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Querying — why I’m now nervous about it

I’m no stranger to querying literary agents — I’ve been in the ‘query trenches’ on and off for nearly six years now, I think.

It started with naive, three line query letters that told agents hardly anything about the book, sent to one agent at a time. And I’d wait, and wait, and wait before sending off again because I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the agency’s submission guidelines — which not only stated it was fine to query multiple agents at one time (at other agencies) but also that if I didn’t hear back within the stated time, I should consider it a pass. Sometimes I did get responses, polite rejections that it never occured to me were simple form responses.

I wasn’t too upset, because I had other books to work on. And the more I worked and improved my craft, the more my desire to one day see them in print grew from dream to goal. Quite suddenly, it seemed, I realised no agent would take me seriously unless I was serious. Partnering with a literary agent is a business partnership much like any other. Sure, they love books and want authors to succeed, but they’re not there to babysit. So I researched the querying process as much as I could. Through books, Youtube channels, agency websites, talks by agents at literary festivals and many other resources. And I’m still doing it.

Now, I’ve queried at least seven different manuscripts over the years, and my query packages (letter, synopsis, writing sample [usually the book’s first 3 chapters]) have gotten better over the years, as have the responses. I’ve had a few full manuscript requests on some, and most recently, I got a revise and resubmit. And though they eventually resulted in passes, I feel that I’ve upped my game enough that getting an agent is definitely achievable. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other querying authors who have put in just as much work as I have, with every bit as much drive. So the competition is very real.

Which is why, having polished one of my most recent projects and prepared my query letter and synopsis ready for submitting, I’m more nervous about it than before. I have huge faith in this book — not only do I love the characters and story, but it’s my first ownvoices (I know I mentioned some of my characters in previous books are autistic, but this is the first that outright states it and is set in the real world). I’ve also been very strict with myself not to send it out too early, which has been one of my biggest mistakes with previous books. Usually, I’m too eager to get them out there without taking the proper time over them, so they’re rejected on things easily fixable.

I’m not convinced there’s really a point to this ramble, other than to express my jitters. But I’ll end by saying going the traditional route in publishing takes a lot of time and drive. Each rejection hurts, some more than others, and have kick-started bouts of depression. But I’ve seen other authors achieve the things I want to, so I’m not giving up. And I think that’s the key to breaking into this industry: the people who do keep pushing, no matter what.

Poetry

Emerging from a fortnight-long hyperfocus on manuscript revisions.

My eye sockets are deeper than they were before,

I’m peering out from the backs of tunnels that are so long

it’s a wonder I can see at all.

The screen and its grey words (the font colour may state black,

but it’s never as black as the type on a printed page)

have attempted to stamp themselves into my pupils

for hours every day over the past two weeks.

I’ve seen them in my sleep, within a blink

and those frequent moments staring into space.

Think the code in the Matrix films, but horizontal –

only after intense study does it form a picture.

But I think I went beyond that

and started picking up the letters and rearranging their parts

while at the same time

they were rearranging me.

And now I’m awake again

attempting to shift back to my usual self.

It’ll probably take me a week to find all the misplaced parts.

Perhaps I put them in the teapot; seems as good a place as any to start.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract from my latest MG, ‘Wings in a Wounded Sky’

Her parents had never uttered even the hint of a roar in her lifetime, even when another Ogg came by to demand why they were missing from that year’s summer gathering. They’d simply explained their reasons and invited him into their nest hole, which, as most Oggs thought they could go anywhere, invited or not, only served to enrage him more.  He’d roared at them, spouting about disrespecting Ogg etiquette, and raged off.

It hadn’t been that long ago, really. Only a few weeks before her parents had fallen ill. She rested her head against the mottled bark of an extremely old Okke tree, wishing more than ever that they hadn’t gone, when Silver popped up in front of her, orange eyes ablaze.

‘Why are you hiding, stupid? The sisters are worried sick,’ she snapped, letting curls of smoke trail from the corners of her mouth. Rae could see scratches on her arms and face, which was surprising, because she’d been sure the Fae boy hadn’t fought back.

‘They’re scared of me. I can’t face them knowing that,’ Rae replied, avoiding her gaze and picking at a piece of loose bark.

‘You are an idiot. Yes, they were scared of you, the same as I was when you roared, but it was only because we didn’t know you could do that. You took us by surprise, that’s all. We know you’re far too soft to actually hurt anyone…and if you hadn’t stopped me, I might have broken that boy’s wings off.’ There was reluctance in her voice, but also shame. ‘Come back with us. Then we can find out together why that blue-eyed slime is here, and why his people took my parents.’

Rae took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the trees so that the Rosycheeks could see her. They cried out and ran up to her, embracing her warmly, before heading back to the cottage. There, they found the Fae boy by the pond with Nymphy, in deep conversation. As they approached, Nymphy gave a nod and disappeared into the water, warping out of sight.

