Self-Exceptional

I was thinking on the way back home from another dreary commute about self-belief. This is something I consider a lot, considering Burning Embers is all about the importance of accepting and loving who you are. You’ve got to be yourself because you can’t be anyone else – and no one else could do it as well!

Having made this decision to self-publish, I’ve been coming up with a few goals and targets for myself. A way to test if what I’ve written is exceptional. What is going to constitute success for all of the time and investment that’s gone into Feia’s story?

I want to have targets that I can reach – but that are also challenging. After all, if I set myself a target of one person to buy the novel and then that person is me, we’ll I can pat myself on the back for meeting my goal, but is it worth?

I set myself a few targets this year with my blog. I wanted to reach 1000 views this year, have 500 visitors and 200 followers. It won’t make this the most successful year for Fibijeeves, but it is a considerable improvement on the last two years where my blogging has been sporadic at best. Those two goals are in touching distance and I get a little thrill after each post and I can see them growing closer.

Now, Burning Embers…what do I want to achieve? What will be success and what would be Exceptional?

How will I achieve my goals?

A cunning marketing strategy I hear you cry!

Well…I’m going to give it ago. Is it a strategy? I’m planning to increase my blog posts (hello!) and twitter feed, and update my facebook page more regularly. I’m reaching out to bloggers who review YA fantasy – if that’s you or you’d be interested in reviewing Burning Embers then drop me a message or e-mail me at fibijeeves@gmail.com.

So, I’m doing all of those things, and I’m reaching out to friends and family to say that this is -finally- happening, after the many many years of people asking me how the book is going. I will now be able to say IT IS DONE! Not only is it done, but I’m working on something new…

I’m also posting chapters on Wattpad, which is something I’m really excited about. It just seems the right platform to try and find my readers. Readers of YA and NA fiction, readers who will (hopefully) fall in love with the world and want to know more about the characters, the places. I want fans that want to live in Arenith, the way that I never wanted to leave Narnia behind. Wattpad seems the place to find these passionate and creative people. Second Chapter is going up as soon as this blog post is done published.

What are my goals? I’m going to be honest with them, and I’ll let you know if I meet them or not. I’d love to sell 100 copies before release. That’s 100 pre-orders on ebook and print.

I’d love 600 people to buy the book in the next six months. Is that even achievable – I just don’t know!

In utter fantasy land, 1000 copies within a year would be a dream. This would be the exceptional, incredible ending (or beginning) to my adventures in Arenith with Feia.

Wish me luck!

Let me know what your goals are and how you’re working towards them.

Also, don’t forget to get in touch if you would like to review Burning Embers. I’ll accept totally honest reviews!

Happy Reading

Fibi xxx

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Touching the Stars

My manuscript for Burning Embers has come back from the Editor – cue excited squealing! So this leaves me with a whole list of things to do, as quickly as I can do them!

First things first, I am so excited to reveal the cover for Burning Embers. I hope that you like it! I’ve gone for a simple but striking image that will stand out in the teeny tiny display of Amazon. Hopefully it prompts a few questions about the novel and will entice some willing readers in. Let me know what you think!

Adobe Spark (3)

Secondly, because the MS is back, I’ll now be able to comment posting on Wattpad and the first 1500 words of Burning Embers will be appearing shortly online. I hope that you enjoy the introduction to the world of Arenith and fall in love with the characters I’ve spent so long dreaming about (so long…so soooo long…)

Final piece of super exciting information is that I hope to make the ebook and print versions of Burning Embers available for pre-order…before the end of the week!

I love it when a daily prompt: Believe is the final shining star on an amazing day. Being able to share my fizzing excitement with you all is just amazing, and it has come from years and years of belief. Belief that I can write a full-length novel, I can edit it and make it better – I can even turn it into a book. Now belief doesn’t make things happens on their own, belief must be combined with a willingness to work hard and persist. But when you aim for those stars – my goodness it feels good when they’re finally in reach!

I’d love to hear what you think about the cover.

Happy Reading

Fibi xxx

Don’t see me

He peered through the window that was greyed with dust. His fingers gnarled on the frame, nails catching in the curls of leftover paint. It had been blue once, the colour of a crisp autumn sky. Blue windows and shutters as eyes on a crisp pale house. That had been long before last winter or even the winter before. The shutters had peeled back, copper hinges warped and bent. The heavy wooden panels beat against the painted walls, and the fragile glass shivered.

