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New Book

I have definitely embarked on a new book - "Master and Slave - Book 1 of The World of Grimm Dragonblaster". This gives the background of General Quelgrum from his serf beginnings to when he first meets Grimm in "Questor".

I will be posting the chapters on

New book under way

I am starting a new occasional series called The World of Grimm Dragonblaster. I have started to write the first book, Lord of Slaves. This features Jamie Fey, a "weird-slave" in the house of warlord Lord Valour.

After meeting a strange new slave, Thomas Reynolds, who doesn't act like other slaves, Jamie begins to question the world in which he has grown up.

In time, Jamie will become Prelate Jamie Tyrant-hammer, Prelate of Arnor House at the founding of the Guild. I want to contrast the laudable original aims and laws of the Guild compared with those of Grimm's day.

Straight in at Number One!

"Resolution - Book 7 of the Chronicles of Grimm Dragonblaster" is the #1 bestseller at Whiskey Creek Press in its first month of release!

Unfortunately, the first review on Amazon is a 1-starrer because the reader found a passage out of sequence - just what I was worried would happen. However, the good folk at WCP are rallying round to fix it post-haste.

Book 7 out tomorrow!

Well, after a mad panic rush by Melanie (my editor), Marsha (the Chief Editor) and me, Book 7 is being uploaded today for publication tomorrow on Whiskey Creek Press's website ( in time for their exact 10th anniversary! It will be available on Amazon and in Barnes & Noble a couple of days later.

There were a couple of tricky bits - there were bound to be with all the rehashing and reordering I did - but it all hangs together now, and I'm happy with it now.

I hope you are too. 

Book 7 at the editing stage

My editor, Melanie, has carried out the first of several rounds of edits on Resolution. As I feared. although the spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) issues were minor, there were a fair few artefacts left over from the massive chainsaw attack I made on the manuscript when I rebooted it. Mostly, it was events happening out of sequence. 

I believe I have fixed these with two large "insert sections" that should sort the problems out. So al systems are still "Go" for March 1.

I have started on the Mage in the Making rewrite and it's going pretty smoothly. I haven't put any of the brand-new chapters in yet, but they should come easily - after all, I'm in the rare and unaccustomed position of actually knowing what's going to happen next! 

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers!

Season's Greetings! Happy Holidays! Feliz Natividad! Joyeux Noël!

However you like to be greeted at this time of year, I wish you the happiest ending possible to 2012 and an exciting , happy and prosperous New Year.

2012 has been a serious challenge for me. I have been working for most of my time in China, and it's been very difficult to juggle home life, work life and Grimm-time. I am happy that I managed to finish RESOLUTION, and I'm pleased with the result.

My first literary task in the New Year will be the Second Edition of A MAGE IN THE MAKING. This will not be a mere super-edit but a substantially changed volume incorporating all the skills and tricks of writing I have gained over the last few years. There will be more background, new scenes, more insight into the principals' inmost drives and desires.

New Guild politics, new machination, new school activities for Grimm... It's going to take into account all the criticism I have had from a couple of reviewers, and build on the aspects for which I have been praised by others. It should not take long to write, as I will be clear on all the main plot points from the get-go.

There will also be a Second Edition of WEAPON OF THE GUILD, perhaps later in the year.

So there will be no chance of me getting rusty with the writing! 

Release date for Book 7

I have been given a formal date for publication of RESOLUTION:BOOK 7 OF THE CHRONICLES OF GRIMM DRAGONBLASTER - March 1st, 2013. My publishers want to prepare the way for it and do something to promote it.

I am working with a new cover artist, Gemini Judson, and we're pushing ideas round at the moment. I am also putting the book on a diet and exercise regimen - what I'm calling a "strip-audit". Basically, I'm looking for any flab in the prose and am performing literary liposuction on it. It's surprising how many unnecessary words there are in a long manuscript, and I think the prose is benefitting from it. 

And Books 1 and 2 are in the Top 5 at Whiskey Creek Press for the second month in a row... good omens for "Resolution", I hope.


Book 7 completed!

After many frustrations, false starts, dead ends and barren patches lacking inspiration, I finally wrote the 116,777th word of "Resolution - Book 7 of The Chronicles of Grimm Dragonblaster", and am calling it a wrap.

Now the hard work begins: editing... lots of editing! 

Whiskey Creek Press are aiming for a New Year's Day release, and they say they want to make the release somethings special.

Last half a chapter...

