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Update and progress

Change of Regime

The serialised story that appeared here on the blog is now available as a novella on Amazon. It’s edited, and there’s also an additional chapter, an epilogue, which didn’t appear on the blog. It’s 25k words long.



The appearance of this novella and also the fact that Bian’s Tale is my priority at the moment has prompted several people to contact me asking why Bite Back 6 is not my priority project. I’ll take the opportunity to answer that here.

Firstly, Change of Regime didn’t actually take any time from my writing schedule. It was conceived, planned, plotted, written and delivered in my development time. Do I need development time? Yes. I want my books to be 20% better than other books and I want readers to tell me the books get better and better. Part of what I do to achieve that aim is I practice and experiment with writing styles and tools. Change of Regime allowed me to look at multiple PoVs, use the present tense and trim down descriptions. It also kept me fresh for Bian’s Tale. I’ll continue to use my development time in this way – which means any new serialised novellas/novels will be produced in the same way – a chapter a week. (Development time is 2-4 hours at the weekend).

Secondly, I’m writing Bian’s Tale as my priority project now for several reasons, not least because readers asked me for it. However there is a hard-headed economic reason as well. I’m losing readers, and I’ve been losing readers ever since Sleight of Hand – each Bite Back book I release has fewer readers than the last. Now, some of those may be readers who love the story and are waiting for me to finish the series so they can binge. Great, but not something I want to rely on. So, what can I do to gather more readers into the series? Write other books, like Bian’s Tale and Change of Regime. Submit stories to anthologies like The Biting Cold (which went into the ‘A Very Paranormal Holiday’ anthology) and Enzili (which went into ‘Vampires of the Caribbean’ anthology). Serialise novels. Marketing. Etc. Etc.

New serialised story

Okay, Change of Regime was well received, so I will continue to use my development time to produce serialised stories. The next will be away from the Athanate storyline. I did show you an example a couple of months ago, a chapter from a steampunk story set in Africa, but the response to that was muted. I will write that story anyway, but perhaps not as a serialisation.

So what do you want to see here on the blog? I have an outline for a Sci-Fi Romance and another for a Horror. Place your votes in the comments.

New pages on the blog

I’ll be adding a new page or pages on the blog to handle the serialised stories (when I work out how to do it!).

Other stories

I mentioned Enzili above. This story is in the Vampires of the Caribbean anthology, but will shortly be available for me to publish seperately. Now… Enzili is a short story and ends with the resolution of one major incident, which was all there was space for. There are three other issues that are left ‘for later’, and I have the plot to resolve these in ‘Enzili 2’ (not decided on a name yet).

Do I publish Enzili now and Enzili 2 when I write it? Hold off publishing Enzili until I have Enzili 2? Hold off until I can put it all together and make 1 novel instead of 2 novellas?

Vote in the comments.


All writing was on hold while I spent the last week with Jessica in New Orleans, where she’s filming ‘Underwater’ with Kristen Stewart and others. Back now.

Bian’s Tale is still being problematic. I’m getting feedback from beta readers on the first 2 sections (out of a total of 5 for the first book), but the feedback is not concentrated on one single issue. It will sort itself out, but it is taking longer than anticipated.

Inside Straight, Bite Back 6: I have some good chapters done and loads of scenes sketched out. This book is nudging me, wanting to be written NOW.


Unbelievably, we are STILL waiting for Angel Stakes to go through ‘checking’ and ‘processing’ at ACX/Audible. I have no control over this part of the production I’m afraid.

Raw Deal is done. I have submitted a minor correction and the audiobook should shortly go into the ‘checking’ and ‘production’ at ACX/Audible.



News: road trip and writing update

My apologies for the silence on the blog.

Road trip!

This is going to be a mixture of family holiday, writer’s retreat, photo shoots and research. I’m not planning to turn up at any bookstores to do signings, but I will be delighted to meet readers at a coffee shop or restaurant if I’m in the area. Message me on the contact email or Facebook.

 Family holiday: From the 23rd August to the 5th September, I’ll be in New York, with the whole family. Jessica will still be filming the first season of Netflix’s Iron Fist (she plays Colleen Wing), so the schedule will be worked around that. I do plan to have a visit for Amber to New York in Bite Back, so I will be meeting readers, scouting locations and taking photographs as well.