His nose pressed against the cool glass, smudged the surface. He would not breathe. The fine hairs tickled his face, because the dust moved. It smelt like damp coal; dark, earthy and trapped inside for far too long. No one came here anymore. Except him. Except her. Eyes lashes flickered and he blinked fast.

She visited the house every year, with the turning of the seasons. A tall woman with broad shoulders and inky hair. She wasn’t like the other women he saw in the marketplace, or moving through the town. Bold women who were loud, or joyous or sad or angry. Women who wore their hearts on their sleeves, or hid them. There were women who hid in shadows and cringed away from passers by. There were girls with long hair flowing down their backs as they skipped and taunted their classmates. There were older women, hands curled with aged and features haunted by wisdom. There was no like her though. The woman with hair cut with razor precision to her chin. She was bundled up in furs and kept her hands hidden beneath her long coat. Her dark eyes were narrowed as she came and stared, and studied.

His legs, bent beneath him, started to cramp. He was older now, and it wasn’t comfortable to bend beneath the window to watch. Every year he wondered, if he should come back and every year he decided no. Then the season would change and he would find himself, slipping through the shadows towards the broken house. He’d break the old lock on the back door and set the rusted chain to one side. He’d crawl along the dirty floor and he would wait, perched like a crow beneath the frame. He always worried that she wouldn’t come, the woman. Yet, he always hoped that she would.

The muscle in his calf caught fire, tight and seizing, flickering. He pushed back from the window, mouth clamped shut. He would not shout out, he could not! He wrapped his hands around his leg and pounded the muscle. The shutters banged against the pane. Eyes lifted skyward he stifled a groan and the pain began to ease. Slowly the burning ceased, as though a brand was removed from his skin.

Had he made a noise, or had she seen the movement behind the darkened pane? Ilyad looked up, tears streaking tracks down dark cheeks. The woman. She stood at the window she was staring at him.

This was a response to today’s daily prompt of: Interest

The prompt caught my imagination and I hope that you enjoy! Did I manage to hold your attention till the end? Let me know what you think!

Happy Writing,

Fibi xx

News Update

Even more exciting news!

First off, another piece of flash-fiction is going to be immortalized in an anthology with proceeds going to charity; hooray! I submitted to Christopher Fieldens’ Sensory Writing Challenge and I’m excited to see another snippet of writing in print.

Following previous publications of the same type, this anthology should be available for purchase on Amazon during pre-release – super exciting! I’ll be sharing the details once they’re available, so keep an eye out.

Secondly, the target for pre-sales for the Third-Word anthology has also been reached. This was due to be in print before Christmas, and I’m excited to get my hands on the teeny-tiny book that is being created. I think it will make a lovely present and suspect I might end up buying a few more copies…

Finally, as promised work is going ahead with Burning Embers. It’s been officially sent to a professional Editor this afternoon and I’m feeling a bit giddy. The manuscript should be returned to me by the end of October and then…then it’s simply a matter of publishing! Eeeeek!

In the meantime, before I burst with excitement I can at least promise to share the cover with you in the next few weeks. Yes, the picture featured might be a bit of a teaser…Also, as I’m no longer following a traditional publishing route with Burning Embers, I can share some of the writing with you. I hope that you enjoy. Leave me a comment!

Extract from Burning Embers #BE – Due November 2017

In the heartbroken depths of night, exhaustion overcame her tears and Feia slept. It was a fitful restless sleep on cold hard ground and she woke when the first rays of light touched her. The world was replete with layers of autumnal colour. She lay on leaves of copper, geranium, magenta, burgundy and cerise. The leaves still attached to the tree were in the middle of transformation.

With arthritic movements she sat up. She pulled off the leaves that had fallen on her during the night. Her eyes and throat itched, her clothes were damp through and she was chilled to the core. She could smell the forest pine mingled with the waxier scent of the tree she’d sheltered under. Poking through the pile of cast off foliage were stalks of lush grass and a plant with purple and maroon berries that twined around the base of all the trees she could see, linking them. Feia pulled her cloak round to inspect it, realising that she’d lain on the vine. She found berry stains mottling the grey cloth like a bruise and she felt a rueful smile pulling at her mouth. Perhaps it was an improvement. She’d never liked the colour grey anyway.

She could hear the river in the distance and the trees rustling above, shaking final drops of rain from their branches. Gradually, she became aware of another sound. Crackling and spitting then a louder pop. Why had she not smelt smoke? She sniffed the air, purposefully, drawing it in, but the forest scent kept its secrets. Dread wrapped around her like a cloak. She wasn’t alone. Please do not be a man. Please don’t be Bill. She sent her silent plea to the Spirits. However, Feia suspected that if they had ever been listening they weren’t any longer. She was no longer a child.

