Book review deal

People are reading my work. People are posting reviews to my work. But, most people post their reviews only in one place. Usually that place is goodreads, or LibraryThing. But I want more reviews on Amazon. So, any of you who have already read any of my stuff (short or long, or non-fiction) and haven’t posted reviews on Amazon, here is an easy way to get any (or all) of my fiction that you don’t have and that you’d like and isn’t currently free.

It’s simple:

1. Post a review on Amazon. A copy of your goodreads review is fine. If you want me to really, really love you, copy the review to B & N as well.

2. Contact me here or elsewhere.

3. I’ll send you epub or mobi files.

A lot of my short work doesn’t have any reviews on Amazon at all. A lot of those stories are free on Smashwords. Or, if they’re not, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. Longer work, too, if you want.

Heck, it’s a review-fest!

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Blood & Tears: Coming an ereader near you very soon!




Blood & Tears, book 3 of the Icefire Trilogy is done! Just a proofread and minor edit to be done and then it will be available.

Here is a part of the first scene by way of a teaser:




It was well past midnight when the truck stopped at the gate of Sady’s house. Orsan got out of the seat next to the driver, walked around the side and opened the door for Sady, who let himself down, pulling the sides of his cloak together against the biting wind.

‘Thank you,’ he said to the driver.

‘My pleasure, Proctor. Get some rest. I’ll be back here tomorrow morning, as usual.’

Sady nodded. Thank the heavens for faithful staff.

He walked through the gate, where Orsan exchanged a few words with the young guard Farius. Then across the path flanked by meticulously-clipped bushes, up the steps to the front door.

The night was darker and even more quiet than normal. Low scudding clouds stopped any moonlight reaching the ground, and ever since the bell had rung, the people of the city kept indoors. For the first time in Sady’s memory, the famous street lights of Tiverius remained unlit.

The only light in the hall was the lamp that Lana lit every day after dark and that normally burned all night. By its flickering light, Sady turned to Orsan.

‘Any word from my house guests?’

Orsan shook his head and fixed him with an intense stare. ‘Sady, they can wait until morning. Get Lana to make you some soup and go to bed. I’ll be out at the gate if you need me.’ He gave a customary bow and left.

Sady couldn’t argue with Orsan’s reason. Soup sounded great. Bed even better, although he suspected that once he lay down, sleep would be the last thing that came to him.

After the skirmishes in the refugee camp, he had gone back to his office to deal with the polite unhappiness of the senators, and with the much more rude complaints of the citizens, who told him bluntly that they did not want this southern menace in their city. Mercy, could these people just explain to him what they would have done with all those refugees? Turn the trains around and send the poor wretches back to their ravaged country?

He took his cloak off in the hall, and with it, the stoic façade of strength. He let his shoulders sag and dragged his hands across his stubbled face. He didn’t think he’d ever been so tired in his life.

But even here, in the comfort of his house, he still saw the people on the platform. He saw the stack of bodies. A tangle of arms and legs, coated in indescribable filth. He saw the wretched survivors, with weeping sonorics wounds. He smelled the incredible stench. He saw the angry faces of the refugees in the camp. They only asked to have their dead relatives’ bodies returned to them to observe the proper rituals. They’d been robbed of all dignity, and clung onto what little they had left. But all those bodies would have to be burned to stop contamination. He didn’t look forward to dealing with the aftermath of this necessity. From what he understood, burning your dead amounted to sacrilege in the south; burying them was even worse. It made sense how the southerners left their dead for animals to eat, so that the people could eat the animals in turn. But you just couldn’t do a thing like that in Chevakia’s climate. Not to mention the uproar it would cause to the citizens of Tiverius.

Mercy. How could he possibly solve this?

Bed, Sady, go to bed.

But first, something to eat.

He walked into the kitchen where a single light burned against the back wall. The benches were empty and clean. A bowl of fruit stood in the middle of the table.

