Anyway, happy new year to you all. Stay safe.
Okay, you know how 2021 was the year that never happened? Yeah. That’s kinda what happened to me. Did I finish writing the new series? Not by a long shot. I crashed. Utterly crashed. Months went by where I avoided working on the new series as much as possible and instead spent my time and brain power working on silly things like escape rooms that I can play at home and board games that I can also play at home. And then I had to get a proper job, so that has sucked a lot of time out of my day. But! I am no longer crashed and exhausted. I am renewed! I am listening to more audiobooks and getting my brain back into writing mode. Slowly but surely I will work on all the damn books and get them into your hands as soon as possible. Hopefully I don’t have to write the same kind of update this time next year, because that would suck royal donkey balls.
Anyway, happy new year to you all. Stay safe.
After god knows how long, I have finally published the fifth Raike book – The Gentleman!
Obviously there were some major delays. These were life delays, not book delays. The whole Covid lockdown was not fun and it completely killed my energy. Plus I was renovating my house non-stop, so on my days off from that I was in recharge-mode and not writing-mode. Then I had other work stuff, I retreated from the book world for a bit, but now I’m back! So I hope you enjoy The Gentleman! It takes place in the same city as the first story, featuring some recurring characters, only Raike now has to deal with the fallout from leaving his mercenary group and becoming one of General Kasera’s heavy-hitters.
Keep your enemies close.
One year ago, Raike was forced to target the Captain of the City Watch. Now he’s forced to work alongside him.
With a supernatural killer on the loose, Raike comes to realize that his new partners are no longer investigating the deaths of their own members – they’re investigating Raike himself, and that maybe he’s the one the entire City Watch have been chasing for years.
Get it now!
I had to wonder when Sergi realized he was going to die. Was it at the start of the day when he questioned if he had just been poisoned? Was it when his superior officer walked him to his front door? Or did it come later, knowing if he delayed his killer any longer then his wife would come home and be murdered as well?
“Careful, careful!” snapped the city watch sergeant, as the seventeen year old watchman cut Sergi’s wrists free from the rafters. Sergi’s body collapsed into the three pairs of waiting arms, his weight toppling them to the ground and his head cracking on the edge of the stone window sill. “Shit, Lius!”
“S-sorry, sir. The rope snapped.”
“Did it? Or did you just cut a little too deep into the knot?”
Two of the watchmen squirmed, pulling their hands away from the back of Sergi’s head, their palms now streaked with blood. The third watchman peered up at me in the doorway. “Sergeant?”
The broad-shouldered, bruiser type looked like he was about to bark at me for being an interfering gawker. Then he registered the curved sword by my waist. Locked onto me as though I had just become Suspect Number One. “Who are you?”
I flashed him the bronze pin on my chest – a bear rearing back, set against a floral wreath. “I come from General Kasera. This is Sergi of Asar Plaza, yes?”
“It is. Was. Why? Did someone just confess to murdering him?”
“Not that I know of.” I stepped inside. Surveyed the single room under the glare of the sergeant and worry of the patrolmen. A couple lived here, that much was clear. Male clothes lay on one side of the thin mattress – a mix of city watch uniform and civilian trousers and tunics. Female clothes on the other – all civilian. Everything was left in neat piles, but there was a lot of miscellaneous junk as well. Mismatching pots, bits of old clothes stitched together, rusty knives and daggers … it looked like the kind of crap you would want to throw away.
Sergi was still in his uniform, the only pre-death injury on his body appeared to be a rawness on the corners of his mouth from a gag. His spear remained beside the door, held upright with a simple clasp, ready to be yanked free if he needed it in a hurry, but the clasp was strong enough to resist an accidental bump.
The sergeant gripped my shoulder tightly. “If you could wait outside, sir, I can be with you in a moment.”
“Who found him?”
The sergeant squinted, his temper on the rise. “How is this connected to the army?”
“Then how is this connected to the general?”
“Right, then this isn’t an invitation for you to stick around. It’s a request for you to leave before I bring you in for interfering with the watch.”
“Uh-huh. Who found Sergi?”
The sergeant’s bruiser personality shot straight to front and center. “Did you not hear me correctly?”
One of the youngsters whispered, “Uh, Sarge? Have you seen his sword?”
“Yeah. What the hell is a non-imperial weapon like that doing here anyway? And in the middle of the city?”
I asked again, “Who found him?”
One of the watchmen squeaked, “He was seen from the window.”
“Lius, what the hell?!”
“Sorry Sarge. It’s just … isn’t he …” Lius stepped in closer. “You know, Kasera’s bagman?”
The sergeant peered back at me. “How many weapons do you have on you right now?”
“Okay. Why is Kasera’s assassin interested in a dead watchman?”
“Closer. Not assassin. And my interest is mostly because of the other guy. Aldin.”
The sergeant stiffened. Chewed his lips as a go fuck yourself sneer settled in.
“Two watchmen dead within five days of each other, both tied up in their own home after being interrogated for hours, and no one around to hear them cry out. And since neither seems to have been stabbed or bludgeoned to death, would it be safe to say they were poisoned? Until a better theory comes along?”
“I’m aware of the similarities, Mr. …?”
“Raike. Who found Sergi?”
The sergeant grunted. “A passer-by down below saw him through the window. He brought the caretaker out to the street and pointed him out. The caretaker hurried upstairs and opened the door.”
“Was the door locked?”
“You know, you’ve already said this has nothing to do with the army.”
“I don’t work for the army. Was it locked?”
“If it doesn’t have anything to do with your lot then why are you here?”
“I’ll leave right now if you’ve already caught the killer.”
The sergeant mashed his lips together. “Will you?”
“Of course. I’ll just head over to wherever he’s being held and question him directly. Has he been caught?”
The sergeant seethed but did not give me an answer.
“So was the door locked?”
One of the other watchmen squeaked, “Yes.”
“Gods damn it, Aymun,” muttered the sergeant.
I moved to the window. A crowd had formed outside, looking up to the first-floor apartment. Some seemed distraught that something like this could’ve happened in their neighborhood. Others were spreading gossip like it was the first exciting thing to happen in their lives.
“Did you all know Aldin and Sergi?”
“We all come from the same barracks.”
The sergeant grunted. “You don’t have a background in the watch.”
“Nor in the inquisition?”
“Nor the army. Yet you know your way around the scene of a murder, so I can only presume …”
“… That I work for General Kasera, and the murder of two watchmen has piqued my curiosity. I’m hoping we can avoid stomping on each other’s dicks right now, especially as it seems like a third dead watchman may be just around the corner.”
The three patrolmen glanced at each other. Lius asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“I’m saying there’s a pretty severe penalty for murdering a watchman, right? They’d be racked, hacked, and tortured over several days as a warning to everyone about what happens if they kill one of you guys. Yet whoever did this is convinced the reward from doing it twice outweighs the risk. So it’s either someone really pissed off with watchmen and they’re targeting you all at random, or it’s someone with a specific agenda who won’t stop until he gets what he wants. When did Sergi’s shift end?”
All heads turned to the sergeant. “He was supposed to be working from dawn until dusk, only he wasn’t feeling well. Complained of an upset stomach. So he went home.”
I checked the mattress, chest, and collection of pots and pans. “No sign of vomit or diarrhea.”
