Apparently, this is the end of 2016. I didn’t see that coming! I’ve only just got used to it being this year. I must have done something during the year, right? Right? Right.
Here’s my writing-related stuff from the year:
Published my first novel!
Yes, at last. I’ve been wanting to be a novel-writer since I was a teenager, and despite not really writing during my 20s, I never gave up wanting, and this year, my first book finally, finally came out (I actually sold it at the end of 2012, but it’s taken this long to be published).
I also published a novella set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB. THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS takes place a year before SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and features different characters, and it’s aimed slightly older, but it’s still the same mixture of humour, action, adventure, mystery, and over-the-top ideas.
Revised the sequel
The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will come out in July 2017. It’s called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, and it takes Edward and his family on an even more outrageous and deadly adventure. I did a pretty big rewrite of it over the summer, and then the copyedits this autumn. I’ve also seen the internal illustrations for it by the intensely talented Jeremy Holmes, and they are amazing!
Wrote a new book
The book that will be going out on submission in the new year is (currently) called THE MYSTERY OF FIRELAKE HALL. It’s set in 1932, in England. My agent, the wonderful Jennifer Laughran, described it as “A little bit Agatha Christie meets Clue meets St Trinian’s meets WW1 meets MAGIC!” It also has wolves, because, you know, why not?
I actually wrote a version of this quite a few years ago, but it didn’t work, so I ripped it up and completely rewrote it this year, which is the first time I’ve ever done that with a book, and I think it worked!
Pitched a third SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB book
To be brutally honest, this book probably won’t happen, but I have an outline and an opening in case it ever does, and the first two books tie everything important up, I think, if it doesn’t. One day, maybe!
Okay, when I put it like that, it makes it seem like I really did manage some stuff this year despite having young children (the younger of whom is only in school 2-1/2 hours a day).
Hey folks. Fantastic news. SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will have a new cover when it comes out in paperback on July 18th, 2016. I liked the hardcover version, but I think the paperback catches the book better. No need for me to waffle on about this. Here it is:
As with the hardcover, the art here is by Jeremy Holmes.
I’m going to Bristolcon tomorrow (Saturday 29th October, 2016). This is the first convention I’ve been to for quite a few years (Rare Appearance of Reclusive Author!), due to having little kids, but our wonderful niece, Freya, is coming down from Manchester to babysit for the day, so we actually get to go to a con for once!
Here’s my schedule (I’m doing a panel and a reading):
Panel: Under the Covers
4pm – 4.45pm
We all know how important covers are to books. Whether or not you judge a book by its cover, marketers assume you will, and cover art is a key part of how a book is marketed and received. Our panel reveals the process by which cover art is commissioned, from writers and publishers selecting artists to the challenges of rendering the writer’s vision artistically, with reference to examples of the good, the bad and the ugly of cover art.
So, some writers (including me) on Twitter have been doing “book quote Wednesday” (#bookqw), where each week we post a quote from one of our books that includes a particular word. (Thanks to Mindy Klasky for running this.) It occurred to me that not all of you actually follow me on Twitter, so I thought I should post here too. (I’ll actually do it on the right day after this.)
Here are the ones I’ve done in the last couple of weeks.
Today I got to finish writing two books in one day. How often does that happen?
Okay, I’m spinning this a little.
I finished my last major edits of THE EMPEROR OF MARS, which is the sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and sent it off to my editor. There’s still the copyediting and the proofs (and possibly more proofs…) but that’s it for any big changes. Basically, the way the book is now is the way it is going to be when it’s published, other than the odd fix to sentences here and there.
THE EMPEROR OF MARS is set eight months after the events of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and features more deadly danger, thrilling adventures, and terrible peril.
As a celebration, here’s the opening sentences of THE EMPEROR OF MARS:
The Emperor of Mars
I was twenty feet underground, surrounded by glowing blue sandfish crystals, with my head jammed in a beetle-vine warren, when I realized that vine-mining wasn’t for me.
