Dream On is now available on Amazon!

Dream On is officially available to download and read on Amazon!

E-books don’t need back covers, but I designed one anyway for the paperback version, and it looks like this:

DO front and back

Download “Dream On” on Amazon.com (US) here

Download “Dream On” on Amazon.co.uk (UK) here

Download “Dream On” on Amazon.com (AUS) here

So please – click one of the links above, download the book (or Try a Sample first, if you like – it goes a few pages into Chapter 2) and let me know what you think in the comments or by posting a review on Amazon.

Thanks, and enjoy!


Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one

So it’s Thanksgiving in the United States today, according to my Facebook feed. Obviously this is not a holiday that we celebrate in New Zealand, and admittedly I know very little about it and its history, but what I have gleaned from my many American friends on Facebook is that it is a time to stop and look around and be thankful for what we have.

So I want to take this moment to mention a few things that I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for my family, who support and encourage me through thick and thin. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of such a wonderful, creative, intelligent, close-knit family – not just my parents and siblings but my half-siblings and their families, my aunties and uncles and cousins, my grandmother and my distant relations.

I’m thankful for the wonderful people in my life who I’m not related to, but who choose to spend their time and energy on me. Friends are a blessing in everyone’s life and I am so fortunate to have so many incredible friends who impress and inspire me every day. Whether they’re going out of their way to help the under-privileged or just treating those around them with the utmost respect and love, I admire each and every one of them. Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I’m thankful for the horses who have come through my life, from the delightful creature that I have now, to the horses I’ve known in the past. There are so many special horses, whether they are still a part of it or not, who I look back on with fond memories, not least of all the following: Bittersweet, Alice, Scooter, Jolie, Oliver, Katama, Happ, Ides, Rainier and countless other gorgeous horses that I had the privilege of knowing and riding during my summers at Road’s End Farm in NH, USA; Barnacle and Biscuit, my two best boys at Ashford in Co. Mayo, Ireland; Kaneel, Spritzer and Pepe in Epsom, UK; Honey, Major and Cheyenne, the dream team of lesson ponies that I had the privilege of working with at both Ferndale and Peka Peka Road – amongst them they taught countless young riders the basics. And I want to thank the ponies I was lucky enough to own as a child and teenager – Whisper, Tess, Minnie and Caddie, who all taught me so much and gave me so much back; the special ponies who have never belonged to me but who I’ve loved all the same – Breeze, Misty, Jezebel and Willow; and the ponies that I learned to ride on, back when having my own pony was a far-off dream – Cinter, Teddy, Geronimo, and Brandy. Wonderful teachers and good kids all.

Finally, I’m thankful for the internet, for Amazon, for everything that makes it possible for me to write and share my books with the outside world.

And so in order to say thank you to everyone out there, I have made Dare to Dream available on Kindle absolutely FREE for the next three days. I was hoping that a freebie would get a few more people interested in my books, and that the average number of daily downloads might double – even triple – during this time. I didn’t expect the downloads to increase a hundredfold in less than 24 hours, but that’s exactly what they’ve done – far exceeding my wildest expectations!

So now, I’m thankful for that too.

And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.
Happiness, no more be sad, happiness….I’m glad.
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.


Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years. We miss you Marley. I still feel so privileged to have known you, and to continue to have you with me as I write these books.

I wanted to release Dream On today, in Marley’s memory, but unfortunately it’s not quite ready yet. So as a compromise, I’ve uploaded the first chapter here in PDF format. Click the link to read it, and let me know what you thought in the comments.

Marley polaroid 2I met Marley Sirjane at summer camp in NH, USA, where I worked for five summers between 2004 and 2010. Marley, like many of the girls who came to the farm at the end of the road, was a regular fixture, returning year after year. Each year she was a little taller, a little older, but little else changed. She always had a boundless enthusiasm for getting the most out of life, and loved her time there. Always surrounded by friends, always with that magic smile on her face that never failed to light up the room.

Part of my role at the camp was to help with camper/horse assignments. Each camper was assigned a horse to ride each week, and one by one they would come to me and tell me which horse they wanted to ride. There were always perennial favourites, and there were always a few that not many people wanted to ride. Montana, affectionately known as Monty (or Monster), has always been one of the latter. A stocky chestnut mustang, he’s a stunning and extremely intelligent horse that was assigned to very few riders, due to his difficult and unpredictable nature. He had come to the farm after our director had seen him tied to a post in someone’s yard without any food or water. The story goes that he’d belonged to a young woman who’d left him behind when she left her boyfriend, and so he’d been abandoned. Never one to let a horse suffer, Tom bought Montana and took him back to the farm. Even if he’d known then how difficult Montana would end up being, I don’t think he’d have done anything differently that day.

