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Stewart Hotston

Writing, Editing, Watching and Reading

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fantasy

Do we improve?

I’m not a fan of self improvement. I’m pretty much the cantankerous bugger who emerged out of being a clueless but unaccountably angry teenager twenty years ago. I suspect friends who know me well probably stop telling me what new diet they’re on, what new method of giving up this or that habit they dislike because they know I’ll sneer and ask them to show me the peer reviewed papers that suggest the method will work to change who they are.

It’s not that I’m some sort of essentialist about human character, it’s just that I’ve reflected on my own utterly inability to overcome (for any real length of time) my own predilections and gut responses that I simply don’t buy that a book or course can manage it – especially when the best studies show that such ideas are nonsense dressed up in respectability to fleece those who should know better via their anxieties. As Maria Konnikova would say – we’re all of us capable of being conned.

However, there are some things we can get better at. Skills being one of them.

My first book, A Family War, came out last May and did ok for itself. People bought it and, if the reviews are genuine, they seemed to enjoy it. However, at the risk of putting anyone off buying it I wasn’t completely happy.

I wrote the first draft of that book in 2005. It lived many lives, losing characters and chapters, before I believed that someone might take it seriously enough to publish it. After a long journey involved a couple of agents and a couple of publishers it got there via Matt at Alternative Realities.

However, I felt it dragged a little in the middle. I felt it wasn’t as tight as it could be. Looking back now I wistfully wish I could have led with the writing I’m delivering now because I think it’s so much better.

That hasn’t happened by accident. It’s also not largely happened just by magic, or me writing more. It’s happened by me listening to people, seeking out other, better writers to give me honest feedback. Asking readers to say what they liked but also what they found a bore, or off putting.

Writers like Adrian Faulkner, Sarah Cawkwell, Jo Zebedee, Adam Nevill and James Brogden. All of them have helped me immensely at various points – if you don’t read their books, then you should. Except for Adrian. You’ll have to wait for his proper debut – it’s going to blow your socks off.

Of the readers? I’ll spare their blushes.

I’ve also learned the rudiments of editing – which has taught me some of my own blind spots in the process.

I have always believed in the stories I’ve written but where I hope, and trust, that I’ve improved is in the character work and the tightness of the writing. Hey, I’m still at the point where entire openings or characters have to be lost or changed to work, but these days I can see them a bit clearer.

The other big change was that in my first novel I didn’t plan. I had an end I wanted my character to get to. I had a world that had been built from my own experience in tech and science. But I had not chapter plans, not character arcs already determined in my head.

I was lucky – it largely worked. But these days I plan. I look at my characters and feel what motivates them, where they’re going and what they’re going to experience along the way. I’ve found it far from being constraining (my original worry was that knowing the future course of the story would mean its actual writing was boring). Instead I’ve found it allows me to deliver something tighter, something much better connected to its own sense of purpose.

Now, you might come across Dreams of Darkness later this year (and an awesome cover reveal is going to come soon) and think this post was just me stroking my own ego. Even if you do, I think I’m more comfortable about my writing now than when I first wrote A Family War.

Part of me is saying – if you didn’t finish A Family War, don’t go away! Try Dreams of Darkness.

Part of me is saying – if you did like it? Well wait till you get a load of what’s coming!

Just in case

Tales of Wild Light is now available on Amazon. There’s also the ebook – but hey, if you’ve gone here, then you should have it already! If you’ve taken the free version from the offer – good on you. If you fancy having a real version of John’s cover then I’d suggest getting yourself a physical copy of this one. It’s pretty amazing and with a matt finish looks even more imposing.

Also, if you’d like to do me a massive favour – please leave a review of the collection once you’re done with it.

ta

Stewart

Tales of Wild Light

After a feverish day yesterday, this is now available for free for those of you who’ve signed up to the mailing list. It’ll be a few days before it hits amazon so not only are you getting it for free, but you’re getting it ahead of anyone else. I especially like the cover, which is by the amazing John Haynes.

To get a free copy, use this link and go have some fun.

These stories have been collected over a number of years – ones that I love but which were written almost exclusively for my own pleasure. Except for Farm Boy – that was written for a friend who wanted to see Destiny get kicked on the pods. That one’s for Ian Belcher.

I hope you enjoy these!

Cheers for all your support and here’s to many more stories in the future

Stew

Dreams of Darkness

Here’s the blurb for the first of the series, The Fox’s Hope. I hasten to add that it’s a complete novel though, so don’t worry that you’ll discover a world in which you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied.

