The Future King: Logres, now available on Amazon!

Britain, 2052. In a world of war, disease and hunger the UK stands alone as a beacon of prosperity under an all-powerful ruling party. Life at new school Logres seems promising for fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar, and quickly she falls for the school’s handsome catch, Arthur. When Arthur’s rival, Lancelot, returns after a suspension, her heart is soon divided. Realising that behind the UK’s prosperity lies unspeakable cruelty, Gwenhwyfar sets off on a path to dismantle everything the government stands for. Suspenseful, raw and awash in a dystopian setting, The Future King: Logres is a story of identity and discovery against this backdrop, the second coming of the Arthurian legends.

The Future King: Logres: Volume 1

It’s out! It’s available to buy! Finally, after many hours of proofreading, formatting and double-triple checking my files, The Future King: Logres is live on Amazon (and also on Createspace). Soon to be released on Kindle, I thought I would share with you an extract from the middle of novel to whet your appetites.

She was knocked out of Arthur’s grasp in a second, pushed aside by one scrambling body and then another, and suddenly she was being carried along with a stream of faceless figures, fighting against them, trying to get back.

‘Arthur!’

A tear gas canister propelled past her, splitting the protestors. Someone pushed her hard in the back. Gwenhwyfar didn’t realise she had fallen until she was on the tarmac. Instinctively her hands flew up to protect her head. Someone trod on her leg, another person tripped over her stomach. The shouting was frightening. Grabbing hands pulled her up, and then another protestor was asking if she was all right, helping her away from the scene. When she fought against them they abandoned her.

‘Arthur!’ she yelled again, cutting through the crush. He was tall; she should be able to find him, and at the same time she half-hunted for Gavin, who was tallest. She daren’t jump to try and see better; if she did she would go down again, and this time she might not get back up.

She longed to take her mask off; it was hot and hard to breathe. They had been told to go to Marvin’s meet-up spot if one of them got separated, but with her phone at home she was scared to leave when she knew that Arthur was here somewhere, just a few feet away.

The crowd struggled the only way it could—back into itself. Gwenhwyfar waited, alone and small as the road around her cleared, but when the police charged in with handcuffs and batons she shrank away, knowing she shouldn’t linger. A sudden heat seemed to melt against her with the brightest of lights. Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the support of my family and friends, and I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has already ordered The Future King: Logres and who have supported me throughout this process. If you do buy a copy then I encourage you to leave a review on Amazon – it will help others decide if this book is for them and I would love to hear your feedback!

With TFK published I can now concentrate on other endeavours, and hopefully also continue writing Book II which will be the next in The Future King series.

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Progress on self-publishing!

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So! Yesterday (was it yesterday? Actually, I think it was Friday), I finished my edit/proof read of my novel. That’s right! All five-hundred and something pages checked, double-checked, and tweaked. Surprisingly the new format of the novel made catching things that I’d never noticed before much easier – such as missing speech marks, duplicated words, or words that had clearly hung on despite the rewriting of the sentence. Inevitably, I will have missed one or two things. My three-pronged approach of reading in my head, reading aloud, or getting dictation & speech to read for me can’t have picked up everything. As a result I have sent my final draft off to my proof-readers, and am awaiting their verdict. I shall have to resist the urge to edit again when comments come back – after all this is the start of a story, and there are always so many ways to tell it.

In the meantime I am trying to work my way through the minefield that is writing your own blurb. I should be able to manage it, I’ve written a novel, right? I edited that novel, then after that I did the unthinkable – I trimmed down 120,000 words into a one-page synopsis. That, at the time, seemed impossible – but as it is often shown, the impossible turned out to be possible after all. 200 words or less is a much shorter order to work to, however, and (so far) I’ve found it’s the sort of thing that can only be approached in short bursts.

One draft – a splurge of sentences on the page that make little sense. Break. Another draft, writing an alternative to the above. Research, lots of research – or at least just a little bit – looking at book blurbs in your own library and googling ‘how to write a book blurb’, only to find that there are several ways one can do it. Writing again, with these strict guidelines in mind. Deleting all the above because, surprisingly, the guidelines were actually quite helpful. Break, because what you wrote needs to sink in before you can edit it. But you’re there, you’ve got the tone and the content right. Now it just needs to… pop.

Other than that, my schedule at the moment includes getting other aspects right – in particular things like text for the acknowledgements. As I am destined to a reasonable wait before I can continue with the whole publishing thing (everything is on hold now until the book itself is ready to be uploaded), I will probably return to some of the other points on my to-do list for a while. Scanning my grandfathers’ slides of plants and butterflies is one, illustrating a few projects is another, working on a children’s book is my third (nearly done, I just need a decent ending). Presently I am battling the urge to try restructuring my book completely, just to see if it would be better (or worse). Knowing when to stop tweaking is a good skill, and it’s easier to do when working on a painting or drawing. The result of a drawing is usually completely visible on one page, and is therefore easier to conclude that it is, actually, finished. Perhaps someday I will be able to transfer such understanding to my written work, and the whole process may become a little easier to draw a line under.

