April update

A no-writing weekend! I managed to make it to a lunch re-union of my Arvon writing course from 2011 on Saturday in London, got back home and went to bed, where I still am, snorting, sniveling and hacking.

Apologies that this is a bit late.

Nothing extraordinary to report. Sleight of Hand in all formats is just shy of 24,000 sales. I’m happy to see that Wild Card has been selling well again. The appearance of Cool Hand seems to have reminded some readers about the series.

Well, the new covers are not failing – books continue to sell, but I expected a little boost from simply changing covers, regardless of the actual covers themselves, and that didn’t happen. I also tried a weekend with SoH at $0.99, and the reaction was much smaller than when I did that for the old covers.

I’m having a photoshoot with Maria this week to get better stock for marketing, and at the same time I will re-do photos for SoH and HT. Once that’s done, I’ll sit down and have a look at everything.

Writing Progress
Bite Back 5 is coming along slowly. I’ve been a bit distracted by the covers, getting a new audio narrator and work being done on the house. We’re having some repair & replacement of windows and the conservatory.

I always say before I start that the next book will be simpler and shorter. I’m always wrong. Bite Back 5 has the standard interleaving of threads and looks at this early stage to be around about the same length as Hidden Trump.

I’ve actually written more scenes from later in the book. The first quarter of the book has been difficult to write.

Why? Because Amber has to heal. I don’t give spoilers, but those of you that have read Cool Hand know that she’s due some down time! And part of that repair has to be to face all the horrors she’s managed to contain in her ‘strongbox’, the mental image she has of how she deals with these events on her past.

In dealing with them, I have to explore them, and these are not easy matters to write about. Fictional character or not, they are upsetting to write.

There’s also purely technical difficulties. A lot of this healing has to happen inside Amber’s head. This leads to descriptive difficulties in the narrative. In the everyday world I can say “she fell over on her butt – it hurt” and everyone can picture what’s going on and feel for her. But things happening inside Amber’s head need more explanation, especially as some of them have paranormal origins (or complications). All making it more difficult to communicate it clearly and concisely.

And if it isn’t concise, the plot will feel as if it’s not progressing. However, if it doesn’t set the scene for what happened, it will lose coherence and emotional impact.

I’ve ended this post with small part of chapter 2 to give you a flavor. Because this is Amber re-living events, I’ve put it in present tense, like the dream sequences in the rest of the series…

What else can I tell you about BB5 without spoilers

As mentioned before, it takes place largely in LA.

It will start to link in Manda and Scott from The Biting Cold short story, but it looks more like they will actually appear on the page in BB6.

Helicopters. Motorbikes. The underbelly of Tinseltown.

And sex. Well, Amber manages (only just) not to have sex in Cool Hand. But in BB5 she’s back with Jen and Alex and working to move that relationship on, even as tangled as it gets with her healing. There are three sex scenes currently in the outline for BB5. The one at the end might get moved to start BB6 with a bang, so to speak.

This was a difficult decision process, following Kimberly’s withdrawal from the Hidden Trump project. It was easy to take the list of possible narrators down to 6. Not so hard even to take it down to 2. But that last decision! In the end, I went with a lady who just sounds a little more like the voices in my head!

I have received a verbal agreement (well, email) from Julia Motyka to narrate the remainder of the series. Here she is narrating the Accidental Alchemist…
We’re just working through the formal legal agreements with ACX, the audio company.
Part of Chapter 2, Bite Back 5

“No, man, he’s got to go out big. This is it. This is the grand exit.”
The guy they’re talking about is John Elway. This January, he’d led the Broncos to their second successive Superbowl, rifling the ball through the Falcons’ defenses and running for a touchdown himself. He’s a football god, but he’s a thirty-eight year-old football god, and the fevered rumor mill at South High in the spring of 1999 says he’s going.
Back-to-back Superbowls, oldest MVP ever, more wins than any other starting quarterback.
Way to go.
But the boys aren’t asking my opinion.
Eerie, how a remembered sentence opens a door. The smells and sounds come rushing back, dragging faces and colors and tastes and more words behind them.
The locker room at South High. That institutional smell that no janitor can get rid of. And the sickly-sweet aroma of my emergency stash of sugar-rush candy. The corridor is shouty and echoey, full of just-before-class energy being burned off. And zombies on auto-pilot waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
I’m holding my locker open. That gives me half a place to hide. A moment to gather myself and shift mental gears for the school day. I need to think about class. Need to concentrate on schoolwork.
For all the talk, it’s not as if Elway and the Superbowl are the biggest things.
There’s a war in Kosovo. NATO have bombed the Serbians. Clinton said firm action but no troops on the ground. But they lied to us before. And, well, Clinton.
And bigger than that in my world, looming like a wall in front of me, there’s the Final Ruling just days away. My life might start over.
Will start over.
Think positive.
My locker door slams shut.
“Prom,” Cassie Quinn says, leaning against the closed door. Her mouth is set in a hard line. I’ve ducked this one too many times.
“It’s a month away.”
Cassie is the only reason I have any social life left, but that doesn’t mean she’s not irritating as a bug.
“It’s two weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Cassie. I can’t think about it right now. I promise, after—”
“By then it’ll be too late. Look, Amber, the insurance will come good. Dad says you’ve got a cast-iron case.”
The Final Ruling. The end of the legal battle over my dad’s huge medical bills that’s taken three years and pushed us further and further into debt.
“And his qualifications to make that assessment?” I ask.
Cassie’s parents have been a great support for Mom, but her dad’s got a tendency to say what makes Mom feel good at the time.
No way does that justify my pettiness.
But Cassie takes it all in her stride and keeps coming back. She just smiles crookedly, so I’ve got nothing to fight against, even if I want to lash out sometimes.
“I hate you,” I mutter, because she understands. She knows what I mean and doesn’t pay too much attention to what I say.
“Likewise.” Then her eyes look over my shoulder and go all wide and soft. “Oh, my God,” she says.

