My books arrived!

The three hard cover copies I ordered to give my kids and my nephew for Christmas arrived yesterday, well in time for Christmas.  So pleased.  The quality is amazing, and it’s an incredible feeling holding it in my hands as an actual book!

The illustrations my mother and son did look really great.

It’s for sale on Blurb if anyone is interested.  Because it’s printed to order, it’s quite expensive, so I haven’t added a profit for me.  That means I don’t make any money off it, which is fine, that was never the intention anyway.  If anyone buys one and they or their child enjoys it, that’s the main thing.

 

Grand & Epic Adventures

Guess what! Okay, you’ll never guess. I’m so excited though. This is big news. HUGE! *Laugh*

Today, I finally finished writing Grand & Epic Adventures, the novel I started in 2012 for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). *Shock*

It’s taken me FIVE YEARS, but I finally finished it!

Mum has done some amazing illustrations for it, and so has my son, and I’m going to submit it to Blurb for printing before their sale ends on Wednesday. If it arrives in time (fingers crossed!), my kids and my nephew will finally get to read it on Christmas Day.

I can’t believe I’ve actually finished it! Five years! Ha ha! I’m almost giddy. I was busy writing the last chapter today while my mum and son were working on the drawings, and I’ve just finished it. Squee! I did it!

It’s nine chapters, plus two bonus ‘prequel’ short stories that I wrote for a NaNoWriMo prep challenge on Writing.com in 2012 that I’m going to include. The nine chapters are 33,827 words, and the short stories are 834 and 549 words, so 35,210 words in total. I think that’s within the realm of normal for a chapter book aimed at (gifted) 11-13 year old children.

Of course, my son is now 16 (oops!) but better late than never, right? *Laugh*

Anyway, I’m so happy. Partly because I can’t believe I actually finished a project for once. *Rolleyes* *Smirk2*

PS. I’ll try to share the illustrations soon. They’re awesome, you’ll love them!

A novel present

It’s September, and I am making plans for Christmas.  Ha ha!  Yeah, that’s pretty typical of me.  I’m the kind of person who buys gifts throughout the year to spread the cost and take advantage of sales.  My children’s birthdays are in the middle of the year, so the first half of the year I buy birthday presents and the second half of the year I buy Christmas presents.

This year we’re not buying Christmas presents.  We’re saving to go overseas next year for my sister’s wedding, so if they do get anything, it’s going to be passports.  And next year for their birthdays they’ll get plane tickets.  Which is more than enough, right?  But Christmas is a big deal in our family, and I have an idea…

In 2012 I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you’re challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month.  It was madness, but I managed to write 30,000 words of a children’s fantasy novel.  It stars my children, my nephew and my godchildren, and a variety of mythical creatures.  The plan was to write a story that would challenge my children’s reading abilities while still being appropriate for their age and maturity.  See, my kids are both ‘gifted’, particularly in English, and both have reading levels well in advance of their peers.  This made it hard to find books that were at or slightly above their reading level but not too advanced in subject matter (such as sex or violence).  So my plan was to write something that used big words, was educational to an extent (my son was obsessed with mythical creatures at the time), but didn’t contain any material that wasn’t suitable for their level of maturity.

I intended to give it to my kids as a gift, but I never finished it.  Each year I’d remember about it, but I’d procrastinate and not get it done.  The kids in the story are 11 and 7 years old, and my kids are now 16 and 12. *Facepalm* Still, I want to finish it, and the sooner I give it to them, the better. I mean, better at 16 and 12 than 32 and 28, right? *Laugh*

I’m going to handwrite the story into journals, one each for my kids and my nephew.  See, the story centers around a handwritten journal, so it seems apt. To encourage me to stop procrastinating, on Friday I bought three journals.

img_0861

I think they’ll make neat Christmas presents.  Can you tell which one is for my daughter?  Ha ha!

I’ve written eight chapters so far (on the computer), but in the story the kids are trying to work out how many more adventures they can go on before the journal is full.  So I think I should handwrite in the completed chapters and adapt the story so that it ends at the end of the journal.  The worst thing would be if it was half a dozen pages too long for a single journal!

So yep, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. The first chapter is about a taniwha, which is a dragon unique to New Zealand where we live.