Montana polaroid 2004Montana is a horse that chooses his riders – no matter how skilled or experienced you might be, if he doesn’t like you, you don’t have a hope of getting any constructive work out of him. He was never an easy horse to assign, and would regularly be left in the feedlot unridden if nobody suitable was available for him. As one of the most advanced rides on the farm, he was sought after by the experienced riders looking for a challenge, but over the years there have only been a few people who really ‘clicked’ with him. Marley was one of them.

I was not. I rode Montana three times, back in 2004. The first time was one sunny afternoon in the advanced ring, and he was an angel. Extremely quick to pick up new ideas, he tried hard to do as I asked and his canter was the smoothest, most comfortable I’ve ever had the joy of sitting on. His proud bearing and sensitivity made him an extraordinary horse to ride, and I still treasure the memory of that day. What I don’t treasure were the next two rides I had on him. Both times taking him out on trail, with a group of riders behind me. The first time he was almost foot-perfect, only getting a little hot coming home, but I made myself stay relaxed and sang songs to him as we returned to camp. I’ve never been a particularly brave rider, and Montana is an extremely powerful and strong horse. As much as I liked him, I was becoming slightly nervous of him, and I knew that I couldn’t afford to be, for either of our sakes.

Our next ride was problematic. He got upset, and his anxiousness transmitted itself to me. Unable to calm myself down sufficiently to give him the reassurance he needed, I eventually dismounted and led him home. One of my fellow counselors had spent many weeks that summer training him and getting his confidence back after a nasty accident the summer before, and I didn’t want to upset him any more than he already was. As I walked him home, I apologised for not being able to be there for him and give him what he needed. I felt a slight disconnect from him then, as though he pulled away from me a little, and I never rode him again. It was by choice, because I don’t think it’s fair on a horse who need so much reassurance and confidence from his rider to not be able to have it, but I still always liked him, and regarded him fondly.

Montana Marley polaroidBut Marley was one of the riders who could handle Montana. She never became flustered by him, even on his bad days, when he would panic and just canter endless circles of ever increasing speed. She never got mad at him, or asked him why he couldn’t be more like the other horses. She accepted him for who he was, helped him through his difficult times, and loved him unconditionally. And every time she rode him, the bond between them increased. She became one of his special people that he trusted, and there are precious few of them in his world.

When it came to writing Dream On, it was this bond between horse and rider that I wanted to capture. In some ways, Dream On is even more Marley’s story than Dare to Dream was. In that book, Marley and Cruise have a powerful bond from the very start. There is no baggage with Cruise, no trauma in his past to get through, no trust issues to deal with. They have a connection almost like telepathy, and they understand and relate to one another from day one. I’ve had that kind of relationship with a horse, and it’s a magical thing to experience.

Marley polaroidBut that story has been told, and it was time to look at a different type of relationship. One that has to build that foundation. One with a horse that has been through so much that she can’t bring herself to trust people again – and a rider who has to learn how to allow herself to share the love she has within her with others. Although Marley (the character) has always been her own person, the strength of Marley Sirjane’s bond with Montana came back to me time and again as I wrote this next book. I hope that my words can do their relationship justice.

There is now an apple tree planted next to the main riding ring at the camp, in Marley’s memory. I’ve heard it said that when Montana first returned to the ring after the tree was planted, he stood and stared at it for a long time. Everyone waited with tears in their eyes until he finally walked on. Maybe he was reacting to the sight of a new tree, although none of the other horses were overly bothered by it – but he has always been more sensitive than most. Or maybe he knew, somehow, what that tree means. Maybe he was saying goodbye too.

Marley polaroid treeIt’s a special place, underneath that tree. When I went back to the farm for the first time after Marley’s passing, I went up there and sat with her as the sun went down. The sky slowly turned pink above us, and I thanked her for coming along on the journey while I wrote “Dare to Dream” – I had just given her mother the first draft of the completed book to read. Then we sat in silence for some time, before a huge flock of birds came overhead. They swooped and turned and flew back and forth in perfect, chaotic formation, and then all of a sudden, as one, disappeared into the woods.

