Bian’s Tale Part 1: Saigon

{This is from 2014}

{This version has been replaced with the latest version}

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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first books are available on Amazon at

35 responses to “Bian’s Tale Part 1: Saigon”

  1. Susan A. says :

    Wow, this is very well written. The details are colorful and easy to imagine. I can feel the heaviness of Bian’s thoughts in her words and her actions. The amount of history and culture you manage to squeeze into this small part is amazing as well. There is one spelling mistake where she says “I feel asleep in the afternoon” that you might want to correct. My only other concern is how well received this will be to UF fans. I love these sort of tales that go back in time, but this is a very different style than the Bite Back series.

    It’s difficult to say what UF fans might think of it since it lacks the action and paranormal aspects many of your readers would expect (at least in this early part). Maybe if you hinted a bit more as to where this story is headed early on it could help hook any reluctant readers and make them more willing to see where things are going. Right now it looks like Bian has a lot of growing up to do before the Athanate comes into play. Paranormal fans may not be very patient to get to that part.

    Hope you find this feedback useful. Feel free to edit out my typo reference when you fix it. Thanks for sharing this excerpt!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Susan, you’ve highlighted my concerns about this story not being ‘mainstream’ UF. The supernatural aspects pick up, as foreshadowing, in the next few chapters, but don’t really manifest until the last quarter.
      I’m not quite sure how it should be positioned. At the moment, I just want to write it – ‘the story demands it be told’.
      Thanks for the typo!

  2. Erik says :

    I enjoyed it….will be nice to learn Bian’s story. Skyler and Diana should have they’re own books as well… or maybe more info sprinkled though the other books. I enjoyed the first two books. Don’t push so hard as to ruin the story or burn yourself out!

  3. Becky says :

    Read both ‘Bite Back’ books in a day and a half (minimal work got done and I lied to my boss but I couldn’t put them down). You’ve developed the characters brilliantly so far with just enough mystery remaining for a host of further books in the series. I love that you’ve made Amber a likeable and very human but strong and independent woman – frequently in the UF genre a ‘strong’ female lead means an incredibly stroppy, unreasonable and unlikeable brat which leaves me despairing and ashamed to be female, and a fighter. These books are exciting and imaginative but for all their ‘sci fi’ elements they remain, unbelievably, human and believable! Please keep them coming – and soon. Work all night every night if you have to!

    Very often I stop reading a good story because of poor editing/proof reading but yours was either very well proofed or was just too enthralling to notice.

    I think background stories for the characters is a great idea and doesn’t bog down the main novels with too much history, a much better idea to have this available via short stories here on your website. More to follow I hope! This one, about Bian, shows a remarkable grasp of history – were you there…?

    Now a bit peed off that I have to wait before the next installment.

    Keep up the very good work

  4. G. L. Drummond (@Scath) says :

    New fan, fellow writer. Loved both Bite Back books! Very interested in reading Bian’s story as well. =)

  5. c says :

    It is 4:30 in the morning, I have just finished reading both Sleight of Hand and Hidden Trump. Please write more soon. The stories were wonderful. Well written and gripping. I am sure that Bian’s story will be just as wonderful. Thank you

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks, C.
      I should be upset at the number of people who’ve lost out on sleep or work to read my books, but I’m not. I’m evil like that. I hope to keep you awake many more times!

  6. Hugh Haynsworth says :

    I just wrote a review of your second book. I looking forward to the next book. I though I criticized the first, I think it made the second half better as a result. I am looking forward to the next book. I am also looking forward to more about the leaders of the house.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Hugh, and apologies for the time it has taken to get round to replying. All feedback is useful!
      Without giving spoilers, the leaders of the Athanate Houses are not very prominent in book 3, which has to divert to explore the world of the Were. However, of course, the politics and structure of the Houses will continue to emerge as the story progresses. There are a couple of Athanate twists in book 3.
      Hope it keeps hitting the right level for you.

  7. Kristy Atkinson (@kristyatkinson) says :

    Although Bian’s story may not be technically UF, I believe that those who have read the main Bite Back books will want to read it regardless. I’m not a fan of historical genres; however I am invested enough in Bian as a character that I NEED to read her story, and I have no doubt after reading this excerpt that I will love it.

    Write it and we will come 🙂

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Kristy.
      At a general level, I expect Bian’s books to be shorter than the main Bite Back books, and less ‘layered’ – fewer subplots. They are dark.