“He wouldn’t be the first guy to say he’s not feeling well so he can go home early.”
“True, but this time there happened to be someone who met Sergi before he could change. Was he expecting a mistress?”
“No. I mean – maybe. I don’t know. Either way he looked like he was about to throw up and shit himself, so I permitted him to go home.”
“You did, huh?”
“I’m his sergeant.”
I sniffed Sergi’s mouth. Had to pop open his jaw to get a better whiff. His body had begun to cool. Probably dead for three hours. Probably interrogated for several hours as well.
The sergeant leaned in, smelled, paused, and smelled again. “Vomit.”
“Without any signs of vomit in the room?”
“All right, fine. Sergi was strung up and in distress. He burped a sick burp because he knew he was about to be murdered and swallowed it back down.”
Lius pulled Sergi’s sleeve up past his shoulder. “There’s also this.”
“Lius, what the fuck? Go wait outside.”
There was a slight pinprick of blood on Sergi’s shoulder, with a corresponding dot of blood on his tunic. No obvious corruption surrounding the wound. “Did you send Aldin home as well?”
The sergeant seethed with righteous indignation. “He chose to go home while on patrol. I was told he hoped to sleep it off. If you are not here as part of an official investigation then I’m going to have to insist you leave.”
“Was Aldin also found in his uniform?”
“He was. Aymun? Please escort Mr. …” He trailed off. “… this gentleman outside.”
“Both went home before noon?”
“What of it?”
“Both found just before dusk?”
“Both hanging next to an open window?”
“And both were poisoned. Twice, by the sound of things. The first was at city watch to get them to go home where they could be interrogated for hours, the second to kill them.”
“Ohhh, fuck you if you think someone at the city watch poisoned them. Aldin’s breath smelled fine when we found him but there was discoloration in his arm. Sergi’s breath stinks but his arm is fine.”
“Then Sergi drank the poison, but Aldin was jabbed in the arm.”
“Aymun, for the love of the gods, escort this man out of here.”
“Were Aldin or Sergi involved in anything big? A crime they were trying to solve? Something they witnessed? Or was there something they should’ve solved and didn’t?”
The sergeant’s eyes nearly exploded out of their sockets. “How dare you! They were good men! They did their jobs better than most and now you’re coming in here and pissing all over their integrity? This whole thing reeks of an assassin’s job. Now, lo and behold, we’ve come face to face with an assassin who is sticking his dick into our investigation. Why are you here? To gloat? To sabotage our investigation? Or to make sure the job is done?”
I dropped one hand to the hilt of my new sword. “Do I understand correctly that you just accused a senior member of General Kasera’s security team and a citizen of Ispar of being involved in the murder of two city watchmen? Without any reasonable proof in front of several witnesses?”
The sergeant reared back, realizing just what kind of predicament he might be in. “No, no, I was just …”
“Because if I understand it correctly, the murder of a single watchman is such a heinous crime the accused faces torture until they confess to it, and now you’re accusing me?”
“No, sir …”
“It’s not ‘no, sir.’ Your word carries so much weight you can have me tortured and executed no matter what the truth is, so the only way I can prove my innocence against your accusations is by invoking the rights afforded to me and demanding a trial by combat against my accuser so the gods may clear my name. Is that what’s happening here?”
The sergeant fell quiet. Needed a moment to gather himself. “Sir, I … I apologize for what I said. I did not know you’re a citizen.”
“So you’re happy to let everyone who isn’t a citizen be tortured because you can’t control your temper?”
A vein practically burst in his forehead. “Forgive me. I have just found another one of my colleagues has been murdered; emotions are running high.”
I gave the sergeant to the count of five in stone-cold silence. Then, finally, I released my grip on my sword. The sergeant exhaled with a deep, grateful sigh. “Aldin was jabbed in the arm, so was Sergi, but Sergi seems to have drunk his. The delivery methods were different. Why?”
“I don’t know,” muttered the sergeant. “We tend to deal with stabbings and beatings, not poison. And definitely not when they’ve been strung up like this.”
I searched the rest of the watchmen. No one had an answer.
The sergeant spun towards the door. “Hey! No more spectators or intruders!”
A heavily pregnant woman stood in the doorway. “He’s dead?”
“Out! Lius! Make sure no one else comes in here!”
I went to the door. A small gathering of neighbors had amassed on the walkway outside Sergi’s place. “Folks? Did anyone see Sergi today?”
“I did,” said the pregnant woman.
The sergeant sprung forward. “Whoa, whoa, whoa … No, please … I’ll get to you in a moment.”
I asked her, “You live in this building?”
“I do, yes.”
The sergeant looked at me. “What the hell did I just say?”
“‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, no, please, I’ll get to you in a moment.’” I returned to the woman. “What did you see?”
She cast her eyes quickly between the uniformed sergeant and me, then glanced at my pin from the Kaseras. “I was at home – just over there – setting the pots to dry outside and hanging some clothes. Sergi and another watchman came through the courtyard and went into the apartment together. That was the last time I saw him.”
“A male watchman? Or female?”
“Did you see him leave?”
“Any idea know who he was?”
“No. I didn’t spend too long looking at them to be honest. I just remember it happening.”
“What did he look like?”
“Kinda like my husband.” She recoiled immediately. “It wasn’t him. I know my husband – it wasn’t him.”
“What did this other watchman look like?”
“Dark curly hair and a thin beard. More tanned than usual, like he had a hint of bronze in his skin.”
The sergeant hesitated. Squinted at the woman. “What was he wearing?”
“A city watch uniform. White tunic with a belt, sandals … that was pretty much it.”
“Did he carry a spear?”
“No. A sword, I think.”
I looked to the sergeant and his sword. “Who is he?”
The sergeant sniffed like it helped him to reset his sense of authority. “Could be anyone.”
“Of course. It’s just … the three watchmen in there are armed with spears instead of swords. You have a sword and not a spear. Unless I’m mistaken, the lower ranks carry spears and the higher ones are armed with swords, isn’t that right?”
The sergeant shrugged. “Like I said, could’ve been anyone. She even said it looked like her husband.”
The woman said, “I meant in his complexion. And hair and beard, I suppose.”
“Except my husband is six and a half feet tall. The watchman escorting Sergi home was about Sergi’s size.”
I asked her, “How tall would you say I am?”
She looked at my boots. “Five foot ten?”
I pointed to a guy in the street. “And him?”
“A little shorter.”
So far so good. “Did either Sergi or his friend need to duck to get into Sergi’s home?”
“It wasn’t my husband. Those two were definitely the same height – more or less.”
I returned to the sergeant. “A colleague of yours, maybe?”
“Could’ve been anyone in a uniform. Maybe not even an actual watchman.”
“But it was someone Sergi recognized.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Someone with dark, curly hair, a thin beard, and bronze skin, of a rank equal to at least a sergeant and maybe higher, was invited into Sergi’s home. Is there any chance the three watchmen over there will know who I’m talking about? Or are you keeping quiet because you know of a frequent secret rendezvous Sergi’s wife is not supposed to know about?”
The sergeant squinted back at the neighbor. “When did you see this?”
“Middle of the morning.”
“You didn’t see anyone else come or go?”
“How long were you hanging clothes and putting pots out?”
