Three Reasons Why I Thank @SarahPinborough

I met Sarah Pinborough back in August 2016 – before her massive success with “Behind Her Eyes” – at the Dublin Ghost Story festival, and I owe her thanks for three different things.

The event was one of my first literary events and was something of a learning experience. She was both interviewer and interviewee on a few panels, and was hugely engaging and entertaining in both roles. This combined with the cosy atmosphere of the Freemason Hall – the venue for the weekend – and easy access to other authors such as John Connelly, Adam Nevill, AK Benedict and many others, made the whole weekend hugely enjoyable. She answered my questions with grace and good humour and even agreed to have her photo taken with me. That is the first thing I thank Sarah for.

Following the event, I began following her on Twitter – @sarahpinborough – and have done so ever since. She tweeted that she had been interviewed by the Bestseller Experiment and I duly checked out the interview. It was as I’d expected; funny, insightful and helped me with my writing. Partly because Sarah announced that the need to write everyday was “bollocks” – phew – and also because I found the podcast that would ultimately change my writing life. Without it I would have written nothing, or at least taken another 25 years to get anything down on paper. That is the second thing I thank her for.

The final thing I thank Sarah for is her book “Behind Her Eyes”. Which was my favourite book of 2017. It was launched to much fanfare, and a marketing campaign based of WTF That Ending. I demolished it in a single weekend. I was certain that I had worked out the ending, even two pages before the end I thought I had it – alas, Miss Pinborough blindsided me and produced an ending completely worthy of the WTF That Ending tag.

I shall reveal nothing about the book – no spoilers here – other than it is brilliant. The new Netflix show is released today and even though I know what is coming, I will be watching every minute gripped and smiling at wonderful storytelling.  

Bravo and thank you, Sarah Pinborough.


Good things take time. Glorious things take even longer.

Thus, I find myself having to delay the release of Coven of Shadows until the 15th December. I’m annoyed, both with myself and with circumstances. But it cannot be helped. I know won’t be happy with the book if I put it out now, and in truth it needs more work.

I am close and it is written – all 115k words so far – but it is not good enough. I have also had a fleet of other ideas enter my head, that I want to weave into it, and in the longer term it will make the Souls’ Abyss a stronger and more interesting series of books.  I am very pleased with the front cover, see below, it’ll be the look and feel of all my covers from here on in.

Added to this, my writing process has really tied me in knots and increased the time it’s taking to get everything done. I normally dictate and get the contents transcribed. Otter is a brilliant piece of software, but like all dictation packages, it doesn’t get everything right. It’s partly because I just talk and expect it to sort everything out, but it doesn’t.

So, I am having to go through everything line by line (350+ pages) and check it properly. Whilst doing so I’m adding more content and trying to link everything together. It is rather messy and, in the future, I think my system is going to have to change, it’ll save me both my time and my sanity.

I’ve also had a real bout of Imposter Syndrome – doubt in your own abilities, thinking everything you write is rubbish and any success is based on luck, not talent. It has been made worse, especially when I‘ve read and come across other work that is so fantastic. It is a proper psychological thing, and I’ve struggled to shift it this time around.

Normally I’d breeze through it, but not this time. My confidence has been hit, and it’s slowed everything down. I’ve been reading or listening to a lot of books on Audible, and there is some superb stuff out there.

I’ve also finished a book recently that I really didn’t enjoy. I won’t say who or what it is, but I found it vast and epic, and utterly bewildering. To the point that I could not remember people, places, or activities. It completely ruined, what was a decent story, with unnecessary depth. And not depth in a good way, world building depth, not character depth. I couldn’t care less about the history of elves, etc. I want to know about the character, not the entire bloody history of the world.

It has sold massive numbers and is part of an acclaimed series. I wondered if I needed to do such things to my books going forwards, but I really don’t want to. Partly because it’s not who I am and also because it’s such a killer of the story for me. Yes, have detail, but not so it overshadows character and is detrimental to the story.

I’m going to write about imposter syndrome properly after book 2 is released on the 15th December. I’ll have more to write about then and I need no more delays at the moment…

Until next time stay safe.

The Trouble With Peace – a review

Reading time – 2 mins 27 seconds.

The wait for a new book from your favourite author is always a torturous affair.  The date lingers in the diary; they reveal the cover, hints from the author on social media, the adverts, the trail of breadcrumbs from advanced readers, and you inwardly curse them for having what you want so badly.

