicks - are easier to read on screen (although I don't use them).

    Arial, shown here, is a good example of a sans serif font (as is the most over-used and misused font in the world, Comic Sans).

    So I need a new font. What would you recommend? There are loads of great fonts out there. My husband designed all our church stuff in Museo and since then we've noticed it's being used by all the cool kids nowadays. But a font used in designing stuff is different from a font used for pages of writing. I need another serif font that can be my new best friend for the next year or two - until I get bored again. 

    In all probability I'll come crawling back to Georgia in a few months time (I feel guilty for telling you I'm sick of it - it's been a faithful friend to me!) and remember why I chose it in the first place. But for now, I need some fresh letters to stare at for hours on end. Wingdings do you think?

    What's your default font for word documents? Why did you choose it?

    03 December, 2012

    Signed and Sealed

    It's all official. Contracts have been signed and everything. I am now represented by David Haviland at the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency officially. David and I met up in London last week to discuss all the things that need to be changed in my novel, The Art of Letting Go. It was such a pleasure to talk about it with somebody who has an interest in it from a professional point of view, and to thrash out some of the issues. And as a massive bonus (a necessity, really) we seemed to get on very well!

    You can now read about both my book and me on the Andrew Lownie website. I have also added another page about the book to this blog for those who are curious but don't for some reason want to visit a different website. (I'm struggling to think why somebody might fit into this category, but you never know!).

    So now I have the task of re-writing the novel for the fourth time and putting together a proposal with David to send to the publishers. I'm also starting to plan my next novel as that will be a good selling point for this one  - publishers would rather invest in an author than a single book. I'm really excited about my next novel already, but I'm trying to keep calm enough to focus on this one for another couple of months!

    29 November, 2012

    The Writers' Workshop

    The Power of the Professionals

    My degree is Biological Anthropology. It's not as posh as it sounds. It's basically human biology, focussing on evolution, with a bit of cool stuff about mummies thrown in. The point is, it's a science degree. For my A-levels I did biology, chemistry and maths. I haven't had a lesson in writing since my GCSEs (compulsory exams at the age of 16, for my friends across the Atlantic!). I'm not a qualified writer. But neither am I some creative genius who doesn't need to be taught. For the last few years I've been teaching myself to write by writing a lot, and by reading a lot. I've read fantastic fiction and also great blog posts and articles from other writers willing to give out their words of wisdom for free. It's been fun.

    But if I was to choose one thing that made the biggest difference to my writing since I started taking it seriously about two years ago, it would be The Writers' Workshop. Getting a professional critique on my first attempt at writing a novel (a children's fantasy adventure) taught me more than I could have taught myself in years. A nine page in-depth report of everything I'd done wrong (and some of what I'd done right) taught me both general writing skills and about my own weaknesses as a writer.

    It wasn't cheap. When you get a critique you are paying a professional to read your whole manuscript (MS) and make detailed notes. And that takes a lot of their time. It also wasn't comfortable. Having someone pick apart your darling MS and point out all your cringe-worthy amateurish mistakes is a humbling experience. But if anybody out there has the money to do it, I cannot recommend it enough. Getting your friends to read your work - however much you trust them to be honest - is valuable, but it isn't the same.

    I used the Writer's Workshop and found them amazing. Not only do they use professional authors to write the critiques - so you are getting someone who has been there, done that and learned how to look stylish in the t-shirt - but they can't seem to do enough for you. Since paying for the critique I have had so much free advice from them - from checking over my cover letters to writing a whole blog post for me when I asked a question about submitting to agents! Harry Bingham, who runs the agency, replies to comments on the blog and even e-mailed me personally when he thought he could help with something.

    I was lucky that the author who worked with me thought I had enough potential for her to write the longest report she'd ever done. The detailed advice she gave made the book so much better. OK, so I never found an agent for that one, but I did get feedback from a couple of agencies saying they thought I had something going for me, which kept me pressing on. Although my current adult novel, The Art of Letting Go, never went through the WW, the things I learned from that first critique were crucial in helping me to write it well enough to find an agent.

    You may not be able to afford a proper critique - I only did in the end because I won a short story competition and put the prize money towards it - but I recommend visiting the website anyway. It has so much to inpsire writers, from agent interviews to writing courses. I don't usually wax lyrical about organisations on this blog, but I really think WW is tremendous. Unlike some organisations out there, it seems to exist to help and encourage writers at all stages, not to extort money off the back of the precious dreams and ambitions of people who love to write.

