The Evolution of a writer

When I first began writing novels I was driven by story. I just had to keep on writing. Before one story ended my mind was whirring away on the next, and the next. I will be the first to admit that my early work is badly written, I even had a website called badlywritennovels.com (the single ‘t’ was deliberate). I have left them, The Rising, 3 Phaze and Lagoon, in their original state. Why? Because I no longer write like that. To edit them now would require a complete re-write which I am not going to do as I have other things I want to do. I see them as a reference point, the writing swamp where I began the long journey to the writer I am today.

Later books have been lost: A world lies bleeding and a King of Kings have both disappeared into the ether. Characters from King of Kings however have surfaced in Emun of Mor, which was published by Vamplit Publishing until the publisher ceased trading. Emun is another book which I now give away.

Emun of Mor was the first of my works to pass through editorial hands. Later, it was read by a writer friend who made suggestions to help improve the story, some of these I implemented though not all as the story was becoming to linear. This process did lead to do something unthinkable before: I cut the story into pieces. Instead of being 150 000 words I cut it down to 80 000. Then I took a knife to it and began to prune the story further. Then I wrote in all of the story which I had left out to meet the original word count.

Now I had a story which I felt to be what I wanted so I invested in grammarly.com as a pair of digital eyes to help me weed out more errors. I must have gone crazy at some point as I put a sample on Createspace.com in the hope of some feedback. What I got was the most constructive comment that I have ever had on the internet. I have no idea who the person was but their advice was absolutely bang on. After making the required adjustments I ran the text, now sitting at around 95 000 words back through Grammarly and fixed as much as I could.

Then, more madness. I went in search of an editor. A real editor. I scoured the internet, searched site after site, blog after blog until I got a single reply. I have never been any good at blowing my own trumpet, I just do not know how to do it with open honesty. I had sent out simple emails to a number of potential editor who all replied with ‘read my site’. I had, that’s why I sent the email! What I was really looking for was a real down to earth person who understood fantasy and what makes it tick. That and a price I could afford.

Several months went by while I finished getting the text to my best when I got the reply from Stephanie Jane Dagg. She like the sample which she had read and wanted to work with me. I stared at the screen in utter disbelief, somebody liked what I had written (and wanted more). We negotiated a price which the good lady cut to the bone and then let me pay in instalments! Wow! And Wow again!  Three months later it was all done. Edited, tweaked, edited again and then given a last once-over. There may still be the oddity that got through but I know that this time I need not feel ashamed about the final condition of my novel.

A couple of things remained to be done: the cover blurb, the cover and a synopsis.

For all of my other titles I did my own cover art but not this time. Having put so much effort into the text I was not about to throw it all away on the cover. It was then I discovered a hidden talent in the family. My niece, Sarah, is one talented girl. I sent Sarah a chapter from the novel from which I felt I could make a cover. When Sarah sent me the pencil sketch I was stunned. It was so different to what I had envisioned. So much better than I could have hoped. The next step was the ink over which highlighted some of the details lost in the scan of the pencil sketch. When Sarah sent over the final art I knew I had that ‘something’ different I needed. A cover which screamed ‘Young adult’ more than anything I could have ever scrape together.

The next item on the list was the cover blurb.

This is when you discover just how much knowledge your editor has about your story. Stephanie gave a set of guidelines: bullet points (she got to know my abilities real quick) to help point me in the right direction. It took me a couple of goes to get close before Stephanie stepped in and rejigged it all. I cannot thank the lady enough for all of her help. Now, all that remained was to write the synopsis. And it still remains to be done until this day. So I will not be approaching any traditional publishers just yet.

At the end of it all, what you end up with a better tool set with which to work. I no longer make the same mistakes I used to make (I make others instead). I have slowed down, become more thoughtful in my writing and walk through fights scenes and other events in my mind. I am more aware of what every character is doing in each scene and what impact simple things might have upon their futures. I savour the victories and consider the pain. I share in every success and thrill in the chase of dragons.

