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Book 2 cover reveal and prologue teaser

You may have seen the first paragraph of the prologue for Inside Straight on the Facebook page as a teaser – here it is in full below after the cover images for Hidden Trump.

I’m in the depths of editing.

In the first draft, I went straight into Amber kicking her heels at Haven, waiting for an answer from Skylur about whether she should accept House Lloyd’s request for sanctuary. Lauren (editor) gave me a boot in the behind and pointed out the ‘obvious’ stuff: (1) that Inside Straight is about getting Tullah back, so I needed to reconnect with her immediately, and (2) a call in the middle of the night (from House Lloyd to Amber) is dramatic and should appear as it happens rather than as recalled and narrated by Amber. So the book now has a prologue and chapter added to the beginning (among lots of other tuning changes).

I enjoy prologues, because you can do things a bit differently. I hope you like this one and any feedback is welcome.

However. the main purpose today is to reveal the cover for book 2, Hidden Trump. And to get feedback on that, too!

 

First, the full image which will be used for the print book

And the eBook image

 

 

Prologue

 

Midnight in the heart of the Painted Desert, and the tattered dead rise up like the dust of dreams behind her whispering feet.

Their features are blurred, the many dead; all the once-proud edges have been caressed into soft, uncertain shapes, the way stone is carved by centuries of wind and rain. Moonlight flows through them as if through troubled water, and they raise a million tangled, untold stories to fly like banners behind them.

They’re called here, the dead, from their silent graves along the countless sorrowing trails. Here, where the mountains still breathe and the rocks talk. Here, where rain is a blessing on the seared earth, and the sun looks down on the yellow corn as it dances to the desert’s tune.

Here, where they may find those who may listen, in this sacred place.

 

Tullah listens as she steps the circle through the cold depths of the night. Every night. It’s her choice. Her atonement. In exchange, the dead swirl behind, obedient to the summons, and their spirits cloak the kiva in which her family and friends sleep underground.

She can feel the searchers she hides them from; great, blind monsters snuffling over the hills and through the valleys, flickering spirit tongues testing the city airs, cold spirit hands like spiders creeping across the plains.

As the days have crept by, there are more of them, instead of less.

Her family and the others are safe, so long as the legions of dead surround the kiva—around, above, below, and make it a place between the physical world and the spirit world. The searchers slide over them, oblivious, unable sense the kiva and the people within.

So far.

This masking is Chatima’s working, a powerful working, shamanic and obscure to the searchers, and without it they would have found her long ago. It is a spell of strange and awful beauty, locked here around this place of power. Tullah maintains the working, treading the circle every night, and takes some pride that she does it well.

But it cannot last forever. They have reached a point of balance between the dangers of staying here and the dangers of moving.

She has discussed this with Chatima and with her parents. They’ve waited as long as they dare with the spirit world pressing in so close. Being with the spirits takes its toll: the sun-struck lethargy; the night-long, dreamy disconnection from the physical world; the feeling of being more spirit than flesh.

Not for the first time, Tullah thinks of the kiva as a grave.

Much longer inside and it will be; their spirits will untether from their bodies.

Even before that, the fragile tether to her dragon spirit guide will part, and prevent her from ever getting Kaothos back.

The thought of that sinks claws into her chest, making it difficult to breathe. If that happens, she might as well become one with the spirit world.

But not the others. They shouldn’t suffer.

It’s her the searchers are looking for, because they think she still has Kaothos. Not that it would be a good idea to point out their error: being caught without Kaothos is even worse. They’ll know that they could use her as a way to draw Kaothos into a trap. It would actually be safer for them to do it that way.

She has to leave. She has to evade the searchers. She has to return things to the way they were before.

The rest of them won’t be in danger for long, once she’s gone.

She must prepare herself. She can’t perform Chatima’s workings on her own, nor can this working be moved from this sacred place, but she has some of her own that might do for the time it takes to get back to Denver. Matt says that’s where Kaothos and Diana are heading right now.

She must go soon. She must go alone. All thoughts of the deadly situation aside, her crippling shame is infecting everyone. Even Matt.

 

As the moon slips across the night sky, someone walks beside her on the circle path.

The dead sometimes do that, so it takes her a while to notice it’s Chatima.

Whether she’s in her body or she’s spirit walking, Tullah is not entirely sure. Here, in the place between, it’s not always possible to tell.

“There are many paths to go forward, but none to go back,” Chatima says, as if she hears the thoughts in Tullah’s mind about returning things to the way they were before. “And every path bears death and sorrow and pain and loss.”