    What's been the one thing that's made the most difference to your writing? (Other than reading and just writing!)

    26 November, 2012

    From Quills to Scrivener

    Last week came the sad - though not unexpected - news that Britain has made its last typewriter. There is not enough demand in the UK for typewriters any more and so the manufacturers have shut down their factory, donating their last product to the Science Museum in London.

    I had a bit of a panic when I heard this news. I don't have a typewriter yet - save one for me! Surely every writer should have a typewriter? I remember typing up a story on my mum's typewriter when I was about eight years old and I loved the mechanical feel of it. It felt industrious somehow. But nowadays the biggest demand for typewriters is probably on film and television sets.

    Of course there are reasons why we don't use typewriters anymore. Computers are superior in almost every way, except in romance. There's no romance in a laptop. Word processors are not the stuff sepia-toned memories are made of. I'd love to say that I write my first drafts with a feather quill on cream paper, and then type in up on a 1930s typewriter in a hotel room overlooking the sea. But I don't. I'm very dull. Unromantic or not, I produce all my work - from first draft to final masterpiece (hmmmm) - on Microsoft Word (Georgia 12 point, double-spaced with 3cm margins, if you're interested).

    Working out the plot structure of The Art of Letting Go
    I don't however, plan my writing on a computer. I always plan by hand. I have a plethora of notebooks for various types of writing, and I always print out first drafts to edit by hand too. My current novel (now called The Art of Letting Go) has its own notebook and my next novel is just waiting to be summoned into possibility inside another.

    But there are even more modern ways to get writing. Many people have recommended the software Scrivener. Scrivener is "a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from the first, unformed idea all the way through to final draft". I haven't used it, but I think the idea is that instead of having piles of notes on characters and plot and those sorts of things, you have it all in one place, complete with colour-coding and all sorts of other clever tools. It sounds perfect. But I'd hate it. I've heard brilliant stuff about it. But it's not for me.

    My tool-kit for writing The Art of Letting Go
    I like to have my walls and desk covered in paper. I love flicking through a notebook to find a note I scribbled when inspiration struck in the middle of making dinner. I enjoy having a massive theasuarus on my desk even though it's just as easy to look at an online version. Some writers always write their first draft by hand to make the process more thoughtful, others use software like Scrivener because they love the clean order of their physical workspace when everything exists in a virtual one instead. The trick is finding what works for you and not allowing yourself to feel inferior because it's not what Hemmingway or Dickens did.

    Are you a pen and paper kind of person or a Scrivener scribbler? If you do use Scrivener - or any other specialist software - I'd love to hear what you think of it and whether you'd recommend it to other writers.

    20 November, 2012

    An Agent!

    So this is the post I've dreamed of being able to write! I am very pleased to tell you that I have just accepted representation from David Haviland at The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency for my novel (current title Thousand-Word Things - though not for much longer!). It's all been a bit surreal.

    Having experienced plentiful rejection in the past I had geared myself up for a year of sending out my partial manuscript (MS) to agents and getting rejections. I dreamed bigger, of course, but was prepared for the worst. After all, aren't we always told that only somewhere between one in 500 and one in 1000 MS submissions to agents are successful? In the end though, it's all been crazily fast. I started sending out this MS on the 19th October; I accepted representation on the 19th November!

    On the same day I blogged about getting my first tough rejection, I got my first break! My friend Martyn (who I probably owe a cup of Earl Grey) persuaded the fiction agent at Andrew Lownie's (Martyn has worked with Andrew) to read my novel, and so I sent off my full MS.

    While I was really happy at this foot in the door, it felt a bit like cheating. I know that almost none of those one in 1000 books actually comes from the slush pile - they are nearly all personal recommendations, but I still felt like I'd skipped a stage. Therefore, I was even more delighted the next day when another agency - Eve White - picked my novel off the slush pile and liked it enough to ask for the full MS. I suddenly had two interested agents!

    I only had two days of trying to keep my expectations low before I had the wonderful e-mail from David, saying he'd read the whole thing, containing the magic words "I'd very much like to represent you". Without any preliminary hints at interest it came as a bolt from the blue - I think I was in shock for about a day!

