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Archive for the ‘epic fantasy’ Category

I look at myself lately and I think I’m doing a lot of fiction writing recently, or I seem to be. Fair enough I’ve just come out of a holiday break where I took two weeks off from the Phd. This week I have been head down on the Phd and I put some time in last week too. I have my big moment to prepare for-The dreaded confirmation seminar that I talked about yesterday.

So what am I doing writing fiction or appearing to write fiction?

Last year I finished drafting a trilogy. My first completed one if truth be known. Book two was mostly written so I was tidying up, revising etc. Some parts were rewritten after beta reader comments. Book three was a 50,000 word basket case so technically I did write that book like last year almost from scratch (130,000 approx.). Book two is with the editor. Book three I’m going to revise after beta reader comments (next week actually) and then put in the edit queue. Right now I’ve finished revising Dragonwine Book 3 and it’s waiting for its slot for its editor and currently I’m restructuring book 4, which required some revising, rewriting as I went. I still have a bit to do, but the restructure is complete (I cheated I put the last bit in this morning). Oh and I wrote a 50,000 word novel in November for NaNoWriMo-which needs to be revised (when?!!!).

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m slacking off on the PhD because I’m not. Nor do I want to give the impression that I’m some kind of writing machine. I’m not that either. While I’m not too much a stickler for routine, I have been aiming to do an hour a day while working on Dragonwine Book 4. It’s written, I’m just plaiting the narrative threads together different to how I originally drafted it. It was a draft and it’s drafty. Man I don’t think I’ve read book 4 for seven years or more. I’m also revising, polishing as I go. It will need another run through too.

I’m spending my day on the PhD writing this damn proposal and researching and running my surveys and hassling writers etc. I’ve been going home and vegging in front of Netflix for hours (the heat mainly)  and then I put my hour in on the MS before I go to bed. I’m not usually so good at doing this. I’m marking this on my calendar this year so I can gauge how consistent I am. Technically, I could put more time into writing when I get home. I don’t want to overdo it on the computer due to RSI and arthritis issues so I’m pretty good at sticking to the hour. I’ve been at the computer at Uni most of the day too.

When I’m mostly reading, I can spend more time writing fiction. Reading takes place not at the computer you see. Sometimes it happens in bed or on the deck. I usually take a day off on Friday’s to write fiction (and do housework) and that gives me a good go at things. As Matthew is busy writing at the moment I’ve also spent some weekends, say Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon on task. Two Dweebs in adjacent offices pounding on keyboards!

I also have a backlist of works that I can either revise, write sequels for etc. I have to prioritise! So I don’t consider them to be new writing as such.

As well as the PhD this year I want to start on Dragonwine book 5 & 6 to finish this trilogy too. I don’t even have notes for this so it will be all new work! Approximately 170,000 words I estimate. However, I also have to draft my PhD novel and that takes priority. Lucky I touch type!

I probably look like I’m doing a sweep out of my brain, getting these stories out of there and onto paper. I also see it as me refining my creative practice. Finishing a trilogy presents many challenges and each time I work on one I’m learning about my craft. I can’t write as much as I want or work on as many things as I would like while doing the PhD.  That constriction will last for about two more years, but I can manage to do some stuff, particularly if the damn thing is already drafted. I also need a part time job because I have no support for my living expenses. I’ve thought about this and writing is my part time job. I hope in 2017 it will bring in some dollars but I am hoping that I will continue to progress as a writer as well as learn more through my PhD.

What is really doing my head in is the edits. They are coming! Over 400,000 words of edits. And I’ve set myself up for four book edits in the first part of the year. That work load I will have to be careful of. Then as they are going to be self/indie published, I have the dreaded laying out to do, proofing etc, which takes time but isn’t too hard. Covers to source? Egads. 2017 is going to busy.

The message is I guess is that even an hour a day can get you somewhere.

Below are the covers for the Silverlands Trilogy. The only set of covers that I’m organized for. Damn.

three-books

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My indie published Argenterra, Silverlands book 1, is on promotion this weekend for 99 cents.

Argenterra is an epic fantasy novel, interweaving three romances over the three books. The story starts with Sophy and Aria and then joins up with Rae’s when Sophy and Aria are whipped into the world of Argenterra a land where everyone can use magic except Sophy. The story is YA appropriate.

Argenterra with subtitle

Argenterra is featured among around 100 books, from SF through to Fantasy so here is your chance to do some exploring. There are some very interesting books here for 99 cents.promo-jan

The link to the promo is here and you can select via your favourite retailer. For example, click on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo etc and you will see the books that are featured for 99 cents with that retailer. Links are also geocoded in understand.

Many thanks to Patty Jansen for allowing me to participate in her promo weekend.

Oathbound, Silverlands book two is still with the editor but I hope to get that our in the next few months. The Ungiven Land is close behind that.

Ciao!

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I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve bitten the bullet, I’m working on book 3 and 4 of the Dragonwine series. Hopefully this is good news for fans of Shatterwing and Skywatcher.

I’ve booked both books in with the editor that means I have to do the work. (Momentum shut down, but they weren’t going to print these anyway as I didn’t sell enough).

Anyway, I thought I’d paste some of the WIP here. Feel free to criticise or comment, or just read and be teased. This is the first two chapters of Deathwings (tentative title) and hopefully it picks up the action and fills in on what happened before in a non-intrusive way. I try to reintroduce the characters but do let me know if you think it’s too much. Notice I start in Danton’s POV. As I love Danton this is a good thing. He had some great scenes in these two books.

