3, 2, 1… LIFT OFF!

What’s that excitable post title about? Why, it can only be that St Mallory’s has finally come out!

St. Mallory's Forever!

Yes. It has. In fact, St Mallory’s Forever was technically published on the 21st January, which means — get this — that I was still sixteen. By about five minutes, if Mark is correct about the timing. See, my birthday was the 22nd, and I was due to be turning seventeen. Still fairly young to be published, but who wouldn’t leap at the chance to be published at sixteen, instead?

“Miriam,” you’re saying, “if St Mallory’s was published on the 21st, why are you guys telling us to hang on and wait for news? Why haven’t we got it already?”  (Or you might not be saying. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not spying on all my readers through their webcams.)

Well, we did what’s called a ‘soft launch’. For a start, Amazon took a while to upload it, so it didn’t go live until the morning of the 23rd. And at the time of uploading, we hadn’t quite finished proofreading and formatting, and we weren’t sure there wouldn’t be  random glitches, like finding unexpected QQQs around italics.

Yesterday, therefore, Charley and I had downloaded it to our Kindles and were frantically reading through, keeping note of any typos or formatting errors (which I was doing on my phone, and I do not recommend it, but I was in school and had no choice), and Mark was updating it. In theory. As a matter of fact, he lost the internet for an entire day, because of his location, which made it even more stressful.

Oh, and then he wrote a foreword, and told me until I could see that foreword when I clicked “Click To Look Inside” on Amazon, I couldn’t tell you it was out.

Nevertheless, somebody clearly bought it because we managed to get into the Top 100 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Children’s Fiction > Literature > Humourous — a fairly narrow category, I imagine, but we stayed on that chart all night, which I figured was pretty impressive.

Today I got online and checked the ‘click to look inside’ … and there was a foreword. And the blurb had been uploaded. Okay, so it wasn’t quite linked to my Amazon Author page (but will be soon), but other than that, all seemed to be ship shape.

It was official. St Mallory’s Forever was published and available. Is published and available, I should say.

And I decided to rob Charley of the joy of telling you it’s been released, mainly because, well, I got there first.

St Mallory’s Forever! is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. I don’t know for certain about other platforms yet, but I know Mark said they might take a little longer, so I will update this post with links asap!

Edited to add: BARNES & NOBLE

Thank you all for your support thus far. I hope you will stay with us for the rest of the series… and remember, if you like the book, Amazon reviews are always appreciated. 🙂

— Miriam Joy

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The Promo Video Is Live!

Sorry for posting twice in one day — I just wanted to let you know that our promotional video is now live and you can watch it right here:

If you’re the sort of person who uses Tumblr and might be persuaded to reblog it, you can find it here. Otherwise, please share the video however you tend to share things, and spread the word about St Mallory’s!

— M

Piecing It Together

By now you should know that if there’s an update on the St Mall’s blog, it means we’ve found the document after a long hiatus, were guilt-tripped into working on it, and now want to share this with the world.

The funniest thing about collaborative writing is that long before you’re anywhere near finishing the book, it’s difficult to tell who wrote what – especially when many chapters were written following brainstorming sessions in which all parties contributed ideas, and also because we all go back and edit each other’s chapters anyway.

Recently I realised there was no single document that contained the whole of St Mallory’s Forever! so far. We had a ‘final version’ of the first eleven chapters, plus a ‘working document’ containing most of the book (around 30k) as it stood in February of this year. And then we had a ‘chapters’ file which had an additional 15,000 words. These needed lining up.

It took some hunting until I found the most up-to-date version of all chapters that currently exist, but when I did I sat down and started to piece them together (Charley had the latest chapters to review at the time). I also took the opportunity to match up the formatting. Weirdly, not only did we have different fonts, margins, formats (indents versus line breaks; line spacing), and general appearance in the different files, we also had different formatting within the documents themselves.

I quickly put that to rights. (It’s now all in Cambria. I like Cambria.) I also made the chapter titles ‘headers’ so that we can easily skip from one to the next.

In the process I found several chapters that I really couldn’t attribute to any of us – lines I could swear I’d written surrounded by ones of which I had no memory. Either it’s doing a Good Omens and writing itself when we’re not looking, or we’re really getting this collaboration down pat and you won’t be able to tell who wrote what.

What does this mean and why do you care?

