Cover reveal: Devastation

You probably already know that writing poetry and pieces of short fiction is not the be all and end all of my existence as a writer. I write novels too. They are unashamedly escapist, with elements of magic, fantasy and mythology, romance and humour, probably because that is how I would like life to be. The characters are young, full of energy, not little plaster saints, opinionated and courageous. I’ve come to like them as if they were not just my spiritual children, but flesh and blood.

The first series, The Green Woman, starts in a miserable, grey dystopia, violent and oppressive. You’d hardly expect it to be like Disney World, would you? It’s the story of Deborah’s journey to find herself, her mother and save the bit of the world that actually wants to be saved from itself. It ends in…well, you have to read the story to find out where it ends. Or if it even does.

The second series, The Pathfinders, is very different. Carla and Tully are caught in the Apocalypse. The story isn’t post-apocalyptic—the world is teetering on the brink waiting for the final act. Wormholes that loop through time and space run through the story like garlands on a Christmas tree but without the joyful connotations. Things travel through the wormholes, and most of them you wouldn’t want to meet, not even if you had a few anti-tank missiles handy.

The first volume, Abomination, was published in March by Finch Books. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. You’ll see why you should be preparing your plan B for the apocalypse right now.

AboAmazon

I have just received the cover art for the second volume, so I’ll post it here. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse than the Abomination, I’m afraid you’re in for a shock. Or maybe just a pleasant surprise. There are people like you, I know.

Devastation

Devastation will be available on early download from June 22. That gives you plenty of time to read Abomination first. If you like having the bejaysus scared out of you, of course. I’ve been told I write good horror stories. If you can stand the pace, you should look into this series.

You can find links, blurbs and extracts from all the novels here, or sign up for news about further publications here.

Deborah, Sif, and the Deformities

I have reached the half-way point in the final (oh I do hope so) comma sweep of Beyond the Realm of Night. To celebrate, and to give me something different to do, here is another excerpt.

320px-William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_Young_Gypsies_(1879)

The man grimaced but his features relaxed. “Yesterday, early, I heard the sound of riders approaching and a crowd on foot shuffling through the sand. I tried to hide but they found me. A woman, a good woman, Sif her name is, took my hands and urged me into the open. They were all going to Providence, she said, just as soon as the gates were opened. I told her not to listen to the demons’ lies. They were going nowhere but Hell. She had her baby to think of. How could she take a baby into Hell? She might have listened to me—she’s a sensible girl is Sif—but one of the demons barged over. I heard it, a flat, evil voice and the smell of sulphur about it.
‘Leave the old man,’ it said, ‘we need no blind cripples.’ And a rough, sharp-nailed hand, more like an animal’s paw pushed me roughly to the ground and kicked me to one side. As I lay in the dust the crowd shuffled past. The riders passed at a trot and I could hear their horses’ hooves thudding in the sand.
“Sif was still there. She bent over me and whispered. ‘They will finish scouring this area and then we head for the Yellow Rock until the gates of Providence are forced open. After that they say we make for the city. Do you think it’s true? Do you?’”
The old man shook his head sadly. “They dragged her away. I could hear her shouting about not touching her baby. Poor kid. Both of them. That’s why I came here, to find water and a place to hide.”
“Did you not want to go to Providence, then?” Chiron asked.
The man laughed, a harsh, rasping sound deep in his throat. “I know the stories. I recognised the servants of the Evil One. Better to die free in the howling wastes of the desert than as a cringing slave in a crystal prison.”
Jophiel, the gentlest of the archangels, said, “The stranger is right. Abaddon believes he will win the battle for Providence, and the Dananns will fight to the death rather than serve him. Without them, he will need slaves for the menial tasks. Who better than these wanderers who ask nothing better than to be allowed to live in the company of other human beings?”
“But if they are all like…?” Deborah nodded towards the stranger.
Jophiel shook his head. “The survivors of the War were changed and mutilated. All kinds of deformities and handicaps flourished in the poisoned air, but of those who lived, some produced children and grandchildren.”
The stranger interrupted. “The children born with no limbs, no mouths, they died. Only the strongest survived. We are the remnants, ragged and wretched, but the Demon can still make use of us. Except for the blind. Not even Abaddon wants a blind beggar.” The stranger’s voice cracked, and his words ended in a choked sobbing.
Jophiel again placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “The times are changing, friend. Have patience, just a while longer.”
“Don’t let them take me! That’s all I ask. Leave me here if you want, but don’t let them take me.”
Deborah had stopped listening. She was trying to remember where she had heard the name, Sif, before. Frowning with concentration, she absentmindedly scratched the ears of one of the Fianna hounds that had followed Medb. The dog raised his head and sniffed the air, then slowly and deliberately he approached the stranger. Gently, the hound nosed the destroyed face, his breath startling the man until he realised what it was. He reached out a hand and the hound bent his head and licked it. The awful face broke into a smile of happiness.
“The pups! You’ve found the pups!”
With a shock, the truth dawned on Deborah.
“They’re just hunting dogs, not the…not pups. Did you ever meet a boy,” she asked in a faint voice, unable to pronounce his name, “a runaway from Providence?”
The blind man turned to her in surprise. “Aye, I knew a boy once. A good boy. He would have stayed with me and been my eyes. But I sent him off. I didn’t want him to have the burden of a blind old man. He needed no second bidding—he was itching to be off on some great adventure. He’d got it into his head that there was a girl calling him, a girl from Providence. Said he had to be ready when she needed him.” The man chuckled. “He had these wild ideas all the time. Could never keep still either, always tearing after something or other with his dogs at his heels, a lizard or a strange-shaped rock on the horizon, inspecting caves and galleries, getting himself into mischief. He was a good boy. In a kinder world he would have been destined for great things.” The man’s face darkened. “If those demons have got him, you let me speak to him. I’ll put him straight. It’s no adventure going back to Providence, it’s slavery!”
“It’s all right,” Deborah said gently. “He’s beyond the reach of any demon now.”