Deathwings

Part 1

 

Prologue

 

Dust particles shimmer in the light of Margra’s sun, enveloping the world below in a lavender halo. A lump of space rock turns end over end as it plummets, a tail of vicious fire in its wake. Belle Moon’s surface erupts as debris is thrown high as another crater is born. The planet revolves on its axis again. Oblivious.

 

 

Like blood, a rich drop of wine is licked from the fingertip

 

Chapter One

Wings

He was falling.

Air rushed past. Breath stolen. Sharp rocks below. Fear spearing into his lungs, his heart. No breath.

A blur of the world around him.

Gercomo opened his mouth to scream. No air. No sound, his mind white with panic.

His arms and legs flailed. He tried to fly.

It was like swimming against the tide, limbs useless, clumsy. A great, burning surge of blood trammelled every muscle, undoing his human-ness, remaking him, remaking his mind. Dulling it, smashing it, obliterating it. He sucked in a lungful of air snatched from the wind rushing past.

A guttural cry vibrated against his hardened skin. His own fear haloed him. He struggled to maintain height, wrenching his shoulders, clenching his jaws in the effort to crawl through the air, yet he continued to drop.

Throwing his senses out, the world around him spun and slowed and came into conical focus. Valleys and rifts and eroded peaks loomed large beneath him, all jagged with the capacity to rend flesh.

He flapped. Wings moved, halting his plummet.

With a desperate heave, he threw more of his strength into his wings until his muscles burned, the sensation as if the flesh was being ripped from his bones. It wasn’t working. He was falling, still. Slower.

With a last ditch effort, he fought to recall the dance of dragons, remembering how they skimmed thermals and glided above the prison vineyard. Effortlessly they used the membranes on their wings to trap the air and slide. That was what Gercomo was doing wrong. He was fighting against the air instead of working with it. He ceased his struggling and stretched out his arms, no his wings, and air billowed underneath them. The headlong rush to the ground slowed as the wind caught and effortlessly lifted him. A relieved laugh turned to a screech that was alien in his mouth as he soared higher.

He was no longer falling, but he was too tired to stay aloft for long. Already the muscles between his shoulder blades ached.

Beyond the treacherous foothills of the Duggan Ranges, the desert plain stretched out muted pink, mauve and brown. He tilted his body in that direction, the colours of the landscape strange and his vision distorted while he tried to process a greater range of colours and a spectrum of light he’d not experienced before, a fierce violet glow and other alien ripples of energy that radiated and bent as he turned his head from side to side. He wasn’t seeing with his own eyes. It wasn’t the same. These were his eyes now. He had to adapt.

The flat stretches of wasteland gave him an uninterrupted view of the landscape. Yet he could not tell if objects were near or far. At times he thought he could but his brain was having trouble interpreting the new range of images and colours.  Drifting lower, the wind grew precarious and like a cough the air pushed out from under his wings. In a panic, he tried to maintain his height, to stop himself from falling and failed. Instead, the clawed foot he extended to the earth clasped emptiness and he rolled and tumbled. Over and over he went, his bones bending and his tendons twisting. Fear and agony intermingling and robbing him of even a scream. When he finally came to a halt, he lay there stunned, pain shafting through every part of him, while he waited to breathe again.

Gercomo uncurled his claw and then dragged a torn wing from underneath his ungainly, scaled body. Every movement radiated hurt and increased his confusion. He no longer had hands that could touch. All he could do was lick his skin. It was then he noticed his size.

He was puny. What horrible twist of fate was this? To be cursed to exist as a beast, but not a real one, just a semblance of one. Looking down at his body, he knew it was terribly wrong. He was nothing like the huge winged beasts that overflew the vineyard. He was pitiful. What if another dragon found him? They would know he was different, alien. Instinctively he understood the danger. With one wing dragging in the dirt, he scrabbled across the stony ground, scooping loose earth with his claws as he waddled, driven by the need to hide before Margra’s sun set, bleeding the sky of light.

The desert was barren and there was no sign of human habitation. Turning to glance behind, he saw that nothing followed on land or sky. The changes in his body had slowed. He found his sense of smell enhanced. As the light faded, the tortuous jigsaw of his vision settled and honed to a rare acuteness. He could see the warmth of the day’s sun radiating off the sand. Above, the dark purple of the sky was marred only by Shatterwing blinking pinkly above the horizon. Ripples red and violet caressed the sky and the distant horizon. The colours confused him. Why do I see in this strange spectrum?

#

Before dawn, Gercomo found a patch of ground, layered with rough, loose sand. A nudge of his snout revealed it was littered with large, round stones, like a river had once flowed along the plain. Within the soft folds of earth, he found he could wriggle down and cover himself with the sand. Delving deep enough to keep himself safe, he could allow himself to rest. After an hour or so, pale pink sunlight swept over the horizon. Then as the sun climbed higher, the sand began to warm his skin. The pain eased as if the dirt provided healing. And as he lay there his mind began to relax and to warp. The human concerns began to wane, but a few knots of anger did not disappear entirely. He held onto the important things and would not let them fade—anger, envy and lust. They are what defined him, and they melded well with the animal desires surfacing within him. He was hungry, and he was lonely. He never needed another person before but now there was something burning in his blood, something driving like stakes through his brain. He needed kin.

