Thursday, 26 June 2014

You Gotta Know When To Fold Them

How do you know? How do you know which gambles to take? Or when to walk away?

I feel a little like I’m playing the biggest game of poker of my life. I feel like I’ve got this great hand, and if the last card goes my way I could win big. I could win everything I’ve ever wanted. But if that card doesn’t come up, then I’ve lost everything.

And I’m down to my last chip. Do I fold? And keep hold of something? Or do I call, do I play and gamble that somehow that card will come up right?

I don’t see myself as that much of a gambler, a risk it all and take my chances kind of girl. But when I look back on my life I think I probably underestimate myself. I’ve taken some chances. I’ve taken some huge gambles.

Not all of them paid off, but some of them won me the whole pot.

But now I’m sitting here, with the biggest deal of my life, waiting for that last card to turn and knowing that it will make or break me. I’m clutching my cards close to my chest, and praying, just praying that I know what I’m doing.

It feels like publishing The Last Knight all over again.

But I’m going to do it. I’m going to throw in my last chip and gamble it all.

Because life is too short to fold when you’ve got something good – even if it isn’t quite what you thought you wanted. And if that last card doesn’t come up?

Well, it’s been on hell of a game!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Chasing Freedom Book Launch Giveaway!

So to celebrate the launch of Chasing Freedom I'm pleased to share this rather nice little giveaway. A collection of four ebooks from three great female indie authors (if I do say so myself ;) )

The giveaway will be running for a week - so lots of time to enter, and don't forget to share with your friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Happy Father's Day!

So today is a day of excitement and sadness.

I am obviously incredibly excited to be able to finally say that Chasing Freedom is now on sale. This book that's been ten years in the making has hit the shelves.

Sad because it's Father's Day. Because I will not get to tell my father today how much I love him. Though I hope he knows.

And so Chasing Freedom has become my last Father's Day gift to him, dedicated in his memory. Dad loved to read, everything and anything, so hopefully he would have liked this. He also started writing a book once. I think he only got about a chapter down, but I read it, and it was brilliant. It will always make me sad that he never finished it. Maybe one day I'll find a way to incorporate that chapter of his into something of mine. That way he'll be published too!

So I want to share with you all the dedication at the beginning of Chasing Freedom:

This one’s for you, Dad.

I wish you’d had the chance to read it.

With any luck they have Kindles in Heaven
And I will add to it - 'Happy Father's Day, Dad. This one really is for you.'

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Final Countdown...

So this is it. Two days to go until Chasing Freedom goes up for sale. I thought somehow that the second book would be easier. That it would be less stressful.

I was wrong. I don't think it's going to matter how many times I do this. I think I will always be sick with nerves the days leading up to publication. It's strange - once it's out there I am less worried. I guess because once it reaches that point there's nothing more I can do.

Before I give this final teaser, I wanted to say something.

So you see, when I first picked the date of release for this book it was kind of random. The middle of the month seemed like a good option, and it was two weeks short of a year since I first published The Last Knight.

But the date has come to mean so much more.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I lost my father this year. It was a horrible, sad, painful time, but deciding to publish this book gave me something to focus on - something to look forward to. So it was inevitable that I would dedicate this book to my Dad, a man who loved to read, and for some reason (despite it being primarily aimed at YA and girls to boot) loved The Last Knight, and read it 3 times over the course of the last year. It makes me incredibly sad that he won't get the chance to read this book. It's silly really because I kept thinking I would email him all my manuscripts and get his feedback, but I kept putting it off. Until suddenly it was too late.

So it was a little bit of a surprise when I realised that the date I had randomly picked was not only Father's Day, but also the day after the four month mark of his passing. It just seems incredibly fitting. He was never a fan of Father's Day - just like Valentines Day he didn't believe there needed to be a special day to show someone you love them - but I am pleased to give him this final Father's Day gift.

This one's for you, Dad!

