Sunday, 24 April 2016

I'm moving!

I'm leaving the nest! Er, not literally (yet!), but as I've been blogging less frequently lately, I've decided to move the main part of my blog over to my author website. It's a change I've been meaning to make for a while, but my overloaded schedule's made it tricky to find the time, and I was reluctant to lose my audience over here. However, I think it's time for a change. It's tough to manage both an author website and blog and keep everything up to date, so this is my attempt to make things more streamlined.

This blog was a wonderful way to build relationships with other writers within the community, but at this stage, I want to focus on reaching readers. You'll still be able to find me on social media and I might post the occasional update over here if I go travelling again or I think something might be useful to share.

For readers and fans interested in keeping up with my new releases, I'll be posting any book news on my website's new blog. You can follow me there, or subscribe to my newsletter to get early updates on my latest books.

If you're interested in writing advice, I'll leave the links to my old blog posts under the 'For Writers' tab. It's important to note that some of these posts are quite old, so the advice might be slightly outdated (especially when it comes to self-publishing).

If you're considering self-publishing or looking for marketing advice, I highly recommend the kboards forum as a good place to start (http://www.kboards.com/).

Thank you to my readers for sticking with me over the years. Happy reading/writing!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Out now: Faerie Blood (The Changeling Chronicles, #1)



I’m Ivy Lane, and if I never see another faerie again, it’ll be too soon.

Twenty years after the faeries came and destroyed the world as we knew it, I use my specialist skills to keep rogue faeries in line and ensure humans and their magically gifted neighbours can coexist (relatively) peacefully.

Nobody knows those skills came from the darkest corner of Faerie itself.

When a human child disappears, replaced with a faerie changeling, I have to choose between taking the safe road or exposing my own history with the faeries to the seductively dangerous head of the Mage Lords. He’s the exact kind of distraction I don’t need, but it’s work with him or lose my chance to save the victims.

It’ll take all my skills to catch the kidnappers and stop Faerie’s dark denizens overrunning the city — but if the faerie lords find out about the magic I stole last time I went into their realm, running won’t save me this time…

Monday, 18 April 2016

Top 10 faerie urban fantasy books!

Since the first book in my new urban fantasy series releases this week, I thought I'd recommend some other awesome urban fantasy series which feature faeries -- evil or otherwise!



This amazing series has recently been re-released, and it's a must-read! (Side note: I have a soft spot for modern fantasy set here in the UK.) This is a very British urban fantasy series with tons of colourful characters and inventive fantastical world.



Darkfever (Fever, #1)


I haven't reread this series for a while, but I vividly remember blitzing through it on my Kindle a few years ago. It's seriously dark, intense adult urban fantasy which lures you in slowly then grabs you by the throat.



Dog with a Bone (Black Dog, #1)


A fantastic new find in new adult urban fantasy. Thierry is half-mortal, half-fae, working as a marshal to keep humans safe from faeries -- at least until her estranged fae father goes missing, and she's dragged back into Faerie.

The Dark Realm (Feyland, #1)


A high-tech computer game turns out to be a portal into Faerie. I think that says it all! Fabulous read. Better yet, it's FREE to download!

The Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1)


I reviewed the Iron Fey series here forever ago, and it remains one of my favourite YA urban fantasy series.

The Faerie Guardian (Creepy Hollow, #1)


I really, really liked this series, too! A faerie guardian-in-training, Violet gets into trouble when she accidentally lets herself be seen by the human she's meant to be guarding. Added bonus; the first book is FREE to download.

Banished (The Blackhart Legacy, #1)



I thoroughly enjoyed the first instalment of this series. Kit and the other characters are fantastic and I loved the action-packed storyline.


The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)


Okay, The Falconer is actually historical fantasy, but it's an awesome read set in the UK, so I had to include it. Aileana has the rare ability to sense and kill evil faeries, and she's out for revenge on the creatures that murdered her mother. The evil faerie creatures and steampunk-esque technology make this a winner!


Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Books of Faerie, #1)

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception.

It's been a while since I reread Maggie Stiefvater's first book, but you can't go wrong with faerie assassins! 


Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)


I've actually just started reading this one, but I've had Seanan McGuire's books on my list for ages!

