Archive | December 2013

What have I been reading? A selection.

I’m in agreement with the theory that all writers should read all the time, but Wild Card needed a lot of me in November and December, and my reading habits had to change. I couldn’t afford to be kept awake at night wondering about the plot details of someone else’s book.  So what did I chose? I find books about travel help me to wind down and switch off at night, and I’ll pass on a couple of recommendations at the end.

And once I finished Wild Card on the 22nd, I needed to read something completely different. I’ll start with that:

Desprite Measures by Deborah Jay is, on the surface, a light hearted urban fantasy set in and around Inverness, in Scotland. But like nearby Loch Ness, which looms in the shadowy corners of the tale, the surface of the lake doesn’t always show the depths. In this, the story has the feel of a certain kind of fairy tale or myth.

Cassie Lake is an immortal elemental, a water sprite. She is capable of holding a human appearance, and lives a dual life, human by day and water elemental by night. She has a selkie (Were-seal) lover, friends and a job. A comfortable life, that only exists before page 1 of the book, where we find her trapped by a human magician in a bubble that he squeezes smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, also trapped in the same bubble is another elemental, the equal and opposite fire sprite. If they touch, ‘bye-bye Scotland’. A grand wee setup.

We go on from there, stirring a couple of covens, a druid and some familiars into a tale that reveals the magician’s purpose and greed. We get a cameo performance by a vampire, what might be a fairy or an elf, and also what might be a devil or an angel. Good is sort of triumphant and some massive hooks are left in for the next of what’s planned to be a five part series.

It’s well done, with a light touch, appealing characters, and scenes that made me yell ‘Noooo!!! Cassie, don’t do that’ without making me think she was a twit / TSTL. The world building is well constructed and consistent. The villain has an ambiguity during the story which Jay disassembles at the end. I’m not sure about that, but I certainly didn’t expect it, and I can understand it in light of the moral quandary of the denouement and Cassie’s internal journey.

All of which just makes it another book. It’s the subtexts that raise it.

A concern with the environment is woven through the book, and provides the structural support for the main plot line, but the real twister is Cassie’s journey. Acting human has started to develop Cassie’s soul. As an elemental, she doesn’t expect to have one. Others certainly don’t. And with the soul, of course, comes pain and grief as well as love.

To reveal more would be to give spoilers, and I won’t do that.

I’ll copy the core of this review to Amazon and Goodreads and I’ll probably give it a five there, as that’s what it’s closest to. In my scoring, it’s difficult for book 1 of a series to get a five until I’ve seen book 2. I want the mythic quality to come out, I want to see that underlying fairy tale, even if it means that the series may not be a Disney HEA. Fairy tales have a taste of blood and iron, which is just beneath the surface in Desprite Measures. I’m looking forward to book 2.


Travel books

I’m recommending, but not rating these. Either you like travel writing or you don’t, and you’ll get enough of a flavor reading the sample chapters on Amazon.

The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither by Isabella Bird

This is a free book, the travelogue of an adventurous woman exploring the Far East in 1883. I got it for the chapters where she describes Saigon, and it’s part of my research for Bian’s Tale. I haven’t finished it – I prefer to dip in and out. She was a sharp-eyed observer and remarkably unbiased and non-judgmental. She covers the peoples and the plants with mentions of the animals as well.

Amazing lady. I’d recommend it just to honor her spirit and bravery, but it’s also informative.


Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed

This is a famous book, one of Oprah Winfrey’s selection. It tells the story of one woman’s walk along the Pacific Crest Trail (I want to do this!), and her spiritual journey on the way. That sounds naff as we say in the UK, but it isn’t- the spiritual element stays largely in the ‘show’ and little in the ‘tell’. It has peaks and troughs to match the trail, laughter and tears. I’m lightened every time I recall the scene at the beginning where she struggles into the backpack for the first time and it’s like she’s put a VW Beetle on her back. She falls over and waves her arms like a turtle.

It’s not all sweetness and light. She had an addiction, she broke up her marriage and she had fallen into the sort of self-destructive, self-pitying mental trap that I would never stand for in a fictional heroine. Her lack of condemnation for her earlier self made this a difficult book for me.

This was a re-read.


Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes

I loved this. Here’s the link to my Amazon review.


Christmas message

I started this blog thinking about the things I left out of Wild Card, and why I left them out. But I guess I’m not ready to revisit it all yet, and work through my reasons. The one thing I did leave out that I can’t ignore is in the acknowledgements. They should give (and will, when I resubmit the text) a thank you to Susan Illene for answering some points on the US military that I raised with her. Some of you may have spotted her on the site here. She was a sergeant in Airborne, and did that crazy stuff about jumping out of perfectly serviceable aircraft. She’s also an author with her own UF titles, the Sensor series starting with Darkness Haunts. Thank you, Susan.