You probably don’t. I just thought you might like an update after so long. Piecing the parts of the book together not only removes any excuse we have for discrepancies (we can now look things up), but it also helps us work out how long it is and how much more needs to be written, or how quickly we need to wind it up.

If you weren’t keeping count up there, it’s about 45,000 words long, which is 5k short of a NaNoWriMo-length novel – and we’ve been working on it for nearly a year and a half. It probably won’t be a hugely long novel. My own solo works are about 90-100k each, and this is more likely to be 55-60k, if I’m reading the signs correctly. At the rate we’ve been working for the last year, you’ll be here until the apocalypse waiting for it, but we’re going to really push through the next few weeks.

Yeah, that Christmas 2011 deadline really didn’t happen, did it? But we’re hoping to get this draft completely finished asap, and then it’ll just be edits and rewrites and hopefully it won’t be too long before you see the completed book.

This entire post could be summarised like this: St Mallory’s is still a thing that exists. It’s just been sleeping for a long time. Now it’s waking up, in the hiatus before NaNoWriMo starts.

Stay tuned. We’re getting there.

— M

To Hack Or Not To Hack?

Hello out there. Miriam here, writing to you from Edinburgh where it is, to my great surprise, very sunny. Okay, so it’s night time now, but it was sunny all day. Most strange.

I’m convinced that the only way to solve mysteries is to hack websites and find out about evil villains’ shady pasts by uncovering some great dirty secret. For the last few years, I’ve been telling myself that I can’t be a detective unless I learn to (a) deduce things in an instant like Sherlock Holmes or (b) hack government websites.

And so it was understandable that I thought St Mall’s resident computer whizz, nicknamed Don Pedro for reasons unknown/forgotten to me, would be able to help out our team of intrepid detectives by hacking into websites for them so that they can get the information they need.

Imagine my surprise when I sent a few chapters – drafts, just ideas, nothing definite – to Charley and she came back with this (edited slightly to remove spoilers):

I’m a little wary of the illegal hacking business, though. Perhaps we could get into the system in a more roundabout way, or at least have some explanation for how DP could get at it. We don’t want to be insinuating that breaking into websites is a good idea, after all 😛

Seemed like a good idea to me. I’ve only ever hacked into one website and that was to retrieve some pictures from it, but that was hardly difficult and wasn’t at all illegal. I was just accessing an earlier version, that was all. Seriously, it was totally legit.

But then I started thinking: whatever we write here, people are going to associate with us. I mean, I’ve considered that idea in the past, when trying to decide if something was good enough for other people to read, and have always concluded that I wanted the first manuscript they associated with me to be a good one, rather than a bad one. But this was more of a moral one.

I’ve not kept it a secret that I’m a Christian, but I don’t tend to shout it from the rooftops of the internet as it tends to lead to haters sending you rude messages and to be honest, I got bullied enough at primary school for my faith. I thought I left that behind when I grew up a bit. It’s something that has subtly influenced my writing.

For example, am I going to allow my characters to say “Oh my god”, when it’s something I never say myself? Should they swear, when I don’t if my parents are in the room? (Obviously, no one is swearing in St Mallory’s. They’re far too well-bred for that.)

And then there are a few more important things. Antagonists, I guess, are allowed to do whatever they want because it’s being portrayed as a bad thing. But should the heroes of the story resort to illegal means to solve the problems they’re having, or could that be seen as promoting breaking the law to young, impressionable readers?

I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about this, so any comments on the subject would be welcome. My main reasons for not insisting that characters keep within the law is that, for starters, sometimes the law is wrong, and no one changed the world by keeping to unjust laws; at other times, it may be that something is right in that circumstance. One must consider relative morality as well as absolute morality.

But with this particular quibble of Charley’s in mind, I’m rewriting that scene to be a little less morally ambiguous.

And also, I guess, more realistic. After all, our detectives are very clever, but they’re only teenage girls. And if I haven’t worked out how to hack into my own computer (I’m trying to persuade Voice Recognition to answer to ‘JARVIS’ instead of just ‘Start Listening’, but can’t find the code for that), they’re not going to be busting through firewalls left, right and centre.

Should our characters reflect our moral values, or do you not associate how a character behaves with how you imagine the author to behave? Comments would be much appreciated 🙂

— M

What counts as ‘too many’ with pop culture references?