In the late afternoon, Gercomo was rested but the cavernous hunger inside had grown out of proportion. He needed to eat. Needed to move. Simple as that. Thoughts of food, of starvation, swelled up inside him, dominating his mind. What did dragons eat? Was he a dragon or dragon enough to eat raw burden beast? He lifted his head and sniffed. There wasn’t much of anything on the breeze, except dust. He would need to search out prey.

The sand dropped silkily from his scaled hide as he clawed his way out of his resting place. Tentatively, he stretched a wing and tested it. It no longer sang with pain yet it was still tender in places, particularly the elbow joint. Fortunately it functioned. In the growing shadows, he stepped confidently, his strange vision still pink and mauve with flashes of vermillion. He remembered there were other colours in the spectrum of light and that the world wasn’t nearly as contoured as it seemed now. Nearby small stones were so clear and precise and the distant peaks loomed large as if he could breathe onto their slopes. Even these human thoughts of what he’d lost slid to the back of his mind as the need for food dominated.

The sun’s rays began to cool as night shrouded him. In the distance, he heard something, a clink, clink, as if someone was throwing stones against a rock. Perhaps it was an animal, something he could eat. He sniffed, searching for the scent of food.

Gercomo zeroed in on the sound, learning with each step how to control his various body parts. The more he walked the more natural his gait became. He was almost elegant as he slowly stepped toward his prey. Ahead he saw that there was a tumble of boulders, spread in a circle like thrown dice. Further on he could see the mark of flame burning across his vision. Beyond that was a settlement or a dwelling of some kind. But there amid the standing boulders was a boy, tossing stone after stone. Stealthily, Gercomo angled around to get a better view and to see if any adults were about, to see if there were any dragon lances or harpoons. The boy was aiming for a target, a crudely drawn circle on one of the boulders, the outline faint in the dim light emanating from the small fire. Tick, tick the rocks hit against the boulder the boy used as a target.

Gercomo sniffed and realised the boy was the food he smelt. His stomach churned and saliva filled his mouth, dripped off his tongue. He wanted to surge forward and swallow the boy whole. That impulse he held in check by the sound of a woman’s voice. It was distant but growing closer. Hearing the call, the boy shrugged once and kept aiming at the target. He looked about ten years old, maybe younger. Gercomo blinked and saw that the child had a faint violet glow about him as well as the tantalising scent of food. Another cry from the woman and the boy laughed and scooped down to pick up more stones.

As he crept forward, the boy stiffened and turn toward him. A faint squeak of surprise and then open-mouthed the boy stood stock still. Gercomo extended a claw, reaching around the small waist and clasping him tight in his grip. Looking down at the scaly appendage that held him, the child screamed and struggled. Gercomo liked the sound; it made him drool.

The woman’s voice was suddenly closer—after a pause, there was a sharp intake of breath from just outside the ring of boulders. A frantic wail cleaved the night.

Swinging his head round, he saw her jerk as she tried to enter the circle of stones, saw her react at what he was holding in his claws and stop dead, her eyes like large dark holes. When he had her full attention, he bit off the boy’s head and upper torso and swallowed. Next he ate the remainder, enjoying the crunch of bones in his snout, the sharp gnash of his fangs and serrated back teeth as he chomped and chomped and then swallowed. His laugh echoed around him, sounding like a roar.

With a guttural scream, the woman pulled her hair and fell to her knees, lost in a moment of grief. She should have run. It would have made better sport. Gercomo threw his gaze toward the settlement, but no one stirred. She was alone and unprotected. The boy’s life blood filled his stomach with warmth, spreading out and filling his extremities with a tingling sensation that enlivened him. Eating humans was good.

Like a dart he lunged at her and pinioned her against the target her son had painted. She fainted so he let her go. After falling to the ground, she came to, shook her head and began to crawl away. He let her move away at first, seeing that she found hope in that pointless exercise. Then reaching out, he pierced her dress with his index claw and drew her slowly towards him as the cloth fell from her shoulders. With the other claw, he drew a line down her front. The sharp tip cut the skin. A fine red line opened up. The scent of blood teased his hunger and made his pulse throb. A howl like the lonely wind tearing across the plains rose from her mouth. How he wanted to taste her and yet play with her and draw the moment out. This hesitation was invigorating and excruciating, honing his taste buds until he drooled hot saliva across her face and shoulder.

The woman struggled and tried to break free. She turned on her stomach and scrabbled in the dirt on all fours. At his screech, his victim shivered and shrieked. He liked her fear, revelled in it. He flipped her over and her screams became music and then she stopped, her eyes wide and staring with no more than a whimper leaking through her lips.

When she quieted, he played with her some more, exciting that melody once more from her throat. A bite of her arm was a tasty morsel, raising the tune to a new pitch. As he lapped the blood from her wounds with care, savouring each drop, her voice became low and husky. He began again, this time at the legs. Her scream flowed over him, filling him with joy as he lapped the arterial blood gushing into his mouth. As he gulped down a thigh, her voice grew whisper thin. Another bite and there was a visceral grunt and then a low moan as her last breath eased out of her throat. Gercomo didn’t know if she could see his grin, see how happy she had made him. He had found a new source of power—human flesh.

 

Chapter Two

Vanden’s Fallen

 

‘We have to do something about the dead,’ Danton said, as he balanced on a flat slab of broken stone in the remains of the observatory’s courtyard. ‘And then there’s the wall to repair.’

