I’m pleased to be hosting a guest post from author Lindsay Littleson today. Her newest middle grade novel Guardians of the Wild Unicorns was released on 21st February. When I read the synopsis I was struck by the conservation angle that the book was taking. With a number of animals recently confirmed as extinct, Japan’s whaling, production of palm oil threatening orangutan habitats, this is a timely topic.
Guardians of the Wild Unicorns explores themes of friendship, adventure and conservation. The story emphasises the importance of caring for wildlife, and is particularly relevant for today’s world, when we are facing a huge variety of environmental challenges, from the large scale ecological disaster that is the deforestation of the Amazon, to the woodland habitat loss suffered by the critically endangered Scottish wildcat.
In Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, Whindfall Forest is the refuge of Scotland’s last remaining herd of unicorns. The two protagonists, Lewis and Rhona, must endeavour to keep the herd safe from a gamekeeper who has hatched an evil plan to capture and kill the unicorns for their beautiful spiralled horns. Comparisons are made in the novel to the poaching of elephants for their tusks and of rhinos for their horns. Like the unicorns in the story, rhinos are targeted by poachers because some people mistakenly believe that the horns cure ailments and are willing to pay huge sums.
Her brain filled with images she’d glimpsed on television: heaps of tusks, white as bone, long as spears; muddied elephant corpses buzzing with flies; tiny orphaned calves; blank-eyed poachers with guns slung over their shoulders. When terrible stuff like that came on the news, Mum tended to flick channels, back to the safety of celebrity quiz shows or cooking programmes, where ugly, tragic real life wasn’t allowed to intrude. And now animal poaching had come here, to this beautiful Highland moor.
My unicorns might be wild and dangerous, with horns like spears, but no animal is a match for armed poachers. Endangered animals need the help of humans who are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect them. To save the unicorns, my protagonists have to be both courageous and determined, but I wanted them to be as real as my setting. Neither Rhona nor Lewis would describe themselves as brave, but the definition of courage in the Oxford Dictionary is ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’ and both children are willing to put themselves in danger to save Scotland’s last herd of wild unicorns.
Thanks Lindsay – this sounds like an excellent story which will be both thrilling and educational. I hope there will be plenty of children – and adults – inspired by this post to take action to help endangered species.
Lewis is cold, wet and miserable on his school residential trip in the Highlands of Scotland. The last thing he expects to see is a mythical creature galloping across the bleak moorland. Unicorns aren’t real… are they?
Lewis and his best friend Rhona find themselves caught up in a dangerous adventure to save the world’s last herd of wild unicorns. Fighting against dark forces, battling the wild landscape, and harnessing ancient magic, can they rescue the legendary creatures in time?
Lindsay Littleson is a primary school teacher in Renfrewshire, Scotland. After taking up writing for children in early 2014, she won the Kelpies Prize for new Scottish writing for children with her first children’s novel, The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean.
Thank you to Kirsten at Floris Books/Discover Kelpies who #gifted me a copy of Guardians of the Wild Unicorns which I’m hoping to read and review very soon.
For the first of my two stops on the blog tour for Forsaken Genesis I’d like to welcome author M. J. Marinescu with a guest post on the best things about being an author.
Hi everyone, today I’m going to go over some of my favourite things about being an author. This is by no means a be all end all list, but it’s just some of the things that I love most about my job.
Being your own boss: As an author, you get to be your own boss (for the most part). Some traditionally published authors do have a boss in a sense, they have a publisher who gives them a deadline or an agent that schedules events and meetings etc., but for the most part, even they are in control of their own day to day activities.
Self-published and Indie-published authors are in even more control of their day to day routines. This can be good or bad for people. It takes a highly motivated and driven person to succeed as a self-published or Indie author. You do not have an agent or publishing house marketing your work, so you need to get out there and do it all yourself. Being able to set your own schedule and pace can be very rewarding.
For me, this isn’t so bad because I love interacting with people, especially fans, not even necessarily my own fans but fans of sci-fi and fantasy in general. I, like many other writers, do have deep running anxiety about “being out in the world” but you need to learn to deal with the butterflies and get out there and spread the word.
Working at something you love: This should probably go without saying, but I love telling stories and sharing them with people. Shortly after I learned to read and write I started creating stories. My first story ever written was about a spacefaring penguin. I remember being so happy and proud of it and bringing it in to my kindergarten teacher. She was even impressed, and we used to read them out to the class. Ever since that day I was hooked.
I know it’s totally cliché to say but if you’re doing something you love you never have to work a day in your life.
Interacting with readers: The best part about writing to me is seeing peoples’ reactions to my stories. Having them fall in love with and/or hate certain characters. Reading fan theories or forums discussing little details most people may overlook. These are the best things about being a writer. There’s nothing better than knowing people love your work, the world and characters you’ve created. If I can make someone’s day a little better through my writing, then I’ve done my job, and without the wonderful fans, I could not do what I do.