And thus, it was the case with my wait for Joe Abercrombie’s new novel, The Trouble with Peace.  The time passes slowly, rushes over the final weekend and then you have it (signed limited edition from Waterstones, if you must know) and then you read.

You devour, you absorb the words; wishing you could write such a thing.  Then you near the end and the feeling of sadness creeps upon you like the first chills of winter. 

Then you are finished, and that is that. Another book read. But you want more, to spend time in the company of the characters and their adventures. This was also the case when I finished it this morning. Longing to spend more time with them and to see what happens next. Like a spell has been cast and you are powerless to resist.  And I am powerless to resist.

I won’t reveal any spoilers, but may hint at a few cryptic things, so beware.

When I read A Little Hatred last year it was good, but I struggled with the shift in time period and the gradual introduction of The First Law: The Next Generation.  But it was necessary, Joe had said in many interviews he found the straight continuity of fantasy books annoying.  The fact worlds never seem to progress beyond swords and shields.  So, it was a difficult ask to both satisfy fans of the First Law books and also move the narrative forward some 30 years, but overall A Little Hatred managed it rather well.

The Trouble with Peace is brilliant.  I absolutely loved it.

It gripped me in a way that few books have in recent years.  Best Served Cold is my favourite fantasy book ever, and this book comes a very close second.  It is more political, more twisty, has greater depth and emotional heft; and it is all the better for it.  I grinned like an idiot when two old faces turned up again. Gasped as a long-held question about parentage was answered.  And I booed when someone didn’t die.

I long to be back in this world, to see what happens next, because everything is to play for and who knows which way it will turn next.  One thing is for sure, next summer when the next book is released, I will be at the front of the queue to spend yet more time with characters I love and characters I love to hate.

Long live the King, the King of Fantasy – Joe Abercrombie.

Semi finalist!

Something exciting happened today.

I entered the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) – basically an international fantasy book competition – back in June with my debut novel: The Souls Abyss: Book One – The Dark Crown.

The first review was good and following additional feedback, I’ve improved the grammar and altered the front cover.

Today I have been told that they have chosen it as a semi-finalist and I’m thrilled.

I hoped they would like it, but to make the semi-finals is more than I had hoped for and I just wanted to share this excellent news with you.

If you fancy buying it (and why wouldn’t you being a person of excellent taste) you can find it here and I’ve lowered the price to the cost of a cup of coffee.

Have a great weekend and I’ll let you know how it does.

September = some surprises

Hello, welcome.

Please excuse me for being cryptic – there are some very interesting things that should happen in September. I am being patient and can’t say too much, but – fingers crossed – I will be able to let you know about them soon.

Anyway, September has arrived, and I have moved up a gear.  I was having difficulty leaving The Dark Crown alone. It had been out for a while and continues to sell well. However, I was not happy with it.

So I decided to go through it again, tidy up some of the language and rectify some grammar issues. I also added to the last chapter to give it more emotional punch. I’ve also tweaked the front cover following some advice I received. The end product is a book I am much happier with and will now leave alone.

Book two – Coven of Shadows – is moving along ok.  There is one particular chapter that I was having real difficulty finishing. Being stuck in the same one for so long really sucked. It drained my momentum and gave me the feeling that I was making no progress.

To help change things, I split it in two.  It makes sense to do so and will save readers from having to go through such a huge chapter. This gave me the feeling – perhaps falsely – that I was making progress.

The second half of the chapter is still causing me problems, but the end is in sight.  The other things that have made a difference are that I’ve also introduced another major character – a bad one – and it has added some fresh impetus to the chapter.  It also signals the start of a new set of challenges for one of the main protagonists.

In my last update I spoke about Imposter Syndrome, something that all writers suffer from. It is the negative voice that you hear, telling you that your writing is not good, that no-one will read or like your work and generally tries to convince you to give up.

It is something that has been pertinent this last month because I received my first 1 out of 5 star review on Amazon. So I have decided to write a whole post about it and how it has affected both me and my writing.  It’ll be out in a week or so.

Things I am looking forward to this month are the new Joe Abercrombie novel ‘The Trouble With Peace’ and getting into a new fantasy author Philip C Quaintrell.  He’s been around for a few years and although I know I’m late in finding him, he sounds brilliant and his books have some of the best front covers I’ve seen.

Also, go see Tenet, it’s in cinemas and is brilliant.

Take care of yourself and each other.


Summer slowdown

August, wow.  Where is 2020 going?

