A Journey Through Ambeth, Part II

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about the real landscapes that had inspired Oak and Mist, my first Ambeth book. With the release of Hills And Valleys, the third book in the series, that landscape has now expanded somewhat. So, with the past week being what it was, I thought I might take a wander through my fantasy world, and share it with you 🙂

I hope this isn’t too much like Toto pulling back the wizard’s curtain in Oz – I just wanted to share the landscapes I had in mind when I wrote the Chronicles. For Alma’s adventures in the human world, I used real locations – places I’d lived in or visited many times that had left an impression on me. However, when I created Ambeth, I didn’t have specific places in mind, wanting instead to write the world I could see in my mind’s eye. Later, when I looked back, I could see where the influences had come from.

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Hearst Castle, California

‘From out of an immense structure of white stone came towers topped with tiles that gleamed like mother of pearl… It shone so brightly in the sun that Alma blinked, shading her eyes.’  Oak and Mist

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Criccieth Castle, Wales

‘My heart rejoices at the thought that our old castle will guard my secret, high on its mound behind its twin-towered gate.’ Hills and Valleys

Notre Dame Doors

Doors to Notre Dame, Paris

‘The large wooden doors… were wondrously crafted, with hinges made from intricately shaped and figured metal that curved across the… wood like living things.’ Oak and Mist

Criccieth, Wales

Criccieth, Wales

‘Alma sat with Merewyn on a low wall near the jetty, looking along the curving beach to the mountains beyond.’ Hills And Valleys

Inspiration comes to us from many places. I recently walked past a grove of trees in my neighbourhood and immediately had another book idea. An unusual outside light on a neighbour’s house inspired a short story. So how about my fellow writers out there? Do you write from the real world, or gather influences to shape a new landscape? And where have you been that has inspired you?

New Release – Hills And Valleys (Ambeth Chronicles #3)

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Yay! I’ve been a bit busy these past few weeks working on the final edit and formatting for Hills and Valleys, the third book in my Ambeth series. And now I can happily say…. drum roll… it’s published!

Available on Amazon and part of KDP Select (so you can read for free as a Kindle Unlimited member), Hills And Valleys continues Alma’s story:

‘Sometimes things call to us until we can no longer ignore them. And Ambeth is calling you, Alma.’

After the events of the Harvest Fair, Alma is finished with Ambeth – they can find the missing Cup and Crown without her. But Ambeth is not finished with her. First the mystery of her dead father comes back to haunt her, then the Dark reach out, hoping to trap her once more.

And then there’s the strange power she seems to have…

If you’ve been reading along already, you know why she might be finished with Ambeth. If you haven’t? Well, it’s a long weekend, so head over to Amazon and check out the series 😉

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Cover Reveal – Hills And Valleys

Hills And Valleys Front Cover

Here it is! The cover for my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys, is complete and ready to upload, but first I thought I’d share it with you.

Thanks again to my brother, Rich Jones at Turning Rebellion, for the fantastic layout – I’m thrilled with the finished result and think it fits really well with the first two titles in the series.

Hills and Valleys will be available very soon – watch this space!

Tea, Updates and Vampire Stories

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I know there’s a weekly thing where bloggers catch up as though having coffee, a conversational get-together with updates from the past week. I’m more of a tea drinker, myself, so, if we were having tea, this is what I’d tell you:

So, this happened yesterday.

Yay! I reached my 30,000 word target with Silver and Black, the vampire novel I’ve been working on of late. It’s far from finished, of course, but I have a good framework in place, as well as the knowledge of where the story needs to go and what the characters have to achieve, so I’m pleased, overall. I’m still thinking about serialising the whole thing on my blog, as the response to the small snippets I’ve posted so far has been pretty good.

The weather here this week has been quite mad, one minute bright sunshine, then the next snow and ice falling from a clear blue sky. At one point last week we were walking through the park on the top of the hill where we live, and all around us, in almost a perfect circle, I could see vast towering grey and white clouds dumping rain and ice, while above us the sky was blue. A bit of Spring weather madness, I guess. But the tide seems to be turning, so to speak, with sunshine and warmer temperatures forecast for next week – with May Day just around the corner, this is welcome news.

And I’m also expecting, finally, to be able to publish Hills and Valleys, the third instalment of my Ambeth Chronicles. I knew I was cursing myself by putting a publishing date at the end of No Quarter, and so it came to pass that the whole thing has taken longer than planned. However, the plus side of that has been more time to finetune the book, including finding (and fixing) a small continuity error. Plus, my editor thinks this is the strongest instalment yet, so it’s been worth doing the extra work. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, I guess.

And now it’s the Bank Holiday weekend. Rain is forecast, as is expected, though at the moment we have brilliant sunshine. The gorgeous girl had an excellent school report this week so, as a reward, I’m taking her to one of her favourite places, a craft store where she can do a project in store. They provide the paint, glue, apron and workspace then, for a small fee, she can choose something from the shelves or pottery collection and create a masterpiece. We are also going to visit The Treasure Box, the magical store I wrote about in a previous blog post, where she will no doubt spend time rummaging through the ribbons and buttons, looking for treasure.