Happy Writing,

Fibi xxx

Aesthetic – Strip it away

 

I like to write about things that are important to me.

I saw today’s prompt and I was excited. So excited that I’ve raced home in order to try and express my response in a slightly more logical, accurate and researched method than my usual ad-hoc ramblings.

Woman in fantasy writing, who are they and how are they represented? As a child I fell in love with Dragonlance. A mouldy paperback of the Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight by Margerat Weiss and Tracey Hickman was what sealed my love for Fantasy. I’d already explored Narnia (thoroughly), Hobbitton and the Hundred Acre wood and Harry Potter hadn’t arrived yet. So here was this book, for adults with all the things I loved about the computer games I immersed myself into: Daggerfall featuring most prominently.

However, as a young woman the main heroine of the saga is Lauralanthalassa. Now, not to discredit this character who grew into the Golden General, Dragon-Flying, Army-Leading incredible powerhouse – but for the entire first book of the initial series she is defined by her beauty. I love the writing of Laurana’s introduction, but it’s all aesthetic. She’d an elf, she achieves an untouchable ideal of beauty by her very race. Not only that, but Laurana is the epitome of womanhood, no trace of age is upon her. Even the mage who see’s decay, looks upon the elf-maiden and sees beauty for the first time.

Now I fell in love with Laurana – but I really wanted a sword. Before she becomes the general she needs to be rescued and protected – a lot. She’s a fairy-tale princess, although not necessarily passive. After all, she decides to follow her true-love instead of waiting for him to come back; and it is this decision that propels her into adventure.

But after I fell in love with Dragonlance, it felt like I spent years searching for a heroine that I could aspire to be. I could never reach the ideal beauty of Laurana and I really really wanted a sword. I wanted to be a knight if I’m honest, and I couldn’t find that story in any of the books I was reading.

I was seventeen when I picked up a copy of ‘First Test’ – By Tamora Pierce in the library. I read it, sat between the stacks whilst my parents did the weekly shop in the supermarket over the road. I still remember shivering with excitement, barely able to read as I was pulled into this amazing world and this story that I had wanted, so badly, for so long, to read. It was like when you watch Peter Pan, then spend all day jumping off the sofa trying to fly – hasn’t worked so far, but I might keep trying. I checked out the entire series and within a day had finished it off. I had to go back to the library over the weekend and took out as many of Pierce’s book as I could. Here were heroines who go to be girls, and be knights. To speak to animals and yet…they could still be girls.

Natalie Babbitt calls fantasy “the most wrenching, depth-provoking kind of fiction available to our children’.”[1]

My desperation was to find a strong, female role-model that I could identify with, and that’s what I want to write.  As study was conducted by Laura Solomon, who analysed 45 fantasy novels for children and young adults. This is one of the results:

Statistically in the books studied: “In Alternate World/History fantasy, beauty is a defining trait for 25% of females.”[2]

That’s it. For a quarter of heroine’s beauty is their defining trait. They don’t get to be brave, intelligent, they don’t have hobbies, talents or skills – they’re pretty.  What’s worse, is if you’re not pretty in the story then you fall at the other end of the spectrum and you’re a hag. In stories, how much emphasis is placed on appearance? It’s something hard to avoid when writing, because you want the reader to be able to visualise your protagonist. However it feels as though there is something deeply harmful in only allowing our young woman to be either an epitome of beauty, or a hag.

“Certainly most children will not describe themselves as ugly, making those at this end of the spectrum unlikely candidates for close reader relationships. Females noted mostly for or only for their appearance fall at the other end and, while some readers may relate to them (and many girls wish to be them), these types of depictions only strengthen society’s message that beauty is all-important.”[3]

I want my characters, male and female to be defined by more than their appearance. I want my readers to engage with role-models that offer ways to deal with a complex and changing world and to come away with a sense of hope; that no matter how crazy this place gets – it’ll be alright.

Here is a brilliant article about writing strong female protagonist and how we’re loosing them. When an inevitable aesthetic is stripped away, I want it to be clear to my reader that their heroine could never be replaced by a floor lamp.

I also agree that being a strong, female protagonist doesn’t mean that you can’t like pretty dresses and make-up. Readers, especially our young adult readers, should be able to engage with characters that they feel represent them or they can identify with, no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or disability. There’s another amazing series of articles here if this is something you want to carry on reading about.

[1] AUTHOR Solomon, Laura

TITLE Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults:  Comparative Analysis.

