Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Jo Zebedee’s First Year Review

Sunset Over Abendau, the sequel to the best-selling debut novel by Northern Ireland’s Jo Zebedee, will be released on 16 April. Looking back on the last 12 months, and ahead to that release, Jo Zebedee has kindly agreed to an interview.

TW: It’s been an eventful year for you, publishing your first book and accruing sales to such an excessive degree some might call it selfish. Having achieved best-seller status with your first book, does that lessen or intensify nervousness ahead of the sequel’s release?

JZ: It's been a crazy first year. Lots of attention - more than I ever expected - and a huge juggling act (I also have a day job and a not-quite-so-young-anymore family.) In the weeks leading up to the launch I'm running a writers' event, attending Mancunicon (and being on a couple of panels) and editing another book, so I don't have time to be as nervous!

I think, though, this time I will enjoy it more. Reviews on my first two books (I self published a
standalone novel last year) have been astonishingly good, and I have a lot more confidence, so
less feels like it's riding on Sunset. I spent too much time worrying last year and not enough
enjoying it - I'd like to reverse that this year.

TW: What advice would you give it aspiring authors, whether just starting out, or as they approach the release of their first book?

JZ: Be realistic. Few hit the market and do well straightaway. If there are slow weeks, don't panic. But, also, no one else will promote it as well as you can. You were passionate enough about the idea to spend months, sometimes years, writing about it. Get out there, on whatever platforms you feel able to interact on, and make connections.

Oh, and up until that first release writing will have been relatively sedate. Once you're promoting, editing the next and trying to come up with something new, things get crazy. So enjoy the buzz and the rush of the first when things aren't too chaotic.

TW: Obviously you’ve written the Abendau trilogy, but in addition to that, what else have you been writing, and how many projects do you usually have on the go at once?

JZ: I have lots on! As well as the trilogy I self published Inish Carraig last year, which ended up on a recommends list for the Hugo award, which was a real shock. Inish Carraig is set in my native Northern Ireland; in 2017 I have another Northern Irish based story coming out from Inspired Quill. This one will be my first fantasy, which is exciting.

I'm also working on a new sf thriller and have plans for a fantasy series when I find the time to write it. I also wouldn't rule out a return to Abendau at some stage.

TW: Do you like reading the same sort of things you write?

JZ: Yes. I read a huge amount of fantasy and sci fi, preferring deep characterisation and escapism to technology and whiz-banging (although I do like a nice, zippy spaceship).

But I also read lots that I don't write - magical realism, for instance. It's a million miles from my normal light description (although my fantasy book coming out in 2017 has a feel of it). I read lots of genres- general fiction, crime, literary. Anything that intrigues and takes my fancy. I think it's good for a writer to read widely.

TW: When you aren’t writing, what do you do to relax?

JZ: Ha! I have time to relax?

I find it easier in the summer because I like walking and gardening - I grow a lot of veg - plus cooking. Very domestic for a dark sf author! I also love spending time as a family, cinema, that sort of thing and try to keep a good portion of my weekend free for that.

TW: Over the last 12 months or so you’ve had your first book published and prepared for the release of the trilogy’s second instalment. What’s been the best and most difficult moments of the last year?

JZ: Best - knocking Star Wars off number one in the charts was hard to beat! And the Hugo/Campbell call-out. I also had a fab launch night for Abendau's Heir at Waterstones in Belfast which was great fun, and a great first convention as a panellist at Titancon in Belfast.

Most difficult - the slow weeks when sales were tough. And the work/life balance - I'd like to swing that a bit more in my favour at some point.

TW: Sexual violence against men is an area that’s largely neglected in history, fiction and the modern media (a third of the Rotherham victims were boys, though this is rarely reported). How difficult was it to write about that?

JZ: Tremendously difficult, and I didn't set out to do it. However, I did set out to write an accurate portrayal of torture and its impact and, once researched, it became clear that sexual violence fills a large component of that, both to men and women. Once my character was in the position he was in, it was inconceivable that he would not have been subjected to it.

Finding research into men was a little tricky - most rape studies are about female victims. Once I found the source material, it was utterly harrowing.

I hope I did the subject justice. I hope, more than anything, it wasn't gratuitous - and the reviews tell me it didn't come across that way. I chose not to overtly show the sexual violence in a scene, but instead did a slower, more personal reveal of it - as the impact is deeper than the event alone could have shown. In fact, I felt if I portrayed it on-page, I'd reduce its impact. It's easy to write a scene that shocks - it's much harder to write one with real pathos.

I hope, as well, in the sequels, I do justice to its impact.