Not only was there a breach in the wall where the Inspector’s siege engine had torn through, there was the debris from Danton’s carefully laid explosives that had blown up the entrance to the courtyard. With his empty eye socket covered by a patch, the rebel turned a full circle, nodding slowly. This was where the Inspector had indiscriminately sacrificed so many lives and where the observatory had fought for survival.

His young, rebel companion, Brill, climbed up behind him, feet anchored on two large pieces of rubble. Now that Danton knew Brill better he understood why Salinda helped this young lad, with his vision of hope for the future of humankind.

‘There are so many of them,’ Brill said as his gaze raked the scene. ‘Many of them are on the pyre ready to be burned, but still too many in the rubble.’

Danton tried to smile, but found that he couldn’t muster one. He was tired. Deciding to help the observatory in its fight against the Inspector had ramifications. He found he could not walk away, even though he wanted to do so. Who would have thought his attempt to rescue Salinda would lead him to this place. ‘Yes and they are ripening.’ He brushed the end of his nose with a knuckle and shook his head.

Brill’s head angled in the direction of the elders and the tenders, who were crawling over rocks, peering into crannies to locate the dead with their mouth and noses muffled by cloth. Brill’s mouth turned down at the corners and dual tear trails wormed a path down his dirt stained cheeks. ‘That’s not the only problem. The escaping rebels will take away tales about the technology this place possesses.’ Brill then wiped his nose with his shirt sleeve and sniffed loudly.

Danton thought it was more than sorrow that made his young friend’s eyes water. The dust and the stench were sufficient irritants to make a herd of burden beasts weep. ‘You think the rebels will come back?’ he asked.

Brill’s brows drew together and he shook his head. ‘No, I don’t think so. But it would make interesting information for their superiors.’

‘Damn!’ Danton’s expletive made a few elders look up from their task, dark shadows under their eyes. Acknowledging them with a nod, Danton scratched his beard and then ran his hands through his hair. ‘I didn’t think of that. Who knows what damage such a report could do? It could threaten the future of this place. Wing Dust!’

Different options ran through Danton’s mind. There was no help for it. He could not have hunted down every last rebel and silenced them. Brill and Danton were the only fighting men here and he couldn’t imagine that the observatory would condone wholesale slaughter in any case. Thoughts of escaping rebels clouded his future plans. ‘Our goal is slipping through our fingers.’

‘The wine?’

‘Yes, the wine, meeting up with the rest of the men. I must be dust mad.’ Danton wiped his forehead with a cloth from his pocket and tucked it back into his trousers. ‘Right now we need help to clear this.’

‘Agreed.’ Brill turned away, nodded to one of the elders and jumped across the gap between two chucks of wall. Calling over his shoulder he said, ‘I’ll speak with Elder Wylie. He’s bringing the people back from the caves. I’ll ask if he can bring them here as a priority so we can speed up recovery the dead. And I’ll suggest he start to works for repairing the wall.’

Danton nodded, watching Brill’s figure recede. ‘Check with Salinda’s first. With the Master Elder dead, they have turned to her for leadership. Good idea though about the wall. I may have brought it down, but that doesn’t mean I have to put it back up.’

Brill paused and looked back over his shoulder. ‘Doesn’t Sal want to leave straightaway?’

Danton felt a weight pressing down on his chest and swallowed. Thinking about Salinda was hard. He wanted to stay close to her, but she was with Nils now and that made his feelings redundant, except to him. And there was duty, which was everything to her. It was his duty to recover that wine stash that much was clear. ‘Yes…and so do we.’

#

The subterranean city of Barrahiem seemed more empty than usual as Nils strode through its desolate, dust-filled streets. White homes stood sad and empty, their walls punctured with dark round holes, like the eyes of vermin. The last of his kin, he was alone. He had been in a prison of sleep for over a thousand years. Now he had to face the future alone.

If not for the lure of dragons, his desire for knowledge of this new species that had appeared on Margra, he would never have been inclined to explore the world above, the world of the Sundwellers. He would not have rescued Salinda from that witches pyre, brought her to this secret and sacred place and taken her for a mate. Now he missed her.

A sudden, intense cramp made him falter, made him lean against the balustrade for support. Thus weakened, he found he was seized with a coughing fit, until his throat burned. Struggling for breath, his legs buckled, too weak to stand. When it was over, the pain subsided to a dull ache, one that weighted his footsteps and took the spring out of his step. His bond with Salinda was stretched so taut that it caused him physical and mental pain. Thankfully Salinda did not experience it thus.

Nils understood that his mate’s duty lay elsewhere. The aftermath of the battle and Jalen’s death, left the observatory in a delicate state. Salinda could not turn her back on them. Yet, the bond formed in the deep lake was tangible to him. It stretched out through the Ways to where Salinda was, and it hurt.

Burying himself in research appeared to be the single means to salve the hurt. With his dying breath, Jalen had spoken of Trell of Barr, Nils’ grandsire. The Master Elder had mentioned that he had seen the name in a book. That had intrigued Nils.

In his workroom he found the index markers for his grandsire’s writings. A quick scan of the dates made Nils frown. The dates were within the year he had been interred in the sarcophagus and made to sleep away millennia or more. He read the final entry.

My heart is heavy this day. My favourite grandchild has been placed in the sarcophagus—a prisoner of sleep. It pains me to know that we will never talk again. It pains me to know that the world he will awaken to will be less than it is now. But in my heart I hope that there will be a world for him to enter again.