I brushed away my tears and as I got up to leave, I reminded Marley of what our camp directors always told the girls who didn’t want to go home just yet, who weren’t ready to leave the farm behind.

“It’s not goodbye. It’s just see you later.”

See ya round, Marley May.

Marley polaroid plaque


Is Amazon evil? : My Experiences in Self Publishing

You may or may not have heard about the Amazon vs Hachette debacle. In a nutshell, Amazon (the e-retailer) and Hachette (a publishing company who publish many authors around the world, including some multi-millionaires as well as a lot of ‘small fry’ authors) have been scrapping recently because Hachette resisted Amazon’s efforts to dictate the price of e-books online.

Amazon wants to control the prices of ebooks – that ubiquitous $9.99* – and level the market, thus wrangling customers and better controlling the system at large. Hachette wants to set its own prices, scaling them depending on the author, release date, the book’s success, etc.

The Guardian

So therein lies the battle. Or lay the battle, I suppose, since an agreement has been reached. Ultimately, Hachette has emerged victorious – in a sense. They have the right to set their own pricing (although they get financial incentives from Amazon to sell books at $9.99) on Amazon. What they now have to work out is whether their authors will continue to be satisfied with receiving 25% royalties on the sales of their books. Percentages being relative to the book’s price, after all – 25% of $19.99 is $4.99. 25% of $9.99 is $2.49. Which would you rather earn? (More on royalties later.)

But here’s the thing. Before denouncing Amazon for being evil, for trying to force publishing companies to sell books to them at a lower cost, thus reducing the authors’ royalties (and Hachette’s profit margin!), let’s take a look at what Amazon offers the little guy – the self-published author.

I self-published Dare to Dream and How the Unicorn Lost His Horn on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing program. I can set the prices for my books and receive up to 70% in royalties for my work. For writers like me, who are from a small country and write for a niche audience, Amazon KDP is the perfect platform, and it offers me far more money for my work than any traditional publisher would.

Contrastingly, I self-published Flying Changes through an online company who did the distribution (of paperbacks (printed to order) and e-books) for me. They made the book available in both formats across multiple platforms (including Amazon), which on paper is fantastic. In reality, not so much. I have received minimal payments (less than $400 all up) for my sales in the three years that the book has been available online. (And I was paid in cheques made out in Australian dollars, meaning I had to pay NZ$15 in bank fees plus the exchange rate before banking each one. Several were so small that this was not even worthwhile doing.) Their systems have made it very difficult to track sales and communicate with them. I earned 40% royalties for all sales on those books, aside from the copies that I had printed and posted to me to sell privately. Those cost me $20 to get in my hands, which meant that in order to make a profit, I had to sell the books at more than $20 (generally I sold them for $30 each). Personally I baulk at paying more than $20 for a paperback, so I was never easy about asking for this price, although many people (bless their souls) did so. It also made it very difficult to get my books into commercial bookstores, because naturally every store wants a cut of the profit. If I need $20 in order to break even, the bookstore then has to add their requirement to pay GST onto that, which brings the cost of the book close to $24 before either of us are able to make a profit. In other words, when I walked into Paper Plus and said “Would you like to sell my book?” they did so out of the goodness of their own hearts. Pricing copies at $30 each (which is expensive for a YA paperback by anyone’s standards), by the time my costs were recouped and GST was paid, they received the barest minimum of profits for doing so. It’s not a good business model, and one that made me increasingly uncomfortable.

When it came to Dare to Dream, I did things a little differently. Initially I published the book on Smashwords, a company that will convert your .docx files into e-book format and make it available on various platforms. It is a tricky system to negotiate in some ways, and their formatting is not particularly good. It also does not allow you to publish on Amazon…so you are shut off from Amazon’s entire e-book market (which accounts for approximately 65% of the market in the US alone). After learning about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, I enrolled Dare to Dream. I uploaded the cover picture and the .docx file, gave my bank account details, and voila! Dare to Dream was available to anyone with a Kindle, or who had downloaded the Kindle app onto their smartphone. I can set the price at whatever I want, and what’s more, I get 70% of the royalties from every sale paid directly into my bank account every month. That’s almost double the royalties I was offered for Flying Changes.

