Tag Archive | progress

Long post! Pictures at the end 🙂

Writing update

I’ve written another short story for an anthology, but it’s not due out until Q1 2017. I haven’t even settled on a title yet. It’s about 16k words (a little shorter than The Biting Cold). It’s in the Athanate universe, but it’s set in a fictional island in the West Indies (‘St. Mark’s’ in the Leeward Islands) in about 1800. It’s pre-edit, but hey, there’s only 16k words so it can’t change much. Hahahaha.

I’m working on Bian’s Tale companion series book 1, Saigon: The Reach of Lies. I’d say it’s going well, but I got to a point last time, about 75% through the whole book, and suddenly, it wasn’t going well. I’m going to be cautious this time and say it’s going okay. I’ll start to engage with beta readers sometime this month or next.

I’m also working on the plot of Bite Back 6. It’s time for the Adepts to come to the fore, and many threads need to be woven in. Those of you who’ve read The Biting Cold and Winter’s Kiss (Bite Back: Outsiders companion series) know that there is input from that companion series as well. A couple of chapters early in Bite Back 6 will actually be the next step in the Outsiders series, and I will be telling the same events from the two different points of view.

I have a lot of other projects I would like to start, but they’re all on the back burner.

Road Trip Report

Readers of this blog will know I did a US road trip in the fall. I visited Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. It was too much and not nearly enough. I have been promising to show pictures and report back, but I don’t want to swamp you with 20GBytes of photos and pages of musings. I’ll try it a state at a time and no more than a couple of photos per road. This post is just an overview. Next post will start the actual road trip and cover Wyoming.

Why did I do it?

Planning started back in 2014 when I was sketching out the plot for what became two books – Cool Hand and Angel Stakes. The internet is amazing for writer’s research, but there’s a lot to be said for being at the place that you’re writing about. Talking to people. Seeing with your own eyes. And I’d done a lot of research on Denver in 2011 when I was planning the story that became Sleight of Hand and Hidden Trump. So… I planned to visit New Mexico and Los Angeles in preparation for Cool Hand and Angel Stakes.

But…life happened. I didn’t go. I wrote those books using internet research and some feedback from people in the area.

How many mistakes did that produce?

Not as many as it could have been. On the Cool Hand audio, I had Julia pronounce Ute as ‘oo-teh’ and it should be more like ‘yoot’. In Angel Stakes, I had a desk sergeant at the police station, and apparently LAPD does not use sergeants to man the front desks. This was pointed out to me at great length by a reviewer (who managed to miss some other deliberate fictions, got his own facts wrong and got completely the wrong end of the stick on other non-LA items – LOL).

Still…the Bite Back action will move north in BB7 and I wanted to get a feel for the states involved. I also wanted to see some of the places I’d written about using just the internet and friends, hence the trip to New Mexico.

I could also use the photos for backdrops in book covers.

And I wanted a road trip. For me, there’s nothing like the vanishing point to free the imagination.

The plan…

Came together when the whole family wanted to see my daughter, Jessica, on the set for Iron Fist, filming in New York from summer to late fall. The family would fly out in the last week of August and spend about 2 weeks, and I would go from there when the rest went home. The timing was exactly what I wanted – to be touring after Labor Day, when the prices would drop (hahahaha) and it wouldn’t be too cold in the mountains (hahahahaha).

I couldn’t work LA into the trip. Instead, I concentrated on the Rockies.

The research required me to visit Wyoming and Montana. I wanted to start in Denver, and on a road trip, you should not travel any road twice, so that gave me my first loop:

Wyoming, taking in the areas where the Cheyenne pack run (Medicine Bow National Forest), and including the places where two of the founder packs of the Confederation are based—Wind River and Bighorn.

Montana, taking in Bozeman.

And returning through Idaho, along the Bitterroot and Salmon-Challis areas, where the Bozeman pack runs. (I was originally thinking of missing Idaho, but readers told me I had to see places like Stanley and Sun Valley, and it just worked).

Having done that, I needed to come back through Utah to Colorado.

I knew I’d need some time in Denver to write up, and then set off on the second loop.

For the southern section, I wanted to head to Nevada first. There is the potential for a scene in the Humboldt-Toiyabe area, and I also just wanted to drive along the ‘Loneliest Road in America’—Highway 50.