Writer’s retreat: Home life has been ‘disrupted’ to say the least over the last few months, from replacing floors to garden landscaping. I’m going to find out how well I write when I’m not at home with these distractions. Back in 2011, I visited Denver for research and I did find I could write quite well while mixing it with doing research and being a tourist. I intend to be writing a few hours a day on average throughout this trip.

Research (and photo shoots): I’ve just about exhausted the notes I took from my first research trip to Denver, and the geographic scope of the Bite Back series has grown a lot. I actually meant to visit New Mexico and Los Angeles while I was writing Cool Hand and Angel Stakes, but it didn’t come off. So…this year I get to do the Rockies, north to south.

I have to visit the sites of the Confederation’s main packs: Wind River, Big Horn and Bozeman. I have to visit the equivalent sites for the League in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I’ll do a side trip to Nevada to take in Humboldt-Toiyabe and Highway 50. And I’ll spend time based in Denver and looking around Colorado. All of the above are for research, but of course, I’ll be touring and hiking and taking photographs and meeting people as well.

The schedule is: 6th September to 18th September in Wyoming and Montana. Starting in Cheyenne, with the farthest north probably being Helena. I may cut through Idaho on the way back. If you have recommendations for spooky, strange or unusual photogenic places, or you’re in the general area at the same time, message me on the contact email or Facebook!

19th September to 30th September. I’m based in Denver. I’m already meeting a few friends and readers and would love to meet more. I will be full of strange questions about Colorado in general and Denver in particular.

1st October to 4th October. Nevada. Route 50 and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

5th October to 10th October. New Mexico. Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Route 14.

Back to Denver, fly to New York and then fly home, hopefully with head and laptop full of ideas, scenes and photos.

If it goes well enough, there’s lots more of America I want to see.

Editing Winter’s Kiss

Current top-of-the-pile project is editing Winter’s Kiss. This is a novella sequel to The Biting Cold, which follows a different set of characters than Bite Back. However, I did rashly promise to weave them together and this is part of the reason that Winter’s Kiss has been a difficult job. While many readers will be from Bite Back, I’m hoping some new readers will come in from having read only The Biting Cold. My task is then to give them enough of a flavor of what goes on in Bite Back to read the series as well.

I’m about half way through editing and I *really* want this finished before I go on the road trip.

Editing So Many Doors

This is a background project. The book was written by my late mother in 1964 and never published. My sister and I have decided to put it up on Amazon, but there’s a surprising amount of style change required to make it ‘readable’ to modern readers. The book is set in Africa, in Northern Rhodesia, on a remote Colonial administrative center and it’s a murder mystery.

Cast list and synopses

A long-promised project. I have a lot of characters, and I’m writing a brief description of each to put in the back of the Bite Back series books, along with a synopsis of the story so far.

Next up

Bian’s Tale book 1, Saigon – The Reach of Lies. I know, I should be in Saigon researching this! However, the Saigon I’m writing about is the ‘Paris of the Orient’ in 1900, and that doesn’t exist any more.

I got about half way through writing Saigon a couple of years and it wasn’t going well, so I put it aside. It’s time to get it back out and finish it.

Schedule for publication? You know me and schedules. I’ll post progress.


Bite Back 6, as yet unnamed. Obviously, this will be next year. I have lots of scenes and ideas and I hope to have more from my road trip.


I may try my hand at writing something short and completely different, just to keep everything fresh. If you have a genre you’d like to see me try (there’s a challenge), email me at the contact address or comment here.




Update – what’s next – what’s up

Angel Stakes

The re-draft of Angel Stakes has fixed almost all the problems. There are a couple of scenes that need tweaking, some general grammar, pronunciation, British-ism removal etc. I’m reasonably sure that means no more than a couple of weeks before publication.

The offer of a teaser comprising the first 3 chapters is still open, just post a comment here or email the usual contact address.

So what’s up at the moment

I’m on Goodreads answering questions about Sleight of Hand specifically and the Bite Back series in general. Any questions you have? Bring them to Goodreads, please. I’d love to see you there. I’ll be offering a new free short story to anyone who posts on these discussions.

You’ll need to be a member of Goodreads, which is free of course, join at and you’ll also need to join the Urban Fantasy discussion group at

The two discussion threads are and

I’ve already fielded questions about how Athanate bite humans without infusing them, what hobbies I have in order to come up with all the crazy stuff, and how I can write a woman’s PoV book, but I’m sure there’s lots more to come.