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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 https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Henwick/e/B008SBO5YK/

10 responses to “April update”

  1. Sarah L says :

    Thanks for the update, BB5 is sounding really awesome. I’m looking forward to Amber getting her emotional issues and the strongbox a little more sorted, although I know it’s going to be hard to read. Can’t imagine how it will be to write!

  2. Jennifer Hayden says :

    Agree with the previous reply, re Ambers strong box and emotional state. I’m looking forward to finding out why Amber dreads letting out those secrets and emotions, but hoping by letting them out she discovers there are things in there that will make her stronger and give her an extra dimension to her powers. There are a only a few authors able to weave a story so complex and interesting you want them to never end it. Thanks for being one of those authors that can keep me anticipating the next page.

  3. Mark Henwick says :

    Thank you Sarah and Jennifer.
    I’m not sure Amber’s paranormal powers will be enhanced by anything she can resolve in her strongbox, but I think you’ll enjoy what I’m doing. There are surprises about some of the things in there. It’s a little bit “you know what it’s about, but you find out it’s not exactly that, and then you think you know what she needs to do about it, but then you realise you don’t.”
    One twist I’m finally getting to explain is the slightly odd way she refers to the emotions of that time, as half-revealed in Sleigh of Hand.

  4. Deborah Jay says :

    Sorry to hear you’re under the weather (though with this weather, perhaps that’s not so surprising). But, wow, I had no idea people had Arvon reunions! Was that something you arranged between you when you were on the course, or did the foundation have a hand in it?
    I did my Arvon course back in the late 90s, (I won my place from a SE Arts Board competition – how cool is that?), so I guess its maybe a more recent innovation. I’m still in touch with my room mate, so we have a mini-reunion once a year, just the two of us!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I attended at Totleigh Barton (Totally Barking) in October 2011, on a writing course run by Stella Duffy and Shelley Silas. Our reunions are arranged between us & small groups of us are always meeting up. We just hit it off as a group, and two of us shared birthdays during the course, and they just opened the new barn so we had to do a pagan ceremony to consecrate it etc etc. Drink may be involved at some of these meetings. (I was on the wagon on Saturday, as was Carly, but let me tell you, the rest of the table (7 of them) put away 5 bottles of Prosecco after their aperitifs and ‘thirst quenchers’).

      • Deborah Jay says :

        Love that nickname! Yes, that’s where I went, but it was a chaotic session with the usual hosts called away suddenly and us all left to find things and fend for ourselves. 2 people walked out!
        Such a pity as the course itself was great.
        I’ve just become an ambassador for Moniak Mohr, which used to be the Arvon property in Scotland, but now runs independently. Thinking of going there for a writing retreat, to find some solid writing time.

  5. Mark Henwick says :

    The audiobook contract is now agreed, and Hidden Trump should be out by the end of June!

  6. Val says :

    Thanks for the update. I look forward to BB5!

    Biting Cold was good and devastating and necessary and hopeful and brief. Thanks for that too.

    BTW, the previous covers (the ones with a real person, a beautiful native model, the ones you used for Wild Card and Cool Hand)? I realy liked those.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Val!
      As mentioned elsewhere in the blog, I have an outline for a Biting Cold II, which will link Manda and Scott in with Amber’s arc, and would be another short(ish) story. No schedule on that, because I have to be sure about BB5 first. I’m not sure whether I’ll be doing another anthology or releasing it as a novella.
      I’m looking forward to the photoshoot with Maria Askew tomorrow (http://www.castingcallpro.com/uk/actor/profile/maria-askew), and the images used for Cool Hand and Wild Card will definitely be the template for what I’m looking to capture.

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