The end of the year fast approaches. I leave on Monday to join my family in Canada for the holidays and I really can't wait. I've been apart from them for four months and hated every minute of it. To say I'm excited is an understatement!
Book 2 is moving along at a pace now. Everyone is in trouble. Exciting times.
I've just heard that WE ARE THE DEAD is with its copy editor now, the wonderful Lisa Rogers, who also happens to work on Joe Abercrombie's books. I'm a huge Abercrombie fan so I am really excited about that!
Apparently the cover is nearly ready to share with me. I was hoping to see it this week but apparently it'll be ready early next week - most likely when I'm flying across the world.
I'm powering on with Book 2, hoping to get it finished by the end of the year. This won't be helped by my moving to Canada to rejoin my family and, of course, the holidays but I'll get there. It's got real momentum at the moment and, I think, I'm living up to my promise to make everything worse for all my characters.
In book 1 news, WE ARE THE DEAD is now coming out on June 13th 2019, that's one month earlier than was planned. There should be ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) going out in the world early 2019... eeek. I'm also hoping to see The Cover this week. Something else to freak out about.
In non-book news, I finally saw Ant Man and The Wasp this week and I have to say — I think this is one of my favourite superhero movies, I loved it. I really loved it. Exciting, funny, well-acted, smart script, pacy.... well recommended.
I'm now hard at work on Book 2 of The Last War trilogy and also working my way through copy edits of WE ARE THE DEAD (while also dealing with a day job). Some nights I'm completely frazzled by the time I close my laptop, especially when Microsoft Word is playing up with my Mac. I'm really not a fan of that program. I write my drafts in Scrivener and that is just perfect. Word not so much. And that spinning ball that pops up when things aren't working? I just want to scream then.
But the long hours and brain ache is worth it. Especially when I see the book is now up on Amazon UK for pre-order. No one told me of course. I had to find out by accident. But there it is - 11th July 2019. Wow. It's really happening.
And then I see at the bottom, my publishers have put "PERFECT FOR readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett." And I do a happy dance once again. What company to be in... :)
It's been a bit of a crazy week what with the official announcement of my book being bought by Gollancz. I've no idea why it would have an effect on me as I've known for six months now but somehow reading about it makes it all feel so much realer. I know that makes no sense but it is what it is.
However, in the middle of this wow feeling of "My book is being published" is also the nitty gritty of getting on with book 2. It's now at 90,000 words. Stuff's happening. I'm feeling happy about it and I'm going to enjoy that while it lasts (before another loop of "this is crap").
I also have a title that I'm pleased with but I've not told anyone yet. It's my little secret for now! :)
When I finally got to tweet out that my lovely little book will be published by Gollancz, I said in typical British reserved fashion, "Obviously I'm very happy about this." To be honest, happy doesn't quite describe it. I'm over the f@£$ing moon to put it mildly. And even though I've known about this since February, I'm still jumping up and down with joy. If I was agile enough, I'd probably do a few back flips as well.
When I started writing seriously all those years ago, this was what I wanted — a book with my name on it next to the Gollancz logo.
What a journey it's been. Up a big mountain. For now I'm going to catch my breath, enjoy the view, do another happy dance or two, then get on with the slog up the next mountain that is book 2.
Writing is a weird thing. So much happens in isolation, where you undergo a daily battle where reality does it best to batter your dreams, where life does it best to make you give up and walk away and forget about those stories niggling away in your mind. But for some reason, you keep going. You keep writing. Then the very thing you've worked so hard for happens and you can't tell anyone about it because publishing works at such a slow pace. And you just get on and write more, almost unsure that the dream is actually happening. But then something wonderful happens and you know that, yes, it is happening. The dream is real.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this:
WE ARE THE DEAD by Mike Shackle to Gollancz
Gollancz have acquired, at auction, the debut series from Mike Shackle. The first title, WE ARE THE DEAD, will be published in 2019.
The war is over. The bad guys won.
For generations, the people of Jia – a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals – have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, the Shulka. But on the day that Tinnstra, daughter of one of the Shulka’s greatest generals, is to face her greatest challenge at the academy where all future Shulka are trained, the world is turned upside down. For too long, Jia has focused its defences on the mountain strongholds in the north. But the Egril have rediscovered magic, courtesy of their god-king Raaku. Soon, rents in the fabric of the world open across Jia, from the mountains in the north to the sun-drenched coastal towns in the south – and, through those portals, pour abominations too monstrous to imagine. An invasion has begun.
In moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the Shulka are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.
Six months later, Jia is a cowed and divided kingdom. The Egril have proven cruel overlords. Public executions, terror raids, and brutalised people are the new normal, as the people of Jia think only of surviving, day to day.
Jia’s heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet… there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby… and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka’s greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands. A princess, five years old, has survived the occupation – and now the future of a nation lies in getting her safely over the seas, to where new alliances can be forged and the tide of war turned. Somehow, these people will have to find the heroism deep inside them – or die trying.
The last two entries in my occasional blog are about exactly the same point: hitting 65,000 words and not liking what I'd done. Perhaps. Or maybe it was just nerves? Whatever causes it, it happened again this week. However this time I resisted the urge to hit delete and start over. Instead I spent an evening with post-it notes and writing up the chapter by chapter plan of what is happening in Book 2. Seeing the book laid out like this immediately put my mind at ease. I knew what I had to write next. I could see how my main characters' stories were going to unfold and eventually link up once more.
Book 2s are notoriously difficult to write. Often nothing happens. Back in the day when I reviewed books at Fantasy faction, I once remarked that, despite enjoying the story, nothing really had happened. The author had simply moved chess pieces around on the board. I don't want this to be the case with my book 2. My note to myself at the beginning of this was "Everything Gets Worse." Hopefully I can live up to that.
I had been making good progress on book 2. I was back up to 65,000 words and then wham. I hit a brick wall. I looked back at what I'd written and I just wasn't happy with it. It was far better than the previous attempts but still - something wasn't working. So i spent a day just going back over everything - planning, rethinking and started all over again.
I'm calling this draft 3. It sounds better than a new draft 1
I've been writing book 2 for awhile now — in fact I had hoped that I'd have it finished by now. But it's not. In fact I'm probably only a quarter of the way in. But that's not because I've not been working. I've been pounding the keyboard every day and getting a good word count done. So why have I been taking one steps forward and two steps back?
The honest answer is I really don't know. I've written about 60,000 words that I've scrapped. I had a strong outline that I immediately deviated from. I started boring and then made it exciting. I'm full of self-doubt and I'm questioning everything I'm doing. It's probably all of the above.
Writing books is hard. Turns out writing a sequel to a book you sold to your dream publisher is even harder because I want it to be great. I want everyone to feel they made a great decision signing me and I want this to be even better than the book they all love...
I've just got to find the right route up the word mountain one step at a time.