I’m so very pleased to announce that today my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE is published in paperback! (HarperVoyager Publisher). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups… in paperback!
As you may well know, the ebook of GRAYNELORE has been out for quite a while now, but I must admit, there’s nothing quite like holding a brand new paperback…
To celebrate the event I’ve recorded my first public reading from the novel. I hope you enjoy it:
How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?
GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then does Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man – suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched…?
It’s a story of divided loyalty. It’s an epic fantasy, a blood-soaked mystery, a grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…
Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:
What am I saying? Sometimes it’s difficult to write? I’m not talking about technique. I’m not talking about, so-called, writers block, or self doubt. We – authors – are full of self doubt! But we only have to look back at our own previous successes* to remind ourselves of our abilities. No, this is something else. The struggle of creativity itself, if you will. Let me explain…
At the moment I’m having problems; progress on my current project is very slow and thin, and I’m beginning to ask myself questions. Does the book I’m trying to write actually want to be written? More so; does it need to be written? Mind you, even as I type this, I can already strike out the second question. Need? Need is not the driver. Once my books are written they always seem to find their own natural place in the literary hierarchy. Sometimes, they may have something important to say. Sometimes they do not… and are written purely for the excitement and pleasure of the adventure.
So, if my problem is a basic creative struggle, what then is the solution? Sadly, there is no magic wand here. Only my gritty, dogged determination to keep at it: to make words; to turn those words into sentences; to keep turning those words into sentences until I reach the very end, no matter how difficult. Then, at least, I’ll know the answer to my first question. It’s either do that or give-up! And I don’t ever intend to give up.
The beginning of a book is a very important event. How so? It’s the hook that pulls a reader into the story… or fails and loses them forever. The hook might be the first sentence; the first paragraph or page even. Occasionally, a little more… No matter. This is where a reader takes the bait or lets it go to search elsewhere.
Personally, I love the start of a new book. It’s exciting. The journey has just begun. Everything is still to come. So…where might a book of mine begin? What’s the action, the event, the moment in time that needs to be revealed first? In truth, no two books are the same. The example I’m going to give is my foreword for “Fay”. There could be no other beginning, it’s integral to the reading of the whole work… though it’s too great of a spoiler to explain why here…
The arc of a rising sun lifted above the clouds, broke free, bleaching the morning sky silver-white.
With it came a momentary breeze, turning the leaves of a tree, tossing them restlessly. A disturbed red squirrel skittered between its branches searching for a safe refuge among the new summer foliage. A pair of anxious blackbirds, nesting there, began a fierce argument and sprang noisily into the air.
While deep, deep within its boughs, another life, another far more ancient spirit stirred and wakened.
She began to stretch, reaching up, through trunk and branch, through twig and leaf, into every last corner of her beloved tree. She relished the slowly gathering warmth of the new day she discovered there.
However, just as the wind quickly stilled, just as the squirrel and the quarrelling birds came quickly to rest again, so too did she. And mindless of a world outside, she drew back deep within herself and gave in once more to an ageless, peaceful slumber.
This ethereal, languid other-worldly event either intrigues us, or it passes us by… The first words and first action of Chapter One is in deliberate contrast:
It began with an argument.
It happened just outside, on our front doorstep in Collingwood Terrace. It wasn’t long after they closed down the local Glassworks, the day the bulldozers moved in to flatten the Oldburn allotments. I thought all Hell was breaking loose. There was my mum, and there was my dad, and they were going at each other like a pair of wild tomcats. This was one of their real Bad Do’s…
Did I get it right? You decide. You’re either hooked, or you’re not…
This is ghostly fantasy storytelling of the very highest order. And while the book may well be over a hundred and seventy years old, its language and simple structure means that it is still easily read today. It’s short, effectively a novella, and if originally written for adults I’m certain it will appeal to readers of all ages.
So come on, it’s Christmas, forget the movie adaptions and take a look at the original book. It will reward you. Or why not make this your family Christmas ghost story and a ‘live’ event? Switch off the television/laptop/cell-phone. Huddle around the Christmas tree – mulled wine and sweet mince pies in hand – and give yourselves a real treat!
Merry Christmas everyone…
As part of #VirtualVoyager – a week-long celebration of Harper Voyager’s digital authors and their books, I had the good fortune to talk with my fellow author, Stephen Moore, from across the pond, in England.
[A] That’s a great question, Nancy. You know, for me, the ideas come first. From there I can usually see the path the resulting story will take and the audience it might best be aimed at. Which means, essentially, the inspiration for books for what are very different audiences – children and adults – comes from very different places. For example, the inspiration for Graynelore came about when I discovered I have a direct historical family link to the infamous 16th Century Border Reivers. Family groups who lived…
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This week marks HarperVoyager’s (my publisher’s) official reveal of the cover for GRAYNELORE my new fantasy novel for adults. What better way to celebrate than to tell you something more about the cover’s creation. For if every book has its story, then surely, so too does every book cover.
GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, theft, blackmail and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children! So why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting man who prefers to sort out his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing fey voices and seeing faeries for real? GRAYNELORE is a strange world indeed.
And how best to capture that on a book cover…? If my books are akin to my children, then their covers are akin to the faces of my children, can there ever be a perfect image? This cover for GRAYNELORE was designed by the talented Cherie Chapman, part of the design team at Harper Collins, and she’s done a great job!
Let me describe it to you. We can see an armed man, Rogrig Wishard, creeping tentatively through a very murky and jaundiced-looking woodland glade. And he is moving in company with a strange band of crows. The designer has deliberately scratched and defaced the overall image emphasising the gritty, truly eerie fey-like nature of the scene portrayed. It’s a wonderfully moody and brooding other-worldly image. Perfect for a grown-up faerie tale! Whatever the designer’s exact intentions, I see it as representing a particular moment in the book; one where Rogrig and his company are travelling through a forest called, The Withering. In The Withering danger lurks at every turn. The men of Graynelore are up in arms and attack is not only likely but imminent – and from any quarter. More so, as neither Rogrig nor his companions are quite what they seem to be. You see, they are fey… faerie-touched in a world where their discovery would bring about certain death.
I will leave my description there, for you to ponder…
Now, the laws of all countries surely differ, and I can only speak as an English layman. But I still cry,unfair!
Oh, I’m forgetting, for us airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky creative types our work is our vocation. (Isn’t it amazing how often that word, vocation, is used to excuse poor reward for ever so many jobs and professions…?) Writers are, surely, only interested in leaving an artistic legacy to their heirs…?
I’ve just spent the best part of the last four weeks working on the edits of my fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. There were some very long days, and there was often very little sleep. But all in all, the editing was much as I expected it to be – and just how I’ve described it in Part One of this blog! Yes, there were times when I had to think hard about the editorial comments made, but there was nothing I could not agreeably handle.
For those of you who might wonder exactly how the editing of a book is conducted, let me explain. There are three basic stages:
The Structual Edit
This is where the editor queries the story of the book. Is everything there that needs to be there to tell the story in the best possible way? Is anything missing? Indeed, is anything not needed? Is anything underwritten or overwritten? Is the pacing correct? Is there anything in the manuscript that might not be understood by the reader? All good and important stuff…. This is the longest stage in the editing process (well, at least it is for me). As all editing queries are informed suggestions – not commands – it often takes me as long to come to the conclusion that a particular editorial comment is not valid as it does to revise the text when I agree with a query.
The Copy Edit
This is where the copyeditor checks the manuscript for consistency and clarity in its written English. For example, are all the character/place names spelt the same throughout the manuscript (a simple, not uncommon, error)? Is the punctuation consistent? Is the writing style consistent? (In GRAYNELORE a narrator tells the story and he has his own very individual voice!) Does the use of English say what the author means it to say? This might all sound terribly dry and dull, but oddly enough, I enjoy this process, and my copyeditor was excellent; particularly at understanding the individual nuances of the narrator; and at uncovering the occasional accidental mistake made by the author.
The Proof Read
This is a final chance to check the manuscript for literal errors – typesetting mistakes and the like. You might well ask, after all the checking that has already gone on can there still be errors in the text? Well… yes. Nobody is perfect. Not the editors. Certainly not the author! It takes a skilled and careful eye to spot the last few typesetting mistakes that still lurk unnoticed among any manuscript. And if we’ve all come across the missing punctuation or misspelt word in the books we’ve read, rest assured; the author and the editors have done their level best to get it right.
And now that the editing of GRAYNELORE is complete and the manuscript has been returned to the publisher for the very last time, was the process worth it? Unreservedly, yes! GRAYNELORE is a better book for it. And I can be heartened by that, for I will not see the manuscript again until it appears in its finished published form…
Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook).
As I write this I’m only hours away from receiving my editorial notes for my latest book, GRAYNELORE*. How do I feel about that? I’m excited – I actually like the editorial process, if I’m also anxious and just a little bit daunted. As yet I don’t know the size of the task that lies before me. What if my editor has suddenly found me out? After all these years, I’m not a writer at all…! And my book is such an awful mess it is beyond my skill to put it right? (I assure you, this is not very likely to happen. After all, my publisher does actually want to publish my book!)
I’m often asked: “But it’s your book! How can someone else simply come along and tell you to change it?” It’s a common misconception of the editorial process. In truth, that’s not how it goes. Could you, for example, ever imagine making a movie without a film editor?