A scream shattered his thoughts. The plate Victoria had just picked up slipped out of her fingers, falling back into the water and soaking them both with a wave of water.
A second scream reached them as they turned to look at each other. There was a split second hesitation before they both ran for the door. Chase moved faster and he reached the door into the entrance hall first, throwing it open. He slammed to a stop so suddenly that Victoria thudded into the back of him and he had to catch the door frame to stop them both falling.
A girl lay in the middle of the entrance hall, her face frozen in pain as she screamed again. Her clothes were drenched in blood and Maladict crouched over her, his own hands covered in it.
For a tiny instant Chase suspected the worst, that after years Maladict had fallen off the wagon, but he knew that a vampire would never waste that much blood.
He glanced at Maladict’s face and saw the tendons standing out in his neck as he clenched his teeth, his nose flaring.
“Get Peter,” Chase said to Victoria, even as he raced the length of the room. He shoved Maladict backwards. “Get out of here, go change, get the blood off your hands.”
Maladict’s eyes had changed colour, the pale blue was ringed with red and as Chase looked up at him he could see the hunger burning in the depths of them. Nostrils flaring again, Maladict suddenly blinked and looked at Chase as though seeing him for the first time.
“I’m all right. Now you’re here.”
Chase frowned, but he didn’t have time to try and understand why.
“What happened?” Peter came barrelling down the stairs with Victoria in tow. “What’s going on? Who is she?”
The same questions were running through Chase’s mind and they both looked towards Maladict for an answer.
“She’s a Shifter,” he said through still gritted teeth. “Her father contacted me a few days ago. Told me she’d left home and he thought she might be in trouble –“
Even as Maladict spoke Peter checked the girl over, but the expression on his face was bleak.
“I tracked her down in Oxford, but the Department were after her as well. She was panicked and frightened. They cornered her and I tried to step in. She didn’t know me. She tried to run. They chased her. There was a road. She didn’t even stop to look. The truck hit her head on…”
Peter swore under his breath. “You should have taken her to a hospital, Maladict. She’s lost too much blood. I don’t know if I can save her.”
“I couldn’t. She kept losing control of her Shifting. Her body kept trying to change shape.”
Chase looked down at the girl sprawled on the cold stone floor. She was just a kid, ten or eleven at the most. Her dark hair was matted with blood and her skin looked too pale. Yet even with her eyes rolled back in her head something about her reminded him of Victoria.
He felt a rush of violent hatred towards the Department. What kind of people would drive a girl like this into terrified flight and then leave her there to die? He’d given up asking about the Department because no one seemed to want to talk about it, and the threat they posed seemed distant, like it couldn’t reach them there at West Haven, but suddenly it felt very real again. Save for a few lucky chances it could have been him lying, bleeding on the floor, or Kat, or Victoria.
The girl took a shuddering, laboured breath and Chase felt his stomach clench. She was going to die. He couldn’t say why he felt so certain, but he knew it was true.
His eyes met Maladict’s and the vampire gave a tiny nod. He got to his feet, swiping his bloody hands down the front of his jeans, and left the room on silent feet.
Chase turned back towards Peter and the girl, but Peter started slowing in his ministrations.
“Help me get her to the medical room, Chase.” The older man’s voice sounded defeated. “Let’s at least make her comfortable.”
“I’ll come with you.”
Chase glanced round at Victoria’s voice; he’d almost forgotten she was there. “Is that a good idea?”
“She shouldn’t have to die alone.”