The child of my heart has always shared my passions. I remember the light in Nils’ eye when he peered through the scopes at Trithorn Peak. I remember the catch of his breath when I told him of the bands of power holding Ruel together. I remember how he touched my hand with his forehead in thanks at the gift of knowledge and experience I had given him. Now I see his face stilled in sleep, as cold as death, caught at the cusp of adulthood.

Barrahiem holds nothing for me now. My kin are mine no more. I turn my back on them, on their ignorance and their fear. They will not heed my warnings, nor will they make any preparations for the inevitable end. I go out into the world above to seek other learned men, Sundwellers who will work with heart and mind to save what they can of Margra. For the failing Ruel will be a global catastrophe that will leave this world shattered. We cannot avert this doom, but we can make something from the ashes.

Nils searched the records again, puzzled. That could not be Trell’s last entry. Did his grandsire truly leave his kin, to dwell above after Nils was interred? That would mean that the observatory possibly held the last writings of his grandsire. No, that could not be allowed. All the knowledge must be kept together in the archives. Then he recollected that the old observatory had been levelled, the present one raised from its remains. He shuddered at the thought of the loss of Trell’s thoughts and deeds from the archives. It was akin to having his grandsire’s existence expunged from the world.

When he reached his abode, he realised there was no reason to put off his departure. All he needed was his shroud and supplies and he would see Salinda again and perhaps look about for Trell’s writings in the ruins of the old observatory.

#

As Laidan considered at the bodies piled on the pyre, there was no emotion. She knew she should feel something but too much had happened, almost being raped and killed.  It was if there was an empty space surrounding her, blocking her from empathising, from feeling sorrow, from feeling anything. The world was too awful. Its evil had slapped her in the face and there was nowhere to hide from it. What was the point anyway, of obeying the rules, doing what you were told, if you only ended up dead? May as well enjoy yourself while you can. That was her new approach to life.

Salinda had her studying mind-numbingly boring texts. They served Laidan well though because the more she read, the more distant that seat of unsettling power and thought, the cadre, came. Thurdon had thrust the cadre into her unprepared mind, making power shine out of her eyes and leaving her incapacitated and in danger of being burned as a witch. Thurdon’s voice had been so loud, so overpowering that she had been grateful when Salinda had been able to quiet it and give her some peace. But Laidan did not want the thing and from what she could tell it did not want her either.

At least, Brill made her feel good. He made her light up, made her feel like she was beautiful and important. If she was patient the task would be completed and then Brill would come to her. She would make him come to her. She would make him promise. Brill always kept his promises.

#

Garan thought that breakfast of cacti porridge, soft bread and some mulled dragonwine would wash the taste of death from his mouth. He was wrong. Everything he ate and everything he touched tasted of rotting corpse. When he closed his eyes, images of the faces, the bodies, the blood, the body parts were always there. He could not shift them from his mind. They appeared in the dark shadowed corners and dwelt in the depths of his dreams. They would plague his mind forever. He would hazard a shooting star that he was not the only one not to sleep last night. Unease and despair was in the air around him, like a sob held in check. The observatory was grieving. They had mourned the Master Elder but now they mourned Vanden’s dead, those who had been sacrificed by the Inspector against the walls of Trithorn Peak.

Even if the observatory’s inhabitants remembered the faces of their dead kin, none were recognisable, not from what he’d seen. Faces smashed, skulls caved in, bodies flat and crushed, gizzards everywhere. Blood like paint staining everything, providing a feast for flies. The observatory’s inhabitants mourned every single death as if it was their own flesh and blood. Such horror was new to them, new to Garan.

As he chewed and swallowed his breakfast without tasting it, he became lost in his nightmarish thoughts until startled by Salinda sitting down next to him. With his sleep starved gaze he gaped at her. She, too, looked like she passed a restless night. Lines at the corners of her mouth cut worry into her face. She’d been helping the elders restore some order after the attack, working long hours. The refectory doors swung open and Danton and Brill walked in. He thought Laidan might with them but she was nowhere to be seen.

Salinda looked at Danton and Garan followed the path of her gaze. He had never seen the one-eyed rebel look so grim. The smile was forced and his gaze haunted as he joined them at the table. Garan’s mood plummeted. Danton, who had helped him face the worse moment in his life, the death of a friend by his own power, was now succumbing to the misery surrounding them. Something had to give.

Salinda’s hand started to move across the table, and paused before she reached over to squeeze Danton’s hand. Instead, she wished him a pleasant morning. The look they shared with each other spoke volumes. Garan thought the rebel might cry.

Brill appeared in better spirits. Pointedly ignoring Garan, he began chatting to Salinda.

‘How are you feeling now?’ Brill asked her. ‘Rested?’

‘I am feeling more rested, thank you, Brill. And you?’

Garan was about to stand up to fetch more food, but he hesitated. Salinda’s question brought a blush to Brill’s face. Danton avoided Garan’s gaze by twirling an empty cup around in his hand, apparently absorbed in this action. What was going on now? Surely Brill had not been dallying with Laidan? Why Brill must be exhausted from all the heavy work. Garan glanced at Brill’s hands loosely clasped in front of him. The younger man had not bothered to get a meal yet. Brill’s fingers were cut and grazed and most of the fingernails broken. He had not been shirking.

Danton stood up. ‘Come on, Garan. Let’s get some of that cacti porridge. The day is young yet.’

