Week 36 | A day in the life of your protagonist

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 36

OK. So by now, everyone probably knows that my protagonist is Anna Squires, 11 year old daughter of single-mother Holly Squires. Depending on what time of year it is, Anna’s daily life differs wildly so – to avoid spoilers – I’ve chosen to write a ‘diary entry’ from her 11th birthday, just before The Elder Throne kicks off.


Woke up to Mum bouncing on my bed at 5:32am like she does every year (because that’s the time I was born). I tried shoving her off but she got under the covers to give me a cuddle and presents, so I can’t be too annoyed. Every year, she promises she’ll stop once she “forgets the pain of the twelve-hour labour” it took to have me, but I guess she hasn’t yet. To be honest, I think she’s just being a big baby. How much can it hurt if women have babies all the time?

At least today wasn’t a school day though, so I got to go back to sleep. After, obviously, I’d opened my presents, because it’s never too early for that. Mum got me my own gardening kit and a book on home science experiments that I’m going to try out with Tom. It shows you how to make volcanoes and everything! It also shows you how to make your own snowballs that don’t melt in summer, and that weird cornflour liquid that turns into a solid when you put it on speakers and play loud music. Mum says we’re not allowed to try the last one though, after Tom tried it a few months ago without clingfilm, got the mixture wrong and now owes his dad all his pocket money for the next three years. Mum loves music, she’d kill me if we ruined her speakers too!

Tom came over for breakfast (pancakes, obviously) and gave me Broot Force, which is this fantasy quest video game that everyone’s playing at school. It rained nearly all day today so we played it and got really far. You can play two-player and race to see who gets the Mystic Medallion first, but we didn’t do that because Tom’s had loads of practice with his cousin Aleandro and he knows how to cheat. Plus, it takes me a while to get used to playing a new game with one hand.

Actually, that was one weird thing that happened today. My present from Nana Janet and Granddad Billy was more of a question, really. They said they’d booked an appointment with a private doctor and said they’d pay to get me a prosthesis if I wanted one for secondary school. I’m not sure I do. I asked Mum what to say but she said it had to be my decision and no one else’s. Although she did add that if I did get  another one, I wasn’t allowed to throw it under a lorry like I did last time – I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me for that, haha, but I was two!

As great as all the other presents were, the best one came from Grandfather Abe. He sent me a book called Secrets of the Emerald Isle, which is packed full of Irish mythology and old folk stories. That was brilliant, but even better was the letter that came with it – he finally convinced Mum to let me go to Ireland with him this summer! I’m so excited, I want to pack right now. I can tell Mum isn’t too happy about it, which I guess is fair considering what happened to Dad over there, but I can’t help it. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tom isn’t too happy either because I’m leaving him alone all summer, but he’ll manage.

Actually, that reminds me. It stopped raining in the afternoon for a bit, so we took a break from Broot Force and went to Cho’s for some cake. I had the weirdest feeling the whole time I was out, like someone was watching me and following me. Tom said I was imagining things but it was such a strong feeling. It stopped when I went home though so maybe he’s right.

Right, Mum’s calling me for dinner now – birthday bangers and mash – got to go!

Love, me

Week 35 | An interview with a character of your choice

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 35

I was in two minds about who to ‘interview’ for this week’s question and finally settled on Priya Dhawan. I’ve used the ‘Hot Seating’ questions from before, which you can find here. Priya is a Changeling in the Seelie Court, meaning that she is a human child who wandered into their realm, and has begun to change because of exposure to their magic. However, she is not fully accepted as one of the Fae.

Priya1. How old are you?
I don’t know. I came to the Seelie Court when I was ten, but time moves weirdly here. I look about twelve but I think I might be older than that. Mrs. Cobb says I complain like an old lady.

2. Where were you born?
In my mother’s bedroom in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India. I caught her by surprise!

3. What’s your favourite food?
Spiced pumpkin and potato pie. There’s a stall that sells them throughout autumn and winter, but the best ones come from Lady Hayley Goodfellow at Mabon. It’s just about the only thing that family is good for!

4. Are you allergic to anything?

5. Cats or dogs (preference)?

6. Why?
Because I don’t think many people like them compared to dogs and I don’t see why. They’re just as good. They’re four-legged fluffy things and the best part is that you don’t have to pick up their poo because they usually do it in someone else’s garden. When I was in the human world, I had a cat called Bilāḍī (literally means cat in Gujarati) and he was my favourite thing in the world. We had to leave him behind when we moved to Ireland for my father’s work and I cried for a week.

7. What has been the best day of your life so far?
Probably making real friends (Anna and Spindle) in the Seelie Court. I don’t really count my years in the human world as my life anymore.

8. And the worst?
… I’d rather not go into it right now. Let’s just say that there’s a reason I’m staying in the Seelie Court and it isn’t because everyone’s nice to me (they’re not).