That was a year ago. In that time, I have made more each month from sales of Dare to Dream than I get annually for sales of Flying Changes. Amazon’s sales tracking is very easy to use, with graphs and spreadsheets available to show sales, prices, regions, etc. And as well as sales, books can be added to Amazon’s lending library (at the author’s choice) where I earn a further small commission on books ‘borrowed’ by readers. (So far only available in some countries, NZ not included.)

I also printed some paperback copies of Dare to Dream through Printing.com in Wellington. After doing all my own set-up and design work, I was able to get the books in my hand for a fraction over $7 each, meaning I can comfortably sell them for $20 each and still make a profit for my work.

As as result of what I learned from Dare to Dream‘s success, I have recently pulled Flying Changes from the online company (Xlibris). Fortunately I retained all copyright to the content and paid for the cover image, so I’ve simply redone the cover and will make it available again on Amazon KDP very soon.

So that’s all good stuff. How does that differ from traditional publishing? Well, the way that works is that the publisher buys your manuscript from you, paying an advance based on how well they think it will sell (Nicholas Sparks was paid a $1m advance for The Notebook, his first novel!) and then a percentage of all sales. If you have written a best-seller, that sells millions of copies and is translated into lots of languages, and sells continuously well, you’re going to become fabulously wealthy. (Especially if you write six more, each more eagerly anticipated than the last – and also earn royalties from things like movies, merchandise, and theme parks…yes I’m looking at the sublimely talented JK Rowling – an exception and by no means the rule. She is still, to the best of my knowledge, the only author whose books have made her a billionaire.)

What if your book isn’t a best-seller? Well, therein lies the problem. This post from Tudor Robins explains it brilliantly. She published her first novel through a traditional publisher, then she self-published her second on Amazon. Have a read to find out which was more successful for her, and which way she plans to go in the future.

Because here’s the thing: When you are traditionally printed, you sell the copyright to your words. It’s like selling a horse – you hand over the horse and they hand you the money, and you have no control anymore over what happens to that horse. Self-publishing is more akin to leasing (assuming you are doing a paid lease with a watertight agreement). You don’t get a big fee upfront, but you get continuous payments, and you retain control over what happens to your horse. You can take them back at any time, just as you can take your book offline any time, or change the cover photo, or fix the typos that slipped through, or write a revised edition. You still own it. You can retain control.

The downside here is that you might never reach the widest possible audience. You might slip under many radars, and you will mostly likely never become a millionaire. You will quite possibly struggle to ever live off what you make from your writing, so if your ambition is to be a hugely successful author, the traditional route might be the best one for you. You also might not want to do your own publicity – although as Tudor points out in her post (linked above), being commercially published doesn’t mean you don’t have to do your own publicity, which may even cost you money. And there are also companies out there online like Pump Up Your Book, and heaps of advice available on maximising your sales.

For companies like Hachette, they continue to have the right to set their own prices. Fair’s fair, I suppose. But the problem, as I see it, is that you get books like this one, a phenomenal read that I want all of my overseas friends to buy, being priced by the publisher outside of most people’s comfort zone. Hopefully the price will continue to come down (it already has done, substantially) as the original e-book price was presumably set so high as to encourage readers to pay for a paperback copy. Which is all well and good if you live in New Zealand, within reach of a bookstore. Not so good if you live in New York, or London, or Perth, or Dubai, or Cape Town, or anywhere else that is not New Zealand, within reach of a bookstore!

Of course, there are two sides to every story. I feel for the authors involved in the Hachette case, who lost royalties due to Amazon’s decision to make some Hachette titles unavailable to purchase, delaying deliveries of others by weeks, and advertising alongside some titles with a banner of “similar items at a lower price”. Yet perhaps part of the scramble from Hachette comes from the knowledge that the easier it gets to self-publish, the more work they’re going to have to do to keep authors on the traditional publishing track. Traditional publishing is a very difficult realm to break into, and with the exception of best-sellers and top earners (many of whom were outspoken on Hachette’s behalf), is a rocky road to navigate and doesn’t offer the best returns for the small-time author. The question is – Why sell your copyright to someone else who might promote your book briefly, and if it doesn’t sell well, shelve it forever…when you can retain control of it, target it towards a wide-reaching, intended audience, and make sure that it is available forever?