Amber’s words.

Tullah’s tears fall to the dusty path, to be lost among the dreams of the dead.

“All the things I’ve ever done,” she whispers. “In balance with all the things I will do. I will make this right.”

“The world is a maze, child. The way is never straight. But look up sometimes, for the sky remains pure.”

Tullah raises her eyes. Chatima is right; the light of the crescent moon has a silver purity. It’s calming.

The shaman Adept is no longer beside her when she looks back down.

“All the things I’ve ever done,” she repeats to the listening dead. The words seemed so simple when Amber spoke them. She’d heard them with her ears, but she’d not felt them in her heart. The words had seemed so light.

Now they are like draglines on her soul.

The dead do not shy away from her shame. The dead stay with her.

Their thousand, thousand voices rustle like dry leaves. If she let them, they would leech the shame from her. It would be so easy; spirits hunger for the emotions of the living. Yes, it would be so easy to let them feed, but they would take all. And when they finished, she would be one of them.

Thoughts like that come to her. It’s not a good place, this between, not for anyone, and especially not for her.

Alongside the thoughts, she sees visions and hears voices.

She sees Evans sometimes. The man she killed in the battle at Carson Park. Her hands tingle and she feels the snap as his neck breaks, all over again. The sickening, appalling moment of savage pleasure and the following flood of shame and recrimination.

It’s not about him. He deserved to die. It’s about you.

It feels as if Amber herself is speaking the words to her, and they do help.

Sometimes the visions are a comfort as she walks: the cougar, down off her lonely range; the bear, awakened from her sleep; the buffalo, up from the grasslands. The coyote. The fox. The snake. The owl. The raven.

Sometimes it’s not a comfort: her dragon walks silently with her, a vision of all she’s lost. And often, when the dawn breaks, the strange wolf will stand on the cliff with the rising sun behind her, a vision aflame. Chatima is uneasy about the wolf, though she tries to hide that. Openly, she says it signifies redemption, but in her heart of hearts, Tullah knows that for her, it’s a vision of shame, and a symbol of forgiveness denied.

 

What do you think?

Feedback welcome.

 

Last teaser chapter for Bite Back 6

Absolutely, positively the last teaser chapter of Inside Straight. A short one.

I’m nearly there with the ‘ready for editor’ draft, and Lauren has booked it in for the 6th July. Gulp.

Watch this blog or Facebook for publication news, or sign up for a book alert.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

May teaser and update

Another teaser chapter, but no competition this month. Again, the teasers are only a way to urge me on. You may get another teaser next month, but that will be it.

As I say, no competition, but on the other hand, if you’re from Denver, or you’ve followed my previous posts carefully, you’ll be able to tell me what the picture is and why it’s significant in Bite Back…

My writing is up to the 75% point approximately, and the beta readers have read up to the 50% point approximately. I have a couple of scenes to rework based on feedback, but I’m focused on (1) getting the beta readers to the 75% point and (2) writing the last quarter (often the quickest), and then getting the book to the editor.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

 

Update, Quiz and Teaser

TWO CHAPTERS today. These chapters are just teasers. Their real purpose is to keep me focused on writing progress.

Beta readers will be up to the half way point of Book 6, Inside Straight, later today. I’ve hit a bit of a difficult section and I’m interested to see what they make of it…

Other stuff

Among the Stars – I have broken Amazon support. They finally acknowledge that they allow other series to have the series title as part of the book names, but that mine has still been disallowed. They don’t know why. They have transferred me to ‘Tech Support’, which, from the way they refer to it, is situated on another planet entirely. Tech Support have failed to communicate with me at all. At this point, it’s sheer bloody-mindedness that keeps me going. The lack of a series name makes it extremely difficult to promote the second book. This has gone on so long that A Threat Among the Stars has basically failed – sales are very poor. I may try to revive it, but at this point, it’s all wasted effort.

Okay QUIZ TIME…

This will be very easy for some, especially those who live in Denver, or who’ve followed my posts for three years…
Winners of previous quizzes can of course send me a message, but are not allowed to take part publicly 🙂

What’s the building in the picture and what special significance does it have?

Prize: In Book 7: Either name a new character, or demand the return of a previous character to a significant role…

 

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

Update and question for you and a chapter teaser from Inside Straight

I’m about half way through Inside Straight at the level I think of as ‘Ready for Editor’. (ish). Tomorrow (Friday 1st) the first quarter (15 chapters – 28k words) will go to the beta readers, and unless there need to be a lot of changes, the second quarter will go to the beta readers as soon as feedback on the first is in.

