My photo
Sci-fi and Young Adult author: sometimes both. Dad, geek, diver. Tea, no coffee. @MikeCamel

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

My first children's novel

I've been rather quiet on this blog for a while.  It's for a couple of reasons: first, I've been sending the first and second novels to agents and waiting for replies.  I've had several positive ones, but none positive enough: nobody has yet offered to take me on.  I've also been writing.  I've found it difficult and dispiriting writing whilst being rejected by agents.

However, last night, I finished my first children's novel.  I've got two young adult novels finished, and a third on the go, but I started this one on a family holiday with my two girls and their cousins.  Catherine's sister, Jenny, was reading them Terra, by Mitch Benn, and I was frankly a little jealous that she was getting to read to them, and I wasn't.  So I started writing something for them to read.  They're 6, 7, 8 and 10, and an idea came to me.  I wrote several chapters that week, reading them to the girls as I wrote them, and finished it off last night.  I need to send the completed version off to Jenny to read to her girls, after I've done some editing.

It was great fun to write, and I had a number of good suggestions from the girls.  I'm going to edit it (see above), tightening it up and checking that the vocabulary isn't too difficult.  It's aimed at 6-11 year olds - girls and boys - either as readers themselves, or to be read to them.  It's fairly short - around 13,500 words, or 11 chapters before editing - and hopefully nice and fast-moving.

It's called Keith, my magical, talking sword, and it's about how much trouble a magical, talking sword can be to you.  Particularly if you're only at primary school.  It's supposed to be funny (the girls laughed a lot), and it was a lot of fun to write.  It has a main character who's a girl and two friends - a boy and a girl - and I've already got at least a couple of other lined up in the same series.  I'm looking forward to approaching agents with it.

Friday, 10 May 2013

...parting is such sweet sorrow... - a #100wcgu post

Moving to Stockholm made me re-evaluate my life.  It's so stylish, so hip, so trendy.  Unlike the old me.  I changed my clothes.  I bought a new car.  I started listening to new music.  No more Engelbert Humperdinck: just dubstep, now.  I bought a Macbook Air and a new iPhone.  Now I am achingly, painfully with it.

But there's one thing wrong.  It's my hair.  I've sorted the designer stubble.  That was easy.  But my floppy fringe: it causes the locals almost physical pain with its lack of cool.  Yes, it's that bad: my parting is such Swede sorrow.

(I'm so, so sorry - I couldn't help myself...)

This is a 100 word challenge for grown-ups: for more details, and other entries, see #100wcgu.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The urn - a 100wcgu post

Smug: that's the word for her. She's smug. Ooh, she winds me up. “Curvy is good,” she says, “not like you. You're short and squat. And common. I can't think why they even let you in.”

But I'm going to get her today. Some men like me the way I am, and I'm just waiting for one who wants to cosy up close and take some notice of me. Then I'm going to entice him round, just so. And he'll be looking at me, only me, ignoring her, unaware that she even exists, and … oh dear! How very sad.

This is a 100 word challenge for grown-ups: for more details, and other entries, see #100wcgu.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Your favourite ... character

One of the questions that I ask my readers is who their favourite character is, and why.  The answer that I expect is either "Kate" (for Hacking the Dragon) or "Lena" (for Big Brother's Little Sister), for the simple reason that they're the heroes (heroines, if you must) of their respective stories.  I know that I've invested a lot of thought and care into them, and I can get quite emotional about some of the things that happen to them, and I also know a lot about them, their background, their motivations, fears and aspirations.

The answer, however, isn't always what I expected.  J, my eldest, for instance, chose Jess and Jagruti from the two books.  Both are more minor characters, though both have an important role to play in the action.  I suspect that one of the reasons that J is interested in these characters is that they both have a bearing not only on the main characters in the books - Kate and Lena - but also both have interesting interactions and relationships with them. 