‘Hello? Lana?’ He expected to hear a voice from the pantry, I’m in here! Wait a moment. Do you want roccas or some soup?

Now that he came to think of it, he was more than hungry. It could be the reason why he felt so ill. He couldn’t even remember his last meal.

‘Lana?’

The pantry door was closed. The back door into the laundry was closed. The corridor to the servant quarter was dark.
That was strange. Lana was always here. He couldn’t imagine that she had gone to bed; she never did before he was home. But then again, it was very late, and he had told her repeatedly to go to bed if he was late. He was just… disappointed that she seemed to have taken his advice on this night, when he needed to talk to someone calm and sane.

He left the kitchen and knocked on the door to her private room. ‘Lana, I’m back.’ She would want to know; she would worry if he stayed out too long.

There was no reply.

Neither was there a sign of life from anywhere else. Him making this much noise should have brought out Serran, because he was responsible for the grounds, or the young Merni, because she was a gossip, and would make sure that she didn’t miss anything.

Where was everyone?

Sady walked into the dark living room, feeling stupid. Here he was, the great leader of the country, and he was unnerved by being alone. Unnerved by feeling so strange in his own house.

The living room window looked out onto the courtyard, where he could only see a stone bench lit by a lantern on the patio, a little island of light in the dark. There was a statue in the middle of the yard, of Eseldus han Chevonian, one of his great forefathers. Today, Eseldus was only a dark silhouette.

The windows in the guest wing to the right hand side of the courtyard were dark. The surgeons must have already gone home. He was relieved about that; Sady had no desire to become more intimately acquainted with women’s business than absolutely necessary.

He could still see the woman’s bruised and red-blotched abdomen. The thought made him shiver. He hoped she survived. He hoped the child survived. That would be one point of light in this misery. Mercy, he’d never thought that this was the way his house would ever see a baby.

He went back to the kitchen and scouted for some food, cringing at every noise he made. The clank of a plate on the stone bench, the rummaging in the cutlery, the rumble of pouring coal into the stove, the hiss of the flame under the kettle, it all sounded incredibly loud. He found some bread and a bit of goat’s cheese, which crumbled all over the bench when he cut it up into clumsy, too-thick slices.

He sat down and ate, listening to the silence of the house.

And the sounds of the day. The ringing of the bell. The yelling of the men in the camp. He didn’t understand their language, but he could feel the despair and anger in their words. It brought back many bad memories of his youth. Hundreds of people crammed into a cellar for days without food. The stink of too many bodies in a confined space. There had been that boy, a bit older than himself at the time, who projectile-vomited on those around him.

Sady could still smell it. He could still see the mother’s embarrassment, her despair. Her son was seriously ill with sonorics, and yet her immediate concern was the irritation of the people around her.

Sady could still hear her, and the boy’s muffled cries. And the ringing of the bell. He would never forget that. And today, the bell had rung again, after more than ten years of silence.

Somewhere in his mind, he registered that the water was boiling and probably had been for a while. Now, where did Lana put the teapot?

As he pushed up from the seat, there was an enormous crash at the back of the house, and the breaking of glass.

Open letter to ebook sellers: please vet your site’s covers

Anyone who knows my writing will know that I never shy away from writing a sex scene. I do use the ‘closed door’ cop-out on a rare occasion, but in the majority of cases, I do not. Neither do I have any problem with reading books with high sexual content. I prefer to read books where sex is peripheral, and not the point of the story, but there are horses for courses.

But.

I’m getting very annoyed at the intrusion of overtly sexual images as book covers displayed on ebook sites. For example, go to the Kobo site, click Epic Fantasy, bestsellers (I’ve done it here for you ETA: the link does not appear to be working in the same way for everyone, maybe because of locality-sensitive algorithms. In any case, this image features a naked woman viewed butt-on). Look at what is today (18 March) at number seven. Urgh. Just seriously, urgh. What is this sort of tasteless smut stuff doing on a site where unsuspecting browsing readers stumble across it. Seriously, if I want images of naked people, I go to sites where they are displayed.

