Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The next chapter...

2014 saw the final part of the Blackbrooke trilogy released, making it a pretty big year. The best part of three years of my life was writing it and I've loved every second. The promotion continues, but I now have to move forward. So, what will 2015 bring?

In 2012, I left a stressful full time career in PR and began work as a bookseller to free up my time to write. As far as jobs go, it will probably remain the most fun I've ever had. I finished my shift and went home to write, not having to think about work until the next time. I got to understand the way the book industry works and even managed to get Blackbrooke on the shelves.

After 18 months of this I realised I missed making money. It doesn't make you happy, and I swore I wouldn't make myself stressed again, but I wanted to see more of the world. My amazing partner and I scrimped every last penny and managed to get away to Boston and New York last January, something I'd always dreamed of doing. During this trip, I made the decision to get back on the career ladder to be able to afford something like that again without us having to live off Morrison's own brand pot noodles for months (it's a miracle we both didn't end up with scurvy).

Sticking to the theme of writing, I got a job as a copywriter in March and it began again. The money was slowly coming back and we managed to get away again to see my mum in the States (and catch WWE's Money in the Bank, naturally). We had a fantastic year of travel and good times.

With every give there's a take though. My writing time suffered. Some might think finishing a book is no mean feat, but I could have written another one, or maybe even two this year, if I wasn't so invested in my 'day job'. I've since got a new job, which I start on 12th January, and I'm genuinely excited, but with it comes nervousness.

What if it happens again and I write zero in 2015? What if I'm stressed? What if we have a couple of lovely holidays, but I achieve nothing? I worry too much, it's a fact. I shouldn't put such pressure on myself, but I'm a writer. If I'm not writing then what am I doing? I might make a boss happy with my work output, I could even achieve more of the precious money I've been chasing, but will I remember any of that when I'm old and grey? Nope. I'll remember the books though. Plus, they may be the only part of myself I leave behind.

New year brings resolutions, and this year is no exception. I have some time before I start my new role, 12 days to be precise, and I'm going to write a novel during this time. I'll start the year on a positive and remember what I'm doing all of this for. Not being able to dedicate all of my time to the thing I love is tough. Maybe one day I'll strike it lucky and be able to write full time, but until that happens I'll do what I can.

This may seem like a negative post, but I'm feeling upbeat. I still have control of my life, just as you have control of yours. If a job takes over and you start forgetting who you are, have a serious think about what you really want. I left a job without another to got to back in 2012 and started again. If this serial worrier can do it, so can you.

I'd love for you to follow my journey from zero to novel in 12 days! I'm not going to post anything to make you feel bad, to 'show off', or to gain praise, I just want to share what I'm up to.

To all of you that read the Blackbrooke Trilogy, I'd love to hear from you and get your thoughts too. Drop me a line!

Happy New Year all! I'll see you on the other side!

Em x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Here we go!

It's here, folks! Blackbrooke III: King of Queens is out tomorrow (well, in about forty minutes...) and I'm getting those familiar butterflies. The first book was a gamble, the second exciting, and now the third...

Ending a trilogy carries immense pressure. What if I let people down? Or worse, what if I make people angry?!

It's far beyond anything I've written (or ever will), but when it came to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, the ending wasn't going to satisfy everyone. I loved it. In fact, I was hoping for something along those lines. I laughed at King's genius while screaming in frustration for Roland. I'm not comparing Blackbrooke to Dark Tower (imagine? The shame!), but I know my ending won't please everyone. 

The only thing that matters is I've written the ending I always wanted. Trust me, it was the only way I could have ended the trilogy without compromising the characters. 

Ask me!
Anyway! I'm inviting any questions readers might have about the trilogy and answering them in an upcoming vlog. I had such fun doing the last one, and wanted to give you the opportunity to ask any of those burning questions about Blackbrooke. 

As always, feel free to drop me a line. I love hearing from readers and welcome any messages or questions you have. 

Keep your eye out on social media tomorrow as I'll be running some giveaways! 

Thank you all so much for continuing to read my rambles. 


Em x

Grab your copy of Blackbrooke III: King of Queens HERE

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The challenges of a fresh start

Saying goodbye to Blackbrooke was pretty easy. I knew how it was going to end and I was excited to get stuck into writing something new. It was only when I started that 'something new' that it started sinking in what I was leaving behind.

I have vague recollections of the first draft of Blackbrooke. It was a completely different story, with the Crits resembling ghouls from fairytales - vampires, werewolves and witches. On the advice of a prominent literary agent, I changed it to something I'm now immensely proud of.

It's like any finished product. You forget the blood, sweat and tears you shed getting there and focus on the achievement. Now I'm back in the blood, sweat and tears stage and I'm finding it difficult. When it came to writing Blackbrooke parts two and three, the characters were already formed and I just had to continue their tale, safe in the knowledge the reader knew who they were and how they knew one another. Not anymore...

