Tag Archives: hope’s daughter

Day 11 – Favorite classic book

Is your favourite classic the one that sticks with you, years after you first read it – or is it the one that you like to read over and over again? I’m not so sure on this one – so I’m going with the first thought.

BraveYou’ll know from one of my earlier posts that I had a summer ‘blitzing’ classics I’d not read before, after my first year at uni. After reading 1984, I moved straight into Brave New World, recommended by my Dad.

In some ways, I think BNW was what I expected 1984 to be. I suppose it’s a little more ‘sci-fi’ and fitted more with a ‘future world’ that I pictured in my head, whereas 1984 felt a little dated in some ways – yes, I know I was reading 1984 in 2000! Where 1984 had politics and surveillance states, it felt quite cold war – BNW, with it’s chemically induced happiness, behaviour conditioning and designer baby development threw up more complicated questions for me, about what is ethical, how far science can go as a society control, how you might feel coming into this ‘perfect’ world from the outside, and whether it really is the utopia it’s promised to be.

The ideas from BNW have definitely stayed with me: ten years later, when my own dystopian world was forming inside my head for Hope’s Daughter and The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, I found myself being drawn to science and the opportunities it offered for changing our futures. You might also find some little nods towards the classic dystopians in my books: 1984 surveillance and suspicion of ‘the system’; BNW, chemically controlling our behaviours, designer breeding, choosing people’s destiny…maybe touching on what is ethical, and how far you can go before it becomes unethical…

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Done!

“It was only recently, as I opened up to Cassie and saw something more, that I had begun to live. She had filled my hollow shell with life and awakened emotions in me that I thought were dead. Cassie was literally my life now. I turned my back on everything I had once been and walked out the door.”

This is one of my  favourite quotes from The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, it comes at the end of Chapter 19, but in many ways it sums up the book for me. Of the two of them, I think Balik changes the most from who he has been, and I really like this idea of him turning away from his old life and what it made him, and looking for a future with Cassie.

Well, aren’t I a little more cheesy and romantic beneath the surface than I would normally care to admit 🙂 Perhaps the reason for the nostalgia and emotion today is because I have finally, FINALLY finished RMT. Yes, the ARC feedback has been listened to (thank you!), the beta readers edits have been noted (thanks again!) and I have completed my full re-draft and edit from the scrappy printed edition that I have been carrying around with me since July.

Today the book has been delivered to the lovely chaps at Amazon – I’ve missed my little Kindle a lot these last few months as I’ve been living in book-silence whilst I tried to finish the writing, so I thought it would be a nice way to launch the book (with lots of freebie copies going out to people), and gives me an excuse to charge mine up again.

It will go out to other suppliers at the beginning of December, so if you’ve been waiting for it, it’ll be there soon 🙂 And, this will be me – doing a Balik – and turning my back on the Ambrosia Sequence for a while, as I’ve got something else bubbling away for my NaNo project this year. More detail to follow soon…

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More Covers…

Following on from a previous post about covers and gender, I had another look at some of mine. I suppose the main ‘target audience’ for Hope’s Daughter is female, young adult, and so the cover was geared towards my taste and ideas, and more than likely a more ‘feminine’ style. (Any blokes who can offer insight as to whether it is girly or not, in their opinion, would be appreciated).

I don’t think it’s overly ‘girly’ – but the focus on the Earth and female eye are quite pretty, and the plain white background (in my head reminiscent of the white world she lives in) possibly leans away from darker, masculine elements you tend to find in covers elsewhere. One thing I did want to do in designing the cover was down-play the sci-fi setting, as it is not a sci-fi book in the traditional genre sense, just set in space.

The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, although told from a male perspective, is primarily aimed at the same audience. The cover is a direct reflection of the first – to reinforce that it is a different side to the same story/timeframe – is this girly? Or are both books on the borderline, gender-neutral? I’m feeling all confused, tbh.

As a bit of an experiment, I played around with the covers – not major changes as I didn’t want it to take too much time. But, I started with the idea that Balik’s story comes first, and how it might be different…any thoughts?