There’s more written than that, but I’ve written in isolated scenes, which means the connecting flow sections and segues need to be put in. When they get put in, I find the scenes often need to change slightly.

I’m continuing to put out teaser chapters as below. These aren’t complete episodes, so the chapter will not feel like an episode from Change of Regime or A Name Among the Stars.

Speaking of the ‘Among the Stars’ series… after 2 months Amazon support have finally identified why the series title does not appear on the Amazon book page. So, what I designed (according to all the Amazon help files) was for the book page to be headed ‘A Name Among the Stars (Among the Stars Book 1)’ and for the books to be linked as a series. A month after launch I finally managed to persuade them to link the two books as a series. They claimed undocumented publishing rules prevented that, and just doing what it said in the help documents and emailing them to ask wasn’t enough. I actually had to note in my bio that the two books were part of a series!

Now they have told me another undocumented rule is that the series title cannot be contained in the book title. So the series cannot be called ‘Among the Stars’ because that’s part of the book name ‘A Threat Among the Stars’. Now, there are lots of series on Amazon which avoid this by adding the word ‘Series’ to the series title. So, potentially, the full name + series name would be ‘A Name Among the Stars (Among the Stars Series Book 1).

Here’s your question: do you think ‘Among the Stars Series’ is a good name (even if other books in the series don’t have ‘Among the Stars’ as part of the title), or should I go for something completely different? In the books I talk about humanity’s ‘Expansion’. Do you think ‘Expansion’, or ‘Humanity’s Expansion’, or ‘The Fourth Expansion’ would be better titles? Or something completely different? Suggestions?

What is the effect this has all had?

It’s difficult to *know* what happens in Amazon promotions, because Amazon aren’t telling. Amazon claims it will automatically prompt you, the reader, if there’s a new book from a writer you’ve read before. It claims it will prompt you if there’s a subsequent book in a series you’ve read. It claims it will prompt you if you’ve clicked on the ‘author follow’ button and there’s a new release from the author.

One of my beta readers has read every single book of mine, including A Name Among the Stars, and has followed me on Amazon. He just received an email telling him about A Threat Among the Stars last week, two months after it went up on pre-order. Others still haven’t had any notification.

As you’ll know if you follow my occasional posts about marketing, the first month after release is vital for a new book, and A Threat Among the Stars has suffered, for whatever reason. I can’t claim it’s all about Amazon. I simply don’t know. Once I settle the series title issue, I’ll have to start marketing (including giving money to Amazon for stuff they should have done anyway). Worse, advertising has to be created, which takes time, just like writing. So more marketing means less writing.

Anyway… teaser time.

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

Bite Back 6 teaser chapter 2

Here’s chapter 2 of Inside Straight.

I’m NOT intending to publish this book all on the blog, and it’s structured as a novel rather than episode-ending-on-cliffhanger, so you should regard these chapters as teasers. It’s just intended to keep the blog ticking over with a chapter a month, and I sincerely hope to be publishing before we even get to the quarter point.

You will note in these chapters that there are references to what happened in the novellas: The Biting Cold, Winter’s Kiss and also Change of Regime. These novellas are part of the overall Bite Back story from different viewpoints and take place chronologically at the end of Angel Stakes and beginning of Inside Straight. TBC and WK are set in Michigan, CoR is set in New York.

What else?

As I’ve posted on Facebook, the publication of A Threat Among the Stars has been a disaster, for whatever reason. I’ve relied too much on word of mouth perhaps, and I need to get much more serious about advertising on Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub etc.

Anyway, first priority is to get Inside Straight completed.

Chapter 1 is at

https://henwick.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/christmas-wishes-and-bite-back-6-teaser-chapter/

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/

 

 

 

Christmas wishes and Bite Back 6 teaser chapter

Hello all, and I wish you all a happy Christmas.

Writing is going well, but I’m as slow as ever in comparison to the speedsters in the market. All my writing effort is currently going into Inside Straight – Bite Back 6. I’m about half way through, but having a little trouble linking the dramatic scenes up smoothly.

I have A Threat Among the Stars back from Lauren, and I will put it up for pre-order shortly, and release in mid January.

Here’s Chapter 1 of Inside Straight as a stand-alone teaser. 🙂

 

Due to Amazon rules, the teasers have to be removed once the book is up.
Inside Straight is available on https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZJK9H4B/