9. Do you have any habits you’re ashamed of?
Sometimes I suck the bottom of my plaits when I’m thinking or nervous. I suppose I’m not really ashamed of it but I hate the choking gagging sound when a loose hair gets stuck in the back of my throat.

10. What would make you kill someone?
An accident, I guess? I’m a healer, so I can’t imagine ever killing anyone. I’d defend myself if someone was hurting me, but I don’t think I could ever take someone’s life.

11. Have you ever smoked/taken drugs?
I’ve smoked but not taken drugs. And I only smoked once, my brother stole a cigarette for us to try so we could fit in with the school crowd. We didn’t like it and it didn’t work anyway.

12. What would you do if I poked you in the eye right now?
Poke you in both. Just because I’m a healer, doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.

13. Would you ever wear trainers without socks?
Yeah, I suppose so? I always wear boots though, and I always wear socks with them because otherwise they’d hurt my feet.

14. Who is your best friend?
Anna Squires or Spindle Larkspur. I love Anna to pieces but I’m probably closer to Spindle because we spend more time together.

15. Where did you and your best friend meet?
I met Anna after she fainted coming through the Lia Fail portal. I woke her up with some fermented troll dung… she didn’t like that, for some reason… Spindle, I’d known about for years but never really got to know each other until Anna reintroduced us.

16. Will you wear this pink dress?
I’d rather it was red but yeah, I guess.

17. Who is your favourite superhero?
I don’t have one. I prefer heroes that don’t have superpowers because I think that’s cheating a bit. Besides, faeries have powers. It doesn’t make them ‘super’. Usually it just makes them arrogant and stuck-up.

18. What are you most afraid of?
Pain. I think that what most people are afraid of when they say they’re afraid of other things – they just think those other things might hurt them. Also spiders, which Anna and Spindle find ridiculous. I don’t know why.

19. Are you romantic?
Yes. Although there’s fat chance of me ever being romantic with anybody here.

20. Do you bite sellotape or cut it with scissors?
Whatever’s quicker. I’m not particularly patient.

21. How often do you clean your teeth a day?
Twice a day, morning and night.

22. Do you pick your nose?
Only if absolutely necessary. Usually I’d blow it in a tissue but sometimes that’s not enough to clear it, is it?

23. If you could have one job, what would it be?
I’d probably be a doctor. I’m pretty good at the healing stuff. But, if not that, I’d like to work in politics. Specifically the Circle of Culture because woah, do those guys need some new ideas.

24. Would you swim with sharks?
No thanks.

25. Would you go into space?
Yes! How amazing would that be? Of course I would.

26. You sneeze into your hand in public and don’t have a tissue. What do you do?
Get a tissue from somewhere or something else to wipe it on. What else would I do?

27. Your mother/brother/sister falls over. What do you do?
I’d never see that happen so it doesn’t matter. Now, if Mrs. Cobb fell over… well, I’d move out of the way because she’s ten feet tall and would probably crush me. Then I’d try and help her up. No idea how…

28. Do you dunk biscuits in your tea?
No. I like biscuits but I usually drink my tea black so it’s not as nice to dunk them in. I’d dunk them in milk, though.

29. Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. I think you can tell who you fancy at first sight but it’s not love until you know a person.

30. Have you ever stolen anything?
I helped my brother steal that cigarette. I also stole a knife from Mrs. Cobb when I was escaping to the human world years ago but that’s about it for now, I think.

Week 34 | Your thoughts on… Self-publishing or Traditional publishing?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 34

“Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars.” – Nicholas Sparks

Obviously, I work in Pounds Sterling (until Brexit requires us to trade exclusively in Tears of Regret) but the general sentiment from Mr Sparks is spot on. Whether it be self-publishing or traditional, publishing is a business and, after your book-baby is ready for market, I wholeheartedly believe that there’s not much room for sentimentality.


I’ve adored writing since I can remember. When I showed talent enthusiasm for storytelling in class, my Year 3 teacher, Mrs. Goode, told me that books were actually written by people – like me, but grown-up. This was their job and they got paid for it. After that, there was no other career for me. Mrs. Goode encouraged me in my ambition and I promised that one day, I would dedicate my first published book to her. This is a promise I intend to keep, by the way… y’know, if and when I ever get published.

When I told my parents I wanted to be an author ‘when I grew up’, they replied with “You’d best get a proper job too,” by which they meant one that pays enough to survive on. Not exactly what an enthusiastic 7-year-old wants to hear! However, it turned out to be the soundest piece of advice they have ever given me, with the exception of “Don’t touch that, it’s hot.”

The reasons?

  • It is hard to get published (traditionally). This is a fact. Competition is high and there are so many moving parts.
  • It is even harder to be a ‘success’ story; by which I mean that you:
    • a) make back any advance a publishing house gives you (T) and
    • b) can support yourself financially with royalty cheques (T) / sales (SP).