Salinda rubbed her hand over her face as if that would wipe away fatigue, frustration and numerous other ills. Just then, the door flung open. ‘My lady,’ said that familiar croaky voice of Elder Wylie as he ran toward her breathlessly. ‘Forgive me…disturbing your breakfast. You must come…come to the gallery and see…’ Behind him strode Elder Titina, her longer legs keeping pace with the old elder. She looked thinner than the last time he had seen her. Garan recollected that she had been in the caves supervising the partial evacuation and then fell ill. Titina’s brows furrowed a vee in between her eyebrows and fatigue increased the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. With a brief nod to him, she kept her gaze on Elder Wylie and Salinda.

Salinda stood up straight away, shifting her robe out of her way to follow. Garan hastened after them. The anxiety in the old elder’s voice was acute. Elder Titina followed close behind, her steps unhurried but efficient. Once out the doors, Garan heard people whispering in the corridors. It was like the rush of wind in an empty cave, echoing and amplifying. Something had excited the inhabitants of the observatory. The slap of boots on stone warned him that Danton had followed behind.

Salinda took the steps two at a time. Elder Wylie followed as best he could. Once out on the gallery, the old man led them round to the Klester Valley side. A glimpse behind showed that the rest of the party still followed. As Garan came up behind Salinda and Elder Wylie, he didn’t understand what he was seeing. Then the sound filtered through and that drew his gaze. Beyond the pile of corpses stacked for the funeral pyre was a line of women with stooped shoulders accompanied by ragged, barefoot children. Garan could hear them wailing.

Salinda stood stock still. ‘Oh no!’

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Yesterday, just by happenstance, the ability to lose myself in a story and the loss of my university access cards, I finished drafting Book Three of the Silverlands, Ungiven Land. 8,000 words yesterday. I was knackered. I haven’t pulled one of those in ages. (A massage, hot pack,  hot shower, more hot pack was required to recuperate).

It’s not finished per se. I have to tidy the draft up a bit before sending to beta readers. There is probably a few talking heads and some scenes that need to be moved around plus other tweaking. I was fairly pumping out the words and the scenes unraveled in my head. I get all excited near the end and I plough through. I think I read in the same way. Also, I lost track of time. Didn’t eat dinner. Didn’t prepare dinner. Looked up and Matthew was home.

But damn. I got the story out. I did it. I finished my first trilogy. (picture me hands in the air, dancing on the spot) I have written in series format before say for the Love and Space Pirates series (I want to write another one) and under Dani Kristoff I’ve finished the third book in the Spellbound in Sydney series. But a trilogy is a whole new ball game. You start out thinking what’s going into those three books that make up the ONE story and time and lack of note taking can seriously derail that.

As an aspiring writer, I had lots of advice about whether to write the whole series or just the first book. The prevailing advice was don’t invest in a series you haven’t sold. So I devoted myself to a number of first books in series hoping to sell them. Lucky for me I also did writers’ retreats where I could devote myself to writing for two weeks. And in the past I had drafted second books or parts of books. I have 153,000 words of the second book (or second two books) in the Dragon Wine series btw.

That may be good advice, on the other hand, if you haven’t got notes and it’s a big complex story and you do sell the first book, the pressure would be immense. I’m not a fan of working on one book for ten years. I’d rather work on ten books over ten years. It’s all learning and I love ideas and exploring story and genre. If I had my time again, maybe I would have at least drafted the remainder of the trilogies I worked on while it was all fresh in my head and concentrated on selling the first one. It would have made this year easier.

You may recall that The Silverlands Trilogy is my self-publishing/indie publishing investment. Argenterra came out in late April. That book had been revised and edited etc many times over many years. Basically, the crafting of a load of crap into something worth reading over 15 years. I hope so!

Book Two was drafted but probably only ever a tidied draft. It was a much better draft than Argenterra was originally as I had progressed as a writer. No one had read it except me. I’m about to do a final revision, tweak and polish before sending it for an edit. You might ask why I haven’t already done this. Well, I was working on book three. I had thought I had 50,000 words of the third book written. Gah! I did but the words were shit. They had to be rewritten and most of it chucked out. I was in despair. Somewhere around 70,000 words the draft felt like it was coming together. Now at 121,000 words I’m pretty pleased. It’s done. The story works…well for now .Beta readers may bash me in the head.

This probably doesn’t answer the question. Why work on book three when two was waiting for a revision? Because finishing book three allowed me to work out all the kinks and to see if it was going to work before I went back to book two. I could still change things in book two before I set them in concrete by publishing it. Rescue a character who had sunk beyond redemption, for example. Set up things in book two that I had brought to a head in book three. I guess it’s a form of cheating. But hey, it worked. This is probably why I’m advocating writing the whole series in one go. Why I wish I had. But my best advice is just write what you want, how you want. I figure this book three is better than any I envisaged say ten years ago. Totally much better. I’m a better writer than I was. Ideas just smashed together well this time.

This week and maybe part of the next I’ll be tidying it up ready for beta readers. Then I’ll be back on book two, Oathbound.Now I’m ready to push forward. I believe the next two books will come out pretty close together. I have the covers. I just need the edit. I do my own laying out and book packaging. The cover layout I get help with. Technically I could do that I just have to buy Photoshop!

Then I guess I’ll get serious about marketing. My main goal so far has been to get reviews of Argenterra while I’m working on the other books. Reviews will help me if I want to do some paid promotion, such as Book Bub. If you read Argenterra and liked it please leave a review somewhere. It helps!

