The Silver Mask giveaway

UK-based people…

I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads.

There’s a chance for you to win one of five signed copies of The Silver Mask, the first novel of The Vasini Chronicles, ahead of the July release of A Divided River: Tales From Vasini I – the first of a companion series of stories to The Vasini Chronicles.

Details, terms and conditions etc. can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/236034-the-silver-mask.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He shall, from time to time

Back at the beginning of the year I posted my To Do list for 2017. As it’s been a few months since my last update – and there’s been some activity recently – I thought it was time to do another update on some of the points.

Edit and publish a novella and short story

For those who didn’t see the announcement – and cover – A Divided River, the first of the Tales From Vasini books, will be appearing as an eBook and in paperback in July.

It’ll contain two stories: The Mudlark’s Tale (a short story); and The Winter Fayre (a novella).

Keep an eye on the blog, Facebook page and/or Twitter over the coming weeks for more information.

Tales From Vasini is a companion series of short stories and novellas to The Vasini Chronicles novel series. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, don’t forget to checkout The Silver Mask – the first of The Vasini Chronicles – either on Kindle, iBooks or in paperback.

Finish writing and then edit The Vasini Chronicles II

The first draft ended up taking longer than expected, mainly because the word count ended up being much (like 50%) higher than expected and a little bit because of technical difficulties over the past month. As always with these things there’s bits I like and bits I know I’ll definitely be changing. There are many words I’ve written that won’t make it through to the published version. It’ll sit on my computer for a little while before I get round to doing any serious editing.

Write some more things (not all of them Vasini related)

While I get the required space between the first draft of The Vasini Chronicles II and starting the second draft, I’m having fun writing a short story that’s been floating around in my head for something like seven years. It definitely doesn’t involve zombies.

There’s another non-Vasini story, and probably two Vasini-related ones as well, I want to write before I plunge on into writing The Vasini Chronciles III.

Read at least 26 books and cut down my backlog of unread books (now over 300 thanks to Christmas presents)

According to my Goodreads page, as of finishing Chris Wooding’s The Black Lung Captain (good, fun adventure), I’ve read 32 books so far this year. Unofficially, I’ve read 39 books as I’ve slipped in a couple of books for research purposes. My new target for the year is 46. Given the next item on my To Do list, despite a strong start to the year, I may not reach my new target.

Become a father (at which point my to do list will likely be much longer and quite different from the above)

Fingers crossed, all is going well.

Twenty Six

At the start of the year, I set out to read at least 26 books. In someways this was an easy target given that I managed to get through 61 books last year, but with impending parenthood I figured that I’d match last year’s pace for the first half of the year and then be lucky to get through a handful more. What I hadn’t counted on was my reading pace picking up and getting through, on average, two books a week.

So here we are coming towards the end of March, and, with Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves finished, I’ve already read all the books I thought I would for the year.

Seveneves – a story of humanity trying to survive the destruction of the moon by escaping into space and what happens afterwards – was great by the way. I have yet to read all of Neal Stephenson’s back catalogue, but all the ones I have read have left me very happy that I invested the time in reading 800+ pages. Normally, when I come away from reading a good book I get a little emotional and creative surge. With Stephenson’s books I also get to come away feeling a little better informed about how the world around me works and what may be possible, scientifically and technologically, within it.

I discovered Neal Stephenson’s novels in the early days of developing what would become The Silver Mask. I was discussing the ideas with a friend and, given the presence of alchemy and the 17th/18th century influences on the setting, he suggested I try Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. I’m not sure how much they influenced or benefited The Silver Mask, but I did get to start reading Neal Stephenson’s novels, which I count as a win.

Seveneves was also a pleasant relief from a short string of books that didn’t quite work for me. After indulging my nostalgia for the Dragonlance series with Dragons of Summer Flame, I thought I’d try Tanis – The Shadow Years – a prelude story for Tanis, one of the main protagonist from the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy I’d enjoyed in my teens. After Dragons of Summer Flame it was somewhat of a disappointment. For me it didn’t really embody the setting of the Dragonlance novels nor the character of Tanis. There were even moments that seemed to unnecessarily contradict established elements of the setting – moments that weren’t essential to the story and didn’t seem to care that they went against established canon. In the end, it was a somewhat frustrating read.

It probably wasn’t helped that the previous book I’d read was Julian Barnes’s Love etc, a book I found difficult to enjoy because I didn’t want to spend time with a number of its characters. It was kind of similar to the experience I’d had reading his novel The Sense of an Ending, so it seems like he might just write about people I don’t have much sympathy for nor want to spend time reading about.

Overall though, the remainder of the 26 have proven to be enjoyable. Saga, the graphic novel series, has been a particularly good find over the past year, and I’m looking forward to getting Volume 7 when it appears in April. I’m not sure whether it’s, in part, down to it resonating for me with my impending parenthood.

One other book to note. I’ve finally read my copy of Macbeth, the book that has been sat on my shelves waiting to read the longest. I bought my copy when I was about 11, after watching Blackadder torture two actors by repeatedly mentioning the play by name in Black Adder the Third*.  It’s followed me to at least five different homes since then, patiently waiting. I’ve dipped into it over the years, but now I’ve finally read it from beginning to end. It’s not bad.