It comes down to this:

When my mother asks me where she can see my books, I am embarrassed to send her to a site where the image next to my book could be something like this.

When I’m randomly browsing for stuff to read, I cannot do this while the family can see the screen.

When I was at Authonomy, book covers would have to be approved prior to being displayed. Why can’t ebook sellers do this so as to keep overtly sexual images off the parts of their sites that come up in general searches?

I do not want to see this stuff when I’m casually browsing.
I do not want my kids to see this stuff when casually browsing.
I do not want this stuff next to my books.

If these were movies, they’d be rated R 18+. Fine. That’s where they belong. Please vet your covers and keep the smutty images in a separate section.

No love,

Me.

Progress

After I posted the proposed cover yesterday, several people commented that they thought the image was rather dark. I know this varies a lot on screen, so I tried a brighter image. I was going to for backlit effect, but I guess that didn’t work as well as I hoped. Anyway, here is another try. Personally, I think it’s a bit too bright, but maybe I just need to turn down the monitor.

In further progress reports, I can announce that finishing a trilogy is definitely harder than starting one. I wrote the bulk of book 1 of the Icefire trilogy in five weeks. I didn’t do anything with it for two years afterwards, but that’s another story. Book 2 was easy, because I already knew what needed to happen and, more importantly, how it needed to happen. Book 3 is a lot harder, because all the seeds I’ve thrown out in earlier books need to come to fruition, and need to do so in a way that makes sense, and that results in a flowing storyline that builds tension at the right places. I knew what needed to happen, I sort-of knew how it would happen, but I didn’t know how or when. To top it off, the three storylines operate on an entirely different level, from very personal to very broad.

But I have arrived at chapter 28 and have a few chapters to go before I can say THE END. They are important chapters, and won’t be done in a hurry. That said, I have everyone where I want them, and I have even managed to get the love affair in.

When I get to the end, there will be some edits at chapter-level and then liner edits. By that time it should be good to go.

The Far Horizon will leap into print (soon)

One of the huge advantages of the self-publishing road is that you don’t have to do everything at once, and you can experiment with things, and change them as needed.

In that vein, I’ve held off making much fuss of getting print copies for any of my books. But I’ve heard many people doing the Createspace thing, and one of the prime books for this would be my kids book, because kids are not known to be heavy ereader users.

Problem was, some of the images used to make the cover for The Far Horizon are too low-res to be scalable to the resolution required for print. So I needed to start over with that one. Over the past months, I’ve been thinking about this, and gathering stuff I could possibly use.

The feel I need the cover to convey is: it’s a book for kids, it’s science fiction, it takes place in a space station, it involves action, kiddie naughtiness and running around in prohibited places.

Much fiddling with character files and settings later, I have arrived at the image below, shown in large and smaller format. I quite like the result, but remain open for improvements in the future. Which is the aforementioned great thing about ebooks and POD.


Now for something entirely different

OK, so neither of those two images I posted yesterday work. People seem to prefer the old image, which is the current cover, but it’s a poor image and I want to change it, so I’ve tossed both concepts and am trying something completely new.

People like having a character on the cover image, so I made up a character file for Hadie. She will return in later stories anyway.

The image is kinda physically impossible. When you’re on the surface of Titan, all you can see is an orange murk, but never mind. Reality is for whimps and wusses, and an image of just the girl with the light could make people think that it’s an inspirational/religiuos story, so I needed the space element. Also: a murky orange background is boring.

I also took another approach to the title.

The really cool thing about ebooks is that you can muck around with covers as much as you like. I guess you can do this with the text itself, too, but I have not done that yet.

Which picture do you prefer?












Which image design do you like better, the left or the right?