If you haven’t already, do please post book reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. If you have, thank you, much appreciated!

What’s next

I’m working on a short story sequel to The Biting Cold, which will probably be called Winter’s Kiss. I’m restarting work on the first book of Bian’s Tale. I’m gathering threads and events that Bite Back book 6 has to deal with.

The Biting Cold release

Last December, I released my short story, The Biting Cold, as part of an anthology with Susan, Connie, Debra, JC and Jen. It went very well under both schemes we used. But it’s time to release it on its own. And to do that, I need an ISBN, a cover, the cover copy, and a price/package.

The ISBN I buy in bulk, so I just pull the next one off the list.

The price? Well, Amazon won’t let me put in anything less than 0.99 cents or pennies. I will put this story initially in the Kindle Select listings, so that Amazon Prime members can read it under their Kindle Unlimited contracts and I get paid for the number of pages read. This story was only ever intended to capture marketing information or be a tease to get readers into the Athanate world.

The cover copy I have from the anthology, but I want it shorter and sharper to stand on its own:

What price would you pay?

Dr. Amanda Lloyd, a dying psychiatrist with just days to live, is desperate to give the only testimony that will keep the criminal mastermind of a human trafficking network in jail. She can’t spare time for the handsome, mysterious patient who claims to be a vampire.

Unless what he offers her is exactly what she needs…

And the cover…

I’ve no intention of going out and paying a studio for a cover. So, what does the cover need to depict? “Vampires and romance”.

I don’t want fangs or a bitten neck on the cover, which leaves me with one obvious way of implying vampires (apart from the title itself), and that’s the font. I went looking for letter shapes that looked like knives or fangs, and I found Abaddon. Not perfect, but *free*. To ram the point home, so to speak, we need some blood dripping off a fang – ten minutes with PaintShop Pro.

The romance, well everything is a cliché. Naked male torso, serious abs and pecs. Bodice. Flesh. Kissing or embracing couple. Hands entwined. Red rose. Lipstick imprint.  For no other reason than it was abstract, cheap and easy, I took the lips. Mwah.

What would be ‘nice’ for the cover to depict? Detroit, cold, winter, legal setting, a tale with a twist. I wanted to keep the cover simple and abstract, so the cityscape was out, as was the twist. They are respectively too detailed and too complex. The legal setting was interesting – there are lots of visual clues you can use, but I didn’t want to clutter. So I went for cold and winter, at which point, Jessica, Joshua and I came up with our interpretations and the attached are the result.

The covers have been getting votes on Facebook already. In case you haven’t seen it there, please vote here in the comments. Left to right, cover number 1-3. (I’ll be releasing the book on the 8th August).

The Biting Cold - Draft Cover All 3


Where next?

As promised, the story of Amanda and Scott will continue for at least one more short(ish) book, and then will bind into the main Bite Back series.

I have been looking at names for the next book…  maybe   Heart of Winter

New Covers

Okay. Promised to show you the new book covers.

Deep breath… here they are, live from today:

20150406 New Covers


A flavor of detective noir… a consistency of imagery… a boldness and simplicity of design to stand out on Amazon.

So what do you think?


The future of the indie author interview…

…is in a Podcast.

The Bitter Without You crew, Patrick and Will, have created a new kind of author interview. They mix an indie author and musician into each episode and work a snippet or three of key information into both parts of the interview.  The interview is carried out by Skype (or landline) and the recording is mixed and produced within a couple of weeks or so. I was worried about how it would go right up until the time it started. Both of them are very laid back and easy going, so it really feels like a chat between friends.

The link to hear the podcast is:

The website, which includes archives is

Yes, this post means I’m back from Seville, where we had a wonderful time on the set of Game of Thrones. Post to follow when I catch up!



Series synopses

Why a synopsis for Sleight of Hand?

I’ve had feedback that Wild Card especially, and Hidden Trump, to an extent, are difficult to follow in places. This is because, in trying to keep the pace of the story up, I have to be light on backstory. However, the series is complex with lots of threads that span more than one book, so backstory will be needed at some time. Hence these synopses which provide a ‘story so far’ memory jogger. This one below would be the synopsis for Hidden Trump.

I’ll make these synopses available on the website here, and I’m going to experiment with inserting them into the ebooks, but placing them at the end, with a link to go read them and return afterwards.

Why put them at the end? Because Amazon shows the first 10% of the book as a sample, and I don’t want ‘summary prose’ to be the impression people get of the book.