111,745 words out of a permitted 100k (although I've been permitted an exemption kindly by my publishers). Half way through the very last chapter of the book (although not the final one after which the portentous words "THE END" come - the ending is already written). I hope to finish tomorrow afternoon and submit to Whiskey Creek Press by early evening.

All of the book is a surprise to me, as I hope it will be to my readers. I am only sorry that it has been so long coming. Alas, things rarely work to schedule when you're a character-driven writer.

My next project will probably be a second edition of "A Mage in the Making", as writing this series has taught me a lot about writing. Expect the second edition to be fatter and with more about Grimm's school life and also about the various machinations of High Lodge and Lizaveta. This should not take me long, as the main plot points of the book are already in place.

After that... I'd quite like a book about the young Loras, starting with his staff rebounding from the Breaking Stone at Arnor. I can actually use some stuff I ended up not using in the current book.

Thank you so much to all the people who have so kindly supported this series. The final book in the heptology will be dedicated to you.

98,220 words now...

Getting there... slowly, I'll admit, but surely.

Sales must be picking up!

I just took a look at (my publishers' website) and Books 1 and 2 are the #2 and #3 bestsellers for June! I haven't been in the charts for a couple of years, so this is heartening... looks like new readers! Thanks for reading, all.

Book 7 is over 96,000 words now.


All systems go

I have now begun work at Global Invacom Ltd and I couldn't be happier. They're a good bunch of people making high-tech products and I feel as if I really fit in there.

Although the first week was a little hectic, it hasn't choked off my Grimm work. I've now pushed over 95,000 words, and have felt the need to add an important new character. However, the character seems a natural introduction to the tale, and he does bring the story forward. He will certainly be figuring in future books.

So we're still running, and all systems are GO!

Chugging on

Well, it's been "interesting" of late, having been laid off from my previous company after only eight months. Therefore, much of my time has been spent trying to secure gainful employment.

However, I do now have another permanent job lined up, and it's a great opportunity. I can't wait to start on June 11!

The momentum has slowed in the last few weeks of frequent interviews, but it hasn't stopped. I'm now just over 93,000 words (I'm now suspecting I may go a tad over the nominal 100k limit, but my publishers have OK'd that. I'm still on course to finish in the next few weeks. The book title has now morphed from "Redemption" to "Resolution", which I think chimes well on several levels.

I have been told that there's no chance it will be published this year (Whiskey Creek Press, I'm pleased to say, are booked solid to the end of 2012. However, I have been given a tentative release date of January 1, 2013, and Steven Womack, the Senior Partner at Whiskey Creek, has said he'd like to do some pre-release promotion for the book, so please watch out for that. 

Onward and upwards - EXCELSIOR!

89,200 words!

Well, my renaissance continues, and I still know what's going to happen next! Mirabile dictu!

Less than 11,000 words to write - say two chapters.

By this time tomorrow, High Lodge should be in flames, Drex should be in alliance with Guy Great Flame, Dalquist and Xylox will understand each other a little better and Grimm should be morosely trudging into a deadly trap.

Best of all, all these ocurrences are connected. Interesting times indeed.

Still going strong!

85,640 words written out of approx 100,000. I now have all the chapter titles in place, and I know what goes in each.

By end of play tomorrow, I hope to be up to at least 90,000. That should mean I can get the first draft of the book finished by Tuesday p.m.

I have been given a provisional (not yet confirmed) release date of January, 2013 for "Resolution".  Four and a half years in the writing... yet I wrote the first six in less time!

In retrospect, after this, I think best my advice to a first time writer would be: "Don't start off with a series"! 

Once "Resolution" is complete, I think I shall start on some stand-alone character books... I think Crohn or Doorkeeper will be the first.

80,000 words and counting!

Many thanks to my invaluable and ever-helpful editor, Melanie, for giving me the inspiration to fill in the very last plot hole on Book 7!

Since my Eureka moment on Saturday, I have felt inspired to write each day. I wrote a whole new chapter yesterday for the first time in about three years, and I think I have all I need to do to repeat the feat today.

Assuming that's the case, I need to retrospectively add some detail to an existing chapter, and write an estimated four more. As I know pretty much what will be in those chapters, I could have the whole thing wrapped up by the end of Sunday.

After many frustrations, false dawns and aborted dead-end approaches, this is quite definitely it!  

Last hurdle cleared

Well, I was getting nowhere at all. I was writing bits and pieces, hoping that the gaping plot hole in the middle of Book 7 would heal itself. I had outlined the problem to my editor, Melanie, and friends, family and anyone else who would listen.