My new project straddles the line between young adult and plain old adult fiction and I'm trying to get to know the characters, but it's taking a while. It's the same as reading a great book and then having to get into another one afterwards. I'm trying to remember a time when I didn't know Liberty or Cassius but I'm going back a few years. I've slept since then and sank several bottles of wine (and the rest...).

It's a slow process to really care for whom you're writing about. I'm finding music really helps. I've set up a playlist for the new project, avoiding listening to my unofficial Blackbrooke soundtrack, and thankfully my protagonist is starting to form. I underestimated the process and the temptation to push it to one side and write Blackbrooke spin-offs for the rest of my life is hard to resist.

It's not something writers often talk about. I suppose it doesn't reflect well if they confess it's difficult to let go. You're all about the imagination after all, the ideas should be flowing! Well, it's not been the case with me.

This isn't a negative boo hoo post about how amazing Blackbrooke is though. My writing improves all of the time and I know, as long as I keep studying and paying attention to feedback from people who know better than me, my next project will be better. I'm already at the stage Stephen King is with Carrie - it was his first novel and he now finds it too difficult to read due to all of its flaws. I'm a flawed writer in every respect. I'm not a wordsmith and my grammar is questionable at times, but I believe my strange ideas and motivation to get them down on paper (screen?) is what means my books are enjoyed by people all over the world.

I'm going to record my progress on here in the hope someone might read it and seek solace they're not the only ones who struggle saying goodbye to past work. Plus, I'm always keen on getting words of encouragement! Writing is a lonely business after all.

Seeing as I'm discussing Blackbrooke, the third and final part is due out in October and I'm really excited to see what everyone thinks! I'll be doing some giveaways in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled if you're a Blackbrooke fan :-)

As always, thanks for reading.

Em x

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Hamburg, 1946. Thousands remain displaced in what is now the British Occupied Zone. Charged with overseeing the rebuilding of this devastated city and the de-Nazification of its defeated people, Colonel Lewis Morgan has requisitioned a fine house on the banks of the Elbe, where he will be joined by his grieving wife Rachael and only remaining son Edmund. 

But rather than force its owners, a German widower and his traumatised daughter, to leave their home, Lewis insists that the two families live together. In this charged and claustrophobic atmosphere all must confront their true selves as enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal. 

The cover of this book very nearly put me off. As a horror and sci-fi fan, I'm not really a fan of post-war tales of romance, and the attractive woman looking wistfully off-camera on this book didn't fill me with hope. However, it's currently the Waterstones Book of the Month, which is apparently voted for by booksellers, so I figured it was worth a read.

I'm so glad I took the chance.

Far from the romance novel I was expecting, this is an eye-opening view of a nation coming out of the war, confronting the reality of being on the losing side, and having to start rebuilding everything from scratch. It's an emotional thriller that follows each of the complex main characters through the journey to come to terms the situation.

Post-War Germany is painted to be a bleak and desperate place with its people starving and children begging in the streets for 'ciggies' they can trade for food. It's emotionally charged and uncomfortable to read at times.

It's full of subtle twists and turns, nothing you won't see coming, but that doesn't matter. I was particularly fascinated by Frieda, German Lubert's adolescent daughter. She wasn't a likeable character, but the way the grief for her mother manifests itself is interesting and I thought her emotional indifference was highly believable.

It's not all bleak. The underlying sense of hope is what makes this a real page-turner.

Brook's has taken inspiration from his family history and their experience in post-War Germany. It's an eye-opening read that's as unsettling as it is compelling. I'm not surprised The Aftermath is currently being made into a movie, I'll be first in line to see it brought to life.

The Aftermath is published by Viking and available as a paperback, ebook and audiobook now.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Kill Your Boss: The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

"John Lago is a hitman. He has some rules for you. And he's about to break every single one."

Interns are invisible. That’s the secret behind HR, Inc., the elite “placement agency” that doubles as a network of assassins for hire who take down high-profile targets that wouldn’t be able to remember an intern’s name if their lives depended on it.

At the ripe old age of almost twenty-five, John Lago is already New York City’s most successful hit man. He’s also an intern at a prestigious Manhattan law firm, clocking eighty hours a week getting coffee, answering phones, and doing all the grunt work actual employees are too lazy to do. He was hired to assas­sinate one of the firm’s heavily guarded partners. His internship provides the perfect cover, enabling him to gather intel and gain access to pull off a clean, untraceable hit. 

As an earlier Tweet of mine declared - this is a difficult book to read on the commute to work surrounded by your colleagues. What if word got back to my boss? Is it technically a threat? 

I spent the first train journey trying to hide the book from prying eyes but after several chapters, I was hooked. I would have read this book at my desk in full view of my boss if I could. 

It starts as something of a DIY manual for new interns written by Lago but it soon becomes more of a confessional or warning about HR Inc. Once again, I'm not going to include any spoilers at all, just know it's full of twists and turns that truly make the book unputdownable. It's funny too, with dark humour that will have you giggling whilst also shaking your head at the subject matter. 