It's surprised me how much interest I have in the secondary characters in my books.  There's certainly a tier of tertiary characters who don't have much to do, and are maybe a little less developed that the primary and secondary characters, but I know an awful lot about the first and second tiers, so although I don't quite understand quite why my readers aren't as taken by heroes as I am, it's also quite pleasing that they think that these other characters are worth investing time in.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Some great feedback

My last post was about feeling rather nervous about having adults read my 2 novels, and since then a few offered, and I've had some really, really positive feedback.  Some great feedback and questions on my first novel, Hacking the Dragon, raising some questions which I expected to come up, and which I hope to discuss with an agent and/or editor, when I find them.  Thanks very much, Stephen!  The best compliment he paid me was to want to know what happened to the characters - and the society - next.  The next best was to want to read the second novel, Big Brother's Little Sister, which he's now doing.  A very different read, in a different world, with different problems.

Another friend is currently reading BB'sLS, as is his 13 year-old daughter.  I've just got the first comments from her: she particularly liked the characterisation, which is very gratifying, as it's an area I worked hard on this time round, particularly.

Huge thanks to Sylvie, and to everyone else who's reading it.  I look forward to your thoughts!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Adult readers - a reprise

So, partly as a result of my previous post about getting feedback from adult readers, I accepted the offer of a few friends who said they'd be happy to read my a novels.  I've got 2 readers - both colleagues - reading Hacking the Dragon and 1 reading Big Brother's Little Sister, with his 13 year old daughter reading it, too.  I'm hoping that a good FB and Twitter friend will be happy to read the latter, too - she is, after all, the person who after whom the main baddy is named.

And 1 of them has already finished, and read the book really quickly.  I'm very, very grateful, and looking forward to his feedback.  Very much.  Except that I'm also quite nervous about it.  He's already mentioned that he found it a real page-turner, which is a great relief.  In fact, it's probably the very best thing he could have said, because the thing I'm most interested in, as far as my readers go, is that they want to read to the end and find out what happens.

But what else?  Is the characterisation awful?  Is the plotting obvious, or just unconvincing?  Is the pacing too quick, too slow?  I don't know.  Maybe there are some plot points that don't hold together.

We'll see - I have only myself to blame for asking for more feedback, but if I'm ever going to be a published author, or expand my readership beyond a few friends and family, then I need to be ready to accept that other people are going to read it.  And that they won't like everything they read.  Sometimes because what I've written needs work.  Sometimes because the style doesn't suit them.  Of course, in the latter case, it's their fault, because my writing is, in fact, perfect, and doesn't need any work at all.

Or something.

Anyway - I'm looking forward to hearing the feedback.  Whatever it is (almost).

Thursday, 4 April 2013

State killings

There's a lot in the British social media at the moment from people calling for the hanging of two parents who killed 6 children in a fire at the home.  We don't have the death penalty in the UK, and haven't had since before I was born - so that's over 40 years - and there's little likelihood that we ever will again.  Although certain parts of the UK political scene would like to repeal the European Convention on Human Rights, part of the deal with that piece of legislation is that any state that signs up for it must remove the death penalty from its statue books.  In other words, any country that accepts the ECHR isn't allowed the death penalty.*

For me, this is a completely non-negotiable point.  I never approve of state executions.  There are times when I can see that it seems to be the only option, but there are too many reasons not to execute.  The first reason not to allow executions is that you can get it wrong.  And executing the wrong person would always, always be a tragedy.  The second is that the death penalty is not a deterrent.  Look at the figures: it just isn't.  The third is that historically, poorer, less educated and more socially disadvantaged murderers are, in all jurisdictions, more likely to be executed than their more privileged peers.  The last is that by being part of a society which condones killing, we become killers ourselves.  It's really that simple.

And what right do I, an author of YA books, have to talk about this?  Well, not much.  But it is a topic which I deal with in my second novel, Big Brother's Little Sister.  I don't go into the ethical issues above at all - partly because I suspect that for most of my intended readership, the idea of state killings would be anathema.  The killing of a character in the book is central not only to the plot, but also to our view of at least one other character.  For me, it was such an obvious device to use that it didn't require much thought.

We don't kill people.  No matter what they've done.  It's not what people do.  It's not what good people do: it's not what people even trying to be good people do.  Don't sign up for it.  Not in my name.

*This is my understanding - IANAL (I am not a lawyer), and could have it wrong.