“A few minutes.”
“And that was the only time you went outside?”
The neighbor squirmed. “I’m not saying he did it, just that he was here.”
The sergeant looked back at me. “Could be anyone. She saw him at a glance and that was that. Either way, thank you …”
“I’ve already given you my name.”
The sergeant hesitated, wracking his brains to remember what I had said.
“Raike. … for your interest here but this is a city watch matter that doesn’t concern the army or General Kasera. If our investigation leads to the Kaseras I will be happy to keep you informed, but for now it is not wise to interfere with our investigation. Good day.”
Another watchman breezed into the courtyard below. White tunic. Sword. No spear. Dark curly hair and a thin beard. Bronze skin. Calculating eyes. I locked onto the pregnant woman. “That’s him.”
The sergeant dropped his head to his chest. “For fuck’s sake.”
Believe it or not, I typed up an end of 2020 email and then never posted it. I suck at updates. Anyway, here are a couple of quick highlights before I get into the details:
Raike 5 (The Gentleman) is complete! I finished the alpha version way back in February 2020 and it’s taken a while for me to work on it after getting it back from my editor and beta readers, but yesterday I reached the last of the edits. Today’s job: publish the damn thing.
I’ve also got a new series lined up for 2021. Six books, fantasy again, this time following The Knights of Many – a small band of heroes on their wild misadventures. With any luck those books will be out this year, but I’ve been wildly optimistic before, so let’s just say they’ll be published before 2050.
The long version:
A few things happened as soon as I finished the fifth Raike book, back in the long-ago world of February 2020. The day after I finished the book, I started renovating my house by ripping off all the plasterboard, sanding floors, and insulating walls and ceilings. A year later, the walls and ceilings are now plastered and painted a very boring white. I miss my purple office but that will be rectified soon enough. We spent the best part of a year moving furniture from one half of the house to the other, living in cramped conditions, sleeping in the TV room with missing floorboards or using the hallway as a kitchen, and I didn’t have a dedicated space to write for most of the year, so a lot of writing was sporadic in an open plan and noisy house. Basically: I didn’t do much writing.
Normally when I’m done with a book I either dive straight into the next one in the series or tinker with another project. The other project after Raike 5 was the Knights of Many. It’s more of a light-hearted fantasy series that I’d been working on between Raike books for a while, or when I was done with Raike for the day but still had some energy left, so I’d write a few hundred words here or edit a couple of pages there. I honestly wasn’t expecting to go full time on that series until after Raike 6. Unfortunately, Covid-19 happened.
Our state went into full lockdown for the best part of 9 months. I tried writing Raike 6 in bed or on the sofa, but it’s a doom and gloomy story, and since the inside of my house and the great outdoors was doom and gloomy, I just never found a good way into the book. After 20,000 words I crashed, and returned to the cheerier adventures of the Knights of Many instead.
The series has been a work in progress since just before Raike 1 was published. It was the back-burner project, originally going to be six novellas, each 35,000 words long. Considering my shortest book published is over 100,000 words, doing a third of that should be easy, right? Hellllll no. Somewhere along the way the series became six books of 50,000 words. Much more manageable, right? Nope! It’s surprisingly hard to write short books when you’re used to writing longer ones. So each book is now 70,000 words which, naturally, means that it has taken twice as long to write as I first expected. At this point I have completed 3 of the 6 (books 3, 4, and 5, weirdly). I’m trying to complete them all before the first one is published, because I know I write slower than some people prefer and they want the next book now now now. After that, I hope to return to Raike 6, though I will likely scrap what I had written before and start again.
Anyway, that’s the quickish update. More news will soon follow.
All right, so it’s been 9 months since my last post. That’s pretty crap of me. Obviously, the world went into a tailspin but maybe it’s time to tell ya’ll what I’ve been up to since January.
Thanks to Covid-19 I’ve been in lockdown since March. Being an author/hermit has definitely helped in not going stir crazy, but it looks as though I’ll still be in some kind of lockdown for the rest of the year. My repertoire of cocktails has expanded significantly. It used to be limited to espresso martinis and a vodka/schnapps/lemon juice mix. Now I’ve discovered margaritas. I don’t like limes and I don’t like tequila, but when you put them together something magical happens. My other go-to now is the vodka gimlet. I should grow limes.
I’ve completely gutted my house, walls and ceilings included, and have been insulating everything and plaster boarding everything else. The weird thing about Melbourne houses is that there’s no insulation in the walls. It’s like they’re built only for summer and forget that winter gets pretty damn cold here. Our little cat is a genius for finding a way into the attic. She falls asleep on the big, soft, insulation, and then can’t find her way down, so every day she meows until someone gets a ladder and helps her down.
I finished Raike 5 a while ago and sent it off to my editor. She’s gone through it and the book has been sitting on my desk, ready for my final polish, for about three months now. I honestly have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get to it. Probably because it’s the part of writing a book I hate the most – going through a bazillion notes and fixing them up. It also has a lot to do with having no door to my office, because we’re still renovating, and the house has been noisy with lots of banging. I still expect the book to be out this year, though.
I’m also close to publishing a new series. It’s a dungeons and dragons-esque group of adventurers travelling the world and getting into all sorts of hijinks. I started tinkering with it a few years ago and it became my back-burner series. Whenever I was between Raike books or wanted to write a few hundred words of something that I could walk away from, I worked on this series. After finishing Raike 5 I decided to focus on this series just to change gears for a while, that way I could come into Raike 6 a lot more fresh. Well, a few weeks turned into a month or two, and the doom and gloom of the Raike world started to look a lot like the world outside, whereas the new series was a lot more light-hearted. For my own sanity I focused on the new series until the point came when I had to make a decision about Raike 6. I had already written something like 20,000 words on Raike 6 but it wasn’t easy to get into it with everything else going on in the world and at home. So, for the last six months or so I’ve been working on the new series with a new plan – finish all six books in the new series and publish them close to each other. I have three books banked right now and the other three are close to being done. I don’t expect the series to be out before March 2021, but I’ll let ya’ll know how things are going a little closer to that time.
I hope you all are still safe and reading some good books, and I’ll check in with you soon.
Good news, I’ve just finished the second draft to Raike 5! I hope to finish the third draft in mid-February, then it’ll go to my editor and beta-readers, and with any luck the book will be out … who knows when? Things often go awry so I won’t really have a concrete date until after I get it back from my editor. And I still don’t have a title, so lots of pacing will be involved until I figure it out.
What’s it about?
Raike is back in his home town of Erast, a few months after the events of Cold Blooded (Raike 3), now working for General Kasera instead of the other side of the law. Unfortunately, Raike’s past as a bad guy starts to catch up with him as he looks into the deaths of a couple of city watchmen, and things go from bad to worse when he realises the killer might be better at this than he is.
When will it be out?
Maaaaaybe April. Probably May.
Anything weird with how I wrote this book?