Chase stood with his back against the wall, his fists balled so tightly he could feel his nails cutting into his palms.
He’d carried the girl up from the hall, horrified by how tiny she felt in his arms, and laid her on the bed. He’d stepped back quickly, but couldn’t seem to find the strength to leave the room, even though he couldn’t stand to stay.
After a few moments Peter stepped back.
“I’ve dosed her up with morphine, but I don’t think she’ll survive the night. I simply don’t have the equipment to save her.”
“Could we get her to a hospital?” Chase asked quickly.
“No. We don’t have the means to take her, and the trip would likely kill her.”
“We could call an ambulance,” Chase insisted. He couldn’t believe they were just going to let her die.
Victoria shook her head. “No, we can’t. The Department track all emergency calls, and we can’t have an ambulance turn up here, it would raise too many questions.”
“So we’re just going to let her die?”
“She’s going to die anyway,” Peter said softly. “Even if we did get her to a hospital I don’t think she’d survive.” He patted Chase’s shoulder. “I’ll leave her with you, Victoria. Call for me if she needs anything.”
The door swung closed behind the older man and Chase lifted his eyes to Victoria.
She gave him a weary smile as she tugged a sheet over the girl’s shoulders and started to comb out her hair. He watched for a moment as Victoria began carefully cleaning the blood from the unconscious girl’s face and hands.
“This isn’t the first time, is it?”
Victoria shook her head slowly. “No. I wish it was, but it isn’t. It’s a part of our way of life, unfortunately.”
Chase shuddered. “So are you going to stay with her all night?”
“That’s the plan. But you should go if you want. You don’t have to stay.”
It was a long time before Chase replied. Part of him desperately wanted to leave. He wanted to escape the stench of death filling the room, but he couldn’t leave Victoria to sit alone with a dying girl.
“I’ll stay.”


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Friday, 6 June 2014

Ashamed of Reading YA?

Despite the fact that it’s Friday and I should be providing a little teaser for Chasing Freedom, I have decided to go a different direction today.

I have decided to give my own response to this article  posted online yesterday. It created quite a stir in the writing/literary community. It spurred a trending hashtag on Twitter #PromoteaYAInstead and numerous angry comments and discussions.

As both a writer and a reader of YA books I have been thinking about it a lot since I first read it, and so I have decided to get my thoughts out there.

For anyone who hasn’t read the article it basically suggests that adults (and I’m not sure what the author of the article considers adult – just turned 19? Or some other arbitrary number?) who read YA books should be ashamed of their reading habits.

The most telling quote is this one: ‘Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.’

To be honest, I take offense. Because what she suggests throughout the article is that YA books are simplistic and that ‘adult’ books are not.

Firstly, I would argue that there is a large chunk of adult literature that is far more guilty of simplicity than YA books. Who could argue that 50 Shades is complex and ambiguous in its ending? Dan Brown? Danielle Steele? Sophie Kinsella? Stephen King? I am not saying by any means that these books/writers are bad, but I would argue that their novels are no more complex than many YA books. The very things this writer says makes YA books simplistic, the endings for example, could be found in 90% of adult books.

On the other side of the coin, there are YA books that are incredibly complex and thought-provoking in the message they provide if you are willing to look at them as more than just ‘a book for kids’.

Let’s take the most popular ‘children’s book’ and admittedly one of my favourites. Harry Potter. Whilst it’s easy to say that it is pure magical escapism (and on the surface it is) does that mean that there is nothing that adults can take from it? Politics, philosophy, the nature of life and death, all these things are there.  Admittedly, they are all tied up quite neatly in lovely bundle of escapism and a certain amount of whimsy.

But that aside, I don’t think I have ever read a YA book that doesn’t have some depth to it. Books that deal with bullying, loneliness, fitting in, choosing the right path in life, tolerance, acceptance, illness and death. Do these things suddenly become irrelevant the moment we become an adult? I hardly think so. I know that I, at 30, still deal with every single one of those issues on a daily basis.  What is simplistic about those issues?

On a personal note (and this is my blog, so if I can’t talk about my books here, where can I?) I don’t believe the books I write are simplistic. The overlying plots may be magical in nature, escapist and hopefully enjoyable, but at their heart I like to think they are all a little more than that.

In The Last Knight, Cara Page may discover she has a magical heritage, but she also deals with a mother who suffers from mental illness and doesn’t even recognise her, bullying, loneliness and isolation.