Which is your favourite fantasy novel with faeries?

Friday, 15 April 2016

Random Authorly Updates!

It's been a while since I did a general update on where I am with all my series, and since I have another book out next week (EEEK), I decided now's a good time!

Firstly, it's less than a week until Faerie Blood hits the virtual shelves! I also finished writing the sequel, Faerie Magic, and I’m working on edits.

Speaking of edits, I finally finished the last round of edits on Divided (Alliance, #4), and now I'm proofreading and formatting it. I set a release date: 7th June. My cover artist is just starting work on the covers for the other Alliance books, so hopefully I'll be able to share the fourth book cover soon!

More awesome Alliance news: I can't remember whether I've mentioned this before (problem with juggling multiple projects :P), but Adamant is being included in the Magic & Mayhem Box Set, which will be out in August and goes on pre-order on the 5th May. :)

As for the Darkworld series, I finished the final check of the PDF file for Souls Forsaken (Darkworld Book 4)! Hopefully that means cover art’s on the way.

Updated publishing schedule:

April 21st - Faerie Blood (Changeling Chronicles Book 1)
May 2nd - Souls Forsaken (Darkworld Book 4)
May 5th - Magic & Mayhem Box Set available to pre-order
Late May - Faerie Magic (Changeling Chronicles Book 2)
June 7th - Divided (Alliance Book 4)
June 28th - Transcendent (Indestructible Trilogy Book 3)

Other miscellaneous updates: you might have noticed my blog header and website have changed. That's thanks to the wonderful Rebecca Frank, who designed my Changeling Chronicles series covers! I decided to update my website to make it more streamlined.

I'm also working on some new cool things for newsletter subscribers including a Changeling Chronicles prequel short story.

And I made a Pinterest board for the Changeling Chronicles series. :)

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Author Interview: Jadah McCoy, author of Artificial!



Today I'm interviewing Jadah McCoy, fellow CQ author!

Tell me three interesting facts about yourself!


Three interesting things about me! Hmm… I like to pole dance, I’ve been to seven countries so far, and I do drunk book reviews on my YouTube channel, The Tipsy Reader!


Summarize your book in one line.


A girl goes on a quest to an android city to reverse the genetic splicing done to her and stop the person doing the splicing.


Tell me something cool/crazy/quirky about the book – it can be anything!


Because one of my main characters is an android in the sex industry, I did a bit of research on how an android’s sex organs would work. Interesting stuff! The things I do for my books...


Why did you decide to write this particular book?


I wanted to write something post-apocalyptic. I had this world in my head that was desperate to get out, and that made the whole world-building process easier. The characters and plot came after!


Best part of the writing process?


Writing ‘the end!’ Nothing feels better than finishing a book!


Share one thing you learned writing this book.


I learned to not take writing so seriously. What you’ve written can always be changed. It’s best not to judge yourself on a first draft, so just get the story out first and worry about polishing it later!


Tell me about one strange experience you’ve had. Again, it can be anything!


I’ll tell you a strange and wondrous experience. I was in Indonesia last December, getting my certification to teach yoga. I was sleeping, and not fitfully due to the storm raging outside. The retreat was a few minutes walk from the beach, and it was normally windy. But that night felt different. The storm was loud, like it was right on top of us. I lay in bed in some dream-haze when the loudest sound I’d ever heard woke me up. I knew something terrible had happened, but was too sleep-laden to get up.


When I awoke the next morning, it was to a giant tree resting where our pool used to be—only ten feet from my room. If the wind had pushed the tree even a few feet to the right, it would have landed in my second story room, probably killing—or at least badly injuring—me and my roommate. I think things happen for a reason, and I was fascinated with how close I came to serious injury, yet it didn’t happen. Perhaps some Indonesian spirit saw fit to spare me that night. Either way, it was a strange occurrence.


Name one fictional place you’d love to visit.


I’d love to visit the underground goblin city in The Hollow Kingdom. Or, heck, just take me to Jareth’s Labyrinth!!


Name one real place you’d love to visit.


Japan! It’s next on my travel list! I’ll be doing some research for my next book series. >:]


Share one sentence/mini-excerpt from the book!


Sure! Here’s the opening of Artificial!