‘Where’s she going?’ Silver asked, rushing forwards. ‘What have you sent her to do, slime?’ she said, pressing her face close to his so that he coughed on the lingering coils of smoke escaping her mouth.

‘I didn’t send her anywhere,’ the boy said quietly, stepping back. ‘I told her about something, and she went to see if she could have a look at it.’

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

A snippet of my WIP

Rae hazarded a look back down, but then wished she hadn’t. The dragon was following them as they’d planned, but it was only seconds away from snapping its jaws around Lady Olande’s rear legs. The dragon-woman made it back out onto the palace grounds, where her kin stood waiting, also transformed, just as the outer structure of the catacombs exploded from within, spraying rubble in every direction. In its place was the dragon, and as it saw how many people faced it, it licked its teeth hungrily.

The Drengin didn’t wait for it to attack; they made for the sky, joining the Ice sparrows still fighting the Fae soldiers. The dragon beat its wings twice in preparation, then flew up after them. Sure that it was following the main formation, Lady Olande discreetly changed direction and headed for the outskirts of the city, where the Grand Lubber would – if all had gone to plan – already be waiting with Silver, Gwind and Max.

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It’s publication day! Accidental Archaeologist: Half-Wizard Thordric Book Two is finally out!

Accidental-Archaeologist-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

As the title of this post would suggest, book 2 in my Half-Wizard Thordric series is now available to buy. Currently, it’s only on Kindle, but in a week or so the paperback will also be available. It’s rather exciting! If you love fantasy, plenty of humour, quests and YA reads, then this may be for you.

However, here’s the blurb just in case you’re not convinced yet:

Three years have passed since Thordric joined the Wizard Council. Together, with High Wizard Vey, they have reformed the council completely.

But while half-wizards can now train their magic freely and join the ranks of the mages, Thordric realizes that there are many who are completely unaware of this. Traveling to the faraway town of Valley Edge, he meets the young archaeologist Hamlet, who is traveling to a dig site where a new discovery has been made.

But not all is as it first appears, and once again Thordric has to put his magic to the test…in order to stop one of the greatest catastrophes their world has ever seen.

Short Stories

The Ice Unicorn

The sun reflected brightly on the newly fallen snow covering the entrance to the take-off pad. The trap door shuddered, making the snow atop it shake, and then it sprang open as the square take-off pad was raised up from deep within the grotto below. When it reached ground level, it came to a smooth stop.

The reindeer tethered to the polished sleigh upon it snorted and stamped their cloven hooves; their breath steamed out in front of them to merge with the air. From a smaller trap door a few metres to the side three people emerged. The first was a man with a silver beard and wearing a large red velvet suit. Following him came a tall, dark haired woman with rosy cheeks and warm eyes, and a slender, nervous looking boy barely into his teens.

Together they were the Claus family, and today was Christmas Eve, the day they’d been preparing for all year. And for young Garret, this particular Christmas Eve would be the most important day of his life. He was dreading it.

He watched as his father and mother made their final checks on the sleigh, making sure that everything inside was secure and that the reindeer were happy and healthy. Garret smiled; he knew they would be because he’d fed them Super Hay that very morning, so that had plenty of energy for the night ahead.

‘That should do it dear,’ Santa said to his wife as he adjusted one last strap.

Imelda raised her eyebrow. ‘Are you sure? You haven’t forgotten your No-Chimney key like last year? You couldn’t get into a single flat until you came back for it just before dawn.’

Santa took a small key from his top pocket. ‘Right here, dear,’ he said with a grin. Imelda inclined her head and stepped back as he heaved his considerable bulk into the sleigh. He blew her a kiss and gave Garret a thumbs up, before clicking his tongue at the reindeer. They heeded his signal and in moments were racing off, gaining height with each step until they were well above the clouds, hidden from sight.

Imelda sighed and turned to Garret, putting her arm around his shoulders. Soon he would have to leave, too, and she could feel his anxiety as keenly as if it were her own. ‘You are just as much a Claus as your father, Garret. The Ice Unicorn will see that and grant you the Claus powers too,’ she said softly.

Garret slumped his shoulders. ‘But I’m nothing like him,’ he said. ‘He’s a born leader; he makes decisions quickly and the elves respect his opinions. The only thing they do with me is ask why I continue to fix broken toys when I could just ask them to make new ones.’

‘That’s because they don’t understand you yet,’ Imelda said. ‘Don’t forget, they’ve known your father for a very long time, but they’ve only known you for a few years. Now, do you have everything you need? Gloves, cloak, boots, fairy-dust lantern?’

Garret nodded.

