Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors December 10

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing a scene from my first book, Ghosts of Innocence.

Shayla has stolen the identity of a newly-appointed senior public servant, and infiltrated the Palace in disguise. She has already fallen foul of her new boss, Mabbwendig ap Terlion, Master of the Emperor’s Domestic Household, but has since kept out of Mabb’s way while she establishes herself in her new position. However, she’s decided to face Mabb on her own turf - in the cavernous staff dining hall.

Brynwyn is Shayla’s stolen identity. Colin and Jojo are members of her new staff.

=====

Colin Bandolini had explained why Shayla's request to have food brought to the office on that first evening had been met with surprise. Although there was officially nothing against it, she had breached another unwritten rule of Mad Mabb's regime. There appeared to be no order to the seating in the thronged dining hall. Robes and uniforms showed a mixture of ranks and professions. But each place setting on the top table was labeled with a faded card. Shayla knew there would be one that read 'Master of Circuses'. Brynwyn bin Covin was expected to be there.

Shayla spotted the rotund figure of Jojo bin Duvin on the far side of the room. She turned her back on the high table and walked over to him. As she crossed the open space in the center of the room, the hairs on her neck prickled; a lull in conversation seemed to follow her.


=====

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cover qualms

I still have a long way to go on the editing for The Ashes of Home, but having completed some major scene additions last month I’m taking a breather from the words to focus back on the cover art.

I haven’t touched the artwork since I last posted about it in June. The main reasons were (a) summer, and (b) all my spare time was going into critiquing and editing.

But there was a third, unspoken reason lurking in the background that kept me from my brushes.

I had misgivings about how the artwork was turning out.

Worse still, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was worrying me, or what to do about it.

The initial draft has a spaceship being destroyed by a beam of energy. In expanding it to full size I didn’t like the acres of plain black in the background. Instead I had visions inspired by spectacular Hubble images of glowing nebulae cut through by billowing dust clouds. BTW - I regularly visit the NASA website for their Astronomy Picture of the Day.

This was where I got to before sensing things were slightly off track.


There’s nothing wrong with any specific part the painting itself, in isolation. I especially liked the stark contrasts in the lower section. But the upper and lower portions just didn’t belong together, and neither was quite right for the book cover I had in mind.

So this week I bit the bullet and got back to work.


Still some tweaking to do, but I think I’m getting back on track.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors November 26

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

I’m back with the start of a scene from my first book, Ghosts of Innocence.

Shayla has stolen the identity of a newly-appointed senior public servant, and infiltrated the Palace in disguise. She has already fallen foul of her new boss, Mabbwendig ap Terlion, Master of the Emperor’s Domestic Household, but has since kept out of Mabb’s way while she establishes herself in her new position.

=====

Shayla joined a flood of people streaming into the cavernous staff dining room. A wall of sound, the voices of hundreds of people, seemed to squeeze her chest. The air was heavy with the remnants of the day's heat and the scent of cooked meats steeped in pungent sauces. The senses combined to form a suffocating blanket around Shayla's head.

Am I doing the right thing? Her eyes burned from fatigue, but there was no turning back. After Shayla's brush with Mabbwendig yesterday, she knew she could no longer put off this moment.

Three rows of long tables stretched away left and right, broken by an aisle ahead of her which led to the center of the room. Three more rows of tables filled the far side. To her right, a more lavishly appointed table sat apart, under the frowning portrait of Emperor Julian Skamensis.

=====

Note - both Ghosts of Innocence and Tiamat’s Nest ebooks are still on sale at $0.99 for a few more days.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Books on sale

It’s that time of year again ... time to wish our American friends south of the border a peaceful and stress-free Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, if anyone you know is interested in picking up a bargain (maybe to wind down when all the family festivities get a bit too much) both Tiamat’s Nest and Ghosts of Innocence e-books are on sale for the rest of November.

Down from $3.99 to $0.99 (US).

Links to Amazon and other markets are in the sidebar >>>

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Taking the scenic route

I made another discovery last year, while drafting The Ashes of Home: The power of writing in threads and scenes.

I blogged in more detail about this last year, but the essence is that my entire manuscript at this point is a long series of scenes with only a few tentative chapter breaks marked in as yet. Alongside, I have a summary spreadsheet listing the scenes, a brief description of what the scene is about, and the scene’s point of view. The latter is color coded so the whole list provides a great visual for how much attention each of the main characters is getting throughout the story.

I found this approach really helpful in keeping up momentum along the different parallel threads of the story during the drafting phase. I could just get on with writing each point of view as its own story and worry about weaving them together later.

Now I’m into final edits, the power of this technique is showing itself again. There is one particular story line that I want to draw more to the fore. There was a whole hive of activity linking two of the main characters that I never articulated in the first draft, mainly because I wasn’t even aware of it. When I thought about it, it was obviously present but happening entirely off stage. I decided to bring it explicitly on stage, which means writing a series of new scenes, or additions to existing scenes, and weaving them back into the storyline.

If I’d worked directly on the manuscript, agonizing over where to edit in new material at the same time as trying to draft it, I think I’d have been paralyzed by the complexity of the task. Instead, I focused simply on the thread I wanted to weave in as if it were a complete story in itself. I jotted down notes about how that storyline would evolve and ideas about point of view and timeline.

The novel’s scene list helped here, giving me an overview of the story structure and making it easier to see where this new thread would fit naturally into the overall structure. Then I simply wrote the new scenes as if they were a standalone story.

I’m now in the process of editing the new material into the whole, and I have to report I’m very pleased with the effectiveness of this technique.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Musical nostalgia

I mentioned in a post last year how I discovered, unexpectedly, that music helps me to write. I say “unexpectedly” because I had many times tried writing with music on in the background, and always found it a distraction.

The difference was ... headphones.

Ambient music = distraction. But put on headphones and the music suddenly becomes a shield, a cocoon walling me off from the outside world.

At the time that was a new and surprising discovery, but it seems to be consistently true, not just a passing phase. Music has since carried me through many productive writing sessions, even when the going got tough and the words just weren’t co-operating.

