Archive | February 2014

Bian’s Tale teaser

I promised a teaser on Bian’s Tale. You may have read the first 3 chapters when I posted them last year, and those haven’t changed much. This is approximately the first quarter of the book, to chapter 11.

Link:  (This old version has been removed as the text has been changed a lot)

New link:

New version


It’s very different from the Amber novels and I’d love feedback again.

Recommend a book

Why does a book fly or fall?

OK, I want to turn this around. I’ve recommended several books; here, and on Goodreads, Facebook and Amazon. Generally, the response has been positive, but in at least a couple of cases a few people really didn’t like something I liked. Now I know I sometimes like things for obscure reasons – I’m much more analytical since I started writing – I often like books because of the way something is handled rather than the whole package.

So I want to turn it round and ask you if you’d recommend this book to me. The name is Diaries of an Urban Panther. Yup, it features a were-panther. Cool.

From what I’ve read so far, it seems much better than the ranking suggests. There are typos and the odd wrong word chosen, but I’ve seen *far* worse.

I should state I have no interest in the publisher, and I’ve had no contact with them or the author (Amanda Arista).

It was published in July 2011, by Avon Impulse. It’s categorized in the paranormal romance section and there’s a hot guy.

So, if you’ve read it, or would like to partake in this experiment without reading…

If you read it – does it fly or fall for you? And what do you think of cover/blurb/title/price?
If you just look at the Amazon page and don’t want to read it – what killed it? The cover, the blurb, the title, the category, the price?

For interest only.

Alternatively … make a recommendation for a book I haven’t mentioned that you think would appeal to me or to other folk who read this page …

Book covers – changing your cover

Stay tuned…next week I’m going to put up the first quarter of Bian’s Tale, but I want to do something a bit different this week and I’m looking to get responses from you.

Today is about changing your book cover. I plan to do this for the Bite Back series, and so I’m interested to see what happens when others do it. From previous posts, you’ll remember I showed the new cover for Debra Dunbar’s first book in her Imp series, and she was pleased with the increased response that generated. I think her new covers are better, and the cover for No Man’s Land, which I recommended a couple of posts back, gets the werewolf part of the book across well. (Very few covers get ‘vampire’ across well, IMHO, but tell me if you think differently).

Now Susan Illene has decided to change her covers. Here’s her reasoning, and the new cover for Darkness Haunts.

Many of you will remember the original Darkness Haunts cover that I have been using for over a year now. It was my first book and I was quite proud of it at the time I published it, but I also knew it wasn’t quite the right look for Melena. Sometimes you just have to settle for what you can get (stock photos) and I couldn’t afford a professional photo shoot at the time. My cover artist did a great job with it, though, and it drew in plenty of readers so I can’t complain.

But it was time for change.

After the awesome experience with the photo shoot for Chained by Darkness, I decided I had to redo Darkness Haunts. It just couldn’t stay the same anymore. I am very pleased with how it turned out and hope you all will be too! So here it is:

New cover

So, folks, what do you think about the new kick-ass image?

Do you think this will attract a different audience? Will readers have a different expectation? If you’ve read the book, do you feel this captures Melena better?

Do you think changing the covers produces an increased response regardless?

I’ll be very interested in your comments, and my next post is going to ask for your opinion on a book I think most of you won’t have read, rather than my reviewing it, or making a recommendation on it.



Reading update and recommendation

I know from comments on the site that a fair few of you follow Debra Dunbar’s Imp series, and this post is just a short one in case you haven’t spotted ‘No Man’s Land’, her latest.
It’s set in the Imp world, but focuses on an outcast vampire and mysterious werewolf.
I got it on the Kindle and put it in with the rest to be parceled out a chapter or two at a time. That was a couple of days ago. 🙂
Anyway, it’s a great opener, with damnable, evil vampires who scheme and plot and betray at the drop of a hat, snappy werewolves who can’t see beyond their own snarling snouts, and the ever present threat of the angels. And then a little ray of light…
I’ll do a proper review when I can. In the meantime, leap across to Amazon and buy. You don’t need to have read the Imp series to enjoy.

New analyses explode the secrets of the publishing industry

That’s a rather dramatic title, but I’m tired of the representation of data in the publishing area – analyses that claim to show this or that but don’t actually include Amazon data. Hello? Amazon sell the bulk of books. This misrepresentation isn’t necessarily the analysts’ fault – Amazon tries to shield its data from others. Well, Konrath, Howey and associated data gurus have cracked the lid, just a little, and the result is huge. This takes some reading and thinking time. There are also links that are slow due to the numbers of people looking, but, oh boy, is it worth it.

January reading update

You guys are probably way ahead of me on these, but I thought I’d mention a couple of books that I’ve enjoyed recently. Both recommended.

First off is one I delayed reading while I was working on Wild Card because it covered sort of the same (but different) urban fantasy types, and that messes with my head. The book is

Arcane Solutions by Gayla Drummond

And features a gal with the great name of Discord Jones 🙂 , who is a PI working in a supernatural detective agency… Whoa! Anita Blake? No. Not a necromancer, not a sex magnet. Having said that, there are some similarities in the setup, and if you enjoyed the early Anita Blake, you’ll love Discord.

