Category Archives: Extras

The Summer Sacrifice cover reveal. It’s tomorrow!

Tomorrow (Wednesday), at some point in the afternoon (UK time), the cover of  The Summer Sacrifice  will be revealed. My palms are perspiring with excitement. And I don’t get sweaty palms.

You will also be given a glimpse into how the artist David Revoy developed the cover, from concept to completion.   I can’t wait to share that either.

I will update you on all things cover-related tomorrow. That’s Wednesday, tomorrow.  I am excited!

The Summer Sacrifice



These days, the Goddess stops the spread of evil
by sacrificing the Island’s rotten teenage souls.
Or so the story goes…

When Jamie Tuff survives her Taking she thinks her
worst nightmares are behind her. But then her soul
starts wandering into other people’s bodies, and she
discovers that the Island harbours a deadly secret.

Now, Jamie must save her little world from a fate
worse than—well, worse than what the Goddess
has already done to it.

Join Jamie Tuff and friends on their adventures
through land, sea and sky, in a world where stars walk
and Halfhawks fly.

“Read this book! You is not going to be disappointed, as us
Ticklers is in it, and we is good.”
—Sam O’ Brady, Head Braintickler.


The Summer Sacrifice has illustrations. Sneak peek!

After months of wiping my book’s  nose, combing its hair and spit-polishing its cheek, I finally downed my keyboard.  The never-ending-editing story was over.  Finished.  I did a pint-sized victory wriggle. And then my thumbs began to twiddle.

“What if the chapter headings were partnered by pictures?” I wondered, as one hand reached for ink and the other clutched some paper.   I pulled the pen-lid off with my teeth and started drawing.

I had seemingly forgotten that The Summer Sacrifice has 51 chapters.

51 illustrations later and my right hand is all a-tremble.  Hope you enjoy. Thoughts and comments, as always, welcome!





Art-work-in-progress! The Summer Sacrifice is getting clothes…

I am very excited.

Why am I excited? Because I’ve written a book, and I feel like I’ve written a book.  Is it because I typed THE END? No. Is it because it has gone through I-haven’t-got-enough-digits-to-count-how-many revisions, and now I feel like it’s bona fide? It has, but no. Is it because other people’s eyeballs and brains have now encountered it? Not really. My beta readers have been wonderful, but though they have asked important questions, they are not the answer to this one. So… why does this book, that has gone through so many different mini-completions, now feel more finished than ever?

Because The Summer Sacrifice is getting clothes.

I’m not sure why the process of getting a book cover makes the book feel more real, but I suppose I am one step closer to the final wave-off. If my book was a character, it’s gone from being a baby full of promise, to a little ugly duckling finding its place in the world, to something fully formed. And now that fully formed duck/child has (nearly) got itself some threads.

And what threads… (Fangirl squeeeeee!)

The thumbnails above are precisely that.  Thumbnails. They are works-in-progress; nearly-not-quites. And yet all three of them are beautiful in their own right.  And all three capture an essence of my world.  Thank you David Revoy!

Finding David

Sometimes the internet can feel like a creepy place full of trolls, but right now, in my mind, it is full of win…

On the search for a cover designer, I visited the website deviantART.  I scoured hundreds of artists, found a few who did beautiful work that would be suited to my fantasy book, and sent off some emails. I was over the moon when, a few days later, my first choice emailed me back and said that he could do it: French artist David Revoy, AKA deevad on deviantART.

David is not only super-talented, but also conscientious and thoughtful. A storyteller himself, he wanted to really get a handle on my world before beginning to paint.  And these thumbnails (along with some other goodies which I shall be revealing later) are evidence of his thoughtfulness and skill. I can’t wait to share the finished cover when it’s ready. Until then, take a look at David’s Art!




Freestyle. (My style.)


My process for writing The Summer Sacrifice was more madness than method. I had no plan. I didn’t sit down and do a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. My life might have been easier if I had, and the book may have taken less time to write, but whenever I tried to impose a sturdy structure as a foundation to work from, the story fought against it. So I just wrote what came to me.