What I’ve been up to

Today has been busy. Impatient to get some idea of what my book might look like once it is finished, I have been fiddling about with formatting in MS Word. With no clue where or what to start with, I found a very helpful website (http://www.diybookformats.com/mswordtemplates/) and have managed to set my margins, my paper size, choose a font, and even make chapter dividers in photoshop which match the feel of my draft design for my book cover. Being an arty person, I am very excited by this small achievement (it looks really cool).

Less encouraging is my page count. Yes, I know my final draft is not yet done, and having carved through about fifty pages today I am fairly certain that it will end up being about 20 A4 pages shorter than it is now. In my new layout however, the book as it is (140,000 words) is close to six-hundred (5.25 x 8) pages. I had assumed that publishing your own book might give you greater freedom concerning word count, but after doing Amazon’s royalty calculator I have discovered that my novel would cost me 50p per book to print in the UK. Not the 30-70% royalties I had in mind!

Before settling on the decision to self-publish I did approach the crowdsourcing website, Unbound. Set up by writers Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, Unbound purports to let the readers decide which books get published through a process in which authors present pitches on Unbound’s website. These pitches then receive pledges (payments) from future readers. Only the pitches that reach their target (of about £15,000 from what I can tell from their FAQs [please do correct me if I am wrong]) get published.

It sounded perfect. But, of course, to avoid being swamped by endless pitches, Unbound do have a submissions process. Great for the works that make it through, but that means those works have (ironically) been chosen by the publisher. There is an eight-week wait to get to the top of the slush pile, so percentage-wise not many submissions seem to make it past the selection process (my pitch was one of them). Basically Unbound seems to be a publisher with the best of both worlds – no upfront costs to publish their chosen author’s works, because the readers (may or may not) cover that for them.

Crowd-funding in publishing still seems to be relatively new, and whilst exploring my options I did come across several other sites that seemed to adopt the same concept as Unbound, with the difference that any pitch is posted. So far however, these websites only seem to publish e-books with a much lower crowd-sourcing target (for one of these sites the target was £500 per book). Others claimed to be free, but with the surprise of pop up adverts in your novel when anyone reads it, and (let’s be honest) no author wants their masterpiece repeatedly interrupted by weight-loss ads.

Unbound was tempting for me, because at 50% royalties as well as a paid-for investment in your book concerning editing, book cover and proof-reading it sounded like the best deal. It’s worth a go if anyone out there hasn’t tried it already, particularly if you have a large social media following – it’s one of the things they ask you when you apply because the more followers you have the more books you’re likely to sell. It is discouraging to find that yet another creative endeavour essentially boils down to a popularity contest (or, you could argue, a large social network), but this is already endemic in many artistic fields and is hardly new. Followers = distribution = wider market = more sales. It is becoming the case in the fashion industry, with models with higher numbers of followers getting booked for bigger jobs. Free advertising makes perfect sense.

Ultimately, the author knows what will be a good fit for them, but unfortunately for us writers we’re not usually the ones who get to choose. I am excited about self-publishing though. It’s a challenge, a test to see if I can do it. Can I be editor, designer, agent and writer all at the same time? We’ll find out when it’s released. I’ve already announced my intention on Facebook, and though my social network is modest I’ve had encouraging feedback (and great encouragement). They’re probably just pleased that I’m finally taking the initiative to get it out there – I have been harassing them all with novel-related updates over the years.

I’m half-way through my revision. I caught a scene that referenced something that had already been resolved earlier in the book, so I think as editor I am doing well. I will post up artwork updates as I create them and closer to the release. In the words of most people everywhere, ‘let’s do this!’

The Knights of the Round Table

“His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
Sang Sir Lancelot.”

– The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Arthur. Merlin. Camelot. The legends of King Arthur and his knights are known in some form or another to the majority of the population, and have repeatedly been reinvented in television, film, and the written word. Personally I cannot pin-point my first encounter the legends, but assume it must have been through an older text, because when I first saw Jerry Zucker’s First Knight (1995), I thought they had misspelt Sir Lancelot (as far as I was concerned at the time, it should have been Sir Launcelot). It wasn’t until college that I delved deeper into the legends, after reencountering them through my studies of the Pre-Raphaelites (in particular John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott (1888)). First I read Tennyson’s accompanying poem (quoted above), and then I purchased Le Morte d’Arthur from my local Waterstones. After hunting the same store for King Arthur related books, I soon discovered my all-time favourites: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles, and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Each author’s interpretation of the legends is, of course, birthed from the same origins. But each is fundamentally and absolutely different.

What is it about the legends of King Arthur that is so expansive? You could tell a hundred authors or more to retell the legends in their own words, and no two versions would be remotely the same (unless of course they were talking, and intending to be the same). Of course, a writer’s different styles and preferences would affect any such project. But in the case of King Arthur, I think the legend’s richness is compound in the inevitable differences. There are dozens of stories within the framework offered, and hundreds of subplots countable from that. It is just so complex. Who do you focus on? Which stories do you tell? The list of the Knights of the Round Table at its most expansive runs to more than 150. The love stories are ever-changing and entwined. The quests are endless – the Holy Grail, the Questing Beast – authors need only take their pick.