The image on the right is one of the very first ones I made in Photoshop. It came together by accident while I was mucking around with the program. I’ve since seen that every writer and their dog (or rather, their cats) uses NASA images featuring the disk of a moon or planet. You wouldn’t believe how many covers there are with full orbs of the Moon, Mars or Earth. So even if I keep that idea, I have no option but to do something different with it.

Dust & Rain – Icefire Trilogy book 2

The saga continues…

Fifteen years ago, a brilliant scientist built a barrier against the dangerous power that radiates from the City of Glass in the southern land, allowing the citizens of Chevakia to live without fear of their lives. Since then, the democracy of Chevakia has prospered, with free-thinking scientists developing steam power and the beginnings of electricity.

But the power, which they call sonorics, controls the weather in Chevakia.

Senator Sadorius han Chevonian is the country’s chief meteorologist. While taking measurements for his job, he is the first to notice a rapid rise of sonorics levels out-of-season. The senate is locked in trivial debate, and to make them listen, he has to take a step he never thought to make.

After the huge explosion of the machine they call the Heart of the City, Loriane has fled the southern land with the sorcerer Tandor, who hovers in and out of consciousness. But while Tandor isn’t speaking, she cannot confirm her fears that he caused the explosion, and that the child she carries has something to do with his twisted plans to seize power from the Eagle Knights who rule the City of Glass.

Just before the explosion, southern queen Jevaithi fled into Chevakia with her young lover Isandor. While they think they’re free of the tyranny of the Eagle Knights, it soon becomes clear something very bad has happened in the City of Glass soon after their escape. Something so bad that it sends waves of sonorics into Chevakia, causing even the Chevakians to flee.

Several streams of refugees are heading for the Chevakian capital. Southerners by train, Chevakians by road, into a city that is tragically unprepared, a country in turmoil with a leader whose support hangs by the merest thread.

Available on:

Amazon
Smashwords

But I would love you to bits if you’d buy it from my site.

Read the first chapter below:

Dust & Rain, Icefire Trilogy book 2, Chapter 1

Sadorius han Chevonian dropped the pile of barygraph read-outs on his desk. Pages and pages of plotted squiggly lines slid over the wooden surface.
On top was a different sheet with a hand-drawn graph, a red line which jumped up sharply towards the right hand side of the page. He picked up that sheet, shook his head and frowned at the young man who had brought him these data.
‘Up by this much?’
His new student, Vikius han Marossi, nodded. Silver embroidery glittered on the young man’s white tunic, showing the insignia of the Chevakian doga, the government assembly.
The young man had left the door open and sounds of voices drifted in from the hall, mixed with the slapping of sandals on stone. A breeze carried the tang of summer that ruffled the curtains and nudged at the lingering chill in the room, a hint of the fury of hot weather to come. As chief meteorologist, Sady knew all about the weather; he could feel summer in his bones. And yet…
He looked at the graph, as if staring at it would change that ominous red line, and shook his head again.
‘What happened? When I checked a few days ago, sonorics levels were at three motes per cube, but now they’ve at twelve?’ Three was normal for this time of the year; twelve was slightly above the highest average level in the middle of winter. He wiped sweat from his upper lip, re-checking figures in the table on the second page, in the idle hope that the attendant of the met station who had plotted the graph had mis-read. He hadn’t.
‘It looks like we’re in for an interesting summer.’ Sonorics dictated the weather patterns across Chevakia. Sonorics, the deadly rays that came from the southern land, an ice-covered plateau so mysterious that it didn’t have a name.
‘I’m not sure I would call it interesting. I find it frightening.’ Viki’s tone was timid. He held his hands clasped behind his back and stared intently at the desk.
‘Viki, straighten your back and look up.’
The young man did as Sady told him, a startled expression on his face. Mercy, since when did the Scriptorium send him jackrabbits for students?
‘Imagine you’re making an important announcement to the doga. They’re not going to listen to you if you mumble, and they won’t take you seriously if you slouch.’
‘Uhm–I’m sorry, Senator.’
‘Viki, if ever you’re going to be chief meteorologist, you will need to show more confidence. How else are you going to argue against selfish senators that no, their district isn’t going to get an allocation of maize production, because the air current predictions are wrong and the harvest will certainly fail? ‘
‘Uhm…’ Viki went red in the face and went back to staring at the desk.
‘Stand up! Look me in the eye. Tell me what you’d say to them if you were in this situation.’
The young man straightened again, his eyes wide. ‘Uhm–I’d say that they were wrong asking for the allocation, Senator. I’d tell them about our high sonorics measurements and that they predict unseasonally cold weather in the south which means much less rain in the north. I’d show them the maps and show them how I calculated–‘
‘No, no, Viki.’
The student gave Sady a startled look. ‘But I have to–‘
‘You should always keep it simple. Don’t explain to them how you calculated the prediction. That not only bores them to tears, but it shows that you feel the need to justify yourself because you’re not sure of your calculations.’
‘But–‘
‘Confidence, Viki. You’ll need confidence in your work or the farmers and the districts will howl you down, especially those in the North. They seem to think that the sheer act of predicting is going to make it happen.’
‘But you can only predict rain when the circumstances indicate that there will be rain.’
‘Exactly, but do you think they care? Rain is money to them. If I predict rain, the doga gives them money to plant crops, simple as that. Then of course, there is no rain, the harvest fails and the meteorologist gets the blame.’
‘But that’s…’ Viki’s eyes were wide.
‘That’s how things go if you’re not careful.’ Sady sighed and shuffled the papers on his desk. He felt no patience with his student today. Those data were really too worrisome to ignore. ‘Have you looked at any other border stations?’
Viki pushed another bundle of papers across the table; his hands trembled.
Sady leafed through the graphs. Same results. Automated barygraphs were all recording low pressure, and the manual measurements taken by faithful meteorology staff in the stations reported high humidity, low temperatures and out-of-season increases in sonorics. Not just one station, but Ensar, Fairlight, Mekta, all of them reporting levels of twelve, thirteen, even fourteen motes per cube.
Mercy, what was going on?
‘Senator, begging your permission… I made this.’ Viki put a roll of paper on the desk. Sady frowned and unrolled it: a map, showing isobars across the country.
It was a neat piece of work, impressively detailed. He gave Viki an appreciative look. ‘Now that is what I call initiative. That’s what I’d like to see more.’
The young man blushed.
Sady moved some papers aside and spread the map out over the table. Wavy lines ran parallel to the escarpment that formed the border with the southern plateau, a pattern that sometimes occurred in mid-winter, but even then the pressure lines were usually less crowded. There was a huge low pressure system building up.
Sady met the student’s eyes.
‘Any idea what it means?’
‘Uhm…’ The young man’s cheeks went red.
Sady sighed. ‘Viki, this is not a trick question. I don’t know either. Nothing like this has happened before. This is not a seasonal pattern. At this time of the year, we’d expect the low pressure systems to retreat to the far south and the air flow to swing around to the north.’
The young man looked up, his lips forming the letter o. ‘Well, in that case, I was thinking… I mean… Low pressure is usually associated with a rise in sonorics, because sonorics tends to increase the air humidity.’
‘Yes, but why?’
Viki hesitated. ‘What if… if the people in the City of Glass were releasing sonorics deliberately… Could they, if they wanted to?’
Sady shrugged, uncomfortable. They knew so little of the workings of the southern land and the source of its deadly rays that influenced far too much of Chevakia’s weather. Some sort of machine, the classic works said, somewhere under the City of Glass. No one knew if this supposed machine was a physical thing or a myth. Sady wasn’t sure the southerners themselves knew what it was. Then, fifteen years ago, after the border wars, the barriers went up and no one travelled to the south anymore. Right now, he certainly didn’t want to worry about whether southerners could manipulate it, although the thought chilled him. Sonorics were deadly to Chevakians.
‘Viki, I want you to give the Most Learned Alius the message that I wish to see him.’ Sady didn’t really expect much help from an academic who did not share his practical experience, but his old tutor had made an extensive study of sonorics and was without a doubt Chevakia’s most knowledgeable on the subject.
‘Certainly, Senator.’ Viki bowed and left the room at a trot.
Sady grimaced. Really? Am I that frightening? I must be getting old.
He shook his head. No need to worry too much over this student. After his traineeship, Viki would probably choose to move on in favour for a career in academia, or so Sady hoped, because the youngster really hadn’t the aptitude for a life as doga meteorologist.
Sady rose and went to the window.
Laid out before him in perfect geometric patterns, the splendour of Tiverius spread towards the horizon. Rows terracotta roofs basked in the sun. Perfect straight streets, stone buildings with columns. Trees bloomed along the roadsides, even numbers on both sides. Down in the courtyard, a man with a water truck was watering the flowers in the planter boxes.
A warm breeze stirred the curtains. A few moon cycles, and it would be mid-summer. Not at all the time high sonoric levels usually happened.
Sonorics levels wouldn’t need to rise that much before they caused trouble. At twenty motes, it would taint the harvest, at thirty, set off the first alarms, and affect exports to Arania. Chevakia couldn’t afford not to harvest in the southern border provinces. The northern region was too dry to produce much more than camels and the occasional crop of maize.
He didn’t want to start panic, but… why now? Why at the start of summer, when the annual cycle should be approaching its lowest level.
Back to his desk, where he pulled out a writing pad. He scrawled on the top page, Authorise dispensaries to start stocking salt tablets for general public use. Authorise protective suits to be taken out of storage and sent to border regions.
This he took to his secretary in the next room, who took the note, looked at it and met Sady’s eyes in a wide-eyed look.
The expression of worry cut Sady deeply. He only vaguely remembered the time of uncertainty before the barriers went up, but he had heard the tales told by older folk. The young man would have seen the barygraph readouts this morning. He would have heard the tales, too.
‘Just to make sure,’ Sady said, hoping he exuded a confidence he didn’t feel. A confidence that, following such a rapid rise, the levels wouldn’t hit twenty motes per cube and trigger the lowest-level warning.
The man nodded, but similarly didn’t look convinced.
Not good. Not good at all.