    As a writer my instinct was to agree to everything and get something signed straight away before David realised his mistake! But an agent has to be right for you and for your book. So there followed 10 agonising days as I kept in touch with Eve White and with David, and took advice from various professionals (including this very useful page, and the wonderful Writer's Workshop who are so amazing they'll get their own post later!). During this time I got a rejection from another agency, plus two rejections for other pieces of work - it was a bit of a crazy rollercoaster time! "Luckily" I was distracted from some of the waiting by picking up one of those winter vomiting bugs. Lovely.

    I won't give you a blow by blow account of everything that happened (especially not the bug) - I appreciate it's only really interesting for me! In the end, both David and Eve had much the same praise and criticism for my novel, but Eve didn't feel she could make an offer until I'd addressed the issues first. I'm so grateful to her and her readers though for their encouragement that I have "real potential as an author". They are an agency I'd recommend submitting to. In a way it made my job easier. Having spoken to (and researched!) David and the agency, I really liked him and was extremely keen to work with him but knew I should be professional and hold out until I'd spoken to Eve! I was delighted to accept David's offer.

    For me this is the ideal situation. David and his agency are a great combination. David is a new-ish agent and so has time and enthusiasm and is actively building his list (if anybody reading this is looking for an agent...), but he's a writer and has been working as an editor for Andrew Lownie for years. The agency itself is very well-respected - for all my google-searching and quizzing industry experts, I can't find a bad word said about it, even on the formiddable site Preditors and Editors. It prides itself in working to develop new writers' careers. I've heard it said before that new writers do well with new agents, so a new agent at an established and respected agency is perfect!

    So now the work starts again. I've got a fair few changes to make before we even think about trying to find a publisher (and of course there's a very high chance it still won't sell and be published). But it feels like I've at least cleared the first hurdle at last. Then there's the next novel to start writing...

    Thanks for allowing me a long and self-indulgent post - back to normal next week (so only slightly too long and self-indulgent). But I hope you'll journey with me through the excitement and insecurity of whatever happens next. (And thanks to all those who have sent me texts and e-mails full of exclamation marks and capital letters already - you rock!)

    16 November, 2012

    World Book Night 2013: The Books

    A while ago I posted about World Book Night. At the time I was asking you to vote for the book that you thought should be given away for free to encourage people to read. Each year, 20 books are chosen from all the nominations, to create a well-rounded list.

    Well, the list of books to be given away next year has just been finalised. World Book Night will be on April 23rd (as always), and until January 23rd you can apply to help out with distributing the books. The list for next year is:

    The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
    Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
    Girl with a Pearl Earring  by Tracy Chevalier
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
    Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
    The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
    A Little History of the World by E.H Gombrich
    Little Face by Sophie Hannah
    Damage by Josephine Hart
    The Island by Victoria Hislop
    Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay
    Last Night Another Soldier...  by Andy McNab - the first "quick read" for WBN

    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
    The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
    The Reader by Bernard Schlink
    No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    The Road Home by Rose Tremain
    Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
    Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges by John Wagner -  the first graphic novel for WBN

    I confess I've only read four of these so far, but The Knife of Never Letting Go and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal are going on my list of must-read books. I'm still very much open to suggestions for that list by the way. I'm particularly keen to add more books from the last couple of years or proper old classics. Visit my 'Book' page and leave a comment if you've got a suggestion for me. Thanks!

    How many of these have you read? Any favourites?

    14 November, 2012

    An Interview With... Derek Thompson

    Recently I posted about whether to self-publish or hold out for the traditional option. As I have no experience of self-publishing I thought I'd interview somebody who has! Step forward Derek Thompson, whose novel Covenant has come through dodgy working titles and many drafts to be self-published this month. Derek is a very nice man and a professional copy-writer whose services are listed here.


    1. Is Covenant your first novel?
    Yes, Covenant is my firstborn! I had the original ideas back in the mists of time, and developed Covenant (originally entitled, gulp, The Promise of a Rainbow) over a number of years. And by developed I mean that I picked at it occasionally and then left it for a year or three. In truth, it took time for me to see the emerging patterns within Covenant. I've also written a few thousands words of the sequel, Restitution.

        2. Have you been traditionally published in the past?
    I have quite a varied footprint...
    Articles: Last of the Line for The Guardian and in Canadian mag Thrive in Life, green living pieces for Discover magazine and chicken pieces (!) for Country Smallholding magazine. You can also find examples of my short fiction in three anthologies: Coffee Shop Chronicles, Beyond the Horizon (where there's also a piece by a certain Chloe Banks...) and Flash Fiction South West.