Yep. I’ve had some success with something called Zero Drafting. It’s basically writing only the bare bones of dialogue and skipping long sections of prose, descriptions, and anything that I can’t think of right then and there. I had fallen into some bad habits with writing the previous books by doing the 1st draft, 2nd draft, and 3rd draft simultaneously. I’d also jump around a lot, sometimes skipping several chapters because I didn’t know the details of what happened but I knew where the story ended up on, say, chapter 19, then while editing chapter 35 I’d figure out the unknown chapters, go back and write that, and sometimes I’d have the finale written, edited, and polished, but still hadn’t even begun a chapter somewhere in the middle of the book. Sounds nuts, right? It was. I needed something drastic to break those bad habits and that’s where zero drafting came into it. All told, the 1st draft (bare bones only) came to 57,800 words, the 2nd draft is now 105,800 words, and the 3rd draft while likely bring it up to around 120,000 words.
Aside from trying to reset some bad habits, I did this because I end up moving chapters around A LOT during the edit. Sometimes a chapter from the first half of the book gets moved to the second half and vice versa. And bits of one chapter get reworked into another chapter, sometimes with different characters saying the gist of what someone else had previously said. Because I no longer bothered writing the beginning or ending of every chapter over and over again, moving them around to see how they fit was less of an issue.
How many head-on-desk moments have I had already with this book?
Two. The first came two weeks into writing. I went into this book knowing the following information: the captain of the city watch is being blackmailed + Raike teams up with someone from the city watch who is trying to sabotage the investigation into the captain’s blackmail. That’s literally all I knew as I sat down to write the story, and for the first two weeks the book was going in a direction that didn’t quite work. What I had was okay, it just lacked tension because of the location. So I cut it out and decided to use what I had in a future book (probably Raike 7, because I’ve already got an idea for Raike 6). And with that, I started Raike 5 again, this time with the goal of having only one bad guy instead of scores of them for Raike to hack his way through.
My second head-on-desk moment is still going on – I don’t have a title. All the titles I’ve tried to come up with aren’t great so hopefully I’ll pull something together soon and put the book on pre-order for all you guys.
What else is happening in 2020?
I’ll start work on Raike 6 in a couple of weeks. We’ll see his return to Solento (the location from book 4 where he may have been responsible for a lot of people being killed) and has to rescue a double agent. No more details right now because that’s pretty much all I know of the story.
I’ve also been tinkering with a side series as well. I have bits of 7 novellas about a dungeons and dragons-esque adventuring group in a world full of elves, half-orcs, dragons, goblins, and bad guys. I doubt I’ll have the time to finish those stories in 2020, but you never know. My plan will be to finish them all and release them 2-4 weeks apart, while holding one back as an exclusive story for my mailing list. A 2021 release is more likely at this stage, so we’ll see.
Anyway, I hope you all have a great 2020!
Every career starts somewhere.
On his first major heist with the company of mercenaries, Raike uncovers a plot to betray them all. Under-skilled and with limited experience, Raike unknowingly has the fate of his whole brotherhood resting on his shoulders as he sets out to unmask the rat trying to bring them down.
Get it now!
Raike has been with his company of mercenaries for three years now. He and his brothers in crime are digging their way into a vault for what is supposed to be the heist of a lifetime. Just as they reach the wall Raike realises that someone within the company is working against them. He doesn’t know who, he doesn’t know when they’ll strike, and he doesn’t know how to unmask them before the trap springs. That’s gotta be quite unnerving for someone stuck in a floodable tunnel, right?
The first three books are set when Raike is in his mid-thirties and has the skills and experience to save everyone’s lives, so this one posed quite a few problems in writing it. One issue with writing in the first person is that Raike needs to be within ear shot of most things in the story, which is fine if he was a lieutenant in the mercenary company, but not when he’s the lowest member there. The only justification was to use Raike as bait and dangle him in front of the bad guys because he was the most expendable one. But Raike is also supposed to be able to fight his way out of problems and there needs to be a formidable opponent, so how is someone with three years of training supposed to defeat someone with twenty years on them? (Hint: by being a cheating, sneaking son of a bitch.)
The way I write books has shifted considerably over the years, and not necessarily for the benefit of my sanity. The first Kingston Raine book was probably the last time I wrote a book ‘correctly’, in that I began with chapter one and wrote everything in order until I reached the final sentence of the last chapter. Then … things started to go awry. I’d get stuck on a particular chapter but I knew what someone else was doing in a different plot line, so I’d focus on that until I got unstuck and I’d go back and fill in the blanks so that everyone was caught up again. Then I got stuck on all plot lines but I knew where they ended up in two or three chapters’ time, so I’d leap over that missing part and fill it in later. The first Raike book was written mostly in chronological order, then I found that this chapter worked better earlier, that other chapter should be moved here to provide the next with a little more oomph, and things got shifted around considerably. From then on, every book started to get chaotic. I’d write as much as I could without breaking the flow and as soon as I hit a section of ‘Raike learns something useful here from someone but I don’t know what or from who’ I’d skip over and write the next bit with the hope of tying it all together in the edit. Since the Raike books involve a mystery, he’d talk to one suspect and move on to another, getting closer and closer to figuring out who the real bad guy is, so as long as I knew how it (more or less) ended I could fill in a lot of the blanks later on. Unfortunately, that involves a lot of head-desk moments, a lot of pacing, and a lot of boring my girlfriend as I tell her of my newest problem, because Raike is here, talking to this guy, and he needs to talk to that guy over there, but the second guy is supposed to tell him information that leads him to the first guy, but I can’t put the first guy after the second guy because of this great big other reason, so maybe I should split the second guy into two guys instead, so second guy 2.1 can tell Raike something that will lead him to the first guy, and the first guy will tell him something that will lead to second guy 2.2, but that’s going to ruin the momentum of the story … You get the idea. So guess what I’ve decided to do for Raike 5? Throw all caution into the wind and write whatever comes first! And by that I mean: I’m not writing the first and last paragraphs of each chapter, since those are the ones where Raike uses the information learned from the first guy to track down the second guy. Instead, Raike just appears in front of the second guy and questions him. Will it work better? I’ll tell you in six months.
With any luck Raike 5 will be out in March, but since I expected The Long Night to be out in August when I first started it, let’s just assume that Raike 5 will be out some time in 2020.
It should probably come as no surprise that I still suck at keeping you guys up to date. It's been a busy six months since the third Raike book came out and – honestly – I kinda forgot that I had a website.
So, Jackson, tell us about your 2019 so far ...
I got to have TWO holidays! It's been ten years since I've had a proper holiday and this year I've managed to have two of them! The first was a cruise from Melbourne to Brisbane. Some things I didn't realise:
Just how much the ship moves from side to side.
Just how much I can eat during a 21-hour buffet.
That I was made for trivia nights.
That the cheesy entertainment is actually quite entertaining.
Did I do the Titanic move? Of course. Did I sneak onto every floor? You betcha! Did I drink too much at the gin bar? Not even close.
We had a stopover in Sydney, in Sydney Harbour, right next to the bridge and the opera house. That was cool.
In Brisbane I got to fly in one of the world's smallest planes – a two-seater (me behind the pilot). That was awesome!
Then there was a lot of house work to be done. We had the floors levelled, bits of walls knocked down, the kitchen blown open, a bunch of trees cut down … you know, the sort of work that makes your home look like a construction site. Bleagh.
The big holiday was in Europe and guess whose passport expired in February and which dingbat didn't check it until the night before he was supposed to fly out? That's right – this guy.
