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PSA: Upload error

This afternoon I realised, with a slow, mounting horror, that I’d accidentally put out an incorrect version of my second book, Shadows of the Dreamspire.

Over the past couple of days, anyone who’s either bought the second book or downloaded it through Kindle Unlimited will have instead received the text for the first book, Dawn of the Dreamsmith.

Firstly, all I can do it apologise profusely and sincerely for such a mistake. As soon as I realised what had happened I uploaded the correct manuscript, and hopefully that will be on sale as soon as possible. I’ve also contacted Amazon to ask that they put out an automatic update, so that anyone that has been affected will receive the correct version.

So how did this happen? In a really banal, stupid way unfortunately. While idly browsing a chapter at the weekend, I noticed a minor typo, then the next day corrected it and uploaded a new version – or so I thought. It seems that it was at that point I inadvertently uploaded the manuscript of the first book. I’d love to crack a joke here, but honestly I’m pretty mortified.

Hopefully the issue will be resolved in the coming days for anyone who has been affected, but if not then please do contact me via my website (http://www.alan-ratcliffe.com/?page_id=12) and I’ll do everything I can to make amends.

Thanks for your patience.

  • AR

Sale: Books 1 & 2 currently 99c/99p each in US/UK

Just a quick note to say that to mark a month since the publication of Book 2 of the Raven’s Tale, both installments are currently available to buy for only 99p in the UK and 99c in the US for the next few days.

The sale will run until Wednesday night (11th October), so make sure to pick up one or the other by then. Or even both!

Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Dreamsmith-Ravens-Tale-Book-ebook/dp/B01DS1S9DC/ref=pd_sim_351_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=ZYV9FCY87YYSSWDNWKR9

Book 2: https://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Dreamspire-Ravens-Tale-Book-ebook/dp/B075C71Z8N/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

  • AR

Shadows of the Dreamspire, Book 2 of The Raven’s Tale, now available to buy

Just a quick update to announce that the second book of The Raven’s Tale trilogy is now available to buy on Amazon, for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075C71Z8N

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B075C71Z8N

If you enjoyed the first book, then I’ll hope you’ll pick this one up as well. I’m pretty happy with it, and think you’ll like it too.

Finally, another reminder that a week or so ago I updated Book 1, Dawn of the Dreamsmith, to include the prologue for Book 2 at the end – so if you haven’t done so already check it out.

I’ll be taking a week or two to let ideas for Book 3 simmer a bit, and then it’ll be straight back into the fray!

  • AR

Book 1 updated, Book 2 inbound

Hello, it’s been a while!

I thought I would just put up a quick post to let people know where things are at with Book 2 of The Raven’s Tale – the good news is that it will be out very soon.

But first of all, I just wanted to announce that I’ve updated Book 1 so that at the end it now includes the first chapter of the sequel – a bit of a thank you to everyone who bought it and read it this past year, and to hopefully whet appetites for the next one.

It should automatically update on your Kindle or reading device, but if not be sure to activate all the ‘auto-update’ settings. You should then be able to see it directly after the Epilogue.

In terms of Book 2, titled Shadows of the Dreamspire, I’ve now put the finishing touches to the final draft, the cover is ready and the new map has been drawn. There are just a few final bits to finish and tidy up, and then it will be ready to publish. At the moment I’m looking for it to go live in the first week of September.

It’s all very exciting! I’m very pleased with it, and hope that you all enjoy it as much reading it as I did writing it. Now on to Book 3!

  • AR

Where’s the book?!

It’s been a bit quiet from me for the past few months, so first of all sorry about that.

Secondly, I thought it might be a good time to put out a quick update on where things are at with the second book of The Raven’s Tale, which is currently titled Shadows of the Dreamspire.

The first book of the trilogy, Dawn of the Dreamsmith, was published a little over 11 months ago, and work has been progressing steadily on the follow-up ever since. It’s always tough to balance writing time with the demands of a full-time job and bringing up a young family, but by and large I’ve been happy with how it’s gone.