Other than that, we’re planning to let the weekend unfold as it will, plans subject to change, depending on the weather. Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and that the sun shines on you, wherever you are. 🙂

 

 

When A Character’s Story Ends

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Killing your darlings.

I’m certainly not the first writer to use this phrase, nor will I be the last. In fact, it comes from the lectures of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a professor, journalist and literary expert who used the term to describe removing fancy words and overblown description from your writing. But here I’m using it to talk about my own darlings, the characters I’ve created in the world of Ambeth.

I wrote a blog post some time ago about how it feels to dream a character to life, how they take on characteristics you may not expect, leading the story forward. But what happens when their story ends, when you (as the omnipotent writer) have to kill off one of your favourites for the sake of the narrative?

In the Ambeth series, I find (slight spoiler alert) that I’m killing off at least one character per book. One I did not mind at all – a most unpleasant fellow, it was a pleasure to concoct a poetic justice for him, a deserved death. But there was another who I mourned for weeks after he ‘died’ – I couldn’t read the section where he meets his end for quite some time as I found the whole thing too upsetting. Still do, to be honest. But there was no other ending for him, his death a pivotal moment that shaped much of what was to come in subsequent books. And there are others – some whose deaths I’ve written, others that I know are to come and it is a very strange feeling, that idea of their story ending. It’s as though whatever feeds their story through to me tapers off and I know there is no other way forward.

In life I tend to avoid films and TV that depict violence, murder and mayhem, guns and gore. Unless it’s fantasy, for some reason. Orcs and elves and vampires and superheroes, that sort of violence is OK, I guess. Strange, isn’t it? And yet here I find myself killing people off, writing their deaths. But I guess the key is that I also write their lives, their loves, their thoughts, give them as much of a chance to live as I can.

In my most recent completed novel, the main character dies in the first sentence. She is dead for pretty much the whole book. So that’s another way to look at it, I guess. I killed my darling before the story started, so it didn’t hurt so much.

Oak and Mist – Download Free For a Limited Time!

Oak And Mist final cover

Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth series, is free on Amazon from now until February 25th (e-book version only).

‘The end of everything? Great, no pressure then.’

Alma Bevan didn’t mean to go on a quest. But when she disappears between two trees at her local park and reappears in Ambeth, she finds they’ve been expecting her.

So now she has to find a lost sword or the consequences for humanity will be dire. With no idea where to look, despite help from her new friend Caleb, things become even more complicated when a handsome Prince of the Dark takes an interest in her.

All this plus homework too?

Well reviewed on both Goodreads and Amazon, Oak and Mist is the first book in The Ambeth Chronicles. So go on, download a copy today! myBook.to/oakandmist

 

 

 

Time To Edit

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I haven’t been as ‘present’ as usual in blogland this past week or so. That’s because I’m deep in the pre-edit on my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys. My pre-edit basically consists of a full read through, tidying up the prose and making sure the structure works before sending it to Lucy, my editor. I’ve compared it before to cleaning the house before the cleaner comes over, but I do think there’s more to it than that. I’m paying Lucy for her time, and I don’t want to waste it by sending her a document that still needs work.

As I worked through the edit, it occurred to me that it has been just about a year since I sent my first book, Oak and Mist, to Lucy for editing. At the time it felt like a leap of faith – even though Lucy was highly recommended and had lots of experience in my genre, I had no idea what to expect. I’d heard people describe having a professional edit done as being like a kick in the guts, their work being ripped apart. What if Lucy wanted me to get rid of a favourite character? Or, even worse, if she thought the whole story didn’t work and I needed to start again.

Then the edit came back. It was thorough, professional and included a page of notes about the structure. And, even though it was hard to take, Lucy was spot on. I was very lucky in that she ‘got’ the story right away, and her suggestions made it even better. I wrote a blog post about the experience at the time, and thought it might be fun to revisit my thoughts, one year on…

I’m currently working with an editor on the first book in my Ambeth series, Oak and Mist, getting it ready for publication. It’s the first book I’m going to publish so I want it to be as strong as possible, which is why I’ve chosen to invest in a professional edit. And I’m so pleased with the result – her suggestions are spot on and she’s also picking up on the extra spaces and commas and quotation marks throughout my work.

But…

No. There is no but. This edit is just what I needed. The editor has also given me a page of editorial notes about the structure of the story and, well, I’ve had to suck it up and agree. Because she’s absolutely right about the points she makes, and has actually cleared up a few niggling issues I hadn’t been able to resolve.

But….

It’s just how you feel, as a writer, when someone critiques your work. Your automatic response to someone not agreeing with everything you’ve written is ‘But….’ Said in sort of a whiny tone. (I think the great Stephen King touches on this in his book, On Writing). Because your book is so personal, so precious, it’s hard to take at first when it feels like someone just doesn’t get it.

But…

I’ve thought about it and the changes she’s suggesting will make for an even better story, an even stronger book. She does get it. And that’s why you work with an editor – to get a fresh, professional viewpoint of your work, from someone who does it for a living.

And you can’t ask for more than that.

So, as I get ready to send my third book out for editing, I remind myself why. I’m looking forward to the process because it means I can offer you, the reader, the best possible book I can write. And hopefully I won’t have to kill off any characters in the process…