In Chasing Freedom, the most obvious plot may be about a boy becoming a werewolf, but underneath that is a book about a boy accepting who he is, learning that life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, and learning that growing up sometimes means taking responsibility.

As adults are these things in anyway irrelevant to us? I know I relate to them – that’s why I write about them. And I believe that the people who read my books can relate to them too.

Why must escapism and complexity be mutually exclusive? We take from a book exactly what we want to take from it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not, by any means, claim to write great literature. I write fun, entertaining books (I hope), but that doesn’t make them any less worthy. That doesn’t make them books you should be ashamed of reading.

So I am going to end with two final thoughts.

Firstly, why should a book that is not deemed ‘worthy’ of adult consumption, be considered OK for young adults to read? Aren’t they as deserving of quality as we are? IF YA books are indeed simplistic then teenagers should be embarrassed to read them too. In fact, I would suggest that books for children and teenagers need to be of a far higher standard than books for adults. They should be better, not worse.

And secondly, isn’t the greatest joy of art (and writing is art) that it is entirely subjective? That the books I think are great literature, might not be the same as what you consider great literature? Back in their day both Austen and Dickens were considered writers of ‘trashy’ novels – they wrote for the masses and were looked down on by the educated elite. They are now considered the writers of classics. The books I consider overwritten and pretentious might be the books you love. And the books I love you might consider escapist nonsense. But at no point does that make either book less worthy.

Like love being in the eye of the beholder, great literature is in the eye of the reader.

So, no, I will not be ashamed of reading and writing YA books, just like I will not be ashamed of reading Pride and Prejudice for the 100th time.

Read everything, read anything. Just read.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

My Two Least Favourite Words

One day. (Or it’s variation – Someday.)

Two words that, in my opinion, should never be used together.

Yet, I hear it all the time. ‘One day I’d like to write a book’. ‘One day I’d like to visit Asia’. ‘One day I’d like to quit my job and do something I really love’. ‘One day I’ll tell that person I love them’.

A thousand dreams, a million plans for the future, all prefixed by the words ‘one day’. And I hate it. I hate it with a passion. And so should you.

Why? Because, to my mind, one of two things will happen.

Either, you’ll wake up, some distant version of yourself, and find that ‘one day’ has come and gone. That suddenly you are too old, or too in debt, or too tied down to ever do the things you dreamed of doing. Those old dreams have become submerged in a different life and different dreams. That’s not to say those new dreams are bad, but there will always be that tiny part of you that regrets the things you didn’t do. You will always wonder ‘what if’.

Or, worse, ‘some day’ will never come. The future, the plans, the dreams will disappear in the blink of an eye. You will be gone and the only thing left will be the regrets. There is no knowing how long we have in this world, and today may be the only day we have left. Depressingly sad maybe, but true.

And so the answer is this. Don’t say ‘one day’, say ‘today’. ‘Today I’m going to start writing that book’. ‘Today, I’m going to start saving for Asia’. ‘Today I’m going to look for a new job doing what I love’. ‘Today I’m going to tell him I love him.’

We only get one life. One chance. One opportunity to experience everything this crazy, incredible universe has to offer. (Now I feel like I’m stealing from a rap song). But it’s true. I sometimes think people don’t realise what an incredible blessing they have – just being alive. Life is crazy and wild and never turns out quite how we expect. But we have to take charge, we have to experience everything we can, whilst we still can.

Mark Twain says it better than I can – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

So my friends and family can take this as a warning. If you say ‘one day’ around me, expect my wrath. It will be terrible. Tell me your dreams and plans and aspirations by all means. But don’t tell me that maybe, perhaps, one day, sometime you might do these things. Tell me you’re striving for them, you’re working towards them. Tell me you’re putting every ounce of passion and intellect and heart you possess into achieving those goals.

Don’t tell me ‘one day’, tell me ‘today’.