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My long and short fiction skirmishes through Mythic Fiction, Paranormal, Horror, Thriller, Crime, Historical, Literary, SF, Fantasy, Mainstream, Romance and Western. Sign up for my new releases Newsletter or Follow the Blog by email as I chat about all things writing related.
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28 July 2014

York’s Street Entertainers – Present & Past

In York recently, I paused to consider the many street entertainers in the pedestrianised city centre. 

The singers and musicians were very ‘now’, even if the electric jazz close to the striped awnings of market stalls in Parliament Street was wonderfully mellow to the ear. Beneath the shading trees in Saint Sampson’s Square we stopped for refreshment and to listen to alternating guitarists with voices as languorous as the summer heat. Walking along mediaeval Stonegate, teeming with locals and visitors, fleeting strains from an unseen saxophone teased the ear.

With a nod to the Minster, we turned into Low Petergate, an even narrower mediaeval street following the course of the Via Principalis of the Roman fortress beneath its foundations. Here we came face to face with a man dressed in as near as modern motley as it’s possible to get, his concentration on elaborate body movements as he manoeuvred a crystal gravity ball to the fascination of onlookers.

But it was in King’s Square where the true action was taking place. A master of his audience, a fire-eater was rousing the crowd prior to juggling burning brands blindfold.

Market stalls and street food, itinerant entertainers... today, 500 years ago, a millennium past, two millennium even, all that would be different would be the dress of the audience. It makes a historical novelist content.

27 June 2014

Chatting about... Post Traumatic Stress

Some time ago I was asked to contribute to Ella M Kaye's site It's All oKaye with particular reference to 'lights in the dark' as applied to a fictional character's emotional arc. It's now live, so do hop across to discover how I envisaged, and subsequently handled, Nick Blaketon's mental trauma in The Bull At The Gate.

After all, if your dead lover temporarily erupted in a gush of water in your room how would you explain the ensuing devastation to the person downstairs? Yeah, right. And how do you think that would take its toll on you?

13 June 2014

The Bull At The Gate - paperback launch



Where did the month go? Mostly in bringing the paperback of The Bull At The Gate to launch, and promoting Books 1 and 2 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. But it has its rewards as reviews are coming in:

“...Utterly gripping. A fascinating journey around contemporary and Roman York is the background to a compelling plot. The nuances and ambiguities kept me guessing - something I always enjoy...”
“..Nick's vulnerable mindset is totally convincing after such a disturbing experience in Book 1...”
“...An absolute brilliant read, an absorbing, gripping book...”
 “...Here history is not an alternative universe but the continuous integration of the 'present' – a fascinating concept...”

Reviews can make a book, and their lack can so often break a book. In truth it’s always been the way, but authors feel it more keenly now. Mainstream publishers do check the number of reviews on distributions sites when deciding whether to renew a contract, and for indie authors many internet promotion portals determine entry by the number of reviews.

I’m lucky in that SF/F retailer Fantastic Book Publishing is distributing signed paperback copies of both Torc of Moonlight and The Bull At The Gate.

So let me make a plea on behalf of all authors. Leave a short review on the books you read. It does help us, honest.


Copies of both the ebooks and paperbacks (alas not signed) can also be found at
Amazon (all stores) ¦ Barnes & Noble (USA) ¦ Book Depository (Worldwide Delivery)

2 May 2014

Writer's Reveal

I’m pleased to be part of a blog-hop centring on four questions that reveal part of my writing life. Thanks to Toni V Sweeney for the plaudits and hand-on.  

What are you working on?
I’m launching the paperback of The Bull At The Gate, Book 2 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy of supernatural thrillers, so at the moment it is more admin and promotion than creative writing. At the same time I’m oiling the ol’ creaking brain cogs for its follow-up, so on my immediate To Do list is
a) gentle brainstorming for Book 3 which leads to...
b) collecting initial research information for said book;
c) turf out my disgusting office to...
d) find the notes I scribbled while writing Book 2.

What is happening around you while you write?
What should be happening is peace and tranquillity. I am both lucky enough not have to go out to earn a living and I have office space with a door that can be shut on the household, but it rarely works that way. I’m either on call too much or too easily distracted.
As an illustration I’ve just returned to my office after remembering the laundry needed checking in the drier [shakes head...]

Which comes first plot strand, character, or.....?
...problem, solution..? Initially it’s a gaseous mass of all these. If/when two ignite they either illuminate another element or burn it to cinders. This is where the gentle brainstorming comes in; it’s akin to poking at a smouldering fire. Once the elements begin to take on a smoky form, it is then that the characters take precedence. Each book of the trilogy has three intertwining storylines – one historical, two contemporary – and once the main characters in each are identified I will write their mission statements, their back-stories, and start a timeline of how they view the unfolding novel. It's my way of gaining a handle on them as true people.

Explain your research routine
There’s a lot of non-fiction reading involved, both book and internet, which goes on at the same time as the gaseous mass is coagulating. This shows up both probable dead-ends and possible incendiary material useful to the novel. Characters’ mission statements, back-stories, and viewpoints start to turn into the novel’s Bible – an ever-growing Word document navigated by internal hyperlinks. In the Bible is listed every character and their mores, and links to all internet research, as well as the main outline of the novel, which eventually takes on the form of a working synopsis. Somewhere along the line I will have made a start on the novel itself, as it is in the writing that the beast comes truly to life.

Thanks for taking the time to read my Writer’s Reveal. If you have any comments or questions go ahead and ask them below. Or if you've enjoyed the post, please give it a Tweet below; it would be most appreciated.

If you’d like to read the openings of any of my books, click the covers in the columns to be taken to its relevant Amazon page and use the Look Inside facility.

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Next Friday, 09 May, I am handing on to two very different Fantasy writers: 

Stuart Aken is a pantster, writing books that blur the boundaries between genres. For him, story chooses genre and characters drive plot. He’s written thriller, romance, erotica, scifi, horror and, in his most recent release, epic fantasy of a type that appeals to both genders and all readers over 15. Joinings; A Seared Sky, was released in print and digital formats by Fantastic Books Publishing on 30 March. 


V.M. Jaskiernia writes dark fantasy romance in her world of Noctuina. She is influenced by mythology, fairy tales, modern fantasy, horror, and history. Her first series, 'The Courting of Life of Death' (Clandestina), follows the duc of Piques, Pierre Salvador, as he consorts with the Lady of Death while also courting the Lady Elizabeth Anne. 

Enjoy both!

19 April 2014

Do you Read or Skim?

A recent article in the Washington Post asked if living in the online Social Media world is having a detrimental effect on our overall reading habits. As reading is a learned skill, are we training our brains to skim-and-click for information we consider relevant without realising it may be to the detriment of longer, in-depth reading skills where we savour nuance and metaphor?

It caught my eye (yes, I did skim as an initial pass) because I’ve had reviewers who took me to task over aspects of my books, yet their observances were simply incorrect. At the time I couldn’t understand how the mistakes had been made as these were part of the physical reflective balance between characters, but could it have been down to the speed, and the way, of reading?

This question was raised again when I was sent a link to a speed-reading test. I clocked up 255 words per minute and answered all the subsequent questions correctly. I considered fast, but others who have taken the test have hit 500+ words per minute.

I certainly know readers who regularly challenge themselves to complete a 100,000 word novel in less than a day, but is this beneficial? Perhaps it all depends on the person, the clamouring of their mental debris at the time, and how multi-layered the text.

So... I’m obviously a slow reader. Are you a fast reader? Does this affect your ability to draw from your reading what the author seeds within the text?