Many writers use music to set the mood. They make up playlists that in some way reflect the writing. It’s not a mood thing for me. Regardless of what I’m writing, the music is simply my productive setting, like absolute silence is for some people, or their cozy writing den, or an inspiring landscape in front of them. For me this means the music has to be fairly loud, rhythmic, melodic, and not too demanding. Classical music would kill the muse.

I started off with recent artists like Taylor Swift (yes, I happen to like her music, don’t judge!) and Mumford & Sons because they were already in our family iTunes library.

Along the way, this started to turn into a bit of a nostalgia trip. I’ve been seeking out artists I remember from my university days. I found loads of early Genesis albums on iTunes, and am currently listening to The Stranglers.

Remember when punk horrified nations with its iconoclastic break from sugary pop blandness?
#DinosaurAlert
What a difference a few decades makes! In a world of rap and hip hop, some of that early rock and punk today sounds remarkably lyrical and I wonder what all the fuss was about.

What about you? Does music help or hinder your artistic endeavors. And is there any particular music that brings back powerful memories?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sensory overload

With some exceptions, my view of the world is very flat. I perceive pretty much everything in my field of view with equal weight, nothing stands out except what I’m specifically focusing on at that moment.

This caused me no end of problems as a child, and no end of frustration for my parents. Asked to fetch something, I’d be frantically hunting for it, unable to see it even right in front of me. As an adult, I’ve learned to laugh this off as “can’t see for looking” but as a child it made me feel stupid.

The best way I can describe it is constantly playing a game of “Where’s Waldo”, or one of those “hidden object” puzzles. What you’re looking for is in plain view, but overwhelmed in a sea of similar but irrelevant distractions. The only way I can find and latch onto something is to scan my visual field systematically until I find what I’m looking for.

That is my view of the world, every minute of every day.

This shows up in everyday life in ways such as:

Finding the right product on supermarket shelves - and don’t get me started on the twin evils of supermarkets regularly moving things around, or manufacturers’ insistence on producing a dozen variations on a product in almost identical packaging. Why must shampoo, conditioner, and body wash all look identical?

Making sense of many websites, trying to track down the button or menu item I want from the smorgasbord of icons on display.

Trying to find the turnoff I need amongst the roadside background clutter of signs and driveways.

Even something as simple as breakfast can become a nightmare. Last week I traveled to a business workshop. With no direct flights it’s a long way from Victoria to Ottawa - about 10 hours of traveling. The first morning, I was still a bit woozy and looking for simple sustenance to set me up for the day.

First off, I had to ask at reception where they were serving breakfast because the bar where I’d eaten the previous evening was empty. I felt stupid when I realized my eyes had glossed over the head-high three-foot-wide sign alongside reception saying “Breakfast this way”. I get the same problem with headings on many websites too - you’d think bigger is more obvious, but unless my eye happens to take it in all at once it’s more likely to go unrecognized.

Then there was Ordeal by Buffet.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fabulous buffet, and very visually appealing. But simply too much to take in.

I’m a tea drinker so the server brought me a pot of hot water and advised that I would find the tea over by the buffet. Searching, searching, searching ... it took me a good five minutes to recognize the row of shining steel pots for what they were - containers of loose tea to make your own tea bags.

Once I’d got my food, it was time for Hunt the Spoon. The table was laid with knife and fork, but I had a helping of yoghurt and no spoon. Back to the buffet. When looking for something (as my childhood experiences showed) everyday items simply don’t leap out from the background. I had to start at one corner of the room and work my way around the tables scanning every item on them looking for something recognizably spoon-like. It was a big room, so it took me a while, feeling increasingly foolish, thinking “it surely can’t be this hard?”

This may sound exaggerated, but it’s not. And it’s fairly typical of my experience in any unfamiliar place.

With familiarity, I’m happy to say that breakfast the following day was far less traumatic. And the food was truly delicious :)

How do you either portray (as a writer) or understand (as a reader) a sensory experience very different from your own?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Spinning misconceptions

Last week I talked about a world for my next novel, where the planet’s axis is tilted at a full 90 degrees to the plane of its orbit. In other words, if you picture the sun in the middle of your living room and the planet’s orbit traced out on the floor around it, it’s rolling around on its side rather than spinning upright like a top.

When I first envisaged this, I wondered if that meant one pole would always be pointing toward the sun. I quickly realized I’d fallen into a popular misconception. A bit more thought showed that this just ain’t gonna happen. Simple physics doesn’t allow it.

Yes, some worlds do have one side always facing their sun, but their axis is the more normal perpendicular (or near enough) to the plane of the orbit.


The perpetual day/perpetual night arises if the planet’s day (one rotation on its axis) is exactly the same length as its year (one full orbit of its sun).

This may sound like one heck of a coincidence, but tidal forces between two orbiting bodies act as a braking mechanism, slowly bringing rotational and orbital periods into line. This is called “tidal locking”. A familiar example of this phenomenon is our own moon, which always shows the same face to the Earth. For many years, astronomers thought Mercury was tidally locked to the sun, although that’s now known not to be true.

Back to our topsy turvy world. Although it’s spinning on its side and swinging around its sun, if you were watching it from somewhere outside the solar system you’d see that the planet’s axis is always pointing the same way relative to the universe as a whole.


The whole planet is acting like a huge gyro compass. Again, this sounds bizarre and far-fetched, but our own Uranus is doing exactly this.

So, if anyone describing a sci-fi world proudly proclaims that their north pole always points at the sun, you can set them straight.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Unnatural seasons

Although I’m still plugging away at editing The Ashes of Home, I’ve started turning my mind to a new project. Tentatively titled The Long Dark, this is another far-future story but set in a universe very different from Shayla’s.

More to the point, it’s set on a world rather different from anything we normally read about. For some reason, I had it in my mind that it would be fun to set a story on a planet with a 90 degree axial tilt.

What the heck does that mean?

Well, our Earth has a 23 degree axial tilt, which means that at midsummer/midwinter the poles are tilted 23 degrees towards or away from the sun. This tilt gives us our seasons.