Then down to Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Back to Denver and complete.

(The requirement for returning to Denver was simple economics of return flights and car hiring).

That was the plan. It went right and wrong. Tune in to the next post to see how it turned out in Wyoming in detail.

How did it go overall?

It was awesome. As I say, things went wrong,  and I’ll tell all in the next few posts.

The important thing was that the principle reasons for the trip went very well – I finished the draft of Winter’s Kiss, edited and published it while travelling. I talked to dozens of people. I got lots of photos. Loads of ideas. I came back to the UK with my head full of scenes for Bite Back and other books. My imagination went into overdrive.

There are some photos on the Bite Back page, both from New York and from the road trip. Go to (https://www.facebook.com/TheBiteBackSeries/ and scroll down), I won’t repeat them here, but instead, have a look at some tasters of what’s to come.

I needed a car. Plain Toyota Camry – on a couple of occasions, I was sorry I hadn’t got a 4×4, but it did the task. Yes, things went wrong with cars…


I needed places to stay, hotels, motels and AirBnB. (I didn’t stay here – Jackson, Montana). Yes, things went wrong with hotels…


I needed a camera. During the trip my Canon G9 died slowly, and there’s a tale to that too. Ended up with the current Canon equivalent, a G7x. High quality, fast lens, reasonable zoom, no filters, no changeable lenses, manual and auto programs, robust, fits in pocket – basic parameters for my kinda road trip.


I needed money. Mix of credit and cash. I have to say, I was offended by some of it! Cos I’m speshul.


I sought out views of scenes I’d already written. For instance, here is where Jen and Amber looked down on Denver from Lookout Mountain (at night), after the meeting about the quarter horse race venue in Hidden Trump.


And scenes I’m going to write. A chase, a fight. Bite Back 6 or 7. This is part of a disused railway track in north Denver.


But mainly I took photos just because the scenery was AWESOME. Every bend in the road seemed to bring something new and incredible.

Trees and mountains and rivers…



And the drama of Great Dunes and a dark butte under threatening clouds.


As I said, it was awesome, and I look forward to telling you more about it – the little things and the large.

Would I recommend a road trip in the Rockies? Hell, yeah.

I will continue to update progress on writing as well!








Angel Stakes first chapter

I’ve been asked to put a teaser up. This is the first chapter, which is a real teaser 🙂

It follows directly on from Cool Hand. I originally planned to write Cool Hand and Angel Stakes as one book, with the flight to LA being the mid-point, but only authors like GRR Martin can get away with huge books at such long intervals.

If you want more of a teaser, ask and I’ll email you the first 3 chapters. Be warned, Amber’s situation is not resolved in those chapters, so it would be just another cliffhanger.




Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…

Our Lady, Queen of Angels. Where the long dragon spine of San Gabriel sprawls over the trembling San Andreas Fault and four million people cluster in its shadow. Bad Feng Shui, the Chinese mutter, and spit to clear their luck.

Los Angeles. Where glittering streets of plenty cut like knives through the desperate barrios. Where gangs and cults, earthquakes and hill fires, riots and despair and madness, all simmer just beneath the surface, waiting, like the abiding desert, to erupt out through the drains and engulf the city.

LA. The laconic arrogance in the initials of the city that lives, full of myth, pulsing with tales. The city that feeds on dreams, leaving nothing but dust and nightmares. And we are such stuff as dreams are made. Or nightmares.

I knew I was on a plane, flying to Los Angeles, because Skylur had called us, and my oath bound me to him, as tightly as Diana or Bian were bound to him, or my House was bound to me. And I knew that I was teetering on the brink of insanity. That I’d been over the edge. That I’d gone rogue—become an unthinking, instinctive killer, consumed by rage and blood lust. And that I’d been brought back by my kin. Brought back as Were by Alex’s dominance. Brought back as Athanate by Jen’s Blood. And whatever part of me was Adept had been torn and stunned by grounding all the energy that the whole Taos community of Adepts had poured into a lock to hold Diana prisoner on that cold hillside up in Carson National Park. The energy that Kaothos, Tullah’s dragon spirit guide, had reversed somehow.

They’d told me the Athanate would drive my Were rogue, or the Were would drive the Athanate. That the Adept would drive them both rogue. It hadn’t happened like that.