PUB DATE1998-10-00

Solomon, Laura. “Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults: A Comparative Analysis.” (1998). – Page 6

[2] Ibid., Page 15

[3] Ibid., Page 16

My Response to the Daily Prompt: –Aesthetic

Invitation to Digress – Songs with Story

Response to a Daily Prompt: Invitation

I was planning a blog post about Songs With Story and I will circle around to my intention shortly, however I thought I’d check the daily prompt to see if it tied in with my thoughts today. It doesn’t lend itself to the words I had in mind, however I’m currently working on a very exciting project – wedding invitations! Today’s inspiration came as I’ve been hand tracing a monogram onto invitations. The groundwork is done, tomorrow embossing powder!

Aside from my other creative interests I wanted to talk about music. There are reasons that when I’m writing, I struggle to concentrate when there’s music or radio playing in the background. I’m aware there are some creative bods out there who can’t be without a background melody and it helps them keep going. I can’t, which is a shame; because I love music.

If there’s music whilst I’m working or writing I find it impossible to work around and distracting. However, when drawing, painting, embossing or anything else then I take the opportunity to blast something from an eclectic range. I may well have the worst taste in music, ever. Or it might just be the best. I thought I’d share a few of the current playlist with you.

The theme, as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, is songs with a story. The best thing about writing, is that you get to weave and create a story. I don’t think that it’s any surprise that some of my favorite songs are lyrical expressions of a tale. They’re more of a poetic exploration and set to melody’s I can only dream of reaching, but they’re beautifully written.

Here they are, three from the collection today:

LionHeart – I love the folk tale feeling to this. It also never fails to remind me of Alanna from Tamora Pierces’s ‘Song of the Lioness’

Fairytale – This song always makes me smile. An alternative to a traditional fairytale. A different outcome for the feminine hero of a classic.

Scars – A  new discovery with heartfelt depth and some gorgeous sweeping lyrics – poetry!

I’d love to what you listen to for inspiration! Leave me a message.

Fibi

 

Someday

Response to a Daily Prompt: Someday

Someday, all my Dragons will come true.

Eleia stood at the window, with her hands in the sink. Beyond the horizon purple clouds were touched with silver. The tang of fresh-brewed tea drifted with soap suds. Despite the autumn warmth, the fire roared and crackled behind and she wore layers of heavy wool. Sleeves pushed back to the elbow to keep them out of the washing. A sponge was held by limp fingers, and a plate in the other hand. A shape separated from the mountain tops, lifting with a flap of outstretched wings.

An aquiline neck and serpent body that coiled like smoke as it rose. The beast screamed fire into the falling night and was silhouetted for a breath, before it was swallowed by darkness and vanished against the night. The screech raced along her arms and lifted the fine hairs. It tingled down her rigid spine as she lent forward. Soapy fingers slipped on the catch as she reached for the window.  The metal lifted with ease and the window opened at a touch.

She could smell the acrid singe of Dragon-breath. One day, she promised herself. Someday soon, she would do it. She would throw away the dishcloth and humdrum life. One day she would learn how to fly.

Slim Grip on Reality

In response to the Daily Prompt: Cling

Rough seas rise up, dark and murky. Toes stretching in a frantic search for solid ground and arms flail for the coarse grip of rope.

The submissions are sent and my author-neurotic self is running circles, yelping oh my god, oh my god what if no one wants it! What if it’s not worthy, what if I’m not worthy?! Years of hard work and effort wasted? What will I say? How will I explain that I have failed? Once I’ve found a moment to breathe I remind myself that if traditional publishing is not my route, then the world won’t end. In the words of Obama, the sun will continue to rise. In the words of myself, of the things that are certain in this world, it’s that there is always change. Sometimes it just seems to take longer to get arrive. (Sometimes it feels like change got on the wrong bus and is now on a circular route and stuck in M25 traffic, but hey – it’ll get here.)

My journey as a writer will continue. Having simply finished the manuscript and sent it out, I feel rejuvenated (and then terrified) but mostly rejuvenated to start new projects; exciting projects! The second book in the series, a selection of short pieces for radio, a collaborative novella with an intended publisher in mind! Exciting, exciting, exciting!

Burning Embers will also, one way or another, live on. I believe that as Young Adult Fantasy is has a current market. As a genre it’s a saturated market, but I have to believe that I’ve got a unique voice to offer and a story that my readers will fall in love with, a world they won’t want to leave and characters that they’re desperate to champion. That is after all, the dream.