 Haven written the climax of the book, I was pretty sure I could bring it about just by letting the writing flow... but I couldn't. I needed Grimm to be somewhere and everybody else to be somewhere else, and every time I thought about it, I couldn't find a sensible, rational, intentional mechanism that led to the climax. Every path I could see relied on coincidence, deus ex machina, dumb bad luck (that is, blinding good luck for the antagonist).

I wanted a cunning plot by the antagonist to absolutely assure the outcome, but the way I'd written it precluded that.

Yesterday, very possibly for the nth time, or maybe the n+1th (where n is defined as "quite a big positve integer, really") I was emailing my sister (who, I'm delighted to say, is just starting to write her first novel) with the outline of the problem.

I don't know what was different about yesterday, compared to all the other times I've trotted out the précis of this literary incubus, but it suddenly came to me. It needed a bit of a rewrite, and some rejigging of the order of events, but it worked and it was sensible. A random bit of misfortune had turned into a cunning, prearranged ploy.

I started to do the repair job last night and will hopefully complete it tonight. By the time I had finished yesterday, the novel was 5,000 words lighter at 75,480 words. However, this now gives me all the headroom I need to write the linking passages to stitch it all together, and write the ending.

I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and with any luck it isn't an oncoming train.  

End in sight... I hope

I've started writing again and believe I have a way forward with Book 7. 70k words in, I have the climax written, and there's just two little plot points to figure out; then, I think, I'll have it. I am going to bust a gut to try to get the book finished one way or the other by the end of April.

To all those who have been asking after the book, thank you for your patience. To all those who have sent complimentary words, thank you.

After Book 7, there will be other Grimm books, but stand-alone ones rather than series. I also want to write back-stories for some of the other main characters.

Drinking from a fire hose...

Well, it's been a pretty hectic last year! I'm beginning to get the hang of my job after some swift and radical changes, and starting to get into a routine. The last two years have been like drinking from a flat-out fire hose... 

The early mornings are a bit of a chore, as I haven't yet got into the habit of early nights to make up for them.

Grimm 7 is progressing slowly - very slowly, but it is progressing in little bits that I hope to be able to stitch together. I'm happy with the ending - very happy - and that gives me something to aim for.

I've done about 67,000 words, which I believe now is some way past half-way.

I am owed some holiday (for my American friends, that's Britese for "vacation time"), and I'm taking a week in mid-February. I hope to be able to use this to pretty much finish the book.

Thanks to everyone who's stuck with the series, and I can only apologise for all these delays. Alas, while I'd rather be Grimming full-time, I still have to pay heed to the more mundane matters of keeping a roof over my head and food on the table... Goshdarn such lowly trivia! Goshdarn it to Heck! Heck, I tell ya!

Book 7 update

There's a famous Chinese curse that saays, "May you live in interesting times". I think I understand it fully now; this year has certainly been interesting.

January to May - wall-to-wall work. Long hours, frequent trips to Chicago and Boston, presure, reports, meetings... hectic!

April; Redundancies announced. Engineering and certification going to Barcelona, manufacturing going 300 miles up to the north of England. I'm offered a job as a Certification Engineer at Barcelona, but it's a step down and certainly nowhere near the wage I was on.

I was last in a redundancy situation during a recession in the mid-eighties, and all I can say is: a lot has changed! No more handwritten letters, stacks of envelopes, sore tongue from licking stamps: the Web has certainly revolutionised job searching. I made a resolution  to apply for at least two jobs a day, and I was able to do so. Also unlike the last recession I was caught in, there do seem to be jobs around now.

April-June - if I'd been working "hard" before, I was working "diamond" now, trying to crystallise 11 years of work so someone else could take over from me. Interspersed in the panic and chaos were three job interviews, and the third one did the trick. A job starting at the beginning of July, for slightly more money, in a job sector I wanted to get into.

June 30: Redundancy Day. I didn't get everything done, but what the hey? At least I managed to list what needed doing.

July 1: A day of freedom. 11 years' redundancy. 24 days' holiday pay. A month's wages. I was flush for the first time in a long time. As my morning commute was going from 20 minutes to an hour, I bought a new car, a diesel, to up my MPG. It would mean getting up at 5 in the morning as well, since my route was mostly on the M1 southbound and the M25 anti-clockwise towards Heathrow Airport: two of the worst roads in England.