I’m assuming everyone who comes here has read SoH, but just in case, be aware this is one long spoiler 🙂

Sleight of Hand – Synopsis

It’s a PDF file. I think you’ll be able to read it on site or download it and use Adobe or similar.

I would very much appreciate feedback from you (in comments or to the contact email address)-

How does it read? Are there things you feel have been left out which shouldn’t be? Are there things that would better capture some of the feel of SoH? Is it too long? Too short? Anything else?

Thanks 🙂

Cover Up

If an author has an agent and a publisher, he or she may have little to do with designing the cover.

As a self-published author (a.k.a indie author or self-pubber), everything comes down to me. This becomes a problem with the artistic aspects. I can doodle, I can’t draw. So I put a team together and this is how they looked after me.

My first stop was Ian Wilson. Ian is an artist, who focuses these days on brand and marketing design. I’ve known him forever. What he did first was to take my brief and turn it into a sketch.

The brief :

Front page

  • Amber on the right, facing left at an angle. She’s auburn haired and athletic. She’s dressed in tight jeans and T, possibly with a jacket (brown glossy, not distressed). She carrying a gun, a Heckler & Koch Mk 23. It’s big (common Urban Fantasy theme).
  • In the middle ground, Denver skyline at night. Background is the Rockies with a little snow on them. Moon in the sky. Urban Fantasy moons are large.
  • Wolf eyes at the bottom of the page – photo or artwork (again, common Urban Fantasy theme).
  • Title at the top, my name at the bottom.

Back page

  • Dark – possibly a continuation of the Rockies.
  • Blurb, ISBN. These will obscure most of the image.
  • Gang motif (twinned rattlesnakes) or wolf’s head motif. Possibly blank carnival masks.


  • Marque symbol. Name. Title.

And what came back was this :

Sleight of Hand Cover

Sleight of Hand Cover Draft

I loved this image as soon as I saw it. Ian ‘lost’ a lot of the fiddly motifs I was looking for, and concentrated on getting a high impact, uncluttered foreground.

The wolf eyes didn’t make it, and it needed something more to signal Urban Fantasy. So we decided we needed a wolf :

OK, this was me. I just clipped an image from the web and scribbled a body behind Amber. The inclusion of the wolf was a minor stumbling block for me because Amber doesn’t actually see a werewolf close up like this in the first book. The need for the cover to shout Urban Fantasy overrode that reservation.

It was time to take it to the cover artist. Most businesses who do book covers work down to a price and that dictates that everything comes from stock photography. I wasn’t happy with that, and chose instead to go with Claire Curtis. As well as being a cover artist, Claire is a good photographer in her own right—have a look at her website (details at end).

The image then broke down into main elements :

  • A model with the right look and clothes
  • A gun
  • Stock images – wolf, Denver skyline, Rockies, forest

(We were unable to contract a wolf to stand behind Amber and snarl.)

Getting someone who looks the part was difficult. Amber is part native North American, part Celtic. She’s athletic, not model skinny.

I was lucky. My daughter is an actor and she found another actor, Maria Askew, on the website Casting Call Pro, who had the look as well as modelling experience. And she was available as long as we got the session in before she went off to Edinburgh to do a show for the Fringe. Maria joined the team and we met up at Claire’s studio.

In the same way I find it difficult to visualize the whole cover design, I found it difficult to see the cover from the photo session!

A big problem was the gun. While writing the book, I researched what pistols Amber would be familiar with, considering her background in the special forces. I came up with a Heckler and Koch Mk 23 which had the benefit of actually being designed for the special forces and it was a monster to boot. Great. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of the actual thing, nor could I get hold of a model of it. We used a model of a similar gun, and the rest is digital wizardry. I know many people would have just gone with any large gun, but having made an issue of it in the story, I didn’t want readers complaining it wasn’t the right gun on the cover!

Now, in amongst the hundreds of photos, we had ‘Amber’.

Claire went to work, and what came out was this :

This got the ass-kicking look and the wolf snarl right on. It would have been ideal to have the wolf curled  round Amber, but there wasn’t a stock photograph that did that.

The last job was for Ian to take the image and drop the text and symbols onto it.

And that’s what will appear on the printed book when it goes on sale in September.

The team:

Ian Wilson : – branding, marketing

Maria Askew : – actor, model

Claire Curtis : – cover art