The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

My guest today is Tricia Drammeh, another indie author struggling for recognition. I have always been struck by the thoughtful nature of Tricia’s writing with her sensitive portraits of young people on the verge of adulthood but not quite sure what they are about to plunge into. They are all flawed human beings, some of them damaged, and not all of them come through the story without suffering. All of them though are believable and touching—the hallmark of a writer with her finger on the pulse of humanity.

J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.

T: I have four published novels in three different genres. My latest release is Better than Perfect, and it’s a contemporary novel with romantic elements. It’s based in a suburban of Columbus, Ohio. Here’s the blurb:
Twenty-three-year-old Karlie is in the type of rut some people never escape from. With few friends, no boyfriend, and no plans to graduate from college any time in the immediate future, Karlie is as stuck in her ways as the elderly neighbor she spends all her time with. When her world is invaded by two surly twins bound for criminal court, a too-good-to-be-true love interest, and a cute cop who keeps showing up at the most inopportune moments, Karlie can either fight against the changes in her life, or embrace them.

kindle cover

J: Sounds as though you have the ingredients of a maybe-romance. What inspired the story in the first place?

T: The story began as my Camp NaNoWriMo project two years ago. I thought it would be a great idea to write a vampire novel. Needless to say, this didn’t quite pan out. There’s not a single vampire in sight, though I did try to create a love interest who resembles many of the romantic heroes we find in Young Adult and New Adult novels—he’s rich, attractive, and showers Karlie with attention. At first, Karlie thinks he’s the perfect guy, but as she gets to know him, she begins to redefine “perfect.” She realizes that having a “perfect” boyfriend is not nearly as satisfying as making her own way in the world or achieving her dreams.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

T: When I wrote my first novel, I did the query/rejection circuit. Most of the rejections I received were based solely on my query letter and not on the work at all. With Better than Perfect, I chose to skip the query process and went straight to self-publishing.

J: A story with a romantic element that doesn’t follow the standard romance formula must be difficult to market. Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

T: It has. Better than Perfect loosely skirts the romance/chick-lit genres, though I worry that if I market it as “romance,” readers will complain there isn’t enough sex. The book focuses on the evolution of the main character, and in many ways, the love-interest is more of an antagonist than a romantic hero. This is why I’m on the fence about labeling it a romance novel.
Out of all my books, the most difficult book to label has been The Fifth Circle. I ended up not really promoting it at all. Though it features two young adult characters, the subject matter is too edgy to market toward young adults. With young adult books, it can be very difficult to portray realistic characters and some of the situations they face without offending parents who like to pretend teenagers live in a land of cotton candy, rainbows, and unicorns. And, since there is no fantasy or romance, I can’t market it as genre fiction. Basically, the book has been hanging out on Amazon for over a year and I’ve sold less than fifty copies.

tfc

J: That is exactly the problem that faces many writers—trying to shoehorn their book into category that just doesn’t describe the work adequately. Straight romance is easy enough to market, but there is a tendency for publishers to ask for more sweet sticky romance than the story needs. I had a YA dystopian novel turned down by a very reputable publisher because the romantic element wasn’t strong enough. Romance during the Apocalypse? In a new Ice Age? With packs of mutant wolfdogs and hordes of the undead? Then there are parental expectations to contend with when the protagonists are young people. The entire planet could be torn apart by total war but you’d still get parents complaining about swear words. So, if you don’t fit into the most popular size, how do you tackle promotion?