Near the equator, day and night are roughly the same length no matter what time of year it is. But the further away from the equator you go, the greater the difference between summer and winter hours of daylight. When you cross the Arctic or Antarctic circles - lines of latitude 23 degrees down from the poles - something strange happens. You get periods of round-the-clock daylight and darkness. The closer to the poles you travel, the longer those spells of continuous light and dark last. The poles themselves experience close to six months each of light and six months of dark.

If your planet has a tilt of 90 degrees rather than 23, this picture is taken to extremes. The Arctic and Antarctic circles would actually run along the equator, and everywhere other than the equator will be a “land of the midnight sun”.

Because the planet’s spin is in line with the plane of its orbit, the motion of the sun will look very strange compared with what we are used to. At midsummer, the planet’s axis is pointing right at the sun, so the sun will be stationary in the sky - direct overhead at the summer pole, or hovering on the horizon if you’re at the equator. This will make for ferociously long and hot summers at the poles.

As the year progresses, the sun will start to move in increasingly large circles in the sky, a bit like the handle of a spinning top that’s losing speed and starting to topple over. Sooner or later, depending on what latitude you’re at, those circles will start dipping below the horizon and you’ll get a few weeks or months of a true day/night cycle ... until the sun vanishes below the horizon for good and you go into a much longer night.

Which is where the title comes from.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

First page review - Ghosts of Innocence

A blogger friend put me on to this blog hop taking place over the month of October.

If you'd like to sign up, the list is open for another week. The rules are simple. Post the first thousand words of your book or story, and link back to the list at: The First Page Review

This sounded like fun, so here I'm posting the first part of Ghosts of Innocence. This is my first novel, available in paperback and most e-book formats at major online outlets.

If you take the time to read this opening, I'd love to know whether or not you'd continue reading it. If it does capture your interest, I am preparing a sequel for publication early in 2018.

Enough rambling, on with the story ...


Mouth dry, Shayla Carver swallowed a sour taste at the back of her throat. An orbiting battle station, one of many surrounding the Emperor's home planet, Magentis, filled the nearest viewport of Chantry Bay's forward lounge. A mushroom forest of defensive batteries, domes blackened by centuries of conflict, studded the outward face of the fortress. The Imperial crest was barely visible on its dulled and scarred flank.

As it receded behind them, Shayla murmured a mantra to ready herself for action. But she couldn't rid herself of the unwelcome thought: that station was too damned close. They could blow us to Space and beyond when they realize what's happening.

No. The mission planners had discussed this possibility. The big plasma cannons were all facing away from the planet. They can't threaten us now.

Shayla forced her head back against the hard wall of the lounge, feeling the roughness of the hangings behind her. A tiny knot in the fabric pressed into her scalp. The pinprick pain helped steady her thoughts.

She breathed deep and surveyed the lounge through half-closed eyes. She counted at least sixty passengers scattered in groups amongst the benches and circles of stools and armchairs cluttering the coarse, grey carpet. People of all ages and races, resplendent in uniforms or formal dress denoting their professions in readiness for landfall.

Excited chatter barely masked growing tension as they approached their rendezvous with an orbiting reception base. A round-faced woman, wearing the crimson headdress of a planetary ambassador, paced the length of the lounge and brushed yet another imaginary speck from the sleeve of her robe. Even such a dignitary wasn't exempt from stringent interrogation before setting foot on Magentis.

But the knot in Shayla's stomach had nothing to do with security screening. Once more she mentally rehearsed her movements, awaiting her cue.

A diamond-bright spark separated from the expanding disk of the planet. The reception base.

According to the schedule, starhopper Chantry Bay should have slowed and docked.

It didn't.

A few puzzled gazes followed the sunlit jewel of the base as it flashed past the viewports. Shayla saw the first glimmer of comprehension in some faces. Decades of terrorism had sensitized the public psyche to unannounced deviations from schedule.

A coterie of scribes and administrators on the other side of the lounge looked up from their scrolls and notepads and stared at each other, styli wavering in their hands. External communications had died. Right on cue.

The lights flickered, then failed. Through the lounge's forward viewpoint, the daylight side of Magentis flooded the cabin with an aquamarine glow.

An eerie silence fell, the ever-present hum of machinery now deafening by its absence. Shayla closed her eyes, barely breathing. In the back of her mind she'd started a countdown at the first flicker of the lights. Eight and a half minutes until they hit atmosphere. Unless the navy caught them first.

Shalya squeezed her eyes even tighter shut, counting steadily, as bedlam erupted.

"Sabotage!"

"Terrorists!"

"The Insurrection!"

A wet crash and a shriek. Someone had toppled the samovar bubbling in the center of the room.

A groan and a sour whiff of curdled milk told Shayla that the jolly, mustachioed bureaucrat opposite her had brought up his lunch. He'd spent the last hour enthusing over his duties in the Office of Corrections, in charge of the public punishment stalls for the eastern end of the Bay of Jorka. His dedication to human suffering had made Shayla sick.

A hand squeezed her knee through the heavy embroidered textile of her robes. She opened her eyes a crack to see a worried face gazing at her. Not Scolt again, she groaned to herself. Not now.

She glanced around the lounge, then took his hand in hers. Scolt had taken unwelcome interest in her for the whole week-long flight. Another time, in another life, she might have returned the interest, but even out of uniform the emerald tattoo on his forehead and his preening arrogance had marked him out as a member of the Imperial Color Guard. Not a good bedfellow for a woman with treason on her mind.

Shayla had no time to waste. She gazed into his eyes, smiled, and finally did what she'd been longing to do the whole flight.

She broke his fingers.

As he shrieked in pain, Shayla slipped around the end of the bench and into the main corridor leading from the back of the lounge into the depths of the ship.

She squeezed into a crush of people jamming the short ramp up to the command deck. The captain, face ashen in the planet's ghostly light, faced the scared and angry crowd, trying to restore calm. Shayla felt a twinge of pity. The crew must have been shocked when the normally-secure door to the command deck had opened. The malicious code she'd inserted into the ship's command system had been designed by her twisted genius brother. Shayla was confident it couldn't be bypassed, but her mission planners had figured that the crew could do with some distraction to hamper any attempts at troubleshooting or communications.