I had seen the notice pinned up outside the local office of the Imperial Martian Airship Company:
Volunteers Needed! Root Out Beetle-Vines! Save Lunae City! Sign Up Today! Before it’s too late!
Perfect, I’d thought. What a great idea.
I had never been so wrong.
The book is out on July 18th, 2017, but advance copies will obviously be out sooner. Keep an eye on this blog if you want to know when you’ll get a chance to win one. :)
My Work-In-Progress, which I have also “finished”, is the first draft. That means, of course, that it’ll have to be rewritten many times, and so it could be completely, utterly different when it actually is published (and, of course, it might not get published at all). But here is a very brief taste of the opening. This may or may not be in the final version.
The Mystery of Firelake Hall
London, England, 1924
On the day that Miss Wellington was given the job of governess to the Stone children, she learned two absolutely unshakeable rules.
Firstly, nobody – absolutely nobody – talked about magic in the Stone household.
Hey folks. Exciting news for me! I have a new novella coming out on June 16th, 2016. It’s called THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS, and it’s set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS, but it takes place a year before SECRETS and is a completely standalone novella.
Ever wondered where the dinosaurs were in SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB? Want to find out more about Regency Mars? Can’t bear to wait for THE EMPEROR OF MARS to come out? Wondering what all the fuss is about? Here’s your chance to find out!
You can pre-order THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS now from Amazon, or buy it from most ebook stores or my website on June 16th.
If you have a review blog or site and you’d like a review copy, please send me a message!
Here’s the blurb!
Mystery, murder, and adventure on Mars…
Mars in 1815 is a world of wonders, from the hanging ballrooms of Tharsis City to the air forests of Patagonian Mars, and from the ice caves of Noachis Terra to the Great Wall of Cyclopia, beyond which dinosaurs still roam.
Sixteen-year-old Harriet George has never had the chance for an adventure. Now her older sister is determined to marry her off. Harriet can’t think of anything worse.
Meanwhile, her brother-in-law, Bertrand, has a problem. He’s never been much of a police inspector. As far as Harriet knows, Bertrand has never caught a criminal in his life. But now the famous jewel thief, the Glass Phantom, has come to Mars, and Bertrand has been given the job of tracking him down. If he fails, Bertrand will lose his job and the whole family will be ruined.
Harriet will not let that happen.
So she comes up with a plan: she will capture the Glass Phantom herself. Even if that mean that she and Bertrand have to follow the thief’s intended victim, the Countess von Krakendorff, on a dinosaur hunt in the perilous Martian wilderness. But there is far more going on in this expedition than mere robbery, and the dinosaurs are not the greatest danger.
If Harriet cannot solve the mystery, her family won’t just be ruined. She and Bertrand may not make it out of the wilderness alive.
The Dinosaur Hunters is a thrilling adventure set in the world of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.
Harriet George had been dressed as a boy for the last week, and she still wasn’t sure her brother-in-law had noticed.
“The thing is, Harry old thing,” the Honorable Bertrand Simpson said as he hunched morosely over his twelfth cup of tea that morning, “disguises are such dashed confusing things. Can’t tell if a chap is a chap or, you know, another chap.” He stirred his tea listlessly.
It had never been entirely clear to Harriet how her brother-in-law had managed to work his way up to the post of Inspector in the Tharsis City Police Service. As far as Harriet could tell, Bertrand had never solved a single case in his entire life.
Unfortunately, Harriet suspected that she wasn’t the only one who had figured that out. It was the only reason she could think of as to why Bertrand had been given the job of capturing the Glass Phantom. The Glass Phantom had evaded police forces in France, Austria, Britain, and Chinese Mars. He’d helped himself to the Crown of Charlemagne from under the nose of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard and had stolen the Orlov Diamond from the Imperial Scepter of Catherine the Great. No one with an ounce of common sense would risk their career tracking down such a notorious and difficult-to-catch jewel thief.
Which was why Bertrand, who wouldn’t have recognized an ounce of common sense if it had fallen into his morning tea, had leapt on the offer like a piranha-mouse on a stray muffin.