What have I learnt so far? I already knew writing well is hard work. Self-publishing/indie publishing is hard work if you want to do it well, but it has bells on. I’ve been stressed. I’ve had sleepless nights. I’ve invested my capital in my indie publishing gig. I have not spent time in promoting or whatever magic these successful indie writers do. My hat goes off to them. But I will when I get these books out.

The other thing successful indie writers do is they keep writing and keep producing. It sounds exhausting. I mean I do that too, but it’s driven by what stories interest me and my own creative practice. Maybe I should be more business like in my approach.

three-books

 

Buy link for Argenterra, Book One-Silverlands

Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon.com Here

Amazon.com.au Here

Kobo Here

ibooks Here

Print (Amazon.com) Here.

Print elsewhere. Available from Createspace and Ingram Sparks.

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It is still very early days in my hybrid/self-publishing venture for the Silverlands series. Book one is out and my main focus is on gaining reviews for the book. Why is this important? Bookbub. When I have all three books out I want to submit to Bookbub. You need reviews for that. Good reviews. So far so good. I don’t have a lot of reviews but what I have I’m very pleased with. There is a lot of retweeting of a review prefaced with How Not To Write Distopian YA. I thought that rather amusing. I wasn’t writing dystopian YA, but epic fantasy with a YA feel. Yet it might have some dystopian elements, of course. My main sin is a cliffhanger ending. Apparently cliffhangers are to cause people to buy the rest of the series. Hell everyone wants their readers to buy the next book. Mine wasn’t for that purpose. I started Argenterra when I was a newbie. I’ve thought long and hard how to move the ending…before the cliffhanger….after the cliffhanger…and nothing seemed to work. To top it all off, book two has a cliffhanger too. I guess I have to own that I’m evil.

My woes! Would you believe I have had the most difficult time with book 2? Firstly, I have to revise it a little and polish it before it gets edited. That’s sort of sitting there while I finish book three. Book three is totally rocking btw. However, I need to finish the draft before I go back to book two so I can align some things. Issues with agency, pulling back in some places so I can redeem a character in book three. The usual stuff.

The cover and the name of book two has been a real issue. I believe this problem crops up for authors in traditional publishing. I know I had to face it with Dragon Wine. Changing the name of the book (s). For example, in my original thinking there were three books in the Moon Fall Trilogy, Dragon Wine, Dragon Wing and Dragon Wane. Then Momentum took Dragon Wine. The editor wanted to split the book, call the series Dragon wine and I had to come up with two names for the first two parts. That was hard work and eventually I came up with Shatterwing and Skywatcher. It’s going to be a real bugger with Dragon Wing when I get around to publishing that. If I publish it in two parts what the hell and I going to call them. Barrahiem and Deathwings??? Your guess is as good as mine.

So back to the Silverlands…Book Two was called The Crystal Gate. Getting the cover together for this was proving to be hard. We tried a couple of combos but they weren’t working, particularly as I wanted the series’ covers to have some consistent feel across them. I’ve been stressed. I’ve been anxious. I’ve had sleepless nights. Then I realized I had to change the name of book two and think up a new concept for the cover. I tossed and turned and then it came to be: Book Two should be called Oathbound. That way I could have Sophy on the cover and used symbolism to denote the chaos of the oaths have brought round in the story, not just for Sophy but for others.

Yet I was so stressed because I was mucking the artist around. I like to be very straight, say what I want so all this indecision was like killing me. I know it’s a bit silly, but the responsibility for this is all mine. The cover, the content, the marketing…and I want it to be good, not crap…not just another ebook flung into the ether…I’m proud of this production. So there’s the woe. It is really tough.

I consulted with the lovely Aiki, who had beta read book two. She totally agreed with Oathbound being the best name for the book. I think I gave her a sleepless night. She’s arty, you know, not like me. She came up with the idea of binding or chains. You can find out about Aiki here. She’s multi talented and an author of an amazing SF YA story that’s coming out soon. Also she has been so supportive. High five, Aiki.

So anyway, I bit the bullet and emailed the lovely Les Petersen. I sent him my horrible sketch, some photos of my model with different expressions and he sent me this like within an hour or so.

Oathbound

I think this is amazing. I love it so much. It was just what I was picturing. Thank you Les for not sending the hit men after me.

Now I’m going to show you book one and two together. Les added the subtitle to book one (somehow I forgot that originally). Anyway, let me know what you think.

 

I should add that the cover for Book three is going well. Book three is called, Ungiven Land. I believe Sophy has a sword!

So if you are interested in checking out Argenterra. Here are the buy links. It’s available in ebook from your favourite ebook retailer.

Print copy from Book Depository here

Amazon.com Here

Amazon.com.au Here

Kobo Here

ibooks Here

Print (Amazon.com) Here.

Time to go back to work on the PhD. It’s creative project work today.

 

 

 

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I’ve done a series of blog interviews on the topic of beta readers previously. Recently though, I’ve had some thoughts on the timing, or better still at what stage of your drafting/writing/revising process it works best. This was sparked by receiving some excellent feedback on a work in progress.

Not everyone uses a beta reader, but if you look in the author comments or acknowledgements in your favourite books you will see people who  have been thanked, usually as first reader etc. For myself, I need beta readers like I need air. God forbid that a published work of mine was raw and that my first feedback was from a reviewer or a bunch of readers. Thankfully, mostly everything except my blog posts have had a reader, editor etc before being published. Even my Indie published fantasy, Argenterra, had beta readers and an editor before being published. I also beta read for author friends. Not all of them return the favour them being busy with contracted deadlines etc, but I get something out of it. I get to read their books before everyone else and sometimes I get a present of a nice shiny book! I also learn!