She pressed her back against the wall and pushed past the edge of the crowd.

A figure in the gloom caught her eye. A young girl, eyes wide, clutched a stuffed toy lion tight to her chest. Shit! I thought this ship was for Imperial staff only!

Shayla glanced back towards the lounge. Through a gap in the press of bodies she saw that Scolt was already on his feet, his face twisted into a snarl. Damn, that was quick. She would have only moments more to get away from him.


That's it. Thank you for reading

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thoughts for the day

As Irma pounds its way up the Florida coast, my thoughts are with those caught up in its path.

As with all disasters like this, we see the best and the worst of people come out.

One sad story caught my eye this morning, of a city council opening up the floors of its parking lot for residents in low-lying areas to take shelter in. When they arrived, they found the space taken up by cars for sale, moved in there by an opportunistic car dealer.

This story seems to sum up the "me first" ethos that is taking over the world. All the arguments back and forth over the legality or otherwise of the car dealer's actions to me completely miss the point. The point is, in what universe does anyone think this kind of action is OK - a clear abuse of the intent behind a good gesture?

I think the real question we should be asking ourselves is - what kind of society I want to live in? What kind of values do I want to instill in my children?

Only by looking after each other as well as ourselves can we hope to stand against forces like Irma.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Inadvertent writing research

I visited the optician this evening for a two-yearly check up. As I suspected, my near vision is steadily going downhill (along with most of my physique). It’s that little thing called age.

On the plus side, my eyes - apart from the overall loss of shape - are in very good health. So I have an extremely healthy pair of eyes that can’t see a lot. Oh well.

But I digress.

Reaching that conclusion involved eye drops to dilate the pupils, and a lengthy examination staring into bright lights.

Very bright lights.

Painfully bright, in fact.

To distract myself from this torture, during which I completely forgot which was left and which was right when it came to following instructions, I thought about the technology in Tiamat’s Nest, and in particular the kind of nasty tricks hackers play on each other in that world.

This not-too-distant-future story includes implants that delivery fully immersive virtual reality through direct stimulation of visual and auditory centres. The implants are equipped with safety limits that stop any damaging stimuli, but hackers can override the implants and over-stimulate nerves to the point of inflicting permanent damage.

Several times in the story, there are examples of painful attacks of sound and vision, but I’ve always worried that they come across as a bit tame. After all, it’s only loud sounds and bright lights, right?

But picture staring into something as bright as the sun, and not being able to shut it out! Closing your eyes or turning your head does nothing because the sensations are being fed straight into your brain.

My experience this evening persuaded me that even safe exposures can be painful, so maybe it isn’t so wimpy after all.

Have you ever managed to conduct some writing research without even realizing it?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Advertising irony

Increasingly intrusive advertising may well go down in history as one of the greatest blights of the technological age.

Who honestly enjoys telemarketers and robocalls interrupting quality family time? Have you never dropped what you were in the middle of doing and rushed to the phone, no matter how inconvenient it might be because you were expecting an important call, only to be offered a “free” cruise?

Am I the only one to find many websites becoming nigh-on unusable due to pop-ups and overlays and auto-playing videos? It’s no longer enough to have adverts in the banners and sidebars. People have the temerity to ignore them, so they find ever more ingenious ways to force themselves into your vision and hearing, and many no longer have buttons to dismiss or pause them.

And have you ever wondered how much time websites these days spend downloading advertising compared with actual content? I wonder how long it will be before someone takes an advertiser to court for stealing their bandwidth by dumping unsolicited crap on them?

Yes, you may have guessed that I hate advertising in all its forms, which may be why I’m so stunningly bad at marketing.

And as far as I’m concerned, there is such a thing as bad publicity because any advert that makes it past my filters generally triggers a mental note never to do business with that company if I can possibly avoid it.

Which is why what happened on my way to work this morning was quite remarkable.

We are fortunate that highways where I live are mercifully free of commercial hoardings, except for one brief stretch of a few hundred meters that I drive through on my way to work.

Up ahead, a sign caught my eye ... but in a good way.

It was advertising the annual Greek Fest in Victoria, that only last weekend Ali and I had been talking about.

For once, I was ready to pay attention.

For once, and I can’t honestly remember when - if ever - this last happened, I wanted to read the advert. When is it taking place? Are tickets on sale yet? There must be dates up there but it’s still too far off to read properly.

But my curiosity went unfulfilled.

Before I got close enough to read, the electronic billboard switched over ... to advertise the advertising company that owned the sign.

Yes, they had a willing customer approaching and they chose that moment to advertise themselves at the expense of their paying client.

How ironic is that?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thought for the day

As long as you start off with sufficient credibility ...
You can inspire whole nations with powerful and resonant  
"I will do"s

Witness the moon race in the 60s

But ...
you only earn lasting respect with meaningful  
"I have done"s


What have you done today to make a difference in your world?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Family matters

What a hectic seven days that’s been!

Just last week, Megan graduated from high school. I took time off work to manage all the driving around to and from the rehearsal and the graduation ceremony. It was a long ceremony with around 250 students graduating.



No caps and gowns here, because they followed straight on with a dinner/dance, then on to the Dry Grad party until the small hours. I volunteered to help out at the latter, knowing she’d need to be picked up anyway. We got home as it was getting light at 5am!

This weekend, of course, was Canada Day, and we had friends around for a curry last night. I don’t often post pics of food in progress, but here’s a few showing the initial preparation (there’s so many ingredients involved that I like to get most of it lined up before anything hits the pan), some dishes on the go, and the final products ready to serve.




Then, to cap it all, it was Megan’s birthday. She decided she wanted to go skydiving, so a tandem jump was our gift to her. We live near the airport, and can often see the plane circling the drop zone in the summer weekends, but it was a different matter knowing our own daughter was up in that plane.



