“Graynelore” Paperback Publication Day! (Stephen Moore gives a reading)

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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…

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Graynelore

Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:

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Sometimes it’s difficult to write, even for an author

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.

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*My latest success…?

Graynelore

HarperVoyager

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The beginning of a book is a very important event

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…

 

Fay

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‘A Christmas Carol’ is a classic Christmas novel everyone should read at least once!

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is one of my favourite books of all time, and never off my bookshelf. First published in December 1843 it was an instant success, and has remained so ever since. The story is simple, and yet brilliant. It’s the tale of a bitter old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, and a life-changing transformation that comes about when he’s visited by four Spirits over the course of one very creepy Christmas Eve. It’s a wonderfully heart-warming, yet deliciously spooky tale, if ever two such contradictory descriptions belonged in the same sentence. This is Dickens at his best. He was both a master storyteller and a master of characterisation. Indeed, the characters of this book are so well known to us all through endless television and movie adaptions – from the joyous Fezziwigs (my personal favourites) to the ailing Tiny Tim, and the put-upon clerk, Bob Cratchet – we have perhaps become just a little too familiar with them.

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…

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens

Congratulations to David Almond, winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2015

I was delighted to hear that David Almond’s book, A SONG FOR ELLA GREY has won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2015. It is thoroughly deserved!

I first met David Almond way back in 1998. We were both attending a promotional event at our then publishers. I remember telling him proudly that I was about to release my third book, TOOTH & CLAW, and he, in all modesty, told me he was only on his first, SKELLIG. Well, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. In truth we both did well enough out of those books. Though of course, David’s SKELLIG went on to be a huge international bestseller and award winner. Later adapted both for the stage and screen it is rightly considered by many a modern children’s classic.

What can I say about David Almond’s work? He is a master of his craft. He writes beautifully, and lyrically. He has a natural affinity for his readership, instinctively aware of their concerns, their preoccupations and their delight in the universe. His work is always socially aware, and if it often has a spine-tingling edge of magical realism about it, he never shies away from dealing with real-life issues, the real world his protagonists find themselves confronted with. Indeed, he is one of the most important authors for young people writing today.

And what of A SONG FOR ELLA GREY? I would not be giving anything away to say that it finds its inspiration in the classic tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. However, the rest I will let you find out for yourself…

Once again, congratulations David Almond.

A Song for Ella Grey by David AlmondSkellig (Skellig, #1) by David Almond

What’s the growing debate about ‘Young Adult’ books?

Currently there seems to be an ongoing debate, among both authors and readers, about the very nature of ‘Young Adult’ books. What’s the argument? Put simply, is the ‘Young Adult’ tag an age guide for readers, or is it something more: a book genre in its own right? Now this is giving some authors a dilemma when it comes to the placing of their books. In marketing terms, do they belong on the ‘Middle Grade’ shelves or on the ‘Young Adult’ shelves, or somewhere else entirely? And does it matter?
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Historically, certainly when I wrote my first children’s books there was no ‘Young Adult’ bookshelf. Bookstores used age ranges to distinguish between books. Akin to: Ages 0-3 years, Ages 4-7 years, Ages 8-13 years, and ‘Teens’. After that everything else was assumed to be for ‘adults’.
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Bookstores were simply trying to steer their readers to age appropriate material. I figure, they still are, if the ‘Young Adult’ section has replaced the ‘Teen’ section. What the bookstores are not describing is a genre of books. However, there is a growing assumption that ‘Young Adult’ books must contain certain key ingredients: sex, vampires and/or the paranormal, and love triangles! And without these essentials authors are not writing for ‘Young Adults’ at all!
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Give me a break, please! Naturally publishers and bookstores want books that sell. And if sexy vampire books, or the paranormal, or romance is currently in vogue for a certain readership, then of course, they are going to favour that type of book. And naturally, some authors are going to lean towards writing that material if it gives them some possibility of actually selling their work. However, this does not define ‘Young Adult’ fiction.
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Reading tastes vary enormously, and are always changing… even for ‘Young Adult’ readers. It only takes an author to come up with the genre-busting goods. (There’s usually at least one genius in every new generation.)
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My advice to readers…? As long as you know where to find the books you want to read there is no problem.
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And my advice to worried authors…? Stop thinking narrowly, and get on and write the books you really want to write. Too scared that your work will not find a market? Honestly, nothing has changed in that department over the years. Fact: most books written never reach the printed page. Fact: most books published – printed or digital – don’t sell well. (Bestsellers are the tip of the iceberg.) Fact: the vast majority of all published works eventually disappear from the bookshelves. (Or, in today’s world, are doomed to lie, lost and forgotten for all eternity, in the e-book virtual graveyard…) These are the book-facts of life folks! So stop your worried debates and simply write…
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For me, writing books is a thrill, a joy, and a massive adventure. That’s why I’m on this journey. If I am in essence a fantasy writer, the story always comes first. Not the age range, not a set of ingredients, certainly not market forces. May it always remain so… Indeed, if the day ever comes when it does not, then that’s the very day I’ll stop.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen Moore
Suggested readership: young-adult

IN CONVERSATION: Fantasy Authors Nancy K. Wallace and Stephen Moore

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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.

[Q] StevStephen Mooree, you and I both write for children and adults, does the inspiration for books for those audiences come from different places or activities?

[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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Judging a book by its cover: Graynelore

Graynelore large

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…


Graynelore by Stephen          Moore Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook.)

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Why, when it comes to the written word, is property not property?

