Fanquilting: From Book to Quilt

Well, it was my birthday last week, and I wanted to share with you my number one present. For who knows how many hours, my mum has been secretly sewing away to make this amazing quilt inspired by Hidden Dawn.

I’ve long held the belief that my mum can pretty much do anything with a sewing machine. We had a huge trunk full of costumes when I was a kid, and I mean proper costumes, full-blown Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, all made by her. There is no challenge – no Halloween school disco, no instrument cover, no awning, no yardage of bunting – that she won’t accept. And I’m still trying to process how completely amazing this quilt is.

It is, apparently, in the ‘flying geese’ design, with a teal background on the front and a sky-blue back (my favourite colours). Then she has gone material-scouting to find a range of patterns and colours that reminded her of my book. Around the border is a murky forest floor colour with silhouettes of antlers just visible through the gloom. The geese themselves are then patterns of trees, leaves, flowers and ferns, with water and wind geese, vast blue skies and the fiery oranges of all those sunrises that are endemic in Hidden Dawn. It all combines to bring a patch of Canadian wilderness into my den, and a bit of fiction magic.

I know fans can do extraordinary things to celebrate their favourite books – artwork, fanfiction, craftwork, cosplay – and I love the fact that one act of creativity can spawn a cascade of other acts of creativity. It’s a truly allelomimetic behaviour. The imagination is a contagious thing. But I’m left in no doubt as to who my number one fan is. Thanks, Mum!

Hidden Dawn Gets a Copyedit

Well, it’s taken me an age and a half, but I have finally managed to copyedit my book Hidden Dawn. Funnily enough, I have been unable to do it because I’ve been copyediting other people’s books (my day job)!

Of course, I “proofread” my book before I first published it, but clearly did a rubbish job because there were some very obvious and embarrassing errors in there. My excuse is that I was exhausted from writing it back then and just wanted to get it published and over with, but it’s been a year and a half now, so I’m well refreshed! Also, and I really stress this, YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER COPYEDIT OR PROOFREAD YOUR OWN BOOK. NO MATTER HOW BRILLIANT YOU ARE, YOU WILL NOT SEE EVERYTHING. Even if you get a friend who likes reading to read through your book for typos, this is ten times more effective than doing it yourself. As the creator, you are far FAR too close to the writing. You know what’s happening and what’s coming up, so your brain will do the brilliant thing that human brains do, and make the reading process as efficient as possible by drawing on memories and stored knowledge, and thereby allowing itself to skip over the detail in each sentence. The brain, demonstrating another of its brilliant skills, will do this without making you consciously aware of it, so no matter how hard you concentrate, you will always miss something, and probably several things. Just like I did, and I’m a professional copyeditor!

Do as I say and not as I do, of course, but I am an impoverished freelancer who cannot afford someone to copyedit such a long book. If you are in the same position, like I say, at least get a close friend who is good at English to read it, because they will see things your brain simply will not allow you to see. I do this for a living, however, so I know what I’m looking for and I have learnt to be objective when I need to be. I also have an extremely astute eye for detail. I’m the kind of person who can walk into a room and know exactly what object is out of place from my previous visit. So what I’m trying to say is, my book should be totally error-free now.

The latest version of Hidden Dawn is on Amazon, so it should automatically update on your ereader, but if you want to make sure, just delete it from your library and re-download it from Amazon. Easy peasy.

And please do accept my apologies for those clangers you had to sit through in the old version. I promise I have done a far better job this time around!

Hidden Dawn Paperback

Well, I’m dead excited because I am holding in my hands an actual ink-and-paper copy of my book!

*trumpet fanfare*


My old ebook distributor, Pronoun, are sadly closing down, so this has prodded me to at last join the ranks of the KDP massive. The ebook version of Hidden Dawn is now available, as it ever was, on Amazon, but I’ve also taken the plunge and used KDP’s beta paperback publishing services. I was a little bit daunted, but Amazon being Amazon, they make it very easy for you, giving you templates for internal layouts and cover design.