Well, after all that excitement I’m hoping for a quieter summer! How about you? And happy July 4th to all those south of the border.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

June update

My goal this year is to publish The Ashes of Home before the end of the year, hopefully in November.

There’s a lot of work still to do before then. I’ve got a group of critiquers looking at the novel in depth, but this is a long process. I don’t expect they’ll be done before the end of August, which leaves little time for final edits and multiple read-throughs.

Then I need to get the whole thing in the hands of the book designer, which from past experience will take a few weeks of back and forth before getting back the final product.

All this stacks up in terms of timelines, many pieces of which are outside my control. But I think it’s still do-able.

One thing I’m doing differently this time around is getting a head start on the cover art. Previously I went to the book designer with only rough drafts to discuss, which meant a month or two elapsed time slotted into the process while I produced the final artwork. This time I am being a bit bolder and settling on the artwork ahead of time.

I posted some drafts back in January, and the overwhelming consensus was for design #2, so that is what I’m going with. While the critiquing process is ticking quietly along, the artwork is starting to take shape.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

A tabletop exercise

I recently posted pics of our refurbished deck - a big upheaval this Spring that we are glad to have completed. Trouble is, we still weren’t properly able to take advantage of it during the week or so of fine weather at the end of last month.

We had an 8-seater table with a tiled top. Very nice to look at - when it was new - but over the years many of the tiles had cracked and were lifting. We checked reviews after the fact and found this to be a common problem with this design.

We were already thinking of renewing the top at some point. It was also very heavy, and we decided there was no way we were lifting it down off the deck and back up again. So this was clearly the time to strip off the tiles, making it light enough to move while they worked on the deck, with the intention of re-tiling afterwards.

Part 1 of the plan didn’t yield the result we expected. Instead of leaving a nice base underneath, the base (some sort of resin reinforced with wire mesh) was also cracked and came away with the tiles.

We were left with nothing more than a bare metal frame. Easy to move out of the way. Not so good for eating off.

After much agonizing over possibilities and cooking up alternative plans, I eventually came up with a design and spent last weekend busy with saw, plane, and wood screws.

Our outdoor living space is now officially back in action!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Another blog

I’m still keeping this main blog going for general life and writing topics as & when the mood takes me, but I’m finding it beneficial to separate out some things into their own more focused blogs rather than mix everything in here.

I already mentioned my recipe blog, Rumble in the Tumble. After daily postings in April, this one is slowing down because we revisit favorite recipes every few weeks and I’m only posting here when we do something I’ve not already described.

Just for fun, I’ve recently been playing with another concept entirely. It’s called Land of the Rising Dumb, and takes a gentle poke at a certain administration, ‘cos - hey - you’ve really just gotta have a laugh sometimes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

All decked out for summer

Last summer we realized that we would soon need to do something with our deck. Spanning the garage and wrapping around the living room and kitchen to the front and rear, the deck is a vital part of our living space for at least half the year.

Trouble is, the railing was starting to sag alarmingly to the point where I wouldn’t have wanted to put any weight on it, and there were a few places where there was a noticeable bounce under foot. Not good.

So we resolved to put things to rights this Spring before the fine weather kicked in. A builder friend managed to squeeze us in between jobs - and in between spells of rain that dragged the process out a lot longer than it might have taken, but we’re there now and very pleased with the results.

The most nerve-wracking part of the operation was having the garage open to the weather while they ripped off the old decking and put down new plywood. We had to clear the place out beforehand and do our best to shield the freezer and shelves the that remained. Here’s how they left it that first evening. Luckily the next 24 hours stayed dry and the garage was covered again by the time the next showers hit.



And here is the finished work. We’d debated going for aluminum railings (zero maintenance) but opted for cedar in the end, and we are both happy with that decision. They were able to salvage the glass panels that were in place originally and put everything back very much like it was.



Yes, that’s our barbecue sitting lonely in the corner. I had to take off one side shelf to maneuver it through the door and into the kitchen while they worked. There was no way we were going to get it down the stairs, remembering the battle we had years ago getting it up there in the first place.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Emerging local authors

Now into its third year, the Greater Victoria Public Library is again celebrating emerging local authors with a special collection.

On Thursday evening I attended the launch of this year’s collection, showcasing over 100 local authors who are recently published, either independently or through a small press.

The library courtyard was crowded with authors and guests. It’s only when you see people and books assembled like this that you realize what a thriving occupation writing is.

Yes, Tiamat’s Nest is one of the books in this year’s collection. See here for more details about the GVPL Emerging Local Authors program.



Friday, April 21, 2017

A few foodie favorites

With everyone in the family in full time work or education, time in the evenings and weekends is at a premium and a little planning goes a long way.

We always plan a weekly menu, and get all the necessary groceries in one go for the week ahead. Sometimes the hardest part is simply coming up with a menu plan and trying to keep it interesting. We love a variety of foods and flavors and are ready to try new things from time to time, but under pressure of time it's only natural that most of our meals are tried and trusted family favorites.

Even so, we try to mix it up and we often find ourselves wracking our brains, thinking "We need a rice dish here" or "Haven't had fish for a while", and trying to recall dishes to tempt the tastebuds.

Just as an experiment, I've started another blog called Rumble in the tumble where I'm keeping a daily record of recipes as we go. My thinking was to keep a note of meals, using the labels to index by main ingredients to help jog tired memories. We'll see how that goes, but meanwhile if anything over there encourages you to try something new it will have been worthwhile.

Just a word of warning - don't expect full-blown recipes with measurements and precise instructions, or anything fancy like that. I mostly just dive in saying "fry this" and "boil that". Quantities are up for grabs, and depend how many you're cooking for. This is seat-of-the-pants cookery.

On the plus side, it's all very simple and forgiving stuff. We like simple :)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Downs and ups

I know I’ve posted before about how life seems to go through up and down swings. The last couple of months have felt like unusually hard work, with very intense spells at work, illnesses, and (something I didn’t mention) we had one of our cats put down a week ago.

So it was great to have that party last weekend that Megan had spent so long preparing for before her appendix operation.