There is a sign, dingy and broken, half buried in the water and moss in front of me. Faded brown handprints streak across the large board, staining it with dried blood. It reads: If you died today, where would you spend eternity?


I’ve heard stories of places called heaven and hell—children’s tales meant to keep you in line, make you act right.


There is no “act right” on this planet anymore. The only line I follow is the edge of my blade plunging into the throat of one of those goddamn Cull. And if there’s anything I know, it’s that hell can’t be any worse than this place.


About Artificial



She struggles to feel human.



In 2256, the only remnants of civilization on Earth’s first colonized planet, Kepler, are the plant-covered buildings and the nocturnal, genetically spliced bug-people nesting within them: the Cull. During the day, Syl leaves her home in the sewers beneath Elite City to scavenge for food, but at night the Cull come looking for a meal of their own. Syl thought gene splicing died with the Android War a century ago. She thought the bugs could be exterminated, Elite city rebuilt, and the population replenished. She’s wrong.

Whoever engineered the Cull isn’t done playing God. Syl is abducted and tortured in horrific experiments which result in her own DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person responsible before every remaining man, woman, and child on Kepler is transformed into the abomination they fear.


He struggles not to.


For Bastion, being an android in the sex industry isn’t so bad. Clubbing beneath the streets of New Elite by day and seducing the rich by night isn’t an altogether undesirable occupation. But every day a new android cadaver appears in the slum gutters, and each caved in metal skull and heap of mangled wires whittles away at him.


Glitches—androids with empathy—are being murdered, their models discontinued and strung up as a warning. Show emotion, you die. Good thing Bastion can keep a secret, or he would be the next body lining the street.


He can almost live with hiding his emotions. That is, until a girl shows up in the slums—a human girl, who claims she was an experiment. And in New Elite, being a human is even worse than being a Glitch. Now Bastion must help the girl escape before he becomes victim to his too-human emotions, one way or another. 


Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28682101-artificial 


Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Artificial-Jadah-McCoy-ebook/dp/B01CDAA1IA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459098442&sr=8-1&keywords=artificial+jadah+mccoy




Author Facebook page  Twitter


Jadah currently lives in Nashville, TN and works as a legal coordinator. When not babysitting attorneys, she can be found juicing her brain for creative ideas or fantasizing about her next trip out of the country (or about Tom Hiddleston as Loki - it’s always a toss up when she fantasizes).
She grew up in rural Arkansas, yet can still write good and sometimes even wears shoes! She did date her first cousin for a while but they decided against marriage for the sake of the gene pool.
Her true loves are elephants, cursing, and sangria - in that order. If you find an elephant that curses like a sailor whilst drinking sangria, you’re dangerously close to becoming her next romantic victim - er, partner.
She cut her writing teeth on badly written, hormone-driven fanfiction (be glad that’s out of her system), and her one true dream is to have wildly erotic fanfiction with dubious grammar written about her own novels. Please make her dreams come true.

Monday, 4 April 2016

New Release: Ablaze (Indestructible Trilogy: Book 2)

It's release day for Ablaze, the second book in the dystopian fantasy Indestructible trilogy!



Two years ago, the fiends invaded Earth. Two months ago, I joined the Pyros, a group of warriors with astonishing powers, to fight the monsters that destroyed our world.

But then I found out they were keeping secrets from me. Jared, the sadistic scientist who betrayed them, has captured my ally, who’s linked to me through a blood-connection that’s slowly killing us both. To get him back, I have to leave my new friends and face the wilderness alone. But Jared’s not the only threat out there. The fiends are moving, forces stir on the other side of the divide, and if Jared’s plan succeeds, it’ll spell disaster for our world.

And that’s if the dark transformation in my blood doesn’t kill me first.






Two years ago, the fiends invaded, with a devastating explosion that split the world in two. Even now, energy blasts strike without warning, destroying everything in their paths. The fiends hunt anyone unlucky enough to escape.

My name is Leah. An energy blast killed my group. It should have killed me, too. Instead, I woke up alone in the wilderness, stalked by the fiends. Until a deadly, ruthless warrior appeared from the ashes and saved my life.