The end is finally in sight for the first draft. I’m currently working on chapter 40 out of 45, and hope to get it wrapped up by April. And as of this week, I’ve reached the same word-count as the first book, 243,000. Considering it took me about 18 months to write the first draft of book one, I’m speeding up!

So, yes, it will be a bit longer than the first, but not massively so. I’m also reasonably satisfied with the way it’s shaping up. It’ll be a little darker than the first, but I’ve been getting good feedback from the guys who have been reading each chapter as they get done, so I’m hopeful that people who liked the first will like this too.

My plan as it stands then, is to send the draft out to some beta readers in April while start my own editing, and hopefully have a second draft complete by the end of the month. After that I’ll go through it again with a fine-tooth comb to try to catch everything I missed the first two times, and have a third draft ready to go by the end of May.

While that’s all going on, I’ll be commissioning a cover, new map etc, and if the stars align I hope to publish in early June.

Hope to see you there!

  • AR

Hitting the sweet spot

When it comes to exercise, I would say that I’m probably like a lot of people. I have a membership at my local gym, and on occasion have even been known to use it.

At first it’s hard. A slog. I have to drag myself there, then joylessly endure the next hour or so until my conscience decides I’m allowed to leave.

But after a couple of weeks of this, something happens. It gets easier, but not only that, I find that I’m actually enjoying it, pushing myself ever further.

Invariably, something then happens that knocks me out of my stride. A child comes home from school with a bug that sweeps through the household like a bout of bubonic plague, or injury of some kind. Later, when I’m able to go back to the gym once again, I’m right back where I started.

And it’s exactly the same when it comes to writing.

If I have any advice to offer aspiring or struggling writers, it’s this: wherever you are, whatever else you may be doing, write something every day. No excuses.

They say your brain is a muscle, and just like your other muscles, the more you use it the stronger it becomes. It’s just as important to give the creative side of your brain a daily workout.

At first it may be hard, a slog even. You may find that you’ve only been able to write a paragraph or two, and reading it back you hate every word you’ve written. But keep at it the next day, and the next day after that. It all helps.

With me, in writing one 250,000 word novel and passing the halfway mark with the next, it’s something I’ve noticed time and time again – the more I write, the more I want to write.

If you commit time to writing every day, I can pretty much guarantee that eventually you’ll reach a tipping point, where what was an uphill struggle becomes a downhill sprint, your fingers barely able to keep up with the stream of words and ideas.

That’s the sweet spot, and it’s a fantastic feeling. Towards the end of my first book, I was writing thousands of words a day – on the day I finished it I did over 10,000. I came away from my desk that day feeling a bit light-headed!

But just as with physical exercise, it can be startlingly easy to lose momentum. Normally, its work commitments, having that much more on your plate one week that you find yourself sacrificing your writing time just to keep up. Recently, in the midst of one sweet spot, we went away for a week’s holiday and when I returned I’d lost it. This was exacerbated by the pile of work that had built up in that week that greeted me when I got back.

By the time I’d cleared the backlog, creatively I was back at day one of the gym, joylessly pushing through the pain but often finding excuses to do something else instead.

I’m back making time for myself every day to write, and gradually the momentum is coming back. I’m enjoying it again at least, and what was hundreds of words a day is starting to top a thousand, and I’m hoping the sweet spot isn’t far away.

Every writer has their own way of working, their own process – and I’ll talk about mine in more detail at a later date – but I think that whatever it is, applying it every day come what may will not only mean you reach the end more quickly, but you’ll get more out of it too.

A middling milestone

This weekend saw the achievement of a bit of a personal milestone. Not a big one, but not a small one either; a middling one, you could say.

After a big push – 4,000 words in one day, at the end of which my head was rather swimming – I put the finishing touches to the first half of my next book. And, because this is the second part of a trilogy, it also marked the halfway point of the series itself.

It’s undoubtedly a good feeling. Not only because it took me less time to reach this stage than it did the first time around. Considering that my own writing has to fit around work and family, I think I can feel proud of completing 20 chapters – 120,000 words – in the last four and a bit months. For the first book, it took almost a year to do as much (though I sped up considerably for the second half).