Previously, I impressed myself by designing my own front cover for the ebook, but now I’m positively glowing with achievement after also designing up my back cover and spine (with a little help from Photoshop!). With the Amazon template, internal typesetting was very easy in Word. You just copy and paste in your content, with a new section for each prelim/endlim and chapter. Then you just have to fiddle about with font, font size, leading, etc. until you have a viable set of spreads.

The only snag is, at £8.99, it’s quite expensive when compared to other paperbacks on Amazon. It’s about £1 more expensive than paperbacks in bookshops, but with Amazon’s loss-leading discounts, the paperback of Hidden Dawn seems uncomfortably dear. I do apologise, but as it’s print on demand (POD), you don’t get the advantage of bulk discount that traditional publishers get. £5 of that price is the cost of printing, and Amazon add 60% of that price as their pocket money, sparing me the few pennies left over in royalties after they’ve creamed off a further 40%. That price is absolutely the lowest I was allowed to go without paying you to buy it. I’m not grumbling because I’d rather readers had the option of a physical copy, if that’s what they prefer. I just wanted to be transparent and explain why it was so expensive. I’m afraid I have no control over that 😦

Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of the printing. The paper inside is particularly nice when you compare it to the thin rag you get in a lot of mass-market paperbacks these days. The gluing is robust, just like any other paperback, and the text is pin-sharp. I admit I had a few anxieties over the quality of a POD book, and I fully expected to have to make a number of changes after I got a copy actually in my hands, but I can’t see anything that I would actually change. Colour me impressed.

Well done Amazon!

Virtually Squamish

I have a confession to make. Even though Hidden Dawn is set almost entirely in the BC adventure town of Squamish, I’ve never actually been there. In fact, I’ve never even been to British Columbia or Canada or anywhere in the Americas. It is only through the marvels of Google, local interest websites and travel guides that this book was possible.

I have to say that even though I’ve never been to Squamish, it feels like my home from home. Through the World Wide Web I have walked down the streets of Sky’s new town, I’ve checked out the shops and gazed longingly at the beautiful views. So, I’ve put together a few sights with the help of the lovely Google for those of you who are also unfortunate enough not to have seen this beautiful part of the world first hand.

Here is Squamish on the map. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Vancouver and sits at the northern end of Howe Sound.

It is surrounded by provincial parks and mountains so it’s perfectly situated for outdoor pursuits and exploration. Here’s a rather smashing view from a hillside overlooking the town. Imagine waking up to that every day!

Sky spends a lot of her time trekking through the lush BC forest, which is predominantly coniferous but constitutes some of the most ecologically diverse forests in Canada, ranging from temperate rainforests to alpine meadows. BC also has the greatest biological diversity in Canada with more than half of the country’s wildlife making their homes there. In my book, that makes it a pretty wonderful place. With 62% of BC covered in forest the province is fairly rich in green gold but fortunately forestry is highly sustainable. For every tree that is cut down an average of three seedlings are planted, which has kept CO2 levels in the province at those of 1980 despite a significant increase in energy consumption and pulp/paper production. Go BC! In addition, 15% of forests are in protected areas and only 24% is available for harvesting so the province will stay this green for the foreseeable future. You can find all these facts and more at the Council of Forest Industries website.

Some of the action in Hidden Dawn takes place at Howe Sound Secondary School whose facade has become almost iconic to me now. It has a lovely blue/green roof, epic views and a fairly spectacular entrance.

Around the back you can see the car park where Dawn decided to cause havoc and the little trail leading off to the left where Sky and Connor pedalled like mad to draw the elk away. That was a fun scene to write!

The shopping precinct also features with Connor’s dad’s shop the very useful supplier of camping equipment and bear scarers. And, of course, this was the setting of Sky’s first fateful encounter with the poachers. Boo hiss!