What has reading 26 books done to my backlog? Not a lot to be honest. It would have amounted to a little under 9% of my backlog as it stood last year. However, that was before receiving presents and buying more books. Of the 26  I’ve read, only six books had been on my bookshelves longer than two years.

D’oh.

Anyway, with my first reading target hit, I suppose I should set myself a new one. Based on my current rate, it would be tempting to say 104, which would mean keeping up with two books a week. I think that would be a little too ambitious, so I’m going to say 46. That’s roughly one every two weeks, which is probably more sensible as it allows for things to slow down later in the year. You can keep track of how well I’m doing on my Goodreads page.

* Apparently the alleged curse that comes with speaking of Macbeth by name isn’t really a thing. Back in the day, when a repertory theatre’s latest production wasn’t drawing the crowds they’d end the run and put on Macbeth (certain to bring in an audience) instead.

Hot potato, off his drawers, pluck to make amends! *squeezes nose*

Slow news day

It’s been a month since my last post, mostly because a weekly statement of “I wrote some words and read some books” doesn’t quite provide the word count to warrant a blog post. There have been other things happening, mostly those annoyances that come with everyday life (like the central heating boiler breaking down, the car leaking coolant and a radiator in the house springing a leak), but nothing of real consequence.

Any’hoo…

The Vasini Chronicles II is coming to the end of its first draft. Hopefully it will be wrapped up by the end of March (and won’t spill into April). It will then be told to sit in a corner and behave for a little while before I start the year-or-so’s work of editing it. It’s already way longer than I expected, although it will get shorter as I clear out all the bits that don’t need to be in it. I won’t reveal anything about the set up or what happens just yet. There’s plenty of time to do that.

A Divided River, the first of the Tales from Vasini (the companion series to The Vasini Chronicles) is coming together. It’ll contain two stories (a short story and a novella) and is on track to be out over the summer.

I was putting a draft of A Divided River into a storage box yesterday when I came across an early draft of The Silver Mask that my wife had marked up with some comments. When she reads a draft, along with her thoughts and corrections, she usually adds some doodles as a reaction to what’s happening in the story. At the end of the Chapter 12 of The Silver Mask, I received this:

Cankera

It’s the first and, as far as I’m aware, only drawing of a cankera.

The length of string

I have noticed a little trend when talking to people about The Vasini Chronicles – there seems to be an assumption that it will be a trilogy.

It’s understandable, in someways. People tend to like things that come in threes, it seems to fit an assumed natural order to the world. And given all the trilogies out there, it does seem like we’ve become programmed to think of ongoing stories in terms of three installments (although this ignores how many novel and film series don’t follow that format).

So how long will The Vasini Chronicles be?

As long as it needs to be to tell the story, which looks likely to be six novels.

I say it “looks likely to be six novels” to give myself a little leeway should I get midway through and discover six novels is too few (or, possibly, too many).

Early on when I was developing the ideas for Vasini, I realised that there would be scope for more stories than just The Silver Mask. As I worked on The Silver Mask it became apparent that there was an end destination for the story of Doctors Fox and Reid, a natural outcome for what had developed out of those initial ideas and the events that started in the first novel. The question, though, was how many steps (novels) would it take to reach that natural outcome? I thought four, then five. After some actual planning, I realised it was more likely six. I doubt it will stretch to seven, unless there’s some factor I haven’t considered that will expand this particular story.

Alongside these six novels will sit what, for now, I’m going to term The Tales from Vasini, a companion series of short stories and novellas that will explore parts of Vasini outside of the story of Fox and Reid. The first should be out later this year.

So that’s the plan. Like a piece of string, it will be twice the distance from the middle to one end, but it won’t be a trilogy. It won’t necessarily appear quickly, but hopefully it will appear regularly.

Thank you

The New Podler Review of Books have announced their choice of the very best independently published books from amongst their 2016 reviews and, it appears, The Silver Mask is in their top three.

Feeling somewhat chuffed. Thanks guys.

http://thenewpodlerreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-best-of-2016.html

And thanks to everyone else who has taken a chance on The Silver Mask (and The City Between the Books/The Bridge People).

Welcome to the city between the books…

Don’t forget to wrap up warm and remember your emergency spoon.

They’re here…The City Between the Books & The Bridge People – my two new short(ish) stories – are now available to buy as an eBook on Kindle and iBooks. (As always, for those outside of the UK, please try your local Amazon or iBooks store.)

In The City Between the Books, Lex’s time at university isn’t going well and, on a cold November morning, things get worse. Searching the stacks of the university library, Lex finds that the books can lead to strange places, places that are maybe better left unexplored, especially if she wants to finish her essay on time.

In The Bridge People, Hannah’s summer holiday has been spent exploring the woods and learning games from her grandparents. However, when her mother falls ill, Hannah goes on a quest for chicken soup in the hope that it will cure her. But, to get the soup, she’ll have to cross the bridge to the shop. And there are things beneath the bridge. Horrible things, worse than any of her fairytales, who scare even her mother.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read The Silver Mask, you’ll find an excerpt from the novel in the eBook as well.

the-city-between-the-books