You are none of the things they will think you are.

My great-grandmother, Speaks-to-Wolves, had said that to me in a vision, and she’d been right. My paranormal sides balanced each other. I’d escaped that nightmare, only to emerge into the same one—with a different face. The tide of darkness in my mind wasn’t caused by my competing paranormal instincts, but by the meddling of Colonel Petersen’s psychologists, as I’d lain defenseless in Obs after being bitten by rogue Athanate in the jungles of South America. I saw it as a storm in my head, sweeping in across the cold, high plains, threatening to obliterate me under towering clouds and cracking lightning. My body twitched and jerked with every electric strike.

My kin had saved me, but they hadn’t cured me. The darkness was returning.

And yet, it was as if there were two halves of me. A half that lay shaking and muttering feverishly on the floor between my worried kin, and a half that floated through the cool cabin, granted a clarity of vision that was painful. I’d bound my eukori tightly into my head so that the stain of my madness could not spread, but I was listening to Diana and Bian.

There was a crisis ahead. An opportunity and a danger twisted around each other like mating snakes.

We were going to LA, a place where you could toss away your old life like a bad hand and get a new deal. But also the place where the hollow-bellied god of fame lured dreamers to the great light, only to let it flicker and fade, leaving them blind and starless in the stone jungles, unable to tell truth from artifice. And still believing, still believing, as they offered the last things they had left. Their passion. Their health, heart, soul and youth. Finally, even their children. And the place where Basilikos and Panethus might end their shadowy battle, consuming each other utterly, that a new hope might rise from the ashes.

So close.

Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…


As they touched the cool, gray asphalt of Van Nuys airfield, the plane’s tires began screaming, and I went into convulsions.

Angel Stakes – where am I

Okay. As you will know from following the blog, Angel Stakes needed major editing. The supporting sub-plots needed a complete overhaul to take the book from Draft 2 to Draft 3.

I’m currently at Chapter 55 of Draft 3. The word count to Ch 55, despite best efforts to keep it down, is 117k and there’s another 33k in the remaining, unedited Draft 2 chapters. The book is going to be another long one at 150k. For reference, Cool Hand was 138k, Wild Card was 172k.

The numbers don’t mean I’m only 75% of the way through. The earlier parts were the hardest. There’s a lot to do on the last section, but much of it is shuffling things around.

And then it goes back to Lauren for what I hope will be a final pass.

I’m not giving schedules. I’m just saying I’m a lot closer. 🙂

I’ll report again when the book goes off for editing.

Book 5, Angel Stakes, delayed

There’s a delay on publishing Angel Stakes.

Last week was looking so good. I had everything except the last chapter with my editor, I’d been able to boost my writing rates while still managing to publish the German version of Wild Card and sign off on the audio version as well.

This week…

The whole year has been disrupted with building works, inside and outside our house. We were getting to the end of the list, and I was all for packing up for the season. Some of that was pure cowardice: parts of this house date back to the 1880s, and our living room (next on the list for work) was once a shed in a builder’s yard!

Well, long story shortened: we are now in the process of tearing out the damp, rotten supports we found underneath the old floor covering. This wood has the consistency of wet cardboard, so it’s a miracle it hadn’t already collapsed.

Where does that leave me and the writing process? The living room will become an empty shell this week, and all the furniture has had to be moved out. That has encroached on my work spaces (some of which were already storage areas during the renovation work). And that will remain while concrete sets and floors get replaced. I will be involved in some of the donkey work as a digger and concrete spreader! 🙂

At the same time, the pre-Christmas window of opportunity with Lauren, my editor, is closing.

I will keep you updated, but I’m looking at February now.


Progress on audio version of Hidden Trump

A very brief post.

I received the draft audio from Julia Motyka this weekend, and we’re really close. I’m in the process of reviewing. It’s 16 hours long – so, unfortunately, I’m losing a couple of writing days. What I can say is that this is pretty awesome. Julia’s ability to capture accents is phenomenal – there is the hint of Greek in Diana’s voice, the fussy French of Remy, the broad Texan of Ingram. Wonderful!

I should have completed the review by tomorrow and there are very small corrections to make. I hope the audiobook will be on Audible this month. I’ll put up a little sample soon.


September end of month update

Apologies for missing the end of the month!