During the week, Ali and Megan had been visiting a pet shop for supplies for the aquarium and came back with two kittens. Meet Loki and Luna:



Last night I gave a talk at the library on Writer’s Block, something I’ve been preparing for weeks now. I’ve been running through my presentation in my head for ages, so when it was done it felt like a huge weight off my mind.

And to round off the good things in the past week, Megan today spoke with a teacher at Vancouver Island University and learned that she’s been accepted to join the baking program there in September. This is fantastic news because she’s been enjoying the culinary program at school this semester and has finally found something she wants to do. But of course there’s been a lot of pressure through the application process, and she had to recover enough from her recent operation to sit an assessment this week.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

March appendix

There is one aspect of our March traumas that I didn’t talk about last time. I decided to save that for a separate post and hopefully be able to report “mission accomplished.”

When Megan complained of abdominal pains, one of the reasons we assumed an innocuous cause at first was that she had been working very hard over the previous days.

She had taken it on herself to organize a surprise birthday party for one of her friends. We’d discussed the practicalities, and had reservations about the prospect of a dozen or more teens bouncing around the living room upstairs, so we settled on clearing out the garage for the party.

First off, there was a heap of stuff accumulated all over the floor - after all, who keeps their car in the garage? That took a day of sorting out with all of us pitching in to help.

Then she went to town cleaning up the rest. For the next several evenings we sat upstairs trying not to cringe at the sound of hammering from downstairs. Megan blacked out the windows, covered up the shelving, moved our summertime patio furniture in from its winter resting place in our bedroom, and put up strings of lights.

There was a major shopping expedition for food and drinks. We borrowed an air hockey table, which was a heavy duty mission in itself to lift in and out of the truck.

All in all, she put in a shedload of hard work over the course of four days. Monday she was planning to bake a cake ready for the party on Tuesday.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at the hospital instead.

The party, of course, had to be postponed. But I’m happy to report it finally took place today and was greatly enjoyed by all involved.

Friday, April 7, 2017

March madness

Now that April is here, life seems to have calmed down a bit.

Which is just as well.

When I last posted, I was looking forward to a bit of normality after an exceptionally intense few weeks at work. Better still, I booked a couple of days’ vacation in the middle of Spring Break to enjoy a long weekend of relaxation.

Things were going to plan until Sunday night, when Megan woke us in the middle of the night complaining of stomach pains. We went through the usual “what did you eat/what have you been doing” rigmarole for a couple of hours, but eventually concluded this wasn’t something simple that would sort itself out with a bit of rest.

Off to Emergency, and after a stressful day of tests she was in that night to have her appendix out. She was released from hospital the next day, and in the post-stress relief I promptly went down with a cold that knocked me out all through part of the week and all through the following weekend  :(

Back to work this week and things are more on an even keel. I’m feeling better and Megan is doing well.

Meanwhile, my novel is cranking slowly through the critiquing process which means I’m able to slow down on the writing front for a bit. Right now, instead I’m getting ready to give another talk at my local library. I’ve done talks like this a couple of times in the past. It takes a lot of preparation but it’s always been a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. This time I’m talking on Writer’s Block, based around a short series of blog posts I wrote this time last year.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Inner peace

Last weekend, I was thinking about writing a post on introversion/extroversion, when I remembered I already did something like that a year ago, and for much the same reason.

This time last year we held a division-wide all staff meeting. Given that we were bringing hundreds of people together from all over the province, and that most of them work directly on front counters serving the public, that conference took place over a weekend which took away the time I normally depend on - as an extreme introvert - to recharge my mental batteries.

Last weekend I reached the end of two weeks of highly intense and interactive departures from regular work, which for introverts is the definition of exhaustion.

We had another division-wide conference, but this time it was a smaller group and was able to take place on regular workdays. It was three days of presentations (which us directors had to prepare and deliver) and some great conversations. On its own that would have been fine, but by sheer coincidence it was book-ended by four days’ traveling out of town on an intense project workshop the preceding week, and followed by two days’ highly interactive training on, of all things, giving presentations.

Don’t get me wrong, these were all fabulous experiences individually, but run them consecutively and by the end I was ready for the funny farm.

It’s taken me the past week to get back on an even keel work-wise and energy-wise. Along the way it got me musing about the kinds of people the workplace values.

As a society, we claim to value diversity, and yet it seems we consistently revert to one image of success: that of outgoing sociability, to whom “networking opportunities” represent joy unbounded. This ignores a significant portion of the population to whom the words invoke a visceral dread.

It kinda peeves me that people seem to expect introverts to behave like extroverts in order to progress, but that seems to be the world we live in. Is my perspective simply skewed? How does it look from your perspective?

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a weekend of rest and re-energizing activities such as reading and writing and long walks in the spring sunshine. How about you?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors March 12

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla escaped two assailants in her room, disguised as servants, by leaping out of her window into the grip of an artificial gravity field. They are held by the field, upside down on the overhanging eaves 70’ above the ground. One assassin remains, holding a thermal grenade with a dead switch.

=====

Shayla glanced up once more and caught the eye of Bard Jovin, who gave a brief nod.

Returning her attention to ‘Gingallia’, Shayla said, “It seems you have the advantage.”

Her voice was calm, conversational, but as she spoke she leaped for the balcony, rolling to compensate for the sudden reversal of gravity. From the corner of her eye she saw the assassin’s feet leave the eaves.

Bard, quick on the uptake, had killed the grav field the moment Shayla jumped. As she landed, Shayla grabbed the nearest guards and shoved them towards the open doors leading into her quarters.

“Inside!” the captain roared, dragging more guards towards safety.

Behind Shayla the night blazed. Stone slabs under her feet bucked and sagged. She scrambled for a grip on subsiding masonry.

=====

We’re leaving this chapter at this point and I’m taking a break from WWW for a while. I’ll be back later in the year with more action from Shayla!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors March 5

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla escaped two assailants in her room, disguised as servants, by leaping out of her window into the grip of an artificial gravity field. They are held by the field, upside down on the overhanging eaves 70’ above the ground. Shayla has dealt with one, leaving one assassin remaining.