TW: Do the events in Sunset Over Abendau follow on immediately after Abendau’s Heir, or is there a gap [if so, what’s happened in the meantime]?

JZ: There's a ten year gap, mostly where the changed order reflected at the end of Abendau's Heir is implemented. But it's easy enough to pick it up as the follow-up as those ten years have done little to reduce the impact of the events of book one. That was important to me - there can be no quick fix to the ordeal I've portrayed.

What was also important was to show that impact wasn't just on Kare. He's the epicentre, yes, but everyone surrounding him has been affected. As the story moves on, it becomes much more of a shared narrative.

Overall, the characters are older, cagier and more world-weary. I like the older tone - and that deepens further in book three.

TW: What’s the premise of Sunset Over Abendau?

JZ: Kare promised he'd hold the Empire for ten years and no longer. A decade later, he's no nearer to freeing himself. Haunted by past events, in a role he hates, the temptation to walk away bites deep.

When the lost heritage of his father is revealed a new future opens to him, one threatened when old enemies rise against those he loves. To safeguard them, Kare will have to fight for the Empire he hates and face the deadly secret hidden deep in Abendau's deserts.

TW: Abendau’s Heir had a pretty tight focus, and a relatively small set of characters we got to know very well. What new characters will we see in Sunset Over Abendau?

JZ: A few new characters appear - we learn about Ealyn's heritage and are introduced to the Space Roamers who hold the key to that revelation.

We also find out more about the desert people through Baelan, a young adult point of view, one of two key YA voices in it (I often write cross over material.) The desert people hold the key to understanding the Empress, so his voice is important to the trilogy.

But we also have old favourites - both good 'uns and thoroughly bad eggs.

TW: What are your plans for the future?

JZ: I'm busy, with writing work lined up to the middle of 2017. In the Autumn, Abendau's Legacy will come out to complete the trilogy. I also have a number of short pieces coming out in various anthologies.

I blog weekly, at least, on and plan to keep that up.
In the meantime, I'm writing new material - a sf thriller at the moment, and then I hope to get stuck into what I'm calling a frontier-fantasy duology. I might also tackle a sequel to Inish Carraig. And somewhere amongst that, I'd like to find time to hunt out a new agent - I think I'm at the point where I need someone in my corner.

Sunset Over Abendau can be pre-ordered here.
Links to my books can be accessed via:

Thanks to Jo for the interview, and best of luck with Sunset Over Abendau.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Adventures of Sir Edric – first reviews

The first two reviews for my forthcoming fantasy-comedy, The Adventures of Sir Edric (releases in just under a week), have come through (several more are expected in the next couple of weeks). I’ll add these to the Reviews tab above, but as release is near I’ll also post short blog articles adverting readers to new reviews.

Quite pleased, as the current ratings are “I’m obsessed” and “9/10”. So, if you’re considering buying The Adventures of Sir Edric but are unsure if it’ll be your cup of tea, check the reviews and see what you think.

Here are the first two reviews:

"He is far from perfect and he does not strive to be perfect. However, despite all these flaws, you can’t help but root for him. Dog as well. The two play off each other perfectly. Dog has morales, but is unwavering in his service to Edric, and often does most of the fighting and saving. It makes his character as interesting and important as Edric himself."

"So overall, if you’re looking for humor, an unwholesome character, and a great adventure, I highly recommend this book."

"The Adventures of Sir Edric is a well written, well-paced story, set in a colorful, well-planned world.  If you haven’t read too much comic fantasy (like me), this is a great book to start with.  But bring some tissue… you’re gonna laugh ‘til you cry!"

The limited edition hardback can be pre-ordered here,

[Initial release will be the hardback and e-book, but no pre-order for the e-book, as yet].


Friday, 18 March 2016

Guest post: Authors Navigating Instagram - Hashtags, Sister Apps, and Best Practices, by Jo Michaels

Happy Friday! Jo Michaels here. Before I get going with my guest post, I’d like to take a moment to give Thaddeus a huge shout of thanks for having me on his blog. It’s such an honor to be here and be allowed to share all the things with you. Okay, that done, let’s get into why I’m here in the first place. Today, I’m talking Instagram. We’ll go over some sister apps and why you need them, where to get your hashtags and why they matter, and best practices. Ready? Grab those pens and notebooks, and let’s get going!

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, I urge you to check it out. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, where posts with text are the most important forms of updates, Instagram allows people to communicate via pictures—and images are a universal language. To get the app, go here for Android devices and here for Apple.