There’s little to add on sales and rankings at the moment. All the books continue to tick along, and whereas it’s wonderful to think of the dozen or so new readers a week picking up the series, obviously three dozen would be three times as wonderful. 🙂

There’s no new marketing going on either. All that is because I’ve been writing more. In a couple of weeks (approx) I will post a request for beta readers and they’ll get the first half of Cool Hand and a bunch of questions from me.

I’m going to have to take this next weekend off. I will be visiting the set of Game of Thrones in Spain and watching my daughter Jessica as Lady Nymeria. I doubt I’ll be able to take photos, but if I can, I’ll post them on the Facebook site.

My main writing effort is going on Cool Hand and the short story for the 6 author anthology which will be released at Christmas and only available via email requests. More details on that sometime over the next month.

Cool Hand schedule? Definitely by Christmas, hopefully late November, early December.




Next book (Wild Card) progress & sales update

Wild Card

Not October.

Bite Back book 3, Wild Card, is progressing, just much slower than I had hoped. I’ve given percentage finished figures before, and that seemed to work with Raw Deal. However, the point I’m at with Wild Card is difficult to quantify.

The first half of the book is written, and close to final – just one chapter to rewrite. That’s about 85k words in all, or roughly an average sized book. The second half is about half written – that’s to say I have written most of the major scenes and turning points and have sketched out a lot of the rest. It just needs ‘joining up’. However, that’s where I was with the first half of the book back when I said it would be ready in October. Then I found that joining up has become trickier as the story gets more complex.

So anyway, not October. Has to be before Christmas. Somewhere between. I’ll ask for your patience and keep posting progress.


Sleight of Hand has gone past 17,800 total sales, Hidden Trump 12,400, and the retention rate has now touched 70%. Raw Deal has just gone past 17,000. The big question on the RD numbers, which Amazon will not answer, is ‘how many of those are new readers?’.

German readers bought more SoH and HT than UK readers in September. And I cracked the Spanish market – 1 sale of each.

Amazon ranking is up and down. SoH and HT both averaged around 16,000 out of all ebooks in September. RD is averaging around 2000 out of all free ebooks for the last couple of weeks.

Progress Report

31st March 2013
Mark is a very diligent student of writing <LOL>

None of the FB meters I looked at really work to display writing progress in a useful way. This is partly because it’s not a simple process, and just counting the words written only addresses an element of the whole. I promised a report, and here it is in longhand.

How I arrive at these estimates

This is purely the way I work, for the books I’m writing. I divide the process of writing a book up into four main sections, listed here with the approximate percentage of effort:

25          Construction
25          Plotting
40          Writing
10          Editing

Construction comprises all the preparatory work: design the world, outline the story, outline the characters and locations. This element always gives me a good feeling, because all the subsequent books in the series after Sleight of Hand benefit from the construction work done there. Obviously, new elements require additional work, but lots gets carried over.

Plotting takes an outline of a story and fleshes it out to the point it is possible to write. For example, I know from the outline that Miss Scarlet must find Colonel Mustard in the library, polishing the candlestick. Plotting tells me how to get the characters there at the right time, the colonel’s motivations for polishing the candlestick, and the high points of their conversation.

Writing is self-explanatory.

Editing is everything that takes it from a draft on my laptop to the finished ebook on yours, and includes production work like formatting, arranging ISBNs and creation of the covers.

These are ideal numbers. Sleight of Hand took lots more construction. Hidden Trump took lots more editing.

The estimates for all current projects in expected order of completion:

Raw Deal, prequel to Sleight of Hand. Approximately 40,000 words. 70% complete, expected to be published in May 2013. Amber in the Denver police force.

Wild Card, book 3 of Bite Back series. Approximately 130,000 words. 47% complete, expected to be published in August 2013. Amber deals with the aftermath of the Assembly in Hidden Trump, and is tasked with tracking down the rogue Were. This is the longest and most complex of the current writing, and that means that my confidence in this estimate is only moderate.

Saigon, book 1 of Bian’s Tale series. Approximately 90,000 words. 50% complete, expected to be published in December 2013.

<TBA>, book 4 of Bite Back series. Approximately 120,000 words. 39% complete, expected 2014.

Hacha del Diablo, pre-prequel to Sleight of Hand, Approximately 40,000 words. 40% complete, expected 2014.