‘Good,’ she said, and embraced him tightly. ‘Be confident, Garret. Meet with the Ice Unicorn and receive the powers that you were born to use.’ She gave him one last hug, and then went back inside, leaving him to face the sudden flurry of snow on his own.

He looked to where it was blowing from; Crystal Mountain, the home of the Ice Unicorn. Wrapping his cloak tightly about him, he took a deep breath and began the long trudge to its peak.

 

After an hour, Garret was forced to stop. A deep crag blocked his path; too wide to jump across and too long to go around. The light was also fading fast, soon everything would be obscured by darkness.

He took out his fairy-dust lantern and shook it briskly. The dust inside activated and sent out a cloud of glowing particles to illuminate the area around him. They were bound to the lantern by a magical field, so the particles moved with it.

In its light, he spotted the brown and white trunk of a Mocha tree half hidden by a clump of snow. It was on its side; if Garret could free it from the ground, maybe he could use it to fashion himself a bridge.

He pulled on his elf-spun gloves, enriched with candy wax to make them waterproof, and began to dig away at the snow covering the tree. It wasn’t easy, the snow had started to turn to ice and was difficult to loosen, but eventually he succeeded.

The tree was long enough to reach the other side of the gap with several feet to spare, and after he’d heaved it into place, he stepped lightly across it and continued on his way.

The mountain grew steeper and the air thin. Even through his many layers, Garret felt the keen sting of the icy wind as it roared down at him, causing him to lose his footing time after time. It wasn’t long before he had to grip the mountain with his hands too, not just to keep his balance, but because the path angled up sharply, forcing him to climb.

Just as exhaustion set in, he reached level ground again. Relief flooded through him, but only for a moment. The climb was over, but the test was yet to come.

Before him, carved from the magnificent crystal of the peak itself, was a set of double doors.  After a fleeting desire to turn back, he forced himself to open them— and plummeted straight down a hole to land in a mound of soft snow.

Shaking himself free, he swung his lantern around and caught sight of a single door lit with a ring of glowing crystals. He went through it, following the spiral path within until he came to the entrance chamber, opposite the double doors that led outside. Wryly, he saw the hole he’d fallen down, marked clearly with a large warning engraving. He sighed and turned right, where a tunnel led further into the mountain.

Inside, the walls were carved crystal. They depicted members of the Claus family throughout the ages, showing the workshop of the grotto and the age-less elves, and even the different sleighs that had been used. The carvings sparkled in the light from the lantern’s glowing particles, giving them an ethereal quality, as though they were real people frozen in time.

Garret came to the end of the tunnel and found himself in an enormous cavern bedecked with multi-coloured crystals that hung from the top like giant stalactites. On a pedestal in the very centre was a crystal statue of a unicorn, detailed so precisely that every individual mane hair was visible.

He stared at it in awe. Could it be the unicorn, simply pretending to be a statue? After all, crystal and ice were hard to tell apart when carved, and perhaps the reason the Ice Unicorn was named such was because its body was made of ice.

Tentatively, he stretched out a hand and placed it on the statue’s muzzle. It was cold, but not enough to be real ice, and didn’t move at all. It really was just a statue.

Garret looked around, wondering if the real Ice Unicorn was watching, but he was alone. ‘How can I convince it that I’m worthy if it won’t even show itself?’ he said aloud, slumping to the floor.

‘Perhaps you should look again,’ a voice echoed around the cavern.

Garret started. ‘Who said that?’

He turned back to the statue, but it was unmoved. The only thing lively about it was his own reflection looking back at him from its glassy surface.

‘Well, that’s a start,’ said the voice.

Garret spun around. ‘Are you the real unicorn? Why won’t you show yourself?’

‘Because you are not ready. Look back at your reflection, and tell me what you see.’

‘I…see myself. Holding a lantern and looking confused,’ Garret said.

‘And?’ the voice pressed.

‘That’s it. There’s nothing else to see, it’s just me, Garret Claus—‘

‘There you have it!’ the voice said. ‘Think, now. What does it mean to be a Claus?’

‘I suppose…that we are the family people look to at Christmas, to help bring hope and joy to the children of the world. That’s what we’ve done for hundreds of years, anyway.’

‘And do you want to continue that, to share the responsibility with your parents? Or is there another path you wish to take?’

Garret looked down and picked at his sleeve. The voice had asked the very thing he’d been wondering himself. ‘I’m not sure. I’ve been brought up to expect to take on the same role as my father, but…what I really want is to fix old toys so that they can be enjoyed again.’

‘Do you repair these toys so that you can play with them yourself?’ the voice asked.

Garret shook his head. ‘No, I give them to father so he can deliver them at Christmas.’