Swept into the world of the Pyros -- flame-conjuring warriors born to kill the fiends -- I learn to unlock the fire buried inside me. But I swiftly learn my allies aren't what they seem. The literal skeletons buried underneath their base are my first clue. The darkness stirring in my blood, showing me memories that don't belong to me, is another. And the man whose memories I see hides dangerous secrets behind his eyes.

If I don't uncover the truth about why the world ended the first time, my new safe haven might go up in smoke...

Amazon   Add on Goodreads  Read the first chapter



And the third book, Transcendent, is now available to pre-order. It’ll be out on June 28th!

Amazon  Add on Goodreads

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Previously...


"Previously" is a blog hop run by the awesome Cole Burke and Tracey Joseph.

Previously in Writing

I've spent this month working on the newly announced Changeling Chronicles, an adult urban fantasy series. :) I'm almost halfway through drafting the second book, and the first's ready to publish (21st April!).

Previously in Reading

Another great month for reading! This year, I'm not setting any challenges. I'm reading for two reasons. 1) Research for what's currently selling in the genres I like, and 2) Books I want to read. I haven't even set a Goodreads challenge goal.

Some of the highlights of the month:

The Dead House - a great horror story featuring a protagonist with a split personality. Recommended if you want to be thoroughly creeped out!

The Dead House

The Silver Tide - a fantastic ending to the trilogy. Adventure, pirates, dragons, evil gods and magic - what more do you want?

The Silver Tide (The Copper Promise #3)

A Gathering of Shadows - the hype is real. It feels like sacrilege to say I found the first 70% of the book slow and packed with filler, but the worldbuilding and characters are great.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)

Their Fractured Light - excellent ending to this YA sci-fi trilogy.

Their Fractured Light (Starbound, #3)


Next Time in Goals

I want to have the second book in the Changeling Chronicles drafted and through the first round of edits by the end of April.

A Word of Advice

Writing sprints are awesome. The problem with having so many ongoing series is that there's always something important that needs doing, and actual writing can fall by the wayside. I had to rediscover my focus after spending so long travelling, and writing sprints really helped with that.

Also: Yayyyy, book signing. :D



Friday, 25 March 2016

New Series Announcement: The Changeling Chronicles

I've been keeping a secret. Actually, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I haven't exactly been subtle about the new series I've been working on over the last few months. But so far I've only shared that it's adult urban fantasy, and that I'll be publishing the first book in April.

So here's the official announcement: Faerie Blood, Book 1 in the Changeling Chronicles, will be published on April 21st 2016. It'll be a series, with three books planned. If sales look promising, I'll extend the series. :)

Here's the fabulous cover!



Here's the blurb:

I’m Ivy Lane, and if I never see another faerie again, it’ll be too soon.

Twenty years after the faeries came and destroyed the world as we knew it, I use my specialist skills to keep rogue faeries in line and ensure humans and their magically gifted neighbours can coexist (relatively) peacefully.

Nobody knows those skills came from the darkest corner of Faerie itself.

When a human child disappears, replaced with a faerie changeling, I have to choose between taking the safe road or exposing my own history with the faeries to the seductively dangerous head of the Mage Lords. He’s the exact kind of distraction I don’t need, but if I don’t work with him, I’ll lose my chance to save the victims. It’ll take all my skills to catch the kidnappers and stop Faerie’s dark denizens overrunning the city — but if the faerie lords find out about the magic I stole last time I went into their realm, running won’t save me this time…

The book will be out on April 21st 2016. I'm currently drafting the sequel, which I'm hoping to publish between May and July.

Meanwhile, my next release will be Ablaze, the second book in the Indestructible trilogy, out on April 4 2016. Those of you who've been reeling over that cliffhanger: you don't have long to wait now! :)

So April's set to be a busy month. I'll be publishing two books, working on a sequel, finishing up revisions on Divided (Alliance, #4) and working on cover art for that and the fourth Darkworld book. It's a truth universally acknowledged in publishing that you get radio silence for months, then everything happens at the same time!

*runs around in circles*

Friday, 11 March 2016

One year indie-versary: how to balance writing and publishing!

It's exactly a year since I first published Adamant, and I can't believe time's flown by so fast!