An interview with author S. H. Pratt / C. K. Brewer

‘“How goes the battle?” Spencer asked as he sat beside her with his own lunch.
“Not bad. Did you know that there is someone famous teaching here?” Rissa smirked.
“You know, I’d heard that rumor. I hope the fame won’t go to everyone’s head.” Spencer teased.
“I think we’re safe. Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Rumor has it that the famous person left fame and fortune behind because she’d lost all of her marbles and really needed to collect them.” Rissa sighed sadly.
“Oh no, not the lost marble syndrome! I wonder how successful her campaign to collect her marbles is going.” Spencer commiserated.
“Beautifully. She has settled down, found a nice man who kisses her like she’s the only soul he’s ever wanted, reconnected with her family, and found a possible direction for her life away from fame and fortune.” Rissa deadpanned. Spencer chuckled.
“Only soul, huh?” he arched an eyebrow over the frame of his glasses. “How do you know he isn’t kissing her like that because she’s the only soul who ever made him want to kiss that way?”
“I don’t, but that certainly raises some interesting points, doesn’t it?” Rissa snickered.
“Points indeed,” Spencer laughed.’
~ The Artist’s Touch Epic Romance Book 1 by S. H. Pratt

You’ve published a number of novels as S H Pratt. Tell us a little about them and your journey to being a published author.
The romance novels I’ve published are all heavily based in real life headlines and psychology. Many of them have a strong suspense thread woven through them as well as some humor to lighten things up. I began writing semi-seriously as a teen but shelved it in favor of attempting to find ‘a real job’. Turns out my ‘real job’ is being a full-time mom and a full-time writer. I attempted to conform to the standard of Harlequin Romance Publishing but was told that because my writing deals with such intense psychological matter, it was too dark for their readers. Because I love my stories and refuse to dumb them down or soften the subject matter, I chose to research my options which led me to publish my work independently. I love the freedom this choice has afforded me and have left the notion of being with a Big 5 publishing company in the dust.

There are a great number of self published books these days, and a common complaint is that they are not sufficiently edited. Did you edit your own books?
I say I edit my books myself, but this is not entirely true. I have a team of alpha and beta readers who read through each chapter as I write them. Then I read through the entire manuscript from the beginning and then again, starting from the end and reading forward. After that, I have a proofreader/editor who is a friend of mine read through it (we trade our editing services – I read her works and she reads mine) and then before I publish, I still read it through again, this time out loud as though to a group of people. Unfortunately, as a human, misspellings still get through, but I’ve found that I’m more thorough and picky than most editors I’ve come across.

Did you find that you had to bring in experts of any description (eg. cover designers) at all? Or did you do the whole process by yourself?
I began this crazy journey into self-publishing with the notion that a small self-publishing company would be better than me trying to do everything myself. Unfortunately, I found a company that was less than reputable with interests more in my money than my books. Their “editing” was horrendous and I hated the covers they did. Because I don’t use models of any sort on my covers, it seemed to flummox them. After my contracted two books were done, I fired them, took back control of my books and republished them. My husband is a photographer and doesn’t mind when I bring him flowers and an idea for a cover. Between he and I, we create covers that pertain to the story within that are different from the typical “Fabio” style of covers. I also have a fair number of professionals, like medical personnel, peace officers, etc. who willing read parts (or sometimes the entire book) to ensure that the facts I’ve used are correct.

Do you think that different skills are required for writing novels as opposed to short stories?
I do think that you need different skills for writing full length novels than you do for short stories. However, I believe the skills used for the short stories strengthen the ones necessary for novels. I actually use short stories, particularly those with specific word counts, to help me eliminate extraneous words and ideas. This then translates into stronger novels with less ‘fluff” in them.

Like me, you have gifted children. We both know the struggle of finding age-appropriate reading material that challenges our children, and both of us have taken it upon ourselves to ‘fill that gap’ by attempting to write a children’s novel. How have you found writing a novel for gifted children? What were the challenges for you? 
I find writing children’s fiction to be much more challenging, in general, than romance. In romance, my world around me is the world I use and the source of my inspiration. However in my kid’s fantasy work, I have to create the world including its flora, fauna, and details in minutia. Also, as my intention was to give kids around the age of ten and up content that is appropriate while still challenging them, I have to use extra caution to keep the content child friendly. It sounds easy but has presented me with the need to rethink my own thought processes. I love writing the fantasy stories though because it’s a refreshing and invigorating change and challenge from the romance.