We began in Yorkshire, flew to Switzerland, trained it through to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and then made it back to Manchester. We were there for five weeks which was a little too long, since we were hopping from one place to another every few days. But the sights were great, the food was good, and the company was excellent.
In work news, I have just completed the third draft of Raike 4. It's now in the hands of my editor and I'm trying to have that published in early October. The story focuses on a younger Raike, on his first major heist with his old company of mercenaries. Naturally, things go wrong and it's up to Raike to save the day.
The book was a challenge to write mostly because of the two aforementioned holidays. It seriously broke my writing flow and – coupled with jet lag – I lost a lot of time writing. Because I had a half-finished book while travelling around Europe it was still very much on my mind, but I just didn't have an opportunity to get the words down. This meant that by the time I was back home I just didn't have the same kind of motivation as before, and spending six months on a book wore me out.
What am I doing now? Taking a week off, catching up on some chores, and with any luck I'll be back to work this coming Monday to write Raike 5.
Things always get a little weird at publishing time. When I finally submit a book to the powers that be it becomes locked for three days prior to publishing (assuming that it's on pre-order, which most of my books have been). It's three days where I start to wonder if I've loaded the right file. Did I actually load a dummy version of the book and I'm about to sell a blank version to a lot of pissed off people? Is there some glaring mistake on the first page that I can't do anything about until the book is published?
Then launch days comes along and I'm checking to see how everything went, shout to the skies that the new book is out, send a bunch of emails, Facebook posts, write my tri-annual blog, do what I can to distract myself, and then wonder if anyone will actually like the book (aside from me, but I'm biased).
Anyway: Cold Blooded – Raike 3, is out now. What's it about? Raike (a mercenary in a sword and sorcery universe) and Alysia Kasera (Raike's boss' daughter) are on a secret mission to topple a foreign king and break the alliance he has with a vampire clan. Why? Because vampires are assholes and this alliance is probably going to direct the blood suckers to kill as many of Alysia's people as they can. Along for the ride are a few dozen of General Kasera's best soldiers, who are fully aware that their actions here are not going to be sanctioned and the only way this goes well for them is if Alysia is able to convince the king's rival to stage a coup and take the throne for himself. What happens? Things go wrong. What happens after that? It becomes an epic fight for survival, trapped in a foreign land with enemies gathering on all sides, desperate to work out who betrayed them and who among their former enemies they can still trust.
Get your copy here.
So, what's next for me? I'm going on holiday! Seriously, I have not had a holiday in years. I'll be in England, Switzerland, and hopefully Iceland if I get around to booking that leg in time. I expect to have some downtime but the truth is I began writing Raike 4 a couple of weeks ago in the hope that I would have it finished (but not published) before flying out, but that ain't gonna happen. So I'll probably be tinkering with the story and spending more hours staring into a screen than seeing the rolling hills of Yorkshire or the geysers of Iceland. My best guess for publishing Raike 4 is August, but let's be honest here: I have never made a deadline. Books get longer, life gets busy, and there's always a hundred things to do on any given day.
Anyway, happy reading!
For some of you the book is less than 24 hours away. For others it's a little more. Either way, Cold Blooded – the third Raike book – is on its way!
Things might've gone well … if they weren't ambushed on their first night.
When an unsanctioned mission to depose a tyrant king goes catastrophically wrong, Raike finds himself having to use every trick he knows to get the people he was hired to protect back home before it's too late.
Get it here!
News of the day: The Kingston Raine series has now been bundled into two box sets, each one for only $6.99! That's over 2,000 pages of supernatural mayhem for less than the price of a large pizza!
What's it all about?
Even the Grim Reaper can have a bad day. When one of Hell's inept devils scares the wrong man to death, the Grim Reaper and Satan are forced to cover it up so that none of Limbo's lawyers can discover the truth. But this simple mishap sets off a chain of events that brings Death face to face with someone who has the power to strip him of all his authority: a bureaucratic angel desperate to up-end the afterlife and rule with an iron fist.
If Death has any hope of saving mankind he must put his faith in the one man more troublesome than Satan himself: Kingston Raine.
Grab each bundle for only $6.99!
So, what else has been happening? In December I moved house. That threw my production schedule right out the window (and also explains how I forgot to post any details for the release of the second Raike book). October was largely consumed by looking for somewhere to live, November was chaotic with booking movers, utilities, and all the tedious things that happen when you move across the city, and December was mostly settling in and doing odd jobs around the place. But now things are a lot less chaotic so it's back to the grindstone.
I'm almost nearly kinda finished with the third Raike book. If all goes well I should have it complete by the end of January (which probably means I'll still be at it a week into February). Then it's off to my editor and further final tweaks, followed by it being drop kicked into the world. I have no idea when, exactly. Maybe February, maybe March. But it's coming soon.
That's right folks, it's the season for promotions. This fantasy thriller will make you taller, sexier, smarter, and younger.
Someone kidnapped the wrong girl.
Twelve hours ago Raike didn’t even know she existed. Nor would he have cared. That was until the only clue to her kidnapping lay in a cryptic note foretelling her death - a note Raike has seen once before. Now he’s prepared to lose everything to get her back.
Standing in his way is an alliance of two mercenary companies, a city watch who cares more about stopping Raike than finding the missing girl, and an imperial general who had little to fear – until Raike came along.
A gripping fantasy thriller that will keep your heart racing until the very end.
Get it now!
You can also pre-order the second Raike book: Protected.
All right, so I really do suck at keeping everyone up to date with what's going on. So what's been happening?
New job, house hunting, soon to be house moving, and scrambling to finish a new book with a self imposed deadline. And for once I'm not wildly off track! (He says, having not even finished the book yet …)
Most excitingly: I am about to launch a new series! This one is a fast-paced fantasy thriller that is a little like Jack Reacher with a sword and some magic.
Someone kidnapped the wrong girl.
Twelve hours ago Raike didn’t even know she existed. Nor would he have cared. That was until the only clue to her kidnapping lay in a cryptic note foretelling her death - a note Raike has seen once before. Now he’s prepared to lose everything to get her back.
Standing in his way is an alliance of two mercenary companies, a city watch who cares more about stopping Raike than finding the missing girl, and an imperial general who had little to fear – until Raike came along.
A gripping fantasy thriller that will keep your heart racing until the very end.
As a thank you to my subscribers I will be sending the first book out for free, so if you haven't subscribed yet and you want to get in on that freebie action then I recommend you click this link before 5 November, because that book will be downloadable for a limited time only.
If you want to read the first chapter, here ya go.
If you want to pre-order it now then you can get it from here.
You can also pre-order book 2.
This is your last chance to win 52 sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks for free, 1 for every week of the year!
There are books from Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Joe Abercrombie, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, J.K. Rowling, and 43 others!
Honestly, if I wasn't allowed to enter (since I'm one of the sponsors, bah!) I'd be on this in a heartbeat.
It's free to enter, just click here: CLICK!
Seriously, I can't believe it's April already and I haven't posted an update in six months. Long story short: I crashed, finished Kingston 5, re-polished Kingston 1, have been working on re-doing the covers for Kingstons 1 – 5, and wrote another 1.5 books.
Now for the wall of text. You may treat yourself to 1 piece of chocolate guilt-free if you make it to the end.