I've already shared a fair few posts on my indie publishing experience:

Marketing: What I've learned.
Thoughts from six months of self-publishing.
Indie publishing: What I did wrong, what I did right, and future plans.

Today, I'm blogging about how I balance writing with the million and one other things that need doing. Planning, writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, writing blurbs, uploading and updating files, pre-orders, series planning, scheduling, websites, blogging, social media accounts, advertising, newsletters, other platforms... and juggling multiple books at once. At any given time, I'm working on a draft, have at least two projects in edits, and others to proofread, format and publish. Plus marketing my backlist and evaluating promotional techniques, while researching and planning future series. It's the best job I've had, but it isn't easy, and has challenged me in ways I never anticipated.

So,  how do I do it all without going insane?
  • Plan ahead. In self-publishing, this doesn't just mean outlining -- it means writing my whole publishing plan months in advance. I do keep things flexible, firstly due to the fickle nature of story ideas, and secondly, I need room to re-evaluate if something doesn't work. (And I'm definitely no stranger to that!)
  • Have a minimum daily word count goal. I work freelance, but I had the same goals when I worked in an office. 2000 words per day is my bare minimum. It's easy to get distracted by the other parts of being an author, but if I'm not writing a new book, I won't have anything new to publish or promote.
  • Related: schedule activities to reduce stress. Most of my stress comes from my inbox, so I only check it at intervals a few times a day. That way, I can spend the rest of the time focusing on working, be it writing or freelancing. I'm gradually moving social media to certain times as well.
  • Cut back on non-essential tasks. This means I've had to be ruthless over the past year as my workload climbed. If I feel like something isn't providing returns, I cut it down. (For instance, blogging -- I enjoy it, but it's something I do for free that doesn't sell books.)
  • Be careful who you work with, and make sure other people's schedules don't compromise your own. I'd always advise authors to work with cover artists and editors, but make sure you aren't constantly rearranging your schedule and adapting based on other people's deadlines rather than your own. (This is one reason I prefer publishing independently to working with a publisher -- no matter their intentions, you are never going to come first. It's just the way it is.) Your work is important, and so are your deadlines. If you find yourself constantly having to chase up and send emails to make sure the work gets done as it should, it might be time to find someone else to work with.
  • Watch out about letting marketing and promotion take over. It can be a time-suck, and in my experience, it relies on trial and error. I've designated one day a week to marketing tasks such as social media scheduling, blogging, advertising, newsletters, research, admin-related tasks and other miscellaneous things that eat up more time than I expect. (Ever tried updating the covers on four books on all retailers? Yeah...)
  • Be strategic. I worked twice as hard in December and January so I could take most of February off to go travelling and not end up behind. I'm still trying to find balance, but I'm a lot less stressed when I can incorporate breaks into my day.
  • Work out how much you can realistically do, and don't be afraid to say no. This is tricky. I still struggle, because I want to do all the things. In reality, though, I have less time after each book release, not more. I'm happy to cross-promote and help out my fellow authors, but there are some things I used to do -- like book reviews and Facebook events -- that I rarely have time for any more. I'm never going to be the organiser of a huge multi-author book event, because I just can't foresee being able to work it into my schedule.
I usually try to write first thing in the morning, then devote the rest of the work day to client work. I check emails at intervals, and in the evening, I deal with admin tasks and ongoing marketing (if I have a book release, for instance). Then I can go back to writing (either my draft, or planning future books, or working on a fun side project). I also read for at least an hour a day. I take weekends off freelance work (after last year, I know it wears me out to work two jobs seven days a week). Saturdays are writing sprint days, and Sundays are devoted to marketing and admin.

How do I manage this? Well, I rarely watch TV, and I'm trying to cut down on the number of hours I waste on the internet. During busy times, I cut everything out except my 2000-word-a-day minimum and a certain amount of freelance work (this varies depending on the project). Obviously, I don't have a husband or kids, so I'm able to put work before everything else. Having said that, I also set boundaries. When you work freelance, you'll always run into people who expect you to be online to answer questions 24/7, and if you say "yes" to everything, at some point, you'll burn out. By "boundaries", I mean I won't answer emails after a certain time of day. Because of time zone differences, that means catching up to night emails/messages in the morning. Alas, most of us aren't superhuman enough to stay coherent on social media at all hours of the night...