Accuse me of thinking too far ahead, but, how can it be fair, that in the 21st Century landed gentry can still earn income from land inherited from a distant 13th Century ancestor and yet, the descendents of an author looses the right to any income from that author’s work only 70 years after the author’s death?
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Why should the descendents of say, Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stephenson, to name but two, not benefit from the work of their ancestors? (After all, the publisher still benefits; the booksellers too; and the tax man.) Because an author decides to plough the written word, rather than plough the fields of England should not be to their disadvantage.
Now, the laws of all countries surely differ, and I can only speak as an English layman. But I still cry,unfair!
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No doubt someone will attempt to persuade me of my ignorance. Land is, after all, land…physical property. A book is just…a series of ideas that have been written down, thus…intellectual property. I say, if there is a difference between these examples, there is also an obvious similarity; they are both property. So, I cry again, 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…?

Fay by Stephen          Moore

Every good book needs a good editor (Part Two)

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).

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Every good book needs a good editor

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).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: A book’s journey towards publication

If writing a book isn’t difficult enough, once written, a book’s journey towards finding a publisher, particularly a traditional publisher, is surely a dramatic story all in itself. I thought I’d share some of my experiences as I approach the publication of my first fantasy novel for adults, GRAYNELORE.

Let me amuse you with a little historical detail. I began writing children’s fantasy books in the early 1990’s. (That would be the ‘olden days’ to many of you, and it makes me sound like a dinosaur!) Firstly, it must be said: getting a book published has never been easy. I remember the odds when I started writing were something like one hundred to one. That’s one book published for every one hundred books written. Mind you, the publishing industry was a very different animal back then! Most of the large publishers were still independently owned and to approach a publisher you simply wrote them a polite letter, informing them that you had written a book, and asking if they’d care to take a look at it.

In this way my very first book, ‘Spilling the Magic’ ended up on the slush pile of Hodder Children’s Books and, in due course, was accepted for publication. (A process that perhaps sounds far easier than in fact it was.)

I published books with Hodder for several years. Though in that time the industry went through a fundamental change. The large independent publishers began to buy up one other, until eventually a handful of parent companies came to own almost all of them. A situation we still find ourselves in today. And, as the publishing houses became corporate bodies, the very way they did business altered. The major publishers largely stopped accepting unsolicited work direct from authors, instead relying on agents to bring new work to their attention. To land a major publisher authors now had to first find themselves a good agent (no mean feat in itself). Indeed, my last children’s book (to-date) was finally published by a small independent Scottish press in 2006.

In the following years the publishing industry was in for yet more major upheaval with the arrival of the online retail giants, such as Amazon, and then later, the revolutionary ebook. Large chains of traditional bookshops began to disappear as online retailers took an ever greater share of the market. And authors found themselves suddenly faced with a new choice: self-publishing! This heralded the rise of indie-published authors who began to compete with the traditional publishers, and a state of market you are probably very familiar with.

That is, no doubt, a simplified and potted history, with many omissions (all of them mine). Anyway, it was in early 2008 that I began to have ideas for a new work, which finally became a completed manuscript called, ‘Graynelore’ in late 2010. (The writing of the book is another tale for another day!) As you can imagine, I found myself faced with a very different publishing world to the one I had last dealt with. If in the end, I decided to continue down the traditional publishing route. I spent almost a year approaching agents with my manuscript: writing letters, providing synopsis upon synopsis… and in return receiving rejection upon rejection. To be fair to those agents we must remember; they have to earn their living on the backs of the author’s they decide to champion. It’s all a gamble! It’s all educated guess work! And they don’t always get it right. Agents are looking for books that they believe have a chance of becoming best sellers, not simply books that are good enough to be published. (The difference is crucial.)

After a solid year of rejections, I – as a relatively successful published author – was beginning to think that I’d maybe penned myself a stinker! I was even toying with the idea of calling it a day as a writer… Then, in 2012 the publisher HarperVoyager (the fantasy/scifi imprint of HarperCollins) decided to open a short window of time in which they would accept unsolicited manuscripts from un-agented authors. Something they had not done for almost a decade. There were very strict guidelines to follow and only two weeks in which to make a submission. Which I duly did…

Time passed. The date by which a decision was to be made on my submission came and went. The publisher had made it very clear: if I heard nothing by this date then I was to assume that my submission had been unsuccessful. Oh dear… Another rejection!

Or so I thought…

More time passed. Actually a very long time passed. It was in early 2014 that I received an email from HarpVoyager. They were, after all, very interested in publishing, ‘Graynelore’. If I was still interested in being published by them!

Why the huge delay? It is remarkable: in that short two week time window for open submissions, way back in 2012, the publisher had received almost five thousand manuscripts. Five thousand! With the very best of intentions, they had landed themselves with the monster of a task!

Out of those original five thousand manuscripts, to my knowledge, they found a total of just fifteen that they wanted to publish. And so, cutting a long story short, a deal was finally made between us. And very soon now, I will have a brand new book out!*

As I come to the end of this tale, it’s worth taking a second look at those submission figures… Of around five thousand submitted manuscripts only fifteen were finally accepted. I make the odds of success something in the region of: three hundred and thirty to one. That’s one book to be published for every three hundred and thirty written. It makes you think…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in papaerback and ebook).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: publication dates confirmed!

It’s been a very long time coming, and I’m ever so excited! I can now reveal the publication dates of my new fantasy novel, ‘Graynelore’.


‘Graynelore’, the ebook will be published by HarperVoyager 13th August 2015.

‘Graynelore’, the paperback will be published by HarperVoyager 16th February 2016.


And just in case you can’t wait to know what it’s all about, I’ll leave you with this little teaser:

Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth…

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