T: With my young adult paranormal books, I was able to contact reviewers and bloggers because those books neatly fit into genres and were clearly intended for the YA audience. That’s not to say promotion was easy—it wasn’t. But at least I had some idea where to begin. With Better than Perfect, it’s very newly released, so I haven’t done much promotion. I do plan to contact some romance bloggers and we’ll see how that goes.

J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?

T: Fans of Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner, or Emily Giffin would enjoy my new book.

Anyone who’d like to learn more about my books can find me at my website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com. You can find links to all my books there.

Thank you Tricia for letting me interview you; I know self-promotion isn’t something you jump at. There are a lot of universal truths in your books that give them a depth not often found in novels about the trials and tribulations of young people juggling school and adulthood. There is nothing flippant or dewy eyed about your characters of the portrayal of their problems. For me, they exemplify exactly what I understand by the term young adults: young people on the cusp of adulthood, still dependant on the family environment however dysfunctional that may be, but already with some of the maturity, responsibilities, and outlook of adults.

My new super-hero is called Melmoth

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to get a review like this? It even made me want to grab a copy!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R12QF66QIOPTWW/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00FMGDU04&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=341677031&store=digital-text

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FMGDU04/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

 

Echoes from the lost ones: book review

This is a YA dystopian fantasy that I have just finished reading. It is one of the most original pieces of writing for young teens that I’ve read in a while.

Echoes from the lost ones

Drawn originally by the beautiful cover of this book, the original language swept me along from the first page. Adara speaks a quirky slang, reminiscent of Nadsat, the language of the droogs in Clockwork Orange, instantly recognisable as a mingling and mangling of familiar words. Language is an aspect of a futuristic society we often ignore, but nothing dates a novel more than the use of contemporary slang that is outmoded before the book has had time to make an impact.

In Echoes from the Lost Ones, Nicola McDonagh has used this simple device to create a realistic and unforgettable world. Adara herself is an endearing character, and has a great talent for making the reader (this one at least) laugh with her remarks. The story rattles along at a great pace, which will suit younger readers, but is the only real criticism I, as an adult, would make of it. I would have liked to explore this frightening world of mutants and shadowy armies, and the place Adara escaped from, and to learn a bit more about the dangers that beset her.

Ms McDonagh introduces a very colourful crew of characters who I would also have liked to spend more time getting to know. That said, this is the first volume of a series, so no doubt we will be filled in with more details in the subsequent volumes.

Well worth reading.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/images/B00CXSZIGS/ref=dp_otherviews_z_0?ie=UTF8&img=0&s=digital-text

 

Young Adult or Young Child?

Recently I have been discussing the question of self-censorship practiced by writers of YA fiction: how, if at all should sex and violence be tackled. This issue is a real can of worms, complex and controversial, in fact it is so complex and controversial that it needs taking piece by piece.

First, there is the question of what YA really means. There is the world of the child, an uncomplicated place because it has safe boundaries protected by the home and family, where the nasties always lose, magic is always just around the corner, and there is always a safe haven however adventurous the story gets.

atomicShed / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

There is the world of the adult, with worries and responsibilities, where you have to count on yourself, and others count on you. Anything can happen, but there is no safe haven. An adult is no longer protected from the unpleasant aspects of life, an adult has to make decisions, have values, get hurt and find love.

Then there is the world of those who are leaving childhood and entering the adult world with its turmoil of emotions and harsh realities. It’s one of those tides in the affairs of men, it’s a necessary part of growing up. For me, this is the young adult stage. You are not a young adult at the age of twelve. Many are not young adults until they are seventeen or eighteen. But when a human being starts to question, to have opinions, and to take responsibility for their actions, then it seems to me that they have entered the world of the adult.

Children’s literature is a comfortable world of extraordinary, magical possibilities, but there is always a home base, a comforter, a protector. And that’s how a child’s world should be, even if tragically it isn’t like that for every child. But the world isn’t full of pink unicorns and talking teddy bears. Growing up is about taking that in your stride.

Gianfranco Goria / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Young adult literature, as I see it is addressed to children who are striving to become adults, or put another way, adults who were children not so long ago. They don’t have husbands or wives, children of their own. They won’t want to read about work, marital strife or income tax returns. But their emotions, their values and their intellectual capacities are the same. To feed them sugar-coated stories is to deny their maturity. The world is as it is, and to pretend otherwise is like asking an eighteen-year-old to believe in Father Christmas.

”’Photographer”’: Franco Folini