Things have been a little hectic over the last six months. After the Allure of Fire came out I was determined to take a week off from work, expecting to thoroughly crash after spending 3 months at a frantic pace to get the book done on time. The build up to publishing that book was craaazy. I had settled on a release date months before and even locked it in with Amazon, and once locked in there was no pushing the date back at all. This was an ambitious move since I hadn't even finished writing the story at the time but I was confident that I could. And I did! … with 9 hours to spare. When I set the publish date I expected the book to be 90 – 100,000 words long. It ended up at 126,000. Stay tuned because blowing past my projected word count is a theme in my life.
Those extra words had a knock-on effect. It took longer to write, longer to edit, longer for my editor to read and to do her thing, and longer for me to go through my editor's notes. The resulting madness led to a frantic final few days that looked a lot like an assembly line. My editor marathoned the book as best she could, ignoring life around her and becoming a bleary eyed zombie all so she could help me get this thing done on time. The final two days were nuts. She would hand me the printed chapters with her notes scrawled across while I made the corrections in the next room. I then loaded each of the corrected chapters from my PC onto Vellum (a Mac ebook making program), then paced about while my editor finished the next chapter. Have you ever had someone read over your shoulder? It's annoying as hell, isn't it? How about if it's the author hovering around as you're reading the climax to the book with the pressure of knowing that there's less than 12 hours before it needs to be published?
My editor finished the book at 2am. At 2:20 I had finished the whole thing and loaded it onto Amazon, clicked 'publish' and: success! But only just. If we'd had a power failure I'd have been screwed. If we lost the internet I'd have been screwed. If either my PC or the Mac decided to do a 9 hour update, or if Amazon went down for maintenance, I'd have been screwed. And if my editor came back to me and said: “This ending sucks ...” then I'd have pulled my hair out. Thankfully everything worked out. We finished on time and I promised my editor that I would never put her through that time crunch again.
After that, my supposed 'week off' turned into 'let's get a lot of chores done.' I didn't relax. Instead, I returned to an old project: Kingston Raine and the Lost Angel. I had shelved this book way back in 2015. It's the fifth Kingston book and has been something of a noose hanging around my neck. I was working a full time job while trying to write and edit this monster of book that just wouldn't end. I was also trying to figure out how to be a full time author, complete with advertising, self promotion, and learning all I could about the business side of things. The problem was: I was seriously burnt out. Normally I can write 2,000 words a day without issue, but with this book every 500 words was a challenge. I needed a break. I tried taking a week off, that didn't work. 500 words a day was still a nightmare. I tried taking a month off. That didn't work either. I even edited a completely different book to recharge myself. That didn't work. No matter what I did, I simply hated writing the Lost Angel. I didn't hate the story or the characters, I just hated having to write it. Worse still, the book was 90% done. I was writing and editing at the same time so almost all of it was ready to go, yet I just couldn't go on. So, I did the most painful thing I could think of (aside from deleting the whole thing). I took a year off. Not from writing, just from the Kingston Raine universe. One year turned into two and with a great amount of trepidation I returned to the book a few months ago.
To my surprise it was better than I remembered. Unfortunately the madness surrounding the Allure of Fire (scrambling to finish it in time) caused the inevitable crash. And annoyingly, the crash came when I was 90% of the way into the Lost Angel. Who'd have guessed?
I thought the crash might last for a week. Nope. It lasted for 3 months. I wasn't unproductive during that time, just not as productive as I'd like to have been, like I was stuck in 2nd gear instead of usual 4th.
Nevertheless I plodded along and finished the book. My editor read it and loved it! … except for the ending. The climax was fine. Most of the resolution was fine. It was the last 1,000 words that were a problem. As she has been invested in the Kingston Raine universe for several years already I've taken her annoyance with the ending to heart and that is where I am now: stuck on an appropriate ending. It's left me with a tricky situation. I have a 180,000 word book and everything is fine except for the last 1,000. Sigh.
In case you're wondering what was I doing while my editor was reading the book, I was fixing things that maybe didn't (but they really did) need fixing. To get back into the frame of mind to edit Kingston Raine and the Lost Angel I went back to read the first Kingston book. Normally I'd say that you should never do that, but I had been out of that world for years and I needed a recap on the style, language, and plot points. So I read the original book for research. I found a clunky sentence here and there but I was able to ignore them … until I found a typo. Hoo boy, all it took was one misspelling and I knew I had to go back into the manuscript to fix it. But if I was going to fix that then maybe I could tweak those clunky sentences as well. What began as a simple read-through ended up being a whole new polish of the book, which did not go as quickly as I expected. But by then I was committed to finishing the whole damn thing.
Admittedly, I wasn't entirely thrilled with my editing job when the book first came out. I trimmed a little too much in an effort to make the book as fast a read as possible, but it came at the sacrifice of characterisation. Plus, all the characters seemed to squint and smirk and communicate almost exclusively by raising their eyebrows. Some of what was published now feels awkward and cringe-inducing. Hopefully this will be the last time I ever try to tweak a previously-written book, aside from fixing the inevitable typo that pops up. So that took some time during and after my re-doing of the Lost Angel.
Another problem with the Kingston Raine books is that they don't fit into an easily marketable category. At best they are fantastical magical realism. What does that mean? I have no idea. Either way, with the Lost Angel coming up I needed a cover for that, and while I was working on that I also needed an update on the previous covers because they were letting me down. So it was re-design time! I'm not exactly a quick or gifted photoshopper. I can do a couple of tricks and I can work the shit out of them, but even so it's a time consuming process doing 5 book covers from scratch. I decided to go with 'guy against a colourful background.' Why? Because after years of trying to peddle the Kingston books I felt as though I had seen enough covers to think: 'Screw it! I'm doing something I can actually do!' But I'll tell you something, getting an appropriate Kingston model was a pain in the ass and time consuming process. I have seen more male models and man chest than you'd believe. I have seen more weird results than I'd care for. Eventually I found a reasonable face but not a reasonable body, so I had to start Frankensteining them together. A tedious process. So far I've spent 3 weeks pushing pixels around and I got stupidly bored in the process. But hey, I did get to listen to a lot of podcasts. And I discovered some new music on youtube (Dorothy and Jinjer, for those curious few).
While my editor was still reading the Lost Angel I decided to work on another previously-started series: the adventures of Raike (not its finished title). In January 2017 I felt myself floundering. I was stressing out about the Chimera series since I had blown past my projected word count (me of all people? Noooooo, that's unheard of!) and I needed a quick break. That series had a gazillion characters and plots going on and I wanted something simple to recharge. The solution: Raike – a mercenary for hire in a fantasy world full of magic and bad guys. The story in question: an orphan no one cares about has been kidnapped. The only person who decides to do something about it is a sell-sword who has been ordered not to get involved.
Do you even need to guess what happened? It has something to do with 'word count.' Despite the story taking on a life of its on, I finished it before my editor had finished the Lost Angel, so I got to work on Raike 2. I'm about halfway through now and things are going well. With any luck I'll have that book finish this month and I'll start on Raike 3, then return to the Chimera series. My plan with the Raike series is to sit on them until the first three books are done and then publish them quickly together. It means a bit of waiting around, but hey, I'm trying a new strategy.
Right, enough with the work talk. Tonight is comedy night! I'm in Melbourne, home of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I've already seen Phil Wang, Stephen K. Amos and David O'Doherty. Tonight: Mark Watson. Later in the week are a couple of free shows. Should be good.