      I have sketched them out:

      Book 1 – Saigon
      Book 2 – The Words of the Dead
      Book 3 – The Sword of the Second Son
      Book 4 – The Rise of the River
      Book 5 – The Tears of the Leopard
      Book 6 – The Honor of Strangers

      Book 2 takes Bian to mid 1920s. Book 3 is during the Second World War. Book 4 and 5 are in the 1950s-60s. Book 6 is set around 2005.

      May take a while to finish!

  8. patricia says :

    I’m not even sure how I stumbled onto Sleight of Hand – I know it sat, unread, in my Kindle for several weeks before I finally clicked on it. I was hooked – drawn into the story and the characters instantly! I was lucky enough that Hidden Trump was already out – I bought and read that one immediately, just finishing it a few days ago. Now I have Raw Deal to tide me over at least until …. tomorrow. How soon did you say book 3 would be out?

    I agree with the poster above. I’m interested enough in the characters to happily break genre and read ANY background on Amber, Bian, Skylur, Diana, Alex, Jen or Tullah! I like the depth of ALL of your characters and I have a hard time choosing which of the “minor” characters seem most intriguing. Write it. Put your name on it. I’ll buy it.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Patricia!
      I’ll see how Bian’s Tale goes before I look at any others. Skylur and Diana are too powerful for a novel, I think. Maybe novellas. Tullah’s a possibility. Alex’s affair with Hope might make a weepy novella in itself.
      But all that waits for WIld Card and Saigon.
      Your post shows the two-step marketing issues with getting readers into the series. Got to get them to download, then got to get them to read. I’ve been trying to address the first by making Raw Deal ‘free’. Amazon refuse (other than as part of their lending program).

      • patricia says :

        I think Amazon has that ‘corporate’ mentality now that it didn’t have when it was a tiny little company operating on a shoestring budget. However, if it makes you feel any better, as a “fan” I am not at all disappointed or upset with having to fork over a buck and, in fact, if any of that gets into your pocket, I’m happy to do so. Since I’ve already read your other two novels, Amazon could have easily gotten the full $8-9 paperback rate from me, even for the Kindle edition. I don’t hold Amazon’s policy against YOU at all – you had every intention of giving your words, ideas and story away to readers as a “freebie” and I appreciate the gesture! There’s a third-step to marketing, by the way, that I’ll be addressing later today on a couple of my social networking outlets – getting the people who have downloaded and read the series to talk about the novels, compliment the writing, then pester their FRIENDS until they also download and read! I have several friends (none of whom I’ve ever actually met, go figure!) to whom I’ll be promoting your novels strongly. The internet works in mysterious ways.

        I don’t mind waiting for other background stories. While of course, I want EVERYTHING and RIGHT NOW OR SOONER (I’m American like that), I also understand it’s important not to break the author. Cuz then he can’t write any more. Which sucks.

        Oh, and I finished Raw Deal already, so now I’m completely dry on Henwickian reading material. No pressure, just sayin’. 😉

  9. Renee says :

    I started Slight of Hand yesterday; I read the first chapter and stopped. I stopped to buy the other two books so I could read Raw Deal then Slight Of Hand. I finished Hidden Trump a bit ago and just finished your “BIAN teaser”! I will be biting my nails to the quick till the full story comes out, as well as the next Amber Farrell novel! Thank you for a terrific read!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Renee! You read quickly – a bit quicker than I can write. 🙂
      I expect to publish Bite Back 3, Wild Card, in October. The schedule slipped a bit with getting Raw Deal out and it’s slipped a bit more. That schedule may not leave me enough time to get Bian’s Tale 1 – Saigon out before Christmas, but that’s what I’m aiming for.
      Keep an eye on this blog and/or the Facebook page for updates, teasers, cover images and so on.

  10. Mary says :

    Just bought book #3 and have reread book # 1 and #2 before I start it. I also read your prequel. I became immersed in your world and your multidimensional characters.
    I enjoyed the detail, history, tone, and emotional content of Bian’s story. I really like how beautifully the story is unfolding and would argue that you do not need to be in a rush to suit the needs of urban fantasy readers. Just tell a good story – well.
    Found a grammatical typo in chapter one. “We children sat at on the floor….”
    I am looking forward to reading Bian’s Story.
    Many thanks for your efforts. They are much appreciated.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Mary. I hope you remain immersed!
      Saigon in 1890 is going to be a very different world to Denver in the modern day. I’m enjoying the differences, trying to capture the feel of the city they called the Paris of the Far East. As I’ve just posted, there’ll be a teaser on the blog in the next month or so that will take these first 3 chapters and take the story forward to the end of the first section. Here’s a snip …

      To come upon Saigon just at the dawn, the old-timers said, is like waking from an opium dream.
      Dragons, formed from the mist off the rice fields, flowed down onto the dark river and raised phantom heads to stare blankly at the stirring city, with its wide, leafy boulevards and square, pale buildings looming out of the darkness. The east began to bleed gold into the gray sky and rob the night of its substance.

