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Zara – episode 2

Another couple of chapters, and I did some polishing on the first two, so here they all are together.

I’ve never written romance before (‘We can tell’ the shouts come in from the back).

Have I made it too much of an adventure to start with? Is it too technical, or not technical enough? Is the tech stuff that’s there easy to follow? Am I drawing pictures in your head? Have I held off what’s happened on the planet too long? Am I being too coy about the role of Dancing Mistress? Are you in Zara’s head? In her corner?

I hope you enjoy….

Your comments welcome as always.

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I have had to remove the episodes I posted here to fall into line with Amazon’s policies on Kindle Unlimited books.

The full novel is available on Amazon:

USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076WZBFVJ

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076WZBFVJ

Germany https://www.amazon.de/dp/B076WZBFVJ

When I post stories on my blog, they will remain for at least a month after completion.

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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.

USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711ML84S/

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0711ML84S/

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.

Progress

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.

 Audiobooks

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.

 

 

Julius and Livia – a couple more scenes

LOL. I wrote a Christmas scene that was just some doodling about what’s going on in the background at the start of Bite Back 6, and got a lot of positive reaction to it.  https://henwick.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/christmas-story/

So… here are another couple of scenes with Father Julius and Livia in New York. Remember, these aren’t main Bite Back characters and probably won’t appear in the main books, though I may sketch out a short story with them in posts like this. And no, it hasn’t distracted me from writing Bian’s Tale for long. I wrote these scenes on my ‘day off’.

Update on Angel Stakes audio… Julia thinks she’ll have the recording done this month. After checking and admin, I’m estimating that the audio will be available in February. I’ll do a specific post when I feel the schedule is clearer.

<< * * * >>

Thank you for visiting one of the posts from Change in Regime. This novella is now available on Amazon, and to also make it available on Kindle Unlimited, I have to remove these posts from my blog.

Anyway, here is the cover copy and link:

Like an electric current, arcing from ear to ear through the New York underworld, the word comes; he’s here. The city has a new Master of vampires, House Altau, and the existing, unaffiliated community is now facing a sentence of death.

The storm builds, and one of the leaders of that community, Livia or Julius, must chose to be the lightning conductor to save the rest from destruction. But will that be an acceptable sacrifice to Altau?

And if so, which one of them will it be?

 

 

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.

Then…

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.

Also…

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.

 

 

 

News, Progress and Round-up for May 2016

Yeah, the usual look at the sales and WiP and stuff.

But first! MILESTONES IN REVIEWS

The US Amazon site logged it’s 200th review! On 31st May, Hao-Ying Feng logged a 5 star review after a binge re-read of the series. Thank you! And thank you to each and every one of you who reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or by messaging me. All hugely welcome and important for me.

AND while I’m talking reviews, 95% of the SoH reviews are 4 or 5 star. That I wouldn’t have predicted when I started.

Almost at the same time, Angel Stakes hit 50 reviews in the 6 weeks since launch, and the percentage of 4 & 5 star has remained the same.

What are the next milestones? I guess 250 for SoH or 750 for the series on US Amazon (currently 604). On the series total, I will ‘cheat’ once Winter’s Kiss is written, because then it and The Biting Cold will be part of the series. 🙂

And then 1,000 for both US and UK Amazon added together (currently 711), or 350 on Goodreads (currently 303).

WRITING PROGRESS

Winter’s Kiss is more than half way done. As I mentioned in posts on Facebook, this sequel isn’t the same length as The Biting Cold (20k words). TBC was written to a specification on length for an anthology, and WK is just to link the story in with Bite Back, so I have more leeway.

I’ve given a couple of teasers on Facebook, linked by mentions of jazz (Amanda loves jazz). In case you didn’t see them there, here they are again:

“Morning found us just a few miles east of Marquette. The sun inched above the horizon, flooding the car’s rear window with hazy gold, etching the edges of the long, low buildings, and throwing our shadow out in front, where the road unwound like an old jazz song in a smoky club.”

and later…

“I switched switches on the music center. Little LEDs started to glow, and I pulled out LPs at random until the words jazz and soul songs caught my eye. A collection of instrumentals based on old songs. The list had some of my favorites, spanning the years.

I put the LP on the turntable. It was lucky it was one of those that loaded the arm automatically, because my hands were shaking.