I have also used the services of a manuscript appraisal service when I first started out, also I have workshopped a novel with Envision (a fantastic program that no longer exists), that was Argenterra BTW! I also won a Longlines Fellowship to Varuna Writers’ House for Dragon Wine back in 2006 and part of that was feedback and also sharing with other writers there. For Dragon Wine I used the services of a continuity editor which was really useful too.

The ideas and the words are my own but feedback help shape ideas, perspectives etc which are all valuable. Even reading your book aloud to yourself will pick up stuff. Really! Read it to someone else and then heaps of things will jump out at you even when you’ve proofed and polished the text within an inch of its life.

Maybe because I’m an extroverted thinker that beta reader comments work for me. I need a sounding board and I work fairly quickly too, which means I can’t play with one story for ten years with no fertiliser from other people. I usually have several novels or short stories going.

An important consideration in having a beta reader is to have someone who gets what you are doing, who has some interest, sympathy, knowledge, way of thinking etc that gels. Your mum is probably not the best person. Even your kids…although mine usually pick up typos etc after the fact. You need some distance, someone you can trust to be honest and helpful at the same time. More importantly, you need to be ready for feedback. You need to be able to accept criticism because that’s what it is all about. If you want a beta reader to say “OMG! This is the best book on the planet ever!” Give it to your mum. Not that it is not great to get positive feedback, it is…

So it is hard to get good beta readers. If you write a lot it is even harder to share the work around them. Also, you need to return the favour, unless you are paying for a service. If you are paying for a service expect a detailed report and expect to pay upwards of $500 (more these days). Remember you want to be a beta reader that your reader buddies can respect. This means you have to give feedback on things like structure, character, pacing, setting etc too. Your beta reader doesn’t have to be another writer. A reader who likes the genre you write in can be very helpful. I mean they are a sample of your audience right? Your feedback might be a lengthy document, an annotated MS, an email or even just a conversation. It all goes into the mix.

Also different readers have different strengths. You might get a reader who is instinctively good with pacing. Another with character development. So having more than one is helpful. I was going to say essential but we can’t have everything.

I have trusted beta readers for a range of stories. I probably have one who reads anything I write and I read hers. I believe we trust each other, although we have different perspectives.

Timing! Finally I get to the point. This is interesting. The timing varies for me. I might send my MS off just before I send it to submission, when I think it’s fairly polished, but not finally polished just to check that it’s not fatally flawed. Or I might send a tidied up first draft. I never send a story with a gaping hole in it (unless I didn’t see it). I may have a few x in place of names, but usually the story is fully formed. At a minimum a tidied first draft. My older work needs a few drafts before they are ready for beta readers. I’m finding that with The Crystal Gate, the sequel to Argenterra. The third installment is an incomplete rough draft and a nightmare!

You see, Argenterra has been worked on over many years, had many revisions, cut backs etc. The sequel has sat in the hard drive minding its own business and stagnating. Essentially it is a tidied first draft, maybe a tidier second draft. More recent work for me means that the first drafts are much better. I used to be a panster! Now I straddle the fence and plan a bit. Older drafts can be a lot of work, especially if you didn’t make notes!

So the minimum I believe is a tidy, good first draft, where you have  a full story etc and there is something to comment on. I sent The Crystal Gate for a beta read and it’s a tidy second draft. Why?

I have trouble listening to the little voice in my head that says things like “You’ve said that twice now. Maybe cut that.” or “You’ve written the action but what is the character feeling? What is the character’s emotional journey?” Or “That’s all well and good but could there be too much going on in that scene?” But because I’m focussed on my end goal of getting through the revision I don’t stop to deal with those things. I need a second opinion. (Insert LAZY here). I need a kick up the bum. I need to know what’s working and what’s not before I invest too much, before I make a wrong decision. This is where beta reading comments come in. I got some this morning. Some were the kick in the pants stuff-the stuff where I should know better but didn’t. Other comments point out flaws I didn’t notice or thought I could get away with, others highlighted aspects that I hadn’t thought of at all. I know that in addressing these comments I’m going to make the work better. I don’t have to agree with everything that my beta reader says. I’m going to wait for the other beta reader’s comments before working on the MS again.

Essentially the comments have filled me up with enthusiasm, ideas and identified trouble areas where I need to do more thinking. I love this.

I think I would be less likely to be accepting of feedback if I had polished the story to the nth degree and thought it was amazing and gorgeous and nothing could be improved. Nothing could be worse that having someone say-this is fatally flawed, you need to restructure this. You might take that from an editor maybe if you could see their vision. So far I haven’t had to restructure anything majorly at all. For this reason, I think getting feedback on a good draft is better than a polished draft you have no brain power to accept feedback. It can be done. I’ve worked with someone who had been edited and a reader picked up something which meant it had to be edited again and the issue addressed.

Of course, the timing is individual. Some people I know won’t let me read for them until they think their MS is perfect. Naturally enough I don’t get to read for them very often at all.

Now I wrote this post because I’m working on a rough draft of The Ungiven Land, Silverlands book 3. It’s hard work even thinking about this story so procrastination helps. This blog post is brought to you by procrastination!

 

 

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