RMT - Cover - 5RMT - Male Test

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Once Upon A Time…

…there was a boy named Balik and a girl named Cassie and they lived on board the Space Station Hope. But where did they come from?

 

People will always look for autobiographical elements to someone’s writing, perhaps in the belief that you can only “write what you know”. I’m sure for every writer there are elements of them in each book they write – it might simply be a single phrase you use or a description of how you feel about something, which you then put in the mouth of one of your characters. But I think writers must appear in their own books somewhere.

I can tell you honestly that I am not Cassie, but we have similarities… I don’t like silence when you’re with people: I’m definitely a nervous waffler; but with people I’m comfortable with and care about, I’ll happily be quiet. We both have sarcastic tendencies and similar taste in guys 🙂 We like the same school subjects and she probably got her mildly argumentative streak from me. But I don’t live on a space station (surprise, surprise), or rock climb in my spare time (I am clumsy to a point that would make Bella Swan appear graceful and coordinated), and my medical expertise is limited to a basic first aid qualification.

Balik is – unfortunately – not someone I’ve met personally. But some of his strongest personality traits are familiar. The “have to know how it works” thing is another little piece of me – not necessarily in the practical sense as my lack of co-ordination inhibits me there J – but I love learning about new things. His strength and protective nature, putting someone else before himself, is something I have seen in loved ones close to me and is perhaps the most desirable quality anyone could possess. Who wouldn’t want the warrior with a heart on their side?

So where did the rest of the story come from?

Before I began Hope’s Daughter I was stuck in a rut with another novel I’d been working on (I probably hadn’t done any real writing in six months or so) and knew that I wanted to start something new, just to get myself going again. I had also been through a bit of a sci-fi phase in my reading (lots of Philip K Dick and HG Wells among others) and so I decided to do a very short piece for myself in this genre, just to see what it was like. At first it was just the Married Quarter, Balik and Cassie – but once I was writing it the story kept growing: I would drive to work listening to music and would see scenes pulling themselves together in my head, like a mini-montage and the outline of a deeper story began to come together.

I’m not a sci-fi specialist by any stretch of the imagination and so when I started building the world Cassie lives in, although I knew what it looked like, I had to refer to other people’s versions of space stations and outer space colonies to understand where technology we have now, might genuinely take us in the not too distant future. Although some of this detail was edited out of Hope’s Daughter, some things remain like the body scanners (which are real today) and waste recycling systems – naturally The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, which is Balik’s story shows much more of these things J You know how he is!

Similarly – and quite scarily – Cassie’s answer to the exam question posed at the beginning of the novel is based entirely on newspaper articles I have read. Often I would grab a copy of the free paper on my way into work and each day there are odd little science snippets alongside the more prominent articles on which celebrity is doing what or bizarre news stories. These tiny, single sentence items usually reference research being done or scientific predictions being made, which if they prove accurate could well affect the whole world…and they are hidden in a small text box alongside a page of celebrity fluff, which says a lot about what people think of as important. I cut out and kept the one that first made me think about this:

 

Metro – August 5, 2009

GLOBAL WARMING WILL SEE ‘BILLIONS AT WAR’

Billions of people will go to war as they are forced to leave areas made uninhabitable by global warming, climate change expert Lord Stern has warned. Much of the world’s population will be put into ‘severe conflict’ unless temperature rises are tackled, he added.

 

Billions of people…Billions… That’s the whole world isn’t it? As post-apocolyptic views of the future go (zombies, global plagues, giant monsters from outer space) for me, this is the one I could actually imagine happening. I could imagine us sleepwalking into a devastating situation like this, brought about mainly through a lack of interest and co-ordination. Today’s science fiction being tomorrow’s science fact…? A terrifying thought.

There is obviously more to the creation of Hope’s Daughter, most of which I can’t share because of the spoilers! But it is surprising, even to me, when I go back to my notes and research from the beginning and see how a single idea became an entire book. It is interesting to see what changed – a lot – and what remains from the original concept.

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Cover Design – Hope’s Daughter

Recently I’ve been working on the cover for Outlanders – sometimes it helps to get me focused knowing that side of things is already done – and it got me thinking about how different ideas actually make the final cut. In the current process, very helpfully, I’ve got some lovely friends (real world and ‘book world’) who I get feedback from and can ask lots of ridiculous questions, about the smallest details – hopefully they don’t get too bored!