I closed my eyes and waited; part of the drama and romance that I loved about LPs was that moment at the beginning.

A quiet hiss and crackle, full of anticipation, then the music started. A few falling notes were tossed out from a sax, as a ticking drum marked the beat. The piano picked up a couple of the notes, tossed them back. The saxophone held one note, almost too long, and then just let it drop and tumble and flow into the bittersweet melody of Ain’t No Sunshine.”

What else have I been doing?

The print books are a mess. Cool Hand and Angel Stakes not yet available, the sizes have changed, the covers don’t match. What I thought would be a simple overhaul turned into a nightmare. And to help out, CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print-on-Demand company) have changed their specifications. Everything is a PDF now. Not such a problem for the body of the book, but I have no graphics programs that save as PDF. I ended up loading the image into Word and using that to save. Which of course leads to warnings that my resolution is low. Grrr.

Adding to the frustrations, I use Word for writing, and Word’s print book formatting functions are flakey.

Anyway. I have submitted Cool Hand and Angel Stakes to CreateSpace and they now enable reviewing online, allowing me to skip the physical book review process. The print books *should* be available in the next week or so.

I apologize for the covers. What I’ve done is simply take the eBook cover, added black for the spine and back page and written on the black. All fine as long as the I’ve allocated *exactly* enough width for the spine.

I will do a rework of the covers and get everything to match in size and style, but it’s not on the critical path.

The print book fiasco means that I haven’t progressed with my other non-writing writing project, which is to create cast lists and summaries of story-so-far for each Bite Back sequel.

SALES

I did a big review last month, so I’m not going to repeat that since the figures haven’t changed dramatically. Instead, I’ll look at the overview and implications.

Averaged out at the moment, I guess I’m selling 600 books a month and that needs to be 1,200.

I’m still selling 70-80 Sleight of Hand a month, and a percentage of those go on to read the entire series. Amazon only knows the exact figures, but the sales stats suggest to me that about 80% of people who pick up SoH now go on to read all of the books in the series. This is as opposed to the figures of readers who picked up SoH back in 2012, which is about 25%. That low percentage is based on the total sales ever of Cool Hand as a percentage of total sales ever of Sleight of Hand, and it does creep up as some people just take their time going through the series.

What does this mean? Very approximately, I believe that if I had ten Bite Back books now, my monthly sales would be 1,200. The problem is that writing that next 5 will take me 5 years, and in the meantime SoH would slide.

What am I going to do about it? Write realted or unrelated shorter stories that I believe may bring in readers who wouldn’t otherwise have picked up Sleight of Hand, but who like the shorter stories enough to try the series.

I’d like to try out writing novels in two parts – a short story of around 10k words which tells a story but ends on a cliffhanger, and leads straight into a novella of around 50k words. This is close to the way The Biting Cold turned out. TBC was actually 20k words and Winter’s Kiss will be about 40k, and TBC didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but you get my drift.

I have a couple of ideas kicking around in my head – one in the Bite Back world but set in Canada and sharing none of the cast, another a SciFi novella and completely different. Oh, and one set in the 17th century Caribbean that popped up in a conversation with Debra Dunbar (that one might be related to Bite Back).

This does NOT mean that I’m less committed to Bite Back, but I think I can do these things and still get one Bite Back novel out every year. We’ll see.

Other projects – German

German translations have stopped at the moment. I need to get another translator, but I have to say that I need to re-examine the income to see if the cost is justified. I think I’d prefer to hand over to a German publishing company who do this as a business. I need to talk to people.

Other projects – Audio

Julia Motyka is unavailable until September, but assures me she’ll be back in the studio with Angel Stakes then. Audio sales are reasonable (as far as I know) – SoH 1,578, HT 668, WC 504, CH 273. Are there any writers out there with audiobooks who would be okay to share their sales with me?

Anything else

I asked people on the Facebook site what music Amber listens to. What a wonderful response, and a huge playlist to sort through! Great fun. Thank you all.

I’m planning a trip to America this year. My bio says I’m frequently in the Rockies and I haven’t been. At the end of August & beginning of September, I’ll be with my daughter in New York. After that, I hope to work my way down the Rockies from somewhere around Bozeman, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in Denver, Cheyenne and the loneliest road in the States. I hope to end up returning to UK via Boston and maybe catching some fall colors. This is a research and writing trip, not a book signing journey, but I’ll be happy to sign books, meet readers and attend conventions. If there’s interest, I’ll publish an itinerary closer to the time.