Everyone finds different ways to motivate themselves. I'm probably not a healthy example, because I find fear pretty motivating. I tend to work under the assumption that if I don't get the work done now, it'll come back to haunt me later. On the plus side, I do give myself leeway if I fall behind, and so far, I've managed to stick to all my deadlines. Speaking of which, I have to write 100K in a month, so I'd better run back into the cave...

Friday, 26 February 2016

My New Zealand Adventure!

It's the post you've all been waiting for... what did I get up to in New Zealand? Well, I can honestly say it's been the best trip of my life -- tied with Australia (2011). Here are some of the highlights:

- Skydiving in Franz Josef
- Abel Tasman National Park
- Swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura
- The Lord of the Rings horseback tour
- Jet boating in Queenstown
- Weta Workshop in Wellington

...and too many more to count!

So without further ado: here's the journal of my epic adventure.

I left the country on Tuesday 2nd February for a thirty-one hour long haul flight. The first eight-hour part gave me plenty of time to work on my draft, and I wrote two chapters of my urban fantasy novel on my phone and watched some movies. Then I landed in Dubai on the Wednesday, where I ended up being randomly upgraded to business class for the second part of the flight. Since it was thirteen and a half hours to Melbourne, this was more than welcome! I got my own mini-booth, complete with a USB port and a fancy TV screen, and an amazing view of take-off from my window. And I managed to actually get some sleep.

I landed in Melbourne, very confused about the day of the week. As I was now 11 hours ahead of UK time, it was Thursday morning, and I watched the sun rise as I landed. I whiled away the three hour wait at the airport by using the free Wi-Fi, before boarding my final flight. I had a window seat this time, and the views were absolutely stunning.


My first sight of New Zealand. <3

I landed in Wellington around 4pm and caught the shuttle bus to the hostel in a state of dazed tiredness. Then it was time to meet my fellow travellers. I'd booked the trip with G Adventures and joined a diverse group of seventeen travellers of ten different nationalities. We all got on well from the start, which eased my nerves a bit! (I'd never met anyone from the group before.) I crashed early from jet lag, but the trip was off to a great start!

Friday 5th February 2016

The trip started properly on Friday morning with an early morning to catch the ferry to South Island. I managed to get free Wi-Fi as well as working on my draft and chatting to the others in the group. After arriving in Picton, we drove for a few hours into one of New Zealand's most beautifully isolated areas: Abel Tasman National Park.

We had to catch a water taxi to properly reach the park and our accommodation for the night: a floating boat hostel. We stayed in tiny bunks down rickety ladders, which was an interesting experience, and the sunset from the deck was a glorious sight.




Saturday 6th February 2016

To start our second day, we returned to the mainland and the gorgeous beaches of the national park to begin a 12km hike. I'd forgotten how exhausting hiking through the rainforest is, with high humidity and the sun beating down on us, but the stunning scenery made it all worthwhile. We climbed steep slopes through pristine forest and walked across beautiful golden beaches.


Once at our accommodation, we went swimming in a nearby river. Paddling into the cool water was a relief! I couldn't believe the heat -- at home, it's absolutely freezing, so being thrown into the middle of a heatwave in the southern hemisphere took some adjusting to. In the evening, we sat out looking at the stars, and I knew I'd made the best decision possible in coming here.


Sunday 7th February 2016

Another driving day began with some more gorgeous scenery -- dense forests, gleaming rivers, and mountains. The sun was relentless, and in no time at all, I'd managed to burn across the back of my neck. I definitely didn't pack for the weather! Or the sand flies. The evil little creatures managed to get into my shoes and gnaw at my feet, even with insect repellent on. Apparently, nothing deters them...

We stopped en route to Punakaiki to visit a seal colony (or a colony of "gang members in sleeping bags", as our tour guide put it -- on account of seals being aggressive but slow-moving. :P). We walked around the Pancake Rocks and explored forested paths.


Our accommodation for the night was also in the middle of the rainforest, near a beautiful beach. We stayed up and watched the sun sink into the ocean.



