I'm always delighted to host my friend Jeff Gardiner. He's a very talented author of different genres and he's also a very excellent editor. It was via our links as Crooked Cat authors that I met Jeff. I hired him to edit The Taexali Game and I'm so glad I did, because it wouldn't be the same without his very perceptive input.
Today, he's come to share his novel Pica with us, giving us an idea of what prompted the story. Make sure you read on to find the tempting extract after the post.
I've got Pica on my kindle all ready and waiting and I'm sure I'll love it because I've really enjoyed the other books that are on there written by Jeff Gardiner!
Over to you, Jeff, to tell us a bit about Pica and your fantastic news about it...
PICA by Jeff Gardiner
I’ve always been inspired by nature. The times when I most feel alive are when I’m walking in a forest, on a hillside or by a lake.
Our relationship with nature as a human race is an odd one. On the one hand we are animals – part of nature. On the other, we often seem to be at odds with nature. We cut down forests and build concrete jungles; we pollute and urbanise as if we own the place. We seem to have forgotten our place in creation; our relationship with other animals and the wonderful world that is our home. How many young people go for walks and holidays in the countryside these days?
Although world politicians are now slowly moving in the right direction, most environmental experts agree that it’s not enough. We’ve done too much damage in such a short space of time. We are killing our planet. What a strange way to behave.
Pica picks up on this idea.
Luke plays violent computer games and hates the idea of a boring rural walk. One day a magpie taps on his window, and from then on he sees magpies everywhere he goes. A new boy, called Guy, joins his school, who is odd and soon a victim of bullying. However, Luke is drawn to this strange boy, and as he gets to know him everything he understood about his life is turned upside down.
I wanted Pica to challenge people’s perceptions about young people and about our relationship with the natural world. In the past we understood things that have been lost over the years. Luke begins a journey to rediscover that ancient ‘magic’.
I was also keen to make this novel – the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy. Fantasy literature allows us to use our imaginations in our understanding of reality. Luke discovers powers that many of us can only dream about, so there is also a sense of wish-fulfilment alongside the serious environmental message.
The planning and writing of Pica took about a year. The novel went through a number of revisions, with one whole sub-plot completely deleted and rewritten. I sent off the synopsis and first three chapters to a few publishers and agents that accepted unsolicited manuscripts, but received standard rejections (the ones which don’t really indicate if anyone actually read it at all).
This led to further major revisions and rewrites, until Pica was eventually picked up by Accent Press. They have been brilliant, offering excellent editorial advice, and some wonderful opportunities.
Accent YA – their young adult imprint – are being rebranded and I was told that Pica would be one of the titles they were planning to launch at The London Book Fair.
So things are very exciting. I even have a cover quote from fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, who read it and wrote, “One of the most charming fantasy novels I've read in years. An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”
Find Jeff here:
Links to Buy Pica
Barnes & Noble
Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.
Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)
For more information, please see his website at www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/
A magpie (Latin name – Pica pica) has been persistently knocking on Luke’s window, and everywhere he goes he sees magpies. One day he decides to let the magpie in…
As soon as I pushed the window outwards the waiting bird hopped in, making a sound that almost equated to a tut. That can’t be right. I was imagining things again. My first fear that the magpie would squawk and flap about madly was unfounded, but I still felt nervous in its unpredictable presence, and had to keep trusting it wouldn’t poo on my bed.
But it didn’t. In fact, it acted with excellent manners. What kind of bird was this? Wild birds don’t enter houses after knocking politely. If a bird does accidently get into a house it goes completely mental and craps everywhere. This one looked at me with eyes that gleamed with intelligent understanding. It knew me. I swear, it looked at me and knew I wouldn’t hurt it. In the old days I would have looked for a stick or a weapon. Now things were different, and I stared back at him with utter fascination. I moved even closer, confident I wasn’t in any danger.
‘You need to choose your friends more carefully, Luke.’
I stumbled slightly and had to grip the windowsill with my fingertips to hold myself up.
What the –?
The sodding bird had only gone and spoken to me. It snapped its beak, glared at me sideways, then flicked its tail.
Was that for real, or had I lost the plot? Being with Guy had obviously turned me into a nut-job.
Up to now, I’d witnessed some amazing sights – but they could all be explained in encyclopaedias. However amazing the creatures Guy showed me, each one existed in the real world. But a talking bird? Now we’d suddenly jumped into a different dimension.
And it had used my name.
Had Guy sent this amazing bird to me to blow my mind even further?
It had to be Guy’s doing – sent on a crazy mission … unless …
Now I felt really stupid talking to a bird.
Bloody hell. Take me to a padded cell. I’d lost it. Maybe I never had it!
‘Guy? Is that …’ This was crazy. ‘… is that you?’
I wish you all the best with Pica and thank you for coming to visit today, Jeff. I'm really looking forward to reading it. I'm not superstitious normally... but there are exceptions. I love to see the magpies return to my garden, though only if there are at least 2 of them! You, however, know that you're welcome anytime!