Now, people fairly ask what will happen to the quality of literature when anyone can publish anything and make money from it? Who’s to say what’s good and what’s not? What’s worthy of publication, and what’s not? The simple answer to that is YOU. The consumer. Yes, there are plenty of e-books out there that are quite bad. Some are badly written, some are badly plotted, some are badly proof-read, some are all of the above. But some are fantastic. Of the 20 books listed on my What to Read page, only a handful of those authors are commercially published. Most are self-publishing their books on Amazon…and loving it. And my books are self-published. So if you’re here, you’ve probably read them, and you hopefully enjoyed them. If it wasn’t for Amazon’s KDP program, would you have read Dare to Dream?

Also, don’t forget that Amazon has their nifty little “Try a Sample” function. You can download the first chapter or so of any book before you decide whether or not to buy it. I quite often scroll through Amazon’s recommendations to me, clicking on multiple samples of books to try, and then reading them and weeding out the ones I can’t be bothered going on with (usually around half of them). This is akin to picking up a book in a shop and reading the first few pages. You might be enraptured and have to buy the book right away – or you might decide that it’s not for you after all, and walk off. You have that choice.

In conclusion, one year after starting with Amazon KDP, I still sell 3-5 copies of Dare to Dream online each day. I do next to no promotion of it, other than this website (which I don’t even know if anyone visits), this blog (which I don’t even know if anyone reads), and my Facebook page (which is being filtered off many of my ‘Likers’ newsfeeds by the Facebook powers that be because I don’t pay for advertising on their site. And they call Amazon evil…).

But wait – if I do no promotion for my books, where do I get sales from? Well, Amazon’s “Readers also liked…” function helps. So do their tailored emails that they send out – I’m constantly being told that based on my previous purchases, I should try this book called Dare to Dream. Apparently it’s quite good.) Five-star reviews are also good, because the overall star rating of a book helps it get promoted by the Amazon robots. As a result of this, I can just leave the book to tick away, making me some pocket money while I work on my next novel, while continuing to work my 9-5 day job. Because for most authors, we write for the love of the story, not for the money. We then look for the easiest, fairest way to be compensated for our work, and right now, as far as I’m concerned, Amazon are the ones bringing that to the table.

So before we get too wrapped up in bashing the big guy (Amazon) for slamming the smaller guys (published authors), let’s see what the littlest guys of all (self-published authors) think.

Works for me.

* Amazon reportedly wants to bring the price of all e-books on their site to $9.99. I assume (perhaps erroneously) that this is a maximum price, and that they will continue to allow self-published authors using KDP to set their own pricing (there are minimum (99c) prices involved when you sign up with KDP). If I had to sell my books at $9.99, I can guarantee my sales would drop – and with good reason. Although still much cheaper than buying a traditionally published physical copy of a book, if a book is priced anywhere over $5 on Kindle, I know personally that I had better REALLY want it before I will purchase it. So hopefully this will only relate to traditional publishers, and not hurt the little guy. I can’t see it being a good business model for Amazon, to be perfectly honest, and I am fairly confident that it will not happen. At least not anytime soon.

Clearwater Bay series · Dare To Dream · Dream On

Finding your story and setting it free

I’m sitting in the middle of Chapter One of Dream On, methodically making my way through as I check for typos, sense, flow, and other little bits and pieces that will make the story read more smoothly.

In the back of my mind as I read are the bigger questions – does this scene need to be here? What is this particular scene contributing to the larger story? (Hint: If the answer is nothing, delete the scene. If it’s not driving the story forward, it doesn’t belong in the book.)

In an even further back place in my mind, there is another question hovering. Why am I telling this story? Or, why am I telling this story? What do I have to say to the world at large, that I am using this story, this book, as a medium for? (Hint: If you can’t answer that question, you lack theme. Then you’re writing a story, but you’re not saying anything…and although the story might work on its own, with a beginning, a middle and an end, it won’t leave the reader with anything to take away. It won’t have resonance. It won’t matter.)

The stories we love, the ones we remember, are the ones that matter to us. The ones that challenge us, that confuse us, that make us reconsider the world and our place in it. One of my favourite reviews for Dare to Dream made this very clear:

This book is really the best book I have EVER read in my whole life! It is a mix between romance and action. I loved it. I cried at the end and it made my think of how lucky we are to have things like food and a roof over our heads.
–  Avery Kasper, via Amazon.com

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I read that review. Quite aside from everything else, it was those four words that made my day: It made me think.

