Cover Art Reveal: Hidden in the Signal

Hidden in the Signal cover

Those who oppose Grey’s Tower tend to end up missing or dead. Jenny’s friend Matt vanished while trying to uncover the Tower’s secrets. Jenny has promised to discover what happened to him, and she must keep those she loves from facing the same fate.

Meanwhile there is another threat looming. An alien spaceship is heading for Earth. Jenny and her allies must find a way to stop it but there may be another danger nearer to hand. Someone close to Jenny is keeping secrets – secrets that might hold the key to the spaceship’s mission, to Matt’s disappearance, and to what their enemies have planned.


Hidden in the Signal is the third book in the Codename Omega series, which follows the adventures of Jenny Harding, an ordinary girl who gets caught up in conspiracies and combat involving alien technology. The first two books Omega Rising and Traitor in the Tower are available now.

Artwork of Technicality Man

If you read last week’s post, you will have seen the amazing cover art for the upcoming book The Adventures of Technicality Man (UK link, US link). As well as the official cover, I have a couple of pieces of artwork drawn by Aredblush, who read a pre-release copy of the book and described it as: “too darn funny and such an enjoyable read.”

Technicality Man and Continuity Leopard

The first picture is of Technicality Man and his trusty companion Continuity Leopard. We also have a picture of the whole team:

Technicality Man teamFrom left to right we have Bemused Girl, Traditional Blu Tack Gatherer, Technicality Man, Continuity Leopard, Chesty Cough Girl, and Origami Man. If you look closely, you can see bits of paper sticking out the folds in Origami Man’s shirt.

Cover Art Reveal: The Adventures of Technicality Man

The Adventures of Technicality Man cover

Everyone knows how the stories are supposed to go. The good guys win in the end, the hero ends up with the designated love interest, and the plucky band of misfits pulls together to save the world.

But what happens when a villain targets the nature of stories themselves? All the tropes that the heroes have come to rely on are under threat.

Technicality Man and his trusty companion Continuity Leopard must join forces with a group of minor heroes to save the day. They won’t let any barrier stop them. Not even the fourth wall.


My new superhero parody, The Adventures of Technicality Man, is now available for pre-order from Amazon (UK link, US link). This is the story of a ragtag bunch of heroes and a lot of ridiculous puns.

So join Technicality Man, Continuity Leopard as they fight to make sure that the good guys will always win.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’ve been cheering myself up by revisiting a story that’s been gathering dust on my hard drive for several years. Back when I was at university, I was part of a creative writing group that often had some strange and interesting conversations. In one meeting, we got on to discussing superhero names and silly secret identities. This included Policeman Man (“By day he’s a mild-mannered police officer, but by night HE FIGHTS CRIME”) and Good For Nothing Boy.

From this collection of ridiculous names and silly puns, I started creating a story around one character in particular – Technicality Man, who has super-powered pedantry. Along the way, he gained a sidekick, Continuity Leopard. I can’t claim credit for that name either. One of the other writers in the group, a week or so after the initial creation of Technicality Man, read out a story that included a leopard described as being there for continuity purposes. We discussed the “continuity leopard” and someone suggested that it sounded like a good sidekick for Technicality Man. So the leopard got worked into my story.

The story started as the product of writing games – activities intended for fun rather than any serious writing. Over the course of several weeks, my writing games started following on from one another until they had something resembling a continuous plot. It was enough that I was able to take the output of all these writing games and stitch them together into a single story following the adventures of Technicality Man and his team of adventurers.

I never did anything with this story except read it out for the entertainment of the creative writing group. But I found it again and it still made me chuckle. It needed editing. There were a number of in-jokes that only members of the writing group would get, and so those were pruned out (most of them anyway). The end result is something that I hope will be entertaining to anyone who loves superhero stories and who is found of ridiculous puns. We all need something to laugh about right now.

I’m planning on putting it out there as an ebook, but it should come with a warning that it’s nothing like any of my other books. Watch this space for more news of it.

Shadows of Tomorrow reviews

People have been saying some very nice things about the Shadows of Tomorrow audio book, on both the US and UK Audible sites. Here are a few samples.

“A good, thought provoking science fiction adventure suitable for all ages. Recommended.”

“Shadows of Tomorrow is an entertaining scifi novel which explores of what life might be like if you could see into your future. Looks so simple but it will turn out that time is not a single, unbroken, continuous forward line. Very interesting novel adding a superb narration.”