Finally, we get to see Moqara from the perspective of the 'bad guys'! This part of the epic fantasy saga follows a couple of aristocrats from the empire, sent into the oasis city to stir up some good old fashioned trouble. The book is packed with thievery, intrigue, double-crossing, and a pinch of rampant bloodshed from a new fan-favorite character: Dakahvin.
The time has come for the Empire to strike at the heart of Moqara, and at the Prince himself.
After suffering a humiliating defeat in battle, two aristocratic officers in Carcosa’s army are tasked with a do-or-die mission: sneak into Moqara by whatever means possible, rendezvous with a spy embedded within the region, and recover the godstone hidden beneath the palace.
Aiding them is a bloodthirsty barbarian with the strength of a god, and a merchant closely related to one of Moqara’s most powerful families. How long can they stay undercover before Prince Andraz learns of their mission?
The cold war between Moqara and the Empire has begun.
Get it now from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play.
(Promotional hat is now off.)
So what's next for me? Some down time, I think. I have two cats who have practically forgotten the joys of playing with string, I have a hammock and a stack of books that deserve my attention, and I need to get out of the house and see more of the world than just the four walls of my office. I kinda become a full blown hermit in the final stages of writing a book, to the point where sitting down for coffee in a cafe is something of a luxury.
After that? I hope to tackle the fifth Kingston Raine book. It's 90% written and edited, but I crashed three years ago and just couldn't finish it. Now's the time! Maybe. Hopefully. It's been weighing on my mind for all years so I'm going to try my best to dust it off.
Then: back to the Chimera universe, where Kes and Lazden no doubt antagonize each other a little more, Losten and Reina find trouble on their doorstep, and the fallout from The Allure of Fire sends most of those characters running for their lives.
Apologies for being utterly crap with blogs and updates. I tend to go into full-blown hermit mode in the last stages of getting a book ready for publishing. It's a process not unlike banging your head with a shovel. Repeatedly. And to keep the pressure on, the third book in the series is due out in October (yay! More head banging!).
A quick note: this story (and the next) takes place at the same time as A God Among Thieves and focusses on events happening in and around Moqara. It's all part of a larger world that is about to collide as the empire extends its reach a little too far ...
So, what's this book about?
The land is in crisis.
A diplomat from Tryste arrives in Moqara with the offer of an alliance, only to be arrested for treason before the day is done. As he stands trial, the only man who can speak in his defense is murdered. But did the killer strike to protect a secret or to gain leverage over one of Moqara’s most powerful families?
Reina Dadario, Captain of the Prince’s Guard, hunts for an assassin who was thought to have been executed by the Guard years before. A killer she had arrested herself.
Beyond the border, the neighboring city of Eresdel falls to civil war. As a fanatical new ruler throws the region into unending chaos, Prince Andraz sends a spy to form a resistance, one which needs to act swiftly if it is to challenge the Empire when it arrives. But of all those sworn to obey his every command, what would the Prince have to gain from sending in Reina Dadario’s only son?
Shadows' Reach. Grab it now from your favourite retailer.
Hmm, I haven't posted anything in here for a while. Time to correct that.
I've been busy working on Book 2 to a God Among Thieves, but as with every book I seem to be a week away from finishing for at least six weeks, if that makes sense. I am stunned by how long this one has taken to write. Some of it is probably due to mild burn out. Some of it has been because the book length has crept away from me again.
To make amends for my lack of productivity, I'm trying something new. Back in January I put Book 1 on hiatus as a new story/world/series came to me. It was about the adventures of a mercenary in a Roman-era fantasy world where magic is aplenty. It was quick to write, therapeutic, and it made me feel more productive than I had been in a long, long time. After ten days of powering through that story I decided to get back to a God Among Thieves. Then, burn out started to kick in again. My daily word count fell, I was getting frustrated with the book, starting work later in the day, blah blah blah.
Lately, something I've found to be beneficial is to spend one or two days a week writing the mercenary story, and the rest of the time on Book 2. That way I still have time away from one project, giving me a chance to think about how Characters X, Y, and Z get themselves out of this predicament or that.
Another thing I'm trying for Book 3 is to zero draft the dialogue. I'll be writing the entire book as dialogue only and adding in the prose later. Why? Hopefully it will be faster. If 50% of the book is dialogue then the excitement of nearly finishing a book should allow the words to flow freely and quickly, thus allowing me to feel a sense of achievement by writing a book in half of my usual time, or sooner. Whether that actually works or not remains to be seen.
Zero drafting should also allow me to get a better sense of the pacing of the book and see if any chapters need to be added, cut, or moved around. One thing that's killed my momentum for Book 2 was having to add chapters and characters for one reason or another. At least by zero drafting it I only need to do half the work on the first time around, see how the story flows, and any drastic changes later on will be softened, somewhat.
Other than that, we adopted a six week old kitten by the name of Popple. She's so small, people squee when they see her.
In anticipation of A God Among Thieves being released on Saturday 22 April, every ebook I have on Amazon from now until 25 April will be discounted to $2.99. Get them quick, because they will soon shoot up to an insane $4.99.
Want A God Among Thieves for 99c? Click here.
In other news, you would think that having a book completely done would allow me some down time. Instead, I'm picking up the pace on Part 2 to the story. I have a couple of weeks still to go on it, and since I'm this close to finishing it I'm powering through with the energy of a nineteen year old at his first midnight rave.
There is a madness to all of the last minute prep work that goes into publishing a book. Fixing hundreds of typos and badly written paragraphs, converting the book to its electronic form and making sure all the maps and appendixes are legible, creating the paperback and making sure all the headers and footers are accurate, that the cover actually fits, and getting it all done in time so that A God Among Thieves is ready to be released on 22 April.
I have a great sense of relief with this book finally being published. It's part of a grand series of tales that has been kicking around the back of my mind for years. It helped to keep me sane while I was working a mindless job as I problem solved one crisis after another, trying to figure out how Kes and Lazden get out of this tricky situation, how the empire is going to make life even worse for everyone around them, and so on. By then I hadn't even written a single line of the book, I was simply trying to plot out a series of interconnecting threads and hoping that it would all fit.
It also looks like this series will be with me for years. I got burned out writing the Kingston Raine books, which still has one more to be published (the first draft is done, but it's gathering dust on my hard drive). So far, the God Among Thieves series is shaping up to be 3 or 4 times longer than the entire Kingston Raine adventures, so you might hear me cry out a year from now that I will never, ever do another series.
If I was in Hollywood I would describe the story as: In a war between gods and man with muskets and swords, an unlikely team of soldiers and thieves is sent across the continent, behind enemy lines, to convince a god to defect to their side.
Anyway, enough with the teasing, here's the first chapter to see if this book is your kind of thing. Enjoy!
You can also pick up the book up for 99 cents by clicking here.
Instead of taking some time off like a sane person, I like to push pixels around to make weird shapes and colours. Sometimes those colours make sense and look like a book cover.
A big shout out must go to Karen at Smiley Bird Designs for her graphic design mojo on the book. She also ripped apart one blurb after another until I had something that worked. So without further ado:
For the first time in history, an empire of muskets and cannons is gaining ground in the war against living, breathing gods. Entire armies have been massacred in a conflict which, at times, seems to be absurdly worth it.