 

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 https://www.goodreads.com/ and you’ll also need to join the Urban Fantasy discussion group at https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/55293-girls-guns-and-grimoires.

The two discussion threads are https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18061756-sleight-of-hand-a-chat-with-the-author and https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18061752-sleight-of-hand-general-discussion

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.

An excerpt from Bite Back book 5

Very slight spoilers…

I generally feel with these quiet parts of the Bite Back books that I’m going overboard. Readers generally come back and tell me I’m not. Anyway, I’m going to try out a short section on this blog that hasn’t even been seen by the beta readers yet…

How in such a complex, structured society as the Athanate, could you win an argument? The issue under discussion is this: when the paranormal races reveal themselves to humans, should they agree to abide by human law, or should there be a separate law for them? A very intricate sort of problem and one on which a great deal hangs in the balance.

The Empire of Heaven (China and most of south-east Asia) stood aside from the first Athanate Assembly when it was invoked in the 1920s. The Empire of Heaven is the largest group after the two main creeds of the Assembly, Panethus and Basilikos. As the parameters of the new Assembly are being hammered out in book 5, the Empire arrives at the meeting, in the person of their Emperor’s own Diakon, Xun Huang. What side of the debate will he come down on?

This is a small part, a quiet interlude in the usual rush.

This is Huang’s speech to the Athanate. He may have been influenced by Maya Angelou (paraphrased here): “They may forget what you said but they will never forget what you made them feel.”

 

Huang walked to the center of the floor and stood still, waiting until the silence spread.

When he did speak, his voice was so quiet everyone had to lean forward to hear.

I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what came.

“I am old, even as we Athanate count it,” he said.

His words were slow and formal, with a rhythm that seemed to carry me along.

“Many, many years ago, I buried my father in an unmarked grave, beneath a solitary Linden tree on a south facing hillside, near a quiet river. In the heat of summer, the Linden’s leaves are thick and dark and green. They take the shape of hearts, and beneath their shade, the ground is always cool; the air always holds the scent of limes. As winter nears, those leaves turn and fall like a harvest of the richest gold, and make a crown to rest upon my father’s head.

Between the wars that tore our land, I would return there, and lie on that hillside. It eased my soul, and restored my strength in a time of great turmoil.

Then, beside my father, I buried my sons and my daughters, their youthful faces as yet half-formed, unblemished by age.”

Huang paused and looked up and down the ranks of Athanate, and we were silent. The whole auditorium had unconsciously synced their heartbeats with their neighbors’, until we were a creature with a single pulse, waiting, listening.

“No man should bear that sorrow,” Huang continued. “No woman either, and my wife joined them before the leaves had fallen again. I planted the trees that were their only marker.

From that moment,  I slept only when exhaustion took me, because on waking, for a moment it was as if I could turn and see my wife again, only for that dream to fade, and the nightmare of life to begin again.

When the Emperor found me, I sought death every day in the face of the enemy. What prize could he offer me, in my despair, that would make me want to become immortal? What reward to become Athanate, and know that sorrow for eternity?

He spoke to me; simple words, words he told me he first heard from the lips of the Kumemnon herself, her own words: This is the gift and the sorrow of the Athanate; to see your loves pass before you like the days of summer, while your heart still beats. To keep your vigil in the shadows, and rise again with every sun.

That part you all know. Many carve it above doors to their hidden sanctuaries, to remind them that as there is light, there must be darkness, and the world turns regardless.

But the Lamentation of Arunne goes on: To be bound upon the wheel of heaven; to toil and toil and never be done. To love without reserve forever, and rise again with every sun.

He paused, and in the depths of the auditorium the Athanate shivered as the words touched us.

Huang went on.

“That is what he said to me, and I bared my neck to him.

On that hillside now, beside the quiet river, there grows a forest, such that I may not find my family’s trees among those that mark my kin. I return there sometimes for a night. To sleep, to dream, and rise again with the sun.

The war took away my family, and my Emperor replaced it with duty. He offered me no soft consolation, no comforting lies. As one who passes from childhood must put away the easy refuges of youth, to become Athanate is to shoulder a greater destiny. And to achieve that, one may not live as a man or woman may live, under the strictures of their society.

The Athanate people must retain their own laws and customs.”