I’m obviously not going to sneak-peek Outlanders just yet – but I thought you might like to see some of the ‘early thoughts’ I went through before finally selecting the final cover for Hope’s Daughter and why…

In the beginning…

Text wise – I preferred the plain, minimal typesets – to me they felt futuristic, perhaps because they’re less like traditional fonts you’d get from a type-writer, more like the keys on your laptop or used on websites. Something like Nocturnes in the Moonlight had the right kind of feeling for me: 

Deciding on what to do with the main cover image was much tougher. Because of the space setting, originally I looked to include that, and with it being Cassie’s story, thought that she should make an appearance too. With that as a rough brief, the first cover I got back was this:

And – after the excitement of seeing the email in my inbox – I was sorely disappointed. I didn’t like the girl, the text, the over-exposed light (so you couldn’t actually see the starry backdrop). To me, this cover just said nothing about the book. It also made me realise that someone who didn’t know the story wasn’t going to make great creative leaps to generate the perfect cover: they needed much better guidance.

So…the brief changed…

I really liked the idea of hinting at the issues that would come out in the book, without making it obvious, I wanted to find something something simple, but striking and found that this guided us towards a single image. I also wanted people to make up their own mind on Cassie – I know how she looks in my head, but personally I’m not always a fan of the covers that give you a full picture of the character – if it’s not what I imagined, it can take away some of the pleasure of reading the book (if that makes sense?) It’s a little like the films not living up to the book because of how you picture some elements – I get the same thing with covers.

So I started looking at ideas for covers with less detail in them, I leaned towards covers like The Host – with the generic face and not too much detail on the character, but with the point of interest being drawn to the eye.

  

As the setting is post-apocolyptic something around the reflection of the semi-dead earth going back onto an eye seemed like it would work – Cassie is so drawn to the idea of Earth and what it would be like now or could have been like, having her eye focused on this fitted for me. When I was looking around for inspiration I came across the image of the ‘rainbow eye’ and I really liked the mix of colour and black and white. In many ways, Cassie, Balik and the others are living a half-life for much of the book, only seeing part of what is happening around them and so having the small part of Cassie’s face we see being black and white was a nod towards that. Her life only becomes full – coloured in – as she begins to awaken to the reality of her world.

The final element – plain white cover – wasn’t me, it just happened, and when I saw it, I felt it worked. In my head, much of Cassie’s physical world is plastic and white – and as I only wanted to hint at the difficulties to come – the white on the cover felt clean and pristine and blank. Sound familiar?

So there you how the cover came to be: the black and white element stayed, and the reflection of the Earth stayed (although as Cassie’s hopeful of something better, and also living in what is reported to be a perfect world, the image itself changed); the ‘less is more’ character image also stayed, so that Cassie can be who you want her to be.

I’m sure you’ll have guessed that The Rainbow Maker’s Tale is a straight reflection of the Hope’s Daughter cover: you’re going to see the same story and time line from Balik’s point of view…and it’s coming soon!

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Book Trailer Thursday…Taking Flight

The Book Trailer Thursday meme is hosted each week by http://zoweesbookshelf.blogspot.co.uk/

Check out her lovely blog if you’d like to join in :)

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I usually take part in this meme from Aside from Writing blog, but as this week I’m choosing my own new teaser trailer for Taking Flight, I thought it best to post here! If you’re interested in reading this free missing moment – released for my 500 Facebook Followers piece – you can grab a copy from the Sneak Peeks link at the top of the blog.

So…here’s the trailer…hopefully it will keep you intrigued for Outlanders

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To be or not to be? Some thoughts on publishing…

I started thinking about this after writing a lengthy answer to a question posted on a Goodreads forum. The question asked was: “How did you get published?”