I wrote scenes I knew would find a home, and others I suspected would not. I wrote my climax and then searched my way towards the end. And then I started writing from the beginning. I moved bits round, cut out dead wood, and filled plot holes. It was a freewheeling, freeing approach, and I believe it was the only way this first book could have been written.

Once I was happy with my first draft (as happy as one can be with a first draft), my boyfriend Joel became my first reader. Enlisting a second pair of eyes at that stage was invaluable because they could see what mine could not: what was actually on the page, not what was in my head. Some of the things that to me seemed fleshed out and obvious, only appeared so because I’d been swimming in my own world. Joel asked questions that needed answering. After a complete overhaul I had him read it again. Two drafts and some extensive editing later, it went to my beta readers. I did a fair few revisions, and then I had my final draft.

I wrote The Summer Sacrifice with The Master Game series in mind. For that reason, I know exactly how each of the remaining three books is going to begin and end, and a good deal of what needs to happen in their middles. I already have the bare bones of a structure for each of them to hang things off, and am expecting the writing of these books to be a little swifter. (She says, hopefully.)

I want to add that, though I didn’t have a rigid structure for The Summer Sacrifice, I did have a very clear idea of when I wanted its major turning-points to happen: a basic structure to which I adhered. The three books below formed part of my prep, and were also great to revisit as I wrote, both as reminders of the craft and for inspiration:

Compass by Holly Hinton 2013The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker.

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

(Though the third book specifies screenwriting, McKee’s advice is entirely transferable to novel writing.) Here are some great quotes from him:


Flying is a messy business.
Flying is a messy business.


Writing The Summer Sacrifice was a joyful experience and I can’t wait to get stuck into writing the next book in the Master Game series. I loved the days when my brain was receptive, relaxed and focused, and I was capable of creating with ease. Those were the days that not only did thousands of words get written, but some good ones at that.

Unfortunately, not all days are created the same…

I began writing The Summer Sacrifice after a disturbing image popped into my head. Out of that image came a story that wouldn’t let go, one I wanted to share and put out into the world. And then fear took hold. At certain times as I wrote I felt pulled in two directions at once, and sometimes in many directions, because as well as my passion for telling my story I felt both fear and guilt.

Medusa, by Caravaggio, 1597.
Medusa, by Caravaggio, 1597.

Fear, and its ability to paralyse a person, runs through The Summer Sacrifice as it ran through its creation. I spent minutes, hours, and sometimes weeks feeling that I wasn’t doing the book justice, or myself, people around me, and indeed life itself. I would stare into the computer screen worrying about what I wasn’t doing, which stopped me from doing anything.

After a while I stopped seeing the energy and time I put into writing as selfish and got the hell on with it. That’s not to say I didn’t still have my moments. On one or two occasions I felt like hurling my laptop through the window. But I didn’t. And this is going to sound odd, but as well as being surrounded by wonderful humans, I believe Hopelandic helped pick me up.


Sigur Ros at Madison Square Garden.  2013. By Kenny Sun.  Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Sigur Ros at Madison Square Garden. 2013. By Kenny Sun. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Sigur Rós was my soundtrack to The Summer Sacrifice. Hopelandic is their lyrical constructed language. I had their albums on repeat for the entire writing process except the final revision. Their music is sweeping and epic, and unlike the ghastly music produced by the Pity Me Perfects’ school orchestra, for me it really is “music… of the earth.” It has the ability to transport and buoy up the spirit. If music could help a person take flight like a Halfhawk, I believe Sigur Rós’s music would be it. It lifted my spirits and let my imagination fly.

If anyone had heard me listening to the same tracks, over and over, day in and day out, they’d have thought I’d gone mental. (Earphones are wonderful things.) But something in the music, and in Hopelandic, breaks boundaries. And Jamie Tuff and her friends are all about breaking boundaries. Fear may run through The Summer Sacrifice, but hope runs stronger.

I would love to hear if anyone else uses music to inspire their work or lift their mood.  What music do you recommend?

Water Faeries

Water Faeries drink your life,
Water Faeries bring you strife,
Water Faeries are nothing but trouble,
Water Faeries turn homes into rubble.

Fearsome Water Faeries reign
Delivering nothing but cries and pain,
Water Faeries though gorgeous in guise
Are gruesome and greedy and eat all the pies.