Bertrand came from a good family – his father was the fifth Baron Heatherstone – but his family’s estates on Earth had long ago been sold off to pay their debts. Bertrand’s father had brought the family to Mars to seek his fortune on a new world, but it hadn’t made any difference, and Bertrand scarcely had a penny to his name. In his position, he should have married a young lady with a good dowry. Instead, he’d married Harriet’s older sister, Amy. If it hadn’t been for Bertrand’s job, Harriet was certain they would have starved within the year.
And then, five years ago, Harriet and Amy’s parents had died, and Amy and Bertrand had taken Harriet in. She knew it had been hard for them, and she knew they’d given up a great deal for her. She owed them everything.
When Bertrand failed to catch the Glass Phantom, he would lose his job and it would be an absolute disaster for them all.
Harriet would not allow that to happen.
“You know, the Glass Phantom might not actually be in disguise,” Harriet said, trying to cheer her brother-in-law up. “I mean, why would he?”
Bertrand groaned. “That makes it even worse. If he’s not in disguise, how am I going to tell who he’s not disguising himself as?”
Which, Harriet thought, summed up rather neatly why her brother-in-law never actually caught anyone.
A lovely review for SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It’s wonderful when a reviewer really gets your book.
Readers might as well check all disbelief at the door and just embrace this look at a nineteenth-century British Mars that has solid hints of steampunk and features dangers aplenty to excite a kid hooked on spy tales. Such a kid is twelve-year-old Edward, who has been waiting his whole life for something like what he reads in Thrilling Martian Tales. Adventure comes in a rush, as a kidnapping, a much-desired water abacus, a metal assassin, and a mysterious cousin who may be a good guy, bad guy, or just bumbling fool all fall into Edward’s lap (and into the lap of his gender-defying little sister who aids him more than he’ll ever admit). Indeed, it quickly becomes clear that to save their family, Edward will need the skills of his more clever younger sister, his more socially graceful older sister, and his more adept cousin, even if he wishes he could be a solo hero like in the stories. The dialogue is snappy, and the characterization is historically plausible while still giving room for the characters to react to being on another planet. Science fiction meets classic adventure tales in this quirky novel, and it’s a real treat to know that it’s the first in an intended series. Fans of Reeve’s Larklight (BCCB 2/07) will embrace the premise, and readers will happily return for the next entry to see what happens next on Mars.
Well, it’s been just over a week since SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB was published, so I reckon it’s time for another blog entry. I think I completely exhausted us all by blogging for ten days in a row leading up to publication. I don’t know how those of you who blog every single day manage it…
ANYWAY, I’ve been doing a few interviews around the webs about writing, my book, and stuff, and because I know you all want to hear my every at-length utterance (ahem), here’s links to them.
Your book sounds like an epic adventure. Where did the idea for SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB come from?
Man, I wish I had a cool answer for this, where it all came flashing into my brain like accidentally sticking my finger into a live socket (been there, done that, don’t recommend it), but that’s not how books tend to come to me. I always have hundreds of ideas bouncing around in my brain, like a swarm of slightly sticky bees, and sometimes they bump into each other and stick together to become, er, a super-giant bee or something (I think this analogy is falling to bits here. Unlike the super-bees which are definitely stuck together).
Basically, ideas coalesce until a story starts to shape itself. Some bits get added, others get shaved off or reshaped, until I can see a story. SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB came from dozens of places, like old pulp science fiction and Jane Austen and this illustration I saw from the nineteenth century which showed Napoleon’s armies invading Britain using hot air balloons and looking at Google Mars and Indiana Jones movies and so many other things.
What tips can you share in writing a believable world/background?
Detail. The key is, you need to know how everything works, even if you don’t put it in the book. In fact, as the writer you should know many, many times more than you put in your book. It has to be there in your head. You need to know the whole of your world. Then you can write the story within it.
If you pre-ordered it from Book Depository or Amazon or somewhere else, your book should be on its way to you already! Keep an eye on your mailbox.