Good morning, readers! In case you’ve forgotten who I am, as it’s been that long since we last had any posts here, I’m Miriam. I’m the one who isn’t at boarding school – the Londoner 🙂 I’ve just escaped from exams, am working my way through a bunch of shows that I’m playing or dancing in, and redecorating my room. Nevertheless, I caved to Charley’s nagging this morning, sat down at my desk, and did some work on St Mallory’s Forever this morning. And then remembered we had a blog.

We’re good at this whole blogging thing here, I swear.

So, onto the actual post, which is what you want to read, rather than listening to me ramble on about nothing.

Generally, when writing, I steer clear of pop culture references. There are exceptions (my wonderfully hardcore Welsh character, Bronwyn, gets compared to Gwen Cooper on more than one occasion), but I tend to avoid it. It dates the book. It makes it clear when it was written and if it’s still around in twenty years’ time, that’s not always a good thing.

But I guess with e-books it’s different. After all, you can always update them in a year’s time, or two years’, to accommodate that sort of thing, can’t you?

My conclusion when it comes to St Mallory’s, therefore: you can never have too many references.

I don’t know who was responsible for the first Sherlock Holmes references but after that sprouted in the middle of an early chapter, several more followed, some more obvious than others. We’ve had a Doctor Who marathon and a dalek alarm clock. Miss Marple has been mentioned, as has Saruman’s bad singing and the peak of Caradhras.

Oh, and Yoda’s backside, but we don’t talk about that.

We had an absolutely brilliant (though I say so myself) Star Trek related pun for a chapter title. Okay, so the others haven’t seen that yet, as I only just sent it to Charley, but I thought it was brilliant. It took me, like, five minutes to think of it. In fact, I think it was a stroke of genius. My magnum opus. I will be remembered for that chapter title. Except that no one will know I wrote it as opposed to, say, Charley or Mark or Saffi. *sigh* But it was good. Honest.

Not to mention the fact that one of our major characters’ names is a hidden reference in itself, and if anyone picks up on it, I will like them a lot and will send them virtual cookies. But not real cookies, because I have no money to pay the postage. Sorry.

But Miriam, how can we pick up on it when we haven’t read St Mallory’s yet? Um, yeah, we’re working on the whole finishing-the-book thing. Honest.

Keep your eyes peeled for announcements. I think we’re getting there with the plot and we’ll be tying up loose ends before too long!

— M

From Somewhere Beneath the Textbooks…

Hello everyone!

Yes, yes, I know it’s been months since either Miriam or I posted here – very very naughty of us, we know. We would love to post more, but unfortunately we are inhibited by one thing (or many things, depends how you view it.)

Exams.

Miriam is currently tackling GCSEs, while I am a year ahead getting chewed on by my AS Levels. Both of us are currently on Study Leave, doing battle with a variety of ideas that we’re supposed to know but swear we never studied. For me it’s Descartes, Polkinghorne and Anselm, and for Miriam it’s incomprehensible Physics-related squigglies that supposedly explain the behavior of various whizzy-bouncy particle thingies.

Subsequently, St Mallory’s Forever! has been somewhat neglected. It is currently sitting in my email Inbox, glaring at me malevolently and threatening to maim my brain cells the moment it comes within range.

And, with any luck, it will have its opportunity as of Thursday, when all but one of my exams will be over. The moment we get the rough draft finished – and we get out of school for the summer – we both have every intention of editing at the speed of light, shoving it through the formatters, and getting it into your hands as soon as we can.

In the meantime … a little more patience, please. Not much, just a bit. We promise.

If you feel the urge to hunt us down and persecute us further, you can find both our personal blogs here:

Miriam Joy

Charley Robson

Live long and prosper, readers. We promise to be back soon.

An Interview With Charley R

I’ve told my side of the story – now it’s time to hear it from Charley. We decided the best way to do this would be to do an interview, although we may have got slightly sidetracked at times! This interview took place on the eleventh of February, via Facebook. I apologise that the line breaks are so un-line-breaky, but I can’t make them behave. *sigh*