Monday 8th February 2016

We packed up early and drove through more rainforest to our next destination: Franz Josef. I also signed up to do a skydive the following morning, being in the odd position of skydiving veteran seeing as I was the only person who'd done it before. We did some souvenir shopping in the pretty town of Franz Josef, which is near New Zealand's highest mountains. Obviously, I planned to jump out of a plane above them. :P



Tuesday 9th February 2016

So I dragged myself out of bed early to get to Fox Glacier, where we'd be skydiving. Luckily the skies were clear enough to jump, so we set off in the minibus. Once we were suited up and ready to board the plane, my second skydiving adventure began. The plane carried us up to the mountains -- New Zealand's highest peaks, Mt Tasman and Mt Cook -- above stunning hills and valleys. And then the plane stopped, on a level with the snow-capped mountains, at 13,000 feet.


The next thing I knew, the plane door was opening. I'd done this before, in 2011, but I had a brief moment of panic before the breath stopped in my lungs and we were falling. Then I remembered how awesome freefalling is -- like flying, not falling, suspended in a breathless bubble as the mountains and sky rushed past and the ground sped up towards us. For sixty long, yet fast, seconds, the freefall held me. Then the parachute came out, and everything stilled.


There's nothing as surreal as floating, watching the activity below on the ground like part of a separate, tiny world. The parachute spun us, showing the patchwork fields of the surrounding countryside and the rivers carving paths beneath the glacier-topped mountains. I even had the chance to steer the parachute for a bit and walk through a cloud split by a stunning rainbow. But all too soon, we dropped through the air, gently bumping to a halt in a nearby field.

Second skydiving experience = awesome.

High on adrenaline, we went to explore Franz Josef from ground level and walked to the glacier. This took a little longer than anticipated, firstly because there were no buses, and secondly because we managed to get spectacularly lost in the rainforest. :P Still, we found a hidden lake, and once we were on the right track, things sped up. We hiked past forested hills and waterfalls to the point where we could see the blue-white glacier glowing under the sunlight. Another corner of beautiful New Zealand explored. On days like this, I wonder why I ever stopped travelling. <3



Wednesday 10th February 2016

We left Franz Josef early in the morning for a long drive down to Queenstown. Firstly, we stopped for a walk around Lake Mathesen, New Zealand's most photographed lake.



We drove through rainforest and mountains, through rolling hills and winding roads. I can't get enough of the scenery!



We then stopped in the more touristy area of Lake Wanaka to explore and take pictures. And in the evening, we rolled into Queenstown.




Thursday 11th February 2016

Had my first lie-in for a while! I wandered around Queenstown for a bit, then returned to the hostel to get ready for today's activity: jet boating. It was so much fun, zooming around canyons and hanging on tight for 360 degree turns and twists.

Jet boating canyon!

Afterwards, I wrote some of my book. By now, I was nearing the climax of the story, and things were heating up!


Friday 12th February 2016

An early start in the morning for one of the activities I'd looking forward to the most: the Ride of the Rings, a horseback tour of the settings from The Lord of the Rings. This was one of the reasons New Zealand was top of my destination list, so to say I was excited is an understatement! Firstly, we drove out of Queenstown to see scene locations from the movies like the Misty Mountains, Minas Tirith, Lothlorien, and various fields and forests that played a part in the films.



Then we returned to the stables for the horse riding part of the tour, which was considerably less hair-raising than my first experience riding a horse in Costa Rica. It was a fairly leisurely walk through gorgeous scenery, with the guides giving us all the cool information about the locations as they were used in The Lord of the Rings. Some of the horses were actually extras in the movies!



On returning to Queenstown, I went souvenir shopping and ended up buying a One Ring, because why not. :P



I love this country. <3

Saturday 13th February 2016

Another early start to leave Queenstown for a long drive south. We caught a ferry deep into the heart of Doubtful Sound -- a secluded area of forested islands and clear waters. Once we'd arrived at our jungle accommodation -- and evaded another swarm of sand flies -- we embarked on an intrepid walk up to Helena Falls. I climbed up some cliffs to get right up close to the waterfall, and wandered through the jungle and over rickety bridges. And stepping stones. I'm not a fan of stepping stones, but I'm also really stubborn, and I wanted a photo at the top. :P


I chilled out back at the lodge in the evening, writing the climactic chapters of my book. :)

Sunday 14th February 2016

As our kayaking trip started early, we were dragged from bed before the sun had fully risen. Typically, it chose to rain on the one day we actually went into the water. But the kayaking trip was fantastic. We paddled through the clear waters, exploring the beautiful forested islands and bays, and even saw a seal!