“I absolutely loved this book. The story and well developed characters drew me in. Ended up listening to this book in three days. I loved the characters, their back stories, their flaws and their strengths. As with any good book it was the characters that made this book great.”

“What I really liked most about this audiobook is that Jessica Meats really took her time, in the beginning by fleshing out the story. Each of the supporting characters had their moment in the sun, describing how each of them became a member of the Defenders. The Outsiders are pretty horrifying creatures, so expect lots of blood, gore and death. But there’s also love and strong bonds of friendship between people thrown together by circumstances.”

“Highly recommend this different Sci-Fi to anyone who enjoys contemporary science fiction.”

“Shadows of Tomorrow by Jessica Meats is a terrific book with interesting and believable characters that you can’t help but feel for and become emotionally invested in. With the author’s attention to detail, the reader can’t help but be drawn into the story and the world in which she has created.”

The audiobook is currently rated 4.2 stars on the US Audible site and 4.9 stars on the UK site.

Shadows of Tomorrow – now in audiobook

Shadows of Tomorrow audiobookShadows of Tomorrow, the first instalment of the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy, is now available as an audiobook from Audible, read by Jake Urry.

This is the first time one of my books has been converted to an audiobook and I’m really excited about it. It’s been an interesting process, from listening to audition samples, through freaking out because the narrator pronounced one of the names differently from how it sounds in my head, to getting the final audio files.

It will be interesting to see how the story is received in this new format.

If you want to get a copy of the audiobook, you can head over to Audible to buy it. If you haven’t used Audible before, you can sign up for a 30 day trial and get a free audiobook download – which could be Shadows of Tomorrow.

If you want to get news about new books as soon as they come out, don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list.

The evolution of a cover

Child of the Hive coverOne question I get asked whenever I give a talk about writing is how much control I have over the cover art so I figured I’d put my answer in full here. This is one of those things that varies considerably from publisher to publisher, and from book to book. I’ve spoken to authors who’ve had no say, or almost no say, in cover designs for some books. I’ve met authors who’ve hated the covers they were presented with. I’ve been lucky. For all of my books, I’ve been given a lot of input and I’ve been delighted with most of them.

I was astonished when Child of the Hive was published how much input I was given. The publisher sent me about a dozen different designs for the potential cover – and I hated them all. I don’t want to imply that they were bad designs, but they were bad for the book. The designer who’d created them hadn’t actually read the book, he’d just been given the text to go on the back cover and a couple of paragraphs of description. The end result was some designs that would have been great on someone else’s book (there was a creepy one with a child coming out of mist that would have been great for a ghost story) but that were completely wrong for mine. Shadows of Tomorrow draft cover

We had a few emails back and forth and then I was put on a phone call with the designer and I talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the different designs, what the disconnects with the book were, and so on. He went off and came back with a different design, which I liked a lot more. I asked for a couple of minor tweaks and then was given a cover design I was thrilled with.

When Shadows of Tomorrow was published, the publisher gave me a form to fill out with my ideas for the cover. I suggested a figure silhouetted against a portal holding a sword. They sent me a couple of drafts and, once again, I wasn’t happy with either of them. The covers showed what looked like someone standing at the edge of the sea, which didn’t fit at all, but I did like the font on one of them. The designer went away and came back with the final cover. Shadows of Tomorrow cover

When Shadows of Tomorrow came out, I really liked the cover. In person, it’s really dramatic. I’ve come to the conclusion though that it doesn’t work as well as a thumbnail on Amazon. It doesn’t look as interesting as other covers. So when it came to Between Yesterdays, I wanted to go with the same general idea but with more happening visually. The design they sent me was pretty good, but I wasn’t sure about the image they’d chosen for Abby. For one thing, in the book, Abby has quite dark colouring, which isn’t obvious in this image. For another, this young woman looks dressed for a party rather than a battle.

I went back to the publisher and asked for a different Abby for the cover, and was thrilled with the final cover design they offered me. Between Yesterdays cover draft

The same sort of thing happened with the Codename Omega books. I gave ideas, they sent designs, I asked for changes. The Codename Omega books are self-published so I was given a lot of say in the design because I was effectively hiring the designers to work to my specifications. I wasn’t surprised that I was the one calling the shots with those covers, but I was surprised how much control I had with the others, especially having heard stories from some other authors about how little say they were given. I guess I’ve been lucky so far when it comes to covers.