Thousands of miles away, the principality of Moqara lies on the verge of being crushed by every neighbor around them. At the center of the crisis are reports that the empire has set its sights on acquiring the oasis city at any cost, convinced that it's trade lines may be the key to securing victory for the human race.
A former resident, Kes, stumbles through the Moqaran desert, barely alive, carrying a message no one wants to hear: one of the gods wants to defect to the human side. It is not known who the message is intended for, and the only person who can vouch for Kes, Lazden Dadario of the Prince's Guard, doesn't trust a word she says.
The book is so big it needs a map!
A God Among Thieves is on pre-order now. Out 22 April. 99 cents for a huuuuge book! Click me to reserve your copy now!
Want to read the first chapter to see if it's your kind of thing? Click me!
And if you're interested in more of Karen's work, she does things like these:
It's my three year anniversary of being published! It's also been six months since I quit my job to do this writing gig full time.
How has it gone? Great! And floundering, with occasional bouts of highs and lows to keep me on my toes. I completely expected the first six months of my year off to be a bizarre tug of war between productivity and trying to keep myself sane with 'life', and a tug of war is quite apt for my writing plan as well. The plan has shifted on a month by month basis, but I think after six months of going from one story to another I think I've finally ironed out all of the kinks in 'Jackson's Scatter-Brained Plan For 2017.' You would think that after three months I would've finished writing at least one book, but nope! I'm days away from completing 'the one that will rocket to first place on the New York Times International Best Seller List'.
I'm now entering that weird phase in the business – can I keep going with the success I've had so far and do this full time forever, or will I have to start sending resumes out in six months? I won't know for sure for a long, long time.
As an indie author I spend a lot of time on kboards, reading up on other writer's and their tales of success or failure. Some hit gold on their first book. Some say the third book in the series is where things really take off. Some write a book every month, some write one every three months, but the general consensus is that it's a good idea to publish a book every three months to keep your readers interested. So, in the last three years I should've published about 12 books. I've done 6. Go me. I guess having a full time job in that time really sapped my energy.
Despite having published 6, I've got a crapton more on my hard drive waiting for that final edit, somewhere around 15 books. There are several reasons why I haven't published them yet.
Because of all that, I'm going to leave those books alone for a while as I focus on building some revenue. If I ever find myself with a month or two of free time, I might return to those books, dust them off, and introduce them to the world, but for now I'm going to work on fantasy.
These next six months are really the make or break months for my time away from working for the man. I'm interested to see how I do. Will there be riches and accolades? Rent has been paid but the phone bill is overdue? Or applying for those emergency jobs again?
Things I am utterly crap at: regular updates.
For anyone needing a quick recap, almost six months ago I quit my job. Yay! The plan was to take at least a year off working for anyone else and focus on selling a million books (… eventually). I started writing a new series, an epic fantasy set in a Napoleonic-like era, because muskets are cool. I had it planned as a 4 book series, each one being 150,000 words (about 450 pages when it gets printed). I hoped to finish it in 3 months.
To be fair, I didn't really expect each book to be any less than 180,000 words. Sometimes extra chapters are necessary to get characters from one place to another logically, and I consider outlines to be mere suggestions. Long story short, I tend to over write. I figured a buffer zone of 30,000 words should cover me.
Guess. What. Happened.
I'm 200,000 words in and I have another 100,000 words to go.
You might be wondering how that is even possible. Just how atrocious is my planning? How can a single sentence, 'They meet the goddess' end up being 5,400 words? I've been wondering the same thing. Perhaps it's because I have 3 plot lines running simultaneously, that I have 31 recognisable characters, each with their own purpose, and that at least 20 of them are main characters. I have blackmail, murder, spies, revenge, epic journeys, political manoeuvrings, breaking in and out of prison, breaking in and out of not one but two palaces, multiple battles and skirmishes, and a lot of lying between the characters.
Needless to say, it's been a lot of fun to write, but it has also caused some stress. At the start of February I even abandoned it. After 5 months of staring at the same characters with no end in sight I was exhausted, frustrated that I had been 'only a month away from finishing' for 3 months already. I readjusted my estimates once again and my funky spreadsheet jumped from a projected 215,000 words to 330,000 in the space of a single mouse click.
So, burnt out me said 'fuck this!' and I took a weekend off. What did I do with my down time?
Planned another fantasy series!
And what did I do the very next day?
Started writing the new fantasy series!
How long did that last? Two weeks. What happened? I had a really good idea: what if this 300,000 word juggernaut is actually a box set? What if I split the three story lines within and turn those into independent books, then stitch them back together, chapter by chapter, to give the reader the proper author-intended reading experience?
You might think that should've been obvious months ago, but I had it locked in my head that this was the way the book should be read, no matter how big it becomes. Then I realised that my rent is due soon.
The good news is I am almost done with the first book. It has 15,000 words to go and I should have it finished within the next two weeks. What's it about?
War has swept over the world as a rising empire battles against living, breathing gods who have wreaked havoc on mankind for thousands of years. Victory is within their grasp. But not everything is as it appears. A young woman stumbles through the desert, barely alive, with a message: one of the gods wants to defect to the human side.
It is sure to be a trap, a Trojan Horse at the very least. Even if it isn't, the very threat of having a god behind the lines of battle would be enough to provoke every surrounding nation to go to war against whoever is brazen enough to harbour such a dangerous being.
Remember 454 words ago when I said, 'They meet the goddess'?
If anyone is interested in being a beta reader and picking out a gazillion typos, I'm more than happy to send you a copy and give you an acknowledgement in the back of the book. Just send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are shy about requesting it, copy and paste this into the email:
Hi, I'd like a copy of A God Among Thieves as soon as it's ready. I am aware that it will be quite rough, will probably have a lot of spelling issues, but I will do my best to pick out everything that is wrong and tell you exactly where the issues are and how they should be changed.
I'll send it to you as a word document and a pdf, if you like. And as a thank you I'll send you a paperback of the book when it's published.
With any luck, A God Among Thieves, Book One, will be out in April. The following books will be out soon thereafter (on account of them already being half written), and then the box set will tie it all together and help some of the weirdness make sense. Then I'm going to need to change gears. Spending 6 – 8 months with one group of characters has shown me that I have an attention limit of 3 – 4 months on a single project. I'll need to work on something else to recharge. Probably the new fantasy series which will definitely not run twice as long as I first planned.
And now for your curious reading pleasure, here are some books you might have read, a comparison of their word counts, and where my books fit into.
Fantastic Mr Fox – 9,300.
One of my chapters in A God Among Thieves – 10,200.
Kingston Raine and the Grim Reaper – 106,000 (my book!)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 107,000.
The Shining – 161,000.
Broken Toys – 166,000 (my book!)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – 169,000.
Where I thought A God Among Thieves was likely to be – 180,000.
Dune – 181,000.
Jane Eyre – 184,000.
Crime and Punishment – 211,000.
A Game of Thrones – 298,000.
A God Among Thieves – around 300,000 (my book!)
The Lord of the Rings – 473,000.
Every Shakespeare play combined – 884,000.
The length of this whole blood series of mine – at least 1,000,000 words.
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