But I find that I’m reflective about the milestone as well. Like a mountain climber who has climbed one peak, is halfway up his second and just caught sight of the bigger one looming up beyond it. There’s a sense of achievement, sure, but also a realisation of the amount of work and sheer grind still to come. The end is at once both in sight and almost dizzyingly intimidating. But why be here at all if your intention wasn’t to climb mountains, right?

For the first time, as well, I have sight of the conclusion not just of the work but this story – this world and all the characters in it, who have been living in my head for the past two years clamouring for my attention, shouting their stories into my ear and demanding that I commit them to paper.

And that saddens me in a way that’s difficult to describe. It’s a bit like having kids. I was there at the birth of all these characters, can still recall the moment they took on a shape of their own and started to make their way in the world. I’ve been there as they’ve fought and struggled and tried to steer them onto the right path. Often, they protest and decide they’d much rather be doing something else, thank you very much, and as an indulgent parent you let them, follow behind and try to make sure they don’t fall flat on their faces. They’re yours but at the same time belong to themselves, and you have to adapt and try to keep up.

But unlike any parent, I know what the future holds for these characters of mine, and with that knowledge comes both joy and guilt. Not everyone gets a happy ending. The idea that one day soon, probably a couple of years from now, I’ll say goodbye to them for good and move on to the next thing seems ludicrous, absurd. I’m expecting it to be both a relief and the hardest thing I will ever do.

But for now they are all continuing on their paths, and they’re not the only ones. Break over, this weary mountain climber hefts his pack once more and sets his sights on the next peak.

AR

Sale this weekend!

A quick post just to say that this weekend (8-10 July), Dawn of the Dreamsmith will be on sale as part of a Kindle Countdown Deal.

For the next 24 hours it will be just 99p/99c in the UK/US, so if you’ve been umming and ahhing over getting it, now’s the perfect time to pick it up.

If you read it and liked it, buy it for a friend. Alternatively, if you hated it, buy it for an enemy!

Now that’s versatility right there.

AR

Why writing is hard

I’m going to take a guess that the reactions of those reading that headline will fall into one of two opposing camps. In one camp will be those who rolled their eyes or laughed at the notion that something as mechanically simply as applying words to paper or a screen can be difficult… and in the other camp are those who have written something or tried to.

I think the challenges can be different for every person who has at some stage sat down and tried to tease coherent sentences from the ephemeral ideas swirling through their brain. Perhaps it’s fleshing out an initial, tantalising idea into a fully-fledged plot, or writing convincing dialogue, or having the determination to keep going when you’re secretly convinced that everything you produce is terrible. Perhaps its concentration (I myself am writing this while serenaded in the background by a popular animated porcine and her family – who would be immediately recognisable to anyone with young children).

When a friend or relative has asked me over the past couple of years, since I first announced I was working on a novel, what I’ve found difficult, I always reply that it’s being confronted at the start of every chapter with a totally blank page. There’s something intimidating about that unbroken field of white, demanding to be filled and yet proving oddly adept at repelling any attempts to fill it.

It’s certainly tricky, but after doing this approximately 50 times now I’ve become accustomed to the strange sense of ennui that overtakes one at such moments, and liberal amounts of hot tea and staring solemnly out of the window are all that’s required to get over that hump. But the obstacle that is actually most difficult for me personally is the one over which I have the least control: time.

Like the majority of authors starting out, and even some of those who are well-established, I have a paid job that requires most of my time. I’m lucky enough, right now, to have one that allows me to work from home, so that during any quiet periods, or during the time others would be commuting to and from the office, I can disappear for a while into my world of fantasy and tap out another few hundred words.

But there still never seems to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I would like. I also have a wife and two young daughters (hence the piggy serenade) who I want to spend time with, even if it’s just occasionally stumbling from my office to find walls have been painted an alarming colour and being assured I was consulted on the shade.