 

Reading Between the Lines

Mischief Corner Books 5th QuarterlyLater this month, Mischief Corner Books will release their next quarterly and one of the stories included will be mine. Reading Between the Lines is a little different from what I usually write, and not just because I very rarely write short stories. It’s a contemporary romance about two boys falling in love as they argue about books – one likes sci-fi and the other reads classics. I got to have fun with references to some of my favourite books in their debates.

Overall, it’s a very light hearted piece (though it touches on a couple of dark issues in places) and the editor described it as “very sweet”. As I said, it’s different from my usual work but sometimes the inspiration hits and you just go with it.

I will be posting a pre-order link when it becomes available and adding it to my books page.

Codename Omega background snippets

omega rising coverThe first-person narrative style of the Codename Omega books, Omega Rising and Traitor in the Tower, is fun and an interesting way to tell the story, but it does mean that everything is from Jenny’s perspective. There are ideas I have for the other characters that are almost certainly not going to make it into the books because there’s no reason for Jenny to know and most of these things aren’t going to have any noticeable impact on the plot. I thought it might be fun to share some of these little bits of character background, so here is a list of background details. Most of these are never going to be mentioned in the books but one of them is surprisingly important. I’m not, however, going to tell you which of these things is the important one.

  • Thomas started playing D&D because he misunderstood what Matt meant when he said he liked roleplaying. Thomas has a reputation to maintain, and explains these evenings as a “discussion group on combat theory”.
  • Navy picked his codename as a tribute to Captain Scarlet, but he lets the rest of the team assume he’s named for the military force.
  • Bats and Navy still argue about the fact that Navy vetoed Batman as a codename.
  • Nuke’s codename was originally meant to be Nucleus, but Navy called him Nuke in combat because it was quicker to say, and the shorter name stuck. Traitor in the Tower front cover
  • When he was in his first year at uni, Navy successfully cooked Christmas dinner for twenty people using only two Baby Billing ovens, a microwave, and a kettle. He’s more proud of this accomplishment than he is of successfully teleporting a person to a moving spacecraft.
  • On the first Mother’s Day after they became a couple, Thomas sent Matt’s mum flowers and a card. Matt forget it was Mother’s Day.
  • Nuke doesn’t have a bed.
  • Princess chose her codename years before she met Nuke.
  • Blaze used to be in the army.
  • When Navy first found out about Nuke, Nuke didn’t want anything to do with him. Navy just kept bringing him food until Nuke accepted that he now had a partner whether he wanted one or not.

Representation as a Mirror

There are a number of reasons I care about diversity in fiction. One reason is that having diverse characters leads to more interesting stories because there’s more variety. Another reason is because fiction can act as a window, letting us seeing other countries and cultures, letting us experience the struggles others face, letting us look through the eyes of people who are different from ourselves. If people read books from different perspectives and see people from other cultures or in other situations as diverse and interesting and as human as they are, that’s got to be a good thing.

But for me, the biggest reason I support diverse fiction is that books (and other media) can act as a mirror. People can see themselves reflected in the characters of a story. They can see that people like themselves can be heroes, can get a happy ending, can play an important role. In some cases, they see that someone like themselves exists.

I had a conversation a few days ago with some people at work. Somehow, the subject got onto sex education and one of my co-workers talked about how sex education lessons should include discussions about different sexualities. I said that they should include mentions of asexuality because there are a lot of people who don’t even know that asexuality exists. Naturally, another co-worker asked what it was because she’d never heard of it before. I gave a very short definition and her reaction was, “Oh my god! I think that’s me!”

She was thrilled and excited because suddenly she had a label for things she’d felt (or not felt). This wasn’t the first time I’d had a conversation like this. A month or so ago, I was talking to a woman about sexual attraction and her comment to me was, “I always just assumed I was broken.”

This was a woman in her fifties, who’d spent decades believing she was broken, because she’d never come across the concept of asexuality.

But books can help. People can find themselves between the pages and understand something about themselves that had always been a mystery. I read an autobiography by an autistic woman who was undiagnosed until well into adulthood. The first time she realised she was autistic was because of a book. She and her husband were reading a book with an autistic protagonist and they both recognised some of her thought and behaviour patterns in that character. Because she saw herself reflected in a character, she understood what she was.

This is why representation is important, because books can help us understand ourselves. I think representation is especially important in children’s and young adult fiction, because no one should spend decades believing that they’re broken.