Then we returned to pack for another long drive. After getting the ferry back to the mainland again, we drove through the Otago Valley to Wedderburn. This time, green fields, hills and rivers surrounded us. If I love anything about New Zealand, it's that you can pass through vastly different scenery on the same day. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of this beautiful country!



Monday 15th February 2016

The Otago Rail Trail is New Zealand's longest bike path. I'm not an experienced cyclist, at all, so I did an abbreviated version of the trail.


I'd hit 6km before I fell off the bike while braking and sliced open my knee. A I was stuck in the middle of the trail, the only way out was to cycle. With an open wound. I felt like a badass urban fantasy heroine, cycling away with blood dripping down my knee. Our tour guide said, "You're a very determined individual, aren't you?" I said, "I work in publishing." Well, it's true. ;)

*Warning: gore alert. Muahaha.*



Luckily, it didn't hurt too much,,, until it was time to clean all the gravel out. With tweezers. Ouch. I managed not to pass out from the pain this time, at least! It's going to leave a scar, but at least it didn't stop me from continuing with my adventure. I spent the rest of the day reading Rebel of the Sands, which is crazily addictive! An awesome read.

Tuesday 16th February 2016

Up early again to drive up to our next stop, Christchurch, narrowly avoiding a minor earthquake which happened there only two days beforehand! We stopped on the way at the Moeraki Boulders, and Oamaru, a town with some really cool steampunk attractions.



I also finished my draft! Well, it's a hot mess, but hey, it's done. I've had an amazing amount of fun with this one.

In the afternoon, we arrived in Christchurch and went exploring and souvenir shopping. We also played a public and hilarious game of Twister. (Well, I watched, seeing as my knee was still in a fragile state.) And we spent the night in a converted jail. :P



Wednesday 17th February 2016

Today, we drove to Kaikoura, the second-last stop of the tour, stopping at some cool lookout spots along the way. We saw seals up close, sleeping near the car park! Er, that's not a great place for a nap, Mr Seal. :P


Then we went on a walk. This is the closest I've come to experiencing something like home -- the crazy winds were just like walks in the Lake District! Ah, memories.



Thursday 18th February 2016

Up at 4 am (!!!) for our final activity -- swimming with dolphins! At first, it was rainy and miserable, and the sun was barely up when we set off at 5.30. But once we were on the boat, clad in wet suits, the sun came out, and we reached a spot where hundreds of dolphins immediately swam up to the boat. It was surreal, sliding into the icy water and seeing dolphins leaping and somersaulting around us. <3

We had about half an hour to swim with the dolphins, then returned the boat to take pictures. The dolphins didn't want us to leave! This is possibly my favourite experience of the trip, certainly not one I'll forget in a hurry.








After a very bumpy ride back to shore, we began the final part of our journey. The bus took us back to Picton to get the ferry to Wellington, making a stop at a seal colony along the way. We even got to see baby seals! :)



One final night out in Wellington, and then... our trip had come to an end.

Friday 19th February 2016

Almost the end, but not quite. As most of us weren't flying home until the evening, we booked ourselves onto the Weta Workshop tour, in which we learned from the people who did the special effects in loads of movies, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Though we couldn't take any photos inside the actual room, they had the genuine armour, weapons, props and miniature models from the movies. It was a fascinating and incredible experience!


Afterwards, we picked up our luggage from the hostel and caught the bus to the airport. Then... it was time to say goodbye.

One very long flight later and I was safely back in England, jetlagged but happy. I've come to realise I need to travel, and not just because I spend too much time introverting in my room. ;) I need to explore, to wander new paths, to feel like the world's an open place of possibility rather than a stifling cage. It's like being able to breathe again after the epic hellfest that was 2015. I know publishing will try to slip a noose around my neck again, because that's what it does. But to me, travel represents freedom and possibility, as well as experiences I'll never forget.

Now... where shall I go next? ;)