Suddenly a loud crack rang through the air, and deep lines appeared on the statue. There was a tremor, and whole chunks of crystal fell from it onto the ground, revealing iridescent white fur underneath. More crystal fell, and in one swift motion, the unicorn reared up on its hind legs, freeing itself completely. It shook its golden mane and pawed the ground as though it was glad to be able to move again. Its horn glowed a rich blue; the sight of it took Garret’s breath away.

‘Forgive me Garret, I did not mean to deceive you. But until you told me your true wish, I was bound to that form. I shall now grant you the powers that all the Claus’ before you have attained,’ the unicorn said, and began to lower its horn to Garret’s head.

‘Wait,’ Garret said, holding up his hands. ‘I don’t understand. I just told you that all I want is to fix things. I’m not worthy of the Claus powers.’

The unicorn snorted softly. ‘No, Garret. You fix toys to give to others, so that they may find joy in what was once broken and cast aside. I have watched you since you were small, so I know your true nature well, but even if I did not, your words would be enough to convince me that you are every bit as worthy of this power as your ancestors. With your insight, you can improve upon the legacy that they built,’ it said. ‘Hold still now, this will be cold.’

Without another word, the unicorn touched him with its horn. A wave of ice swept through him, but with it came a reawakening of all his senses. Voices of children the world over filled his ears, fading in and out depending on whether he wished to focus on them. Time was also no longer a mystery; he understood how to slow it like his father was doing that very night.

There was something else, too. A tingle in his fingertips. On a whim, he snapped them together; a pile of broken toys appeared. With another snap, they were fixed, like new again.

‘Do you understand now, Garret?’ the unicorn asked.

‘I…yes, I think so,’ he replied, marvelling at what he’d just done.

‘I am glad,’ the unicorn said, and stepped over to the far side of the cavern. It touched its horn to the wall and a window appeared, shimmering like water. Through it, Garret saw his father and mother waiting on the take-off pad with the sleigh. His father must have just come back. ‘Step through, Garret Claus. Live your dreams and inspire the dreams of others.’

Garret hesitated, but the unicorn nudged him through. Then he was standing by his parents, who smiled broadly at him.

The unicorn watched them embrace from its distant home, and silently went back to stand on the pedestal, turning into crystal once more

Poetry

Aunt Maria: A reflection

We mustn’t walk out that door. Not yet, see.

They might still be there. Or even worse, we might.

Keep out of sight. Timing is everything.

Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the rules already.

Tap tap. Hear that noise? It’s her again.

Let’s ignore her. See how she likes it.

Drowned out, background noise.

Like a buzz. A Queen Bee, I should say.

We’re not trapped in her hive anymore.

We can’t be managed.

I feel smug that she knows.

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I’m Published!!!

Today I can finally say that I am a published novelist! *dances around the room*

Unofficial Detective, book one in my Half-Wizard Thordric series, is a magical murder mystery for middle-grade readers (or for those, like myself, who are just young at heart!).  It’s available for purchase on Amazon for £2.99, or free on Kindle Unlimited.  It will also be available in paperback at a later date. Here’s the official blurb:

For his whole life, Thordric has been told that his magic is dangerous, and that he must never use it. All over Dinia, half-wizards are treated the same, their magic labelled as dangerous and uncontrollable.

When High Wizard Kalljard is murdered, it falls to young Thordric to solve the case. The only trouble? The murder was done by magic, and though Thordric is a half-wizard, he has never fully used his powers.

To prove himself right and find the murderer, Thordric has to learn how to control his own powers. But can he learn fast enough, and find the perpetrator in time?

Unofficial-Detective-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

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Cover reveal! Unofficial Detective, book one in the Half-Wizard Thordric series!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am squealing with joy to FINALLY reveal the cover of my debut middle-grade fantasy novel, UNOFFICIAL DETECTIVE. Please take a look at the wonderful design my publisher, Creativia, has come up with (plus my unofficial blurb, just to give you an idea of what the book is about!):

Unofficial-Detective-Main-File.jpg

Thordric has been told his whole life that his magic – that of a simple half-wizard – is dangerous and he must never use it. All over Dinia, half-wizards are treated the same, their magic labelled as dangerous and uncontrollable. But deep down Thordric knows that’s not true.

​When Inspector Jimmson reluctantly calls upon him to help out with the investigation into High Wizard Kalljard’s murder, Thordric realises that the old wizard’s life was taken by magic. However, in order to prove his theory, Thordric has to learn how to control his own powers to find the evidence needed.

Will he succeed, or will the perpetrator forever remain a mystery?

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Exciting news

Hey everyone, I just wanted to announce that I’ve signed with a small online publisher for one of my middle-grade books, Unofficial Detective, the first book in my Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy (hopefully, they’ll take on books 2 and 3 as well). You can find an extract of it here.

It’s just going through the editing process now, but soon we’ll start working on cover design and layout, which I’m rather excited for.

Anyway, just thought I’d post a quick update – more news to follow!