=====

‘Gingallia’s’ hand emerged slowly from her robes. Instead of the needle gun Shayla had been expecting, she held a thermal grenade. Her thumb was pressed on the arming trigger, which pulsed rapidly orange. Shayla noted white knuckles gripping the slim cylinder.

Shayla sheathed her knife and calmly asked, “Dead switch?”

‘Gingallia’ nodded.

“So if you get shot,” Shayla said clearly, so the guards a few feet away could hear her, “we all die.”

Shayla continued her careful tread along the eaves. She was now alongside the balcony. She could do with taking this one alive, but killers who got this close knew what stakes they played.

=====

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors February 26

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla escaped two assailants in her room, disguised as servants, by leaping out of her window into the grip of an artificial gravity field. They are held by the field, upside down on the overhanging eaves 70’ above the ground. Shayla has dealt with one, leaving one assassin remaining.

=====

Shayla backed carefully along the eaves, feeling her way over the joists and decorative moldings adorning the roof line. The wall at her side turned a corner. She glanced briefly upward over her shoulder to where the balustrade of her bedroom balcony hung a few feet above her head. ‘Gingallia’ followed the line of her gaze, and Shayla knew she’d spotted the guards lining the balcony, weapons ready. Their presence so quickly was a welcome sight. Someone must have already alerted them to danger long before the alarm triggered when Shayla used her escape route. Bard Jovin, her guard captain, took up a position just out of sight of her attacker.

Shayla thought she saw a flicker of calculation in the impostor’s eyes. She knows she can’t get off a shot before getting blown away.

=====

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sweet successes

With all the crap still in the news (Are we already on the campaign trail for 2020? Really?) sometimes it’s best to administer an antidote by celebrating some of the small wins in life.

Success #1

I discovered last year that I write best when I can listen to music on headphones. We have a family subscription to iTunes so we have access to a long list of titles but I’d always been signed in with Ali’s ID which means when I’m listening, she can’t. A family subscription should mean we can both access the store at the same time.

We went through an afternoon of frustration a few weeks ago trying to get this working, sifting through the clear-as-mud instructions on the interwebs (are we signing in or out of iTunes, iCloud, or the App Store, or all three at once? And was that my ID or Ali’s it wants here?) and going round in circles. In best bureaucratic manner we ended up with conflicting messages, first saying I needed to be added to family sharing, then saying I can’t be added because I’m already there. Meanwhile, no music.

Yesterday we had another crack at it, and got it working.

Bliss!

I can now download my own library without having to leaf through a load of artists I have no interest it.

Success #2

As a rule, we go more for savory foods than sweet. I’m much more inclined to go for seconds than for dessert, but once in a while a pudding makes a welcome change. Trouble is, apart from homemade cheesecake, I don’t normally do desserts.

A while ago, Ali’s brother bought us a book called Great British Puddings, full of mouth-watering recipes. I kept getting drawn to it recently, and finally decided to try one of the recipes.

I give you ... lemon sponge.
With custard, of course.
Ali is the baker in the family so she helped out, but the result was very pleasing. Trouble is, the kids enjoyed it too, which is why there’s so little left.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors February 19

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla escaped two assailants in her room, disguised as servants, by leaping out of her window into the grip of an artificial gravity field. The three of them are now standing, held by the field, upside down on the overhanging eaves 70’ above the ground. One attacked Shayla, who parried, causing the assassin to stagger backwards ...

=====

One foot found the edge of the eaves, and he stepped, without thinking, to keep his balance. But he was now half out of the edge of the grav field, and conflicting forces led his reflexes astray. He lost his balance. The planet’s natural gravity reclaimed him and he fell, shrieking, into the night.

The remaining assassin reached into her robes. Her hood had slipped, revealing a perfect likeness of Gingallia, one of Shayla’s senior personal servants. It also revealed eyes filled with fear and shock at her companion’s sudden demise. All the same, Shayla knew better than to underestimate her. She wouldn’t be here unless she was at the peak of her profession.

=====

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors February 12

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla escaped two assailants in her room, disguised as servants, by leaping out of her window into the grip of an artificial gravity field. The three of them are now standing, held by the field, upside down on the overhanging eaves 70’ above the ground.

=====

The first one, the Barras lookalike (traitor or impostor?) swung his rapier. Shayla’s own blade flashed blue and met it with a jarring wrench.

A shimmerblade was a rare and fearsome weapon, highly prized by undercover agents as a weapon of stealth. When activated, the vibrating crystalline edge could shear through anything less than military grade vehicle armor--or another shimmerblade. But when two such blades met in hand-to-hand combat, the results were random and potentially catastrophic for one or both parties.

Shayla’s knife hand went numb. She barely managed to keep her grip on the hilt as she stumbled back against the wall towering over her head to meet the ground hanging impossibly above. But at least she had been prepared. She’d activated her shimmerblade at the last moment and knew what to expect. Her opponent staggered back in the other direction.

=====

Saturday, February 4, 2017

It’s snow joke

I know I’m not an experienced winter driver, but I have driven on snow a number of times in the few inches we typically get around Victoria. I know to take things slowly - only light touches on gas, brake, and wheel - and to think much further ahead than usual. I’ve never had a problem getting to where I need to go.

Until yesterday.

We woke up Friday to an inch or so of snow on the ground, but it was still falling steadily. I got outside and shoveled the driveway clear. By the time I showered and dressed for work you wouldn’t know I’d been out there. Oh well.

We live in a dip at the bottom of a hill. Not normally a problem because our road is a school bus route and they always keep the road clear.

Not today. I guess it wasn’t yet bad enough for them to bother.

Regardless, it was still only a couple of inches. Shouldn’t be a problem. Ali set off ahead of me in the Expedition. That is usually my car but yesterday she needed to get into a parkade downtown so that left me with the much bigger truck. She got out of the slight rise at the end of our drive and made it up the hill.

I followed in the truck. Except I didn’t. She’d warned me that it was light at the back end and prone to slipping getting out of the drive and she was right. Rather than mess around with 4 wheel drive at this point I decided to head the other way. A few yards away there’s a side road that leads back up to rejoin our road - a long but fairly gentle uphill.