Of course, the story does not take place exclusively in Squamish. Vancouver plays quite a big role and especially the school trip to the Museum of Vancouver. Here is the entrance in all its crabby, space-shippy glory. If I ever do get to go to Vancouver, I would spend an awful lot of time here!

Last, and absolutely not least, I wanted to show you a bit of Vancouver Island, the home of the Kwakwaka’wakw (and, yes, I do love saying that word as often as possible. It is delicious to pronounce!). Here is the view from Shushartie, which is around about the area Sky and Connor visit to test Sky’s abilities. This kind of country is absolutely threaded through my bones, it’s where my heart yearns to be. Dense, lush forest, serene water and rocky shores. I can practically smell the sea, the sky and the forest from here.

One day. One day.

Hidden Dawn is on preorder!

Well, this is surreal. I can see my book on actual retailers where people can actually buy it! I never thought I’d see that.

Official publication date is 1st January 2017. I decided to publish it in 2017 seeing as 2016 was such a poor year for the world. I don’t want to risk the 2016 Curse! New year new start and all that.

Hidden Dawn can now be preordered globally on Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo and B&N. It will be available on all these retailers plus Amazon on 1st January 2017. Exciting!

I’ve used a company called Pronoun to distribute my ebook. They are relatively new but I like their philosophy: author-oriented publishing. It’s completely free to distribute your ebooks with them and best of all you get to keep 100% of your net earnings from retailers. They don’t take a cut like most other distributors. Their interface is wonderfully simply and is geared towards intelligently placing yourself amongst your competition with stats on search terms, categories and pricing, etc. So far so impressed. They seem to be very ambitious for the future too so I’m excited about new features yet to come.

Pronoun also create a lovely book page for you with buttons to the five top retailers where they distribute your ebook. You can see mine at the link below where there’s also a link for more information about Pronoun.

At last…

I’ve done it.

I’ve actually gone and done it.

I feel like I’ve been writing this book for a thousand years although it’s more like three. It’s taken me a long time to get going on it, not for lack of time but for lack of courage. Since I first dreamed of my stag it has felt like such an important story to tell, like my whole life is resting on it. I guess you could call my dream my very own spirit vision, so it’s a story that really defines my soul. And for that reason it has been a very intimidating endeavour. I hit a good run in the last few months, however, so I’ve got it finished at last and am now working through the long list of tasks required to actually publish it.

So what is this story all about?

Well, it’s about losing and finding. It’s about the balance of life. It’s about the battles we wage within our own minds. It’s about the struggles we endure to do the right thing. And it’s about a broken girl and a very special elk.

Here’s the official blurb:


The Tenants of Earth: Part One


When Sky Madison loses her last relative in England she is forced to live with her estranged aunt in a small town in British Columbia. But not only is she a stranger in a foreign land, she is also an alien amongst her own species. Since losing her twin brother and her mother nearly seven years ago, Sky has shut down her mind, incarcerating her emotions and locking away her memories. Her tight control is the only way she can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But the wilds of Canada will not let her keep control so easily. Figures appear in the mist. First Nation artefacts summon a disturbing ability to glimpse into an unseen world. And when her dead brother begs her to save the life of an injured elk Sky is forced to question everything she is certain she knows about the world. She must stop existing and start living to determine her true role but that’s not so easy when her unleashed mind is set on her own destruction. She must delve into the mysteries of her ancestors, uncover a gruesome past for Canada’s First Nations and find a way to embrace her abilities. But to do so she must confront demons she has avoided for years and defeat new adversaries who threaten a life that must be preserved.

Yet Sky is not alone. She gains friends who stand with her, an aunt who understands her and a Tlingit neighbour who knows more about her than she is letting on. And most curious of all is an elk that won’t leave her side. Sky just needs to learn to accept them all into her life and recognise that there is something about this elk which is not entirely … elk.

If you want to know more, you’ll just have to read the book!