  11. Deirdre says :

    I think it is wonderful, you should break out of the UF chains and continue with this story. The people who would jump at the chance of reading Bian’s story are people already familiar with her and the are interested in hearing how her psyche has developed. By breaking out of the chains, I mean telling her story until she becomes what she is. The human part of her helps her become what she is, and her development starts with…being human. After all, isn’t that what we crave? UF is the desire to be something other then what we are.

  12. Rashmi says :

    i got hooked on Amber Farell’s story. I read them all back to back and I love Bian so this is exciting. Thank you for writing such strong female characters.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Rashmi!

      I am embarrassed how long it is taking me to write Bian’s Tale. I promise I’ll be working on it again soon. I wish I could write faster 🙂

  13. Gloria Weaver says :

    Glo Weaver says March 4, 2016

    Sir, I have read all six of your bite back series. In fact, this is my 3rd read. I love them. First series of books that I have gotten to the point of having to remind myself they are fictional characters. Love the way all the characters interact and portrays normal human (aside from of course the paranormal part) behavior. Can’t wait for Angel Stalks and Bian’s Tales. I want to get them as soon as they are available, but please don’t hurry so much that we lose your outstanding writing skills. Good luck with your future endeavors.

    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you so much for the positive vibes!

      Angel Stakes re-drafting has reached the last section – the mad helter-skelter at the end. The current draft needs a lot of rewroking, but I know exactly where and what I need to do, so hopefully, not long now.

      I’ll get back to Bian’s Tale this year, and I have some ideas for making the writing flow more smoothly! 🙂

  14. Theresa says :

    I am anxiously awaiting the conclusion of Bian’s story. As a fan of UF I also appreciate back stories of the main characters. I would like to see Skylar’s and Diana’s stories as well.

    This was well worth the read and the conclusion would be well received and welcomed.

    Also, I can’t wait for the next installment of Bite Back. I was ahead of the story well before the reveal of the <>. It explains a lot.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Hi Theresa, sorry, edited your message there to keep spoilers hidden!

      I will be restarting Bian’s Take soon. This sample chapter and the first section where Bian is a child is fine. The next sections of the first book deal with her life as a teenager in Saigon. I’m not happy with those sections and they need a careful re-write. They tell the story, but they dont have the punch of the opening. Not good enough.

      I’ll post progress and samples as I go.

      Before Bian’s Tale comes out, I will do a sequel to The Biting Cold, which will bring Amanda into the Bite Back storyline.

  15. Euni says :

    Hi Mark
    I like knowing a little bit about Bian. It shows how she is developed and why she is the way she is. She’s a conundrum most of the time but out of all the characters, besides Amber, she is the one that makes me want to know more. I can’t wait for the whole story. I know you’ll make it good. 🙂

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Euni.

      The time I’ve taken with Bian’s Tale should in no way imply I don’t want to do it. I do, and I want to get it right. And yes, her background is very different to everyone around her, despite the way she identifies with people or groups of people she comes across in Bite Back.

  16. benjamin says :

    It’s cool that your book would show some of what european colonism did in it. I am a history freak and like how some of your books use history. Like that quote from stalin.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I’m guessing you mean this, from Angel Stakes: “Stalin claimed a single death was a tragedy, and a million just a statistic,” Skylur said.

      I enjoy playing with quotes, some of them obvious and attributed like that, and some hidden.

      The Saigon of Bians Tale is very definitely grounded in the historical reality, as far as I can research it. I hope I can dig up my notes and make them available for readers when I finish. Some of it, of course, is poetic licence. Here’s the opening paragraphs of the second section, some 4 or 5 years after the events of the opening section.

      “To come upon Saigon, just at the dawn, the old-timers said, is like waking from an opium dream.
      Dragons, formed from the mist off the rice fields, flowed down onto the dark river and raised phantom heads to stare at the stirring city, with its wide, leafy boulevards and square, pale buildings looming out of the darkness. In the vast landscape of steamy mangrove swamps and flooded paddy fields, the regular formality of Saigon’s gleaming buildings seemed like mirages.
      The east, across the river, began to bleed gold into the gray sky and rob the night of its substance.”

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