Miriam: So, Charley! Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
Charley: ‘Tis my pleasure!
Miriam: Great! Okay, so you’ve been involved in St Mallory’s Forever for longer than me, and you were the one to ask me on Mark’s behalf whether I wanted to join. Is that correct?
Charley: I think so – my memory’s a little hazy of the event, but as far as I know, Mark said it would be a good idea, but I didn’t want to do it on my own. And it’s always more fun doing a mystery with other people.
Miriam: Ah, so it was YOUR idea to get me involved? I didn’t know that.
Charley: I think it was – Mark kept pestering me to do it, but I thought “Hey, I can’t do this on my own!” and I remember that time we started on another rather short-lived mystery collab on Protagonize.
Miriam: Ah, I see! Yes, I remember that. Ha, that was fun – Time Travel Makes Murder Complicated, wasn’t it?
Charley:That’s the one!
Miriam: Ha ha, I’m pretty sure that would have been too conceptually difficult to keep up, but never mind. I’m grateful for you getting me in on St Mallory’s.
So, which of the characters from St Mall’s do you associate the most with? Tell us a bit about them and why that relates to you.
Charley: To be honest, probably Xuan. Like me, she travels a lot with her father’s job, she’s bright but people don’t often believe it, and we can both be witheringly sarcastic when we want to.
Miriam: That’s interesting! I would have thought you would understand Abby quite well, as she’s a Doctor Who fan on top of having the boarding school background, but when I was writing the ‘About’ for the book and I was summarising the characters, I did pick up on that aspect of Xuan’s personality. I’d just been working on your bio, too.
Charley: Yes, I do relate to Abby a bit – mainly on the Doctor Who and boarding school background bit – but Abby’s been at boarding school her whole life, and comes from a stable, probably vaguely wealthy home. I and my family are none of those, haha!
Miriam: There’s always that, obviously. For the benefit of people who don’t bother reading bios, want to tell us a bit about how you ended up at a boarding school?
Charley: Well, it all started about five or six years ago (I think it’s nearly six years ago … wow, that’s a long time!). My family and I were living in Australia at the time, and I was about to go into Year Seven – aka, leaving Junior school. We were going to be moving back to the UK soon, and we encountered a problem.
Mum knew I was going to have to take big exams soon, but Army life had been so sporadic that my education was really screwed up. As a result, mum decided it was time we went to boarding school, as it was really the only realistic option we had in order for me not to die of starvation in a cardboard box later in life. It all sort of unfolded from there.
Miriam: How similar is St Mallory’s to your own school, Sherborne Girls?
Charley: Hmmm … a lot of the timings and rules are the same (not surprising, since I was in charge of setting them out!) The idea of boarding houses is exactly the same, and we DO have a music block, and we DO have house lacrosse tournaments etc … I think it all ends there xD
Miriam: So, none of the teachers were based on teachers you’ve got?
Charley: Mrs Trewell, the briefly-mentioned Housemistress of Marylebone is based on the housemistress we had who left last year. And I won’t lie, the Bursar looks a bit like my English teacher, bahahaha!
Miriam: Ah, Sam the bursar! A most suspicious character.
Charley: Indeed … he couldn’t get much fishier, could he?
Miriam: Indeed not. We’ve done some plotting together – want to tell our readers how that works?
Charley: Oh, why not!
Miriam: Go ahead – the floor is yours.
Charley: Haha, thank you! … Nice lighting we have here.
Anyway, I think most of our plotting is pretty off-the-hoof, as the muse bites us. I myself tend to leave “Charley Brainwaves” at the end of my chapter postings for people to comment on as you like. We also converse via email (which, with three of us sending emails in all directions, sometimes with all three included, sometimes not) can get very entertaining indeed!
Miriam: I may or may not have sent you some rather unexpected text messages in the past, too, isn’t that right? I mostly have ideas in Physics lessons. Obviously, I have to tell you RIGHT THEN. *grins*
Charley: Oh yes! Some of them are most amusing. I think I like your Sherlock ones best though!
Miriam: Are you referring to Sherlock mentions within St Mallory’s (of which there are several), or just the random Lestrade jokes that I tend to send late at night?
Charley: Both of them – though the latter do bring smiles to my face on hard days 😀
As for geeky inserts, well, I’m just as bad on the Doctor Who front!
Miriam: Ach, I wouldn’t say it was a ‘bad’ thing…. as long as we don’t get sued.
I think that’s all we’ve got time / wordcount for today.
Charley: Pity – I’m enjoying this!
Miriam: I’m glad to hear it. I’ll open the floor for any of our readers to leave comments and questions for us both, and perhaps we could do another interview in the future?
In the meantime, I’ll go back to sending you xkcd comics and distracting you from real life.
Charley: I welcome it with open arms.
Now come on readership! Or do I have to invoke the Goo Gun of Doom?
Now there’s a threat and a half! Do you have any questions for Charley or myself? We’ll be happy to answer them, and I believe Charley intends to interview me in the near future!