So, in the moments after the panic and in between the project planning, I look at self-publishing options. This blog was always supposed to explore the traditional and the non-traditional and so today I’m going to share a few things that I’ve recently learnt about self-publishing options.

  1. The book needs an ISBN if I’m going to do this. It’s not strictly needed for e-book but I’m vain and prideful and I want to hold my book in my hands! If I want to sell a printed version, it needs an ISBN and then and ISBN printed barcode – this means it can be sold. Hooray
  2. I want the ISBN to be registered in my name. This means I retain the rights as the publisher as well as the Author – double win.
  3. I need to generate more of an online presence. Kew twitter feed, reviewing other peoples works, finding an audience of peer reviewers (how do I find you lovely people?) Beta testers! I need to create a circle of people who are going to be just as excited about the book as I am. To be honest – this works in both versions. If there’s an agent or a publishing contract out there for Burning Embers, then building this circle up is still going to be important.
  4. I would like Burning Embers to be available as an ebook, and in print. I’d like it on Amazon and I’d also like it with Neilson and Gardeners, so that this way the big chain stores have a chance in stocking it. You have to fill out a lot of appropriate paperwork and there is still no guarantee, but if the book is not with a wholesaler/distributer – it’s not going to happen.
  5. I would really like someone to do a lot of the hard work for me. You have to send five copies of your printed book out to specific libraries here in the UK so that it’s legally listed. It’s something I’m capable of doing but right now my brain hurts.
  6. I would also like someone to make the copy-set pretty. This is also beyond my skill.
  7. Could they make the cover too?

So this is what I’m looking for, and I don’t have an enormous budget. My list of demands are the above plus 100 copies of the book. A press release, merchandise and other things I think I can probably do. I’ve even worked out how to get a paypal button on here, wordpress, so that I could sell and distribute the book myself. I’m doing a lot of research and maybe I’ll never need to use it. Perhaps though, I will.

If you’re considering self-publishing, do all of the reading. The pages and pages of PDF’s offered on the company websites. Compare them for the services they offer and the rights that you retain. If you get 100% royalties, that’s awesome, but do you own the ISBN?

It might be construed that I am procrastinating as I wait for replies to return to my inbox. I know myself though, I need to keep my mind busy. Research into a positive outcome is currently my life line and I’m going to hold on dreaming, for as long as I can.

If you have any advice of finding that circle of reviewers, I’d love to hear it!

 

Distractions, Distractions, Distractions – No More!

The manuscript is done! The Christmas Holidays gave me a good opportunity to finish the final edit. It has been a lengthy process and would have been quicker with so few distractions. The majority of last year was spent writing short stories on writing forums. With so much history with Burning Embers, I couldn’t face returning to it.

Was the time wasted? No, I don’t think so. Most of it was spent feeling very guilty about my neglected manuscript. The printed papers were moved from desk, to drawer, to desk and then at what I consider to be the lowest ebb – stuffed in a bookshelf. The guilt though, the writing guilt is gone. Writing on forums I was able to rediscover the sheer joy of putting prose to paper and working to captivate an audience. I’ve developed some new characters and their voices are strong and their stories are interesting. I’ve enjoyed playing with technique, expanding dialogue and exploring a new world with other writers and I’m confident in the impact it has made in my writing. I worry that some of the rules on structure, grammar and style have slipped out of my ears but I can tweak those more easily than I can learn to write a sense of place and expand emotion. I’m proud of the thousands of words I’ve churned out in the last year, even if they’re not on my blog and won’t make it to print. I’m excited to work with writing partners in the future, with a few collaborative projects in development.

Back to the manuscript – you see how easy it is to be side tracked?

In my mind, it was an insurmountable task. 310 pages of printed 1.5 spaced A4 text. 110,000 words to be carefully cultivated and on occasion, brutally hacked with a machete, (there’s shredded paper everywhere) The edit has been my Everest, my Mount Doom and now it is done. I feel like I’ve shaken off a huge weight around my ankles and I’m floating around. This isn’t namby-pamby floating though. After the colossal final edit was done, I went through with a few additional culls. The filler word culprits this time were: but, though and so. Cut them! Cut them all!

Once the post-edit euphoria has faded I’m sure I’ll come down from my excitement. It is difficult though, as I’ve started submitting to agents and indie publishers who accept Young Adult, or New Adult Fantasy. A whole new genre appeared whilst I’ve been writing my book, who knew?! (Apparently not me, as I’ve had my head in a computer for a year)

I might be back to where I began with this blog a few years ago, but I’m better for it and I am excited for the future.