        3. What is Covenant about?
    The book takes place on a colonised world. Successive wars have split humanity into three factions - those who live in walled city states; the settlers, who live in isolated communities in the forests, desert and mountains; and a nomadic religious group known as the Thaylin Sarra who wander amongst them. Their faith is a mixture of Old Earth established religious traditions, along with Western mysticism.

    The Thaylin Sarra believe that a martyred teacher will return with her disciples to liberate them and reveal their spiritual homeland. Her four disciples reincarnate about 500 years after her death, without knowing either their connection or their obligation. One is a priestess, one an outsider, one a heretic and one has been indoctrinated by the Appren - the enemy of the Thaylin Sarra faith. 

    Individual and collective destinies are interwoven in a classic fantasy quest. However, there aren't always comfortable answers or convenient solutions. The book also looks at the nature of loss, honour and personal sacrifice. That's the intention, anyway.

        4. What made you decide to self-publish
    In a sense, self-publishing Covenant is like a gift to myself. A way of thanking the younger me who stuck with it and produced a completed book that I could work with. It's also a way of honouring the many people who have read part or all of the manuscript over the long years. The decision to finally opt for self-publication came after a conventional publisher surprised me with a 'writer contribution' where I'd contribute over £5000. That was the last bridge, so to speak, and made me realise that the remedy was in my own hands.

        5. What were the hardest things about self-publishing?
    Firstly, knowing exactly what to do and when. I was fortunate because a friend had written a self-publishing guide. And, if I'd read it carefully first instead of diving in, I could have saved myself time and stress! Secondly, the 'm' word - marketing. Having a book out there is great for about two days. And then you realise that a book needs readers and you have to go and find them. Not once, but often! Thirdly, whether you have employed an editor and a cover artist or done everything yourself, you are responsible for all the key decisions.

        6. What is/are the best thing(s) about self-publishing?
    It's the flip side of all the hard things. You get to format your book to meet your requirements, at your own pace, and then you're free to market it however you see fit. You can take risks, experiment and play with concepts.

        7. Do you have a strategy for selling?
    Not really, but I have given it some thought.
    Covenant should appeal to three distinct groups of readers:
    a) Lovers of fantasy fiction.
    b) Those with an interest in the esoteric subjects touched upon in the book - the tarot, meditation, reincarnation and the Tree of Life.
    c) People who enjoy allegorical fiction that contains spiritual or philosophial ideas - readers of Paulo Coelho or Dan Millman perhaps.

        8. How long did it take you to go from finished book to published book?
    In terms of making the decision to self-publish, about four months for the ebook. Most of that time was spent on the final, deep tissue edit. As hinted at above, the paperback will soon follow.

       9.  What would be your top pieces of advice to someone thinking about self-publishing?
    a) Recognise your comfort zones, limitations and resources, so you know when to outsource key aspects.
    b) Plan what you're going to do, and when, and do your research. Again, I recommend the guide I used - I was so pleased with it that I included a link in my ebook.

        10.  Would you self-publish again?
    That is a difficult question to answer. Yes, under certain circumstances. Covenant is the first novel of a two-parter (duology isn't a word that comes naturally to me!), but I'd only self-publish if I knew there was sufficient demand. I would definitely consider self-pubbing smaller pieces of work.

        11.  What are you doing next?
    Apart from wearing my bookseller sandwich board, you mean? I'm doing my darnedest to promote my ebook of Covenant and ebook Superhero Club, which has just been launched by Musa Publishing. And I plan to celebrate when the paperback version of Covenant is finally out (around 22nd November).

    Meantime, I have a couple of other novels on submission, a monthly magazine column to keep me busy, and I'm itching to start work on a new Thomas Bladen novel (Following on from Standpoint and Line of Sight).

        12.   You've described your book as a mystical fantasy and mentioned some of the esoteric topics within it. Would you say that there's a religious aspect to your book as well?
    Yes. I thought long and hard about whether to refer to Covenant as a work of religious fiction, but decided not to as the esoteric / magical side of it is key to the plot and the structure. All that said, the book is about faith. Although at first glance a book that deals with the tarot, mysticism and magic could be considered irreligious there is also another side to Covenant that relates to Judaeo-Christian ideas. Irrespective of people's individual beliefs, I would hope that readers see some spiritual elements within the book. 

    So there we go - a little insight into the mind of a self-publisher. Thanks, Derek! You can learn more about Covenant and buy the Kindle edition here (or here if you are in the USA). 

    Do you have any other questions about self-publishing? What puts you off or encourages you?