My interpretation of the legends of King Arthur evolved from my own experiences and interests in life, metamorphosing into a hybrid of contemporary concerns and the raw essences of the myths. This modern reflection of the myths is set to span the arc of Arthur’s rise to power in a futuristic depiction of Britain. Book one has been written, and I have read Createspace’s lengthy user agreement and deemed it satisfactory. I am looking into the particulars of self-publishing, such as how to format a book and how to design your own cover. I can’t afford a graphic designer or a proof-reader or editor, so I (like many others) will be taking a risk and doing all of the work myself.

Perhaps it is a good sign that after all these years I am still not bored by my idea. I still believe in the concept, I still love the characters. I can re-read the first and last fifty pages again and again, and still find them interesting. Many stories of King Arthur hint at Arthur and Merlin retiring for the long sleep – destined to reawaken when Britain needs them most. I think this perhaps is one of the most attractive concepts in the legends – the promise of hope in the dark days to come.

The long haul.

When I first started my novel back in 2011, the first draft took me a total of six weeks. I had an idea I’d been chewing over since 2007 with one short attempt to turn it into something physical, but then, at the end of my university semester and with a long summer ahead of me, I dove in head-first and just wrote it.

How long is too long when working over an idea? Us artists are creatures of detail, and such proficiency bestows upon us great patience. Sometimes we get drawn into an idea too much, and find ourselves unwilling (or unable) to comprehend an end. Does such a predicament matter, however, when one is so engaged by an idea that it feels as if every day spent working on it is entirely new? Often it passes without notice; the minutes become hours, the hours whole days. You work, and you forget to eat, drink or sleep. You’re so enthralled by what you are doing that the pang of hunger or stiffness brought about by an uncomfortable chair can do nothing to hinder you.

I have done several drafts of my book up to date, and naturally each revision was packaged with the exclamation, ‘Eureka! This is it!’ and sent off to the most promising literary agents. Of course with each submission came a rejection, and I would soon succumb to the age-old problem of returning to your own work with eyes changed by time. It happened when I painstakingly drew Christopher Columbus’ ship when I was four. Then, it was a masterpiece! Now, not so much.

A novel, unlike a sketch or drawing however can be edited, and so I embarked on making it perfect. Each time shorter or longer, and every time (I would like to think) better, stronger. My very fast draft in 2011 was written with the estimate I would then spend about six months editing. Then it would be ready to publish. Of course.

Four years later I am on my… fourth? real, complete restructure and rewrite. I’ve read the blogs, I’ve seen the news. I know that most people’s first projects get shelved until they are rich or famous enough through other works to get them published retrospectively. Does it change things if I say that this isn’t my first attempt at a novel? My first idea has been shelved without much input, perhaps for another day.

I think, however, we all have some idea of what works and what doesn’t. We all read and we all have things which we can compare our own work to. My latest draft, I have decided, is going to be my last. I will make sure I am happy with it, and then I will move on. These days debut authors’ options are expanded by the possibility of self-publishing. Now our first novels can be released into the market as they are, as we intended.

This project is a series, or it will be when I’m done with it. After researching the available avenues self-publishing is becoming a real consideration. I have had interest for my idea from two reputable agents, including full manuscript requests and even one revise and resubmit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for them. But I now have a better book as a result, and am less anxious about getting it out there without the traditional route and safety net of an editor or publisher.

I have half my novel left to edit, and then it’s back to proof-reading. Then I think I’ll take the plunge. I’ll let my first novel be one of the ones self-published as it is, and as I intended.

10 things I have learned whilst searching for a literary agent.

  1. The Artists and Writers Yearbook is a must, but with my copy harking from 2013, I have discovered the internet to be just as useful.
  2. At first you apply to three agencies simultaneously, having heard the stories. Then five at once. Then eight at a time. When you start to fear they may all reject you, you begin to wonder how long you should wait until starting from number one again.
  3. Time is slow when you have queries pending, which (assuming you adopt the above) is always.
  4. Checking your emails seven times a day does not make time go faster.
  5. A request for a full manuscript will always fill you with joy.
  6. A rejection after a request for a full manuscript amends your expectations to ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenario. The ‘worst case’ scenario is that you will receive an unaccompanied ‘no’. The ‘best case’ scenario is that you will get some usable feedback.
  7. The gratitude you feel when you finally do get tailored feedback is boundless. Agents are busy, we all know, which makes this feedback all the more valuable when someone does find the time to give it to you (thank you, really).
  8. Rejections pass like unusually-shaped clouds. At first they are something to point out, but soon they go unnoticed.
  9. Silence from an agent after a query is no reflection on you, but on the time they have spare to respond. Don’t take it personally.
  10. Despite the above, finding an agent who loves your work as much as you do is still a viable and possible dream. Worrying about what to do should two agents ask to represent you may be premature, but it is an inevitable fantasy.