Back in 2015, I wrote an article called The Future of Writing: Is being an author a viable career? which stated that the average author earned £11,000 a year. That’s less than minimum wage and obviously less than a living wage. Sadly I have no statistics on today’s wages but I assume the average hasn’t shifted much in the past 3 years. This is simply the reality of writing books and so I have always believed in having a separate career to support my dream. Ambition is laudable, but pragmatism is better. As the old adage goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

The article also stated that in a traditional publishing deal, an author could hope for 15% of the book cover price. This is because – as publishing is a business – the process of manuscript-to-bookshop is a lengthy and complicated one, which involves many people:

  • literary agents
  • editors
  • the marketing department
  • illustrators
  • printers.

All of these people need to be paid. They’re professionals and excellent at what they do, and deserve to be paid for it, the same as the author does.

Their collective expertise is the reason I would always attempt to traditionally publish a book instead of self-publishing, even though the profit percentage of self-publishing is much higher. In order to successfully self-publish a book, you need to be an author, agent, editor, cover designer and marketer all at once. Quite frankly, I don’t have the skills or time to do that and hold down a day-job. I applaud those who do but… well, you’ve seen my self-designed book cover, right? Yeah, exactly. Moreover, I barely have time to write a blogpost a week, let alone continually market my book. As valid as self-publishing is, I would rather focus on writing the stories and let someone else do the rest.


As much as I personally favour traditional publishing houses over self-publishing, there is a caution tag to add to my enthusiasm. Publishing is a business. The primary objective of all businesses is profit. For this reason, authors should read their contracts carefully and pay special attention to things like intellectual property rights / copyright. If you are signing a contract that relates solely to book profit, what happens if your story is selected for film, tv or even radio? If you are granted an advance but your sales don’t match what you were given, do you have to pay the difference? These are questions you should know the answer to before you sign on the dotted line.

For many authors, a publishing deal is the dream but the end-game should be approached without rose-tinted glasses. In the same way that you should pick the right literary agent for you and not just the first one who says yes, you should always go into contract negotiations with your eyes wide open – and possibly accompanied by a lawyer. You wouldn’t buy a house, a car, sign an employee contract or start up a business with another person without reading everything properly and this is exactly the same thing.

Week 33 | Your favourite scene

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 33

I can’t reveal my actual favourite scene from The Elder Throne because it holds all manner of major spoilers. Likewise, so does my second favourite scene. So, what you’re getting from me today is my third favourite scene – still worthy, just not at the top.

This following scene happens in the latter half of the book, just before Mabon Festival. Mabon is hailed as a peace festival between the Seelie and UnSeelie, which is why a group of UnSeelie faeries cross the border every year in order to celebrate with the Seelie. This is the first time Anna will catch a glimpse of them and her would-be step-mother, Janus Atropa.

This scene is also the one I can picture most vividly in my head. Hopefully I have done a suitable job of translating it into words but, if not – that’s what edits are for, right, S.E.Berrow?

Here’s an extract…

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Week 32 | What is your protagonist’s biggest weakness?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 32

anna1Without a doubt, Anna Squire’s biggest weakness is her naivete.

As the heroine of The Elder Throne, Anna obviously has a lot of strengths: she’s compassionate, determined and generally well liked, and she doesn’t like bullies or anyone exploiting others for personal gain. In relation to this, she is also quickly loyal to those who she feels empathy for, and she is naturally kind. For example, when Anna, as a fish out of water, is offered the chance to be accepted by a popular and influential noble fae family, the Goodfellows, she instead sticks with the self-confessed outsider, Priya, because she recognises Priya is being bullied and therefore needs a friend.

However, as good as these intentions and actions are, they are not based on a fair, impartial knowledge. They’re based on Anna’s instincts – and Anna’s instincts aren’t always right. This is because she is both naive and strong-minded, both traits that can be attributed to her parents and her upbringing.

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Week 31 | Book recommendations | Fans of your book might also enjoy

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 31

I like to read a lot of children’s books and there are so many of different genres that I’d love to recommend. I suppose, in order to recommend books that share commonalities with The Elder Throne, I’d have to break down what those commonalities might be. Here goes…

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Week 30 | Describe (or show) your book’s ideal cover

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 30

My book’s cover has been through several evolutions and I’m still not quite sure I’ve settled on the right one. Covers are so important, aren’t they? Anyone who says ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ has clearly never been in a bookshop. With so many titles on the shelves, you want yours to stand out.

It should be noted that I’m a writer, not an artist or a designer. So, with that in mind, I’ve included two covers – one is concept art created by my fiance as a favour, and the other is something I mashed together myself when I wanted a new ‘clean-cut’ look. It’s hard to settle on what I truly want, really, and I believe that if I ever get to the stage of publishing my book with a company, I will defer to their expertise.

In the meantime…

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