It's got all of the fast-paced action you would expect from a blockbuster movie making it no surprise to learn of Kuhn's Hollywood background. Before I read this I thought (unfairly) that someone in the movies would be unlikely to execute a novel containing evolved characters and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Lago starts off discussing his past in a clinical manner but as the story evolves and he's introduced to new associate at the firm, Alice, the wider world starts to open up to him. He begins to see his boss for what he really is and a series of events lead the story in a direction no one could predict. 

I'm really excited about Kuhn's next project. It's tough to pull off a dark, action-filled caper that still has a heart, but he manages this ten-fold in Kill Your Boss. If you're looking for a fun page-turner from a new talented author, this one's for you.  

Kill Your Boss is the British title for The Intern's Handbook. It's published by Sphere and available on paperback and on the Kindle. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

REVIEW: The Fault in Our Stars

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once."

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

You know you're in for an emotional roller coaster if you pick up a book like this. Did I really want a repeat of Marley & Me? Those nights of having to flip my pillow over after soaking one side with tears, and then being a true masochist and going to see the movie...ah, the memories of being mocked by the dry-eyed children in the cinema as I was dribbling snot into my popcorn. 

Luckily, this didn't happen with TFIOS. Not that I didn't cry, just that I read it so fast there wasn't the night after night of torture. It's a tough read making it difficult to recommend in fear of my friends disowning me after having their heart wrenched out and repeatedly stamped on. My advice? Go into this book knowing it's going to be sad. The ending isn't going to see the young couple skipping off into the sunset after being miraculously cured of cancer. The world doesn't work like that and Green is obviously keen to remove this protective shield often found in YA novels. 

I really enjoyed the characters and the gentle dark humour throughout. Hazel and Augustus are believable as a couple and, although I think he falls a bit too hard and fast for her, their relationship retains a subtle sweetness rather than out-and-out teenage infatuation. One of the most powerful moments for me was Hazel referring to herself as a grenade that's waiting to go off. I imagine that's a very real feeling for someone in her position and it really struck a chord. Supporting character Isaac isn't just inserted for light relief either, with his story being even more heartbreaking at times than the novel's protagonist. 

For an avid reader, there were no surprises and you can pretty much guess what's going to happen in the end. I'd never write a spoiler but the next sentence is as close as it gets so maybe look away now if you don't want even a slight hint. If you've read My Sister's Keeper, I think you'll see the ending coming a mile away. It's not about twists and turns though. This is a story about life, death, and all of the beautiful experiences in between. 

If I take one thing from TFIOS, it's that no matter what life throws at you, you have to try and remain open to new possibilities. We all have the right to love and no one should deny themselves of it, no matter what the outlook is. All in all, this is definitely worth a read, just be prepared to shed a tear or two (buckets). 

Em x

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Book reviews

After much thought, I've decided to launch a review section on my website. I read a LOT of books and love to talk about them with anyone who'll listen, so here you are!

I'm going to post reviews for any books I'm interested in, whether it's YA horror, like the books I write, romance, or some good old literary fiction. I'm not in the business of posting reviews if I don't enjoy the book. My reviews will be honest but if I really don't like a book it's likely to be a matter of taste rather than something being wrong with it. Plus, as an author, I bloody hate crap reviews...

If you can recommend a good book or you've written a book you think I might like then please don't hesitate to get in touch via email: (at) gmail dot com. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

My vlog! At long last...

Phew, this has taken me AGES to get around to and for that I apologise. Not because I know you're all dying to see my face and listen to me ramble, but because it centres around the competition I was running to win an item from the Tales from the Crits online shop.

I'll be choosing a winner at random very soon from everyone who submitted a question so I'll be announcing that on Facebook and Twitter very soon. Watch this space.

I'll warn you, this vid is 20mins long (I can ramble) so make yourself a brew and get comfortable :-)

Thanks for your patience,

Em x

Monday, 27 January 2014

Boston, NYC and Blackbrooke III

It's all been a bit quiet on the social media front recently. There are a number of reasons, some of which I won't go into, but others are much more straight forward.

Any author will know that editing is the tough part of writing a novel and I've really faced an uphill struggle with the last part of the Blackbrooke Trilogy. I know how it ends but its getting there that's proving to be difficult. You see, I want the book to be the best it can be. Readers of Blackbrooke have been with these characters for two books (particularly the eighteen-year-old girl with the worst luck and taste in men in history) so Part III has to be special.

There's the little issue of me taking a holiday slap bang in the middle of what I've affectionately coined 'Editing Season'. I'm in the good old US of A as I type this, on the train from Boston to NYC. I'd love to tell you that I've been staring out of the hotel window wistfully like Carrie Bradshaw in her New York apartment and tapping away on my little Apple laptop but I haven't.

No, I've been holidaying. And I bloody well deserve it too.

My laptop has been open once before this blog post to dump the photos from my phone onto here to save space.

I'll be back to it when we return of course, and the manuscript will soon be ready to be sent to the publisher and my beta readers (lucky them!).

Until then, I'm going to enjoy the Big Apple. I've been wanting to visit this place my whole life so be prepared for many a cheesy snap appearing on here, FB and Twitter.

Apologies in advance.

Em x