In this day and age, where e-publishing has completely opened up the options and opportunities for writers, the question should probably be “how did you choose to publish?” – that’s what I answered at least 🙂 Because now you don’t have to wait on impressing a single publisher or agent that your work is worthy of consideration – we’ve all heard the rejection stories of Stephenie Meyer and J K Rowling – you can simply choose to go it alone. Doing this might sound easy, less effort even, but don’t be fooled! lol Anyway, so this is really my thoughts on self-publishing.

Firstly, I would agree whole-heartedly with the people out there who will tell you that if you are thinking of taking this option, you need to draft your work through several versions and take the time to edit, edit then edit some more to ensure you’re happy it’s the best it can be before putting it ‘out there’. If you can find honest friends, family or beta readers to help you, then do that too – feedback will only make your writing better and can help you focus on areas that readers are interested in – you might not always see them when you’re ‘in the zone’ writing a draft. Like I said before, publishing isn’t what it once was… you can self-publish easily and relatively cheaply (promotion is tough though), where that was not really an option before ebooks.

I published Hope’s Daughter myself because:

I’m really impatient and didn’t do well with the traditional agent/publishing route. What I’d do is get a piece ready, send it away, wait X months and when it came back as a negative would begin something completely different thinking “well if they didn’t like this, maybe they like this” (hence I’ve done several books before Hope’s Daughter). I think I’d sent one proposal to three places and Hope’s Daughter to one, before I decided to go the indie route – and that took me five years because of what I did in between.

My sister works in product design and marketing and she agreed that it can be SO subjective whether somewhere takes on a product (book) or not. You’ve got to get the individual liking it and then also from a business perspective it must fit with what their organisation is doing at that point in time – that’s a lot of considerations and a ‘business’ approach for a book. And look at some of the dross publishers do put out, simply because they want to replicate Twilight or another success story! So…it isn’t always about the quality or readability of book that gets it published.

Personally – this wasn’t what I needed. Of course I’d love to hold a ‘real’ copy of my book in my hands or see it on the shelf in a shop – but the ‘virtual’ world bookshelves aren’t much less exciting. Your first good reviews are no less wonderful because someone’s read your book on a kindle and not in hardcover.

Creative writing is something I do when I’m not working and so it didn’t have to pay the bills. If that’s what you’re aiming for I wish you luck – I’ve read that only 5% of authors make a living doing solely that! For me, I write as a hobby, because I enjoy doing it – obviously would love to do it all day everyday, but that’s up there with lottery wins and meeting Joe Manganiello. I was happy with Hope’s Daughter, and having written two previous novels and not done anything with them except file them on my laptop, this time I decided to take action! 🙂 I put Hope’s Daughter out there, mainly because I wanted to get wider feedback on the book beyond my local readers and also, I’d written it so ‘why not’? It wasn’t doing anything sat inside the laptop after all.

And I suppose – from the occasional self-pub success story you see – if you are good, sometimes generating your own readers can demonstrate to publishers that you are viable as an author…without having to wade through dozens of slush piles to show them (also another long shot – but it does happen).

Hope’s Daughter had been through five full MS edits as well as numerous localised ones – so I was happy with the story. Four pre-readers had gone through it and given me feed back. I’d read it so many times I could probably recite scenes from memory – so I did it!

If you are going self-pub, make sure you’re ready to market – ideally before the release of the book – as you can get REALLY bogged down in the writing/publishing side to organise this properly. One of the best prepared launches I’ve seen this year was Marie Landry for Blue Sky Days – she used her network of blogger friends to ensure there was excitement for the book before release and then a very strong blog tour starting immediately after. Plus – it’s a good book! 🙂

Also – couple of good places to hone your skills – try Miss Lits (I’ve seen them on facebook) – you get to write short or full stories, everyone reads, reviews, etc. and you get constructive feedback, which like any author will tell you: you can work on it. Also – goodreads groups often have writing areas which you’ll get support and feedback on for your stuff so try there.

Phew – sorry – I got on a bit of a roll there – but hopefully it’s a little helpful for anyone thinking about doing this and not just waffle 🙂 Basically, if you love writing – do it! Get the feedback, take it on board and practice. And when you’re really happy, try whichever route you want to go and works best for you – go to traditional publishers, release on Amazon or simply post your story on your own blog – whatever works for you, you should do.

Mel x

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