To all those who are setting out on the path to writing I cannot emphasise enough the importance of giving it your best. Never settle for ‘that’ll do’ when your best is what the readers deserve. Giving it your best is what is best for you as writer. You will grow faster as a writer the more respect your readers. At the end of the day it’s the readers who matter. We as indie writers will only do harm to our industry if we do not give it our best at all times.

There Were Dragons

“There were dragons, when I was a boy,” the old dwarf sighed with the wind. “All over these mountains. It was sight that you’ll never see son, and the world is a whole lot sadder for it.” Arrborn hitched his bag over one shoulder tousling the hair of the toddler that clung to his leg. “Old Narnock the grey lived on this one. Had his lair just up in that cavern. No one, not no one would go in their without an invite.” Grasping the toddler by the collar of his shirt Arrborn hoisted Emun up into the nook of his arm. The child weighed heavy against his chest. “You’re barely a year and you’re already as heavy as my food sack. Ah laddie you grow too quick for this old dwarf to believe possible.”

Arrborn slipped Emun inside his jacket so that he could look out upon the majesty of the cold grey mountains whose peaks raked at the scudding clouds. Arrborn climbed the path with the agility of a much younger man. His dark skin remained as dry as the stones upon which he stepped. Far from the prying eyes of his enemy he ran freely upon the mountains where he had played and explored as a whelp. Joy filled memories came flooding back forcing a broad smile across his weathered skin. Arrborn leapt up onto the edge of Narnock’s lair safe in the knowledge that the old dragon had long since fled the nest. No dragon lived here anymore, not since the orcs came from across the seas scourging the land in search of the light bearers. But something else was in residence.

“I don’t like the feel of this place, Emun,” Arrborn muttered beneath his breath, pulling his coat tighter about his chest. “Something nasty is at home here. We’d best be leaving.”

“So soon,” a dry gravelly voice rattled from the shadows. Arrborn backed across the entrance keeping himself in the sunlight. “I’ll not harm you Arrborn. Nor the child that you carry.”

“How do you know my name wraith. Step out where I can see you,” Arrborn pulled his staff from his back pointing it toward the shadows.

“I have seen your image in the tome that I have acquired,” the creature said stepping from the shadows. It raised a huge hand to shield its eyes from the glare of the sun, its skin a grey-green, tainted by death and decay. “Long have I waited for this day.”

“Not long enough by my reckoning, orc,” Arrborn spat. “Don’t take another step, or I’ll make sure that death claims you for keeps.”

“I am in no doubt that you would make a valiant effort but you are no match for me in battle,” the orc tossed its axe aside and held out its hands. “I do not seek to fight with you.”

“Aye, that we’ll just have to see, won’t we?” Arrborn held the orc’s gaze. “This tome that you have, would it be about yay big,” Arrborn gestured with his hands.

“It would. It is there on the table,” the orc pointed toward the back of the cave.

“That explains your armour. Been raiding the old priest house I see,” Arrborn chuckled to himself. “Looks good on you. Hides that awful undead look.”

“That it does.”

“Are you a remnant from the scourge?” Arrborn sidled over to the table where he saw a familiar tome laying open at the page of his portrait. “I was young then, but still handsome.”

“Outcast of the scourge. My actions in the Delvings were not considered honourable,” the orc drew a chair from the table and sat heavily upon it. “That was all a long time ago.”

“I know of you,” Arrborn looked at the orc out of one corner of his eye, pretending to read the tome on the table.

“You must have read that a hundred times,” the orc scratched his head sighing at the thick flakes of dead skin that came away in his fingers.

“You’ll not last long at that rate. If you believe half of what’s in these pages you’ll find something to remedy that wee problem,” Arrborn closed the book patting it lovingly.

“I must be missing something,” the orc let out a rasping sigh. “Perhaps, you could show me.”

“Perhaps… it would be best if you find it yourself. When the truth is revealed it cannot be denied,” Arrborn tousled Emun’s hair. “Until that day,” he smiled. “Yakkob!” A large grey goat appeared at his side. Arrborn swung himself upon its back and they disappeared.