My wife, being a wonderful and supportive person, has helped me try to get extended times where I can sit and work on my own writing. Saturday, we have decided is family day and I am at their disposal from dawn until dusk. Family days are great. Sunday, though, is writing day. Sometimes it goes well. Other times, less so.

To demonstrate what I’m talking about, I thought I’d share details of my last Writing Day.

It started off as my fault. After waking (aka being violently jumped on at 6am by two giggling marauders who apparently share my genes), I thought it would be nice to go see a film as a family early on. Our local cinema has showings of kids’ films at 10am at the weekends, so I didn’t think it would take a big chunk out of my day. The film was entertaining, and after getting back home at noon I slunk upstairs to start work. I was still at the staring-morosely-through-the-window stage of starting the chapter when I was summoned back downstairs to be informed that our oven had exploded. This proved to be a slightly melodramatic description, but the end result was the same: the appliance was broken and food could not be prepared. Cue a phone call to a step-father handy with such things, who announced he would come over to take a look, and an hour spent with my head in said oven, tinkering with heating elements and pretending I knew what the problem may be. A trip to the hardware store followed, more tinkering, lengthy discussions about what should be done next. As step-father departed, we had to go out and grab some dinner (as, you know, no oven). By the time I was called in to read stories so that our little marauders would sleep for another few hours before their next assault upon our slumbering forms, Writing Day had consisted of about 45 minutes of quality writing time.

And that, for me, is why writing is hard.

I sometimes fantasise about visiting my past self – nothing drastic, mid-20s would suffice, when time was such a lavishly abundant resource one could even afford to waste it frivolously – and tell him to knuckle down and write that goddamn book.

Of course, that isn’t how it works, and the forays into writing I made then, while ultimately unsuccessful, have all helped me now at this time, as have all the life experiences I’ve had in the meantime. No one is the same person today as they were a decade ago.

And it’s a good thing, because if time travel technology is ever invented that allows you to go back and speak to your past self, that little swine is really going to get a piece of my (his?) mind.

AR

First of all, a thank-you

In a few short days, it will be exactly three months since I published my first book, and I thought it was high time that I put something out there to thank all those who have bought it and taken the time to read it – so thank-you, you guys are incredible.

Hopefully this will be the start of a regular blog – my intention is to post updates on how work on the next book is progressing, thoughts on writing and anything else that occurs to me that might be of interest. And, really, it came about because of my wife.

It was when my first Amazon review came in – a positive one, five-stars. It’s hard to describe the sense of elation you get when you finally put out something that has taken two years of your life to put together, and then not only are people buying it and reading it… they like it! For somebody who writes for a living (although I don’t live off books – not yet! – during the day I can usually be found tapping at a keyboard to put words onto a screen in return for money and/or food) I’m not sure there’s a feeling quite like it.

Showing the review to my wife, I told her I was going to reply to it. “Do NOT reply to that review,” I was commanded. “It never looks good”, she added, showing me a few examples of authors who’d done just that. “Even if it’s to say thanks?” I asked, timorously. “If you do that then I will be forced to kill you,” she didn’t actually say, but nevertheless in tone made it clear that would be my fate if I persisted.

So, there you have it, a blog started instead so that I can express my gratitude to all those that bought Dawn of the Dreamsmith.

It’s been going pretty well. It would be wrong to say that it’s exceeded my expectations because, truthfully, I didn’t have any expectations. This is entirely new territory. This is my first time and, thankfully, on the whole you have been gentle with me.

I had hopes, of course, but sadly as yet I am not living in a diamond encrusted cloud-castle being waited upon by mystical rainbow-unicorns on the back of my very first book.

But hopefully that will come. I have a ton of ideas for other books swimming around in my brain, percolating, some fantasy, others not. Some set in the same world Cole, Raven and of course Grume inhabit, but others not. If you liked my first book, then I hope you’ll check out the ones that follow.

Eventually, that diamond cloud-castle will be mine. But in the meantime I have every intention of enjoying the journey.

AR