But it doesn’t always come easy. The problem with my original draft of Against the Clock is that it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t have that elusive something that makes it powerful, that makes it important, that will hopefully make the reader stop and think. How would I feel if I was in that situation? What would I do, when faced with that dilemma? When given that choice? As a reader, your answers to those questions might be completely different to the choices that the characters make, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that it makes you stop, makes you think, makes you reconsider.

That it has something to say.

I read a blog post today by Hugh Howey that resonated with me. He wrote that:

When writing is going well, it feels more like reading or discovery than it does writing or creation. It feels as though the story could go no other way than the way we’re writing it. Like it existed before us.

I think – I hope – that all writers have had that feeling. Sometimes it’s one that develops slowly as you work through the book, as you get to know the characters. Sometimes characters leap off the page and you feel as though you’ve known them forever – others are more shy, and it takes time to get familiar with them. (Of my characters, Marley falls into the first category. Her sister Kris falls into the second – but we’ve become very close since I wrote Dream On.)

But that’s when writing is going well. What about when it’s not? Howey reckons that when your writing just won’t flow, it means that there’s something wrong. Somewhere along the line, you’ve taken a step onto the wrong path, and you need to go back and try again. Sci-fi and fantasy author extraordinaire Robin Hobb said something very similar at a book signing that I went to recently. When I get writer’s block, she explained, I know it means I’ve gone wrong somewhere. So I just go back a few pages and pick up the story again from there, and this time, take the characters down a different path.

I get the feeling that American poet Robert Frost knew that too.

Two paths diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.

What I particularly liked about Howey’s blog post was that he also talked about that moment when you recognise the story you need to tell. When you have that lightbulb moment, and you know that you’ve just stumbled upon something great. And how it feels when you do. Non-writers might be surprised to hear that it doesn’t feel as though you’ve made it up…as he says, it feels like you’ve remembered it.

Ever had the feeling you were forgetting something as you left the house? You walk around, wracking your brain, trying to figure out what it is. Exhausting every option, you decide your intuition is wrong. It isn’t until you’re half an hour away from the house that the missing thing percolates up to the conscious level.

This is writing. You know what happens next. The challenge is remembering.

I can still remember exactly where I was when I discovered the key turning point in Dare to Dream. I suppose it could be described as the whodunnit? moment. (If you’ve read the book you’ll know what I mean – and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) I was writing the story, putting it together slowly, like a complicated jigsaw puzzle that I just knew had a horse in the middle of it, but was missing some crucial pieces around the outside. A bit like one of those Wasgij? puzzles, where you sort of know what you’re making, but you won’t be able to truly see it until you get to the very end. Then one morning I was driving to work, along State Highway One just south of Waikanae, under the rail bridge and approachin the 80km/h speed zone, and all of a sudden I realised that I knew who’d done it. What’s more, I knew why. The story fell into place that day, and I couldn’t wait to get to a computer so I could write it all down.

It might sound crazy to be writing a story and still putting the pieces together – especially such crucial pieces as that – as you go. But sometimes that’s how it works. And looking back, it wasn’t until I had read that first draft, which I thought was complete and perfect, from go to whoa on a plane to New York, that I realised the story had a problem. I wasn’t making a puzzle that had a horse in the middle of it after all. So I went back to the drawing board. I deleted and rewrote and added scenes and refined the book, until I had the picture – the story – that I needed.

Because ultimately, Dare to Dream isn’t a story about a pony. It’s a story about three sisters.

The reviewer from NZBooklovers saw it too:

It is the relationships in this book that make Dare to Dream special. Lattey has done a wonderful job at crafting a unique relationship between the three sisters – they each have defined personalities, and often clash with one another, but the love they have for each another shines through. It is the excellent relationships that Lattey has cultivated that made the book so emotionally poignant.

And once I realised that, I could write Dream On easily.

Well, not easily.

But well.


Some days it don’t come easy… some days it don’t come hard…

The countdown to the release of Dream On has begun. I can’t promise a release date yet, but I HOPE to have it out before the end of the month. Certainly by December 1st at the latest.