Today, I thought it would be a great time to meet the characters of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB.
Edward Sullivan – our hero
“I was hanging from a rope, fifty feet up the side of a great pillar of red Martian rock, with my arms buried in a sopping curtain of tanglemoss and bury-beetles trying to build a hill over my head…”
All 12-year-old Edward Sullivan wants is to be left in peace to read his Thrilling Martian Tales magazine. Instead he has to keep his chaotic family from disaster. And when disaster does strike, he is the one who will have to save them all.
“I’ve had lots of practice waking people up. It’s one of my specialties.”
Edward’s little sister, Parthenia (Putty), is incredibly enthusiastic and as impressionable as wet putty. Like their father, she is a genius, but she rarely keeps her attention on anything for more than a day or two at a time.
“A man who starts the day without a kipper is a man who will feel like a smoked fish until bedtime! So says Plato, or, er, someone.”
Cousin Freddie is a well-known but well-meaning idiot. But when he — literally — crashes in, everything starts to descend into chaos. Freddie is up to something, and Edward needs to find out what before it’s too late.
“What if someone sees us? What would they think?”
Edward’s middle sister, Olivia, is the most proper person he has ever met. How will she cope when she finds herself in the middle of the Martian wilderness, far away from civilization?
“You know, none of my family have shown the slightest interest in the device. I had once hoped that Edward might follow me, but…”
Papa is a genius, there’s no doubt. He’s the most successful mechanician on Mars, and his wild inventions have changed both Earth and Mars. It’s just a shame he doesn’t have a little more time for Edward.
“They called me the Crystal Rose of Tharsis, you know. Every young gentleman admired me.”
Mama was once one of Society’s most adored young ladies, hosting salons that were the envy of Tharsis City and with a host of admirers. But when her father gambled away the family fortune, nobody wanted to know her anymore and she has never quite recovered from the snub.
“It is remarkably handsome. Is that the latest London style, Cousin Freddie?”
Edward’s oldest sister, Jane, is possibly the sweetest person on Mars, but as far as Edward can tell, she’s never had a single thought in her head that isn’t about fashion or young men.
Sir Titus Dane
“My business carries me to Mars so infrequently that, when I found myself in the area, I could not resist the temptation of taking a slight diversion to pay my respects to one of my dearest friends.”
The famous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, was once of Mama’s admirers but no one has seen him for ten years since he disappeared in a cloud of disgrace. So why has he turned up out of the blue and what does he want with Edward’s family?
Dr. Octavius Blood
“I always carry my rock samples with me. You never know when you might need them.”
The small geologist is obsessed with rocks, but there is more to him than meets the eye.
Other Assorted Villains and Rascals
“Grrr. Argh. Grrr.”
…are villains and rascals. The villains! The rascals!
The illustration of Edward and his family is by Jeremy Holmes. Copyright Christy Ottaviano Books.
It’s juuuuusssst two days until SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is officially published, two short, possibly rainy (in Wales, at least) days and I was totally going to write an awesome blog entry to celebrate. But I am soooooo tired today. Too little sleep, too many things to do for too many days, and all I want to do is go to sleep.
So, lazy post alert!
With only two days to go (have I said that already…), SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is making its way out into the world, creeping onto bookshelves with a sneaky glance over its shoulder in case anyone is looking, and showing its dragon-y face to the passers-by. Here is the proof:
This is “Secrets” in Palm Desert Barnes and Noble (photo courtesy Rich and Kathy Burgis):
Here it is in the “Little Professor Book Center” in Alabama (photo courtesy of Sara Glassman):
And, finally, here’s “Secrets”, with its shiny star, at the ALA Midwinter conference in Boston (photo courtesy of Randi Pink):
That book next to it is Paper Wishes by my fellow debut, Lois Sepahban. It came out a few days ago, and I talked about it here.
That’s it, then, guys! The book is making its tentative, shy way out into the world. If you spot it, give it a stroke and tell it all will be all right…