“Hmm,” the orc mused, rubbing his chin with the back of his hand. “Until that day,” he reached for the tome and began to read.

Mouldylocks

“I was just a cub when she walked into my life. I remember her golden locks splayed across my pillow,” Tiny stuffed the pistol into his waistband.

The years have not been kind. Tiny watched as Goldylocks span awkwardly around the pole. Her youthful suppleness nothing but a memory clouded by cigarette smoke and cheap gin. But he hadn’t come here for the ambience, he’d come here to settle an old score.

“Two bits for the whiskey, Tiny,” the barkeep swept the coins into his palm tossing them into the open till with a disinterested flourish.

Tiny drew a deep breath of the mundungus tobacco air spitting his thoughts on the floor as he strode purposefully toward the dance stage. Ahead of him a small crowd brayed like tethered donkeys hungry after a long day in the heat. A rag-taggle bunch of scum like any other bar in town. Three hecklers in particular caught his eye: a mean-eyed cuss with a prehensile tongue that could swat a gnat from a buffalo’s rear, lanky guy hooting and hollering like he’d never seen a broad before, and a bruiser at the back the size of a wagon looking like he’d bust your head just for the fun of it.

Goldylocks spun around and around and like a dog chasing its tail, only thing was she’d caught up with herself, ended her routine with her legs akimbo and her golden locks laying three feet from her head. The crowd fell silent, only the shuffling of feet disturbed the hallowed moment. In that instant Mean-eyes flashed out a hand faster than a rattler strike, perhaps Tiny had been the only one to see it.

Before the rest of the crowd could react Tiny held mean-eyes in one paw, his claws closing on the man’s scrawny throat. “The wig,” Tiny’s hot breath swept over Mean-eyes like a desert wind. A second later the man lay on the floor clutching at his damaged throat as Tiny pushed through the crowd.

Tiny held out the hair piece for all to see, the kind of gift horse you don’t look in the mouth. In that moment, as Goldylocks looked into the hate filled eyes of the eight foot bear a recognition flashed across her caterpillar rimmed eyes. “Cub?” Tiny said nothing. Conversation had not been part of his plan. Looking down at her once angelic face, her fraying hem and her worn out shoes, he felt pity rise to claim his heart.

“What you did was wrong; ain’t right to steal from the poor,” the crowd gasped as Goldylocks took back her crowning glory revealing the cold steel of Tiny’s gun. Screams aplenty filled the air. Tables and chairs tumbled amid the broken glasses and spilled drinks as the donkeys fled the stable. Tiny tucked the weapon slowly back into his waistband.

With one huge paw he lifted Goldilocks from the beer soaked stage. “You can’t take her!” Lanky guy yelled across the room. Like a thief running through the deep dark woods he crashed through the remaining drunks. With a last glance at the barkeep he grunted, holding Goldilocks tight against his chest, “Time to call the next act.”

The door swung closed behind them.

The Brotherhood of Dwarves – Book 1 – D.A. Adams

I must admit that when I was offered this book to review I was only too glad to accept. You see, I have this thing about dwarves in fantasy. I really don’t care if the races: orcs, goblins elves and all the others are the same as they are in every other fantasy, it’s what the author does with them that matters. It is in this area that D.A. Adams pulls off a great character driven story. There’s no groundbreaking, genre shattering new ideas just a well-rounded story that leaves you wanting to read more.

The lead character, Roskin, though of noble descent sets out on a gap year to find a fabled statue, so it’s a quest. There are only so many basic story types and this is one of the simplest – so get used to the idea. Too many people are quick to tear new authors apart for their lack of originality, well it was once written ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and that was over 3000 years ago. With that settled I’ll get back to the story, or will I. You see, I’m not one for giving the story away, after all, I’ll see it differently to you as much as you will the next person. So instead, I’ll just say that I found it to be a commendable first novel. The story moves along at a good pace, is filled with background history that adds richness and depth to the story, and gives something to set future stories against. It was long enough to enjoy without ever becoming a hard slog. More words do not make a better story.