Creation! A God am I: I love being able to create worlds and people. Something that I have really noticed lately, in Hollywood especially (sorry to call you out Hollywood) is the lack of original ideas or willingness to take risks on new ideas. We’re seeing this more and more with all the reboots from 80’s and 90’s movies and cartoons and generally predictable movies.
One thing that I enjoy doing is taking ideas and putting my own spin on them. You can see this in my novel Forsaken Genesis. While it’s an “Urban Fantasy” I have taken things and thrown them all together. It’s why I struggle to give my book a genre because it combines so many elements of different ones. Is it Cyberpunk? New Adult? Young Adult? Urban Fantasy? LGBTQ+ Fiction etc. etc.
Being able to let your imagination run wild to create fantastical worlds and places is a wonderful feeling. One word of warning, however, is that to always make sure you have a solid foundation for your worlds and abide by the rules you have created. One of my pet peeves as a fan (and I’m sure I’m not alone on this) is when a writer sets up a world and tells us the rules only to have something come along later and change things on us. Gravity will always be gravity, I don’t expect to wake up one morning, take a step outside and float off into space so don’t do that in your writing either. This may be a bit of an extreme example, but the notion holds true. Your readers deserve better than that so think twice before you do something “against your rules”.
The other thing I love about being free to create the stories I want to tell is that I can do just that. I can tell the story that I want to tell. If you want to see more diversity and representation in movies, art and literature sometimes you need to get out there and do it yourself. I pride myself on having diversity in my stories that doesn’t feel forced. My characters are who they are, period. They aren’t held back by their identity or used as a “token” they are fleshed out beings and I hope people can smile and feel proud and even relate to them.
There’s nothing in the world I would rather do than tell a good story.
So those are some of the things that I love most about being an author. What do you all think? What are some of your favourite things about writing? Let me know in the comments below or if you have any other questions or even if you just want to talk hit me up on Twitter @MJMarinescu. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you all have a great day and I’ll talk to you soon.
Come back on Halloween to find out more about Forsaken Genesis.
Today I’m pleased to welcome Lisa Lueddecke to the blog with a very insightful piece on why writing your second published book can be tricky.
Writing that Difficult Second Book
Writing my first book, A Shiver of Snow and Sky, was one of the most exhilarating, organic things I’ve ever done. The story came from me so easily, to the point where I could write more words per day than I ever had before, for any consistent amount of time. I was bursting with ideas, and trying to find room to fit them all into one story, working hard to ensure that any future readers, if I were lucky enough to get an agent and a publisher, would see the world as I saw it. Could feel the world as I felt it. I wrote obsessively, over long and delirious hours, unable to quiet the characters and the scenes floating around in my mind. I wrote from before dawn, until afternoon or evening. I sometimes carried a notebook with me, so I didn’t forget anything if I was away from my computer.
When I did get lucky enough to get an agent and a publisher, I got something else as well: a two book deal. Instead of just editing the first book and preparing it for publication, I had to then think about writing a second one. This was good for me, because I already knew the story, and I knew how it would fit into the world and the bigger picture. I knew roughly where I wanted to go with it, and I thought that I would sit down and do what I had done before: let the story take over, and just write. But instead of writing thousands of words a day, I was writing a few hundred words per day, maybe a thousand. I found myself being extra careful, second-guessing myself and my voice, and editing as I went along. I realized very quickly that it was a completely different experience than writing my first book, because I knew that this one would be published. People were going to read it, and I knew when they would read it, and it silenced that thrilling voice and that sense of excitement that had been so vibrant the first time around.
For me, it wasn’t a case of having run out of ideas. I knew my world well, and I knew what stories still lay beneath its icy surface, waiting to be told. Instead, I found the knowledge that, as soon as I was done with it, and sent it from my computer, people would read it. It wasn’t simply between me and my keyboard, and even though I had hoped to be published while writing the first one, I didn’t know if I would. I just wrote it for me. Being published changed my relationship with writing, and in a way, I think it had to. It is different writing with deadlines than with all the time in the world, and it’s different writing to be read than writing for yourself, at least in my experience. While this is something that I am still working on to this day, I did manage to get through writing that second book, and I’m taking the things that I learned into writing new things. Publishing will always have deadlines, and books will always have readers. My job is to train my voice to carry on, and to be brave enough to keep telling stories I love, even though some things have changed.
A few things I did to try to make writing my second book a little bit easier:
• I set up a designated writing space that I found inspiring, devoid of clutter or too many distractions.
• I would turn off my wifi from time to time to keep myself from checking Twitter or other social media websites.
• I would play music I found inspiring for that scene, or music that I listened to while writing the first book.
• I made sure to take walks outside, or to at least sit outside to get some fresh air. It always seemed to reset my mind.
It may not always be as easy as it was when I was writing my first (published) book, but in time, I can learn to let go of the worries and the pressures and just do what I love the most: tell stories from the heart, and then set them free to find their homes.
A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke out now in paperback (£7.99, Scholastic)