Let me try to explain how the editorial process actually works. I must begin by saying that every book I have ever written has benefited from the process. I would go further and say, there is not a book in the world that could not be improved by a good editor. No author is perfect. No book is perfect.
An editor has exactly the same goal as the author. They simply want your book to be the best that it can be. They don’t want to re-write it, they don’t want to own it. When I write a book I’m creating a new universe: and I’m doing it all inside my head. When I come to write it down, I try my very best to get it right, to tell the story in the very best way I can. With nothing missed out and nothing superfluous to the tale.
Now, when an editor reads my book, they have never been inside my head. They only have the written words to go on. Those fresh pair of eyes can spot where perhaps some essential piece of information has been accidently omitted, or perhaps where too much is given away too early in the plot. They can see where the text appears unclear in its explanation. Or where the text has been overwritten or underwritten making the pacing of the story unbalanced. Many, many small things, that if put right will make the book all that much better.
And, of course, an editor can also see all the things that are absolutely right! And they will often tell the author so, which my sorely wounded ego gratefully welcomes.
Doesn’t the author have any say in this process? Well, yes, naturally. Author and editor are on the same team! And if no author is perfect, then neither is any editor… and they don’t pretend to be. (Not the good ones). Editorial comments are informed suggestions, not commands! An author is entitled to disagree. There may well be a little anguish (usually on the part of the author). There will certainly be discussion. And there will be resolution. Though never compromise… where the proverbial race horse becomes, inevitably, the proverbial donkey. Indeed, the editorial process works in favour of the author. And to give one famous example, using perhaps my favourite book of all time, it is why Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic work is entitled, ‘Treasure Island’, and not, as he would have had it, ‘The Sea Cook’.
But for now I must stop! Something important has arrived in my mail box. Wish me well. I’ll let you know how I get on…
*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in paperback and ebook).
I, the author, gave my books life. I know their faults and their perfections. I understand them. They are mine. Would you ask me to choose between my own children? At times, as I wrote them, I struggled desperately; I loved them, I hated them…I spent endless days, endless nights, making them the very best I could. I was always their meanest critic and their greatest champion. And once conceived I fought furiously to bring them into the world. I know that dark battle…the between times…when my work remains only a manuscript, not yet a book. That brutal fight towards publication…the anxious wait…the rejection…oh, the rejection…And I know the joy, the sublime joy, of their birth.
And yet, there it is – the offer is always open – each time I look upon one of my books on an internet bookstore, or on a book-reader’s site, such as Goodreads. Would I like to review my book? Would I like to tell the world what I think? How many ‘stars’ would I give it? Those beautiful stars…
It is curiously tempting…only I have, so far, always resisted.
Could I possibly be unbiased…? I think not.
Could I possibly tell the truth…? Yes.
Will I ever do it? I might…maybe…then again…
Might I explain? When I first began to write, which was back in about 1994, I didn’t have a clue who I was writing for, if not myself.
I grew up with a profound love of art: the sticky, wet, colourful, practical side of art. I wanted to make art. I did; eventually becoming quite a successful graphic and exhibition designer (he says modestly). As a kid, I read heavily illustrated English and American comics. The likes of, “The Beezer” and “The Beano” on one side and Marvel Comics “Astounding Tales” on the other. Any ‘real’ books I read drew me to them because of their illustrations first, not their words. That’s how I met one of my favourite books of all time, Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Treasure Island” (which, incidentally, is why it gets a name-check in my first children’s novel, “Spilling the Magic”.)
So, it was always art for me. (If, technically, I did write my very first ‘book’ aged 9, when I broke my leg and spent three months up to my thigh in plaster. It was called, ‘My Farm’, an undoubted classic…thankfully lost to history.)
Anyway, it was always art for me… Until, one extraordinary day, I began to get ideas with words in them…! To be honest, at first, they puzzled me. What was this? Poetry…? Songs…? Nah! What then…?
In the end, I found myself writing a story…that began to turn itself into a book. The book was called, “The Spellbinder”. When I knew I had the beginnings of a book, I sought out other authors, and it was only then that it became clear I was writing a children’s book. Eventually, “The Spellbinder” became my first published book, though it went through a name change and is better known as, “Spilling the Magic”.
OK then…I didn’t begin by trying to write a book for children. I simply wrote…I still do. So, who are children’s books written for?
For me, what marks a book out as a children’s book, is that it’s written in such a way that a young reader can understand and enjoy it. With content appropriate for the youngest readership you want to attract. But there is no upper age limit.
The very best children’s books are fulfilling reads for everyone! Children’s books are written for allreaders.