Let’s start with the hashtags. There is no other social media site where hashtags are more important (not even Twitter). Instagrammers click photos they like and then through to the hashtag to fill their feed with similar photos or specific user types. Here’s an interesting post on how many hashtags you should use and why. To find the ones that are trending highest, you’ll see a link there that’ll guide you to this site. There, you can actually perform a search on a specific topic to gain insight on which hashtags are the best for your image/user account type (author, artist, photographer, etc…) and gain followers that way.

Sister apps you’ll want to have(I’ll explain why in a moment): Layout Android devices can grab it here Apple devices here and Hyperlapse (not yet available on Android) Apple devices can get this here

Why you need those apps: Instagram allows you to post a single photo from your phone or device’s camera roll, with Layout, you can collage more than one image to make a single post photo you can then put in your feed. Pretty cool, huh? Instagram also lets you post fifteen second videos to your timeline, and this is where Hyperlapse comes in. It can do slow motion films and other cool things to feed your page with content.
Speaking of content, let’s get to best practices, shall we? Instagram is all about the visuals, and people are hungry for them.
  • You should typically post at least once a day (I totally fail at this). Every time you log on, take a look at your feed on the home screen. You’ll notice how massively and quickly it updates. Your pictures will get buried rather quickly if you don’t post them often.
  • Don’t repeat a lot of the same content. People like fresh and new; keep your account’s feed fresh and new.
  • Follow others! Everyone likes to network with the folks in their circles. Grow yours.
  • Take part in monthly challenges. In February, there was the #AuthorLifeMonth challenge. I gained a number of new followers, and I got to know more writers (expanded my circle).
  • Comment. Leave messages for others! It’s just good manners.
  • Click the little heart icon when you really like something. This pushes the image to the trending (when you click on a hashtag, the first ten images or so that pop up) section of the hashtag’s feed, and it’s not difficult to do.

If you’re wanting to sell on Instagram, here’s a post that’ll help you with that.
Now, as a last word, let me throw this out there: Facebook bought Instagram a while back, and you can now set your ad to be placed over there, too. Double the marketing! Food for thought. *grin*
I hope you all learned something useful from me today. I had fun putting this together.
If you’d like to give me a follow on my blog, where I often post tips like the ones above, you can find me at

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Thaddeus for having me over to entertain you!
Any questions? If so, pop them in the comments, and I’ll be around to answer.
Well, that’s all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Tips: Writing Comedy

With The Adventures of Sir Edric to be published on 31 March (initially as an e-book and signed limited edition hardback, which can be pre-ordered here, paperback to follow), I thought a piece about writing comedy might be apt. [I’m toying with the term mirthjape as a counterpoint to grimdark].

Consistent, But Not Repetitive
A consistent level is important. You can’t have cunning political satire one moment, and then expletive-ridden slapstick the next because readers will feel like they’ve been enjoying Yes, Minister only for the tape to be changed halfway through. At the same time, variety to the jokes will help the book feel less like a one note gong.

Why I Don’t Like F-Bombs
F-bombs, as the Yankee Doodles say, are not to my taste in writing. The problem is that the word and its various forms are so useful that you can shove them in anywhere. Personally, I prefer trying to come up with more varied and original terms. Plus, ye olde insults like rapscallion and scallywag are a bit more charming.

The Hidden Joke
I don’t do this too often, but sometimes I like to include a hidden joke (maybe once or twice a story). A hidden joke is either one that only makes sense in the context of a later event, or one that is subtle enough for a reader to miss it entirely. The advantage is that if you see it, it’s amusing, and if you don’t then you don’t miss out on anything because you don’t know it’s there. Obviously, this means they might not be visible to all readers, which is why I only do it once or twice in a story, so people who re-read might get something they didn’t see the first time.

Not Everybody Will Laugh
Along with music, comedy’s probably about as subjective as things get. And some people don’t like satire, others dislike slapstick, and so on. Not everybody will like your style. Some are very politically correct, others (who are handsome and from Yorkshire) are not. So, don’t worry about it if some people don’t like your particular style. Unless everybody hates it, of course…

Satisfy Yourself First.
It’s important to be at least slightly amused by your own stuff. If it doesn’t (the first time) make you smile, then why will anyone else enjoy it? The first person you need to satisfy is yourself. Then beta readers/editors and, finally, readers.

Get A Second Opinion (And Then A Third)
It’s all very well laughing at your own jokes [in private], but what really matters is when Other People like your stuff. Beta reader feedback is even more useful, I’d venture, for comedy than serious writing precisely because it’s so subjective. Just be sure your beta readers are brutal enough to be honest if your jokes are terrible.

So, those are a few basic suggestions for writing comedy.

Do give The Adventures of Sir Edric a look. It’s more amusing than a mongoose wearing a fez. If you’re unsure, here are some free short stories for a taster.