Millennia ago, man walked the Dream with creatures now dimly remembered in myths and legends. Then came the Darkness, for which all believe man was responsible. To defeat it, man was banned from the Dream, cast out into the world of dumb matter.

Chris Elkin knows nothing of this – he’s more concerned with failing his degree, being dumped by his girlfriend and losing access to the inheritance left to him by his late mother. When his mother’s best friend gives him a stone with a hole in it everything seems to change. Suddenly he’s being forced from his home and discovering that if he doesn’t deal with his mother’s legacy, both worlds will go to war.

On the edge of the Dream, Maela, a Fae ambassador, finds humanity flouting the ban. She travels home to warn her people but her news is not welcome. Maela is sent to determine if man truly is to blame for the Darkness and if he is, to unite the Fae in a war against all mankind.

Shaal, an ancient fox spirit, is a survivor who mourns the loss of his lover in the last war. He still haunts the shattered lands where they once lived. Stumbling across a deliberately forgotten memory. Shaal wants to return home and use its power to restore his land. Instead he finds the Fae want what he has and will sacrifice thousands to get it.

Chris, Maela and Shaal converge in a climactic battle against those forces who would wipe out mankind to stop the Darkness.  Even if they win, shadowing the edges of their confrontation, the Darkness is plotting its first moves.

Dreams of Darkness is an epic fantasy spread across our world and the world of the Dream, that place where all our myths, all our legends are real. It is the first book of a new Epic Fantasy series, The Fox’s Hope and asks, if all our dreams are true, what would happen if our two worlds collide?

Dreams of Darkness

This is Maela. She’s the daughter of the High King of the Parade, the combined courts of the Seelie and Unseelie Fae, although not all Fae are members of the Parade, not by a long shot. She’s also in exile, having had ideas considered too dangerous to leave her unharmed. She is of House Dark, one of the elder Fae Houses.

When I was developing my ideas for DoD (as I call it), one of the central themes I wanted to explore was difference. Not diversity for its own sake, but how different peoples and cultures may never see eye to eye simply because their foundations rest on entirely different premises.

Having said that, I explicitly wanted to write a female protagonist whose colour (and Maela isn’t locked into being the same as this picture shows her) was starkly different to that of the other main characters.

I’ll show those characters in other posts – we have a Kitsune called Shaal, an ancient fox spirit and we have Chris, a schlubby white male student from the Great Britain.

For this story, whose ideas impact the entire world, it seemed fitting that the characters we access the tale through represent its very different elements.

I’m writing this now because the novel is done and I’m talking about it with a publisher I’ve admired for a while. I hope to have more news that I can properly share soon but in the meantime, I thought I better start talking about a book that I love, that stands on its own as a proper story but whose world is built for a properly epic cycle to be told within.

 

The Fox’s Hope

I can finally come with some awesome news. As of this weekend I sold my novel, Dreams of Darkness to Ticketyboo Press. I can’t tell you just how jump around the room happy I am with this news.

Ticketyboo are a great outfit with some great authors on their lists.

What’s more amazing is that they’ve also taken the 2nd and 3rd books in the series as well. Dreams of Darkness is a standalone novel but it builds a world in which there is a much greater tale to tell and I’m delighted to get the chance to write that larger story and see it come into print. The series, in case you haven’t guessed from the title of the post, is called The Fox’s Hope.

I’ll be posting some pieces about the main characters, the world and the ideas over the next few weeks but this post is just to say….YIPEEEE!

WIP

As promised earlier this week, please find attached a 1,500 word sample for a new novel that’s completely unconnected to the world of Helena Woolf and the Oligarchs.

The novel is provisionally titled ‘Dreams of Darkness’ and stands alone. It’s currently with Ian Whates at NewCon Press, although he’s yet to read it, so there’s no guarantee at all that he’ll a) like it and b) want to publish it. However, Ian has carved out an amazing business in publishing superb stories, so regardless of my involvement you should seek him out and read the people he publishes cos he has a great sense of out of the ordinary writers.

The story asks the question, ‘what if all our myths were true,’ and then says, but if that’s the case, how is it we have the world we have today where science appears to rule and magic, mystery and legends are footnotes in history books.

The sample takes place very near the beginning and features one of the three main characters, a Fae called Maela from one of the Seelie houses. She’s discovered something of critical importance to her people, whose import she doesn’t understand and is travelling home when this part of the tale takes place. Once you’ve read it you’ll understand why I chose the image 🙂

I’d love your feedback on this, especially whether the action is interesting and if you think it would be something you’d read more of.

Cheers – link below

Dreams of Darkness WIP

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