This month has been one of slowing the pace, writing-wise.  Summer holidays have kicked in, as has the need to concentrate on things like work, exams, and other such stuff – which is much less fun.

The fun stuff has been my first two reviews on Amazon for The Dark Crown.  Both are five stars and I’m really pleased.  This, along with my sales reports and feedback I’ve received, shows that people are buying and enjoying the book – which is fantastic- but without reviews it is difficult for authors with a small profile or fanbase to showcase their talents.

Reviews really are important for self-published authors, and for anyone who has released a book. It strikes me it is something I hadn’t considered before, nor (I’m ashamed to say) something I’ve done much about. I will make a conscious effort to leave reviews for all the books I’ve read and enjoyed.  

This month, I also received my first sales payments for both eBooks and paper copies.  I’m not in a position to retire just yet, but it was an important milestone.

Writing wise book 2 – Coven of Shadows – is written (all 107k words of it).  The process now is doing the second draft, and it is coming along in fits and starts. Some days it flows easily, and I feel as though I am making excellent progress.  Other days it’s like wading through treacle, pausing after every sentence, and wondering if it is good enough. 

It all comes down to the insecurities that all writers have – ‘Imposter Syndrome’ – the fear that they are a fraud and at any moment readers will twig and denounce them.  It is a voice I hear occasionally, but I am getting better at telling it to ‘go away’, on some days using less polite terms.

It’s also something I’ll cover more thoroughly in my next post offering hints and tips that have helped me get through it and make the positive messages stick.

Editing book 2, I am finding little things that I’d forgotten about; things that have made me smile, and on one occasion dance around the room as a new character made their first appearance.  It’s like meeting old friends again; something we can all appreciate given various lockdowns around the world.

I am back onto Audible and very much enjoying Garth Nix’s epic Angel Mage. It mixes fantasy with an interesting magic system and I am intrigued how it will pan out in the second half.

Enjoy the gorgeous weather, and don’t forget to leave book reviews where you can.

Take care of yourself and each other.


First review

It’s been over a month since my last post – sorry about that – and I thought it was about time to update you about what has been happening, and the answer is a lot.

Since book one of the Souls Abyss series went on sale at the end of May, it has sold fairly well.  Bearing in mind I haven’t done adverts or targeted promotion, I’ve sold copies in three countries: the UK, America, and Germany.  Sales have mainly been the eBook – which I didn’t expect – and via Kindle I’ve had thousands of page reads.  All of which I am really pleased about.

Most exciting of all, I received my first ever book review,  scoring 76.5 out of 100.  It was a thorough and very fair review by the Weatherwax Report; a respected online book reviewer and judge in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) competition. The review was very encouraging, and I’ve tweaked the book based on the feedback received; grammar and other minor things to improve it for readers. 

It is the major element of writing and releasing a book that I was most worried about.  Writing for yourself is fine – the work reflects you- but sharing it with the entire world is a little scary.

Feedback from other test readers had been really encouraging, but I was curious about what people would think.  It is all part of the ‘becoming an author’ process I’m going through at the moment.  It has helped steel me for when someone doesn’t like it.

It terms of book 2 – Coven of Shadows – progress is on schedule.  I’ve tweaked the name and set a date for pre-order on Amazon.  Friday 20th November will be the release date and I’ll update you as things progress. 

Until next time; have fun, play safe, and look after each other. 😉

A busy week.

First, I hope you are safe and well.

Second, it has been a very busy week.

There I was, happily putting the finishing touches to book one of the series The Souls’ Abyss when I saw a Facebook notification about the SFPBO.  In case you don’t know much about it – and I didn’t until Wednesday night – it is a competition that runs each year specifically for self-published fantasy novels.

Some winners in recent years – The Grey Bastards and The Sword of Kaigenare superb and I asked myself could I do the same?  Could I enter and win?   But firstly could I get The Dark Crown ready to enter in 3 days?

The brief answer is yes.  I was able to source a cover the next day and get everything sorted to enter on Saturday along with 299 other authors.  The competition is now closed, and I am in.  It takes about 5 months to judge – via a mammoth effort of various bloggers and fantasy book lovers – to whittle it down from 300 to a top 10.  Then a further 4 months to decide on a winner.

This also means my book is now available.  I’m very excited and rather scared all at the same time. After five years of writing it is now freed from my laptop, and it’s rather liberating.  I now have to concentrate on marketing book one and get book two ready for release.

It just goes to show that you can get anything done with a deadline.