This Peaceful State of War – now as ebook

The good folks at WOTF have OK’d me to produce an ebook version of my winning story.

Here is the first scene:

“Ash,” Brother Copernicus says.
I rub the substance between the thumb and fingers of my gloves. It’s fine and powdery, and white, unbelievably white.
A thick layer of it covers the field of tree stumps and broken branches, all the way to the wall of rain forest in the distance. Heat shimmers above the brilliant surface.
Yesterday, when arriving from Solaris Station, I saw these tracks from space. They looked like scars, as if a deranged soul has taken a knife to the planet, cutting scores in the cover of forest.
“The Hern burnt these tracks wherever they destroyed the Pari villages.” There is raw hatred in Brother Copernicus’ voice, even when filtered through his rebreather mask. “They stacked up the debris from the houses and the bodies and burnt the lot. Always at night, so we wouldn’t notice.”
I let the powder trickle from my glove, fighting the impulse to rub my hand on my protective robe. I can’t. The action of rubbing might trigger a spark that will lead to all sorts of trouble in this high-oxygen atmosphere. Those warnings played in the cabin of the landing craft have etched themselves in my mind.
“Why is it so white? Has anyone analyzed this?” The color intrigues me, and I wonder why the ground underneath the patch where I’ve picked up the powder is moist and cool.
“I’m sure someone has. Is that important? It’s ash, Envoy, human ash.” Brother Copernicus brandishes the word human like a sword, challenging anyone who dares to disagree. “You’re standing on the biggest murder site in all of humanity.”

Available:

Amazon

Smashwords