What are books made of?

Trees, wood pulp, and lots of imagination...

… creativity, dedication and perseverance.

But what if there was no wood, or wood pulp, or grasses and other natural vegetation? Our lives would be very different without paper; and by extension, without the creation of books, we would lose that wonderful feeling of holding knowledge or experiencing escapism into every subject under the sun.

I recently responded to a Defra Tree consultation on the English Tree Strategy, and I was shocked to realise that fewer than 10% of our English native woodland is considered to be in good condition for nature. That means it can’t support the creatures that live in it. Not only are we not investing in planting more trees, but we’re also not even looking after what is left.

How sad is that?

Isn’t it funny how we all take everything for granted? Even though we know trees are vital to sustaining our environment, to help clean the air we breathe, to synthesise the colour into our world, we still don’t protect them. We don’t plant enough new trees. No one takes responsibility.

When I was a child, our garden had a rowan tree, lilac tree, oak and beech and a massive horse chestnut. I would stand beneath and look up into the branches, much as I imagine a Sentinal tree would hover protectively over us.  I wonder how many of those survive today? Not many, I’m sure. And how many children today would know the difference between all of them? It is our responsibility to ensure these trees are accessible for all, in natural spaces, of which many could easily sustain trees.

DEFRA Tree Strategy consultation for England

Have your say and respond to the Defra Tree Strategy Consultation for England.

Protect our woods, invest in regeneration and plant more trees. Help sustain the tree nurseries. Ensure we can continue to hold a book in our hands in the future, in a world full of magical creatures breathing clean air.

You can respond here, make sure you do by September 11th 2020: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/england-tree-strategy/

Image credits: Top – Annie Pratt, Unsplash. Bottom – Dave Hoefler, Unsplash

I’m Unstoppable

Here we are halfway through July, wondering where summer has gone, and I’m listening to Sia’s album, This is Acting, as I edit Book three: Sentinals Justice. I’ve mowed the lawn, procrastinated on twitter and am now knuckling down to work, by writing this blog!

As Sia sings, I’m alive, I think I feel most alive as I delve into the world of Remargaren and embrace my characters, who are no doubt thankful to still be alive, or maybe not. I can see Birlerion’s indignant face as I write, he is not happy with me and nor is Jerrol. Authors do put their favourite characters through the wringer at times, all in the name of tension and conflict.

As I edit, I can’t help but get drawn back into the story. I can see why we need independent editors to keep us on the straight and narrow because I write the type of fantasy I enjoy reading. I must admit, when I return to a piece of work, I’ve forgotten elements of what I wrote, and I get lost in the story again and forget I’m supposed to be editing.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Book One, Sentinals Awaken, is progressing. It’s gone back to the copy editor for final review. The map of Vespiri is in progress, the book cover should come in any day soon. I keep checking my email, but it hasn’t arrived yet! Then its formatting and ISBN numbers and working my way through the publishing process. It’s surprising how long everything takes, but fingers crossed I’ll be launching in October 2020.

I’ve also found time to read. I have started to post book reviews, predominantly fantasy as that is my favourite genre, if you’re interested in finding other books to read, check out my first Book review on Cully Mack’s Voice of Thunder. You can find it here.

Thanks again for joining me on my journey, and I look forward to sharing my debut novel soon!

How are your balancing skills?

I have concluded that writing is all about juggling. You must be an expert juggler to keep the balls, or is it plates or hoops? No, it’s novels! Up in the air at the same time. Or is balancing the better concept? I’m a Libran, so balance resonates better, juggling feels like it could spin out of control at any moment, whereas balance is calmer, less frenetic, feels right.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

I am in control, right?

From the sheer excitement of having your first meeting with the cover designer and seeing his interpretation of your ideas come to life before your eyes to the grind of checking the copy editing on book one, editing book two and then aargh – A whole new series has popped into my head and is demanding to be written.

But first, cover design! 90 minutes of discussion and watching Jeff draw my ideas in front of me, and then mocking up that first cover with my name on it!

OMG! What a feeling of absolute delight and pride. It may be a raw sketch but just wait until its finished, I love it already. I debated about posting the initial concept here, but I think I’ll wait to show you the rough draft versus 85% finished!

Just a sneak peek if you’re interested. Let me know!

Copy editing is almost finished on Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Each revision I learn something new, which is great, and means each book will improve: next maps and internal formatting.

I’ve edited Book Two: Sentinal Rising, cut and consolidated chapters where needed; I suppose 135k words was a bit long. Moved some things around, then corrected my grammar. I’ve sent it to my number one fan Michael to beta read and put it aside before I return for another edit. Then this idea for a whole new world bubbled up, and I’ve been capturing the ideas and planning out the skeleton of the story, and I’ve already written 20,000 words. Holding name is the Freedom series, can’t wait to see where it goes.

How to fit it all in is the challenge. But it is fun, and I love it, and I wish I had started writing a long time ago. Sometimes, I suppose you just have to wait for the right moment, and then take that step and begin. Who knows where it will take you, but wherever it takes me, my balancing skills can only improve.

Editing Book One : Sentinals Awaken

Sentinals Awaken is the first book in my Sentinals series set in the world of Remargaren.

I invested in a Market Editor to make sure my story was on point and made sense! And was surprised to find out that my weakness was grammar! Sentence structure and use of commas. So back to the grammar drawing board to relearn the grammar rules and how to avoid the dreaded comma splice! And hello semicolon. I’ve never used semicolons, and was interested to see that the eye does run over it more than a full stop, which if used too often I think can make sentences choppy. (Unless you want choppy of course!)

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

The good news was that she loved the story, found the plot original and the characters engaging. And learning grammar is probable simpler than rewriting the story or having to address plot holes or flat characters! I am sure there will many who disagree.

I addressed the issues the editor raised and relearnt my grammar (and groaned over the comma rules), and had a discussion about Point of View (POV) and how to bring out a character’s inner thoughts. I then developed one of my Sentinal characters a bit more as I had deliberately down-played him as he was threatening to take over, and he was obviously down-played too much! I have written a book just for him so he doesn’t get too downhearted and that led to me writing his backstory which became the prequel as it was such fun discovering where the Sentinals came from to begin with.

Next step is to get a few beta readers to do a final sanity check and then to find a copy editor/proofreader to check the final version, and then it will be on to formatting and cover design as dip my toe into the world of self-publishing.