Shouldn’t be a problem for a big truck, should it?

Half way up, I realized I was losing speed and the slightest touch on the gas simply span the wheels. No way to keep up my speed. I came to a stop, engaged 4WD and tried to move. No dice. Worse, with each try I was drifting sideways towards the side of the road and a ditch. I stopped again and put my foot on the brakes to consider my next move.

To my horror, I noticed I was slowly but steadily sliding backwards down the hill! Let’s gloss over the next hour of rising panic as I tried to maneuver myself out of danger and back home. I can summarize it by saying I managed to reverse cautiously back to level ground, had another run at it which got me a bit further but not to the top, reversed to the bottom again and headed back the way I’d come only to be defeated by the rise at the exit onto our main road - so frustrating, I was literally across the road from our front hedge but couldn’t get out! I seemed to have absolutely zero traction to tackle the slightest incline. Reversed back to the bottom of that dip, along the way getting stuck across someone’s driveway where I mistakenly though it would be easier to turn around, before finally taking another more level side road and making it back home.

Apart from the sheer frustration, my biggest emotion at that point was profound embarrassment at my dismal failure. One or two smaller cars passed by during my skating exercises, seemingly oblivious to the slippery conditions. There was I sitting in a big 4WD truck completely helpless. I’m sure I must have made good entertainment for some of the neighbors!

To cap it all, I still don’t understand what I was doing wrong or what I could have done differently. Surely a vehicle like that should be able to handle a bit of snow and ice, shouldn’t it? Any thoughts from folks more experienced in those conditions?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors January 29

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, the air in Shayla’s room was drugged but she held her breath at the first taste. Two attackers disguised as servants attacked her. In order to escape, she hit a hidden button and leaped through the windows 70’ above the ground...

=====

A second later, her feet connected with the broad eaves overhanging her bedroom windows. She hung upside down in the grip of an artificial grav field and drew her own blade, watching the lit window for signs of movement.

If at least one of her attackers leaned out of the window to see where she’d gone, she’d quickly have one less to deal with.

No such luck.

First one, then the other, appeared through the opening in a tuck roll, too fast and just out of Shayla’s reach. They must have figured out what had happened, but she’d really expected no less. Only the very best assassins ever got this close.

They landed back to back in fighting crouches. The nearer one saw Shayla and signaled to his companion, who also turned to face her.


=====

Well, Shayla isn’t in the clear yet, but able to breathe again she at least has a fighting chance :)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cover art

While I’m in the thickets of the critiquing and editing jungle on The Ashes of Home, I decided to get ahead of the game and start thinking about cover art.

Like I did for Ghosts of Innocence, I’ve roughed out some concept drafts and I’m looking for your thoughts. I expect I’ll get lots of contradictory views (like I did last time) but any observations are food for thought.

Some of the things I want to convey are: Far future, space travel, sci-fi, military, adventure, intrigue. But what do these covers say to you?

#1 - Imperial frigate Vixen on Eloon

#2 - The death of Admiral George Leonard

#3 - Visiting the arctic prison

Note - these are rough drafts, the execution is pretty sketchy and don’t pay any attention to the font choice. I just find it easier to imagine an image as a book cover when it’s got an actual title and author name on it. The purpose here is to get a feel for the concepts and eventually to pick one to flesh out properly.

For comparison, here’s the equivalent sketch for Ghosts of Innocence alongside the actual cover, so you can see how things might develop along the way:


Friday, January 20, 2017

Good luck America (and the other 95% of the world)

Because I've got a feeling we're going to need it.

Democracy is all well and good, but such a tiny minority holds such disproportionate power over the rest of the world. And the rest of us are helpless bystanders in a democratic process that we have no say in, but which affects us all profoundly.

How American banks behave affects the rest of the world. 2008, anyone?

How Wall Street and American mega-corporations behave affects the rest of the world.

And how the American president behaves affects the rest of the world.

With such power should come some responsibility.

But with Donald Duck in the pilot's seat, squeaking "America first, America first" I'm not too hopeful.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors January 15

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, the air in Shayla’s room has been drugged but she held her breath at the first taste. Two attackers disguised as servants are in the room with her. She let herself collapse towards the bed, feigning the effects of the drug, then launched herself forwards...

=====

As she rolled, she glimpsed upside down a face in the shadows of a hood. It looked like Barras, but Shayla noted nose plugs, a tiny breathing unit clamped between thin stretched lips, and eyes filled with hate.

A razor line of blue fire bisected the space she’d just vacated. Holy Space, a rapier shimmerblade!

Groping fingers found the hidden button as she completed the roll. The bed collapsed behind Shayla, halved effortlessly by the shimmerblade. Tall windows ahead of her flew open and she continued her motion, hurdling the waist-high sill out into a seventy foot drop.

Gravity took Shayla as she forced the dregs of tainted air from her mouth and drew in a deep, clean draught from the night rushing past her face.


=====

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekend Writing Warriors January 8

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.
http://www.wewriwa.com/

Continuing the opening chapter from The Ashes of Home, Shayla realizes something is wrong with the air in her room. Someone has released a drug intended to knock her out but she held her breath at the first taste. Two attackers disguised as servants are in the room with her.

=====

Her hand crept towards the hilt of the knife under her robes. She stilled it and instead stumbled another step towards the bed. She couldn’t fight these two. If the drug didn’t take her, anoxia would.

Another step.

The figures closed in.

Shayla flopped towards the bed, buying herself a few precious moments. As she pitched forwards her legs folded under her, then she launched herself across the bed. She rolled, outstretched hand reaching for a concealed button under the edge of the headboard.

=====

Well, we are a week into January already. Decorations taken down and packed away, and tree dropped off for chipping. I hope everyone had a good Christmas and that the New Year brings you joy.

I would still like to find one or two more beta readers for The Ashes of Home. If you are interested, please drop me a note either in the comments or through my contact page. Please include an email address I can reach you at, an idea of when you think you could finish by, and also what I could do for you in return.

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