I’m bound to have forgotten others as well.

For those things I left out deliberately, well, one of the reasons was to get the book out by Christmas. I had originally estimated August and then October, so I felt I couldn’t miss the third deadline. And this was a good time to release a book last year.

Wild Card shows every sign of outdoing Hidden Trump. Thank you to all the readers who are buying the book. And those readers should also be saying thank you to you, the folk who email me or visit this site and say such wonderful things to me. You are my writing fuel.

What am I doing now? Very little until after Christmas. Then some planning work on Bian’s Tale and Amber’s book 4. I’ll address some specific requests made on the blog, provide a couple of those snippets of the stuff I cut out, and I’ll also respond to questions raised over the last few weeks that I haven’t had time to address. I’ll start writing again in January.

And Christmas…

Christmas is a little different here. We have no tree, but we have flashing lights. We have no turkey, but we have goose, duck and chicken. (I’m hoping for boned goose stuffed with boned duck stuffed with boned chicken like last year, but I’m afraid there’s not enough of a crowd coming round to justify it.) We also have a 20 kilo case of bananas, more oranges than the average orchard and a lovely bunch of carnations on the dinner table. I’m glad this house is a little mad, it makes it so much more interesting.

We should count our blessings and remember all those in public service who aren’t home with their families at this time. And all those who have no home or family.

I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas, a happy holiday and a fulfilling year in 2014.


Wild Card Final

Well, I pressed the button at 19:30 GMT Sunday and Amazon usually takes about 10-12 hours to put it up.

It’s 171k words.

I had a bunch of clever things to say, but they’ve gone out of my head. I’ll check later to make sure Amazon hasn’t thrown up a problem with the conversion. Sometime tomorrow, I will get to answering all the fantastic supporting posts and emails that have come in over the last couple of days. Thanks guys and gals, I needed them 🙂

I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to hearing your feedback – here, on Amazon, Goodreads or where-ever.

Final editing update

Saturday night report 🙂
All structural edits done.
Tomorrow, I have one pass through the text for minor edits which I have accumulated (with lots of help from Jessica), and then the final read through.
I’ve done the cover titles, but I still have to write the cover copy.
That should mean that I press the publish button on Amazon sometime Sunday evening, and it should be available sometime on Monday.
I’ll post again when I’ve pressed that button.
Nearly there!

Editing update and cover image


The cover image

Here’s the image for the cover of Wild Card.

Yup, broke the rules. Day rather than night and not a weapon in sight.

Thank you for the many positive comments that you’ve posted as we’ve got closer to publication date (which is still looking good for before Christmas).
What have I been working on? Well, those Part 4 edits and the scenes that feed into them. My editor is one fierce lady. A few of the sub-plots that I tied up in Part 4, she just said “Meh. You’ve tied up the sub-plot, but you haven’t made me care enough.” She wants to laugh or cry whenever I wrap something. So the Part 4 edits have required fine tuning of the previous scenes in Parts 1-3 that build the arc toward that end scene. All good stuff.

And the result? I think it’s better. But not smaller. I looked at the mirror this morning and jabbed my finger at the guy and told him to cut 10k words. He didn’t. In fact he added some. 🙂
A couple of you have been concerned at what I’m ‘removing’. Any scene that gets chopped is either bad (in which case it’s dumped and you really don’t want to see it) or good but not for now, in which case I’ll find a way to incorporate it somewhere else. As an example, for those of you that have read the prequel, the Club Agonia scene was originally intended for Sleight of Hand.

I know people are keeping on looking at this page, so I’ll keep posting updates until I publish.

What else? Raw Deal has just overtaken Sleight of Hand in total numbers.

Editing update for Wild Card

I have now finished the structural edits for Part 3. I had intended to cut the length down by 10%, but whatever I cut seemed to sneak back in different places, so this section of the book is still around 54k words.

My most difficult-to-please beta reader has read up to the end of Part 3 and her verdict is: ‘best of the series’.

That was the good news.

Less good news, I still have to edit Part 4 (quite a lot of work), and both the editor and I need a final read through. I said Christmas for publication, and that might mean Christmas Eve! I should be sure by the weekend and will do another of these mini-posts, with the cover page.


Quick update on Wild Card

Just a small post for a BIG milestone.
The last couple of chapters of Wild Card have just gone to the editor. Total words 173k.
I have been chopping it down, and will chop it down some more.

Tomorrow, I start on the editing of Section 3. There’s quite a lot to do – mainly in trimming it down.

When I finish that, I may have some editing to do in Section 4.

Closer and closer.
I’ll keep posting…