The book has plot twisting fun—there are two main threads—find the missing teenager who appears to have been kidnapped by vampires and also retrieve a stolen grimoire for the elf who’s too sexy for his own good. Of course, nothing is quite what it seems. There’s a romantic sub-plot (not with the elf) which stays very much in the background, and made me feel uncomfortable for the love interest (whatever that says about me).

Cue the other denizens – witches, demons, shifters and some very engaging familiars. The world building is good, and I think some information is being held back for later in the series.

Dialogue is snappy and there’s a good serving of humor in some of the situations Discord gets herself into. Drummond sells the protagonist’s jeopardies on the basis of Discord’s inexperience rather than the stupidity you find in some UF, and the hint of over-powerful characters at the start is countered neatly.

One of the sub-plots ended rather quietly, and I thought was a good candidate for being left up in the air as a hook for the next book, where it could have been used to ratchet up the tension, but I’m being picky.

On a parting note…*great* cover.

The second book is a collection of short stories, not something I go for much these days, but I got it for one particular story called The Skin Trade. The book is

Dreamsongs (Volume 2): A RRetrospective: Book Two by George RR Martin

Yeah him. GoT himself, as they say ever since the Starks and Lannisters first rolled across our screens.

As I say, I got it for one story, so let me start by covering the rest of the book.

A couple of okay SF stories about an intergalactic ecologist, ‘Tuf’. They worked in short story form, but I didn’t fully engage with the hero. Then a couple of TV screen plays. Got potential, but reading screen plays is like watching a book. Followed by a story from his Wild Card series (where did he get that name?) which is a smash up of dystopian / American 50s nostalgia / cartoon superheroes and leaves me stone cold. Then Fortress, which is a good SF story (and for me, it has to be very well written to deal with time travel and alternate universes).

Then The Skin Trade.

This is a novella that won the World Fantasy Award, and it shows. It’s urban fantasy. Smart female PI, 3 dimensional characters, werewolves, gothic American history, gritty detective noir, shock, blood, horror. Motherlode. I’m not even going to tell you any more. Get the book just for this novella. (I should in fairness point out that, being a short story, The Skin Trade does that short story thing of reaching a conclusion without reaching a conclusion, if you know what I mean).

Oh, also included another SF story about chess which was excellent. And The Hedge Knight – a very good prequel short story set in the Game of Thrones word.

Go on. Get them both. Sorted for the week. 🙂

January 2014 – Monthly roundup

It’s the end of the month, and the monthly update is due.

The last week has been slow on the work side. Apparently a super-resistant plague bacillus was infected by a hyper-virulent avian flu virus and mutated into the worst disease known and it infected me. My wife says it was just a cold, but that’s ridiculous.

Anyway, I’m alive and sitting here waiting for the Broncos to stomp all over the Seagulls (this post may subsequently be edited due to unforeseen circumstances), so I thought I better sum up what’s where on the writing side.


Sleight of Hand was briefly overtaken by Raw Deal, but is now back in front with 18,950 sales in 19 months. Raw Deal is 18,880 in 10 months, Hidden Trump 13,400 in 15 and Wild Card 3,100 in 3.

The take-off that HT achieved hasn’t been copied by WC, due mainly (I think) to Amazon not recommending WC in their emails to readers of SoH and HT. That’s no concern to me really, slow or fast isn’t such a big thing. What I am pleased about in those figures is that HT is now at 71% retention from SoH and WC has re-boosted the sales of SoH and HT, putting them up around 15 daily.


I’m also pleased at the reviews that WC has brought in. Yes, there are people saying I need to tie up some of those threads that have been running for three books, but generally the reaction has been better than positive. And yes, I know that the next couple of Bite Back books have to tie up lots more.

Writing progress

Bian’s Tale 1: Saigon – The Reach of Lies is cantering. You’ll remember I said these books would be simpler, and they are. I have however had to deconstruct some characters and re-create them as two separate characters, so I’m having to revisit some of what I’ve written. I’ll have a more accurate update next month and I’ll put a teaser of the first section of the book up.

Bite Back 4: Cool Hand is trotting rather than cantering. I’m going slow because I’m nervous about the end of this book. My standard writing pattern is to have a very clear picture of the first and last quarter of a book when I start putting words on the page, because in writing terms everything has to ‘follow’ from those fixed points. I haven’t yet firmed up on the end of Cool Hand. It’s a double scene ending, as with HT and WC, and my problem is that the two ending scenes aren’t connected, physically, geographically or thematically. That doesn’t feel right. I can get around it, but it starts to feel like a triple scene ending. I can’t explain better without giving spoilers. It may be that I write the last quarter first, and when I’m happy with that, go back and start writing/re-writing from the beginning again.

I’ll try and communicate a bit more this next month, and, as I say, teasers will be coming out.