Andalucian Medieval City Sketch

Shiny! My fantasy author journey begins

I’ve wanted to be a (Sci) Fantasy author since I was knee high to a Hobbit. Over the years, I wrote any number of short stories, including one about where continents came from and another about why we grow old. They were fun and all, but deep down, what I always really wanted to do was write a novel. And I had plenty of ideas as to what they would be about. But unlike my short stories, which fill several notebooks, the novels never got beyond the first couple of chapters. Apart from one, which I decided to write from finish to start, largely I suspect for the purposes, as our American friends so colourfully say, of “shits’n’giggles”. That barely got past the first (last?) chapter. But Life, laziness (and in the case of the back-to-front book) practicality, always seemed to get in the way.

Then along came Leila and City in the Mist.

The idea first began to coalesce in southern Spain in the early autumn of 2018. I originally envisaged it as a Fantasy Comedy, a kind of Discworld, but set in 13th Century Al-Andalus. There would be Moors and Spaniards and in this case, the twain would never meet. But when I sat down to write it, something happened. After the first few chapters. Leila took on a life of her own and promptly decided that her story was going to be quite unlike the one I had in mind. Classic Leila, really. If you ask me, I’d say that it’s now more of a Sci-Fantasy, or maybe a Space Fantasy, although to be fair, Space doesn’t much feature in Book 1. You’ll have to wait for Book 2 for lashings of that. Unless Leila has other ideas by then.

The other thing it became was finished.

Hoorah! A novel, at last! Little did I know then that I had only just begun.

I wrote the first draft in two months in 2019 , shortly after moving to Seville, a city of inestimable beauty, intoxicating charm and extremely cultured, though also very cliquish Sevillians. I lived in a studio on the Paseo de las Delicias, from where I had a close-up view of the Torre del Oro. By day, I wrote, drank rebujitos and walked along the banks of the Wadi al-Kabir, today’s Guadalquivir. By night I wrote, drank vermouth and ate tapas. For a while, it was heaven. And then, for reasons best described as perverse, I moved back to England for the first time in almost 25 years and began working on the second draft, swapping sunshine for rain and rebujitos for Somerset dry cider.

Then I got a job on the other side of the world, and I moved again.

By the time I reached Beijing in March 2020, Covid was closing in, City was history and I had started working on other novels. As you may already have gleaned, I am part-magpie, and so am easily distracted by new (and shiny) things. But Leila was not done with me. And so from time to time, I would go back to Khabrona and tinker. Last year, I finally finished that second draft, as well as two other novels. And then unable to focus, I spent this year alternating between re-writing all three before I finally decided that dammit, I should just focus on one. Especially if I planned to ever publish. And now, here we are.

I don’t mean published (though if you’ve signed up to my monthly newsletter, you’ll already have chunk of City as both thanks and thinly-veiled enticement), but that will happen soon. I hope. I’m aiming for January. That probably means February. March at the worst. Setting yourself up as a self-published author long-distance is still complicated, even these days.

To prevent myself lapsing back into prevarication – oh, the agonies of new author indecision – I spent last week doing this website. I will not lie. The process was painful. I may have started reading Sci-fi as a baby Replicant, but Tech and I have never been besties. I used a template, but also wanted to change it. And that involved some tinkering. Then, there was rejigging to be multi-device friendly. Finally, I had great fun integrating with other sites like MailChimp. The final result was snagtastic, and while most of the mistakes were D’oh obvious in retrospect, some took more head-scratching to resolve. Then, once all the kinks had been ironed out (of the website, anyway), I decided that I hated it. So I started again.

I’m pretty happy with it now. I’m also pretty chuffed with my attempt at a book cover. Though to be fair, the AI bots at MidJourney did the heavy lifting, I just added the titles. I think it’s 70s Pulp fabulous, but it probably won’t be the final cover. I’m still planning to pay a human artist for that. Unlike bots, us meatsacks still need to eat. But I wanted a nice image for the website, and MidJourney’s is honestly a million times better than my first stab at a cover. And no, I will not be making that public. Ever.

I’m now hooked on MidJourney. I’m going to play around with it in the lead-up to publishing. I still have to find Beta readers and an editor. And then a cover designer. (Unless you all love the cover as much as I do – change my mind!) I’m going to get the bots to mock-up images of my characters and some of the places they inhabit/visit. If they come out well, I’ll share the results here.

Anyway, I’m happy to have you on board. If there’s anything you’d like to say, or know, here’s how to reach me.

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