July 4 to date: Work, Jim, but not as we know it. I actually have time to write reports and prepare for meetings, and I'm actually getting stuff done. The morning traffic's not too bad in the early a.m., and the site opens at 7:00 anyway. Since the company operates a semi-flexitime policy, I can start at 7 a.m. and finish at 3:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 3:30 on a Friday. And nobody looks sideways at you if you leave on time, either. So I think I can say I'm enjoying it.

And these early finishes are giving me the opportunity to write again.  I'm 50,000 words into Book 7 and looking to finish it. Being slightly stuck at the 50k point, I've decided to write the book climax to the end, and that's going pretty well. I like what I'm seeing.

So apologies for not giving updates more regularly, but after a nightmare year, I am now writing again. I am aiming for a November-December, 2011 release.





Happy New Year to all!

Well, the last day of 2010 sees my books at #1, #6 and #7 bestsellers at Whiskey Creek Press. I'm now 11 chapters into Book 7 and looking forward to finishing in February.

Thanks to all those who have bought or downloaded my books (except for the pirates), and I hope you all had a marvellous Christmas and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!


It's the beginning of a new month...

Book 1 is the #1 Whiskey Creek Press bestseller for October 2010. My books are also #2, #5, #6, #7 and #10.

I'm beginning to feel guilty about this monopoly of the bestseller list!

#1 again...

"Questor" is #1 at Whiskey Creek Press for September, and "A Mage in the Making" is #6. Up to 5 chapters of Book 7 on now, so perhaps 1/5 of the way through.

Book 7 now in progress

I have started putting Book 7 chapters on under my old handle Big Al. I'm pleased to say, they're receiving good reviews.

If you're interested, you can see the book as it evolves there.

Book 7... some progress now!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got a lot of the way through Book 7 (provisionally entitled "Redemption"), only to toss it in the bin when I felt it wasn't going anywhere. Since then, I must have typed 50,000 more words, only to trash them.

However, after countless false starts, and a lot of encouragement with quite a bit of kicking from my publishers, Whiskey Creek Press, I sat down and started to think hard rather than typing blind.

I reasoned that for a 100,000-word book, I would need about 22 chapters of my habitual 4,500-word length. So I started to type out 22 chapter headings with brief synopses - something I've never done before. It was then that I realised that the new ideas I'd had rejected (because the beginning didn't seem to lead to anything, and the imagined ending didn't seem to come from anywhere)  could, with a little tweaking, very neatly bookend the 72,000 words of pointless fluff I'd tossed in the proverbial bin. They gave the concepts a reason, a background and a resolution - in other words, the making of a full-sized book.

I'm still not out of the woods - there needs to be a considerable amount of revamping and segueing-in - but I am a lot happier now and believe I can do this thing.

It feels good!

It's July 1...

My first book is No. 1 at Whiskey Creek Press again... and others are at nos. 4, and 7, and 9!

To those patient and kind people waiting for Book 7, apologies again. Work is a monster at the moment (and has been for over a year. I would love to be able to spend all my time Grimming, but I do need to finance it with a day job (proverbially, I'd be foolish to give it up!) 

So I plug away...

...and use a lot of ellipses!


Number One on Whiskey Creek Press and Fictionwise Fantasy!

Three years and still going strong! "A Mage in the Making" is the #1 bestseller for Whiskey Creek Press once more, and for the second time is #1 in Fantasy at Two of the other books are in the WCP top ten, and all six are in the top 20 on Fictionwise!

It's 2010!

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to everyone!

Book 7 progress

I have had a few inquiries now about Book 7, working title: "Redemption".

This time last year, I thought I was comfortably on course for a November, 2009 release. I had something around 85,000 words, 3/4 of the way towards a good-length novel. However, 'round about April, two things happened:

  • I realised the story I had been writing was going around and around, not getting anywhere
  • My workload increased dramatically

Initially, I tried to patch up what I had of Book 7, but I soon lacked the free time to work on it.

Now, in late December, 2009, the situation is as follows:

  • I have a new beginning for the novel, which, I believe, sets up a pretty exciting showdown
  • In developing the plot, I am seeing how I can work into the new structure the best of the work I had already written
  • After faffing around for ages, I now have a solid first couple of chapters which form a good basis on which to build

I am currently hoping for a release by the summer, but will update this blog as I go along. Since I already have a mass of unused material on which I can call, my estimate may be on the pessimistic side: I hope so.

To everyone who has expressed an interest, thank you for reading, and watch this space! 