And some days it don’t come easy    |   And some days it don’t come hard
And some days it don’t come at all   |   And these are the days that never end…

Essentially, the book is finished. The last couple of times that I’ve completed a final draft, it has been very much that – a draft – and has still needed a lot of work. The original draft of Dare to Dream was quite different from the book that it became, due to a combination of my own realisation of its shortcomings and feedback from other people about what needed to change. The final draft of Against the Clock was so weak that after I reviewed it, I decided that it needed such a large overhaul that it was going to essentially be a complete re-write, not just a tidy-up of a few storylines as Dare to Dream was. So that has been shelved for the moment, although it is still mulling itself over in my head.

Having other people read your work is one of the most terrifying – and rewarding – parts of being a writer. It’s baring your soul to the world, and it’s actually really hard to do (although it does get easier). One of my greatest critics is my mum, who like myself, is an avid reader. Unlike myself, she has next to no interest in horses, and her knowledge is restricted to what she has gleaned from me over the years, and has learned from reading my books. She’s a great person to read my first drafts because a) she’s brutally honest (this is something every writer needs!) and b) she is not generally a reader of YA or pony fiction, so she gets bored quickly if there is too much “pony” in the story. As fun as it is to write competition round after competition round, it becomes tedious to read (something I learned when reading my first draft of Dare to Dream!). So when I handed Dream On over to her to read, I was intrigued to see what she would make of it.

I needn’t have worried… she loved it. My main concern with this book was the ending, because it took me a while to work out how to balance the final scenes. Part of my process is to write the “big” scenes first – the big turning points, the big emotional moments, the beginning and the ending – and then to write the rest of the book around those pivotal moments. I was concerned that, in tying up all the storylines, I had too many “big” moments at the end of the book. I worked hard on that before I handed the draft over, and it has paid off. All of the scenes are still in the story, although one got moved up several chapters. The problem was that they are all quite heavily emotional, and going straight from one to the next was a bit of a feelings overload! You can’t go from one moment of emotional turmoil straight into another – it’s exhausting, and moments that should be powerful pay-offs end up reading as overly dramatic or cheesy.  For every high, there should be a corresponding low, or at least enough time for the reader to bring their emotions back to base level for a few beats, before launching them sky high again. With all that in mind, I was looking forward to seeing what my mum made of the ending of the book – fortunately, she loved it. In fact, here’s a direct quote from her email she sent me directly she finished:

Great ending, and quite unexpected.  Dad saw me put the book down and said “How was it?”, and I couldn’t answer over the lump in my throat, just sat there mopping my eyes – just writing this is making me well up again!  So well done, another great book and I’m sure it will go down a treat.

Yeah, it’ll make you cry again. It made me cry when I wrote it, and that’s something that never happened in Dare to Dream, so brace yourselves.

As long as the planets are turning   |   As long as the stars are burning
As long as your dreams are coming true

Like the first, Dream On also has an epilogue at the end. A book with an epilogue should be complete without it, and the epilogue is just there to give a little bit more polish to the conclusion of the story. Dare to Dream didn’t need its epilogue – it was just a way of saying “this is what happened later.” And the epilogue of Dream On is the same way. The story is complete before it, but the epilogue just adds a little bit more to it. Good epilogues are hard to write. Sometimes they feel superfluous – I felt that way about the one at the end of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, although I did love that final line. The epilogue at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows actually bothered me so much that I have torn it out of my copy of the book!

I actually wrote the Dream On epilogue before I even published Dare to Dream, and I always knew that this was how the story would end. It was, in some ways, what pushed me on to write the sequel. I cried when I wrote it, and as is evident from the above comment from my mum, she cried when she read it too. She also had this to say about it:

I think the book was pretty complete without the Epilogue, and a great read, but the Epilogue just made it that much more satisfying at the end.

So that’s good. That’s exactly what I was striving for, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction it gives one to receive a comment like that. It’s a big tick in the Achieved box. My friend Heather has also read the final draft, and she loved the ending as well. So that’s two ticks, actually….

Now I’m just waiting on the cover photo, which I have commissioned from Kelly Wilson (she also did my other cover photos, and the back cover design for Dare to Dream – I designed the front cover with the fonts etc) so she’s just waiting for the right day to get the shots taken that she needs. I also have to go through the final draft myself and make sure it’s exactly as I want it, tidy up the handful of typos that Mum and Heather found, wait for my Dad and another friend to finish reading it and give me their feedback, and then it will be good to go!

Like I said…it’s about a week or two away. I can’t wait to see what everyone else thinks – I hope you all love it too.

In the meantime, don’t forget to find me on Facebook and Tumblr or flick me an email!