‘The monumental stone vibrated, shaking the temple violently. Srÿche stood, bracing himself in the stone archway, struggling to stay upright through the intense quaking. He watched, his black eyes narrowed, as a blue haired imp Shimmered into being in the archway across from him. She was miniscule compared to his six foot height, but he knew she was his equal in power. He felt the Magic radiating off of her across the expanse of the room and it made his bones ache.
Safina stood in her archway, her arms stretched out wide against the stone in an effort to stabilize herself. She nodded politely to Srÿche, her azure blue hair bobbing. He ignored her, turning away with a scowl, and focused his attention back on the stone. Safina rolled her eyes and turned her gaze to the stone as well.
As they watched, the monolithic stone began to glow a warm amber color. Small pieces of the crumbling temple began to fall as the quaking intensified, nearly bringing the pair of Magicians to their knees. Just as the shuddering reached a tempo that threatened to destroy the temple and everything within it, the quaking stone split in two and an unearthly voice echoed through the temple.

“Under Marching Moon afar;
A humble child born;
Noble and Royal hence;
To seek the DragonStar;
Mend the sword t’was torn;
Save Velania from obsolescence.”

As the echoing voice died, the vibrations reached a new pitch that sent a massive shock wave emanating from the broken rock. As if drawing a deep breath, the air seemed to flow rapidly into the fissure. With an earth shattering explosion, a second, stronger shock wave burst from the stone. The entire temple exploded in a mass of stone and dirt leaving only the two archways standing.
Safina and Srÿche, both doubled over from the force of the Magic, fell to their knees and covered their heads as the temple fell around them. The Magical shock wave overcame them, making their bodies scream with pain and their minds spasm in agony. As the Magic ebbed and the quaking slowed, the two Magicians rose slowly. Breathing heavily, exhausted, and aching from the intensity of the Magic, they stood, surrounded by the rubble of what once had been the Temple of the Oracle. Without a word, look, or acknowledgement of each other, they Shimmered and disappeared.’
~ DragonStar by C. K. Brewer (to be released 2018)

Have your kids read your work? What did they think?
Obviously, they don’t read the romance, but yes, my two youngest children have read the first novel of my fantasy series, DragonStar. They were my first beta readers and according to their constant questions as to when the actual book will be in their hands, I believe they enjoyed it. They said they did anyway. *Laugh*

What made you decide to use two different non de plumes?
I write adult romance with extreme subject matter and occasionally strong language as S. H. Pratt. I really, really didn’t want kids of 10+ to pick up one of my romance books and be scarred for life. Therefore, prudence dictated a second name strictly for fantasy and science fiction. *BigSmile*

Is there a reason that neither of your non de plumes use a full first name?
My full name is quite long and I didn’t want to take up half the book cover with it so I shortened it to my initials and that is my romance author name. Also, I didn’t want to worry about privacy should the miracle happen and I suddenly become famous.
As I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants with the fantasy name but knew I wanted something that could not be confused with my romance author name, I took an old family name (Brewer) and then took my grandmother’s name on that side of the family and my favorite cousin on that side and used their initials rather than sounding weird with “Clara Kyle”.

Do you agree with the old adage ‘write what you know’?
I absolutely do.

Why?
It’s much more comfortable for me to write about things I have some knowledge of rather than trying to put my mind into a dark void of the unknown. Granted, I still heavily research things I know or have experienced because I don’t know everything about it, but I find it’s easier to put a bit of me into the story if my emotions are tied with the subject matter.

What’s the most important writing skill you’ve learned?
I think it’s to accept that writing is fluid. Every day is new and my skills shift ever so subtly. Without that constant change and growth, writing would become a bore and would cease to be a challenge. As a result, my editing skills, plotting skills, and imagination have all improved.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Don’t give up and don’t stop learning. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t and understand that in writing that story, you need to let yourself grow with the experience as a writer, editor, proofreader, reader, and person.

You can check out more of S H Pratt’s work here:
Facebook
Amazon

And you can follow C. K. Brewer on Facebook.