Whiskey Shots Vol. 4 at 99 cents!

My pair of short stories, "Frozen Stiff" and "The Last Laugh", sold under the compilation, "Whiskey Shots Vol. 4" will be selling for 99 cents throughout January.

Characters 1: Character References

A work of fiction may have breathtaking descriptions of great, rolling vistas and a plot more cunning than Past Masters Night at the Guild of Super-Spies. The narrative may be so devoid of fluff and redundancy that it is held up by eminent professors of English as the ultimate model of crisp, efficient literature.  Perhaps your droll, inventive, downright-hilarious asides make Thurber and Wodehouse seem like Creative Writing 101 drop-outs in comparison.

However, narrative is fine as far as it goes, but it is limited pretty much to the single sense of sight. Human beings have at least five senses, and emotions to boot. If your book is truly to immerse the reader, they need someone to sample the world’s delights for him or her, and to pass it on to them undiluted. The world you have created is likely to need inhabitants or characters to act as a reader’s avatars in your fictional world.

Effective characters don’t have to be human – you did cry when Hazel died, didn’t you? – but they do need to have something in common with your presumably human target audience. Do most rabbits’ demises have that effect on you? Is it possible that the Watership Down rabbits were a little more human than most real rabbits? That was an artistic choice by the author, Richard Adams, so he could avoid having to use the dry Omniscient Point Of View (of which more in a later post) and involve his readers directly. The same trick was pulled by Richard Bach in the 1960s hit hippie novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

It’s hard to see a book describing the real behaviour of either real-world rabbits or seagulls catching on, let alone becoming bestsellers. But by adding some senses, emotion, dialogue and struggle, the reader becomes involved to some extent.

But of course, I’m preaching to the choir. Of course your novel has characters; interesting ones with fascinating back-stories and roles, I’ll be bound.

However, characters involve far more effort than many first-time authors would believe. Among the most common reasons for rejection letters are failing either to develop characters or to make the reader care what happened to them.  I will touch on fleshing out characters and developing them in more detail later on, but the more common failings would seem to be:

·         It is difficult to ‘get to know’ the character due to lack of specific characteristics. What do they look like? What do they like? Who are their friends?

·         The character is perfect in every way – boring! The protagonist’s evil nemesis is far more interesting

·         The action is only expressed in description, or at best what the characters see and hear. There’s no smell, touch, taste, thought or emotion

·         Any emotion is only handled by adverbs in dialogue tags (e.g., ‘”Get out!” he said angrily’), instead of expressed by actions (‘He balled his fists until the knuckles turned the colour of ivory. He hissed through clenched teeth, “Get out!”’)

·         The characters are all similar: you know the next good guy will be perfectly saintly, and a bad guy must be irredeemably evil

·         The characters never learn from mistakes, or they never make them. They never suffer from self-doubt, indecision or frustration

·         The characters never eat, drink, sleep or do anything other than their day job

Mage in the Making is #1 again!

"A Mage in the Making" is the Whiskey Creek Press #1 Bestseller for December 2009, as it was in June 2007, July 2007 and September 2007!

"The Dark Priory" is #4 and "Dragonblaster" is #5.


Becoming a Writer

There really is only one basic way to become a writer. There are several variations on it, such as writing words on paper, carving it in stone or typing it into a word processor. You could have the most incendiary idea for a novel ever to hit the crowded world of pubishing, but if you don't make the (often considerable) effort to write it, nobody will ever know about it except you.

This may sound trite, but it never fails to amaze me when people talk about "my novel" but have nothing to show for it. I know a lot of people who are convinced they have some stonking ideas that will set the literary world ablaze, but haven't written a word of it down. They have only the shadiest concept of even the main protagonist, little idea of setting, pacing, conflict, resolution... and they'll never have more unless they start to write.

I have all the original handwritten drafts of the Grimm Dragonblaster series up to about halfway through the third book. It's awful. It's way over the top on adjectives, adverbs, dialogue tags and verbiage, and it's nothing at all like the published versions. But what it actually is 270,000 words of writing that turned me from someone with an idea into a writer.

It's not all that important what you write, or even how good it is at first. Just get used to writing regularly and often. That really is all there is to do it. Writing doesn't make you a #1 New York Times Bestseller, but it does make you an author.

And I can tell you, that actually getting to the (actual or conceptual) words, "THE END" is more than the whole, vast legion of wannabes with vague ideas ever do except in their dreams. And it feels great!

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