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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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

The Journey So Far

How did four writers from different places in the world – Grimsby, London, Dorset and West Africa – and of different ages end up collaborating on a YA novel set in a boarding school? It’s a good question. I’m now going to attempt to summarise the journey from my point of view.

Just a quick note, if you want to know more about any of us then just click the ‘Meet The Authors’ tab in the top right corner 🙂

I think I can take some credit, because it was on my blog that the seed which later germinated into St Mallory’s forever was planted, in a comment from Mark (one half of the Saffina Desforges writing team). The post was here, but the particular comment was, “I can’t wait til Ms Spook writes her own version of Malory Towers and the Chalet School series. I’m guessing there would be a big market for well-told YA set in a modern girls’ boarding school. Come on.Ms Spook! The world is waiting. Jolly hockey sticks and all that!”

Just a few weeks later, Spook – who now goes by her given name of Charley – sent me a Facebook message saying that Mark wanted the two of us to collaborate with ‘Saffina Desforges’ to write this novel, and would I like to?

I wasn’t sure. I’d not read or written any mysteries, I knew nothing about boarding schools, and an aversion to plotting, outlines and coherent sentences has always made serious collaboration tricky (though I’ve done some fun collaborative Doctor Who fan-fics). I wasn’t about to let Charley get all the glory of publication without me, though, and I’m always up for a challenge, so I said yes.

This was some time in July or August, I think, and we initially planned to release it in time for Christmas, which was a little optimistic. After a few enthusiastic weeks (I also take the credit for writing the first chapter, which then got chopped up by the other two, mashed around, and some of it stayed in and some turned up later and some disappeared into the ether), it fizzled out, and between late October and mid January there was no activity on St Mall’s at all.

And then my grandma died. I needed to distract myself, to occupy my brain, and I didn’t feel like writing my own novel – it’s always had a strong autobiographical content. I dug out the draft, read the whole thing through, and ended up adding a few thousand words to the end of it.

That was enough to get the ball rolling again: since then, a week hasn’t gone by without one of us adding to it, and sometimes two of us will write five chapters over just a couple of days, much refreshed after our long break!

(Reading the Sherlock Holmes short stories and some of the longer ones in the meantime almost certainly helped me understand the ‘mystery’ idea better, even if it did lead to way too many Sherlock references in there. I can’t speak for the others, but I think they were definitely necessary.)

It’ll be a little while until it’s finished. Meanwhile, cover designs are going ahead, and we’re planning promos and videos. I’m writing chapters, sending them to Charley, and having them back in my inbox the next morning with more added, a speed at which we never worked before.

It’ll be good to have you, who will perhaps be our future readers, on this journey with us. Five months or more may already have gone, but there’s still a long way to go.

With your support, St Mallory’s Forever will never again languish on an email server for three months. We’ll get it finished, and you’ll be there every step of the way.

Does that sound like an idea?

Then now would be the time to put your email address into that gorgeous little box on the right. I’ll see you next time!

— M