I’ll round things off by simply saying that I will go on to read the others in the series in the simple hope that they are at least as enjoyable as this one. Most writers improve with practice, I can only hope that D.A Adams does, that way I will have even better stories to look forward to.

Bitten

The Lone Ranger is knee deep in dirt digging a shallow grave when a rattler bites his manhood.
“Tonto, quickly! You’ve got to suck the poison from the wound or I’ll die Tonto.” The Ranger falls to his knees.
Tonto blinks the dust from his eyes and staggers back. “Tonto go doctor, get help.” The Indian turns tail and runs like a coyote fleeing the coop all the way to the doctor’s door. He arrives, staggers into the waiting room and confronts the ageing doc. “Rattler bite Que no sabe on pee-pee.” He gasps between breaths.
Shaking Tonto roughly by his shoulders the old doc drives home his urgent instruction. “You’ve got to suck the poison from the wound, or Ranger’s a gonner.” Tonto blinks the dust from his eyes and staggers back. He turns tail and flees faster than a priest from a whore’s chamber to his master. Running as fast as his moccasins can carry him, heart pounding like a war drum in his chest Tonto arrives at his stricken friend’s side where he lies recumbent in the shallow grave meant for an outlaw. Staring down through tear filled ears the words of the doctor rang in his ears: suck poison from wound, suck poison from wound.
“What’d he say, Tonto. The doc, what’d he say?” the Ranger coughed.
Tonto knelt beside his beloved friend, cradling the masked man’s head in his hands he said, “Doc he say… you gonna die boss.”

Country Song

It was late in the fall in a southside bar
I’d driven through a squall in a beat up car.
Well I ran across the lot and went inside
My head felt hot and my eyes went wide

There at the bar through the fug and gloom
Shone the brightest light in the whole darn room.
With hair tied back glass held to her chest
Sat the wildest thing come in from the west

Well I sat at the bar and got me a drink
When I caught her eye she he gave me a wink
So I looked around to see if it was me
The next thing I know was her hand on my knee
I coughed and spluttered ‘till I found my voice
One look in those eyes and I had no choice

We started to dance I pulled her to my chest
And the void in between was filled with her breast
Her eyes were pools and her hair smelled pretty
We talked as we danced she was smart and witty

I fell for her and she for me
Our love grew roots like old oak tree
We strung up rope and made us a swing
You should have heard us love birds sing

Well over years we got along fine
Drank a lot of beer and few good wines
We had us some kids, was it two or three
I still got my girl sat on my knee

I look in her eyes from time to time
A swim in those pools is still divine
I take her by the hand, kiss the wine from her lips
Pull her in close to feel the heat of her hips.

Now we are old taking life in our stride
Our love’s still as deep as far as its wide
Our passion’s spoken in soft sighs
She’ still my girl with the pendulum thighs

Tick Tock

This poem was the inspiration to write my first novel: The Rising.

Beware my friends
The passing of time
Tick tock tick tock
You’ll soon be mine

Sweet as honey
Smooth as silk
I’ll drink your blood
Like a mother’s milk

Tick tock tick tock
The rhythmic sound
So soon will you be
Deep underground

A sharp edged knife
That catches the light
A beaded garrotte
Drawn up tight.

Murdered or maimed
Dead and buried
Pipped of your life like
A stone from a cherry

Tick tock tick tock
I’m coming for you
Tick tock tick tock
No ‘how do you do?’

I’ll cut out your heart
Your kidneys and lungs
I’ll dine on your liver
Your eyes and tongue

What fun we’ll have
Alone in your house
I’ll chase you
I’ll catch you
I’ll tear you down
In a river of blood
You’ll slowly drown

Tick tock tick tock
You can’t run away
Tick tock tick tock
The pendulum sways
Left right left right
then suddenly…
STOP
Like oranges and lemons
Chop… chop…
Chop.

The Rising

The Rising