Disclaimer: This poem has nothing to do with The Summer Sacrifice whatsoever. At all.

Things that make me go “Aaaaaaaaaoooooooooo!”

Things that make me go “Aaaaaaaaaaooooooooo!” have one thing in common. They shine.

Here are a few of my favourite shiny things. Some of them may well be found in The Summer Sacrifice!


Image from Hubble Space Telescope. NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/IRAM
Image from Hubble Space Telescope. NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/IRAM

There is nothing like a clear night full of twinkling balls of plasma. Don’t get me started on shooting stars… They are the best kind of eye-candy. And I must, sometime soon, bear witness to the Northern Lights.

Click here for a star-spangled article.

Glowing bugs:

Fireflies in Forest
Fireflies in Forest

I am not a fan of insects, but I like glowing ones. (I’m terribly fickle.) I like fireflies and glow worms, and though mushrooms aren’t insects I love the glowing green mushroom that can be seen in the link below.

Glowing insects and ‘shrooms…

Luminescent fish:

Beautiful Bobtail squid
Beautiful Bobtail squid

Some deep sea fish use bioluminescence as a form of night light. Their glow-in-the-dark skills can be used to attract, distract, communicate and defend. The fish in the vid below are out of this world.  ( I think it’s quite clear glowing creatures make me happy!)

Deep-sea disco:

Dinosaur dreams


I am a dreamer. An unashamed daydream-believer.

I was that child being told off for staring out of the classroom window; that child who, when she should have been doing whatever it is that Brownies do, was outside playing with the leaves and talking to the trees.

I had two tiny dinosaurs who lived in a shoebox. They  would hop about on my shoulders and keep me company. The day came when I opened up the shoebox to find the dinosaurs had gone. But my daydreaming nature has never up and left me.

Dreams are important.

Waking dreams may tell us our subconscious desires. Sleeping dreams may tell us about our unconscious. Both types of dreams, if we listen to them, can give us guidance. They can help us to create the future self or future life to which we aspire.

Dreams, however, are nothing without goals.

I don’t think that a fairy godmother will wield a magic wand and grant me the things I wish to have,  and I don’t think that a pot of gold is going to fall in my lap, either.

In The Summer Sacrifice, some of my characters have potentially enormous Gifts. But those Gifts don’t come fully-formed. Jamie Tuff is strong, but her strength has to be tested. Her best friend Seveny is powerful, but she has to work at controlling that power.  Nothing comes easy for them, and I believe that makes the rewards they reap all the richer.

Life can press the dream out of the biggest dreamer—but only if we let it.  And those that keep dreaming and work to make their dreams a reality, have the potential to change the world.

In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream—Lingering in the golden gleam—Life, what is it but a dream?

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

—Oscar Wilde


We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.

—Jack Kerouac


Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

—Edgar Allan Poe


Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.

—Terry Pratchett

Bringing The Summer Sacrifice to life

The Summer Sacrifice spent three years in the note-taking, doodling and scene-writing phase, and two years in the do-your-research-then-sit-down-and-write-till-your-contact-lenses-are-welded-to-your-eyeballs phase. During those years I had other engagements, like touring the world as Desdemona in Othello, playing delightfully ghastly characters in a staged version of Gulliver’s Travels armed with knee pads and stilts, and acting in indie films such as Occupying Ed.

When writing The Summer Sacrifice, apart from the days where the words weren’t flowing, or when I was acting or doing other life things, I generally wrote for between eight and twelve hours a day. I rarely left my perch to eat.

Me Sitting on my Perch, by Holly Hinton, 2013.For the next book in the series, I plan to do things a little differently. I’m not sure that spending all that time in front of a screen without human contact or sun on my skin was too healthy. At the time I felt that if the book was to be written, something I so desperately wanted, then this was what I needed to do. But people did worry about me. “Are you a vampire?” was a question asked with genuine concern. “No,” I answered. “When I’m out in the sun, my skin doesn’t burn.” (This is true. I’m a quarter Nigerian and fortunate in that regard.) But their concern was duly noted. Being a keyboard-tapping recluse isn’t great for anyone’s nerves.

Are you a Vampire? by Holly Hinton, 2013.